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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Patol-alur Tarkari

This is a traditional, popular, common, daily, homely Bengali vegetable curry. The description may sound too long with too many adjectives but this is really simple and quick to cook. Patol is pointed gourd. Alu means potato. So, this is a curry of pointed gourd and potato.


Pointed gourd – 250 gm
Potato – one medium
Cumin seeds – one fourth of a tea spoon
Coriander seeds (optional)
Green chilly
Bay leaf -- one
Ginger powder – a pinch
Turmeric powder – half a teaspoon
Cumin powder – one tea spoon
Mustard oil (or sun flower oil)

How to do it:

Peel and cut ponted gourds as in the picture above
Heat mustard oil in a pan until the smell goes and the colour changes.
Add bay leaf torn into two pieces, cumin seeds, chopped green chilly.
Add potato immediately. Sauté a little till it turns light brown.
Add pointed gourd. Add salt. Stir well to mix. Let it sauté until the fragrant smell of fried pointed gourd starts coming.
Add turmeric, cumin powder, ginger powder. Mix well by stirring. Stir and cook for about ten minutes. Add water. Cover and let it cook till the vegetables are softened.

Serve with steamed rice.

Ladies Finger Curry

Panch phorhon (methi, sonf, radhuni, mustard seeds, black cumin together: very typical of Bengal)
Or black cumin – one fourth of a tea spoon (if panch phoron is not available)
Green chilly
Ginger powder – a pinch
Ladies finger 250gm – cut in cubes
Mustard oil
Sugar - a pinch

How to make it:
Heat the oil until the smell goes and the colour changes.
Add pach forhan to the oil. Add ladies finger. Add salt.
Sauté. Add turmeric powder, ginger powder. Stir and cook for five minute. Add very little water. Cover. Cook on low heat until the vegetable is softened.

Kolar bora

Kola means banana. I would like to translate this as ‘banana sweet pakora.’

Five big bananas
Half a coconut (medium sized) – finely grated
Sugar (according to your taste)
Cardamom 5/6 crushed/ powder, even better
Cinnamon powder – 2 pinches
Sunflower oil (Virgin coconut oil can also be used.)
Flour, to make the mixture tight. (according to the requirement)

How to make it:
Mash the bananas into a fine pulp.
Add coconut, cardamom and cinnamon powder, sugar. Mix very well.
Add flour and mix it by continuously stirring to prevent the flour from forming lumps.

Now heat the oil in a frying pan.
Take the mixture in a teaspoon and dip into the oil.

Fry by turning it from one side to another until it is golden brown.

Enjoy your snacks.

I cooked this just for myself. So, the quantity was small.

I picked up two small bunches of spinach from the supermarket.
In addition I used:

 Green peas – two tea spoon
 One small potato cut into small pieces
 Cumin seeds – half a teaspoon
 Ginger powder – a pinch
 Cumin powder – half a teaspoo
 Turmeric powder – half a teaspoon
 Chopped green chilly – one, small
 Olive oil – two tea spoon
 Salt
How to do it:

1. Sort out the soft spinach leaves from the bunch, clean and shred them. Keep them to one side.
2. Heat up the oil a little.
3. Add Potato and sauté a little.
4. Add cumin seeds and chopped green chilly to it.
5. Now add ginger powder.
6. Add spinach leaves.
7. Add turmeric powder and cumin powder. Stir to mix well.
8. Add peas.
9. Add salt.
10. Cover and let it cook.

Usually you don’t need to add water since the water come out of the ingredients itself will be enough to cook them. Anyways, if you feel that is not enough, add a little and let it cook till the potato is soft enough.

11. Serve with rice or roti.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Good Old ‘Homely’ Bengali Murgir Mangsher Jhol and the By-gone Sunday Afternoons

Sunday afternoon! Lunch time! Say..., two o’ clock! Ya, ya! You are right! It was a bit late for lunch. From Monday to Saturday we used to have some dal-tarkari-machh-bhat (lentil soup – vegetable curry- fish-rice) at ten o’ clock in the morning, drag the bi-cycle down along the stairs and rush to school. Sunday was the day for chicken curry or mutton. Murgir mangsher jhol cannot have an exact translation. It means a type of chicken curry. Murgi = chicken, mangsho = meat, jhol = gravy, soup.
Though hard-core non-vegetarian, Bengalis love fish more than anything else. So, meat is much less frequent in a Bengali kitchen. Sometimes I feel that the trend is changing since some lazybones among us are reluctant to take the pain of sorting out the fish bones from the flesh. Oh, look at me!
I have made a fish-talk such a big part of my introduction to chicken curry, murgir mangsher jhol! Such a fishy Bengali I am!
Back to murgir mangsher jhol, we used to buy chicken from local firms, and not broilers. I used to accompany my father to the shops where he used to choose a rooster usually and the shop keeper used to kill it in front of us. I used to be on the verge of crying every time but later, as soon as the fragrance of the curry tickled my nose, I used to forget the sadness of the poor hen’s self-sacrifice for us. The shop-keeper used to clean it and then hand it over to us, without cutting it into pieces which my mom used do. The drumsticks, “murgir thang”, were the most desired and prestigious pieces. One of the two used to be reserved for my father. The left one my little sister and I used to have in turn. I never saw my mom having a drumstick.
I do not usually buy the whole chicken or even those drumsticks any more. We have been educated long back that the breast is the healthiest part of a chicken. Sundays have become much busier. Murgir mangsher jhol is my quick dinner nowadays.
And this is how I did it last Tuesday.

