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Friday, September 4, 2015

Begun Bhaja -- Fried Eggplant Slices

Fried eggplant or begun bhaja is a popular side dish among us. Who can imagine the khichuri (a tasty, nutritious and popular dish of rice and lentils) without the begun bhaja at a Saraswati Puja feast at school? Begun bhaja is also perfect for luchi (deep fried flat bread of refined flour) or phulko ruti (baked flat bread of wheat flour). You can enjoy them with steamed rice and lentil soup, too.
Begun bhaja is incredibly easy to make. Depending on the size and shape of the eggplant, you can cut it into different pieces. If the eggplant are the long and thin ones, cut them into round shapes like coins. It the eggplant is big and the diameter of the round shares is too big, divide each round slice into semi-circles.
Add salt and turmeric powder to the pieces and mix them well with your hands.
We traditionally use mustard oil but I usually use sunflower oil.
While using mustard oil, it is important to heat it till the smoking point to get rid of its typical smell.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add the eggplant pieces and cover with a lid. After some time, open the lid and change sides, add a little more oil if required, then close the lid again and let it cook. Eggplant absorbs oil, so, I find it of no use to add a lot of oil in the beginning. And there is no need to deep fry also. Since eggplant cooks very fast, especially the quality of the vegetable is good, so, I check every 2/3 minutes and change the side. You can press the flesh of the eggplant slightly to check how it is done. It melts in your mouth when thoroughly done.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tomato and Cilantro Salad

I cut tomatoes into small pieces and shredded fresh cilantro.
In a small bowl I mixed a little olive oil and lemon juice; I don't consume vinegar.
I mixed all the ingredient above and kept it in the fridge for about fifteen minutes.
I added a little salt just before serving.
When available, I add fresh peas to it. 

My Carrot Soup When I Feel Cold and Tired!

This is a very easy preparation and perfect to warm you up in a cold snowy evening!
To make this, I heat a little oil, usually sunflower oil, in a cooking pot, add chopped carrot into it and stir from time to time. After a few minutes I add salt and water and let the carrot cook.
After the carrot is thorough cooked, I use an immersion blender to make the soup uniform and smooth.
Then it is ready to eat.
I sprinkle some dried dill- and. basil powder and black pepper powder on it and enjoy.
It has been my comfort food many times as I returned home late after a very long working day. It has given me the warmth I needed after a long walk on a snowy road!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ridge Gourd with Muastard Paste

Ridge gourd, Luffa acutangula, is the main ingredient of a very popular traditional Bengali plant based dish called "alu jhinge posto", i.e. ridge gourd and a little potato cooked with poppy seed paste. Ridge gourd is a close relative of the less popular sponge gourd, L. aegyptiaca, which was traditionally used in Bengal to make loofah by letting it ripen and then dry in the plant itself, then it is very fibrous, one just has to take the dried and hardened skin off which can be done with naked fingers and if you shake it vigorously, the dry black seeds will come off, too! It is eaten , too, when it is very young. 
But today, I am not going to post alu jhinge posto recipe here. Rather, I have decided to share a less famous and less common but no less tasty ridge gourd dish that is without potato. So, here is my favourite ridge gourd with mustard paste.

I peeled the gourd and cut into big cubes. I heated mustard oil and added sliced green chilli and mustard seeds and immediately added the gourd. Then I added turmeric powder and salt to it and stirred and mixed very well. Then I covered the pan with a lid. Water will start coming out from the gourd. I don't add water into it.
After the gourd is half cooked, I add the mustard paste, stir to mix it well and leave it cook further. If I find that a  lot of water has come out, I don't cover it again.
After the gourd is thoroughly cooked it is ready to serve. I always have it with steamed rice.

This is how I prepare the mustard paste: --
To make the mustard paste, I soak it in cold water for a long time, say, half an hour. If I want it hot and spicy, I add fresh green chilli to it. After the paste is made, I add a little water to it and strain it through a sieve to remove the husk. This is how we make sure that the dish doesn't get bitter because mustard can taste a bit bitter.

Alu Tikia

Potato again! "Alu" means potato.
According to Oxford dictionarym tikia is "An Indian fried cake of spiced meat or mashed potato:an alu tikia"
Meat is out of the question since I have become a vegan. We had Alu (potato)-tikia  this evening! I was watching the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" and felt shocked and sad, and my mother made these alu tikias for me. You are pampered like this when you come home after many years!
 Sorry, the photo doesn't do justice to the delicious dish!

