Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bengali Mishti Pulao

The Bengali Mishti Pulao is something that I have always, always invariably overeaten. And that happens even with my own cooking.

When I was little, it was well-known in our family that “Rini loves Mishti Pulao”. So one time my grandmother and I went to lunch at a certain Kakima’s place. The kind lady had made my favourite – Bengali Mishti Pulao and Mangsho. I was about four, maybe five. I had a couple of spoons of the mishti pulao, and said to the unsuspecting aunt, who was probably looking to score some points with a five-year-old pulao connoisseur – “You do not know how to make Mishti Pulao, please learn from my Mama. She makes it the best.”

And I put my spoon down, much to the embarrassment of my grandmother. That was probably the last time we were invited over to that Kakima’s place.

My love for Mishti Pulao has rubbed on to LMN as well. And I am so proud about that. Last month when we were in India, my Mum made her signature Mishti Pulao and gave some to my daughter with little shreds of kosha mangsho. Undoubtedly LMN loved it. I think she even wanted some in her bottle!

033Mishti Pulao is a sweet, aromatic rice dish for the blue-blooded. Its great on its own, but has the capability of taking you to Pulao Heaven if you eat it with slow-cooked mutton curry (or chicken curry), sometimes even chholar dal or alu-phulkopir dalna on that no-non-veg Shoshti day. Its so good, I could take it intravenously.

IMG_9760Though most of the times, I make my Mishti Pulao with high quality Basmati rice, you ought to make it with Gobindobhog rice, the short-grain rice every Bengali vows for. My Mishti Pulao even has fresh green peas in it, just like they serve in Bengali weddings.


Ingredients for Bengali Mishti Pulao are:

2 cups Gobindobhog or Basmati rice (washed and drained, kept in a colander/sieve for 10-15 minutes)
Half cup fresh green peas
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
Handful of cashews
Handful of raisins
2 tablespoons ghee
2 + 2 green and black cardamoms
4-5 cloves
1 medium size stick of cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 bay
Few drops of lemon juice
3 and a quarter cups of water

IMG_9918Begin by heating the ghee in a wok/pan.


IMG_9919Add to the ghee the bay, cinnamon, cardamoms, and cloves in no particular order. Give them a minute to crackle and make the ghee fragrant. Now throw in the cashews and raisins. Make sure you turn the heat to the lowest mark, lest the cashew and raisins burn.

raisinsAs soon as they turn golden brown, add the rice. Mix it around to coat with the ghee and other ingredients. After about 3-4 minutes, add the peas, ginger and turmeric.

green peas



Mix all the ingredients with the rice. And move the rice around in the pan for 2-3 minutes on low-medium heat. Now add the salt and sugar. Mix and keep in the pan for a minute more. Its important to now turn the heat off lest the sugar melts and caramelizes the rice. That’s a spoiler.

IMG_9927Add the grated nutmeg and pour the rice into a microwaveable bowl, and squirt a few drops of lemon. Add three and a quarter cups of water, seal the bowl with a lid or cling wrap and microwave for 20-22 minutes.

IMG_9929Do a taste test and add more salt or sugar if needed. Serve the Mishti Pulao with Mutton Curry, Chicken Curry, Chholar Dal or eat on its own. And praise the Lord, for there is nothing compared to a bowlful of Bengali Mishti Pulao.


Super Fast Mushrooms in Minced Garlic and Parsley

I promise this will be quick. This is one of those lame recipes which when brought to the dinner table has the personality to rub shoulders with your gorgeous main. Pair it with our centrepiece chicken roast or baked cauliflower, even your toasty baguette, and you will have a winner!

IMG_1928After the scintillating debut this dish made to our dinner table the other day, with about just a pound of Swiss brown mushrooms, the husband got all enthusiastic and got one kilo of white and brown mushrooms for two and a half people!




Yes, the baby ate it too and quite enjoyed sucking on the garlic sauce from the quartered mushrooms we gave her.

Ingredients for Mushrooms in Minced Garlic and Parsley are:

500 grams of any variety of small mushrooms, stalks removed, cleaned
1 pod of garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

In a pan or wok, heat the butter and the olive oil together. Add the minced garlic and parsley to the oil-butter. Let them sauté for a minute or two, make sure you don’t burn the garlic.

