December 19, 2012

Quick & easy spicy pita chips

Spicy Pita chips

NOTE: I wrote this post a while back and didn't have the time to finish it. Then the two tragedies (one in the US and one in India) happened, that have saddened and angered me in many ways. It has been hard for me to find the right words and coherently write about it. I pray that we all have the strength to work through these horrific incidents. And over the next year, I hope to see significant changes in everyday social and cultural terrains -- beyond legal and policy decision -- that address these incidents. Below is the post as I wrote it.
How are you all? Before I could blink my eyes, Tiny M is six weeks old and Lil A is almost three. I am now carrying two little boys in my arms and feeling mighty strong. Between nursing the little one and playing cars and Thomas the train, I try to fit in cooking a little bit here and there and appreciate that my MIL is still here and makes sure we have delicious, hot food everyday.
In other news, Lil A has started eating chicken. Yes, he's never been a big fan. When he was little, I would mash some in his food, but as he got older, he wouldn't do it. We have been encouraging him to try it with different recipes and somehow nothing clicked till we got some chicken shawarma home. One bite was all it took!
Yay for chicken shawarma from Jersulam Garden. We are so excited by this and to encourage him we get it quite often. However, the entree comes with pitas and soon we had a big pile of pitas sitting at home. 
To tackle the pile, I decided to make some pita chips. It's rather simple, and makes for a delicious appetizer for the Holiday season. 
This was also a big hit in our home and I have made various versions of it, some with cumin powder, some with chilli powder and some with garlic salt. You can make your own variations too. 

2-3 pitas
salt to taste
1/4 tspoon cumin powder
1/4 tspoon fresh ground black pepper
2-3 tbspoon extra virgin olive oil. 

Heat the oven to 350 degC. Cut the pita in long strips. Sprinkle the spices and then the oil on top of the pita. Then rub the spices and the oil on the pita. Make sure that each pita has some oil and spice on it. 
Spicy Pita chips

Arrange it on a tray and cook it for 7-8 minutes. Turn then over and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. 

Spicy Pita chips
Cool and serve with hummus, baba ganouj, and tabouli. Yum!

December 03, 2012

Pear Crisp for Holiday season

Pear crisp

Since we couldn't travel, we hosted the Thanksgiving's dinner for family and friend this year.  I made a couple of things, but most of the menu planning and cooking for done by Aswin. It was a lovely evening spent with good food and good company in between nursing the 3-week-old. Running behind the toddler, I had forgotten, how tiny, soft and fragile little babies are and delicious they smell :)

When I was nursing the last time, my MIL had brought over some special laddoos from India. They were made of some 20-25 ingredients and I had one everyday for a month. This time she was here so no laddoos from India. But this time she made me some delicious whole wheat panjiris.

whole wheat panjiri
We followed the recipe from Manjula's kitchen whole wheat gaund panjiri and stored it in a box and I have been nibbling at it for the last few weeks. It's delicious! We substituted the melon seeds with pumpkin seeds but it is the edible gum which is helpful for lactating women. Another recipe for nursing mother laddoos is at Nupur's One hot stove.

Coming back to the pear crisp, we wanted to make a simple yet delicious dessert for the Thanksgiving dinner and settled on pear crisp as we had a fresh bunch of pears at home. The crisp was easy to make and was a perfect end to the meal. We had it with some organic vanilla bean ice-cream a friend got and the combination was just great.

Ingredients: (serves 5-6 with leftovers)
6-7 pears peeled and chopped in cubes
1 tspoon lemon zest
1/2 tspoon freshly grated ginger
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tspoon salt

For topping
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup almonds
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tspoon cinnamon powder
1 stick butter

Heat the oven to 350 deg C.

Pear crisp
Mix the cubed pears with lemon zest, salt, ginger and sugar and let it sit for 15-25 minutes.  Now prepare the topping. Melt the butter and coarsely chop oats and almonds together.

Now mix the oats and almonds with whole wheat flour. Add sugar, and cinnamon powder mix it together. Now add the melted butter and slowly mix it together till it comes together as a rough dough.

