Monday, April 12, 2021

Easy Chicken and Baby Potatoes



In summer when the temperature and humidity make life quite difficult, the thought of cooking meals becomes quite unbearable. But we have to eat! And that's when I find myself making one-pot meals or easy dishes that can be had with bread so I don't have to cook rice. Since K loves bread anyway this is never a cause for complaint in our house. Among my many go to recipes in summer is this pan roasted chicken where I follow a few very basic principles and then vary some of the details so there is variety on the table without a whole lot of mental or physical effort. 

This easy chicken with baby potatoes is a dish that requires minimal effort and comes together in around 30 minutes if you have your chicken thawed and ready and a a couple of time saving ingredients like stock cubes in you pantry. 

Easy Chicken with Baby Potatoes

1 chicken, curry cut

20 baby potatoes, washed thoroughly and halved (don't peel)

a few cloves of peeled garlic

1 stock cube - vegetable/chicken/ham/beef

2-3 large onions, sliced thick

a stalk or two of celery (optional)

salt

pepper

olive oil

In a nonstick pan drizzle a little oil and sprinkle some salt and heat the pan. Place the baby potatoes cut side down in a neat layer, cover the pan, and let the potatoes cook on low heat. 

In a cooking pot heat some olive oil and chuck in the sliced onions and the peeled garlic along with some salt. Let it cook on medium heat for a few minutes till the onions change to translucent. Don't let the onions brown, so stir frequently. Add the chicken pieces - the legs and other bony bits first and after five minutes the meaty breast and other fleshy pieces. Legs take longer to cook so put the breast pieces into the pot a little later so they don't get overcooked and chewy. 

Crumble in the stock cube, add a generous amount of pepper powder (use freshly bashed for better flavour always!). Add salt to taste keeping in mind that you've added salt in the onions and that the stock cube will have a decent bit of salt. Add the baby potatoes from the other pan and mix everything nicely. Add celery stalks now if you have them. 

Cover the pot and let it cook for around 20 minutes on low-medium heat. Stir occasionally to cook everything evenly. The chicken and the onions will release enough water for the meat and the potatoes to get cooked. 

Serve hot with fresh pao or sliced bread, whatever you prefer.  


Stock Cubes

Stock cubes are very versatile and I have a few different kinds. You only need one though to make life in the kitchen easier. Keep veg cubes or the chicken ones and you're sorted. Though I'm no advocate of adding cubes to everything or using them daily, occasional use is perfectly fine. They can be a lifesaver when there's not much else by way of ingredients or when you want a quick fix meal without having to put too much thought or effort into it. 



Sunday, February 7, 2021

Shish Palong Chorchori - Bengali Mixed Veggies with Spinach Stalks



There's a veggie vendor in the market who stocks 'Bengali veggies' and I have devotedly started visiting his stall at least once a week. I keenly miss Kolkata in the winter and all that winter bounty that the veggie vendor there brings on his cart to our doorstep every morning. It is from him that I learned about so many seasonal vegetables that are eagerly anticipated once the temperature dips and Bengalis begin anticipating all the 'sheet kaal'er shobji'. Thus, finding a source so nearby for many of those winter goodies has been a real godsend! 

On my last visit I found shish palong - the stalks and inflorescence of spinach that has been allowed to grow and mature. 


Sayantani of A Homemaker's Diary  explains that this ingredient is very seasonal and comes into the markets around the end of winter - which is now. In fact, I saw these in Kolkata on my visits also at this time of the year. I have followed Sayantani's recipe for shish palong chorchori as much as I could as per the ingredients I had in stock. 

Here's how I made Shish Palong Chorchori

A small bunch shish palong

10-12 bori

1 potato

1 small onion

half a medium brinjal

10 broad beans or sheem

1/2 tsp panch phoron

1-2 green chillies

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp poppy seed/posto paste

2 tbsp mustard paste

salt

Mustard oil

First prep the vegetables. Wash all the veggies before you proceed. 

Peel and cut the potato into neat thick-ish chips or batons. Cut the brinjal into long pieces. Slice the onion. String the beans and chop into 3 or 4 pieces depending on how large they are. 
Separate the stalks and leaves of the shish palong. Cut off the hard base and woody parts of the stalk and discard, use only the more tender pieces of stalk. Cut the stalks into two inch pieces and halve the thick ones length-wise so they get cooked properly. Chop up the leaves and any flowers and keep them separate from the prepped stalks. 


In a kadai or wok heat a couple of tablespoons of mustard oil and fry the boris. This takes a minute at the most, remove from the oil as soon as they brown. Keep aside. 

In the same oil chuck in a slit green chilli  or two and follow it with the panch phoron. Let it sizzle and then throw in the sliced onion. Stir well and let it fry on low heat till the onion begins to brown. Add some salt and turmeric and then add the shish palong stalks. Cover the wok and let it cook on a low flame for several minutes till the stalks have softened somewhat. 

Now add the potatoes and other veggies except the leaves and flowers of the shish palong, and mix everything nicely. Cover and cook till the potatoes are done. You can add a little water to help it along. 

Add the posto paste and mustard paste, and salt if required, and mix everything well. Cover and let it cook for a couple of minutes and let the flavours blend in. 

Finally add the fried boris - I like to keep a few intact and roughly crush the rest before mixing them in. I used Kolai Daal'er boris (urad daal boris) sourced from Amar Khamar a bridge between consumers from all over the country and women farmers in Bengal. 



Serve this shish palong chorchori with hot rice. It's a wonderful addition to a typical Bengali multi-course lunch with daal, bhaat, a bhaja or two, and machh'er jhol finished with some rosogolla or other sweet indulgence. Bengali food is replete with vegetarian and vegan recipes and this shish palong is just one more gem from this wonderful cuisine. 

Bhetki Paturi - Bengali Fish in Banana Leaves



Bhetki Paturi is a very common and well known Bengali preparation that you would find on restaurant menus and at homes too. Though paturi is not restricted to bhetki, or even to fish for that matter, this mustard laden parcel of boneless fish is a joy! And it's so easy to make -you don't need any special ingredients or equipment. 

A little planning goes a long way in making top notch paturi. And by planning I only mean a long marination time. Otherwise it's just a matter of slapping the parcels together and cooking them. 

Here's how I made Bhetki Paturi.

