Monday, September 26, 2011

A simple chorchori - mixed vegetables tempered with paanch phoron

Since K has started working at the University of Mumbai as Assistant Professor, I suddenly find myself having to  make him packed lunches. Since he shares the lunch with his colleagues (of course he devours their goodies too) I try to make vegetarian food as often as possible so no one is left out.

Now vegetarian food is a challenge indeed and after a couple of weeks of paapri/ gwaar/ french beans with potatoes, cabbage, bhindi bhaaji or cauliflower with green peas, K protested that more variety was required. Sigh...these are veggies we're talking about! What do I know about variety??!!

Well, being a Bengali, I should have known quite a bit. Bengalis have a huge and rich tradition of vegetarian cuisine and it's mind boggling just how delicious some of the dishes are. So I duly called up my mother and demanded a recipe. Something simple that didn't involve grinding masalas or making pastes, just something I could throw together on a busy working day.

Keeping in  mind the vegetables I had bought, this is what she told me to make.

Sim, begun, kumro ar alu chorchori

Paapri, eggplant, red pumpkin and potato cooked with paanch phoron

Here's how-

Cut the vegetables into smallish equal sized pieces.

Heat mustard oil in a wok or kadai and let the oil heat up nicely. When the surface of the oil shivers reduce the heat and put in about half a teaspoon of paanch phoron. My mix contains kalonji, methi, rai, saunf and radhuni. That's nigella, fenugreek, mustard, fennel and wild celery seeds (also known as ajmoda in Hindi). Add one or two dried red chillies. Kashmiri or Bedki, whichever you have.

Once the spices sizzle add in the potatoes and the pumpkin pieces. Stir everything nicely and fry the vegetables well.

After about 8 to 10 minutes add in the cut eggplant pieces and the strung and cut paapri. Stir everything and continue to cook. Lower the heat and let the vegetables cook slowly. Cover the wok and stir once in a way just to see that it doesn't burn at the bottom.

Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt to taste. Mix well and sprinkle a little water to generate some steam to cook the vegetables through. Cover. This preparation must not have any gravy so be sure to add not more than a tablespoon or so of water.

Serve hot once the veggies are done. The pumpkins should practically disintegrate, the potatoes should be soft and buttery.

You can use a variety of vegetables including radish, leafy greens, the favourite of Bengalis - the potol, plantain, green peas, etc.

The beauty of this dish is really its simplicity. A simple paanch phoron and dried chilli tempering and just turmeric and salt. The flavours of the vegetables themselves come through and you have a delicious and healthy dish to lap up!

And thus starts my exploration of Bengali vegetarian cuisine...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cafreal Chicken goes Red!

My love affair with Chicken Cafreal started with my mother's hunt for easy recipes which she could cook with minimum fuss and delicious results. At some point she discovered the ready made green flavourful masala paste that was one of the greatest gifts to the cook who is simply too tired to cook from scratch. We tried various brands and voted the Goana Foods green cafreal masala as our favourite. This magic paste was available at the local cold storage shop and we bought it in vast quantities and even order it online today. Here's the recipe for green cafreal chicken.

It was many years later that I made it to the magical place that is Goa - and there I discovered red cafreal masala  made by another company called Marcarfly. Here was a revelation in a plastic packet! I didn't know a red variation even existed and since then my kitchen is always well stocked with plenty of packets of both varieties. You can buy this at Kitchenette at Margao or at the other similar shop just next to it.

Nothing is easier than making Red Cafreal Chicken. All you do is marinate the chicken with a little salt. Slap on a generous bit of the masala paste and let it sit for an hour. Then all that's left to be done is for the chicken to be slowly fried. If you're in a hurry, don't wait. Cook it immediately.

Here are a few pics of what this absolutely delicious dish in a jiffy looks like..

The paste is thick and oily and has a deep red colour Be careful! The colour gets on to everything!

Coat the pieces nicely with a generous amount of the paste. Let is sit for an hour.

Fry slowly in a neutral oil and let it cook properly inside and then let the outside get nice and crisp. Cook the leg pieces and the breast pieces separately. The breast pieces need a shorter cooking time and will get overcooked if you dunk in all the pieces together. A little care goes a long way.

Serve hot off the pan with bread or rotis.

This works well with prawns too. And you can also do just a big pile of chicken wings and serve them up as a starter. Be sure to have plenty of napkins handy!