Pear crisp
Sprinkle it nicely over the pears so it forms a nice thick layer. Bake it in the oven for 30 min and then brown it on high heat for another 5 min.

Serve warm with some vanilla ice-cream. 

November 19, 2012

Mixed berry cake with whipped cream

It was Aswin's birthday last week and this time we made a mixed berry cake with whipped cream topping. Lil A is not so fond of cakes, but he does like to lick all the cream off the cake or cupcakes. So when he demanded a blue or green cream topping, I knew he was serious.

I chose a simple mixed berry cake from Smitten Kitchen and then tweaked it. Whole wheat flour to replace all purpose flour, no lemon zest and glaze either, instead sinful whipped cream that Lil A helped stir and decorate with. I also made fresh buttermilk with homemade yogurt and since I had no fresh berries, used couple of cups of frozen berried from a mixed berry bag.

The cake came out delicious and was enjoyed by friends who had dropped by to wish Aswin. And as you can see, it was Lil A who was so excited and even helped his dad blow out the candles. Tiny M on the other hand, was content in the arms of his parents, aaji and aunts and uncles.

It was a busy evening and I forgot to take a picture of the slice of the cake. I am sure to make this again and will take a picture then and update the blog.

Mixed berry cake

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tbspoon whole wheat pastry flour
2 tspoon baking powder
3/4 tspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter super soft
1 3/4 cups sugar (I used brown sugar)
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups frozen mixed berries

Whipped Cream topping
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
10-15 drops of green food color

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease cake pan with butter and sprinkle flour on top. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour (leaving out the 2 tbspoons), with baking powder and salt. Now, in a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar continuously for 5 minutes till it is fluffy and lighter in color. Then, add eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla extract.

Now is the time to add the flour to the mix. Instead of adding it all together, add little bit at a time followed by buttermilk. Also be careful as the batter will be quite thick.  Add the frozen berried in a bowl and add the flour. It helps them from sinking to the bottom.

Once the batter is done, gently add the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating the cake half-way through. Check with a toothpick.

Now for the whipping cream, beat the sugar, heavy cream and color together till stiff peaks form. Add it smoothly over the cake and decorate it in any way.

Mixed berry cake
Cool till ready to serve. 

November 09, 2012

Our Diwali is brighter this year...

Birth announcement

with the addition of a new member - Manan. Unlike Lil A, Tiny M is loud. When we went to the pediatrician, she commented "he has to be heard over his brother, so he's already practicing." 

My MIL is here helping us as we all realign ourselves. As for this blog space, it's an important part of my life and I don't intend to neglect it completely. I will be posting as and when I get a chance.

Hope your Diwali is full of joy and happiness too. I very grateful for the love and good wishes that I get from my blogging friends readers. Thank you!

October 23, 2012

Shubho Bijoya with Kalakand from scratch


My pregnancy brain has taken over, I'm sure! I'm told that in the last month or so, "nesting" kicks in. And here I am, instead of getting stuff ready for the new arrival in my "nesting" phase, I am standing near a stove, stirring and making kalakand from scratch at night after Lil A went to bed. What else would you call it?

The only advantage of the late night cooking session was I had all the time to stir and take pictures without being interrupted and so I have a nice pictorial for you of this recipe. :)

I didn't start out wanting to make it from scratch. I was supposed to make Bong Mom's microwave kalakand recipe. But when it was time, I realized that I didn't have even one ingredient from her recipe. So I set about making paneer/chana and then kalakand from scratch.

The kalakand was just out of this world. I cannot imagine I've not made it in before this. The soft, crumbly, grainy texture with the cardamom and saffron taste and the gentle sweetness just blew me away. I am sure to make it again and again.

So with this delicious sweet I wish you all "Shubho Bijoya".

1/4 gallon whole milk
2-3 tbspoon lemon juice
1 can evaporated milk
1 tbspoon ghee
1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
4-6 cardamom pods - pounded to powder
few strands of saffron
4-5 almonds chopped

Making paneer/chana: Heat the milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, add the lemon juice till the milk separates. Immediately strain it and tie the paneer/chana in a cheese cloth and let it hang for an hour till excess water drains.

