Sunday, October 11, 2015

Assam 1860:

Assam 1860, probably is the newest buzz word of the Tea town. With it's robust, full bodied, strong CTC tea and beautiful packaging it definitely is here to stay.

I was sent a few packets of this CTC blend quite sometime back but with all the travelling and settling down to a new life on my own I totally forgot about it. Finally couls manage to open the packet and make it a couple of days back and honestly I haven't stopped sipping it since then. 

I am not a tea connoisseur but definitely enjoy my tea. Following our long colonial heritage, just cant start my day or go about it without a few cups of good brew. While the morning and evenings are reserved for a strong flavourful  milk tea (no sugar), the mid morning cuppa generally is an aromatic affair with light black tea. Not to mention a couple of cups of green teas in between.

Though I have grown up drinking tea since I was 16 yet taking it seriously came at quite a later stage. At my parents, Tea is made by gallons for all the embroiders, tailors and suppliers who work for my mother. They prefer it strong, milky and sweet. There is nothing fancy about it. and probably that's the reason I never came to appreciate the CTC teas and always made my own combination of CTC to long leaf aromatic tea to get the desired brew. Assam 1860 surprised me in all these categories. First time there is one CTC which is so aromatic yet strong.

For the uninitiated, CTC refers to a method of crush tear curl which quickly gives a dark brew. The robust dark CTC brew takes milk very well and hence is popular Worldwide as breakfast tea. This also is the first choice for making tea bags and masala tea that India is so much in love with. No other tea than the maltier, strong, bright coloured CTC can do justice and unfurl the deep complex flavour that is a pre requisite for making good milk tea.

They say Good tea needs good leaf but at Assam 1860 they believe a good tea is nothing short of Romance."The leaves are plucked, processed and packed in the estate itself, ensuring quality and freshness that is unparalleled. So wherever you are, you might as well be drinking your cup of Assam 1860 on the verdant verandah of the Thowra Bungalow, overlooking graceful rolling greens on our lush terraces."...Yes, it takes the effort of a century and half to make a tea so perfect that makes you fall in love with your cuppa again and again.

And to top that off they have come up with beautifully packaged products. Especially the tea bags, which are made out of linen with stitched edges and neatly packed in a striking black and green pouch are ideal to gift someone who loves her tea.

The Preparation of the Tea: The art of tea brewing is very personal and should be guided by your own palate. But to make a perfect cup of tea you also need good water and milk, especially in India where most areas have hard water or have too much of chlorine in it. To get the best out of any tea use filtered or bottled water. Personally I preferred using 1/3 tsp of Assam 1860 for a cup of Milk or masala tea (no sugar), Which I boiled covered for a minute on very low flame before adding warm milk. 
Surprisingly enough Assam 1860 tea bags are so potent that I used one tea bag to make two cups of my desired brew for black tea. 
To know more or to order online check their website HERE. This is not a paid review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Chicken Bharta, Restaurant Style

October, my favourite time of the year is here again. Yes I love October not only because it's my birthday month or it announces the onset of our biggest festivities around Durga Puja. But October for me is a magical month when suddenly after a long stretch of extreme heat, humidity, incessant rain, waterlogged road, sweat dripping clothes the weather suddenly changes to a beautiful one. Like the touch of a magic wand the gray moody clouds makes way to a fluffier whiter ones on a clear blue sky. Suddenly the wet air turns crisp, the scortching sun  softens, the heavy humid monsoon air becomes redolent with the sweet smell of Shiuli and suddenly on a morning you wake up, look outside and feel happy for no reason.

Yes October with it's clear autumn sky and with the promise that winter is not far by is finally here.

 A change in the season which has so much to look forward to. That  fresh nip in the air, those cute as a button like new cauliflowers in the market, little bauble of dew drops glistening in the morning light and a riot of colour almost everywhere to uplift the withered spirit. After Harsh Summer it gives you a chance to feel alive again and crave for rich spices, warm flavours. It's wonderful how  just a change of weather has the power to rejuvenate everything.

