Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!





Wishing you, your dear near & loved ones, a Blessed, Glorious, Prosperous, and
A Happy New Year 2013.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sahi Murg Biryani (Kacchi)

Biryani forms an integral part of of the menu for any special occasion in this subcontinent. Among Bengalis Pulao also is almost of the same stature but Biryani still takes the cake always. The basic difference between the two is the cooking technique applicable to each. Pulao or Pilaf(also known as pilau and plov) is delicately flavoured rice, sautéed in ghee and flavoured with whole spices like cumin, cloves etc and sometimes poultry, meat and shellfish are added as per choice. 



Biryani derived from the Persian word Beryan meaning fried or roasted is made from fragrant par boiled rice, which is then assembled with with variety of meat, seafood or assorted vegetables sealed and put on "dum" (cooking on very low flame, allowing the meats to cook, as much as possible, in their own juices and bone-marrow and the flavours of the spices are infused well) for an hour or so till the meat and rice is cooked to perfection. Biryani can again be categorised as Pakki and Kacchi Biryani. In Pakki Biryani you cook the marinated chicken, layer it with fragrant rice and cook it in dum. Kacchi biryani or Kacchi Yeqni’ is a more enticing form of Biryani in which one puts the marinated chicken at the bottom of the pot,  cover it well with par boiled fragrant rice, layer the masalas on top of it and cook it in dum. Personally I always felt that Kacchi Biryani is more flavourful and succulent than Pakki.

As far as I am concerned, I am NOT a Biryani freak. The only Biryanis I ever liked were the one prepared by my Dida (Grandma) and the one that I tasted in a small hotel whose name I cannot recollect at Shyambazar panch mathar mor. After coming out of Kolkata I never ever tasted a biryani that would make my taste buds happy. I absolutely HATE any trace of mint or coriander in my Biryani hence the typical Hyderabad Biryani where mint is an invincible part, is not for me. Hubby once specially got me some chicken Biryani from one of the most famous shops in HYD, but we both agreed while eating it is that it was too dry and minty for our taste. Also I have seen that Biryanis in other parts of the country , never contained the nice and soft halved Potato  and the boiled egg that we Bengalis are so used to.

I tried Biryani at many places due to persuasion from my Hubby, but got more and more disappointed so much so that I began to detest it. Hubby loves Biryani in any form but since I am so choosy in the taste  I always shied off from preparing it at home thinking I will never be able to make what Dida  used to make. My Ma is also not a connoisseur of Biryani hence I could never learn how to cook it. This weekend while watching a chef prepare Biryani on a food Channel  Hubby got supercharged and decided to wear the chef's hat for making Biryani. Of course Hubby taking 'complete' charge of  cooking any dish means I am the one who will do all the ingredient shopping, , cleaning, cutting, arranging, doing the dishes, supervising the cooking etc etc.

The Biryani they showed on TV had mint (!!!) and no way that was going to be a part of Biryani cooked in my Kitchen.So I customised the Biryani as per my taste, with some pointers from Hubby and we were good to go. Finally after much anticipations and apprehensions that the chicken would remain uncooked when we tasted the Biryani at 11 pm, it tasted like heaven. It was beyond our imagination that the first try would yield such a superlative result, hence couldn't wait to share it with my readers.

We prepared the Kacchi Biryani. The list of ingredients may look as never ending but do not get intimidated by it, believe me each plays a big role into making the perfect-est Biryani. Also precision and patience is the key to get it right. When I say 45 min of dum it means exactly 45 min- not more not less. I used 1:1 ratio of rice and chicken, you can alter the ratio depending on your choice.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Marination Time: 4 hours
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves:2

Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:

Marination:
  • Chicken - 300gm
  • Yoghurt - 150 gm
  • Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder - 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder - 1tsp
  • Onion - 1 cup deep fried (1 medium onions longitudinally sliced)
  • Ginger Paste - 2tbsp
  • Garlic paste - 2tbsp
  • Nutmeg(Jaifol) - 1/2 tsp grinded coarsely
  • Salt as per taste
Spice Bag:
  • Peppercorns - 10 (enhances the taste)
  • Clove - 5
  • Green Cardamom - 5
  • Cinnamon stick - Two 2" stick
  • Nutmeg(Jaifol) - 1/2 
  • Caraway seeds (Sahjira) - 1/2 tsp
Biryani:
  • Basmati Rice - 300 gm (I used Kohinoor silver range)
  • Potato - 2 medium, halved
  • Onion - 2 cup deep fried (2 medium onions longitudinally sliced)
  • Ginger -  A 2" piece cut into juliennes 
  • Bay Leaf - 2 big
  • Milk  - 1/2 cup
  • Sugar - 2 tsp
  • Rose water - 4 tbsp
  • Fresh Rose Petals - 10 to15
  • Kewra essence - 1 tsp
  • Saffron - 2-3 strands (optional)
  • Cashew - 10
  • Raisin - 10 -15
  • Other dryfruits - according to preference
  • Ghee - 1/2 cup
  • Wheat flour dough to seal - as required
  • Refined oil - as required for deep frying
  • Salt - as per taste
  • Yellow Food colour - 1 tsp
Garnish:
  • Boiled Egg - 1 (Halved)
  • Cucumber - Cut in angular circles
Procedure :

Marination:
1. Wash and cut the chicken and lay them out in a mixing bowl.
2. Beat the yoghurt into a uniform paste and add it to the chicken
3. Take 1/2 a Nutmeg and pound it coarsely.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients mentioned under Marination and the pounded Nutmeg into the mixing bowl. Mix well.
5. Cover the bowl and keep it in the refrigerator for 4 hours or more.
Note: If you don't have that much time to spare even an hour of marination is fine. But I like the chicken to be marinated for longer hours as it soaks up the flavour better.