Making Kalakand: Mix 1:1 ratio of evaporated milk and paneer in a thick bottomed pan. I got about 2 cups of paneer/chana and took 2 cups of evaporated milk from the can.

Heat the pan with ghee and then add the paneer and evaporated milk. Add the saffron strands and half the cardamom  powder. Keep stirring the mix on low medium heat till the mix starts to thicken.

Then add the sugar and keep stirring till it becomes a soft dough consistency and starts leaving the pan. It took me about 29 minutes to reach that consistency.

Spread it on a plate and spread the rest of the cardamom powder and almond bits and cool overnight.
  Cut and serve.

Here are some more kalakand recipes:
Bong Mom Cookbook's microwave kalakand
Manjula's kitchen kalakand

October 17, 2012

Durga Pujo te mochar ghonto (banana blossom stirfry)

Mochar Ghonto

I was so excited when I saw mocha or banana flower in the Indian store recently. (Mocha is pronounced as Mo cha as in chair). It's been many years since I had one and in my mind the process of cleaning is complicated, one I have never attempted. I do remember my mother sitting with a boti and a newspaper in the kitchen, patiently rubbing her hands with oil and cleaning the flower and chopping it for ghonto.

My mother-in-law is visiting, and I was confident that between the two of us we will be able to tackle the cleaning. I called my parents to ask about ghonto recipe and for tips. As soon as I told them about the banana flower, my father gave me the recipe for mocha ghonto. All the tips came from my mother "soak the banana flower in turmeric water", "take out the stamen" "rub oil in your hands" etc.

I added some potatoes to the ghonto, and you can add some coconut, shrimp or even chana dal to mochar ghonto.

The end result was delicious, we had it with friends over lunch and it was gone in no time. We were so inspired with our success that we got another banana flower and my MIL gave me another recipe which is coming up in the next post.

With this mochar ghonto, I want to wish all of you a wonderful Durga Pujo season.

Ingredients (serves 5-6)
1 banana blossom
1 1/2  medium potato cut into small cubes
1 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
1/2 tspoon red chilli powder
1/2 tspoon sugar
salt to taste
2-3 tbspoon oil
1 tspoon of ghee (for end)

For tempering
2-3 cloves
2-3 cardamom
1" cinnamon
2 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds

Cleaning the mocha (banana flower)
Rub your hands with oil, then open the outer layer of banana blossom, take out the flower one by one and remove the stamen and chop it finely. Follow the same pattern for the other layer of blossom, until you reach the central heart, which is slightly pale yellow or off white in color. Chop it finely, you will notice some stickiness and this is where the oil will come in handy.

Then heat some water, add 1/2 tspoon turmeric powder soak the banana flower and leave it for 5-6 hours.
Mochar Ghonto

Heat up a deep pan, add half of the oil and saute the potatoes for 2-3 minutes. Take them out and set it aside.

Now add the rest of the oil and temper it with cumin seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Then add turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder. Take the chopped mocha out of the water, squeeze it nicely and add it to the pan. Saute it all together for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle little water and cover it and cook it for 3-4 minutes on low medium heat.

Add the salt and sugar and the potatoes and let it cook for another 4-5 minutes. Keep mashing the mocha with the wooden spatula to mix it together.

Mochar Ghonto
When it's ready, add the ghee, cook for another minute and take it off the heat. Serve hot with rice.

September 30, 2012

Holding on to summer with Corn Chaat

Corn Chaat

I look at corn with new found eyes since this summer. That's because Lil A discovered corn and I found corn chaat. In one go, it satisfied both of us. Lil A likes his with lemon juice, salt and pepper. When we don't have time to grill the corn, I simply boil it and serve it with butter and salt to Lil A and he happily munches on it.

I on the other hand, douse my corn with cucumber, tomatoes, onions and pepper, liberally spice it and enjoy it in a bowl. 

I have been tweaking this corn chaat recipe over the summer. I've made various versions of it and even made it recently for a friend's baby shower and it turned out to be a big hit. 

