Friday, July 1, 2011

Jhinge Poshto – Ridge gourd cooked with poppy seeds

This is one of the most common but always highly regarded delicacies for a Bengali tongue. And at the same time not so appealing to a non-bong one. When I first came to Mumbai and saw a friend not exactly gushing over jhinge poshto, I actually thought he was weird, but now I know – Poshto and Bengali are made for each other and others sitting on the fence may not  just understand the relationship – and that’s OKAY. So I’m posting this recipe for all my Bong friends out there  - with a faint hope that atleast  one non-Bong friend will try it out, maybe by tweaking the recipe a little to suit her and her family’s taste…………

Jhinge Poshto - Ridgegourd cooked with poppy seeds

What you’ll need:
Ridge gourds: 2/3
Tomato : 1 medium
Paanch foron: 1 tsp
Salt: 1tsp
Whole red chili: 2
Poshto/poppy seeds / khuskhus : 2 tbsp
Oil : 1 tbsp

How to:
Step1: Soak the khus khus seeds and the whole red chilies in warm water for as long as you can (say abt 2 hrs), that would make it soft and easy to grind. Grind in a mixer or a grinding stone, whatever you wish. My mom thinks grinding in the stone gives the real taste of poshto. I do it in my mixer – you guessed it right !
Step2: Peel the ridge gourd. If little skin is left, its okay, but the ridges have to be removed. Cut it into small pieces. Chop the tomatoes also and keep aside.
Step3: Heat a little oil in a wok, and throw in the paanch foron.
Step4: Throw in the ridge gourds.
Step5: When the ridge gourds are almost cooked, add the tomatoes and the salt. It will be slightly watery as ridge gourds   release a lot of water.
Step6: When all the water has dried up, add the poppy seed paste and mix well. Since this paste will also contain some water, you will need to stir it a little to dry up the dish…’re done!

Some people like this dish a little wet, some like it dry…you pick your choice. If you like it dry, you will need to stir it for some more time…thats all.

Jhinge poshto is one of the tastiest dishes in the world… least for all Bengalis !!! We have it with rice...but there are stories about how Queen Victoria used to love eating rotis with Jhinge or Aloo poshto  !!! 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chicken legs with capsicum and spring onions

Little S needs his daily dose of stories before he goes off to sleep. All efforts to try and dodge him fails as miserably as the talks between the Indian and Pakistani govts ! If I tell him I’ll read, he’ll immediately refuse…he hates the sight of books….it reminds him of studies. What he wants me to do is, read the story before getting into his bed, and then narrate it to him in my own words. Now that calls for preparation, which needs prior planning. I keep doing it for all my activities during the day, and the last thing I would want to add to my to-do list is a prior planning and preparation for bed-time stories. But S wants it that way, and everyone who has a child knows who the boss at home is after babies arrive! So I do too….had to learn the hard way. I have tried to trick him by making up stories after going to bed without a preparation, but who has ever got away trying to fool a child? I would be nudged out of my doze by an irritated S 
“Mamma just now it was a crocodile pulling the deer to the water; how did it become a tiger? You are not concentrating…” the little one would complain, to my embarrassment.

So now I have resorted to a trick. Once in a while I play a game with him, where I tell a sentence and ask him to continue the story with another, then again I tell a sentence and then he…hope you get the drift. Whoever dozes off, loses….and the other person wins a prize. Guess who wins everytime ? I know its bad to trick a child out of a bed-time story…but even Mamma needs a break once in a while :P.
My dish today is a chicken drumstick preparation with capsicum and spring onions that S loves..

Chicken legs with capsicum and spring onions

Chicken legs
Eggs : 1 for 3 legs
Capsicum: 1 cut into thin slices
Spring onions: chopped into 1” pieces
Onion: 1 large cut into thin slices
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Tomato: 1 small, finely chopped
Chilli pdr: ½ tsp
Worcestershire sauce: 1 tsp
Oyster sauce: 1 tsp
Cornflour 1tsp
Salt: ½ tsp
Turmeric: pinch
Oil: 2 tbsp

How to:
Step1: Marinade the chicken legs with ginger-garlic paste, salt and chilli pdr. for about 1 hr. If you can marinade for more, nothing like it.
Step2: Beat the cornflour , the egg, a little salt and keep the batter ready.
Step3: Dip the marinated chicken legs in the batter and shallow fry them in a frypan till they are cooked and remove.
Step4: In the same oil, fry the onion till golden.
Step5: Add the capsicum slices and the spring onions, the remaining batter and sauté a little.
 Step6: Add the Oyster and the W’shire sauce and the legpieces. Mix well, cover for 2 minutes and remove.

