Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Brownies with chocolate chips

One of the most fun things about reading a blog is hopping from that blog to another following a recipe or a photograph. I was looking for a recipe for cup cakes and after Googling and not finding anything appealing I decided to check Saee's site My Jhola; I was sure I'd find something there. I did.

I found this most amazing blog with easy to do recipes that had me drooling. And I had soon forgotten about the cup cakes and was checking the pantry cupboard to see if I have everything required to make these. I did!

So I gathered everything together and threw together a batch of what looked like something I'd be making again and again. Peanut Butter brownies, and with chocolate chips too!

Here we are ready to be popped into the oven.

I followed the recipe exactly and here's what the final product looks like.

Now it might not look like brownies, I agree - it doesn't, but it tastes fabulous. Though the original instructions say use an 8x8 tin, she does mention that the brownies tend to remain under cooked in the middle and a larger tin might be a better idea. Silly me, I should have listened. I will, the next time :P

If you're going to try out this recipe, USE A LARGER TIN! That's the only thing I'd tweak in this otherwise perfect recipe.

And for now, I have some awesome peanut butter brownies with chocolate chips to look forward to. Where's my mug of coffee?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kaancha Aamer Chatney - A Bengali summer recipe

Mango season has begun and as is always the case when the raw mangoes hit the markets, the pickling and preserving recipes are put to use and practically every household is busy making something or the other with raw mangoes. I too have joined the mass of mango maniacs and I made one of the most simple raw mango preparations across the board. Aamer Chatney is a thin sweet stew of raw mangoes, sugar, mustard and ground cumin. The more sour the mangoes the more delicious this simple preparation turns out.

1 medium sized raw mango, de-seeded and sliced thick
2-3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp mustard oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup or so water

Wash the mango and slice it thick. Discard the seed.

Heat the mustard oil in a saucepan or kadai. Once it's nice and hot throw in the mustard seeds.

Once the exuberance of the spluttering seeds has quietened, add in the sliced mango pieces. Lower the heat and fry gently for a good 5 minutes. The mango will begin to soften and will also darken around the edges. Add a pinch of salt too. 

Pour in the water and let the mango cook for a bit. You can let it completely turn to mush or you can leave it still intact with a bit of bite, like I prefer. Once the water has come to a boil sprinkle in the sugar and give it a gentle stir. Let it simmer.

In the mean time broil a teaspoon of jeera or Cumin seeds and pound them in a mortar and pestle.

Pour the chatney into a pretty bowl and sprinkle the pounded jeera on top. Enjoy this hot or cold at the end of your meal. It's especially divine after a rice/daal/subzi lunch on a hot afternoon.

There are many variations to this recipe, each different in each household. My Mum's recipe (from her mum) is frugally simple, letting the mango be the star of the show with the pounded fresh jeera giving it a nice punch of extra flavour. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brinjal Capsicum Salan - Parsi vegetarian preparation

Believe it or not, Parsis do have quite a few vegetarian dishes that are quite traditional. Recently friends of mine attended a Parsi dinner in Delhi and the vegetarian menu described to me left me quite disappointed. That's when I decided to explore the vegetarian fare that is regularly cooked in many Parsi households, quite defying the general perception that Parsis have no clue about vegetarian food.

Brinjal Capsicum salan is a lightly spiced medley of just brinjals and capsicums. This combination of vegetables quite surprised me when I first encountered it, but it actually works very well and is one of my favourite Parsi vegetarian preparations. It's easy to put together and is perfect for a light summer meal with rotis.

The simplicity makes this ideal for the hot months. There is no ginger- garlic paste and there are no whole spices either. In fact, it is a lot like the Bengali vegetarian everyday preparations where the vegetables get to do the talking without being smothered under spices and heavy flavours.

1 medium sized brinjal, cubed
2 large green capsicums, cubed
1 onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
cumin powder
coriander powder
garam masala powder
oil to cook

Heat oil in a wok or kadai and fry the brinjal pieces. When they are nearly done add the capsicums and let it fry for another 3 or 4 minutes. Don't let the capsicums get soft. Remove into a bowl or a plate.

In the same kadai heat a little more oil and fry the onions. Once they turn pink dunk in the chopped tomato. Cook this till the tomatoes and onions are completely soft.

Add the spice powders and a couple of teaspoons of water.

Traditionally spices were ground to a paste but in modern kitchens we use powdered spices. These often get burned in a hot wok so adding a bit of water saves them from burning and also helps the flavours meld. Cook covered for about 5 minutes.

Add the fried brinjal and capsicum pieces and stir the whole lot nicely. Another 2 or 3 minutes of cooking covered and you're done. Serve with hot rotis, parathas or bread. I enjoy this with rice and daal too, though traditionally it is paired with breads.