One of the things that I found in this various versions, is that I like it with sauteed onions. Yes, instead of serving it with raw onions, I saute the onion with some green peppers and it makes the chaat milder yet delicious.
Corn Chaat

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
4-6 corns
1 medium onion chopped
1 small green pepper - chopped
2 small tomatoes - chopped
1/4 cucumber - chopped
1 tspoon butter
2/3 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/2 tspoon red chilli powder
2/3 tspoon chaat masala
1/2 tspoon aamchur powder
1/2 tspoon lemon juice
1 tspoon oil
1/2 tspoon black pepper
salt to taste
bunch of cilantro chopped (optional)
2-3 green chilies (optional)

Corn Chaat
Heat water and boil corn till it is cooked. Or alternately grill the corn. I have tried both and it works both ways. Once the corn is boiled or grilled add in the butter, salt, pepper and chilli powder. Mix it together and set it aside.

In a pan, heat the oil and add in onions and pepper. Cook it on medium heat till the onions are translucent and take it off before they start turning brown. The peppers are soft yet crunchy.

Now take a big bowl and add in the corn, onion-pepper, tomatoes, cucumber and mix it all together. Now add in the chaat masala, aamchur powder, cumin powder, salt and lemon juice and mix it together.

Corn Chaat
Garnish with green chillies, cilantro and serve.

You could also add small boiled potatoes and make it into a hearty salad for a quick workday lunch. Yum!

September 24, 2012

Making the most of Fall and some news...

Luchi Tarkari/ Puri bhaji

Fall is here for sure. Moderate temperatures, sunny days, blue skies, tempting us to spend time outside. And to do that, we combined spending time outside with cooking outside too. :)

You've already heard me talk about the new grill we got over the summer. It came with a side gas burner and we decided to make inaugurate that by deep frying some Luchis or Puris.  Luchis or Puris stir up strong memories of weekends at home when we would have them with kumror chakka or alur tarkari or pujo at home when maa would make these puffed beauties for narayan pujo.

Cooking outside made for a perfect, relaxed morning, melding into the afternoon. We cooking outside. Lil A in the backyard with his bike, MIL making the bhaji to go with the luchis.

Before I go to the recipe, here is the big news to go with some puris. Lil A is soon going to have company. We are expecting  a "Tiny Lil one" soon. Lil A is excited about the news as well. In fact, he has set aside one toy for the baby claiming the rest of it as his own. But that's progress, right! Any tips on how to manage two together are welcome.

1. Luchi/Puri/ Puffed bread
Bengali Luchis are made with All purpose flour or maida. But these are not. I made them with regular atta.

2 cups atta (Indian-style whole-wheat flour)
2 tspoons oil
a pinch of sugar
1/4 tspoon salt
Warm water
oil for deep frying

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle, and add the oil and water mix it with fingertips. Then start kneading the dough. It has to be soft and that comes from kneading it nicely. Add a tspoon of oil on top and let it rest for 30-45 min. The oil prevents the drying.

Now take a small amount of dough (about golf size) and then make it into a ball. Roll it out on an clean oiled surface using a rolling pin.Avoid using flour, if it sticks add a tiny bit of oil. I can never make round ones, so I made all kinds of shapes, but the round ones you see in the pictures come from my MIL :)

Heat a cup of oil in a kadai/wok. The oil has to be hot or else the puri/luchi will not rise. Once the oil is hot add a little bit dough to check the temperature. If it rises up and the oil bubbles, the temperature is right.

Add the luchi/puri (and our kadai is small, so we did one at a time) and press gently with a slotted spoon. It will puff up in the middle. Let it cook for a min and then turn. It should be cooked with golden color and without too much browning.

Take it out and put it on kitchen towel to soak extra oil. Serve hot with pickle, raita, bhaji, tarkari, payesh, or just plain sugar.

Luchi Tarkari/ Puri bhaji
2. Aloo gajarer tarkari/Potato carrot stir-fry
We had our puris/luchis with some simple carrot and potato bhaji. Here is the recipe.

3-4 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
1/2 tspoon mustard seeds
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
 1/2 tspoon tumeric
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
2 tbspoon oil
salt to taste
1 red chilli

Wash, cut and boil the potatoes and carrots together. Once they are boiled mash them roughly together.Now add turmeric powder, cumin seed powder, and salt and mix it together.

