March 12, 2008


Crocuses, early Spring flowers in my yard at last! YAAY!!:))


Yes, Sandeepa did announce the RCI-Bengal finally! :D

This post promptly goes to RCI-Bengal and to RCI event's host this month, Sandeepa of "Bong Mom's cookbook". Thank you for hosting Sandeepa!:)
This is my last post here until May, will be on much needed Spring break. Enjoy, will see you all then! :)

About Bengal:
A beautiful Bengali woman doll in her traditional Bengali style saree, you can buy this in any good Indian art store.

According to a scripture called "Pithamala's Nigamatantra", the vast bow shaped land stretching from Dakshineshwer to Bahulapur i.e. Behala (Bengal or Bangla) is the Kalikhetra or realm of Kali, the Goddess. Read more here.
Bengal or "Shonar Bangla"(Golden Bengal), as it is affectionately referred to by Bengalis, who speak Bangla or Bengali, is an Indian state situated in the North-east of India. It's capital city is Kolkata/Calcutta, Bengal is also home for Sundarbans—the world's largest mangrove forest and Bengal tigers. Culturally rich, Bengal is the home of Bengal Renaissance, Baul, a folk music and many revolutionary activities during the Indian independence movement.
The most famous son of Bengal is Rabindranath Tagore, a poet (Gitanjali),a philosopher,visual artist, playwright,novelist,composer and also a winner of Asia's first Nobel laureate in 1913 in Literature. He is also the author of national anthems of Bangladesh and India: "Amar Shonar Bangla" and "Jana Gana Mana". Most acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray hails from Bengal as well.
Bengali cuisine is well-known for the vast range of rice dishes, desserts and various preparations of freshwater fish. Bengali cuisine is rich and with many spices,flavors with varied influences of many cultures like Islam, British and South east Asian. Great lover of sweets, they occupy an important place in the diet of Bengalis and at their social ceremonies. Isn't Bengal sounds beautifully wonderful? Here is my humble contribution to Shonar Bangla, enjoy!:)

Bangla Ranna/Bengali Thali:
I chose a few dishes for RCI-Bengal from a beautiful cookbook called "Bangla Ranna-The Bengal cookbook" by Minakshie DasGupta, with few of my own changes for my convenience. Bangla Ranna means "Bengali cuisine" in Bengali.

Bangla Ranna
Alu-Potoler Dalna (Potato Parwal gravy), Maacher Sorse Jhol (Fish in Mustard gravy), Ghee Bhat (sweetish Bengali rice Pulao), Porota (Flatbread), Lankar Achar (Green chillies pickle)and Patishapta (sweet flour crepe with sweet aromatic coconut filling and topped with Saffron cream).

Alu-Potoler Dalna:
Potol/Parwal is a kind of vegetable available in India. I had a pack of frozen Parwal which I used in this dalna/gravy. I am sure fresh Parwal tatses lot better than the frozen ones.This dalna is really tasty served with Parathas.

To make Dalna:
1. Heat 1 tbsp ghee, 1 tbsp oil in a deep pan, add 2 bay leaves,1 tsp Cumin seeds, 2 red dry chillies, 1 onion finely chopped until reddish.
2. Add 3 large potatoes, cubed, 2 cups sliced Parwal (a kind of vegetable but you can any other veg too), fry these for 5 mins.
3. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp coriander seeds powder, 1/2 tbsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp Garam masala, 1/2 tsp chilli powder,salt, 1 tsp sugar. Mix well.
4. Add 2 cups or more water, 1 large Tomato, cover and let it cook until potatoes are cooked soft.Add chopped cilantro and adjust the spices to serve with Porota.