4 boneless Bhetki fillets 

4 pieces of banana leaf enough to wrap the individual fillets

3 tbsp posto or white poppy seeds

4-5 green chillies

3 tbsp mustard powder

6 tbsp freshly grated coconut

salt

turmeric (optional)

2 tsp lime juice

1/5 cup mustard oil


Soak the poppy seeds for around 30 minutes and then grind to a smooth paste with a couple (or more) green chillies. 

Soak the mustard powder for around 15 to 20 minutes in a little water to make a paste. 

In a clean bowl or tiffin box marinate the fish fillets with salt and lime juice for an hour or so.

In a separate bowl mix the mustard and poppy seed/posto pastes and add a little bit of salt and the grated coconut. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of mustard oil and around half a teaspoon of turmeric if you are using it. I didn't. 

Use approximately half of this mix and coat the fillets nicely. Close the box or cover the bowl and marinate the coated fish fillets for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Reserve the remaining marinade in a separate box in the fridge for use later in the recipe. 

Remove both boxes from the fridge an hour or so before you're going to cook the fish and let them come to room temperature.

In the mean while prep the banana leaves. Wash and dry them and cut to a size that allows you to make neat parcels, each for a single fillet. Coat the inner side of the leaf (this will be darker) with a little mustard oil - take just a few drops on the tips of your fingers and smear to coat most of the middle of the leaf. Hold each leaf over a low flame and move it around quickly to 'roast' it very lightly. This softens the leaf and the central stem and makes it easier to bend and fold while making the parcels. 

To assemble the paturi parcels place a leaf on your work surface dark side up. Put a bit of the reserved marinade onto the leaf and spread it a little to cover as much as the fillet will sit on. Now place one marinated fillet and top with another small dollop of marinade. Add a drizzle of mustard oil and carefully close the parcel. You can use toothpicks or string to tie the parcels together. I didn't need to. Make up parcels using up all the fillets in the same fashion. 



In a flat pan large enough to place all four parcels heat some mustard oil - a tablespoon will be enough. Place the four parcels in a single flat layer, reduce the heat to the lowest and then cover the pan. Use two pans if your pan is too small or do them in batches. Let it cook for around 5 - 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the bhetki fillets and then flip the parcels and cook for another few minutes. Keep an eye on things and don't let the banana leaves char too much or the fish inside will taste charred instead of lightly smokey. 

Serve the bhetki paturis with plain hot rice. 

Among the general reading and YouTube videos I also referred to Debjani's recipe for Bhetki Paturi to understand how paturi is made. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Posto Sorse Dhyarosh - Bengali Style Okra with Poppy Seed and Mustard Pastes



Posto is a must-have in most Bengali kitchens. In fact, it would be a rare Bengali kitchen that didn't have it. Moni cooked different posto dishes quite often and I loved it. My favourite, and the most commonly made, was aloo posto. As far as the cooking method goes it's pretty much the same with whatever veggies you use - a tempering of nigella or kalaunji with some fresh green chillies in hot mustard oil, followed by the veggie of choice being sauteed in this oil, and ultimately the posto paste joining the party in the kadai along with seasoning and sugar. 

However, this darling of the Bengali kitchen has a bit of a murky past. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 the British East India Company gained control of Bengal. The Company realised that there was a huge market for opium in China and decided to cultivate poppy as a cash crop in massive swathes of agricultural land in place of every other food crop. The Company made huge profits while the local populace languished without ingredients to cook with beyond a very few basic things. The extraction of opium from the poppy flowers left behind tiny dried seeds. Since the scale of this cultivation and the subsequent extraction was massive there was a large amount of these 'waste' seeds. In a desperate bid to bulk up their dishes and add some new flavour/texture to the food this waste product came into play and turned out to be quite delicious. It was used as a thickener and has a lovely nutty taste of its own. 


Today posto or the poppy seed is  literally a part of a Bengali's identity. We have so many preparations with this one ingredient we could actually fill a cookbook. 

Anyway! I had some posto paste in the fridge and as a change from the usual aloo posto I decided to make something I haven't eaten in years - dhyarosh posto. I made it with a dash of mustard paste to liven it up. 

Posto Sorse Dhyarosh 

500 gm ladyfingers or okra
2 tbsp posto paste
1 tbsp mustard paste
1/2 tsp nigella or kalaunji seeds
2-3 fresh green chillies
mustard oil
salt
sugar

Cut the ladyfingers into two to three inch pieces.
Heat mustard oil in a kadai and chuck in the kalaunji and green chillies.
Add the cut ladyfingers and salt and fry for a few minutes on medium heat. I like to cover the pan and let the ladyfingers cook properly when I have cut them this big. The sliminess goes away when you take off the lid and dry it off. 
Once the ladyfingers are cooked through cook for a couple of minutes to dry it up. Then add the posto paste and the mustard paste. Also put in half a teaspoon of sugar. Stir to mix properly and let it cook for a few minutes on medium heat till the posto is no longer raw and whatever moisture is in the mix has gone. 

Serve the Posto Sorse Dhyarosh with daal and rice.



Thursday, May 14, 2020

Jhinge Aloo Posto - Bengali Ridge Gourd and Potatoes with Poppy Seed Paste




I loved posto as a kid and would eat any vegetable cooked in it which very obviously became a convenient way for my mom to get veggies down my gullet. One day she had made just aloo posto with no veggies lurking in it. I was the first at the dinner table and since the others were taking their time to come I started nibbling at the aloo posto.. a little, a little more, a little more, and in some time there was very little left. I spread this around the bottom of the bowl to fool my parents into thinking there was plenty. Of course I got a sound thrashing and no dinner. But with a belly full of aloo posto I was quite happy regardless!

Jhinge aloo posto is a classic combination using ridge gourd with potatoes in poppy paste and I make it often. As with many Bengali vegetarian dishes the preparation is fairly frugal and the process simple with no heavy spices. Some families use turmeric and some don't. Bengalis can argue endlessly over which is the correct way or the better tasting dish, I'll stay out of the argument and cook it like Moni used to - without turmeric, letting the mustard oil lend a very pale yellowness to the final product. 

Jhinge Aloo Posto

4 tbsp poppy seeds
2 green chillies
4-5 cloves garlic (optional)
1/2 tsp nigella or kalaunji seeds
2 green chillies
salt
sugar
1 cup peeled and chopped ridge gourd or jhinge
1 cup peeled and cubed potato
mustard oil

Soak the poppy seeds for 30 minutes or so and then grind to a smooth-ish paste with a couple of green chillies and the garlic. You can leave out the garlic to make this purely satvik and niramish. 