And just because it's October, just because I am happy and just becasue your palette needs a spicy boost up here is my recipe for Chicken Bharta...the real one with deep ruby red oil oozing at the sides, with warm comforting spices and a tongue tantalising taste.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bata Macher Jhal (Labeo bata in mustard gravy)

Bata or Labeo Bata is a very popular fish in Bengal. Being a fresh water fish native to India and Bangladesh it's favoured by the Bengalis in both these countries. Though it is loved for it's taste yet the fine bones deters some from enjoying them.

The people of Bangladesh, the country of many rivers are a big lover of fish. As much as I have encountered their dishes not much vegetables are cooked without some part of fish in it. Unlike Purba Bangla (Indian Bengalis) Bangladeshi people mostly do not fry their fish steaks before adding to the curry. Mainly because whole of Bangladesh has so many rivers that they always gets the freshest catches and do not have to eat fish which are even a day old. And they cook their fishes in myriad of ways and it's very unfair to categorise all their techniques, recipes under a simple name of Curry, which in my opinion would be World's biggest misnomer.

Our very popular macher jhol in Bangladesh is called Salan, salun or Chan where fish is cooked in simple broth of onion and spices. When veggies are added to it It's called Torkari. Similarly a Salan cooked with mustard is called 'Jhal Salan'. Just how we call Macher jhal when it has mustard in it. I was elated to see my theory of 'it's not macher jhal unless you have mustard in it' being supported by Chef Shoukat Osman of Bangladesh in his book Matsanno. I still believe that's how the differences in recipes were done earlier which with time got faded and named as per one's personal preferences.

In our family we have this rule of frying the fish till it's golden for curries with mustard paste, which to our opinion brings out the best flavour. So here is my quick recipe, Sometimes we also add potatoes to this, especially when we have more people to feed. That way the plates look fuller and everyone gets a taste of it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bengali Bhaja Platter ( 5 types of Bengali fries)

If you look up for Bengali Cuisine then you will find Wikipedia saying that " It also has the only traditionally developed multi-course tradition from the Indian subcontinent that is analogous in structure to the modern service à la russe style of French cuisine, with food served course-wise rather than all at once." 
If you look for more then you will find that "Monsieur Daridan, the French Ambassador to India in the 1960's, remarked to his Bengali host in Calcutta that of all the foods in the World, only Chinese and Bengali food could compare with the sophistication of his native fair" (The Calcutta Cookbook)

Yes Bengali meals are probably the only multicourse meals where proper sequence is followed as per the rule of Ayurveda. But not only this if you look closely you will find a sequence is followed in everything from how the dishes would be placed on a plate or how the plate itself is placed in front of the person. Yes there is a traditionally approved method for all this. I remember while shooting for the show Rocky and Mayur's food express I asked Rocky to turn the plate so that the mound of rice is placed on his left. Look at the Thalis in the following picture. We keep a little place at the bottom of the plate so that following the traditional way we could mix each dish with a little rice to consume and taste everything separately. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Garlic Knots

Every night I try hard to make my two kids fall asleep peacefully. It has always been a difficult task but now with the husband being away it has become an herculean one. Every night a lot of effort and time is wasted to make them sleep. In my desperate attempts I start by reading them a bed time story, then I sing all the lullaby I know, I cradle the lil one till my back starts to hurt and then I move to the bed with the toddler on my lap and the first grader by my side. while I frantically move my legs up and down, up and down to rock the baby my right hand tugs and pulls the hair of the sonny boy to give them the comfort they need to fall asleep. and the worst part is till date even after 6 years of being a mother I could not establish a sure shot method to do this. 

Every night I make a fresh start...trying all my ways to soothe their over active nerves...some days I fail and some days are just a tad better.

But this journey of motherhood is not about failure or success.