Maacher Sorse Jhol:
Sorse is Mustard seeds in Bengali, Maacher is Fish. A typical Bengali blend of Mustard seeds, turmeric and green chillies, you can add chicken, Eggs, round baby potatoes or any white fish to the gravy. Sour cream is also optional. This Cod fish is the last of my fish basket from my freezer!:D

To make Jhol/gravy:
1. Cut 2 fillets of Cod or any kind of white fish into chunky cubes. Keep aside.
2. Roast 4 tbsp Mustard seeds, 2 red chillies, 2 green chillies and grind with 1/2 turneric, 1/4 tsp salt, to a paste. Keep it aside.
3. Heat 3 tbsp mustard oil in a pan, add fish pieces and fry for a minute. Add masala paste, 2 cups of water.Bring it to boil, turn the heat down.
4. Add 2 tbsp beaten sour cream to the pan, mix and simmer for 10 mins.(Adding sour cream is not in the book but I thought it's good idea since it didn't have any sourness in it, you can skip sour cream if you like)
5. When fish is cooked, Jhol is ready! Tastes great with Pulao.

Paratha or Bengali Porota are a kind of flatbread, made of plain flour, rolled out into layers and baked on griddle smeared with ghee, tastes wonderful with any side dish. Making layers for this Porota is little hard to explain without photos. Click on the collage to see the bigger photos. If using just plain flour making you work a little harder to do the layers, you could add 1/2 cup of wheat flour to make it easier to roll. But plain flour parathas are tastier!

To make Porota:
1. Mix 2 cups plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda,mix well.
2. Add in 2 tbsp plain yogurt, 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter), 1 cup or enough hot water to the flour, knead to a stiff dough.Brush some oil on top of the dough. Let it rest for 1/2 an hour, covered.
3. Divide into slightly bigger than golf ball sized rounds, roll out each into 4"circles, brush some oil, sprinkle some flour.

4. Roll them like cigars from the wider end and stretch the ends to elongate it.
5. Now curl both ends in opposite direction as shown in the collage in the shape of "S". Place one curl on the other to make a round ball.
6. Press them down, roll out again to 5-6" circles gently, bake on a griddle or tawa brushing some oil on both sides until crisp and golden.
7. Store in an airtight container like Tortilla warmer.Reheat when needed.
Hope you got all that. Although it sounds complicated, once you get it, it's easy to make the layered Porota. Using just plain flour makes them very tasty, just make sure dough is firm like you do for pooris, not soft, which makes it harder to roll..

Ghee Bhat and Lankar Achar:
Bengali pulao is sweetish rice seasoned with ghee (clarified butter), nut and raisins. I made this ghee bhat my way by cooking the rice separately (rather than cooking with everything in one pot) and then adding the ghee seasoning.

Ghee Bhat: 1. Cook 1 1/2 cups of rice with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ghee, 1/2 cup of milk and enough water as you cook usually until done and spread on a wide mouthed plate, cover to let it dry a little. Slice 1 onion thinly.
2. Heat a pan, add 3 tbsp ghee, 2 tsp oil. Fry onion slices, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of sugar until reddish. Take out the onion onto a plate keeping as much ghee as you can in the pan.
3. To the remaining ghee, 2 bay leaves, add 3 cloves, 1" cinnamon, 2 green whole slightly crushed Cardamom pods, 2 tbsp red and golden raisins, few Almonds, few Pistachios. When the raisins are plump, pour this and onions to rice. Mix well. It's ready to serve with any gravy dishes.
Green chillies pickle in the above photo is store bought, it's Priya brand which is my favorite.
Here is the recipe as it is in the book to make green chillies pickle. I haven't tried this pickle, so I am just giving you the recipe. I will post the photo when I do try. I have lessened the proportions to make just 2 cups of chopped green chillies pickle since the book has the recipe for 1kg of green chillies! Add more sugar if you like sweet and hot pickle.
To make it:
1. Add 2 tbsp salt to 2 cups green chillies, cut into 1/4 " rounds, 2 tbsp fresh ginger strips, mix leave it overnight.
2. Grind 2 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp garlic, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 3 tbsp mustard seeds, 1 cup vinegar,1 tbsp sugar, salt to taste and keep aside.
3. Heat 1/2 cup mustard oil, fry the green chillies for 10 mins, take them out of the oil. Add 1 cup more mustard oil to the pan, add 1 tsp mustard seeds and all the vinegar masala paste.
4. Cook this mixture until it changes color, then add fried chillies, fry for 10 more mins. Adjust the seasoning. Cool and store.