Heat mustard oil in a kadai and chuck in the nigella seeds and the green chillies. Saute for half a minute and add the potatoes. Stir fry for a few minutes without letting the potatoes turn red/pink. Moni was particular about keeping the dish as white as possible. Reduce the heat and let the potatoes cook a little and then add the chopped jhinge. Add salt to taste and around a teaspoon of sugar, mix well, cover and let it cook till the potatoes are done. 

Now add the poppy paste, washing out the mixer jar with a little water to get every bit out. Poppy seed is expensive so don't waste! Stir to mix coating the veggies with the paste and then simmer open till the water has mostly dried up and the paste has lost its rawness. Drizzle a little mustard oil over, cover and let it sit for a few minutes. 


Serve hot with plain rice and daal. 



Friday, May 1, 2020

Capsicum Chicken

Moni went to the Dadar Catering College in Mumbai for a short term cooking course that they offered for housewives. My brother and I were obviously delighted as she would come home bearing goodies after every class! I think I was around 10 years old at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed the stuff she brought home as it was all so different from what she cooked regularly - the usual daal, bhaat, torkari, machh'er jhol. I think she learned this capsicum chicken at this course. I can't say for sure but I have very happy memories of tucking into it, something so different in appearance and taste from our everyday Bengali food.


Capsicum chicken, as you've surely guessed, is chicken cooked with green capsicum. I never actually asked Moni for the recipe - I wish I had! But over the last few years I was so busy learning about Bengali food and turning to her for help with that that these dishes just didn't figure. I have tried to approximate the recipe relying on my memories of the dish and the results of my attempt are pretty close to what she used to make. 

Capsicum Chicken

1 chicken, curry cut
2 large green capsicums (green peppers)
2 large onions
2-3 green chillies
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
salt
oil
black pepper
sugar
2 - 3 potatoes

Marinate the chicken with salt and ginger garlic paste.

Make a smooth paste with the onions, capsicums, and green chillies. Remember to discard the seeds and membranes from the capsicums, use only the green fleshy part. 

Peel the potatoes and cut into long large wedges. 

In a cooking pot heat some oil and first fry the potatoes. Let them get a little red and then remove and keep aside. 

In the same oil braise the marinated chicken pieces for around 10 minutes letting the pieces turn colour nicely. 

Once the chicken is nicely braised add the onion-capsicum paste and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix it in well over a high flame, stirring well. Lower the flame and cover the pot and leave the chicken to cook for around five minutes. The chicken will release its own water. 

Add the potatoes, stir them in and cover and leave it all to cook.  Rinse out the mixer jar and the bowl in which you marinated the chicken with a quarter cup of water and add this water to the pot. Make sure the flame is lowered properly and leave it to cook till the potatoes are cooked through and the chicken is also done. 

While this is cooking coarsely bash some fresh pepper. Sprinkle this pepper on the chicken once it's all cooked. Taste and adjust salt if required. 

You can serve this with plain rice like Moni used to or you can have it with bread, pav, or parathas. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Aam'er Luchi - Mango Luchis from Pragyasundari Devi



It's no secret that I have started studying Bengali food seriously as of the last few years. I've been trying to learn as much as I can from every available source that I can find. And there's a lot out there! But there's one source that just sings to me, calls me back often, makes me work my way through the Bengali script instead of breezing through others that are written in English and are so much easier to follow - and that is my set of the two volume  Amish O Niramish Ahaar by Pragyasundori Devi.


First published in the beginning of the 1900s this book is like a text book and I have found it ideal as a learner who needed to understand the basics before venturing into the more elaborate stuff. From these volumes I have cleared many of my basic doubts, and understood a lot about the foundations of the cuisine in general.

I did a live demo of a recipe I learned from the book today and I'm sharing that here. The recipe is for "Aam'er Luchi" or luchi with mango. Luchis are the Bengali style of puris made with maida or all purpose flour in contrast to the more common whole wheat ones. Bengalis love white flour and we have many preparations using it. Here's the recipe for luchi. Aam'er luchi has not only aam or mango but a few other interesting ingredients as well and isn't just a luchi recipe with aam added to the mix.

I am reproducing the recipe given by Pragyasundori Devi in her book with no changes. This recipe makes around 20 to 25 luchis depending on how big or small you roll them.

Aam'er Luchi 

375 gms Maida (all purpose flour)
2 tsp ghee
30 gms chhana
3/4 cup mango pulp
fresh coconut milk as required (approx 3/4 to 1 cup)

ghee for frying


I made the chhana at home. You can also use really soft and fresh malai paneer.
I used the pulp from two smallish Hapus mangoes. After removing the flesh from the mangoes I whizzed it in my food processor to get a smooth puree.
I used coconut milk from a tetrapak. You can always use fresh if you prefer, or make some from coconut powder. Whatever works for you!

To make the dough for the luchis start by incorporating the chhana into the maida. Mash the chhana as finely as you can with your fingers pressing to flatten the granules as much as possible. Add maida a little at a time to the chhana and keep mixing and kneading till all the maida is used up. You will end up with a crumbly mixture. The chhana must mix with the maida really well so you ultimately have a smooth and lump-free dough. Take your time to do this step properly.
Once the chhana is mixed in well add the ghee and mix it in properly.
Next, start mixing in the mango pulp.




Once the mango pulp is mixed in start adding the coconut milk and knead till you have a soft dough. Use as much coconut as is required. Your dough should be smooth and soft with no stickiness at all. Knead the dough for several minutes, work it well.

  

Make small balls of the dough and roll out luchis around 6 inches in diameter. 

Heat ghee in a kadai and fry the luchis. Properly hot ghee will ensure your luchis fluff up nicely. Regulate the heat or the ghee will burn. 

Pragyasundari Devi doesn't mention what the luchis should be served with. My husband recommended we have them with something savoury. Luckily I had cooked a whole chicken in Indian spices with a nice gravy so we enjoyed the two together. I have to say it was a perfect pairing! 