Barista (Deep fried onion):
1. Slice the onions longitudinally with a sharp knife. Separate all the layers with your finger so that they are not in cluster.
2. Julienne the fresh ginger piece in thin slices. The deep fried onion is usually known as Barista but I have added the ginger to it as well
3. Heat oil in a wok and add the onion slices. Fry it in medium heat and keep stirring it so that all the slices are evenly browned.
4. Once all the onions are even in colour add the ginger juliennes and fry for a while
5. Take out the fried onions and ginger from the oil and spread it on a Tissue paper. The extra oil will be soaked up by the paper and the onions will become crispy as they cool down

Kesar Milk:
1. Take the milk and add the Saffron strands to it. The milk will take on a yellow hue.

Kewra & Rose water( To be done before Assembling the Biryani):
1. Take the Kewra Essence and Rose water in a bowl and mix well.

Readying the Rice and Spices:
1. Wash and dry the Basmati rice. The better dried the rice is the lesser chances are that teh Biryani will turn out to be mushy. So take care to dry the rice.
2. Halve the medium sized potatoes so that you have 4 pieces of halved potatoes.
3. Shallow fry the potatoes for about 3-4 minutes and then keep them aside.
4. Pound the spices mentioned under "Spice Bag" coarsely. Take a muslin cloth of the size of a ladies hankie and place the pounded spices on the cloth and tie it in a pouch.

If you don't have a muslin cloth you can use a normal cotton ladies hankie just like me which shall yield the same result. 

7. Take a deep bottomed wok. The water measurement for cooking the Basmati rice will be given at the back of the packet. I used 600 ml of water. Put the water in the wok and turn on the heat. When the water becomes warm place two medium sized Bay leaves at the bottom.
8. Add the washed and dried Basmati rice to the warm water .
9. Add 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar in the wok and mix well.

The taste of this water will be the taste of the rice. Hence add salt according to the taste you want. I also added sugar to balance the saltiness.

10. Immerse the Spice Bag into the water in the wok. Cover the lid and boil it on high flame for about 7-7 minutes.
11. Par cook the rice (3/4 cooked). Avoid overboiling.
12. Drain the water and remove the "Spice Bag"
13. Take out all the spices from the Spice Bag and keep it aside in a bowl.
14. Take 1 tsp of ghee in a skillet and when the ghee is hot add all the dry fruits along with cashew and raisins. Fry for a couple of minutes and keep it aside.


Assembling the Kacchi Biryani:
1. Take a deep bottomed wok with a lid, preferably those glass lids from which you can see what's going on inside the wok.
2. Spread 2 tsp of ghee on the bottom of the wok.
3. Place the chicken marinade as a uniform layer over it.
4. Sprinkle half of the fried dry fruits over it.
5. Arrange the Partially fried Potato halves on it.
6. Sprinkle the punded Spice from The Spice Bag that you had kept aside.
7. Layer the parboiled basmati rice on top of it.
8. Sprinkle rest of the dry fruits and Barista over it
9. Pour the Kesar milk and Kewra-Rose water evenly covering the entire area
10. Take 1 tsp of yellow food colouring and spread it with a spoon in one particular area of the rice (1/5 rice)
11.Pour the ghee on top of all the layers generously and evenly.
12. Repeat the layers if you are left with chicken marinade and rice. For me only two layers were sufficient as I was cooking only 600gm of Biryani.
13. Roll the dough into a long strip. Cover the lid and seal the rim of the lid with the dough strip half on the lid and half on the wok . If you are using a glass lid it will also have a opening on top. Cover it with dough as well. Do not be a miser with the dough sealing as if you use less dough it may come off once the dough starts to get hard from the steam.

An alternate to the dough strip sealing : Cover the wok with a silver foil and place the lid on top. Though the dough strip sealing is more full proof.

14. Cook on high flame for 5 minutes and then lower the flame to minimum.
15. Place a tawa under the wok and cook the biryani for 45 minutes.

It's bad news if during the 45 minutes of cooking at any point you happen to get the awesome aroma of the Biryani. It simply means that your sealing has given away and it's time for damage control. Quickly prepare some more dough, let it be slightly watery, and stick it over the portion you see steam coming out. Since the wok would already be too hot hence the dough will immediately stick and become hard.

Serving:
Cut open the dough along the rim and you will be greeted with an aroma to die for!
Carefully mix all the layers so as to not break the chicken pieces. It will be a nice combination of yellow and white rice.
Arrange the piping hot biryani on a plate and garnish it with 3-4 slices of cucumber and top it off with the halved boiled agg.
The Biryani is a bit moist due to the presence of a generous amount of ghee and can be eaten alone. But if you want you can serve it with raita.


Vegetarians can also relish this Biryani. Substitute the meat or chicken with vegetables like cauliflowers, carrots, peas,potatoes or paneer. Just adjust the "Dum" time accordingly keeping the rest of the procedure same.

