Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A foggy morning, Cup of Chai and Festival season roundup



 

The winter season is creeping in fast in this part of the country. Today when I woke up and looked out of the window I saw nothing, I mean just a white blur of nothingness. I rubbed my eyes assuming I was still dreaming. But yet I see the same. All the quaint pastel colored red roofed buildings, the perfectly manicured green lawns, the bright orange cosmos blossoms,  the neatly tarred path through our housing society even the huge open amphitheater that was there till last night till we went to bed had simply vanished. Poof! It took some time to register that a thick wall of mist was staring back at me which was so dense that the visibility was reduced to a few feet merely. I was pretty surprised realizing it since just two days back we had heavy rains in outskirts of Pune and till yesterday morning we didn’t have any trace of morning mist let alone this thick wall of blob. I went back to  my regular chores of cooking still thinking about the mist. Almost half an hour later I heard hubby call out my name from the bedroom and asking is this mist or something else. I saw him looking out of the window starry eyed - same effect as I had after waking up. We went out to the balcony to take snaps. My D90 was struggling to focus as it sensed the object in front too near due to the flowing mist. It was pretty chilly outside and felt like we were in Darjeeling where it’s very common to be kissed by the clouds and mist in the morning. A charming start to the day indeed!

A cup of Tea & the Foggy Morning

On such a cold morning whats more rewarding experience than a mug of freshly made warm, comforting and mildly sweet chai. So delicate and beautiful – the color of the tea looks like liquid amber. Tea is such an inevitable part of almost every India's life. There are people who can't start their day until they get their due cup of tea. My mom is a avid Tea drinker. From time I remember I have seen her drink tea at least thrice a day religiously - the calming one in the morning when no one woke up, a hurried one during the breakfast and one in the evening lazying around with a good book. As a kid I always dipped biscuit in her evening tea, which really irritate her because it became cold due to my constant biscuit stirring. So when I grew up a bit she used to give me a separate cup of tea in the evening. I was never fond of tea as a kid so that cup of tea was only to soak the pile of biscuits I would sit down with. Even now I am not a big fan of Tea but have a cup of raw tea during morning with a couple of cookies. Its a light snack that I have while cooking. We only have dinner at home and return very late from office so I prepare the dinner gravy in the morning itself.

For me tea always meant to be tea leaves brewed in milk and sugar. But chai with milk in it many a times resulted in heartburn. I am a bit intolerant to lactose as well. So this was one more reason I avoided tea. But strangely with coffee I didn't have this heartburn issue only felt too full. Post marriage I started to drink raw tea and like it too. It's a habit I picked up after seeing in my in-laws home. The raw tea never gave me any issues. Tea leaves brewed in hot water and a spoon of sugar and sometimes for a change I squeeze in a wedge of lemon to vary the taste.


When I was in Atlanta I saw Starbucks introducing Chai Latte / Chai Tea which became an instant hit among the people. Americans liked the taste which was very much like masala chai. Chai Tea is such a misnomer as Chai itself means Tea in Hindi, So when you translate Chai Tea it means "Tea Tea". But then that's how its marketed in US and no one really cares whether its Tea Tea or simply Tea. Much is talked about Masala Chai. Even when you search net you will only find recipes of Masala chai only. However I am repulsed by it totally. The strong smell of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and other spices totally overwhelms the original flavor of Tea. Maybe when the flavor of tea leaves is not that exceptional all these spices are required to make it richer. But in India any good quality expensive tea whether Darjeeling, Assam or simply CTC tea have such rich and flavorful texture and taste that its a sin to mess up with the original flavor  with all those spices. Maybe a bit of Ginger is fine as its very good when taken during a cold but that's that. Creamy milk, sugar and a tea spoon of the best quality tea leaves - the magic it weaves is only felt if you taste it. Water has also a major role to play in enhancing the inner flavors of a tea leaf. I remember when we had gone to Darjeeling, mom and all my relatives became very fond of the Darjeeling tea that the maid used to make everyday. So when they returned to the plains they got many packets of the same brand of Darjeeling tea. The exact same method was used to prepare the tea and yet there was a lot to be desired in the taste. Even after trying for several times with milk or no milk when the taste could not be recreated my grandpa concluded it might be the mountain water that resulted in the brilliant taste.

Here are the two simple ways I prepare my tea.