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard and cumin seeds and the red chilli. Once it sizzles, add the potato and carrot mix. Stir well to mix and then let it cook for 4-5 minutes. Adjust salt and take it off the heat.

Luchi Tarkari/ Puri bhaji
Serve warm. It even goes well together with some plain rice and dal.

Here are some more Luchi/puri recipes:
Homemaker's luchi
Mom Recipes Puri

September 11, 2012

Sage garlic potatoes with tandoori grilled chicken

We finally got ourselves a grill this summer and since then have been grilling quite a bit over the last few months. But, I never get around to taking pictures of the food we have grilled so far, some delicious, juicy mushrooms, paneer, tofu, corn, and even some salmon. The salmon was a big hit with Lil A who had it right after we took it off the grill. But this time I did, and it deserves a post.

Before I write down the recipe for the tandoori grilled chicken, I want to talk about the potatoes I made to go with it which ended up becoming the star of the show, a perfect compliment to the spicy chicken.

I received a bunch of fresh sage from my friend recently (Thanks Sonya!) and for the longest time I had no idea how to use it. I was using a bit here and a bit there till I concocted this recipe. All the flavors just come together and balance each other perfectly.

I boiled the potatoes to save time as we were having friends over for dinner on a weekday night, but you can bake the potatoes all the way through and I am sure it will make it more crispy.

Lemony, sage, garlic potatoes

8-11 potatoes - washed, scrubbed, dried and quarted
8-10 sage leaves chopped finely
1 tspoon garlic - I used grated
1 tbspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
1/4 tspoon fresh black pepper
1/2 tspoon paprika
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1 tbspoon oil


Lemony sage potatoes
Boil the potatoes with a tspoon oil and some salt.

Lemony sage potatoes
Mix all the spices together along with the remaining oil to form a uniform mixture. 

Lemony sage potatoes
Once the potatoes are cooked, mix it nicely with the spices till the potatoes are covered nicely.
Heat the oven to 250 degF. And bake the potatoes for 10-12 minutes till they start to crisp.

Lemony sage potatoes
Serve warm. 

Tandoori chicken

This is my easiest go to tandoori chicken recipe for weeknights when I am short on time. I marinate the chicken overnight and I make sure that there is some yogurt and lemon juice in the marinade. This always makes the chicken soft and tender. Paprika gives a nice color. Cooking it on the grill gives it a nice smoky taste, though nothing like cooking it in a traditional tandoor.

I have been buying my chicken at the Farmer's Market and that means I have had to learn how to cut a whole chicken. Now I feel fairly confident taking one apart and serving it to guests. :) It also means that I don't have boneless chicken at home.

1 4lb chicken - cut
1/2 cup yogurt
1 1/2 tbspoon lemon juice
1/2 tspoon fresh black pepper
1 tspoon turmeric powder
1 tspoon paprika
1/2 tspoon red chilli powder
3/4 tspoon coriander powder
3/4 tspoon cumin seed powder
1 1/2 tspoon fresh ginger grated
1 1/2 tspoon fresh garlic grated
few mint leaves torn and mixed
1 tspoon garam masala

Tandoori Chicken
The list of the spices is long but once you have the ingredients together then it is mixing it all together in a big bowl and then adding chicken pieces one a a time so they get soaked in the mix.

I also use a fork or a knife (depending what is handy) to create small holes in the chicken to absorb the mix.

Marinate for at least 6-8 hours and then cook it on the grill for 15-18 minutes turning it on sides till they are completely cooked.

Tandoori Chicken

Serve warm. We enjoyed ours with some salad, flat bread wraps and some fresh juicy watermelons.

August 27, 2012

Mulor tarkari (Radish with Bengali five-spice)

Mulor Tarkari (Radish with Bengali 5-spice)

The Farmer's Market in Ann Arbor is in full swing. All kinds of vegetables, flowers, plants, fruits are available now. If you go to the market Saturday morning, it is packed with people and kids. Little kids on feet, in strollers, babies with their eyes wide open in wonderment looking at the crowd and the colorful display.