This Biryani is unique because it has the goodness of two cuisines : the perfect Bengali blend of sweet and spicy flavours and traditional Hyderabadi cooking technique. Try if and I bet you wont be disappointed.

This post is an entry for the "Awesome Cuisine's 2012 Favorite Recipe Contest" event.

End of the Year Favorite Recipe Contest




Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Stir Fried Boiled Egg


The Pune weather has really undergone a lot of changes in the past couple of years. I remember 4 years ago when I was staying in Navi Mumbai, I had visited Pune along with my mother around the starting of November and God it was some cold. The moment we had come out of the temperature controlled comforts of the Volvo we were greeted by bone freezing chilly air. Hardly prepared for such a cold whether when in Mumbai it was still warm and toasty, we almost spent the entire weekend shivering.

Global warming, pulling down mountain after mountain to make place for 'chic planned cities', increasing vehicles and pollution, population burst have all contributed to the decline of Pune weather which was once as good as Bangalore weather. The outskirts of the city still enjoy the remnants of what once used to be hills, but sadly enough the hills are now dotted only with brick and mortar skyscapers rather than wild flora and fauna. We stay in Anandnagar which was once considered a remote part of Pune but very soon would be consumed by the tentacles of the rapidly growing city limits. Whenever we get some time in the evening we go to the terrace. The billowing lights all around does make it look as if Diwali never ceases to exist in Pune, but also makes us see the reality that even the remotest hilltop is not saved from human intervention. "Valley view" housing societies make sure they grab the best location in town so as to grab the elitest of clientele.

Year by year as the seasons are forgetting their original characteristics. Summer merrily eats away the monsoon seasons, the rains hardly make their presence felt and the the famous "gulabi thandi" of Pune- a season when your cheeks turn a shade of rosey pink have all gotten lost in transition somewhere. With December creeping in and the need to still put the fans on is quite a surprising thing. All over India, apart from the northern limits, winter seems to have fortgotten its way. We spent the last weekend in Panchgani to celebrate our first year of togetherness, but even at the hill station the temperature was like normal Pune temperature. Yesterday the papers had claimed that it was the effect of some easterly winds that was responsibile for the high temperature and from today onwards Pune would see a drop in the mercury. Considering the heat level yesterday I had hadly pinned any hopes. But when we woke up today morning at 7 am, the entire neighbourhood was wrapped in a soft blanket of fog. I could barely make out the shops below. As I nudged through the window to really believe what I was seeing, I felt a wraft of chilly air brush through my face. I recoiled as an instant reaction, my breath made a small circle of fog on the cold window. As I closed the window shut, I was smiling. Finally the time of cuddling inside a warm blanket with a cup of steaming coffee while watching a nice suspense movie has arrived. Today is also the much hyped doomsday 12-12-12. if I am lucky enough to survive the predictions of the Mayan Calender, I would look forward to enjoy each and every day of this lovely winter weather as long as it lasts.

Egg keeps your body warm, so winter is the time to try and experiment with a lot of egg preparations. Hubby really loves egg, so I decided to improvise on boiled eggs. Once again something really quick , easy and tasty. This recipe takes the best of both worlds North and South, maybe a dash of East and West as well.


Preparation Time: 5 minutes 
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves:2

Cuisine: Fusion

Ingredients: 
  • Boiled Eggs - 4
  • Curry Leaves - 1 twig
  • Green Chillies - 2 slitted ( you may increase the number depending on your spice tolerance level)
  • Onion - 1 (medium sized)
  • Ginger Paste / freshly grated ginger - 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder -  1 pinch
  • Methi  Seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Kasuri Methi -  1/2 tsp
  • Red chilli  powder - 1 pinch
  • Cumin Powder - 1 pinch
  • Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh coriander leaves - 1/4 cup (garnishing purpose)
  • Garam masala powder - 1 pinch
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Refined oil - 1 tsp

Procedure:
 
1. Shell the eggs and cut them into longitudinal quarters.

2. Slice the onions and grate the ginger.

3. Heat oil in a wok. When the oil is heated toss in the slitted chillies, methi seeds, onion, grated ginger, curry leaves, Fry for a few minutes till the onion is softened.

4. Add the turmeric, red chilli, cumin powder, coriander powder,garam masala, salt and sugar. Add the Kasuri Methi and cook for 5 minutes.

5. When the mixture is fragrant add the quartered eggs. Mix them carefully with the mixture, so that the egg doesn't break or the yolk comes out. Cook for 5 more minutes. The eggs should be well coated with the mixture so as to absorb the flavours nicely.


6. Turn off the heat. Garnish it with chopped fresh coriander leaves. If you have coconut available at hand you can chop a handful of coconut and sprinkle on the stir fried eggs to add nuttiness to the preparation. You can serve it with Rice or Rotis (Indian Flatbread). Since this is a dry dish its recommended that you serve it along with Daal (lentil soup) as well.



