Friday, December 31, 2010

These are Some of My Favorite Things…

Wish all of you the biggest slice of happiness this New Year. I am writing to you as my home fills up with the aroma of sweet vanilla while I make the last “dish” of 2010 - Maple Crème Brûlée.

And while I am at it, I thought of rounding up the year that was with my favorite posts from PreeOccupied. These are recipes where I stepped myself up, did my due diligence and presented them with utmost care. Some of these were your favorites too. So take a look at the star posts of 2010 from my Blog!


Alu Kumror Chokka
A Chokka is usually made with Alu (Potato), Potol (Parwal) and of course, the Kumro (Pumpkin). A handful of Red Gram (Lal Chola) is added to give it more personality.

chingri Alu Begun Chingri Though the main ingredients for this recipe are are Potato (Alu), Eggplant/Brinjal (Begun) and Shrimps (Chingri), a whole lot of flavors come from the green chilies (kancha lonka) you add to it. So this Alu-Begun-Chingri is not really for the faint-hearted.

begun Bengali Begun Pora
Come winter, India is flooded with plump, dark purple eggplants. In some parts of the country, the large, round variety of eggplants are also called Bhanta. That’s what my Mother uses for Bengali Begun Pora (Bengali Baingan Bharta). Since eggplant oxidizes very quickly, make sure you cut an eggplant just before you are ready to cook it.

chicken Bengali Chicken Curry
Chicken Curry was almost looked down upon on special occasions in Bengali homes. It was either made to appease some non-Bengali guests or because the festivities were at the month-end, which meant the Bengali had spent all his salary eating like a King and could not afford the more expensive goat meat or fish.


Bhapa Doi
The Bhapa Doi is another Durga Puja special, where this steamed yogurt would be part of an elaborate mishti mukh spread after a meal on Ashtami through Doshomi. Though I have a feeling its tough for this steamed version of sweet yogurt to compete with its traditional cousin, we call Miss Mishti Doi.

mach Macher Jhol
I am particularly fond of these two Macher Jhol I am going to share with you today. They will stump you with the simplicity and ease with which they are made. You will also reckon that both these versions are pretty similar, ingredient-wise. Except for the key difference – the main spice that distinguishes a jeerer (cumin) jhol from a shorse batar (mustard paste) jhol.


Mutton Curry
This Mutton Curry for all the time it takes to make is probably one of the most tasteful things you can make with meat. I have used goat meat in this recipe (which is how its made in India). But if don’t find goat meat, you can make it with lamb too.

poto; Pôtoler Dorma
This is my Mum’s recipe and I haven’t changed anything. After all there is little scope of change when the recipe is just perfect. Whoever thought of stuffing Pôtol or Parwal or Pointed Gourdwith mince meat was obviously dealing with some very strict non-vegetarians.
Bengali Tomato Chutney
Traditionally, the Tomator Chaatney is served last in a typical Bengali meal, just before dessert. But I like to have it with my food. My favorite to go with Tomator Chaatney is hot khichudi with all its fanfare.

shorshe Shorshe Diye Chingri
There are no two ways of eating the Shōrsē Diye Chingri Maachh. It has to be eaten with steaming hot rice and yes, we did eat with our hands today.

pulao Bengali Mishti Pulao
I do not fuss much (or experiment) when it comes to a traditional recipe by my Mum. And why should I, when I know its just perfect. Or maybe I am too old and entrenched to change. And change I brought with this very classic Bengali Sunday afternoon lunch – Mangsho ‘r Mishti Pulao, in the middle of the week on a Wednesday evening.

payesh Payesh
Payesh is a traditional Bengali dessert made of rice (Basmati or Gobindo Bhog) and milk, slow cooked with aromatic cardamoms and bay leaf and generous amounts of chopped nuts (cashews or almonds) and raisins. This dessert ought to be made with precision and timing…and patience! And if you don’t get it exact, the imbalance in consistency and sweetness will be very obvious.


Pistachio Kulfi
Busy festive days need ridiculously easy dessert recipes, you’d agree! I am sharing with you your Mom’s star recipe of Pistachio Kulfis. Yes, your Mom and my Mum all make it the same way back home in India. Its these modern spice goddesses (pun most definitely intended!) who mix and mash milk, banana and bread (apparently for texture and thickness) and then call it Kulfi!


Bengali cuisine is never complete without talking about Jhalmuri. Puffed rice has never been treated with so much respect and reverence, as it is in this anytime snack which has its origins in the streets of Bengal.


Spicy, tangy, crunchy, and mouth-wateringly delicious. That’s phuchka for you. If you are not already overwhelmed by the cumulative taste quotient of this Indian (Bengal and Bihar) snack, I’d like to delve deeper into how I like to eat my phuchka. And yes, my post is all about phuchka and not gol gappa, paanipuri, gup-chup, pani bataasha or whatever other names it is known as in the other parts of India.

