Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rasmalai and my very innovative take on it

In more ways than one Bengalis and mishti are synonymous. This is Bengal's most prized gift to the World. So much so that now a days sweet shops all over India proudly highlight the fact that they also make Bengali sweets. I can bet if you look around in your locality you will at least find a shop which has that quintessential banner saying 'Bengali Sweets are available here'.

While growing up I never took sweets seriously. I mean it was available every where, whenever I had a craving I could go to the corner mishti'r dokan (sweet shop) and can have my share from numerous types of offerings in every possible size, shape, colour, taste. It was later, much later when I moved to Delhi and found how crazy people are about Bengali mishti. no matter how everyone love making fun of our Bengali pronounciation with excessive stress on the 'O' sound people take Bengali mishtis seriously, very very seriously. and why not this art of sweet making dates back a long long time and needs a lot of patience, skill and finnesse.

As per Dr. K.T. Acharya Bengalis appear to have possess a sweet tooth since time immemorial. It evolved as part of the plentiful availability of fresh milk. The fact that cheese making were never practiced in this part of the world, eventually it led to sweet making either by curdling the milk to get chhana (homemade cottage cheese) or by reducing the milk to prepare khoa or khoya (milk solids). Though initially curdling milk was not considered auspicious. Mainly because Ayurveda never encourages Hindus to take any spoilt food and splitting milk was considered the same.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mochar Chop (Banana Flower Patty, no onion-garlic)

So I am back after what seems like a long long time. Well a month is a big enough time to miss someone...and you did, I know from all your mails and messages. Thank you. No not all were rosy here. first a nasty throat infection followed by a viral drained away all my energy but what got us zapped was when the same viral attacked the daughter. She is only 9 months and had to put on heavy antibiotics. But by God's grace things are better now. a fortnight long holiday at mother's does wonder to a tired drained soul. That familiar smells, things, textures definitely triggers the release of happy-feel good hormones. and After what seemed like the longest period of my life finally I could spend some time with myself. Read a few books after ages and slept like a baby.

Ribhu, my son loves being there too. He got the whole garden to himself and played there for hours. occassionally came rushing to us with big eyes to show us his newest finds. sometimes it's as small as the velvet bug or as big as a fallen papaya leaf. He weaved stories and imagined things with them. and in the afternoon when Didu would feed him his favourite meal he shared his world with us. One day I cleaned my old rusty ladybird cycle and took him to my favourite places...who says you can not take a journey backward in real. 

The daughter enjoyed the fresh air and nature as much as his brother. Especially S the girl helping my mother is very fond of her and took her around. All in all a great break after a really long time and as usual it made me super lazy. Ever since I came back I have been procrastinating everything...including the unpacking. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 Course Global Vegetarian Masterclass at The Corner Courtyard

This was my third visit to this quaint little one of its kind property called 'The Corner Courtyard'. and I must confess I love coming here again and again for the old world charm it has to offer. With its beautifully curated 110 years old British architectural style building, It transposrts youback in time.  Right from the beginning the warm gracious smile of it's attendants, the luxurious colonial feel,  comfy and cosy sitting, an eye for detailed decor and beautifully laid out food will make a promise of a very very good and relaxed time.
from The Corner Courtyard FB page

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lau Pata Bata (Spicy Bottle Gourd leaves Paste) and foraging

Foraging, an ancient art to gather food from nature. Its an age old way to live off mother Earth by gathering or harvesting wild foods. From time immemorial people have depended on this process, either by hunting, fishing or collecting food which is not cultivated formally. Think of the beginning of Human civilisation, people depending on nature, living off a diet of the fruits they picked and the animals they hunted. They raiding the jungle and the fertile shores to look for edible grains, digging up the soil for sweet root vegetables and at the evening goes home and using minimal tool known to them creates a meal for their loved ones.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ukadiche Modak with Nolen gur (step by step method)

All my growing up years I had only three aspirations. To do well in studies so that I can land a good job in Mumbai, to learn Marathi and to marry Sachin Tendulkar. I was insanely in love with that man and was crazy to buy and collect each and every picture that appeared on newspaper or magazines. Thank God it was not this era of Internet or my pile of files would have known no bound. My friends form school and collage will vouch that they loved me for loving Sachin Tendulkar which only meant one more cake to be eaten on Sachin's birthday as well. In my quest to meet him one day, I wanted to learn or do any thing that he loved.