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Kach Kolar Khosha Bata ( Raw Plantain Peel Paste)

Gosh it's been really long since I looked back at my poor blog, let alone write something. It's really feeling neglected. The past two months seems to have passed in a jiffy. Too many things happening at the same time - Durga Puja, Diwali, Bhai Dooj, both sides of the moms visiting us, a sojourn to Matheran, local sightseeing, lot's of shopping with both moms, movies, eat outs...phew!! It all seems like whirlwind now. Moreover planning for two upcoming big events (1st anniversary and Hubby's birthday) had hardly left me with anytime to sit and think. Both the moms had taken care of the cooking hence I got some time to make the anniversary scrapbook and birthday preparations. Now both moms left for Kolkata so I am back to the chopping board. Today is my Hubby's birthday; I had planned to surprise him with a small twosome surprise party last night, which I had been planning meticulously over the past two months. Heart shaped balloons  fragrant candles, rich chocolate truffle cake, a huge birthday card , a fasttrack watch and a bottle of Indage Red wine - the celebration was short and sweet. Hubby was quite overpowered with emotions seeing my small arrangement (especially after I had to literally drag him out of the bedroom while he kept yelling and cursing me for interrupting his deep slumber). Seems like he had forgotten about the birthday thing but when he saw the cakes and all at once the irritation on his face was replaced by a surprised look. The efforts was worth it. Though we couldn't finish the cake, but we did gulp down some wine and slept like a log.

Since I have planned a lavish dinner spread for today, yesterday I wanted us to have something healthy and light on the stomach for dinner. Raw banana or plantain makes nutritional and  tasty dishes. It one of the most versatile vegetables available. I decided to make a simple plantain fish curry for dinner. Most of the time when we prepare plantain dishes we tend to forget totally about the utility of the peels and mostly they are thrown away. But just like plantain, the peels also are very rich in iron and fiber. It so happened that  hubby saw me cooking plantain and came up with the idea of preparing a dish from the plantain peels that I was about to throw away. There are days when hubby suddenly feels he wants to cook up a storm in the kitchen. Yesterday was one such day. Had it been any other day i would have shooed him away from kitchen for interrupting my cooking. But I didnt want to exactly do that on his birthday eve. So like a good wife I boiled and gave him the plantain peels. Here is his recipe of Kach Kolar Kosha Bata.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves:2

Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:
  • Plantain Peel of 2 big green banana
  • Poppy Seed Paste (Poshto bata) - 2 tsp [1 tsp is also fine]
  • Five spice mix ( panch foron) - 1/2 tsp
  • Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilli - as per spice tolerance
  • Sugar - 1/2 tsp 
  • Turmeric powder - a small pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil

Procedure:

1. Boil the plantain peel in the pressure cooker for a single whistle. Drain the water and chop the peels into small pieces.


2. Soak the poppy seeds for sometime 



3. In a mixer grinder grind the chopped peels, soaked poppy seeds, grated coconut and green chilli to a uniform paste. The Bengalis tend to make this paste with the "shil noda" instead of a grinder. But doing it in a mixer also doesnt alter the taste



4. Heat oil in a wok and add the five spice mix. The spices will crackle in sometime



5. Add the plantain peel paste to the seasoning. 



6. Add a pinch of turmeric



7. Adjust the salt and sugar and fry the mixture till the smell of raw poppy seeds go away and water dries from the mixture



 The main trick of the dish is to dry off the water. It's all about getting the right consistency and not burning the paste in the process. Mold the mixture into any shape you like.  This preparation can be served as a side dish with steamed rice and any kind of a dal. A yummy preparation to suit the chilly weather setting in Pune.



I knew about this recipe but never tried it for the fear of how it will turn out. But after this I know what to do with the plantain peels.



 I hope to be more regular on my blog from now. Finger crossed!




 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

~ Shubo Bijoya ~

The Puja has kept me very busy for the past week and blogging has taken a backseat. Nonetheless, wishing you all Shubho Bijoya and Happy Dusshera.




Saturday, 6 October 2012

Malai Gobi (Cauliflower in creamy white sauce)


Malai Gobi
A lazy Saturday once again. Hubby had office which meant I was no where going near to the kitchen and was meant to spend the entire day reading travel blogs, food or photography. But I was a woman on a mission today. I had to study for Advanced Software Testing Exam. I sat focused for half an hour then I I felt I had studied a lot and need to take a short break. I though maybe I will just log on to the net for 10-15 mins and take a look at the options available for a North Bengal Trip that we were planning and then back to studies. So I did a wee bit of searching here and there read a travelogue on Lava and then thought maybe I will just take a look at what was going on in my blog any new comments, visitors or anything else. And then I thought while I the blog page loads why don't I just in parallel load the last weekend trip to Lonavala pics on Facebook. Thus soon I found myself working on two browser windows and 10 opened tabs. It was also an important task you see, I mean I hardly get time to upload pics, checkout whats happening in the blog forums, say hi to my friends on FB and so on. So I kept nudging the fat text book to one corner of the bed as I settled myself comfortably with my laptop and a packet of Aliva Milk Minis Apple Delight biscuits. Let me tell you here that I am totally in love with this little goodies that I accidentally found in the supermarket last weekend. They are yum and crispy sweet little things. Almost takes me back to the days when Little hearts Biscuit made its appearance into the market and stirred up a storm. Every time dad went to the market I would tell him to get me a packet of those sugar drizzled heart shaped biscuits that would actually melt in the mouth leaving behind a sweet trail and more longing. Somehow I felt in the later days the biscuit lost its charm, it no longer melted in the mouth and was a bit hard. Maybe my conception but it felt that way or maybe the initial euphoria had died down. But when I chanced upon these milk minis they made me very nostalgic. Today I gorged on the last packet and was wondering why I didn't get more of it. Anyway I will pick it up sometime next week again. All this time while I was at the net I had forgotten about time. When I looked at the clock it was already 12 pm. I had decided to have Maggie in lunch hence there was no hurry (mind it I was going to have Maggie after 3 months almost, so it's not a staple for me whenever hubby is out :P). I only had to take a shower and cook Maggie and laze around for the rest of the day. But then I started thinking of what I will be making for dinner. Something easy and quick of course. I thought why not make the vegetable right now, so that I will have a free evening as well. I looked into the freezer and a nice white cauliflower and a few capsicums stared back. Oops I had totally forgotten Saturday is my vegetable shopping day! Ok, so it was already late and I only had a lone cauliflower at my disposal. I took out the milk, curd and the cauliflower out of the fridge and prepared the easiest dish possible with them. Have a look at the recipe I'm sure you are going to love it.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Kesaria Meetha Pulav (Bengali Sweet Saffron Rice)