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lonavala Marghi no Ras - Chicken Stew with Coconut Milk



Ras is a thin stew-like gravy that's a big part of the Parsi everyday repertoire. These are fairly simple and light with no heavy spice mixes or ground spice pastes. The main ingredient can be fish, mutton, chicken, or prawns, and the ras is usually paired with rice. This version that I call Lonavala Ras is something my mom in law Katy taught her housekeeper Asha bai. This version has hardly any spices and the broth contains coconut milk making it a little different from the usual ras recipes. It used to be a staple when we would visit the in laws at their home in Lonavala and Katy made sure Asha bai had learned the recipe properly. Now when we go to Lonavala we get Asha bai to make this without fail, and as we gather at the dining table with a big pot of this lovely ras we remember Katy and the good times we have shared with her at the very same table.

Lonavala Marghi no Ras 

500 gms boneless chicken
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 medium potatoes, diced into medium cubes
2 medium carrots, diced to match the potatoes
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
10 pepper corns, lightly bashed
2 star anise
5 inch stick of cinnamon or cassia bark, whatever you prefer
4-5 cloves
2 Indian bay leaves
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp chilli powder
oil
salt
1 cup medium thick coconut milk (I made it with Maggi coconut powder)

Wash the chicken, drain, and marinate with salt and ginger garlic paste. Keep aside as you prep the veggies.

In a large pan heat oil and drop in the whole spices and let it sizzle for a minute. Then add the green chillies.

Chuck in the potatoes and carrots next and stir a little and let the veggies cook for a few minutes.

Now add the onions and let them cook till they turn pink. For this dish you don't want the onions browned at all, you want them to be translucent in the gravy so keep an eye on them.

Next you add the chicken and stir till all the pieces have changed coour. Add the tomatoes and the chilli powder and mix well. Lower the heat, cover the pan and let it all cook for a few minutes. Then add around 3/4 cup of water and let it simmer till the potatoes are cooked through. Add salt if required.

Now pour in the coconut milk and mix gently. Cook on low heat for another five minutes or so and it's done.

This tastes best with plain steamed rice and a simple kachuber of finely sliced onions, tomatoies, cucumber, finely chopped chillies, some fresh coriander, a dash of salt and lemon juice, all tossed together. This ras is also superb with fresh soft 'peti pao' or Bombay pao. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

How to make a Dutch Baby Pancake


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We've been in isolation for more than week and it's getting a little hard to keep our spirits up. Resources in the kitchen are also beginning to get restricted, with fresh veggies nearly over. We like a lot of variety in our meals and the hubby had been asking me to make a Dutch Baby for the last couple of days. I had the ingredients in stock and decided to make one this morning, though it was actually after noon by the time we actually had it - we have been starting our days really late thanks to insomnia and restless sleep patterns and end up sleeping in most mornings. 

Anyway! Here's the recipe adapted slightly from the one on cooking.nytimes.com 

Please note - you will need a cast iron pan (this is a baked pancake that is cooked in the pan in the oven)

Dutch Baby Pancake 

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter

You can also use nutmeg/cinnamon/cardamom powder - each will give a lovely flavour to the pancake

Make sure your ingredients are all at room temperature. 

Preheat the oven at 200C

In a clean bowl mix all the ingredients except the butter.
Whisk well to make a smooth lump-free batter and incorporate as much air into the batter as you can, but no need to whip up a big froth. 

Put the butter in your cast iron skillet and put it in the oven to melt. Don't let the butter burn or even brown. 

Remove the skillet carefully holding the hot handle with a thick kitchen towel. Pour the batter into the skillet and put it back in the oven. 

Let it bake for around 20 minutes till you see it nicely puffed up. Now reduce the temperature of the oven to around 170C and bake for a few minutes more till the pancake gets a nice golden brown colour with darker edges. 

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Serve immediately with honey, maple syrup, berry compote, assorted jams, or just with a dusting of icing sugar. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Easy Pork Chops

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It's no secret that I'm very fond of pork. My first real exposure to pork beyond cold cuts was at a sizzler restaurant in Pune called The Place when I moved to Pune to study archaeology. This is where I discovered pork chops and I was in love! Pune was my first taste of independence where I only had to think of myself as far as meals were concerned and later, my husband who I was dating at that time. This is where I got really interested in cooking and with a willing and really well informed partner to guide me, I cooked a lot.

We would shop at the Khadki market which had an excellent pork and beef shop, and we ate a lot of both. But we mainly made curries and stews, not chops. K would cook chops in the later years in our home in Mumbai. He was 'famous' in the family for pork chops and cooked chops for everyone on occasion. With mounds of creamy mashed potatoes!

I was lucky to get good chops from our local pork shop recently and this time I thought of giving them a go myself. I got the chance when we were at home in isolation thanks to the corona virus pandemic and K was at hand to guide me through the process. The recipe is entirely his.

Easy Pork Chops

To cook the chops

4 pork chops
1 stick cinnamon
2 star anise
1 tsp pepper corns
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt
water

For searing

Olive oil
Soy Sauce


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In a pressure cooker add all the ingredients  to cook the chops with enough water - around a cup of water should be good. Set the chops to cook and once the cooker whistles lower the flame to the minimum possible and cook the chops under pressure for 10 minutes. If the cooker whistles in between that's fine. Switch off after 10 minutes and allow the cooker to cool on its own. The chops should be cooked through and perfect.

In a grill pan or regular frying pan heat a tablespoon or more of olive oil. Carefully lift out a cooked chop draining as much of the stock as possible and sear it in the pan. Pour soy sauce (a couple of teaspoons ) on the chop and then flip to sear the other side. Press down to sear properly.  Sear both sides nicely. The chops are already cooked, you're just adding colour and a nice bit of sear in this finishing step. Remove to a plate.  Do this with each chop individually and you're ready to serve.

To serve the chops you can make mashed potatoes or slow cooked potato wedges, and some boiled and buttered veggies. Make all this while the chops are cooking in the pressure cooker. Arrange nicely on a plate and serve with a flourish!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Banana Buckwheat Cake



We're at home thanks to the corona virus advisory and we're trying to keep ourselves entertained and well fed. Since I really enjoy baking I have cake and bread plans for this period of voluntary social distancing and so does the hubby! He had picked up some bananas a few days ago - some to enjoy as is and some to put in a banana bread/cake :)

Today the bananas looked ready to be used up and so we set out to bake with them. In an effort to experiment and to use up stuff in the pantry we decided to add buckwheat flour instead of using plain maida and so we ended up with a Banana Buckwheat Cake. The cake is dense thanks to the mashed bananas and the buckwheat but taste-wise this was a winner. The hubby plans to go get bananas today so we can make this again in a few days, lol.