Done !! Simple, hassle-free and excellent with Chinese rice or any variety of fried rice. Little S loves it with noodles on a Saturday night!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dum Arbi

We rarely cook Arbi/ kochu/Taro at home. Not that it is not available here in Mumbai…they are aplenty everywhere, but somehow I didn’t cook much of it. But all of a sudden I find myself cooking a wee bit too much of arbi. Today is the third time I cooked arbi in the past two weeks! It is an extremely nutritious root vegetable with a lot of essential trace nutrients and most importantly has a very low glycemic index. But just like any other food varieties, too much of Arbi also not good. High consumption daily is said to cause kidney stone problems, so a controlled portion is the key word.
Today I prepared Dum arbi on the lines of Dum Aloo.

Arbi : 8/10
Oil : Mustard/any other 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds : 1 pinch
Bay leaves : 2/3
Onion : 1 large
Garlic: 2/3 cloves
Ginger: 1 “ piece
Tomato : 1 large
Green chillies: 2 slit
Dhaniya pdr: 1 tsp
Garam masala pdr : 1 tsp
chilli pdr :1/2 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Sugar/jaggery : ½ tsp
Coriander leaves : for garnishing

How to:
Step1: Boil and peel the arbi. Cut the large ones into half. Leave the smaller ones as it is.
Step2:Heat mustard oil in a wok.
Step3:Throw in the jeera and the bay leaves in succession .
Step4:Add the garlic, and afer they have browned slightly, add the finely chopped onion and the grated ginger. Fry till oil separates. 
Step5: Now add the dhaniya pdr, garam masala pdr chopped tomatoes and fry for some more time before adding the salt, turmeric, sugar and chilli pdr.
Step6: When a nice smell emanates, add the previously boiled and peeled arbi.
Step7:Mix well, throw in the green chillies and cover, allowing the arbi to soak in the masala and the flavors.

Great with hot chapattis! Will also go great guns with dal-rice J

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alu Kabli – Aloo Chaat Bengali Style

“Sob bangalir moto tomar-o alur dosh aachhe dekhchhi !
a statement from a very senior Bengali dada in my neighbourhood. If you are scandalized by the above statement – rest assure, I was so too! For a Bengali hailing from West Bengal alur dosh had a different meaning altogether J ….adding potatoes to every dish was NOT a dosh by any standards!
My mother, like all Bengali mothers loved to add potatoes to all her dishes. So much that she even prepared sweets from sweet potatoes! As a result I have grown up eating potatoes as a very integral part of my diet. I cannot say that I didn’t enjoy potatoes myself – alur dom (Dum Aloo) 10 years and 20 kilos later is still my all time favorite! Never really thought eating potatoes was a sin until I landed in Mumbai – and started inviting people home as a courtesy! My husband’s friends were horrified to find potatoes in mutton curry…that’s when I realized that I too add potatoes in literally everything! For me not adding potato in mutton curry was blasphemy….I loved that potato more than the mutton!!! Ofcourse now I have learnt to keep that potato to myself and out of everyone else’s visibility !
The truth is that Potato is one of the most underrated vegetables –branded guilty for no fault of its own! A large boiled potato weighing about 100g has only 44 calories, as against 2 chapattis weighing the same (100g) contains about 300 calories! So, my alu kabli, which I’m going to share here has only 70 – 75 calories…far less than what 1 chapati contains!! That’s what I call guilt free indulgence J

Alu Kabli – Aloo Chaat Bengali Style
This Alu-kabli is made by a vendor who is selling this amazingly chatpata dish outside the Ram-Mandir in Durgapur, for the past 30 yrs atleast ! He was there when I was small, and he is still there till date. Whenever I go to Durgapur on my yearly visit, I always make it a point to have this mouth watering dish of his!