Lil A loves going to the market as well. He refuses to sit in his stroller nowadays and walks around looking at each vendor. His favorite is the blueberries stall which has several small ducks perched on top of the blueberries. And nothing beats the apple cider either! At one time, I think, he had a few samples of the cider, before we bought him a pack.

This past weekend we picked up a couple of bags full of vegetables. In it was a big bunch of red radish. One bite into the succulent radish and I ate a few more with just salt and pepper. The rest I made into a simple stir fry with panch phoron (Bengali five-spice).  Keeping it mild and simple really let the  flavors of the radish shine.

Big bunch of red radish (1 1/2 lbs
2-3 tbspoon olive oil
3/4 tspoon panch phoron
2 green chillies
1/4 tspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon cumin powder
salt to taste

Wash and quarter the radishes. Set it aside. In a pan heat oil and then add the panch phoron and the green chillies. Once they sizzle add in the grated ginger, and tumeric powder. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add in salt and cumin powder and maybe a little bit water and let it cook for another 4-5 minutes (closed lid on medium heat) till the radish is soft.

Mulor Tarkari (Radish with Bengali 5-spice)
Take it off the heat and serve with rice or roti.

August 20, 2012

Moong Dal Laddoo

Moong Dal Laddoo

 It inevitably happens when my parents come and go or when my MIL is visiting us, the blog reflects that shift with the recipes that are posted. After all this is a place to record our home cooked food. Sometimes I go back in history to browse (doesn't happen that frequently now what with the little one) and it's so interesting to see what was cooking in the kitchen the same month in different years and so on.

This Moong Dal Laddoo is a traditional offering in my Mother-in-Law's household for Janamasthami. So we decided to make it this year with her help. It wouldn't have happened if she was not here or if she didn't suggest it. It needs a little bit of prep with roasting the moong dal and then grinding it to a powder. But you won't regret the time spent as the sweet delicacy sits in your palm ready to eat.

Making sweets or desserts from moong dal is not something we did often growing up. But I would look forward to the moong dal halwa which our neighbors sent over every diwali. The halwa would be full of ghee and nuts and we would all devour it after lighting the crackers. Other than that, this is the other dal sweet which I came across. How else could you make a dessert/sweet with moong dal?

This moong dal laddoo hit the right spot and I have to confess I ate 2-3 together before I had to push the plate and say "the photo shoot is over" :)

Here is how we made it:

2 cups yellow Moong Dal (Split GreenGram)
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Ghee (clarified butte)
1/2 tspoon cardamom powder

Moong Dal Laddoo

Dry roast the moong dal until it turns dark golden and gives a strong aroma. Remove from heat and keep it aside to cool.  Grind the roasted moong dal into a powder with the sugar and keep it aside. Add the cardamom powder to the mix.

Now heat a thick bottomed pan and melt the ghee. Add all the ingredients and let it cook for 3-4 minute on medium low heat.

Take it off the heat and then divide the mix into equal portions and make then into round balls with firm finger pressure.

Moong Dal Laddoo
This stays for up to 2 weeks  but there's nothing like a good warm laddoo.

August 09, 2012

Toker Dal (Bengali mango dal)

Tok er dal (Bengali mango dal)

Summer is going too fast. As I type this rain is steadily falling, the temperatures have dipped to 70s, and I am warming my hands on a hot cup of tea. Lil A is sitting next to me (barely) complaining that his wagon is "all wet" and is demanding to go outside immediately.

The relief from heat is much needed but I am reminiscing about the hot summer afternoon when I came home to find a big bowl of toker dal.  I had been telling my parents about toker dal and that I haven't had it in forever, and also that I need to make it soon. After that I forgot all about it. Then I come home one day to find this hot, mildly sour, little bit sweet bowl of dal waiting for me. I probably ate all my lunch with this dal that afternoon.

This dal reminds me of hot summers and summer vacations in India when we would have this with coolers running and fans whirring. What do you associate with hot summer afternoons?