 To make alu tikia, my mom used boiled chick peas and potato mashed together with shredded coriander leaves, onion, a little carrot and green chillis, cumin powder and salt added to it. She mixed everything well.
The Mixture
She mixed everything well, formed balls of this mixture and rolled it on all purpose flour. But she advised me to use corn flour which she didn't have at the moment: we rarely use it.
I am addicted to fritters and my mom is not at all happy about it. So, she wanted to show me how to make a tasty snack with very little oil. She actually made it with almost no oil. She just brushed the pan with a little oil, placed the potato balls on it and turned the sides. She cooked them on low flame till both the sides of the balls turned brown. We had them with tangy tamarind chutney!
Tikias Getting Cooked on an Almost Dry, Oil-less Pan
It was delicious but I will add a little more oil when I make them, Mother! Hahahah!


"Ruti" is the Bengali word for Hindi, "Roti" or more specifically' "phulka", the very popular Indian handmade flat bread of wheat flour (ata). I usually prefer it for Breakfast, if I, for a change wake up in the morning and have a breakfast. But in many Bengali families ruti is preferred to steamed rice as dinner and most parts of northern India it is the staple food in major meals, and not rice.
This, ruti with "alubhaja", literally, "fried potato", was my evening snack one day since I was just too hungry to be satisfied with a few fritters with my favourite Darjeeling tea.
In my previous post I mentioned that we love potato and we make fried potato in all shapes and sizes. This alubhaja you can make with relatively less oil because you do not need to deep fry. This time, I peeled potato and cut it into very thin and long slices. I mixed salt and turmeric powder well with the potato and kept it aside for a few minutes. In the meantime I chopped chilli and onion finely. I heated the oil in a korai, the traditional deep and circular, cast iron cooking pot, and added the potato draining the water that came out of it. I immediately covered it with a lid. This makes this alubhaja not crispy but soft, better for ruti. After a few minutes I stirred the potatoes. Stirring from time to time is necessary to make sure that the potato doesn't get burnt, and everytime you cover it after stirring..  When the potato is almost cooked, I added the onion and chilli, stirred and mixed well and again covered ad let it cook.This way the onion will be glazed only. After the potato is thoroughly cooked it is ready to serve.
To make ruti, we make the dough of ata, make small balls of it, dust the each ball in flour and roll it out thinly in round shapes and then bake it on high flame. We traditionally use a thick and almost flat cast iron plan that we call "chatu" in Bengali and "tawa" in Hindi, and a flat circular net like thing made of thick iron wire. The pan/chatu shuld be heated already before we put the rolled out dough on it and after placing it on it reduce the flame to medium and cook till small bubbles start to appear. Then remove the pan from flame and place the half done ruti on the net I talked about above, raise the flame to high and put the net direct on the flame. The ruti will puff up like a balloon. The Bengali word for "phulka" is "phulko" that actually means "puffed up".
I will dedicate a separate post on making "phulko ruti" in near future!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bratkartoffeln, I miss you!

Potato! Who doesn’t love this adorable starchy darling? Potato is easy and quick to cook, filling and super satisfying to eat!
I have heard that potato is an immigrant in Indian sub-continent. The British brought it in this land and now India is one of the top potato producers in the world. Potato is one of the most popular vegetables in India especially in the northern part. Though in South India also, potato constitutes the main ingredient in many popular dishes like masala dhosa, I feel that it is consumed more in North India. For example, we add a little potato in most of our dishes though we do have some recipes without potato: we add whole round potatoes, if relatively small, or big potatoes halved almost always in our regular meat dishes, we fry potato in different shapes and sizes, we add potato cubes almost in all vegetable curries in our daily meal, alur dom/dom alu – slow cooked hot and spicy potato curry – is almost invariably on the menu in any festive occasion!
When we were small, finely mashed potato was our baby food. I still love it with a few drops of virgin mustard oil and shredded onion.