Banana Buckwheat Cake  

100 gms buckwheat flour
100 gms maida/all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

100 gms butter
100 gms dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 very ripe medium bananas

1 egg
3-4 tablespoons milk
a pinch of salt

Set your oven to preheat at 170C

Prepare your cake tin - grease and lightly flour the inside or spray with a baking spray.

In a bowl mix the two flours, baking powder and cinnamon powder.

In a saucepan melt the butter with the sugar over a low flame. Do this slowly till the butter and the sugars have melted and blended without the sugar caramelising. Add vanilla and stir well. Set it aside.

Peel and mash the bananas and add to the sugar-butter mix. Add the egg and mix it well.

Pour this mix into a mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients. Add the pinch of salt.

Add as much milk as required and combine - you must have a thick gloopy batter that can be easily poured. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and put it in to bake. Bake the cake at 170C for around 35 minutes. Test with a cake tester for doneness - the tester should come out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for around 10 minutes before you tip it out.

Enjoy your cake with tea or coffee. Once cooled, store the cake in an air-tight tin for three to four days if it doesn't get eaten up first!




Friday, March 6, 2020

Olkopir Dalna - Bengali Style Kolrabi and Peas


Olkopi or Gaanth Gobi is one of Kurush's favourite vegetables. I saw some lovely olkopi at the veggie shop today so I bought some. I've cooked it the Parsi way with coconut milk many times so I went to look at the first volume of Aamish O Niraamish Ahaar (in Bengali) by Pragyasundori Debi - my go to book for Bengali recipes. Volume One has the vegetarian recipes and I was quite sure I'd find something for the olkopi. There were quite a few recipes and I picked the recipe for dalna because I had all the ingredients at hand. 

Dalnas will have a reasonable amount of gravy so they can be paired with rice or rutis. You can serve the dalna as part of a larger multi-course meal or you can have it for dinner paired with rutis. 

Olkopi'r Dalna 

1 olkopi - peeled and cubed
1/2 cup green peas
2-3 green chilies
salt
sugar
turmeric
chili powder
dhania powder
4 cloves
3-4 green cardamom
1 inch cassia bark
2 tbsp curd 
ghee
1/2 tsp whole jeera
1 pinch hing 

Boil the cubed olkopi till cooked through, drain and keep aside. 

In a vessel heat one cup of water and to it add chilli/dhania/turmeric powders. Bring to a boil.

Add the boiled olkopi and a handful or more of fresh green peas to this. Also add 2-3 green chillies, broken into pieces.

Now chuck in 2-3 green cardamom, 4 cloves, and a inch of cassia/dalchini. 

Whisk 2 tbsp dahi and add to the pot. You can add a little more for a slightly thicker gravy.

Add salt and a tsp of sugar. Cook on simmer till the gravy is reduced and the peas are cooked.

In a tadka pan heat desi ghee. Add tadka of hing and whole jeera and once it sizzles add to the veggies. Keep the heat on low as the jeera can burn quickly and that will ruin the entire dish. Mix well, let it sit covered for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot with ruti/chapatis or rice.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Gorom Moshla Pork - Pork with Bengali Garam Masala



It's no secret that I love pork and it's no secret that I like to wing it when I'm cooking. It's how I've cooked all my life. Over the last couple of years however, I have been studying Bengali cuisine in an attempt to learn the basics, cook some of the well known and not so well known dishes, and of course connect to my very Bengali roots. It is this study that taught me what goes into a Bengali garam masala (and it's not a lot).

I was in the mood to cook a pork curry but I didn't have much in the fridge to pair with it, nothing really appealed. As I stared at the various bottles and jars in the kitchen cupboard I pulled out the whole garam masalas and I saw my jar of home made Bengali garam masala. And I decided to make the garam masala the focus of my curry.

So here's what I did -

Gorom Mosha Pork 

500 gms boneless pork with around 30% fat
2 large onions, finely sliced
2-3 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tbsp fresh ginger-garlic paste, preferably roughly bashed in your mortar and pestle
salt
turmeric
mild chilli powder (for colour)
whole garam masalas - Indian bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, cassia bark
1 tbsp Bengali garam masala powder*
2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
mustard oil
sugar

Wash the pork, drain, and marinate with salt and the ginger garlic paste.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker and fry the potatoes till they turn a little brown and mildly crisp. Remove and set aside.
In the same oil, add a little more if needed, chuck in the whole spices and fry for a minute.
Add the sliced onions and fry slowly till they start going a little brown. Add a teaspoon of sugar to help the onions along.
Add the marinated pork and the vinegar and saute slowly for 15-20 minutes. Do this with patience till the moisture is dried out.
Now add the turmeric and chilli powders and the Bengali garam masala powder. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes or so till the spices lose their rawness.
Add the fried potatoes back to the pot, add enough water, and then shut the pressure cooker and let the curry cook. Once it whistles reduce the heat and cook on simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Switch off and let the cooker cool on its own.
Open, taste and adjust the salt if required and serve with plain hot rice.


* Bengali garam masala that I like  - broil green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon separately on a tava over gentle heat. Combine and grind to a powder either in a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder. Store in an air-tight bottle.
The ratios for the three spices I use - 3 parts cardamom, 1 part cloves, 1 part cinnamon. Measure by weight.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sorse Katla- Catla Fish in Mustard Sauce


The machh'er jhols and jhals of Bengali cuisine are a veritable wonderland with some elaborate and some ridiculously simple preparations. All with delicious results! From frugal recipes that require barely three to four ingredients apart from the fish itself to more elaborate ones involving an array of vegetables and spices, the sheer variety of fish preparations in a Bengali kitchen is mind boggling. And it is this variety that keeps me seeking and learning more and more.

But not all the recipes are new or alien to me. Many are what Moni cooked. Like this sorse machh, mostly made with the 'peti' or belly pieces of a fatty Katla or otherwise Rui which were always in stock in Moni's freezer, thanks to the weekly shopping at Khar market.

I'd got a lovely Katla for a Bengali cooking workshop I did recently and I had some of it in my freezer. Like Moni, I had separated the peti or belly pieces from the gada or back pieces, put into bags and frozen them. And like her I decided to do this easy sorse katla with the peti pieces. You can use the gada pieces too but I wanted to cook like she used to so it was just the peti pieces for me.