Raw Tea :-

Preparation Time: 5 minutes 
Serves : 2

Ingredients :

  • Tea Leaf - 2 tsp
  • Sugar - 1 tsp
  • Water - 2 1/2  cup

Method:

  In a Saucepan take the water and add sugar. Let the water boil, add the tea leaves. Let it simmer for 1 minute. Switch off heat and cover lid. Let it stand for couple of minutes. Strain and serve. If you let it stand for more time the color will darken and tea will become a bit strong. So depending upon the standing time the taste shall vary.

For ginger tea coarsely grind 2" ginger and let it boil along with water.
Raw Tea


Milk Tea :-

Preparation Time: 5 minutes 

Serves : 2
  
Ingredients :

  • Tea Leaf - 2 tsp
  • Sugar - 1 tsp
  • Milk - 1 1/2 cup
  • Water - 1  cup

Method:

 In a Saucepan take the milk, water and sugar. Let it boil, add the tea leaves. Let it simmer for 1 minute. Switch off heat and cover lid. Let it stand for couple of minutes. Strain and serve.

CTC tea leaves can be added right at the beginning and the whole  thing can be brought to boil and then served.

For more creamy tea use 2 1/2 cup full cream milk.
Milk Tea
Today is the last day of the extended holidays for Diwali - the end of all festivities for this year. Now again looking forward to the festival time in the coming year. A pictorial roundup of Durga Puja and Diwali this year.

Diwali Lights in our Patio

The Temple at home & Diwali Rangoli
Durga Puja @ Kali Bari Khadki
Durga Puja @ Matre Bridge



Saturday, 2 November 2013

Rajasthani Fiery Red Chicken Curry & a trip to Veer Dam (Satara)

July - September is the most beautiful time of the year in Maharashtra as it's monsoon season. The emerald greenery all around almost hurts the eye, its so beautiful. This year the monsoon have extended beyond September. So even around the Durga Puja we had rains. Even when we don't have rains the sky is overcast at times with mild breeze. It's on one such day that the idea of visiting the Veer Dam has loosely been discussed. Usually many such plans hatch during the weekday while we ride to the office and by the time its weekend the ideas fade into oblivion as by then hubby reasons weekends are more for lazying around than driving for hours. So this time also I didn't take the plan very seriously. But on a Friday night hubby declared to set the alarm early as next day we were going on a ride to Veer Dam.

 So next day we woke up early but got late getting ready. We left home around 8:15 AM.  With hubby's faithful Hero Glamour we got ready to face the morning air and the unknown that lay ahead. From Dhayari to Veer Dam it's 62 KM. From Pune we took the Satara road. About 40 kms from Pune take Pandharpur road on the left for Shirval village. This road goes along the veer dam.

The roads were pretty empty and we breezed through the ghat-like roads, small dark green rocky hills adored both sides of the road. The morning air was very cool and refreshing. Unfortunately I had not taken my helmet and the air was lashing against my face making my eyes teary. I was trying hard to look ahead instead of the strong gusty wind because I didn't want to skip any part of the landscape. 15 minutes into the road we stopped at a roadside restaurant to have breakfast. I had medu vada-chutney which was very crisp and yummy. I always found eating by the highway restaurants or dhabas very intriguing. The panoramic view of the highway, the vehicles zooming past, old movie songs playing in the small TV at the restaurant, the clanging of the utensils as the servers placed the food before the guests - everything makes you feel like you are in a time warp where everything is moving at a fervent pace except you. I enjoy that "you" moment a lot.

We started off after having breakfast. The scenery started to change slowly, green hills gave way to big blue mountains faraway.

The route from Dhayari to Veer Dam
As the city limits slowly faded away we were greeted by miles of golden orange carpet of Cosmos lazily placed over the rolling green terrain interspersed with sudden burst of bold fuchsia bougainvillea , shy white creepers and violet unknown flowers. Post monsoon many parts of Maharashtra  witnesses a heavy bloom of Cosmos, especially away from the city limits on the highways or some distant places which are not having much human habitation. I had never the faintest idea that Cosmos blossoms can look so pretty in a bunch. The Pune Satara road looked as beautiful as our drive to Panshet a few weeks before due to the presence of these Cosmos. Mostly orange at times we saw yellow smaller ones as well. The orange and yellow marigolds also gave a tough competition to the Cosmos throughout the entire stretch but then at the end the Cosmos won hands down due to their petite frame and the cascading effect that was created by ripples of wind along the mountains.