It was Sunday evening. We had just returned from a visit to the local supermarket for the weekly grocery and household stuffs. As a matter of fact it was more exciting in reality than it sounds.  We had just discovered a great restaurant serving amazing Rajasthani and Maharashtrian vegetarian cuisine during the lunch hour. Well my hubby was totally hostile about the idea of going out for the weekly chores when there was an India-Pakistan 20-20 match in the evening. Hence we decided we will go to the supermart before lunch, have our lunch in the adjacent restaurant, finish the shopping and return as early as possible. Since it was a weekend I was in mood for something non veg (a hardcore Bengali after all!). We had observed the beautiful village like restaurant whenever we went shopping but never really cared to find out more about it. But now since that was the only convenient option considering we had limited time, hubby started googling about it. Rest all apart the fact that it was a pure veg restaurant was a good enough damper for me. But hubby was insistent and I agreed while still grumbling.

We entered the village themed restaurant. They charged us 500 for 2 for a buffet meal all inclusive. We stepped in through the door and found us in the middle of a traditional Rajasthani Village. There were charpais all around but we chose the princely divans for better cosiness. The food was awesome (any veg food which can satiate me has got to be fabulous)! We had chats, chai, appetizers, maincourse, sweet dish and of course ice cream from the ice-cream vendor biking around and ringing the small bell announcing his arrival. Kids were running all around after him. It reminded me of the childhood days and how crazy we were about those Rs.1 ice cream cones back then.

After such a super lunch and a very tiring shopping when we reached home I was simply pooped. Had already prepared dhaniya chicken in the morning so didn't have much headache to think about what to serve in dinner. A simple rice would go well. We freshened up and took positions before the TV for the match to start. We had all the munchies handy for the big game. The match turned out to be super exciting.  Sometime midway through the game, we heard thunder. It was pretty humid in the afternoon but such thunderous clouds were a surprise. Within minutes it was pouring like anything with cold lashing winds. Almost something similar to "Kalbaishakhi" of Bengal. We forgot about the game momentarily and was staring at the lightening strike again and again. It was kind of deadly yet romantic. The rain gradually slowed down but the weather was still all breezy- curtains flying and stuff. I was like a simple rice wont do much justice to such a weather. It demands something more romantic, love filled, royal. And royal doesnt always mean hard work. I looked into the pantry, did a inventory check and knew what I would be making - the meetha pulav or the misti polao as we call it in Bengali. It has this mellow yellow colour which makes it more interesting.

This is a super easy recipe just you need to have the ingredients handy. It doesn't go through the elaborate process involved in making a biryani but is almost as delicious if not more.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Honey Rose and Pomegranate Ice Cream


With the festive season setting in with the Ganapati Utsav, there is a abundance of colorful blossoms at the road side flower shops. Oranges, yellows, whites, pinks and reds all around. I have a small mandir in our apartment, but for me it's more like standing in front of the deities with folded hands for a couple of minutes instead of an elaborate puja with flowers, incense sticks and chanting elaborate mantras. My God is understanding and pardons me every time for this short cut way to seek his divine blessings. 

A creamy delight
Even if I don't buy flowers very occasionally but that particular day while waiting for the traffic signal to turn green, I saw teenage boys selling stunning pink colored rose bouquets. The bouquets were looking amazingly beautiful and immediately I developed a romantic craving for them. By the time I fished out my purse the light had already turned green and there was no way I could convince the auto driver to stop his auto in the heavy traffic. I could just languish for those roses then and decided to buy some the next day. But unfortunately I never saw those boys or bouquets again. Somehow the view of those roses had suddenly made me feel like a teenager in love, the happy happy dreamy and mushy kinda feeling  and I decided I needed some rose in my life or rather cooking. I started looking on the net and surprisingly came across so many recipes involving roses. I never had any idea that a romantic flower like rose can be such a versatile ingredient in so many dishes. I thought to give a shot at making some rose ice cream. There are many recipes of rose ice cream on the net, I read through a couple of them and came with my own mixed version. I couldn't find the pink roses so I had to do with the standard red roses readily available at any flower shop, just make sure the roses you get are pesticide free. I also had some fresh and juicy pomegranate at home and since the color matched the roses I had chosen for this recipe, I used them as well. I was previously aware of a thing called rose honey (rose petal infused honey) and had some of it already at my home, so that became a nice topping to go with the inherently romantic rose petal ice cream.


Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves:2

Cuisine: General

Ingredients:
  • Milk  -  200 ml
  • Fresh Cream (I used Amul Fresh cream) - 200 gm
  • Sugar - 85 gm
  • Rose water - 3 tbsp
    Rose Essence - 1 tbsp
  • Rose Syrup -  3 tbsp
  • Fresh Rose Petals - 10 to15
  • Pomegranate - 1 cup
  • Saffron - 2-3 strands
  • Almonds - 5 (chopped)
Ingredients for Honey Rose:
  • Honey
  • Rose Petals

    Procedure for Honey Rose:

    Preparing Honey Rose is really pretty easy but the only caveat is making sure that the roses you are going to use is fresh and pesticide free. Hence the best way to procure such roses is growing them in your backyard. You can store the rose petals in an air-tight container and store it in the refrigerator for using it later in any dessert. You can also experiment with all kinds of different roses, each one has a characteristic color and smell.

    1. Wash and dry the rose petals.
    2. Fill a jar with the rose petals.
    3. Pour honey uniformly over it and let this concotion stand for at least 2 weeks. The more the standing time the more fragrent the honey becomes.

    Honey rose comes in handy as all kind of dessert toppings so even if you make it in bulk, its always a useful. I made a bowlful just enough for this batch of dessert. The subtle smell of rose with the sweetness of the honey will always leave you craving for more.

    Procedure for Ice Cream:

    1. Take the sugar, 5-6 rose petals, rose syrup, 1 tsp of pomegranate seeds and 3 tbsp of rosewater in a food processor and pulse to make a uniform puree.I prefer to use Mapro rose syrup as they have a very natural smelling rose flavor and shredded rose petals which helps to add texture to this dessert. I used the glistening scarlet seeds of antioxidant-rich pomegranate to give that extra crunchiness to the decadent dessert.

    2. Take the fresh cream and milk in a saucepan and add the above puree. Add the saffron strands. Mix well.

    3. Turn on the heat and bring the mixture to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens a bit. Turn off the heat.

    4. Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature.

    5. Place a few chopped almonds and pomegranate seeds in the bottom of the refrigerating bowls. Pour the thickened mixture into refrigerating bowls till half. Line a few more pomegranate seeds along the side of the bowls and then pour the rest of the mixture over it. I used four glass bowls for freezing the dessert. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

    Note: Make sure the mixture is stirred at constant intervals of 1 – 1.5 hours during the freezing process. This will ensure a smooth texture.

    Serving Tips:
    Scoop into serving and  top it with rose petal honey, rose syrup, a dollop of fresh cream, pomegranate seeds and rose petals. Sprinkle finely chopped almonds or any other nuts of your preference.

    Relish the delectable dessert and enjoy the festive season!

    1.You can use coconut cream for this ice cream
    2. Nuts can also be used in the recipe for a richer outcome
    3.Wash and dry the rose petals before using them in any preparation to do away with any dirt or impurities present

    A spoonful of happiness

    Tuesday, 25 September 2012

    Raw Banana Spicy Stir Fry


    Banana or plantain is such a versatile thing, it can be curried, fried, boiled, made into cutlets or if ripe can be eaten as it is. I always pick up raw banana during my trips to the local veggie store. Raw banana is really light on the tummy and tastes delicious even with mild seasoning. Raw banana is also a good source of Vitamin C and Potassium while being low in Cholesterol I used to really love the raw banana fish curry Ma used to make. I remember almost every two weeks we used to have the curry and I never grew bore of it. 

    Pune doesn't offer a large array of vegetables as we get back home (Kolkata). Thus I had to literally cherry-pick the vegetables which would suite our Bengali palate and raw banana has become an integral part of our meals now. My favourite way is to have it in fish curry form or as banana chips. But just to try something different at times I make this really simple stir fry with commonly used spices and it makes a wonderful accompaniment to rice and dal. Enjoy the lovely Vegan Banana Recipe called Raw Banana Spicy Stir Fry.

    Raw Banana Spicy Stir Fry


    Preparation & Cooking Time: 25 mins
    Serves:2
    Cuisine: North India


    Ingredients:
    • Raw Banana - 2 (medium size - mildly ripe preferable)
    • Asafoetieda - 1/4 tsp
    • Ginger - 1/4 tsp
    • Cumin Seed (Jeera) - 1/2 tsp
    • Carom Seed (Ajwain) - 1/2 tsp
    • Red Chilli Powder/ Chilli Flakes - 1/4 tsp
    • Coriander Powder (Dania) - 1/2 tsp
    • Garam Masala - 1/4 tsp
    • Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
    • Dry Mango Powder (Aamchur) - 1/2 tsp or Lemon juice - 1/2 tsp
    • Coriander leaf - 1 tsp (chopped)
    • Sesame Seeds (for garnishing)
    • Refined Oil 
    • Salt (to taste)
    Procedure:

    1.  I prefer mildly ripe bananas for this preparation as the partially ripe bananas impart a mild sweetness to the dish and can be directly used without having to boil at first. But if you have complete ripe bananas, then pressure cook the bananas for a single whistle with it's skin on.