I didn't get a chance to record the podcast before they left, so I called and asked them for the recipe. Here it goes:

 1 1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentil)
1 big raw mango (or 2 small ones) - chopped into thin medium pieces
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon sugar
Salt to taste

For tadka
2 tbspoon oil
1 tspoon mustard seeds
2-3 red chillies
1/4 tspoon hing (asafoetida)

Tok er dal (Bengali mango dal)

Boil the dal with salt and turmeric powder and set it aside. My masoor dal is done in a pressure cooker in 2 whistles. Set it aside.

In a deep pan, heat the oil and add hing, mustard seeds and red chillies. Then add the chopped mango pieces and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the boiled dal, a cup of water if need and let it boil on low medium heat for 4-6 minutes till the mango pieces are soft. Add the sugar, adjust salt and take it off the heat.

Tok er dal (Bengali mango dal)
Serve it with hot rice and bhaja (fries) of your choice. We had ours with some bhindi aar aloo bhaja (okra and potato fries).

July 26, 2012

Moistest Banana Bread Ever

Banana Bread

It has been so hot lately that every week for the last couple of months I inevitably have some bananas that become over ripe and squishy. We either end up with either a smoothie for the next day, or they go in the fridge for making banana bread over the weekend. I have experimented with a few different proportions and now I think I have a keeper.

Just simple ingredients, whatever I had at home and you can choose what you want to put in this too - maybe some raisins or nuts, or some chocolate bits.

Getting little pieces of bananas is an added surprise. I am sure you will also love it as much as I did.

1 1/2 cups multi-grain flour (this is what I had at home, you can use plain flour or even whole wheat flour)
2 ripe bananas roughly mushed
1/3 cup super soft butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar and ended up with a darker bread)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tbspoon heaped whipped cream
1 tspoon vanilla
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tspoon baking soda
1/4 tspoon salt

Banana Bread
Lil A was taking his afternoon nap when I made this, so no mixer was used. Instead I roughly mixed it all together (not even stirring very much) and it turned out great.

Preheat the over to 350deg F and butter and flour the bread pan and keep it aside.

In the roughly mushed bananas, mix in the super soft butter. Then add in the egg and vanilla. Now add the sugar and mix it nicely but gently.

In another plate, sieve the flour and add the salt and baking soda. Add the flour in the banana mixture slowly, little bit at a time. Now add the whipped cream, walnuts and blueberries to the mixture. Mix it all gently and then pour it in the bread pan.

Thump the bread pan down a couple of time to get rid of the extra bubbles and put it in the oven for 45-50 min till the toothpick comes out clean.

Banana Bread
Slice and serve. Enjoy.

July 19, 2012

Kale parathas (Kale stuffed flatbread)

Kale parathas

My sister-in-law in Naperville is an avid gardener. For the last several years, she rents a community plot every summer and grows all kinds of vegetables and fruits that last her well into the winter. I've blogged about her garden before. 

When we visited her a couple of weeks ago, she was having a bounty of Kale and gave us a bunch as well. I made some into Kale Chips and still had a small batch left over. After debating about what to try next with the leftover Kale, I decided to try some Kale parathas as a way to get Lil A to eat some of it. And guess what? It worked. He ate almost an entire parantha with some yogurt. You can easily substitute kale with any other greens like spinach, or methi (fenugreek).

I chopped the Kale thinly, spiced it lightly and then mixed it with the entire dough instead of stuffing. It made rolling it out easier.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
2-3 cups flour
1/2 tspoon salt
1/2 tspoon oil
water to knead the dough

For Kale:
1 bunch Kale
1/4 tspoon grated garlic
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon cumin seeds
salt to taste
2 tbspoon oil

Wash Kale thoroughly and remove the stem or rib of kale. Chop it into thin and small pieces. Heat a pan and then add the cumin seeds. Once they start sputtering, add the grated garlic and turmeric powder. Then add the kale leaves and let it cook on closed lid for 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lid and stir the Kale and add salt. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes till the water disappears. Lay it on a plate and let it cool.

Now add it to the flour and mix it well. Then make a well in the center of the flour, add water and knead it to a soft dough. Keep it aside for 30-40 minutes.