We took a left from the main highway at one point to go towards the Veer dam. As we proceeded the landscape became dotted with farm lands and farmers working in the fields. We  saw some small hut type houses which were probably some village. Soon we crossed the Nira river and from then on our left side the backwaters of Veer Dam started accompanying us. We could see the water through the thick foliage and the villages, but the distance from the road was much. As we drove further the condition of the road deteriorated and at one point of time there was no road but pebbles and dirt. Hubby said that the government had tried to construct good roads here but due to the local political influence on the villagers dispute happened and they never let the government complete the roads. We even saw unfinished bridges and worn out “men at work” signs all along the road indicating the truth of the fact. As we moved on the distance between the road and the backwaters decreased and slowly we were riding very next to it. The water was very calm and peaceful. The aquamarine waters had dark and light alternate ribbons of color due to the difference in depths at places.

Marine trees were seen in the water. We saw many birds on way – some of them very very beautiful and not the ones which are usually seen in city. Veer dam is known for migratory birds visiting it during the winters. A large number of birds are seen in this region every year and many bird watchers are present to witness them.

Such a beautiful place and yet it seemed unexplored and virgin. Maybe that’s one reason why the water of the dam was so clean. A couple of cars stopped for a quick snap but no one stayed for long. We moved further on till the gates of the dam. Few Eucalyptus trees were there along the bank, the minty pine scent with a touch of honey lingered in the air. A couple of village women sat under them washing clothes. We parked the bike outside the gate and walked inside. The lake looked very serene and deep. Veer is one of the largest dams of Maharastra. The slope of the dam was rocky and had tiny violet blossoms all over. We did not walk ahead but spent some quite time by the entry and took snaps. The sun was getting hotter and we decided to backtrack.
There are a couple of hotels by the side of the Veer dam, one of them Sai International was operational. As we were very thirsty from all the driving in the sun we decided to unwind for some time at the hotel. The property is strategically located overlooking the backwaters. It has a nice lawn with wrought iron tables. It has both lodging and fooding. The bar area is separate. We sat at the family restaurant and ordered some mixed bhajiyas and vanilla milkshake. The restaurant was clean enough though we were the only two people there. The bar had more people. The milkshakes arrived first in tall glasses and was one of the best vanilla milkshake I have ever tasted – creamy , frothy and delicately sweetened not more or less. The bhajiyas also arrived and we were left speechless by the sheer mountain sized quantity of it. Somehow we managed to finish half plate.



Well fed and happy we left the hotel and began our journey back. We stopped for an occasional picture or two. The return ride was more pleasant as by that time the sky had become overcast which brought down the temperature a bit. Also the flowers looked brighter against the green backdrop in the shade. The Pune Satara highway has a very large tunnel. This was the first time I was crossing a tunnel on a bike. The air rush with all the light and shadow play on the walls made me feel like we were in some Harry Potter video game navigating a dungeon on a broomstick :D.


We were home by 2.30 PM. We were tired but happy. After a year almost we did a long ride.

During the ride me and hubby discussed a lot about the Maharashtrian cuisine and spicy Kolhapuri chicken was also discussed.  The bold and super spicy dish from Kolhapur is well known for its heat content. If it's not spicy its not authentic Kolhapuri chicken. The next day being a Sunday was our usual day for Chicken. Since so much had been discussed about spicy chicken curry I decided to make something on similar lines. But hubby is totally intolerant to spicy dishes, so it had to be something with the rich flavours of regional chicken but at the same time be low on the heat. I had heard one of my colleagues at office who is from Rajasthan, talk about a particular dish famous in Rajasthan - Laal Maas or Fiery Red Mutton curry. The colour itself is something to talk about - mutton pieces cooked in a rich deep red coloured spicy sauce. What Kolhapuri Chicken is to Maharashtra , Laal Maas is to Rajasthan. I didn't have mutton in the pantry so it had to be tweaked to accommodate chicken in the same recipe.