Okay, now that I have made myself at least sufficiently hungry, I am going to stop now. These are my personal favorites and I can eat them any day. I hope you enjoyed my little round up. More Bengali recipes and pictures can be found here.

Have a great New Year and lots of love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy First Birthday

Because everyone has a birthday, I want to wish my Blog one too. Happy Birthday, PreeOccupied.


It was exactly a year ago when on a cold December day I took my camera, got some pictures clicking and posted here. It has been a long, relishing journey since then. No looking back and definitely no end to all my talking! And thankfully they haven't all been monologues.

A full year later, I sit back and feel privileged that I know  you. You show you care for the work I do by leaving your little note of appreciation and suggestion. Sometimes you correct me, other times you even come back and tell me you have tried one of my recipes, or just drop by to say a Hi. You make me feel I have achieved something precious. And then I hunger for more. And just then someone entrusts me with one their family recipes. It truly becomes my honor to not let you down.


At age one, I am just about beginning to crawl, wobble and reach out to so many of you who have become part of my everyday life. Not one, but hundreds of you who have shared and cared with me and continue to do so.

You make my everyday fun and something to look forward to. So please celebrate with me and have a slice of this trifle dessert I made to mark my first year of Blogging. You may get a teeny little share of it, but you know you have a big chunk of my heart already.

IMG_3757 No birthday is complete without return gifts. And I hate flouting traditions. So I made this wannabe-Madhubani painting specially as a return gift for you.

IMG_3808Join my birthday party at PreeOccupied and share your views and opinions on improving my Blog space, recipe suggestions, or anything you think needs a facelift here.

Here is how you can have my maiden Madhubani painting!

  • Follow this Blog (via Google Friend Connect or NetworkedBlogs)
  • Like my page on Facebook, click on Suggest to Friends, and invite your friends on Facebook to join PreeOccupied
  • Four comments per person will be allowed. Do not forget to leave your email and a separate comment for each entry
  • Blog or Tweet about what you like about PreeOccupied
  • This gift can be taken by anybody from anywhere in the world
  • I will choose the person who takes this painting home through at the end of day (EST) on January 15, 2011

Thank you all once again for being part of my journey of Blogging. I look forward to another year of cooking adventures with you all.

Lots of love.

Affectionately yours,


P.S. Here is how I made the Trifle following Jamie’s recipe.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maacher Chop

I felt a pang of guilt caramelizing the onions for the Maacher Chop (Bengali Fish Croquettes) today. Apparently, people in India are reeling under the sky rocketing price of onions, yet again. If it makes you feel any better, I get two pounds of onions (about a kilo) for close to six dollars.

IMG_3789 IMG_3806 This Maacher Chop recipe is largely Uttara Ghosh’s. I have just made some cosmetic changes to it. Uttara was quick to come to my rescue when I requested for a recipe on Facebook. I have used Sole fish fillets, though traditionally Bengali Fish Chops are made with Rui or Kaatla maach. You can even use Tilapia like Satrupa and Sandeepa have.

Ingredients for Maacher Chop are:

400 grams fish fillet (use any white fish)
3-4 medium size potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 medium red onion, slivered fine
4-5 green chilies, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, made into a paste
1 small knob of ginger, grated
10 raisins
Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
Half teaspoon garam masala powder
Quarter teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Half cup breadcrumbs 1 bay leaf
1 black cardamom
1 small stick of cinnamon
Canola or mustard oil

In a saucepan, add the fish, bay leaf, turmeric, salt, cardamom and cinnamon. Pour enough water to cover all the ingredients. Cook this for 5-7 minutes on high, till the fish turns flaky. Discard the whole spices and drain the water. With a fork, mash the fish and keep.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil in a pan and add the slivered onions and fry them till they turn brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl.

In the remaining oil, add the fish, raisins, garlic paste, ginger, red chili powder, garam masala powder, half teaspoon sugar and salt to taste. Mix well and cook for 4-5 minutes.
IMG_3793 Transfer the fish mixture to the bowl of caramelized onions.

Now mash the boiled potatoes and add to the fish and onion mixture. Add chopped green chilies and coriander to it. Do a taste test before you season with salt. Pound all the ingredients well. You can start with a spoon, but end with your hand. That’s the most effective way to do it!

Take lemon-size balls of this mixture and shape into “chops” between the palms of your hands.

IMG_3794 You can ready these and deep fry them just before serving. But make sure you cover them and refrigerate.

Heat oil in a wok, until almost smoking. Make a mixture with cornstarch and water and dip the chops in them first. Then roll each on a bed of breadcrumbs.