Sorse Katla

6-8 peti pieces of Katla (you can also use Rui or Rohu)
a few fresh green chillies
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp kalaunji or nigella seeds
turmeric
salt
mustard oil
fresh coriander

Wash the fish pieces and drain. Smear the fish pieces with salt and turmeric and keep aside for a few minutes.

Soak the mustard seeds in warm water for around 30 minutes. Drain and grind to a paste with a couple of green chillies if you like. Strain the paste to remove the harder husk of the black mustard seeds for a smoother paste. Moni often didn't bother and thus her gravy would be speckled with black. Soaking the seeds is essential as it removes the bitterness. If you are using powdered mustard you have to soak that too before using. This is essential as otherwise you will end up with a bitter inedible gravy/sauce and the dish will be ruined.

Heat mustard oil in a wok/karai and fry the fish lightly. Remove and keep aside.

Add a little more oil to the karai if required, heat it well and chuck in a teaspoon of kalaunji or kalo jeere as we call it.  Let it sizzle for 30 seconds and then chuck in a few fresh green chillies. I used bullet chillies that I had brought from Kolkata. You can use whatever green chilli you prefer.

Pour in the mustard paste and stir well. Add a little salt and turmeric, cook for a minute. Add half a cup of water, stir to mix. Then add the fried fish pieces gently into the mustard gravy. Once it boils reduce the heat, cover the karai and simmer for five minutes or so. Switch off the heat and drizzle some raw mustard oil into the karai. Cover and let it sit for a few minutes.

Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve with plain hot rice.

You can make this recipe using Ilish, Katla, Rui, Aarh, etc. but my favourite is with a good fatty Katla! This recipe, as you have seen, is simple and very frugal. That is why the ingredients are important. Use good quality mustard oil only. Make sure your green chillies are fresh and flavourful. These are the details that will make the dish shine.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Oven Roasted Mangalore Chicken Ghee Roast




Roast chicken is something I make really often. It's easy to do and the variations are unlimited so one never gets bored. So once again I had a full chicken waiting to be roasted and I was casting around for inspiration. And I chanced upon Shriya Shetty's Mangalore Chicken Ghee Roast done roast chicken style.

Shriya (@chiashetts on Instagram) runs a restaurant and a bakery in Mangalore and does pop ups wherever she gets a chance. She also makes Mangalore Ghee Roast Masala for sale, in small batches (which gets sold out super fast!). This is just the kind of inspiration I was looking for and much to my delight, I also had packets of her utterly delicious home made ghee roast masala in the fridge.

Oven Roasted Mangalore Chicken Ghee Roast

1 whole chicken, skin on
4 onions
1 packet Mangalore Ghee Roast Masala
Salt
Ghee


Wash the chicken inside and out and pat it dry.

Slice two onions and halve the other two

Make gashes in the fleshy parts of the chicken to allow salt and the masala to penetrate properly. First sprinkle salt all over the bird and inside the cavity too. Now apply the ghee roast masala all over the chicken not forgetting the cavity. Tuck in masala under the skin wherever possible. Work gently so you don't tear the skin.

Refrigerate the chicken covered and let it marinate for a few hours or even overnight.

When you're ready to roast, remove the chicken from the fridge and bring it up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven at 150C.

Place the sliced onions in a layer in a baking dish spread just enough for the chicken to sit on. Tuck in the halved onions into the cavity of the bird and then place the bird in the baking dish. Drizzle ghee all over the chicken. Cover the dish as tightly as possible with aluminium foil.

Put the baking dish on an oven tray and set it to roast for an hour at 150C. Let the bird cook long and slow for juicy and tender results. If the chicken is large, cook for longer.

You can check for doneness in between - just be careful while handling the hot and heavy baking dish. To check, pierce a fleshy portion near the bone like the thigh with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear you chicken is cooked. Baste with melted ghee when you open to check.

Remove the foil and roast the chicken for another 15 to 20 minutes to finish the cooking (sometimes the meat around the cavity stays a little under done) and to crisp the outside. Remove the onions from the cavity at this point and place them in the baking dish to caramelise a little while the chicken cooks.

I served this oven roasted ghee roast with neer dosas I ordered from a local restaurant.

There is a certain joy in sitting at the table with a dish of  roast chicken redolent of ghee and masala and a pile of neer dosas picking out bits of succulent roast and crisp skin while mopping up that incredible ghee, onions, and masala 'gravy' with soft neer dosas. Aaah!


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Chingri Narkol diye Chichinge Chenchki - Snake Gourd with Coconut and Prawns



Chichinge or snake gourd is one of my favourite veggies and, in fact, the hubby is quite fond of it too. But I only knew one recipe for this veggie - Chichinge Peyanj Bhaja - and was quite delighted to find more recipes on Sayantani's blog A Homemaker's Diary. This blog is one of my go to blogs when I'm looking for help with Bengali recipes or for something new to try out. She has easy to follow instructions interspersed with little tips that make life in the kitchen easier. 

Bengal is an abundant region, be it for vegetables and fruit or the bounty from its innumerable ponds, streams, rivers, and coastline. It is no surprise, therefore, to find numerous recipes for every ingredient. You will find preparations to fit a vegan, vegetarian or non vegetarian diet, and in fact, even sweet meats made from a myriad vegetables too. Our daily meals are traditionally elaborate in that they have multiple courses including daal, vegetables, fish, or meat, followed by something sweet to round off the meal. The abundant Gangetic delta provides rich seasonal produce giving the Bengali plenty of variety through the year - and thus we have a wide range of dishes , enough to cook something different every single day of the year! 

I am very grateful to bloggers like Sayantani who share not only the festive and the unusual recipes from their Bengali kitchens but also the simple yet delicious everyday fare that is common in Bengali households. Like this easy Chingri Narkol diye Chichinge Chenchki. 

Chingri Narkol diye Chichinge Chenchki


3-4 feet  snake gourd, skin scraped, pith removed, and then sliced
Half cup prawns, deveined and chopped
3 tbsp Mustard paste
Half cup scraped fresh coconut
A couple of green chillies
1/2 tsp Nigella seeds
Salt
Turmeric
Mustard oil

Chuck in the nigella seeds and green chillies into hot mustard oil. 
Add the prawns with salt and turmeric and mix well.
After a minute chuck in the sliced gourd. Mix well and cook covered for 5-7 minutes.
Now add the mustard paste and mix. Cook further for a couple of minutes.
Add the grated coconut at the very last minute, give it a quick stir, and then take it off the heat.