I looked up on the net and found many recipes of Laal Maas. Among them one of my favorite blogger  Soma of eCurry's Rajasthani red chicken curry looked very delicious. She had a lot of garlic seasoning in her recipe but I tweaked the ingredient list according to my taste - I am not very fond of strong garlic smell in my Indian chicken curry. So I reduced the quantity of garlic and other masalas to keep the curry light on the stomach while keeping the color intact. I was a bit doubtful about the color that Soma had produced in her dish but finally I also managed the same hue. The recipe turned out soooo very good that hubby complimented me saying it was just like "Biyebarir Mangsho" or Mutton prepared during wedding dinners.


Marination Time: 4 hours or overnight

Preparation Time: 20 minutes 

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Rajasthani

Ingredients :

Marinade:
  • Chicken - 500 gm
  • Lemon Juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Red Chilli Powder
  • Yoghurt - 3 tbsp
  • Salt
Paste:
  • Dried Red Chilli (Deseeded)- 10-12
  •  Ginger Root - 3 inch
  • Garlic Clove - 4
  • Onion - 1/2 of a medium onion
  • Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Corriander Powder - 1/4 tsp
Curry:
  • Potato - 1 big
  • Onion - 1 1/2 (Sliced in thin half moons) 
  • Bay Leaves - 2
  • Cloves - 4
  • Cardamom - 3
  • Cinnamon - 3 inch
  • Tomato - 1 medium
  • Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
  • Garam Masala Powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Yoghurt - 1/2 cup
  • Refined Oil
  • Salt as per taste
  • Sugar as per taste
Method:

1. Clean the chicken and add all the ingredients mentioned under marinade, mix well. Let it sit overnight for better taste.
2. De-seed he Red chillies. Soak them in warm water for 10 minutes. Use good quality and more number of red chillies to get a better colour.
3. In a blender add the soaked red chillis and everything mentioned under paste and grind to a fine paste.
4. Dice the Potoes and fry them till brown edges are formed
5. Heat oil in a wok. When the oil is smoking add the onions, salt and sugar. Toss around till the onion becomes light brown in color. The sugar will caramelize and color the onion.
6. Add the Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove and Bay leaf into the wok. Saute for a couple of minutes.

7. Add the Tomato and cook till they become slightly mushy.
8. Add the chicken and keep the marinade aside. Toss the chicken till it is coated well with the mixture in the wok. Fry till the chicken is lightly browned in the edges.

9. Now add the rest of the marinade and saute for 3 minutes.

10. Add the paste mentioned in step three. Saute till oil separates. Then add water according to the gravy desired. At least add 2 1/2 cups of water as we are going to pressure cook it, so enough water should be present to ensure the chicken doesn't get burnt.

11. Add the fried potatoes, garam masala powder and whisked yoghurt. Fold in everything and cook for 1 minute.

12. Transfer the content of the wok into a pressure cooker and cook it for one whistle
When you open the lid you will see red oil floating on the chicken and the gravy has also attained a red hue. 
Note: I am still perfecting this recipe until I reach the desired deep red hue.I have kept the spice level of the recipe very mild as neither me or hubby prefers overtly spicy dishes. And still I got the color near perfect and tasted pretty royal.

Serve it on a bed of steamed rice or with any Indian Rotis.



Today is Diwali so wish all my reader a very happy, joyous and safe Diwali. Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Light and avoid noisy crackers. Spare a thought for the animals also who get scared by the noise. Let's pledge for a greener Diwali this year.

This was one fire cracker of a recipe for this Diwali. Prepare the dish for your near and dear ones and Enjoy!
 


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Jhinge Aloo Posto (Ridge gourd and Potato in Poppy seed Paste) - Guest Post for Sharanya

When Sharanya asked me to do a guest post for her blog I was too excited reason being this was going to be my first guest post for any one. Writing for my own blog is one thing and writing for someone else is a totally different ball game together, there is a lot of responsibility attached to it. As the initial excitement subdued, I started to become jittery. Now the biggest job was to zero in on a recipe that would be good enough for a guest post. I had a lot of dishes in mind and was finding it difficult to streamline my thoughts.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of food is Bengali cuisine...of course it’s the cuisine which is most dear to my heart because I grew up with it. The Bengali's love for food is legendary. The variety of fish and vegetables are so diverse that anything can be combined with everything and a new dish can be created. Bengalis make ambrosial dishes out of the oftentimes rejected peels, stalks and leaves of vegetables.  Ghonto, chorchori, chechki, labra, paturi, bhapa, jhal, jhol, kosha, bhate, chhyanchra, dalna, dolma,kalia, pora, shukto are some of the predominant cooking styles from this cuisine. Every dish gets its unique signature flavor and taste depending on the cooking method.