What you’ll need:
Potato: 1 large, boiled and peeled
Kabuli chana: 10-12, boiled
Tamarind: a handful
Rock salt: ½ tsp
Sugar: 1tsp
Jeera : 1 tsp
Dried red chillies: 2
Pani puri: 2 crushed

How to:
Step1: Soak the tamarind, for about an hour, strain and keep aside.
Step 2: Heat a few drops of oil throw in a few cumin seeds and add the strained tamarind juice. Add sugar salt and chili pdr, bring the liquid to a boil and your Imli chutney is ready.  Keep aside.
Step 3: Roast the chilies and the cumin seeds and dry grind it into a coarse powder. (See Kochu kumror chhokka)
Step 4: Cut the boiled potato into thin slices.
Step 5: Add the chickpeas, rocksalt, roasted masala, and imli chutney and whisk them together.
Step 6: Spread the mixture and garnish with crushed pani-puris, or coriander leaves or anything according to your taste, availability and imagination !

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rains and the khichuri combination

When I landed up in Mumbai city about 10 years back, there were two things that surprised me the most. 1. White earthworms painted all over the buildings 2. Before you purchase or rent a flat, you are asked if you are a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian.
With time I learnt that the earthworms are nothing but chemical treatment applied over cracks to prevent leakage. It is funny, but if you look out of your car/bus local train window, you cannot help noticing these white serpentine lines all over buildings….you never see this in any other city. I later came to know that most of the extended Mumbai is built on reclaimed land, and hence does not stand on a very firm ground. That and the substandard quality of materials, and the black salty sand used in the construction are responsible for poor quality construction work. 
And for the second query, I came to know societies enquire upon your food habits because theirs must be an all vegetarian society and they are unwilling to accommodate anybody who is not!
But for each thing that surprises me in Mumbai, there are ten that I love. One such thing is the zest and revelry with which various religious and regional festivals are celebrated here.  Durga Puja is celebrated here with as much enthusiasm as Ganesh  Utsav or Navratri or Christmas. Its kind of sad, but little S is keener on being at the Navratri ground than at the Durgapuja Pandal ! I for one, just adore the Durgotsav observed here in Mumbai. Its out of West Bengal….and simply out of the world. It is distinct from West Bengal and more of  gharoa in approach rather than the club-centric puja’s back home in West Bengal. It is more tolerant towards wholesome participation of the Boudi clan – hence more appealing for me. And the Bhog ! Its Awesome..with a capital A. The bhuni khichuri, labra(mixed veggies with a typical East Bengal drift), begun (thin slices of eggplant dipped in a batter of besan, and deep-fried)i, kumro bhaja (batter or plain fries of yellow pumpkin), chutney , papad, payesh(rice pudding) and rosogolla….I think the platter is worth waiting for a whole year….
Ever since it has been pouring in Mumbai, I have been meaning to make the typically Pujo flavored bhuni khichuri, but had to wait for a rainy Sunday afternoon, and finally got one this Sunday….so off I went…

Bhuni Khichuri


 Rice (Gobindobhog chaal / or any small grained rice) : 1 cup
Moong daal: 1 cup
Green peas: 1 cup
Cauliflower (optional): 4/5 big florets
Ginger: 1” piece, grated                                        
Tomato: 1 small
Garam masala : whole (2 clove,2 Elaichi, 2” piece of Dalchini ground)
Garam masala powder (optional) : 1 tsp
Paanchforon: 1/2 tsp
Tej pata :  2
Salt: 1 tsp or to taste
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Oil: 2 tbsp
Ghee: 1tsp

How to:
Step 1: Wash and soak the rice in water.
Step 2: Roast the moong dal till it takes a beautiful golden hue. Be careful to stir continuously, to avoid burning. A beautiful aroma will fill your room by the time your dal is nicely roasted. Let it cool, wash it and keep aside.
Step 3: lightly smear the cauliflower florets in salt and turmeric and  shallow fry them in 1 tsp of oil so that they have a nice brownish tint, but not ready to eat as yet. Keep aside.
Step 4: In the same pan, heat a spoonful of oil, and add the Paanchforon first and then the whole garam masala and tejpata.
Step 5: Add the green chilly, ginger, roasted dal, green peas, turmeric, tomato and  fry  till it starts to stick at the bottom.
Step 6: Now add the soaked rice, about a spoonful of salt, a tomato cut into quarters and stir well.
Step 7: When the rice turns translucent, add 5 cups of water  and stir nicely. After you have made sure that no lumps have formed, cover and let it cook. Keep checking as it doesn’t take much time.
Step 8: When the rice and dal are almost cooked, add the pre-fried cauliflower.
Step 9: At this point taste the khichuri and check for salt, sweetness and tanginess. Add salt or sugar or chili powder so that you are satisfied with the taste, and cover. Remember as it cooks for some more time, it will get denser, so the taste will intensify. Add your enhancers accordingly.  Add water if required.
Step 10: When your khichuri is done,ie all the ingredients soft and consistency desirable,  stir in one spoonful of ghee, to get that distinctly pujo-pujo flavour.