Chicken – 300 gm
Potato – if available, use 3 / 4 baby potatoes,

Onion – 100 gm
Green chille – 1 (can add more, according to your taste)
Shredded ginger – a pinch
Ginger powder
Tomato – one medium
Green chilly – one big

Marinade the meat in salt, turmeric podwer, ginger powder.
How long?
As long as you take to do the followings:
1) Peel the potatoes
2) Chop a green chilly
3) Chop onion
4) Shred a very small piece of ginger
5) Grate tomato
6) Pour oil into the pan.
7) Fry the potatoes.
8) When they turn golden, add chopped green chilly, chopped onion.
Now get back to your chicken.

9) When the onion turns golden, add the chicken.
10) Stir well. Let it fry. Stir from time to time. Keep the flame medium.(kasao)
11) Add the tomato. Stir to mix it well. (kasao)
12) Add water.
13) Let it cook till the chicken is completely cooked
14) Serve with roti and rice.

Alu borhir tarkari

One small potato

4/5 borhi
(More if they are small)
One small red onion – finely chopped
One small tomato -- finely chopped

Turmeric powder -- half a tea-spoon
Ginger powder – a pinch
Cumin seeds
Cumin powder -- half a tea-spoon
A small red chilly
Sugar – a pinch (optional)

Saute borhi and keep at one side.

Heat oil in a pan.
Add a pinch of cumin seeds to the oil.
Tear a small red chilly into pieces and add that, too.
Add some chopped onion.
Add potato, as the onion turns golden.
Add turmeris poder, ginger powder, cumin powder

Stir everything to mix them well and let the potato get fried a little.
Add salt. Stir a little. Cover with a lid. Let it cook for a few minutes.

Add chopped tomato. Stir and mix it very well.

Add water.
Add borhi.

Bring it to boil.
See if the potato is totally cooked and softened. Boil until the potato is completely done.
(If you add sugar, add it only after the potato is cooked, into the boiling gravy. Let it get mixed well. Done. By the way, I did not add sugar.)

Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chicken Rice

As I did not have much work, I felt that the day was not so fruitful. Actually, I got bored. So, in order to make myself happy, I decided to prepare myself this tasty gift. But I was tired. So, naturally this recipe is simple, easy and quick to cook.

(Two servings)

4 chicken drumsticks
400 gm rice (you can use lesser quantity depending on your eating habit)
One medium sized potato – cut as shown in the final product
Onion 100 gm

Green chilli – chopped
Pepper – 1 teaspoon
Ginger powder – half a teaspoon
Cumin powder – half a teaspoon
Garlic – four/five cloves, crushed
Tomato – one small
Sugar – half a teaspoon (optional)
Cumin seeds – a pinch

Ghee (you are free to use olive- /ground nut- / sun flower oil. Please don’t use mustard- or coconut oil! Bongs and Mallus! Please excuse me!)

Cashew nut, cardamom, bay leaves – optional
If you like it a little too spicy, you can add red chilly powder too.

1) Marinade the chicken with salt, turmeric powder, ginger powder, chilly powder (if you at all use it)
2) Pour half a table spoon ghee in to the pressure cooker
3) Add potatoes
4) As soon as the potatoes start turning golden, add bay leaves and cumin seeds. Wait for a few seconds.
5) Now add chopped onions, garlic and green chilly.
6) As the onion turns golden, add the drumsticks.
7) Cook the drumsticks for some time; stir from time to time and make sure that the flame is not very high/ big otherwise it will burn the onion and other micro elements.
8) While the chicken getting cooked, wash it (But if you think you should soak it for, say half an hour, depending on the rice, then do that earlier.)
9) After the chicken is half cooked and chopped tomato. Stir a little and let the tomato get cooked.
10) Add rice. Now, since rice cooks much faster than chicken you need to know the rice well and understand when to add the rice to ensure the both get cooked together and the rice does not get overcooked. The rice I used needed four whistles to cook.
11) Add water.
12) I turned off the gas burner after four whistles.
13) Let the thing stand for a few minutes and then only open the pressure cooker.
14) Now it is ready to serve. Enjoy your meal.