This recipe is not exactly as in the above book although basic idea is came for this dessert from that book, here my version of Patishapta. A pancake made of flour and rice flour, stuffed with nuts and sweetened coconut,garnished with saffron cream! What's not to like, eh?!:D

To make Patishapta:
1. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup plain flour, 3 tbsps of rice flour,1/8 tsp Baking soda, 2 tbsp powdered sugar,1/2 tsp Cardamom pd, 1/4 cup milk and enough water to make a thinnish dosa/crepe/pancake like batter.Cover and let it rest for 15mins.
2. In a pan, add few Almonds, raisins, 1 cup fresh grated coconut, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/8 cup cream, heat and mix until thickish mass. Add 1 tsp Cardamom powder, mix and let it cool.(I just mixed ready made sweetened coconut and cardamom pd)
3. Heat 1/4 cup of cream, pinch of Saffron, 1 tbsp of powdered sugar until hot and cool the mixture.
4. Heat a non-stick pan, add 1 tsp ghee. Pour in a small ladle of batter,swirl it to make a circle, cook, flip and cook the other until golden on both sides.
5. Add few tbsps of coconut mix in the center, fold over the pancake and place it on the plate. Drizzle the saffron cream on top and serve immediately.

One more look:

Done! LOVED the Bengali thali!! :D


Book I read:
Two plays written by our own famous son of Karnataka, a Rhode scholar at Oxford U Girish Karnad. He is an acclaimed director, actor, dramatist and a playwriter in Kannada and English, Chairman of Sangeeta nataka academy, a visiting professor in the U of Chicago, also honored by Padma Bhushana and Jnanapitha awards by India.

The dreams of Tipu Sultan, which was first played in YMCA, Chennai and then commissioned by BBC and broadcasted in Britain on the 50th anniversary of Indian independence.
Play is about "Tiger of Mysore" Tipu Sultan, about his last days of fighting with the British army and his tragic end, as one of his ministers remembers Tipu's dreams and records his memories of those last traumatic days. Tipu Sultan's two young sons were said to have taken by the British to Calcutta, which was the capital then and they were left to live in utter poverty in Calcutta slums as the British refused to give them any princely compensation after their father Tipu Sultan died and as a punishment for Tipu's decision to fight against the British instead of accepting defeat,making deals and giving up Mysore to them like other kings and sultans did with their provinces!
I read that Tipu Sultan's blood relatives are still living in Kolkata in poverty, not being helped in anyway to this day, I sincerely hope it isn't so but sad isn't it, if it's true?

Bali-The sacrifice. (Bali means sacrifice in Kannada, but both plays are in English)
This play was commissioned and played in Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, UK. It's a bizzare tragic and comedic story of a supposedly pregnant young queen who has an affair with a Mahout or Elephant keeper(played by Naseeruddin Shah) one night! Play unfurls as the king and the Queen mother's strange understanding of the grave situation and trying to find a solution by thinking of sacrificing an image of Cockerel made of dough to God to right the wrong! It's made of dough because they are Jains ie against any violence to "live" animals. Story ends up in a surprising twist and tragedy, which makes Queen mother a very happy woman , who plots and gets exactly what she wanted out of that situation without saying so much in words!
Clever MIL, huh? ;D
Beautiful read. Wish I had watched both of these plays!

Another book of Girish Karnad which I am going to read on my break is;
Three plays; Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tughlaq , which you can buy here.