Enjoy Bhog khichuri with papad, chutney, beguni, or with an omlette like my blasphemous son S...choice is yours !
Tip : I you want to store leftover khichuri and have it next day, add a little amount of warm water while you re-heat it in a karhai. It tastes even better the next day….I usually keep a little purposely to have it with a little onion and potato fry!

Friday, June 24, 2011

7 secrets of happiness and Alu-kopir chochchori

Okay, so before we go to the eighth secret of happiness -the yummy alu-kopir chochchori, let us quickly go through  the first seven:

  1. Delink your happiness from possessions. As long as you have a long “To possess” list – you cannot be happy!
  2. Seek happiness from your achievements
  3. Keep yourself extremely busy – so much so that you crave for some free time, and when you actually get it, it feels like the best thing on earth. Believe me lots of free time are the root of many troubles.
  4. Take very good care of your physical being – your health, your weight, your skin and your appearance in general.
  5. Re-kindle an old passion – it can be reading, writing, gardening, cooking, pottery, art, craft, anything you can get lost into for hours without even realising. Please don’t choose shopping –it has to be something which is either free or very cheap…..remember rule no.1!
  6. Involve yourself in some social service. Look around for work that needs to be done and don’t wait for the Municipal Corporation or an NGO to do it …do it yourself. Trust me, it gives you unparalleled satisfaction.
  7. Keep-in-touch. With parents, relatives, friends, ex-colleagues, your babysitter – all the people who touched your lives in some way and are far away now. NOW…that does not mean hook yourself to Facebook or Twitter or Orkut. I by no means want to belittle these wonderful networking platforms, they have made the world a small place in the real sense, but how you use them to your benefit and not to detriment – is up to you!
My recipe today is another simple dish which is a very integral part of all Bengali households – alu-kopir chochchori. We used to have it with roti’s on normal mornings and with luchi’s on special mornings.

Alu-kopi’r  chochchori

Potato: 1 large
Cauliflower: ½ , cut into little florets
Jeera: 2 tsp
Dry red chillies : 2
Salt: ½ tsp
Oil: 1 tsp

How to:
Step1: Roast 1 tsp of the jeera and the dry red chillies and grind them into a coarse powder. (For pictorial details of this step check out kochu kumror chhokka)
Step2: Chop the cauliflower and the potatoes into small pieces. If you wish, you can peel the potatoes, I donot.
Step3: Heat 1 tsp of oil and add 1 tsp of jeera.
Step4: Once the jeera is fried properly, add the potatoes first, and then the cauliflower after 5 mins. Potatoes are added first as cauliflower cooks very fast.
Step5:Add the salt, stir and cover.
Step6: When both the cauliflower and the potatoes are cooked, (in about another 5 mins), add the roasted jeera  pdr, mix well and your chochchori is done ! Goes very well with rotis, plain triangular parathas and puri/luchis.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Watermelon Orange Rocktail

I had a small wedge of watermelon left in my fridge which S wouldn’t have. After polishing off 90 percent of it, he suddenly decided that the melon was not sweet! The truth is that the summers are over, and its pouring outside – it’s not exactly the season for watermelon any more…its amazing how he knows about season and off-season so naturally, when I have such a tough time teaching him as much as the spelling of season in Geography!
Now the problem in hand was that I had this teeny-weeny wedge of watermelon which was not even enough for a decent glass of watermelon juice, and I had a friend coming over to say Hi.  Since I also had an orange sitting thankfully beside the wedge, an orange watermelon drink is what I could think of, and it turned out surprisingly pleasant !

Watermelon orange Rocktail:

Watermelon pulp : deseeded ( about a cupful)
Orange juice: ½ cup
Sugar: 2 tsp (you can add less, u can also use sugar substitute)
Rock salt: a pinch

How to:
Just blend all the above ingredients and garnish any way you like. Voila !
You can also add a spoon or 2 of vodka to give you a splendid mocktail !