The eating method is as elaborate as the cooking method. Quoting Wiki "The Bengalis are very particular about the way and the order in which the food should be served. Each dish is to be eaten separately with a little rice so that the individual flavors can be enjoyed. The first item served may be a little ghee which is poured over a small portion of rice and eaten with a pinch of salt. Then come the bitter preparation, shukto, followed by lentils or dals, together with roasted or fried vegetables (bhaja or bharta). Next come the vegetable dishes, the lightly spiced vegetables, chenchki, chokka, followed by the most heavily spiced dalna, ghonto and those cooked with fish. Finally the chicken or mutton, if this being served at all. Chaatni comes to clear the palate together with crisp savory wafers, papor. Dessert is usually sweet yogurt (mishti doi). The meal is finally concluded with the handing out of betel leaf (paan), which is considered to be an aid to digestion and an astringent."

By now you would have a fair enough idea about how religious the Bengalis are about their food. Today I would like to write about a very humble and comforting recipe from Bengal.


I have been food blogging for over a year now. I had a G+ page which I never tried to explore. I used to remain within the frontiers of my blog until recently when one fine day I decided to understand the enigmatic G+. As I started browsing I became aware of "communities" and started adding them. The more time I started spending I became aware of the huge treasure trove of recipes being posted all around the world.  One fine day I was invited by Sharanya to attend her ongoing event "Let's celebrate Halloween" that's how I gradually started interacting with her. A very sweet person whose cakes and pastries are equally sugary, delectable, mouth-watering, ravishing and I could go on and on. As much as I try to keep myself away from all this calorie filled yummies I still love to savor the delicacies with my eyes on Sharanya's blog. Her blog is very warm and inviting...it almost makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop. It's a very proud moment for me to be doing a guest post for a cordon bleu like her.



There are many restaurants claiming to serve "authentic Bengali" cuisine, but be sure the real essence of Bengali food can be only savored at a Bengalis home. Maybe as they say, hotel cooked food  lacks the warmth and love of a home cooked meal. Among all the amazing dishes that are there the one that I am going to write about is just a simpleton in front of the other more famous counterparts. But still this inconspicuous homely dish has a lot of filigrees of memory associated with it and interspersed with the quintessential flavour of Bengali cuisine – warm and near to heart.

Two things are very commonly used in this cuisine – Mustard and Poppy seed. Mustard in the form of oil, paste, powder or as a whole spice and poppy mainly as a paste.  Jinge Posto is one such dish which most of the bengalis are crazy about. The basic Posto preparation is made out of potatoes in a creamy poppy paste base. Variations include using onion, Ridge gourd, pointed gourd (potol/parwal), ladyfinger (bhindi), cauliflower(Fulkopi), yard long bean (borboti) etc along with aloo. Each version has a characteristic taste. My favourite is Jhinge Posto - soft jhinge and mushy potato in a clingy creamy poppy seed paste with a sharp flavor of Kalonji and some slitted green chillies building up the heat. Very personal and comforting.

 Check out the recipe here.


PS: I am humbled by all the kind words that Sharanya had mentioned about me in her post. Thank you Sharanya once again for giving me this opportunity to write the first guest post for you.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sahi Tukda (Royal Toast) on Mahastami


First of all wish you a very prosperous Maha Ashtami. Just two days ago the much awaited Durga Puja started now already it's halfway over.  Today being a weekend will start our pandal hopping and eating out, rather pigging out even if I say so myself. And if we talk about food sweet is an inseparable part of any festival in India.

Who doesn’t love sweet? And Bengalis are famous for their sweet tooth. In earlier times a meal had to end with a sweet dish. My Grandpa loved  sweets. I remember whenever we visited Kolkata during the vacations there was not a single day when we had breakfast and at least two variety of sweets was not present in the side.  Dadu (grandpa) used to go to the market every morning and buy the best sweet available that day at the moyerar dokan (sweet shop).  The freshly made spongy hot Roshogollas dipped in thick sugar syrup which the moyera would pack in big earthen pots were my favorite.