That's it for this post at FH. I have got two more posts to go at Aroma next week. After that I will be off blogging from March 20th to end of April or so, to enjoy the Spring break keeping with one my New year's resolution of taking frequent breaks. I will catch up with you all with a post on RCI-Rajasthan when I come back. Take care of yourselves until then!:))

March 06, 2008


Sally Lunn served with Mango and Pineapple jam is my contribution to "International Women's day" which is celebrated on March 8th, 2008.
Zorra from "kochtopf" has organized an event for us to cook or bake something "Yellow", to celebrate and support the economic, political and social achievements of women. She says color Yellow represents respect and an expression of solidarity with the women in their support for oppressed women worldwide. Isn't that beautiful? I am honored to join hands in my own little way with millions of women around the World in celebrating this great day. Thank you for hosting Zorra!:)

History of Sally Lunn:
Sally Lunn is a very popular egg bread which originated in Bath, England, now has it's own Museum called "Sally Lunn's Museum" in Bath. It's a slightly sweet and very flavorful bread which almost looks like a cake. It makes a great breakfast bread sliced,toasted and served with any jam.
One of many stories about Sally Lunn bread is "that Sally Lunn, real name of Solange Luyon, was a French pastry cook in Bath, England where she made and sold these buns in the streets for over thirty years" Read here for the full history.

Slice of Sally Lunn with Mango and Pineapple jam!
Yellowish color of Sally Lunn comes from the addition of Eggs and lemon extract. Adding Lemon is not a traditional ingredient in Sally Lunn but my own touch, which gives it a great flavor and aroma. Recipe is from "Beard on Bread" by James Beard.

Sally Lunn, fresh out of the oven:

To bake Sally Lunn:

You need: 1 pack of active dry yeast, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup warm water (100 to 115 degrees F), 1/2 cup lukewarm milk, 1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, melted in the milk, 2 tsp lemon juice or 1/2 tsp Lemon extract, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour.
To bake it:
1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a mixing bowl, and allow it to foam.
2. To the mixing bowl with yeast, add the milk, butter, and salt, and stir well to combine. Add the eggs and incorporate them well with a wooden spoon or in KitchenAid with flat beater, add lemon juice or extract.
3. Then add the flour in small amounts and mix well.
4. Make a stiff but workable batter, using up to four cups of flour, not more as and if necessary.
5. Cover the bowl and let the batter rise until doubled in amount or for about 1 hour in a warm place. I turn on the oven to warm/170F for 2 mins, turn it off and put the bowl covered in the oven to make it rise in cold weather.
6. Punch down and place into a well buttered 9 or 10 inch tube pan or Bundt cake pan and again let the batter rise to the very top of the pan for about 40mins in a warm place.
7. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven 45 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles. Turn out on rack to cool or serve toasted warm, with sweet butter or jam of your choice. Store in a gallon size zip-lock bag.

Hope you try this yummy bread which looks cake but NOT!:D


Beer battered Fish and Russet potato Chips is my "Yellow food" contribution for Barbara from "winos and foodies" blog's event "A taste of yellow" . I am glad to be able to participate in her LIVESTRONG Day 2008 and to support the cancer survivors, raise awareness about cancer. LIVE STRONG Day 2008 will occur on May 13th this year. My last year's entry to this event was Saffron Vanilla Pudding. Thank you for hosting this event this year too Barbara! :)

Keeping with British food theme, here is that popular Fish and Chips! I cannot recreate these as delicious as the real one you get in UK, but one can try!!:D
I fried these Cod fillets with Beer batter, pan fried the chips with Russet potatoes, served with crispy Southern Hush Puppies instead of the mashed Green peas and sprinkled with "London Pub" old English Malt vinegar as they do in England!! We loved this Fish and chips. You can also serve Coleslaw on the side too, as they do in southern US.
The carbon Dioxide in the dark colored beer makes the batter light and also gives an yellowish orange color to the fish. In UK, fish and chips are always deep fried in lard which gives them a distinctive taste. I have never used lard at home at all, Canola oil is good for me!:)

Fish and Chips with southern Hush Puppies! (No, not that footwear!;D)
We don't usually eat Fish often at home. But we always loved and bought Fish and chips atleast once a week while we were living in UK. We missed the Fish and chips the most after we moved here to US, nothing compares to UK Fish and chips. So I bought few Cod fillets and cooked some for us! Here goes my own Fish and chips.

