Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keema Pulav

Looks like it had to be Keema tonight, especially after the way Finely Chopped went raving about his two course meal – one of them, the mouthwatering bowl of Hyderabadi Kheema!

That’s when on the other side of the earth, a very upbeat Bengali decided she will mince no words and just post a recipe of this award-winning Keema Pulav. Try it and you will know I wasn’t bragging!

Ingredients for Keema Pulav are:

One and half cups Basmati rice, washed and drained, keep in a sieve for 30 minutes
300 grams mince meat (beef or goat meat)
Quarter cup crispy fried onions
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
4-5 green chilies, finely chopped
Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves
Few mint leaves, torn
Few drops of lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 black cardamoms
2 green cardamoms
2-3 cloves
Few peppercorns
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 small stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder

Heat ghee in a large pan and add the whole spices, let them splutter for a few seconds and add the chopped green chilies and cumin.
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Add the mince meat and sauté for a few minutes, getting a little caramelization on the meat. Add the ginger-garlic paste and red chili powder and mix well. (Photos of this step are missing, the camera ran out of juice and needed recharging!)

Add the rice and fold between the mince meat mixture. Season with salt, garam masala powder and a pinch of nutmeg.

IMG_0579 Top the fried rice and mince meat with fried onions, chopped coriander and mint leaves and give it a good mix.


Pour the rice-keema (mince meat) mixture in a microwaveable bowl, add three cups of water, few drops of lemon juice, cover with a cling wrap and cook for 18-20 minutes.

Once the cook time is over, let the Keema Pulav stand for a few minutes before you serve it with a cooling Raita.

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P.S. Vegetarians can use minced soy nuggets instead of mince meat/keema.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ladies by the Window…

I have been spending a lot of time reading in the sun...and I even have company!

Holding a book with one hand and patting your own back with the other can be a little challenging. But I do like what caught my eyes in a thrift shop. A very dusty couple of ladies with a blob of molten wax sitting in between them. I had to bring them home.



I scraped the wax off, wiped the ladies spanking clean, seated them on the window with some books. And placed a little planter between them.


And I even think both of them went off in chorus – thank you for bringing us home.

You are very welcome, ladies.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mocha and Manicure!

If you haven’t tried making this classic Bengali dish – Mochar Ghonto yet, don’t. The world is going to end in 2012 anyway. Its important you get to keep that French Manicure for a day or two, after all the money and time that was spent on nail art.

Sarcasm aside, Mocha and manicured fingernails don’t go together. Period.

But what goes with Mochar Ghonto is a lazy Sunday afternoon lunch with a spread of plain white rice and some Shorse Chingri.

IMG_0549IMG_0544 Mochar Ghonto is a great side to start a meal planned ahead of time. Maybe a week in advance! Okay, am just being a drama queen. But I hope you do get the drift…

The dish takes time, though the recipe (of my Mum) is pretty easy to execute. But there are a few simple rules to making the Mochar Ghonto:

  • You ought to have a Mocha / Banana Blossom! I got mine from a Chinese grocery store
  • Some soaked red gram
  • Pieces of fresh coconut, to be grated and used as a garnish later
  • A little bowl of mustard oil to lace your fingers, nails, knife and chopping board. The Banana Blossom releases a sap which turns anything in contact a tarnish black in color! The mustard oil helps if not prevents this completely!
  • A big bowl of water, with a tablespoon of salt thrown in!

IMG_0508 Ingredients for Mochar Ghonto are:

Banana Blossom/ Mocha
Quarter cup soaked red gram/lal chola
2 tablespoons grated fresh coconut
3-4 green chilies
2 tablespoons coriander powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour/maida
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Half teaspoon ginger paste
2 tablespoons ghee
2-3 bay leaves

IMG_0509 Peel the bracts, or leaves, to expose the snugly enclosed, delicate, sweetly scented male flowers. Between the little flowers, you will see a hard, dark-colored, pistil-shaped stem. Remove these from each flower by snipping it off with your fingertips.

IMG_0525 As you finish working on each flower, keep throwing them in a bowl. Once you have finished on the whole banana blossom, chop the flowers very finely and throw them in the bowl of salted water.

IMG_0526 IMG_0524 This should be left overnight. The next morning, preferably on a Sunday, drain the water. Cook the chopped banana flowers and soaked red gram in water till they are tender. Pressure cooking works.