Chicken with Onion and Pepper: My Own Way

This is one of my quick recipes. I come home in the evening via the supermarket where I pick up something that I can cook without much home and have dinner as soon as possible.

Here is the recipe:--


Chicken 200gm – cut into very small pieces (I used chicken thigh)
Potato – one small
Onion – 100 grm – finely chopped
Ginger powder half a tea spoon
Garlic – 4/5 cloves crushed
Black pepper powder – two tea spoon (you can add more or less according to your taste.)
Tomato – one very small
Coconut oil -- one table spoon (you can you sun flower oil, too.)

Marinade the chicken in turmeric, salt, pepper, ginger powder. (I let it stand for half-an-hour.)
Cut the potato into cubes.
Put some of the coconut oil in the pan.
Add the potato cubes and let them fry.
In the meantime chop onion and crush garlic.
As soon as the potato turns golden, add onion and garlic. Stir a little.
When the onion starts turning golden, add the chicken.
Add the rest of the oil.
Cook the chicken by covering it and stirring occasionally.
Chop the tomato into thin slices.
Add the tomato when the chicken is almost done and stir well.
Cover the pan and let it cook till the chicken is softened.
(If you see, it is on the verge of burning, add a little water and cook. I cooked it without adding water. Or if you are a person who cannot eat rice without some gravy, add water.)

Serve with roti or rice.
Bon Appetite!

A Piece of Kerala on My Plate

I visited Kerala to attend a house warming ceremony. The house was located in a remote village. Most of the family members did not speak English. So, they could not talk to me much but they communicated their love for me through food. This is something, I, as an Indian, am very proud of: the hospitality of village people. Atithi (guest) is deva/Narayana (god). For me, as an atithi, it was a very nice food experience worth sharing.
I arrived in the morning. The first thing they made me do was to have this sumptuous breakfast.

I had acchappam, unniappam, idiyappam, and kadala curry, everything cooked in the fragrant coconut oil.
God! Can anybody eat so much?!
‘Unni’ means ‘tiny/small’ in Malayalam, and ‘appam’ rice cake. This sweet round rice cake is made of rice flour, jaggery, plantain, coconut, cardamom and ghee and a very popular snack in Kerala.
It looks similar to aebleskiver of Denmark.

Idiyappam is called string hoppers in English. Nice name. Isn’t it?
It is made of rice flour , salt and water. Idiappams soaked in the gravy of kadala curry or coconut chicken are an experience for the taste buds.
This time I had it with kadala curry which is curry of chick peas. Grated coconut is another main ingredient.

As the English name suggests, a rose cookie or Achchappam resembles a flower. The first morpheme “achch-” in the Malayalam name comes from ‘achu’, a flower shaped iron mould which gives the cookie both its unique name and shape. Achchappams are usually made of very fine rice powder, coconut milk, sugar, gingerly, sesame seeds, and eggs(white only), schallotte juice (option). It is deep fried in coconut oil. It is sweet and very crunchy. It is my personal favourite and more than anywhere else, it tastes better when made by a mom at home in Kerala.

When I left next day, my friend’s mom packed a small heap of achchappam for me.
I am going to make achchapam and idiyappam at home very soon, since my friend has shared the recipes with me. So, more posts on them in near future.

Paat Shaak

If Mom accompanies me, even a day-out turns into a quite nice food experience. Mom is the person who pampered my taste buds the most and actually spoiled them. Now it is not so easy to satisfy them. On the other hand, it contributed a lot to build my food culture.

This time Mom packed chholar dal (chick pea dal), paat shaak (jute leaves), kankrol bhaja (fried yet-to-find-the-english) and rice for lunch, and luchi & alubhaja for snacks.

I am sure you know ‘Jute’ but did you know that you could make curry of tender jute leaves? Jute is ‘Paat’ in Bengali and tender jute leaves that is edible is called ‘paat shak’.

---- Paat Shaak: the green one in the caserole


Mustard oil
Kalaunji (kalo jire),
Green chille (chopped)
Ginger paste
Paat shaak i.e. tender jute leaves(shredded)
Turmeric powder
A little water

How to do it:
Heat mustard oil in a kadai till the color looks lighter and the smell goes.
Add a pinch of Kalauji (kalo jire), and chopped green chille
Add a little ginger paste
Add shak (shredded). Stir a little.
Add turmeric powder
Stir a little so that it get mixed well with the shak
Add salt
Let it cook. Do not add water now. Let it get fried a little. And stir so as to fry it uniformly.
Add a little water.
Cover with a lid. Let it cook.
Turn off the oven when the leaved are softened i.e. completely cooked and the water it dried. It is a dry preparation Gravy should not be there.

And chholar dal and kankrol bhaja?
And luchi and alu bhaja?

I will tell you later. Bye bye!