Fish fry:
You need 3-4 Cod fish fillets, about 1/2"thick, wash and pat dry and keep them ready. Frozen Cod is easy to use too since it's already cleaned, filleted and just need to thaw. You can cut them into half, if fillets are too long to fit the deep fryer.
For the batter:
Mix 2 cups self-rising flour, 1 cup dark colored Beer like Ale, to make a batter, enough to coat the Fish fillets somewhat thickly. Add some water if the batter is too thick. Leave the batter to rest at room temperature for 15 mins. (pinch of Pepper pd and 1/2 tsp Garlic pd are optional additions to the batter, not traditional)
(Or Mix 2 cups plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 cup water or Beer, optional spices, if you don't want to use the self-rising flour.)
To fry:
1. Heat oil to deep fry up to 375F either a electric fryer or wide mouthed pan with 1" or 2" oil.
2. Coat Cod fillets in batter, shake a little and fry in oil both sides until crisp and golden.
3. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with chips, Malt Vinegar and Hush Puppies or to be authentic, serve with cooked and mashed Green Peas on the side.
For Potato chips:
US style Potato fries are called Potato chips in UK and always served with Fish, sprinkled with Malt vinegar, along with mashed Green peas. Russet potatoes are the best to use to make chips as they are floury potatoes, easy to cook and they get crispier when sauteed than other potatoes like red waxy potatoes which are best to deep fry.
1. Take 2-3 large Russet potatoes, wash and slice into finger like slices about 1/2"thick and 5-6" long. No need to peel the skin unless you want to.
2. In a wide non-stick pan, add 2 tbsp oil, spread the potato fingers or chips and let it cook until golden both sides on medium heat, stirring often to get the even color or you can deep fry them in batches too.
3. Sprinkle salt, pepper and Malt vinegar on top, serve with crispy fried Fish and Hush puppies.
Southern Hush Puppies:
I made some Southern style Hush puppies which is my kids' preference instead of mashed Green Peas to serve with Fish and chips.These are little nuggets like our Indian pakoras made of flour, Cornmeal and spices.
Hush puppies have few stories behind it's strange name and why they are called so in the south. I have already posted this at Aroma, hope you read it. Recipe for the Hush puppies is here.



Book I read:

"Burnt Bread and Chutney":
Growing Up Between Cultures-A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl by Carmit Delman.

As the title says, it's a memoir (no recipes) of a American born Indian Jewish girl with a Bene Israel Indian born (Mumbai) Jewish mom and American Jewish father of eastern European descent, both grew up in Israel, got married but moved to USA and after few years, moved back to Israel to live there for good with their 4 kids, couldn't cope and moved back to US again! Isn't that confusing enough for a child?
With her dusky complexion and mixture of all that Khichdi of cultures, she tells her story of struggles and benefits of growing up in US with all those cultural influences on her life.
Yes, there is always that old Indian grandma, a woman called "Nana-Bai", author's distant relative who lived with them at her parents house to nag ya and give you a burnt toast smeared with Indian chutney of course!! :D
She writes, Nana Bai NEVER ate pork in her life because she was of strict Jewish faith but she saw her eating a hot dog few days before Nana Bai dies!!
Author's one and only book, it makes a pretty interesting read. I have never personally met any Indian Jewish family in my life, so this book was revealing to me and laughed a few times too. I enjoyed reading it!:)

I have one more post to go here next week. Spring break for kids starts on 22nd March, so we will be off to the beach for a while. I will let you know how long I will be gone in my next post. Enjoy your weekend, see you all next week with Bengali goodies, although RCI is not announced yet!:)