Dida(Grandma) would make Chaler Payesh (Rice pudding) with a generous seasoning of Raisins. She would add Nolen Gur instead of regular sugar which enriched the taste. Chaler payesh was always more flavorful than the Sevaiyan payesh (Roasted Vermicelli pudding) because of the Gobindobhog Chal (a type of flavored rice like the Basmati).  Once we visited North Bengal during the Durga Puja and my mother got hold of some “Choshi” from the local market. Till then I had never seen or known about Choshi - little dull white colored rice flour cylinders with bulging centre and tapered ends. Ma made Choshir payesh with them and it turned out to be one of the most delectable Payesh I have ever tasted. Add Nolen Gur to it and you will be in paradise. Choshir Payesh is a very old traditional fare, which is hardly made now-a-days and I bet there are a handful of people in our generation who has had the good luck to taste it.

During the summer vacation it was Dadu’s regular practice to have Aam-Dudh-Bhaat(Mango+Milk+Rice). A portion of the rice was kept aside, at the end of the meal he used to mix sugary ripe orange mangoes and warm milk with the rice and a pinch of sugar/sondesh. The aroma of the king of fruit was too tempting but the looks of it deterred me from trying it. The elders of the house however relished it with much joy. Now when I look back it seems I should have had tried it. Since Dadu passed away we don’t have such big family get-togethers anymore where all the family members would sit together and have their meals, interspersed with the usual adda and sharing of interesting stories.

As a kid I was a real Sweet freak. I loved anything sweet and hated anything salty or spicy. Mom also liked to have sweets. The love for sweet was in the blood. Whenever Dad used to go to the market I would tag along with him to go to the Sweet shop – Bimala Sweets (I still remember the name!). To admire the array of mouthwatering sweets arranged on the glass shelves was a very exciting thing for me. I would look out if any new type of sweet was on display and ask my dad to buy it. When I was very small dad used to leave me at the shop while he fished his bajar. I would happily stay in the shop and mingle with the shop owner and his workers. Sometimes he would offer me a sweet or two just like that. I would sit on the counter and witness the mundane activities inside the sweet shop. As I grew up a bit I became a bit shy of the surroundings and would not stay back in the shop, just buy the sweets and come back. Bimala sweets was a part of my growing up years- my metamorphosis from absolutely loving sweets to just about liking them. It was the only Sweet shop within the IIT campus during those days. During Durga Puja my entire friends group would flock there and have Matka Kulfi or Chocobars while catching up.


My Ma is a very good cook, got her culinary skills from Dida. Her culinary skills enhanced meeting my ever increasing demands of making new dishes and sweets. Now when I look back I wonder how she managed to cook 3 times a day plus interesting snacks during evening, I get worn out if I have to make 3 meals in a day. So all my evenings were filled with interesting snacks or sweets. I absolutely loved the bread Malpua she used to make more than the traditional malpua, because the former was much softer and succulent in texture and taste. Though the dish was a bit sweeter, the loving traces of malai on it was absolutely  irresistible. I am drooling even now thinking about it.

At times when there was no sweet I would resort back to Bourbon biscuit. They were always there in our home as I loved them. When I was not yet inducted to tea I would most of the times wait for ma to settle down with her evening tea so I could dip it and eat. This irked ma to no extent because my constant stirring with the biscuit would make the tea cold or sometimes even too much stirring would result in breaking the biscuit which would sink into the tea. But I never gave up and finally Ma gave up. So cleverly she permitted me to have tea so that I have my own tea to stir the biscuit in. If it was not tea time and I wanted to have Bourbon biscuit, I would separate the two biscuits, lick off the chocolate cream inside and then eat the biscuit separately. There was this friend of mine who would lick off the chocolate inside and throw away the biscuit! I was of course a better behaved kid :D.

As I grew up my love for sweet dishes decreased exponentially. I began loving salty and spicy things better. As of date I only have sweets in form of cold desserts, gajar ka halwa or if it’s a very tempting looking dessert. My husband is a chocolate addict and buys Cadburys everyday on way back home. There are very rare occasions when I demand share from the chocolate bars. The other day I was flipping some recipes on the net and came across the recipe of Sahi Tukda. It’s a bread pudding soaked in hot milk and spices, a north Indian specialty which has its roots in Pakistani cuisine. It is particularly prepared during the festive month of Ramadan and on Eid Some people say it’s similar to Double ka Meetha which is a specialty from Hyderabad.

