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
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.