Uttara suggested I use slices of bread soaked in water and squeezed into the potato-fish mixture, which is a tried and tested method of “binding” chops and cutlets and prevent them from disintegrating while deep frying. But I did not have bread at home today. So I did what I have done for my Koraishuti’r Chop.

IMG_3797 IMG_3796 Deep fry each chop till they turn golden brown. Serve with ketchup or kasundi and onion rings when they are not 80 rupees a kilo!

IMG_3804 Thank you, Uttara for this jewel of a recipe!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

King Kankra Curry

A trip to St. Lawrence Market over the weekend means we eat like kings and queens for the rest of the week. And these insanely colossal crabs (Kankra in Bengali) are just enough reason to reinstate the feeling of royalty on our plates.

IMG_3717IMG_3723 IMG_3718

I made my Mum’s Spicy Crab Curry recipe today, which has remained in the family for three generations now. She inherited it from her Grandmother, who as long as I remember remained on a wheelchair for the latter part of her life. I sometimes became her lathi, human walking stick, with her resting her winkled but strong arms on my shoulders to take her from one room to another.

“Nani” passed on in her 90s and always used an unuun (chulha, Indian clay oven) for cooking. Her servants would get the unuun close to where she sat in the courtyard for her to spend the rest of the afternoon making her signature sondesh, goja, narkel naru, nolen gurer payesh, pantua, and other out-of-the-world delicacies. Needless to say, no one could out-cook a Grandmother.

IMG_3722 These crabs were cracked by the fish monger, but I had to de-shell them before cooking. I also cracked and broke their claws from the body for easy cooking.

Since you already have the recipe, I will just go ahead and share the pictures of how I made them today. Oh and another thing, I did not use potatoes today as mentioned in the original recipe. And also changed the measurements of the ingredients for the amount of crab we had today.

IMG_3724IMG_3725 IMG_3727 IMG_3729

IMG_3734Turn the heat off and garnish with fresh coriander.

IMG_3737 IMG_3740 IMG_3747 This crab curry tastes perfect with plain white rice. With a rush of great flavors in my mouth, my Sunday will be complete, as I close my drooping eyes for a well-deserved snooze.

I am linking this to Patty’s Weekend Wrap Up – Week 11, the last one on her Blog for 2010. Patty is a dear Blogger friend who outshines everyone on the circuit with her warm infusion of colors for everyday mundane things. Do check out ideas on Christmas decorations on her Blog.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seduction on a Plate

Have you ever wondered how these self-announced culinary goddesses look absolutely ravishing in their kitchen spaces, day after day, show after show. Not a strand of hair out of place, not even a laughter line showing. They look sexy with their mouths full and their bodies look as if they stopped growing after 16! Nigella Lawson of course is an exception.

diva They have come-hither looks, husky voices, manicured nails, and botoxed assets as kitchen arsenals. I wonder how all their cook wares look so shiny (must be the sponsors!), stovetops spotless, kitchens gorgeous, pantries full and people like you and me eating out off their palms. Well, almost.

I know I am no Nigella or Giada, not even shortcut queen -Rachel Ray. But sometimes away from public eye, I pretend to be one. Yes, I convince myself that I am the domestic diva who can whip out meal after meal everyday, sometimes twice a day! Though its another story that a lot of the times, I spill, overcook, follow recipe books, make frantic calls to the mother, serve leftovers, or conveniently order take out.

Till about a few years ago, I even used to talk to myself, pretending I was hosting some food show. Well, that delusion hasn’t stopped altogether. Except that now, I also have a camera in my kitchen. I am also contemplating about shedding my PJs and slipping into fashionable clothes, curling up my hair and batting mascaraed eyelashes the next time I step inside my kitchen. Some day soon. Very soon. Till then, keep coming back to check on me and my un-sexy home cooked meals.

Today I made my usual, to-be-patented winter staple of clear tomato soup and served with croutons made of French baguette and Spanish Chorizo sausages. They paired well with a light salad made of baby spinach, arugula, red cabbage, sliced avocado, red bell pepper, generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a good drizzle of EVOO (just the way Rachel Ray says it!). For the uninitiated, EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

IMG_3702If you cannot find baguette, take any long-thin bread and make even slices of it, preferably with a serrated knife. Drizzle olive oil. Slice the sausages too to fit on the bread.

IMG_3703 IMG_3704Preheat your oven to 350°F, and leave the breads to turn into golden, crusty croutons topped with melt-in-the-mouth sausages.

For the salad I just tossed in everything at the very last minute and served in individual bowls with freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, few squirts of lemon juice and some black pepper straight from the pepper mill.

IMG_3707 IMG_3708