Cajun Spiced Chicken with Vegetables

Chicken is a great favourite with me because it's easy to cook and can shine on it's own without too much dressing up. I'm a great fan of the short cut and if there are products that can make life in the kitchen easier and with splendid results, I'm happy.

This Cajun spiced chicken is something I make very often. It's easy, it's delicious, and it's quite healthy too.

1 chicken
olive oil
Cajun spice powder
2 large onions, sliced
chopped garlic
1 large potato, cut into large batons
2 carrots, cut into large batons

Take a large non stick pan and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the potatoes and carrots and fry for a bit keeping the heat low. Once the edges begin to brown throw in the sliced onion and the chopped garlic. Stir nicely and cook covered for 5 minutes.

Start adding the chicken pieces. Put in the leg pieces first. Season well with the Cajun spice. Be generous! Cook covered for about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the breast pieces and mix well. Add more seasoning only if required. Let it all cook covered for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the flame and make sure you don't burn the onions. Stir once in a way.

Cooking the legs and breasts separately ensures that you don't end up with chewy chunks of chicken. The breast pieces cook much faster and tend to become tough and inedible. So just cook them one after the other.

The chicken will release water and help the whole thing cook so you won't need to add any water. Add just a little if you think it's required. Add salt very conservatively as most spice mixes contain salt. Add pepper to heat up things a little!

Once the chicken and the potatoes are cooked through, boost up the heat and dry off any gravy. Let the chicken brown nicely. The onions will combine with the spice powder and become wonderfully flavourful.   Serve hot with bread or simply enjoy it as it is with a crisp salad.

You can add many other vegetables to this easy dish. Green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, capsicums, zuchini, whatever works for you.

You can buy Cajun spice mix at most supermarkets these days. Hyperciti, Spar, and even Godrej Nature's Basket carries this and many other interesting spice mixes.

Try this same simple preparation with any mix. It works really well!

Monday, April 16, 2012

1419 - A new year and a full on Bangali'r Bhuri Bhoj at Bangali Mashi's Kitchen

So there we were, back once again at Bangali Mashi's Litchen. It was the first day of the new year, 1419, and what better way to bring it in than with a full on Bengali feast or Bhuri Bhoj at BMK?

Usually BMK serves a variety of thalis, Bong snacks and a whole lot of main course options and desserts from the a la carte menu but it being a special occasion today, there were only two options, the veg thali and the non veg thali. K was in the mood to eat something light and I was eager to attack the full on non veg spread so we ordered a veg thali and a non veg thali.

What I forgot is that the non veg thali is basically the veg thali with added non veg items.

So here's what I attempted to eat while K smirked from across the table.

The shiny kansha (bell metal) plates had four batis (bowls) on them. These were duly filled with daal, aloo phulkopi chhana'r danla (potatoes cooked with cauliflower and paneer), Potoler dorma, and enchorer danla (raw jackfruit). The plate was quickly filled with a chicken chop, a fat slice of begun bhaja, aloo jhuribhaja and a delectable veg paturi made with spinach and broad beans (papri).

The piece de resistance was the posto'r bora - melt in the mouth with a sharp spike of chili and the crunch of onion, these were to die for.

Then came a huge serving of vegetable polao as bowls of more food arrived to be arranged around my plate - the fish (sorse diye tangra, and rui machher jhol) and the mutton made their entry. And alongside were placed the mixed fruit chatni, the rosogolla and the misti doi. All this in one thali?!

Unfortunately I hadn't carried my camera so I took this on my phone. As you can see there was an enormous amount of food in front of me. No, I couldn't eat it all and duly had a few things parcelled and brought them home.

Mangoes being in season this heavenly feast was washed down with a glass of the piquant aam panna, a cooling summer drink made with raw mangoes.

If you're looking for Bengali food, the real stuff, not the glammed up version that you can find at most Bengali restaurants, Bangali Mashi's Kitchen is where your search will end. Say hello to Sushmita and she will be more than happy to guide you through the menu if you're not sure what to order and how much to order.

Veg Thali - Rs.350/-

Non Veg Thali - Rs.500/-

Bangali Mashi's Kitchen

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gurgaon - Gluttony and Gender Issues

I spent a wonderful 10 odd days being spoiled silly by my sis in law and my cousin. They have a lovely new home in one of the innumerable towers that dot the Gurgaon landscape and I enjoyed a long overdue holiday with them. One thing that unites all three of us is our unending love for good food and our constant search for new places to eat, new flavours to try out. And Gurgaon is simply bursting at the seams with options for the die hard foodaholic.

From road side momo joints to swanky restaurants that serve endless lunch buffets that include cuisines from around the world, Gurgaon covers it all. Goan, Bengali, Korean, Udupi, classic American fast food, Italian, you name it, it's there somewhere! And if it hasn't got there yet, rest assured, it's coming soon.