Remove to a serving bowl and garnish with more grated coconut and drizzle with a little mustard oil for extra punch. 

Serve it with plain hot rice along with daal and a bhaja, and you will have a delightful Bengali meal! 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Doi Posto diye Chalkumro - Ash Gourd with Curd and Poppy Paste


Chalkumro or Ash Gourd is a very common ingredient in Bengali kitchens and is used in a zillion different ways. I've never been a great fan of this bland vegetable and have therefore never cooked anything with it ever. However, in the last few years as I have explored Bengali cuisine with more interest I have made an effort to cook with even those ingredients I have hitherto found uninspiring. The chalkumro was in line and the last time I went to buy vegetables I picked up a large wedge of this white gourd.

I found this recipe on the Facebook group - Bangla Niramish Rannaghor contributed by Mili Banerjee. This is a fairly easy recipe - the only effort is in prepping the chalkumro.

Doi Posto diye Chalkumro

500 gms Chalkumro or Ash Gourd
150 gms fresh curd
3 tbs posto or poppy seeds
3 tbsp mustard paste
1 tsp nigella seeds
5 green chillies
mustard oil
salt
sugar
fresh coriander

Soak poppy seeds for 20 minutes or so and then grind to a smooth paste with 2 green chillies.
Soak 2 tbsp of Sunrise mustard powder or make 3 tbsp fresh mustard paste.
Remove the seeds and pith from the chalkumro, peel the outer skin, and cut the chalkumro into thin match-sticks.

In a large bowl combine the curd, mustard and poppy pastes and mix well. Add the cut chalkumro to this mixture and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a wok heat mustard oil. Chuck in the nigella seeds and the remaining green chillies and let it sizzle for half a minutes. Then tip in the marinating chalkumro, mix well, cover and cook for around 20 minutes on a low flame. Give it an occasional stir.

Remove the lid and add salt and sugar, mix well and then dry out the water in the wok stirring constantly. Cook till you see the oil released. Let it cook for a further few minutes and then take it off the heat.

Remove to a serving bowl and garnish with some finely chopped fresh coriander.

In Bengali households this will be eaten with hot rice as part of our usual multi-course meals along with daal, bhajas, and more. However, it also works well with simple phulkas.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Kheema Rajma - Kidney Beans with Mince



Cooking rajma well depends largely on the rajma beans themselves, on how good they are. I have struggled to cook rajma to that magical buttery consistency all my life and had in fact, stopped trying for several years.  A friend recently gave me a big bag of pahadi rajma and I decided to give it another try. Many friends shared their tips and tricks and using that advice I tried again.

The rajma cooked so well, to that perfect creamy consistency, that I decided to make the final dish a little more special. And so I made Kheema Rajma and we had a superb lunch :)  I didn't need to cook the rajma for several whistles of the cooker (I never cook that way!) nor for hours on a slow flame. These rajmas were so good they cooked quickly in the pressure cooker, simmered for around half an hour once the cooker whistled. The secret to cooking rajma is using really good rajma.



Kheema Rajma 

1 cup pahadi rajma
2-3 green chillies
1 inch ginger
4-5 cloves garlic
1 tsp ghee

250 gms mutton kheema
2 onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2-3 green chillies
1 star anise
2 inch cinnamon
2-3 Indian bay leaves
salt
sugar
turmeric
jeera powder
kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp Bengali garam masala or your preferred blend
Tomato ketchup
fresh coriander, chopped
mustard oil

Wash the rajma and soak it for around 12 hours. Drain out the water a couple of times in the course of the soaking and soak in fresh water.

Marinate the mince with salt and ginger garlic paste.

Once the rajma has soaked for enough time drain and pressure cook with enough water along with the ginger, garlic cloves, green chillies and ghee. Once the cooker whistles lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Let the pressure come down on its own after you switch off the heat. If the rajma isn't cooked to the correct softness cook it further till it's done.

In a wok heat mustard oil and drop in the whole spices and green chilles. Let them sizzle for around 30 seconds and then add the chopped onions and a generous pinch of sugar. Saute till the onions turn translucent and then add the tomatoes and the ginger garlic paste. Stir well and fry till the tomatoes blend in. Add the dry spices and a splash of water, and cook till the oil is released. Stir frequently so nothing burns.

Add the marinated mince to this onion tomato mix. Break up any lumps that form and cook the mince for a good 10 minutes till the spices have mixed in well.

Now add the boiled rajma including the water it was boiled in. Add salt and bring the whole to a boil. Smash some of the rajma with the back of a ladle; this will thicken the gravy. Simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Add a good splash of tomato ketchup while simmering. Taste and adjust salt as required. Add chopped fresh coriander just before taking the kheema rajma off the heat.

Serve with hot rice.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mutton Chops in Kolhapuri Masala




This is an easy recipe but needs time and patience because it involves the magic of slow cooking.
Mutton or goat meat is my favourite meat and I usually cook it Bengali style. Considering the sheer variety of spices and masala blends I have in my pantry thanks to wonderful friends, not just local but from all around the world, I do also play with other flavours.

My friend Smita gave me a bottle of her home made Kolhapuri masala and the obvious thing to cook with was mutton. So I used my basic go to recipe/technique for cooking mutton and tweaked it to use the Kolhapuri masala. Instead of the standard curry to be eaten with rice I made chops in a rich thick gravy that will be perfect with pao.

Mutton Chops in Kolhapuri Masala

8-10 double mutton chops

2-3 onions
4 cloves garlic
3-6 green chillies depending on how much heat you like

half cup thick curd
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp Kolhapuri masala
salt

mustard oil
a few cloves
one star anise
3 inch piece of cinnamon
sugar


Marinate the chops with the curd, powdered spices, salt, ginger garlic paste, and a splash of mustard oil for a few hours or over night.

Make a paste with the onions, green chillies, and garlic.