    2. Peel the skin off the bananas and slice them in roundels.

    3. Sprinkle a pinch of turmeric on the banana slices to avoid blackening.

    4. Add the grated ginger to the banana slices and mix well

    Take the asafoetida in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp of water to make a uniform liquid paste.Using this paste instead of dry asafoteida directly in the hot oil, prevents it from getting burnt easily and preserves the flavor

    5. Heat oil in a skillet and temper it with cumin and carom seeds. When they start to splutter add the asafoetida paste, rest of the turmeric, salt, chilli flakes/powder, garam masala, coriander powder and amchur powder.

    6. Mix well and stir fry for a couple of minutes till the bananas are tender

    7. Add chopped coriander leaves to the skillet and fry for a minute

    8. Sprinkle sesame seeds and mix well

    9. Serve hot with rice and dal. This will go well with sambar or rasam as well.


    Note: You can alter the amount of Red Chilli depending on your spice tolerance level. Ideally this recipe tastes best in the spicy form.

    Sunday, 16 September 2012

    Yummy Chicken Sandwich

    The husband had gone for a product launch event to Hyderabad over the weekend. He was coming back today evening. And I knew after the flight and missing the lunch hours he would a like a hungry five year old. He was about to reach home by 5PM so it would be way past the lunch time and he wouldn't have any full fledged meal at that time.  So I was racking my brain to figure out something which would be filling and can be made with the ingredients currently available in my pantry.

    Chicken is a staple thing we have on the weekends, hence I had chicken in the freezer. I had recently found out a very nice chicken store in our neighborhood. Even after one week in the freezer when I defrost the chicken its still soft and fresh. So I decided I would make something with chicken. Chicken sandwich looked like a good option.

    I connected to the net, and began searching for a nice chicken sandwich recipe. I specially wanted to avoid the recipes which were all heavy on mayonnaise. But unfortunately most of the chicken recipes I found on the net were either mayonnaise or cheese filled. Some of the indianised versions didn't sound good enough for me. After an hour of futile search I closed the laptop and decided to come up with my own version of chicken sandwich. I speculated between going for an all Chinese recipe or something more Indian. When the confusion between the two didn't appear to go, I thought why not a fusion of both? Thus the following recipe was born.
    Chicken Sandwich

    Preparation & Cooking Time: 25 mins

    Serves:2
    Cuisine: General

    Ingredients:
    • Chicken - 6 medium sized fibrous pieces
    • Brown Bread - 8 slices
    • Onion - 1 Medium
    • Green Chilli - 1 (Very finely chopped)
    • Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
    • Pepper Powder - 3 tsp
    • Ching's Schezwan magic masala - 1 tsp
    • Kisan Garlic Cheese Spread - 2 tsp
    • Ginger-Garlic Paste - 1/2 tsp
    • Oregano - 1 tsp (optional) 
    • Curd - 3 tsp
    • Butter - 1/2 cup
    • Soya Sauce - 1 tsp
    • Refined Oil 
    • Salt (to taste)
    Chicken Mix

    Procedure:
    1. Clean the chicken pieces. Preferably select some fibrous pieces if possible devoid of bones.

    2. Slice the onion longitudinally and chop the green chilli very finely. (If you are ok with having bigger chilli pieces then you can chop it that way)

    3. Heat oil in a skillet and toss in the onion and chilli, fry till golden brown. Keep them aside to cool

    4. In a deep bottomed wok take 3 cups of water. Put the cleaned chicken pieces in the water. Add 1 tsp of pepper powder, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp of butter to the water. Cover the wok and turn on the heat. As the chicken gets cooked, the flavours of pepper and butter will get uniformly infused into the chicken pieces.

    5. Boil the chicken pieces for 6-7 mins and then turn of the heat. Let it cool and then take out the boiled chicken on a plate. Note that the chicken should not be all mushy, it should remain a bit hard when you remove it from the heat.

    6. Shred the chicken pieces using two forks and keep it in a mixing bowl

    7. Add the fried onion and chilli, red chilli powder, remaining pepper powder, 2 tsp butter, curd, soya sauce, ginger garlic paste, oregano, cheesy spread, magic masala and a pinch of salt if required to the mixing bowl.  Mix everything together so that the chicken is well coated with all the ingredients.

    8. Heat 2 tsp oil in a skillet. Add the remaining butter to the oil. You can add more according to taste. Toss in the chicken mixture into the skillet and fry it for 4 minutes, occasionally stirring it so that the mix doesn't stick to the bottom of the skillet.

    9. Keep the fried mix aside. Take the bread slices, chop off the hard edges of the bread. Butter on side of the bread slices.

    10. Now heat the skillet and keep the bread slices one by one, the buttered side facing the bottom of the skillet. Let the bread surface become slightly browned. Do the same for all the breads.

    11. Lay the bread on a serving plate, the fried side facing down. Butter the other side of the breads lightly. Spoon some of the chicken mix on one bread and cover it with another bread. A total of 4 sandwiches are made. Cut the sandwiches diagonally and serve with some ketchup and potato chips as sides.

    I am very self critical of my cooking. If I am not satisfied with the end result, no matter how much praise I get for it, I am not at peace. Today I was really happy with the end result, just the way I wanted it to be. More Indian and yet having all the right mix of Chinese flavor . The hubby really enjoyed the sandwich  and even licked clean the surplus chicken mix from the mixing bowl. I was smiling looking him eat the way he ate and knew what was going into the food blog next. Try this one and I bet you are absolutely going to love it.