It’s easy to make but is too much calorie packed and involves quite an amount of work in the preparation. Assembling is the easiest part. For this festive season it’s the perfect reason to indulge. This one reminds me very much of the Bread Malpua that my mom used to prepare.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Indian

Ingredients:

  • Bread (White / Brown) - 4 slices
  • Full Fat Milk - 1/2 litre
  • Dry Fruits ( Pistachios, Almonds, Cashew) - 1/4 cup
  • Sugar - 1/3 cup
  • Cornflour - 1 tsp
  • Ghee - 3/4 cup
  • Rose essence - 2 drops
  • Saffron - 4-5 strands

Method:


1. Remove the edges of the bread and slice them diagonally into two triangles. You will get 8 triangles from 4 slices.

2. Chop the nuts. Heat a non-stick pan and add 3 tsp of ghee over it. Add dried fruits and toast for a couple of minutes and keep aside. 

3. In the remaining ghee fry the bread triangles till they turn uniformly golden on both sides.


4. Take milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Cook on medium flame and allow the milk to reduce to half its original quantity and get a Rabri like texture. Add sugar as per taste. The mixture will be sweet enough. Add saffron strands and stir. Mix cornflour with 2-3 tbsp milk and add it to the reduced milk and mix. Add the rose essence and roasted chopped nuts.  Cut off heat and let it cool down to room temperature. Chill it in the fridge till serving time.


5. In another pan take some water and sugar. Boil it till the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes a bit thick. Turn of heat and let it cool to room temperature.

6. Soak the bread pieces in the sugar syrup as you fry for a couple of minutes only and take them out and place on a serving dish.



7. While serving, pour the chilled rose flavored thickened milk over the bread slices, garnish with some more toasted nuts, bits of silver foil, rose petals, drizzle some rose syrup and serve.


The desert tastes better when chilled.



Sending this recipe to Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe", Priya's and Spicy Treat's "Diwali Delicacy" event, Recipe Junction's "Spotlight : Festive Treats",Guru's "Vegan Special'13", Merry Tummy's "Cook with White", Motion and Emotions' "Theme Party" event, Gayathri and Asiya's WTML event, Simply Tadka's and Swetha's foodabulous fest .
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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Countdown To Durga Puja with a cup of chilled Malai Kulfi

O aaere chute aae pujor gondho eseche
Dhang kurakur, dhang kurakur baddi bejeche
Gache shiuli futeche, Kalo bhomra juteche,
Aar palla diye akashe meghera chuteche||

Come on everyone, the  whiff of Puja is here
The dhaks have started to sound
The Shiuli’s have blossomed in the trees , Bumble bees have flocked around them
And competing with this the clouds have started sailing in the sky||




This old song by Antara Choudhury still sends shiver down my spine…it vividly reminds me of the Durga Puja time during my childhood days. A simple and picture perfect description of the onset of this Autumn celebration in Bengal…how the weather changes declaring the festival time has arrived, the sublime smell of Shiuli mingling with the dew laden morning air, Kash ful adorning the grasslands, the powder blue sky with whipped cream like clouds, the rhythmic beats of the Dhaks along with the baritone chants of the Purohit  and of course the yummilicious Pujor bhog or Khichdi with begun bhaja. For any Bengali there is nothing more important at this time of the year than welcoming Goddess Durga to Earth.

It’s time again for the 10 day festivity. Today is Sashti. This would be my second Durga Puja at Pune. It’s not the same here as it’s back home. The air misses the fragrance of the flowers and scents that we are so used to during the Durga Puja. Quoting Vir Sangvi – “You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janerio, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”

Mahalaya ticks off the countdown timer. Earlier it was waking up early for listening Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Sanskrit recitation of the Mahishasura Mardini on radio. Later on it was replaced by mahishashur vadh drama telecasted on TV. Audio-visual of the Goddess Durga fighting the evil was more interesting than Sanskrit slokas but still the dramas also incorporated parts of Birendrakrishna’s recitation.

In Bengal at this time the excitement among people is palpable , ladies  doing the last round of Pujo shopping, teenage girls combing every store in the street to find that right pair of Oxidized earrings to go with her new Anarkali kurta, elders deciding on the  elaborate menu for ashtami and nabami, youngsters deciding the list of all the pandals to be visited – everyone is super busy gearing up for the Pujas.