Among the meals that really stood out were the Goan lunch at Bernardo's tucked away on the first floor of the Galleria shopping centre. Roast pork, prawns recheado, spicy Goan style fried liver, pork vindaloo, mutton Xacuti, we had it all, perfectly rounded off with a helping of that queen among desserts, the  deeply sensuous layered Bebinca.

Then there was Love & Mustard - a brightly lit restaurant with a cheerful colour filled atmosphere and an extensive menu offering many traditional Bengali treats. It had been a long day and we were not at our 'eager to eat' best. However, the food was so good that we found ourselves revived and licking our plates. We ordered Alu'r dom with luchi, Polau with kosha mangsho, and chicken chaamp with triangle porota. All was perfect except that what they passed off as polau was, in fact, biryani rice. Not that it tasted bad, it just wasn't   what we'd ordered or expected.  Love & Mustard is also in the same Galleria mall.

Another memorable meal was Gung the Palace, a Korean restaurant in Gurgaon that also has a branch in Green Park, Delhi. This was one occasion where I wished I knew more about the cuisine so I could eat things in the correct combinations and sequence to do full justice to the meal and to appreciate it correctly too. However ignorance did not get in the way of enjoyment and we feasted on the best Barbecued Pork Belly I have ever eaten, accompanied by Spicy Calamari and a wonderful light Kimchi fried rice. This might not sound like a lot but with a Korean meal you get such a huge variety of little side dishes that include pickled vegetables, and a fabulous fish stock and greens soup, that you really eat like a king.

The portions are huge and are usually for four.You can ask the staff for help while you order and they will happily guide you through the unfamiliar sounding names of the dishes. The menu card has pictures and descriptions to help you along anyway. To really enjoy Gung, go in a group. And if you can't rustle up a group, go anyway.

The best food was at home. Classic Bengali home fare. Seasonal vegetables, daal cooked in different ways, and an endless variety of fish! The heart and soul were as sated as my rapidly expanding tummy. Ruti torkari for breakfast reminded me of summer holidays in Kolkata at my Father's house where Jethima (aunt) would make different vegetables every morning for breakfast, to be eaten with rotis or parathas or, sometimes, with hot fluffy luchis. Ah, the Bengalis do eat well!

We spent an incredible evening at the imposing Red Fort and also caught the Son et Lumière show there.

After wandering around the extensive grounds admiring the remains and imagining the grandeur that once was, we were ready to head out for a good meal. Karim's was legendary and so we set forth. It was unbelievably crowded and we ended up sharing a table with a group of young boys. The seating was cramped, we were tired and the meal was rushed. Somehow, you cannot enjoy the finer things of life with people breathing down your neck waiting to grab your table. Maybe some other day, but this time Karim's was not worth its legendary name.

This trip was also about catching up with friends - friends I knew in the real world and some who were from the virtual world and some from Mumbai who happened to be there in Gurgaon at the same time. I also made new friends on a foodie group on Facebook and it these new friends who told me where to eat, what to order and what I simply should not miss. Thanks everyone at Chef at Large on Facebook :)

Rushina invited me to dinner one evening where I met a wonderful mix of bloggers, architects, businessmen, and home stay owners. There I met Purba Ray, a blogger, who told me about her experience with the local police when she went to report her stolen purse. The Gurgaon mall rape cases were fresh in everyone's minds and the attitude that the police have towards victims is unbelievable, and Purba was unfortunate enough to find out for herself just how badly the police treat a woman who has come in to ask for help.

I met Manjula, my friend from college, over coffee one morning. She lives in Gurgaon too and we also talked about men, attitudes, how safe a woman can feel in Gurgaon even in the daytime, and a whole lot of frivolous things too. The next day I read this wonderful piece that she wrote about a new product for women.

It's not just Gurgaon that suffers this malaise. My friend is looking for a swimming pool that she can use daily. She went to the YMCA pool in Belapur to find out their timings, rates, etc., and she was confronted with a big board displaying "appropriate dress for women using the pool". Why is a woman seen as an amoral creature for whom the law has to be laid down? There was no board showing "appropriate dress for men using the pool" there. So if a man wants to wear very brief swimming trunks a la John Abraham in Dostana, that is fine, but a woman has to wear a one piece bathing suit with sleeves and, hold your breath, bicycling shorts underneath! I'm sure the pool authorities do not guarantee a woman safety if she comes dressed as prescribed. If anything untoward were to happen, they would blame it on her wet clothes, I'm sure.

Where does this incredible attitude come from? And what are we doing to change it? If you have a son teach him.  It's not the daughters we need to stifle, it's the sons we need to teach.