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alu – potol bhate – Potato and pointed gourd bharta

What you’ll need:

Potato: 1 medium
Pointed gourd: 3/4
Onion :1 sliced
Chilly: 1 green or red dried
Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
Mustard or any other oil: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 pinch

How to:

1.      Skin the pointed gourds  as shown.
2.      Boil the potato and the gourds. You can also put it inside your rice pot. That’s how it was done by my mother.
3.      Skin the potato.
4.      Fry the cumin seeds, chilly and sliced onion in the oil, and pour the 
      entire thing on the boiled veggies, add salt and mash.

Healthy and delicious. Just try it out. You can also make similar bhartas with pumpkin, eggs or brinjals. You will find pumpkin bharta here.

Kumro-alu bhate - Yellow pumpkin and potato mishmash

What you’ll need:
Potato: 1 medium
Pumpkin slice: any size
Onion :1 sliced
Chilly: 1 green or red dried
Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
Mustard or any other oil: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 pinch

How to:

1.      Skin the pumpkin if it is yellow. If the skin is soft and green, you can leave it on.

2.      Boil the potato and the pumpkin. You can also put it inside your rice pot. That’s how it was done by my mother (all our mothers), and that' how the name came by. Since I cook my rice in the microwave I boil them separately.

3.      Skin the potato.

4.      Fry the cumin seeds, chilly and sliced onion in the oil, and pour the entire thing on the boiled veggies, add salt and mash.


Looks great and tastes absolutely delicious. Just try it out. You can substitute the pumpkin with pointed gourds/ eggs/ brinjals – tastes great any which ways.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mumbai monsoons and the Corn Festival

Come Monsoons and Mumbaikars join a season-long celebration called “The Corn Festival”. Pavements are seized by colourful canopies, Bhutta sellers ready with their coal stoves smoldering and eager patrons surrounding him for their treat of roasted corn on the cob smeared with a mix of rock salt and chilly powder, and a wedge of lemon rubbed  generously. Monsoons in Bombay are colder than winters J so the added interest is to enjoy the warmth of the earthen stove.
Today the dish of my day is corn- chaat. 

Corn Chaat

Sweet corn – boiled with a little salt
Rock salt
Lemon / raw mango
Chilli powder/ roasted & ground jeera and whole red chili (my wonder masala – which I use in many of my dishes, in my jhaal muri, dahi vada, raita and in my chaats)
For garnishing
Raw onions – chopped
Tomato – chopped
Green chilies – chopped
Coriander leaves - chopped
Sev – handful

How to:
Step 1: Strain the boiled corn from the boiling liquid. Mix all the ingredients together. I add both lemon and grated raw mango. I like to have it just like this. But for my S I also follow step 2.

Step 2:  Serve the boiled corn in a plate and garnish it with all the things listed under “For garnishing”

Alt Step 2: You can also serve it on papri’s( small crisp puri’s) and serve it as “Corn Papri Chaat”

 S's portion

 My portion
There are so many reasons to love the rains....the above one is just one of them :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Drumstick Crispies

Good friend Sucharita, who’s an Oriya  had once told me about these Drumstick crispies which was a must with the pokharo  (day old rice soaked in water) they had as breakfast on summer mornings back home in Bhuvneshwar. I have been meaning to make these crispies for a long time but could manage only last week, that too because I had promised myself to make something new for hubby on his birthday. He liked them…hope you like them too…..

Drumstick Crispies

2 Drumsticks: peeled and chopped into 3” pieces
For the batter:
Rice flour: 2 tablespoons
Besan: 1 tablespoon
Ginger garlic paste: ½ tsp
Chilly pdr: ½ tsp
Salt: ½ tsp
How to:
Step1: Steam the drumstick pieces lightly. Blanching them for 2 minutes is also enough. Be careful not to overcook them.
Step2: Mix all the ingredients for the batter with water and make a thickish batter somewhat like that for a cake.
Step 3: Heat oil in a pan
Step4: Dip the steamed drumsticks in the batter and fry. I had deep fried them, but shallow-frying them also gives perfect effect.

They turned out so tasty, that I had planned it as a part of hubby’s birthday lunch spread, but they got polished off while the frying was on L

Picture Story:

 Peeled and steamed drumsticks

 The batter

Frying until they take a rich golden brown hue

Lip-smacking !!!

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