IMG_0528 IMG_0532 Drain the water and collect the cooked banana flowers and red gram in a colander. In a bowl, throw in the cooked banana flowers, all-purpose flower, ginger paste, red chili, coriander and turmeric powders. Season with salt and sugar. Mix well with your hands, almost mashing the mixture.

IMG_0535 In a thick pan, heat ghee, add the cumin seeds, bay leaves and slit green chilies. Sauté for a minute on medium heat. Add the banana flower and spice mixture and keep sautéing. The idea to dry up all the moisture and give the mixture a fried texture.


It should take about 10-15 minutes to finish the Mochar Ghonto. Once done, garnish with grated coconut. Your Mochar Ghonto is ready.

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Finish your lunch and pick the phone to fix yourself an appointment with your manicurist!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Women Who Stare at Goat Meat…

…buy two pounds of it, come home, and make Mangsho'r Jhol.


The best thing to serve with Mangsho’r Jhol is plain white rice. I added some halved potatoes too to my jhol today.

A good Bengali usually eats his Mangsho’r Jhol with bhaat on a Sunday afternoon, and then nothing comes between him and his much-deserved siesta.

The recipe for Mangsho’r Jhol or Mutton Curry is here. Another classic combination which any Bengali will rave about is Mangsho and Mishti Pulao.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

South Indian Buttermilk

I was hit by that craving again. This time for the kind of buttermilk I used to have in Bangalore. I guess it was all that talking I did yesterday about the Silicon Valley of India.

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Buttermilk or Chaas in North India is different from its fiery-flavored South Indian counterpart. During hot summer days, women would manthan (churn) this brilliant piece of technology to get the best buttermilk for their families.

In a less traditional set up, a handheld wood churner is used to make buttermilk. But if you have neither, use an electric blender like I did!

Ingredients for South Indian Buttermilk are:

1 cup plain yogurt
Two and half cups cold water
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon very finely chopped green chilies
2 teaspoons very finely chopped coriander leaves
1-2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry roasted and crushed coarsely
Pinch of asafetida


In a blender, add the yogurt, water, salt and asafetida. Give it a whisk for about 30 seconds. Check on the seasoning.

To this mixture, add the chopped ingredients and the crushed cumin. Mix well with a stirrer. Pour in glasses. Serve immediately.

A lot of people in South India add a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves to their buttermilk too.


You can drink a glass of buttermilk to accompany a spicy Indian meal.  But that’s not all, a buttermilk has huge possibilities in an Indian home. It can be served both as an apéritif and as an after meal digestif.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Bangalore introduced me to a few things, including software engineers. When I shifted shores from Delhi to join a global management consulting and technology services company in Bangalore, my parents saw a beacon of hope. I was 27, single and ready to do some mingling.

I settled well in the new city, enjoying the abundance of Vada-Sambar and Puliyogare rice. Not to mention the take away Mutton Rolls from Lazeez whenever I went shopping on Commercial Street.


But the only mingling I did was with my elderly neighbors to get the scoop about the best places to eat “South Indian” food. Or at work with my team which was somewhat a motley crew. We soon formed a group of foodies, who would go out on late night Shawarma jaunts. And embrace each other’s cuisines with wide open mouths during lunch at work.

I had failed my parents yet again. My Mother tried to blackmail me. Again. Since long distance did not work, she came down with bag and baggage and the Times Matrimonials page in her hand.

She had already marked a few prospective grooms who had advertized in that Sunday’s matrimonial page. The keywords were “Bengali” and “Bangalore”.

For the next few days the phone, the Sunday Times of India, a pen and her glasses became her best pals. In the evenings, when I was back from work, she would make me type out inane emails to “boys” who had given out email addresses in their four-line sales pitch.

A meeting was organized with couple of prospective grooms who seemed pretty eager to fit into my Mum’s plan of having them over for coffee in my apartment over the coming weekends.

I am not exaggerating when I say I was aloof and completely disinterested about this very exciting thing happening in my life. One such particular Prospect was to come to meet us on Saturday at 6 PM. My enthusiastic Mum got mishti from outside and began doing prep work for some prawn pakoras. I was to make coffee.

The Prospect arrived pretty much on time, which was a promising sign to begin this outrageously dramatic evening. I noticed he was fumbling on the decision to do a traditional nomoshkar by folding his hands or shake hands with my Mum when she opened the door for him. In the end he couldn’t make up his mind in the five seconds he had, so he let his left hand scratch his right.

I was very amused.

All three of us were seated and the only person talking was of course my Mother. The Prospect worked in a big IT company, and had recently returned from the US of A where he did his PhD. Good catch, eh?