In Pune you won’t find the same hype but within the Durga Puja Pandals it’s a different story all together. It’s a mini Bengal out in there. Women in heavy silk or 'taant' sarees flaunting cartload of gold and signature big 'bindis', the men in crisp kurta-pajama or dhoti-kurta and kids in colorful festive attires add to the color of the celebrations. Dhakis are brought in from Kolkata to play the Dhak. The best part of the probashi pujas is the very traditional “Ekchala Thakur” (Durga and her children in a single frame) unlike the Theme pujas happening in Kolkata now-a-days wherein sometimes it’s more like the enigmatic modern art than traditional puja. Durja Puja is also the time for eating all the goodies, indulgence at its height. Weight gain concerns are pushed to the back seats and people prefer to dig into their food. Keeping the Bengali appetite in mind puja pandals usually have arrangements for heavy snacks and eatables. Good food also attracts more crowd. So, several stalls are set up selling Cutlet, Biryani, Rolls, Moghlai parathas, Mutton-kosha, Kabiraji, Kababs, Kochuri, Fuluri and other drool worthy eatables. The usual chat stalls of bhel puri, chowmein and burgers, soft drinks are also there. In fact in one of the Pujas last year one stall was serving sojne datar Macher-jhol bhat( Fish curry with drumsticks and rice). That was the first time in my life I tasted a fish curry with drumsticks that too in a Puja Pandal. Seems like it is more of a Ghoti preparation than Bangal. So while I was super-surprised at the combination , hubby was nonchalant.

Usually the housewives during Durga Puja would not cook at home and the whole family would dine at the pandals eating Bhog or other delicacies available. During my childhood, we used to spend all morning in the IIT Puja Pandal, have our lunch then come back home for a quick nap and by the time its evening get decked up and spend the rest of the evening in Pandal as well. In the evenings there used to be many cultural programs like song and dance, the usual Dhunuchi competition, lamp lighting competition or magic shows. In Mumbai big starts were hired to perform in the evenings. In Pune its more homely, local people usually perform.

Sometimes in perspective I feel Probashi Pujas still have the old world charm and integrity left, too much pandal hopping defeats the serenity of the celebration. Here it’s like the Colony Pujas where you sit in the same Pandal for long hours and peacefully enjoy the festivity. But then to each his own. Kolkata loves the madness and now it’s a part of their celebration.

After writing so many lines about the Durga puja and the food it’s time for the recipe. There is nothing like having a comforting serving of chilled dessert after pandal hopping the whole day. And when it’s chilled Bengali dessert it should be Malai Kulfi.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:

  • Full Fat Milk - 1 litre
  • Milk Powder - 1/2 cup
  • Nestle Milkmaid (condensed milk) - 1/2 tin
  • Corn flour powder - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Cardamom Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Dry Fruits (blanched almonds, pistachios, raisins) - 1/3 cup
  • Saffron - 1/4 tsp
  • Powdered sugar as per taste 



1. In a heavy bottomed pot or pan, mix in the milk, condensed milk and milk powder and cook on low heat. Keep stirring in between to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

2. Pulse the nuts in a blender, till they are coarsely ground. Add the ground nuts and raising to the milk and fold in.

3.Add the condensed milk and milk powder and mix well. Keep stirring, the milk will start to reduce. Adjust the Sugar at this point.

4.In  a glass take some of the boiled milk and dilute the cornflour in it. Now add the cornflour mix to the reduced milk.

5.Add the saffron strands

6.Cook till the milk attains a thick Rabri like consistency.  When the milk is reduced to half the original quantity and looks ivory- brown, turn off the heat.

7. Let it cool for half an hour at room temperature. A layer of thick cream will form on the surface after a while, mix that with a spoon.

8.Pour the mixture into Kulfi moulds, or shot glasses or dessert bowls and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours.


9.Top it off with a little rose syrup and honey and enjoy your chilled dessert.



Sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers event, Pari & Jiya's "Only Traditional Recipe", Priya's and Spicy Treat's "Diwali Delicacy" event,Recipe Junction's "Spotlight : Festive Treats",Guru's "Vegan Special'13", Merry Tummy's "Cook with White", Motion and Emotions' "Theme Party" event, Gayathri and Asiya's WTML event, Simply Tadka's and Swetha's foodabulous fest .




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