That evening I was home alone! I was enjoying my own company and watching a movie and suddenly craved for a comfort much to complete the pleasure!
So, I washed and peeled two large potatoes, and cut them into pieces that you can see in the picture here.  I soaked them in cold water for a few minutes, drained all the water carefully. Then I added salt and a little turmeric and a little sugar to the potatoes and mixed everything very well. I left this stand for about 15 minutes. Then I drained the water that came out of the potatoes. I heated mustard oil in a korai (traditional cast iron cooking pot, circular, deep and thick) till the smoking point to get rid of the typical strong smell of it, added the potatoes into the oil, reduced the flame and fried them. After that I sprinkled a little black pepper powder on them and served to myself!

It was total foodgasm for my taste buds!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Soy Nuggets with Vegetables

A local TV-channel was asking for original recipes having soy nugget as the main ingredient for a competition and so much wanted to participate in it.I came up with a few recipes; not all of them were totally plant based, though this one is. Unfortunately I could not participate in the competition since it was not possible to upload the photos on their website. I was very disappointed. I not only put effort to prepare those dishes but I created them, they were the results of my imagination.
Here I have used green bell pepper, carrot, fresh peas and spring onions with soy nuggets.
I put some salt into boiling water, removed it from heat and soaked the nuggets in it. After the nuggets became soft and spongy, I drained the water.
I cut the vegetables in small pieces and heated a little oil in the pan and cooked the vegetables till they are done but not overcooked because I didn't want them too soft. I added just a little water.
Now I added the nuggets in the pan and stirred and mixed every thing together. It was a dry preparation.
I made a paste of tomato, a few cloves of garlic, basil powder that I brought from Germany, and extra virgin olive oil.
I added this paste to the vegetables and soy and mixed everything together and served.
I Germany I often had excellent Italian food and fell in love with pesto. That love inspired me to make this paste.

Add Carrot to Onion Fritters

Onion Fritter is a very popular evening snack here. But onion is very costly at the moment! We are paying an equivalent to one euro or more for one kilogram of onion. Secondly, I feel that I have vitamin A deficiency! For theses reasons I wanted to add more carrot to my diet and to my onion fritters! Neither am I a big fan of carrot. Nor do I like "healthy" food deprived off oil and spices!
Carrot-Onion Fritter
I have already posted my onion fritter recipe om this site: . 
The same process I follow here, too! Only, the extra ingredient carrot, grated,  is added. One can use both onion and carrot in equal quantity or as one desires. 
Here is the mixture ready to be fried:
Grated Carrot+Shredded Onion+Gram Flour Paste
Below are the fritters frying in the pan. Traditionally theses are deep fried. But I made really flat shapes from the mixture above, so I didn't have to deep fry. I just changed the sides so that both the sides are equally cooked.

Spinach-Peas-Potato Curry

It's 03:30 a.m. and I'm working on my blog after almost a year with the enthusiasm of a new vegan. So, I guess, it is natural that I mess things up with posting sometimes. I cooked the following dish at least three years ago. Then I was an omnivore who regularly ate some vegetables. I decided to label all the strictly plant based dish from my non-vegan days freshly and by mistake deleted this one. So, here is the restored version!

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 teaspoon
 Turmeric powder – half a teaspoon
 Chopped green chilly – one, small
 Olive oil – two tea spoon
 Salt

1. How to do it:

2. Sort out the soft spinach leaves from the bunch, clean and shred them. Keep them to one side.
3. Heat up the oil a little.
4. Add Potato and sauté a little.
5. Add cumin seeds and chopped green chilly to it.
6. Now add ginger powder.
7. Add spinach leaves.
8. Add turmeric powder and cumin powder. Stir to mix well.
9. Add peas.
10. Add salt.
11. 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.

12. Serve with rice or roti.

Malabar Spinach Fritter

Malabar Spinach Fritter

My friend aptly commented, “I wish I had a snack-gifting aunt!” Oh, it is really bless to have an aunt who is an amazing cook and loves to cook for you!
My aunt sent me some Malabar spinach fritters and it made my evening! She made it herself from scratch, with loads of love and the leaves were freshly collected from her own garden. What could be a better gift for a happy fat vegan?!
Here is how we make it.
We clean the leaves thoroughly and then shred them.
We add salt, a little turmeric powder, a little poppy seeds and shredded onion and green chilli to chickpea flour ("besan" we call it) and mix everything very well.
Now we add water little by little and make a thick paste. We now add the leaves to this paste and mix very well. Thickness of this mixture would be so, that it is possible to make small, flat and round shapes out of it which we deep fry.