One day I read somewhere that he loves to eat Modak during Ganesh festival. I remember asking and searching around for a modak recipe almost everywhere. But could find nothing. When I look back to that time I find myself smiling at being so naive. Of course I knew how impossible my desire was yet I loved keeping on with it. When he got married, surprisingly my heart didn't feel shattered but I was happy for him and collected all his marriage pictures with his very graceful wife.    

Much later that love was revisited when my husband came to meet me for the first time. One look at him and I made a fool of myself by smiling impishly amidst a houseful of elderly relatives. I could not stop grinning ear to ear as he looked so similar to my Hero. Celebrity or not very soon I fell in love with him for the wonderful person he is. 

and much later in life learnt how to make Modak from my facebook friends Anjali and Preeti and could not wonder to realise how similar modaks are to our very own Puli Pithe. Same technique, same ingredients only the shape is different. I have used Nolen gur or Date palm jaggery for this. What else do you expect from a Bengali like me.

Ukadiche Modak with date palm jaggery
(Makes 10 big moulded ones)

Rice flour: 11/2 cups
Coconut: 3/4 cup freshly scraped
Sesame seeds: 1 tbsp (lightly roasted)
Jagery: 4 tbsp
Sugar: 2 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Water: 11/2 cups
Oil to grease the moulds.

First make the filling by mixning coconut, sugar and jaggery in a heavy bottom pan. cook it on low flame for 5-6 minutes or till the jaggery is absorbed in the coconut and there is no extra moisture. mix in the sesame seeds and cook for another minutes. Take off heat and let it cool.

To make the exterior of the Modak heat the water with the ghee. Use a kadhai or heavy bottom pan to for this. Also keep a vegetable masher and a hardy spatula handy. Once the water comes to a boil add the rice flour and start stirring vigorously. Use all of your elbow grease as the more you knead the more softer, melt in the mouth consistency you will get.

Once the water is absorbed switch off the heat and start mashing the dough with a vegetable masher. Keep mashing for 5-6 minutes. Cover with a moist cloth and let it come down to room temperature. Then again knead for a brief time to make it luscious and soft. The dough should be soft, pliable and smooth.

Now grease your mould and your hands generously. Tighten the mould as shown in the picture. Take a big lemon size ball and press it inside the cavity of the mould. Carefully spread it out and spread against the walls of the mould to get the shape right. Spread all over the cavity and smoothen it. Now fill the cavity with the coconut filling. Be generous and make sure there is no air pocket left. Cover with another piece of dough. Press it to secure this last bit of dough.

Now carefully remove the screw from the side of the mould and carefully open it. Very gently peel the modak from the mould. If you have greased it properly it will come off very easily.

Place them on a sieve or your steamer pan. Repeat the process of preparing the modak and be very sure to clean the modak of any stuck dough and grease it before each use. Keep them covered till all are done and you are ready to steam them.

Steam the modaks for 15-20 minutes or till they are done.

Serve warm with more Jaggery syrup or ghee on them.

To store any leftover, use an air tight container. First bring them to room temperature and then store in fridge.

Hope you will enjoy these modaks as much as Ganapati Bappa does.

A Homemaker's Notes:
For better result use very fine rice flour. The coarser the grains are the imperfect results you will end up with. 

Kneading the dough is very very important. You might have to use more water depending on the quality of the rice flour. try to mash as much as you can while it's till hot and later when you can handle knead it to make it smooth.

You can also add fried nuts (chopped finely) to the filling.

Try to make the exterior as thin as possible for a better result. Mine are little thicker than I would like it to be.