    Saturday, 15 September 2012

    ~ Of Madhabilata, Kokil and a Fresh morning~


    Consciously or unconsciously our mind preserves certain images or memories which we gather on the path of life. The remain submerged in the ocean of our thoughts only to surface when we come across anything that  bears resemblance to it.

    When we are small we always grumble about how lucky the adults are who can do anything they want. We can't wait to grow up to "enjoy" the benefits of adulthood. But the irony is that finally when we grow up and become an adult we start missing the "good-old-days" - our childhood. The sight, smell and sound of anything that takes us down the memory lane become so very special. We miss the innocent "us" and wish that if we could only go back to what we had left behind years ago.

    It's been more like a decade that I had stepped out of my home. Lived in a hostel, then with colleagues and now with my husband - but still I feel that the 18 years spent in the lap of nature in IIT kharagpur (my father was a professor at IIT) was the best time of my life. My life mainly revolved around my ma and my pet cats. Life was simple yet cherishable. Never felt the absence or need of a sibling because my fleet of cats kept me company.

    Might be since I was a single child, I had all the time in the world to be myself. To see and know things around me with uninterrupted attention. To perceive a "bit more" of everything. We had a madhabilata tree in our old quarter - C1-21. There were many other trees as well but that particular tree was my favourite. Every evening when the tree was heavy with fresh blossom, I would wander about it. The flowers had an enchanting smell - refreshing,subtle, blissful. One has to experience it to know why I am referring it as 'enchanting'. A surreal feeling of purity would overpower me everytime I was in its proximity.

    Apart from the madhabilata, the other thing that I clearly remember from my childhood days is the Kokil or Cuckoo. IIT was infamous for the Kokils. These feathered souls would wake up before 4 am and make sure the entire campus was awake with its calls as well. Any visiting relative would always complain about this "nuisance". But we had got so used to them that without their morning calls something would seem amiss. Kokil & Madhabilata together announced the arrival of spring. The would set the backdrop for one of the most beautiful seasons to walk in with grandeur.

    When I left, with it everything that constituted of my childhood was left behind. The room where I would sit near the window holding my ring in such a manner so that the sun rays would fall on the stone and create a kaleidoscope of colors on the opposite wall. The leather black board hung on the door which had witnessed me in the role of a teacher teaching her imaginary students maths, physics and biology. My red Hero cycle, the orange old sofa, my huge collection of story books, the smell of cooking when ma was in the kitchen, the innumerable hours spent with my cats and the life size posters of Rahul Dravid adoring the walls of my room - I had left them all behind when I moved out. The more the distance grew between me and my childhood days, the more attached  I became to my memories of the bygone days.

    Life in the fast lane was never the same. An era had passed and now I was running like all other people in the mad rat race to achieve something in life. Fulfilling short term goals, setting new ones and planning how to achieve them - the perspective of life changed altogether. Stopping by to smell  a flower was the "mission impossible".

    Like every other girl, I met my life partner, fell in love got married and came to Pune. During all these years I had almost forgotten about the madhabilata and the kolkil. We had landed in Pune as a married couple on a warm December afternoon. Months have passed but the place where we stayed remained the same. I took the same by-lane everyday to reach the main road and take a six-seater (shared auto) to my destination. Among all the noisy environ, I prefer to take this particular by-lane because it has two-storied old fashioned houses rather than multi-storied buildings on either side of the road. One day while returning back from office a very faint yet familiar smell wafted in the air. Like under a spell I began moving in the direction of the smell and what did I find? A bunch of powdery pink madhabilatas swaying in the breeze. The first reaction was that of surprise and awe. I had never expected to see the flower in Pune out of all the place.It was almost 15 years after that I was face to face with this old friend. The moment was overwhelming as somewhere faraway I heard the call of the kolkil as well. A few moments passed like that after which I took the bunch in my palms and inhaled the fragrance deeply till the smell infused into each and every cell of my body and mind. It was an Eureka moment. 

    On weekend early mornings I walk down to the local vegetable market I smell the madhabilatas. The early morning air and the fresh fragrance, makes me feel rejuvenated. Today also I had gone for a walk and carried back home some of the fallen madhabilatas from the ground. I placed them inside my diary carefully and closed it. Sometime 10 years down the lane when I revisit the pages of my diary whether there would be a madhabilata tree nearby or not I would remember the memories of today.

    The fresh morning setup the mood for a light and healthy breakfast. While sipping the early morning raw ginger tea, I toasted the brown bread and made poached eggs.  A creamy cheese garlic spread was perfect for the bread and I sprinkled some pepper powder and Ching's Miracle masala over the poached eggs to make them a bit spicy and a lot tasty. Served the bread and poached eggs sunny side up along with freshly sprouted brown chickpeas. We enjoyed the breakfast lazily while talking about all the relevant and irrelevant in our lives which at times just go unnoticed. Today there was no hurry, it was just us and the bright and beautiful morning promising us many more such mornings throughout our life.


    Now everyday I travel by the same by-lane, look at the flowers and feel rejuvenated after a long day. The ever smiling flowers kind of assures me that life maybe a combination of ups and downs but somehow I will make through it. The kokil also coons in unison somewhere faraway. I just smile back and keep walking.  



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