Heat some mustard oil in a heavy based cooking pot till it's nice and hot. Drop in the whole spices and let them fry for half a minute.
Add the onion paste with half a teaspoon of sugar

, reduce the heat, and then fry the paste slowly for 8 to 10 minutes till it turns slightly brown and has lost all its moisture. Don't burn the paste!
Add the marinated chops and mix well to coat all the chops with the paste and spices. Cook this covered on slow heat for another 10 minutes stirring every couple of minutes so you don't burn anything and all the meat is broiled.
Add a cup and a half of water to the pot, stir everything well, bring to a boil, and now cook slowly on low heat till the chops are cooked to perfection. Be sure to leave the lid on while cooking. Just stir once every 5-7 minutes to ensure even cooking.
You should have a thick silky gravy that clings to those chops when it's all cooked. Garnish with washed and finely chopped fresh coriander if you like.

Serve with fresh pao from your local bakery or with any bread that you like. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Moog Daal'er Khichuri



My oldest memory of moog'er daal is of Didin perched on her stool in her kitchen at her electric heater stirring moog'er daal or moong daal in a large shining iron kadai. The clinging sound of the 'khunti' and the swish of the daal as she leaned over the table stirring continuously was a common occurrence in the mornings as she prepped for the day's breakfast and lunch. Didin didn't cook a wide variety of dishes nor did she make special festive foods to mark the different 'parbon' that came by every month. She didn't observe fasts on the shastis and ekadashis either. The Hindu calendar was not a big part of our lives in Kolkata or in Mumbai as Moni didn't follow any of this either. But she cooked for us every day and we looked forward to our visits to her house for there would be a steady stream of everyday food tempered with special treats of mangsho'r jhol, machh'er chop, khichuri and other delights.

Though Didin had a frugal repertoire in the kitchen she fed us very well and we looked forward to our annual trips to Kolkata where we'd be pampered silly by Didin, and all the mamas and mashis - my mother's siblings and cousins. 

The smell of roasting moog daal is something most Bengalis will identify with - it is the smell of home, of Bengal, of grandmothers and mothers, of comfort and comfort food. The moog daal I saw at Didin's house was tiny in comparison with what I saw in Mumbai. Each grain was the size of a pin head, so different from the longish grains I had seen in the shops in Mumbai. This is Sona Moog'er Daal, a variety that is grown in Bengal and is naturally, the preferred variety in Bengali kitchens.

40 years ago it wasn't available in Mumbai and there was only that much Moni could carry back from Kolkata when we visited. So we ate moog'er daal only in Didin's house, Moni rarely cooked it at home in Mumbai. Nowadays it is far easier to find regional ingredients in Mumbai - not only do large supermarket chains carry good selections of regional ingredients, there are stand-alone shops that have a captive clientele for whom they source ingredients. That's not all - there are quite a few online stores that specialise in such products and deliver pan India.

In Kharghar I am very fortunate to have Jambon Stores in Sector 20 which has transformed from being just another cold storage shop selling chicken, fish, cold cuts, frozen peas, etc., to a Bengali ingredients emporium where fresh stocks arrive every week by train from Bengal. And among all the wonderful products are varieties of rice and daal from Bengal including the beautiful small grained sona moog daal.

One of the most popular dishes made with moog daal is khichuri. While khichuri is a must at the Durga Puja pandal bhogs, cooked without onions or garlic, and paired with a delicious mix vegetable preparation called labra, it also shows up on home menus depending on the season. The monsoon is deemed khichuri weather and in the first week when the rains have just arrived, while the rest of the world celebrates with chai and bhajias/pakoras, we Bengalis rub our hands in glee looking forward to a plate of steaming khichuri with a variety of bhajas on the side.

Winter is also khichuri season but with beautiful winter vegetables adding their flavour - cauliflower, red carrots, green peas, potatoes are the top favourites in a "sheet kaal'er khichuri" or winter khichuri. Here's how to make it.

Moog Daal'er Khichuri

Moog Daal - 1/2 cup
Gobindobhog rice - 1/2 cup
2 medium potatoes
1 tomato
1/2 cup green peas
3-4 large florets cauliflower
1-2 carrots (optional)
4 Indian bay leaves/tej pata
1 tsp jeera
4 cardamom
4 clove
2" cinnamon
2-3 green chillies
2" piece ginger
salt
turmeric
jeera powder
dhania powder
Bengali garam masala
sugar
mustard oil
ghee
water as required



Wash the rice and leave it in a fine mesh colander to drain.

Roast the daal gently in a dry wok for around 10 minutes till the colour changes and there's a lovely toasty aroma. The daal should change from its pale yellow to a nutty brown. Roast it to a level you like, just ensure you don't burn it. Once roasted, wash the daal once, drain and set aside. Don't wash the daal very vigorously or repeatedly as you will lose all the lovely toasty aroma and flavour.


Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. Cut the cauliflower florets but not too small as they will then disintegrate into the khichuri. Peel the carrots an cut into thick barrels, if using. Shell the peas or thaw frozen peas. Peel the ginger and smash in your mortar and pestle till relatively smooth. This barely takes half a minute so use fresh. Wash and chop the tomato.

Now in a thick bottomed vessel heat mustard oil. Once properly hot fry the potatoes, then the cauliflower and reserve on a plate. Fry the veggies till they brown a little. This frying helps keep them intact while they cook in the khichuri.

In the same vessel add a little oil if required and then add the whole spices. Let them sizzle and then add the chopped tomato and the smashed ginger. Chuck in the green chillies, broken into 2-3 pieces depending on their size. Cook everything on a medium flame till the tomato has totally disintegrated and everything is mixed well.

In a small bowl mix all the dry spices in a little water to make a runny paste. Add this to the pot, stir well and cook till the spices have lost their rawness and oil is released.

Add the drained rice to the mix and saute for a few minutes. Then add the washed and drained bhaja moog'er daal or roasted moog daal. Mix everything well, add salt and enough water to cook the khichuri. Once the mix has come to a boil lower the heat and add potatoes. Cook covered on medium heat. Once the potatoes are half cooked add the cauliflower, peas, and carrots. Add a teaspoon or so of sugar at this stage. Cover the pot and let the khichuri cook.

If you're using frozen peas add them at the end, in the last couple of minutes. make sure they are thawed properly before you chuck them in.

Stir occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the vessel. Add warm water only if required. Cook slowly till done. Once the khichuri is cooked add a good dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of Bengali garam masala to the pot and stir it in. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.  The khichuri should be thick and porridge-like, not dry.

If you're vegan, leave out the ghee.

You can serve this sheet kaal'er khichuri with begun bhaja, potol bhaja, or a simple omelette with onions and green chillies in it. A fried papor/papad will make it complete!