IMG_2175Now add the mushrooms face down if you are making about a pound. Make sure some of the garlic and parsley also goes inside the hollow of the mushrooms. You can also mince the garlic and parsley together, so that the flavours get married to each other right on your chopping board.


Let the mushrooms get some color from the butter-olive oil in the pan for the next 2-3 minutes. Then stir fry them on high heat for another couple of minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Stir again. You will see the natural juices of the garlic and parsley bubbling at the bottom of the pan. That’s when you know you ought to turn the heat off and stop cooking the mushrooms.

IMG_2192Serve the Mushrooms in Minced Garlic and Parsley immediately. You can even serve this as an appetizer in a party. Just stick fruit picks in each mushroom and have the beautiful platter go around.


I had leftovers the next day and I used them to make a mushroom soup in chicken broth, with boiled and shredded chicken and tofu. There was no need for seasoning either. It was that good.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chingri Kaliakari or Malaikalia, Its the Mother of Prawns Anyway!

So my Mum’s hybrid version of this chingri dish created some kind of buzz with my readers.


What was made by my Mum as an inventive, something-in-between a Kalia and a Malaikari turned out to be this head-turning stunner. We had it during our trip to India last month, and I was completely stumped by the way it teased me with its rich and silken taste, both at the same. I asked Mum, “What do you call this dish?” She said, “Its a no-name chingri. Just eat it.”

That was enough titillation for the food writer in me.

So here I am, writing down the recipe for you. Of course the creator of this recipe, my Mum has been adequately consulted about the ingredients and measurements.


Ingredients for Chingri Kaliakari or Malaikalia are:

*Thank you Sharmita Saha for the name suggestion.

IMG_188012 large tiger shrimps/prawns (Use golda chingri if available)
1 medium size red onion, grated
1 large red, ripe tomato grated
Quarter cup grated fresh coconut (I use the frozen kind)
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon green chilli paste or use 2-3 whole (don't add if kids are eating!)
2 + 1 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground garam masala powder (cinnamon, cloves, green and black cardamoms)
1 or 2 bay
4-5 tablespoons mustard oil
1 heaped tablespoon ghee

IMG_1884Start by deveining and cleaning the heads of the prawns. I kept the tail on to make the shrimps looks pretty! Rub a couple of spoons of turmeric and salt.


Heat mustard oil in a wok. Add the prawns in batches and cook them on each side for a couple of minutes. Once the prawns turn pink, take them off the heat.


In the leftover oil, add half a teaspoon of sugar and let it caramelize. Take care not to burn it.

IMG_1890Add the bay, grated onions, garam masala powder and green chillies and mix. Cover and cook these ingredients on low heat for 7-8 minutes till the onions start turning light brown.


Now add the ginger-garlic paste and continue to cook covered for about five more minutes.

IMG_1899Next add the tomato and coconut, and mix. Add the turmeric and red chilli powder and continue cooking on low heat and covered all the time. It takes about 10-15 minutes of slow cooking for the raw taste to go away from the ingredients.

IMG_1901IMG_1903You will see little oil bubbles around the masala, season with salt and sugar and mix. Add the ghee at this point in time and cook for a couple more minutes.

Its safe to add water to your onion-tomato-coconut masala now. Add about one and a half cups of water and cover. Let this cook for another 7-8 minutes. Make sure you use gentle heat while cooking your masala sauce. We don’t want the onions and coconut to burn and give the dish a bitter taste.

IMG_1905One the gravy comes to a bubbling boil, slide in the prawns one at a time, making sure you don’t separate the heads from the tails.

Cook the prawns on medium heat in the gravy for about 6-7 minutes. Do a taste test and add sugar and salt if needed.


Serve your Prawn Kaliakari or Malaikalia with plain rice. And like most Indian dishes, it tastes even better the next day. In case you have leftover gravy, preserve it in the freezer. On another day, just sauté some shrimps and add to your leftover sauce and cook for 7-8 minutes. Voila! That saves you from all the grating and grinding.