We traditionally use mustard oil but you can use sunflower oil, too.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Curry-flavoured Hummus

Green Banana Kofta Curry

This time I made some changes though: 1) I didn't add potato, 2) I added red lentil paste to the kofta because 3) I didn't use chick-pea flour
The Kofta Curry SErved with Steamed Rice

Koftas ready for the curry

Spices for curry in the mixer

The Gravy Being Prepared

Custard Apple from Our Roof Garden

I fly away to the north-east, "far from the madding crowd" of our capital city whenever I have the time and opportunity. Here the sky is bigger and bluer, the air is fresh and life is slower. I can spend some time in our roof garden and can talk to the plants nostalgically about the time that will never come back. Yes, I can talk to them, if you can talk to your dog! Why not? There are stories that they know and I know. There are new members in our garden, too, like this custard apple tree! The seeds were collected from Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, from the garden of the historical site where Queen Padmini and other ladies of the royal court committed suicide by burning themselves in order to save themselves (what an irony) from getting raped by the conquering enemy, King Alauddin Khilji and his army.
This was my healthy raw vegan evening snack. We call it "Ata" in Bengali. the "t" in "ata" is a dental sound.

Alur Dom -- A Spicy Potato Dish

"Alu" in Bengali means potato. This is a very popular dish in Bengal. I am so proud that we have so many traditional vegan recipes though the word "vegan" is not known to many. Actually these plant based recipes have been part of our traditional food culture for ages, long before the word "vegan" were coined. But I think only the word "vegan" can describe them perfectly and they reflect that our original food habit was much less to do with meat than it has nowadays.
We prefer to use baby potatoes to prepare this dish but it is fine to use any type of potato. I have posted the cooking procedure earlier also. As I tried to look for it. I found it in my previous blog that I don't work on at the moment. Below I have copied the post from August, 2009.

Samosa (Singara in Bengali)

Samosa (or "shingara" in Bengali) is a the very popular traditional Indian snack. Samosa is vegan traditionally since the filling is mainly potato or in winter, cauliflower.One can actually use anything they like for the filling but traditionally potato it is something plant based!I used mashed potato and soybeans for the filling. I cooked everything adding a little cumin powder, shredded onion, chopped green chillies, turmeric powder and salt. You may skip turmeric powder if you are not used to the taste of it.
The Filling: blended ingredients curried and made into a fine spicy puree
I made the dough with maida (bleached and refined flour, very common here and typically used for making these). I added some oil, a little salt, a pinch of red chilli powder (optional) to the dough.
Then I made the cones from the dough, filled with the filling, sealed it and deep fried. 

It was late evening and it was pouring outside every now and then. Our tiny sleepy town looked even more sleepy. It was a perfect weather for enjoying samosa with Darjeeling tea.

Raw Vegan Carrot Smoothie

Even though I am a happy fat vegan addicted to fritters, sometimes I do eat "healthy".
So, here I present my carrot smoothie made of raw carrot with a little salt and pepper added to it. Quite a change from my usual evening snacking with fritters!

Green Banana Fritters

“Kofta” means “meat ball”. Before becoming vegan, I used to make kofta curry with chicken or turkey and now I make those with green banana but it is not really my act of replacing the meat with the vegetable here; it is a very traditional way of making vegetarian kofta curry in Bengal and I learnt this recipe from my mother. We thought of having green banana kofta curry at dinner.

Onion Fritter

I crave for fried food. I think I am addicted to fritters. Or, may be, it is my Bengali gene that is responsible for this addiction. Lame excuse? Trying to evade the responsibility for my own deed/folly? Well, visit Kolkata, or any place in West Bengal for that matter! On every street, lane and by-lane you will find since early evening seven days a week one or more, more likely, busy shops selling various types of fritters: onion-, potato-, eggplant- , pumpkin-, coriander leaves- (and other leaves) fritters, and samosa, and vegetable chop (cutlet), even banana flower fritters, and the non-veg ones like fish-, chicken-, mutton-, shrimp cutlets, what not. You have to make your way shoving through a small crowd to reach the shopkeeper to communicate your desire or choices since we don’t have the habit of forming a queue; if we had there would have been a long queue in front of every shop.

Til Bata -- Sesame Seed Paste

Since February 15th, 2015, I started my vegan journey. Naturally, yoghurt, the only dairy product I used to consume, disappeared from my menu.