Now divide the dough in equal parts and make small balls with your palm. Roll them out in to small, circular parathas, use some flour dusting if it sticks, but not too much.
Kale parathas

Heat a hot griddle or pan, cook both sides with about 1/2 tspoon of oil till the brown spots appear and the paratha looks cooked.

Serve hot with yogurt, pickle or even a side dish.

July 02, 2012

Celebrating 6 years of blogging with Mango Sandesh

Mango Sandesh

That's right, it's been six years! And I am still here. I wouldn't be if it weren't for you and your support, encouragement and love. I've found friend, a community and have learned and grown is so many ways. Here's hoping for more in the coming days. In the meantime, for this special occasion,  I present Mango Sandesh or aamer shondesh!

We just sort of came up with the recipe one evening as an experiment and then recruited family members and friends to try it out for us. The result was surprisingly good and a big thumbs up! So the recipe finds it's way to the blog.

My parents are packing their bags to return to India, so things are going to be quieter for a few days. I still have their recipes in the drafts so hopefully will post them in the next coming days. While you savor this recipe, I will go and enjoy the "ilish mach bhapano" one more time.

Mango Sandesh

1/4 gallon whole milk
1 lemon
1 1/2 cups mango pulp
1/2 cup brown sugar
10-12 almonds soaked in hot water and slivered

Boil the milk and when it's boiling add the lemon till the milk curdles properly. Take it off the heat and sieve it through a cheesecloth. Tie the cloth tightly and let it hang for a couple of hours till the water is gone. Leave the chana/paneer in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for another couple of hours.

Then crumble and mash the chana/paneer till it is smooth and without lumps. From the milk I got about 1 3/4 cups of tightly packed chana/paneer.

Now heat a heavy bottomed pan and put the chana/paneer in there. Then add the mango pulp. It will become a soupy mixture. Add sugar and now let it cook with constant stirring on low heat.

The pulpy mix will lose all its water/liquid and come together and leave sides. Take it off the heat and give it a quick whir in a mixie.

Mango Sandesh

Take it out, make small round balls and add the slivered almond on top.

Here are my other sandesh recipes.
Saffron sandesh
And here is eCurry's recipe for sandesh.

June 20, 2012

Sorshe Begun with a twist

My parents have been busy since they got here. Between them, they have take care of Lil A, taught him Bengali rhymes even "Brishti pore tapur toopur...", cleaned and tended to the garden, built the vegetable patch and cooked up a storm, some familiar and some new dishes.

Summer garden
Thanks to my dad, my vegetable patch is growing rapidly this year and the tomatoes are almost ready. Lil A has helped a lot too keeping it watered :) He has a little watering can that he insists of taking out every evening, filling it with water and watering everything his heart desires. The plants may be the lucky ones and the bugs and ants the unlucky ones.

Shorshe Begun

This shorshe begun my dad made is one of the new dishes he tried here. I don't remember eating much of shorshe begun (eggplant in mustard sauce) growing up. And I am not a big fan of eggplant either. But one bite of this and I am a convert. 

The twist is this is a little bit of peanuts that he added in the paste. The sharpness of mustard combined with the creaminess poppy seeds and peanuts provide give the eggplants, which are cooked till they are soft, a delicious taste. Eat it with some plain rice and you'll agree as well.

2 medium eggplants - cut vertically in in 4 pieces each
1" ginger -  grated
1/4 tspoon asafoetida
1/4 tspoon kalo jeere
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
4-5 tbspoon oil

For the paste:
1 tspoon poppyseeds
1 tspoon  mustard seeds
8-10 pieces of peanuts
1green chilli cut into smalll pcs (increase heat as per your taste)
Put 3-4 tbspoon oil in nonstick pan, Heat the oil and shallow fry the eggplants for 2-3 minutes till they start to turn brown. 

Grind the paste ingredients to a fine paste and keep it aside.

Once the eggplants are done, add in the rest of the oil and temper it with kalo jeere. Then add the asafoetida, ginger and turmeric powder. 

Add the eggplants and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the paste and let it all mix together really well. Add 3/4 cup of water, salt and let it cook on low medium heat on closed lid (about 6-7 minutes) till the eggplants are soft and the oil separates. 

Shorshe Begun

Shorshe begun is ready to be served.


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