In the middle of his one-way conversation with my Mum, I saw him sneaking glances at my books and CDs.

My Mother went to the kitchen to deep fry her prawn pakoras. This was her plan to let The Prospect and me talk. Very clever, Mommy. All that was heard was the chaak-chuk coming from the kitchen and a stony silence between The Prospect and me.

A hearty spread of evening “snacks” was served, including my Mum’s prawn pakoras. Now let me give you an important piece of information about my Bangalore apartment. I had all my furniture in cane and rattan. Looked pretty dainty and my domestic help could move them around to scrub the floors neatly.



I don’t blame Bengali bachelors living away from their over indulgent Mothers jumping on the sight of food. But what The Prospect did next was blasphemous. He picked up a HOT prawn pakora with his HAND and put it in his mouth, muffling my Mum’s cry of “Careful, its hot!”.

In between gulping the hot pakora down and opening his mouth wiiiiide to nurse the scald, the Prospect ignored the bunch of paper napkins kept on the coffee table and wiped his oily fingers on the sides of the rattan chair he was seated on.

Now such things never miss a house cleaning freak like me. I marched to the kitchen, brought out a kitchen towel, sprayed it with some cleaning slash disinfecting agent, muttered a terse “excuse me” and rubbed the oil spot on the armrest of the rattan chair.

My Mum had an I-am-not-surprised look on her face. The Prospect was trying to ignore what I was doing by looking away.

The remaining evening was spent in an awkward silence with only the sound of The Prospect chomping on the pakoras and the mishti.

My Mum signaled me to get the coffee to end the evening quickly. Now I make a special coffee. Equal quantities of Nescafé and sugar beaten with drops of water till the coffee granules and sugar melt and turn into a creamy, fluffy, light brown mixture. IMG_0465
Then I pour hot milk and water (half and half) onto the beaten coffee and sugar. The result is a rich, creamy, frothy cup of bliss.

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You will agree that having a good life is all about finding the right balance. My next move made sure that The Prospect found that balance in a cup of coffee. I warmed the milk just mildly and mixed it with cold water and poured it over the already prepared coffee-sugar mixture. He was nursing an already burnt mouth, I knew he couldn’t handle a hot cup of fine coffee. I also made sure the skin of the milk was floating in his cup.

The rest of the two cups for my Mum and me had the right temperature of milk and water!

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“How is the coffee?” my Mother asked as The Prospect took his first sip. He looked at me and grumpily said, “khoob bhalo”. Meaning, ask your daughter.

I shot him a 400-watt smile.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sōjnē Dãtā Chorchori

Sōjnē Dãtā is Bengali for Saijhan, Sajna or Drumsticks (Moringa oleifera). Its essentially a summer “vegetable”, where the local bazaar would get these fresh-looking, juicy pods packed with vitamins, calcium, and other important nutrients.

IMG_0356 But nutrients are not exactly the reason I got these juicy Sōjnē Dãtā and made a Chorchori out of them, even though I did not have all the ingredients at home. Traditional Chorchori will have a medley of vegetables and greens, sometimes even fish head.

IMG_0443 My constant cravings had me dreaming about Dãtā almost twice in one week. And a trip to the Bangladeshi store in Danforth helped me get my fill.

 IMG_0460 Ingredients for Sōjnē Dãtā Chorchori are:

4 drumsticks, cut into two inch pieces
1 potato, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons mustard paste
1 tablespoon poppy seed paste
Half teaspoon paanch phoron
Half teaspoon turmeric powder
Half teaspoon red chili powder
1 bay leaf
Mustard oil

Heat oil in a wok, toss the drumstick pieces in and sauté for a couple of minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.


In the same oil, add the potatoes and get some color on them. Remove after 3-4 minutes. You can also add thinly cut eggplant and pumpkin to this dish. I did not have either!
Toss in the paanch phoron and bay leaf and sauté for a minute. Add the already sautéed vegetables, spices and the salt and sugar. Give everything a good mix, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.

IMG_0449 IMG_0450 Add enough water to cover the vegetables and cover. Cook for enough time that the potatoes and drumsticks are done.

Check the seasoning and balance the sweet and salt. If too much water remains in the dish, just crank up the heat and cook for a few more minutes. 
IMG_0459 Enjoy the juicy taste of this Drumstick chorchori with some plain rice. A dish like this is usually preceded by some daal and bhaja and then followed by a fish or mutton curry.