Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Light Fruitcake: for Christmas

4:56 AM

Of all the festivals, Christmas always has a special appeal to me. No mass celebrations, no offerings, no show offs but a pure way of celebrating relationships and togetherness. . I love the way the celebration revolves around family and bonding. Bringing all our loved ones close to share some beautiful moments of togetherness. It’s a time to give, to share, to bond, to hope and to remind ourselves how much we are cared for.

I adore the way Christmas time weaves a beautiful utopian world for kids. An innocent, magical world of hope and faith. It’s a pleasure to watch their eyes twinkle when they hear the stories of Santa and his gifts. Their bright expecting eyes and the happy smiles with which they hang their socks, offer cookies and milk and awaits their gifts belongs to a time which is not long lived. But no matter how young or old we are, nothing beats the delight of receiving unexpected gifts from others.
What could be a better way to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus and the blessings of hope, peace and love that came down from heaven above than to celebrate and pray together as a family.

Christmas for me is never complete without some good fruit cake. Either store bought or home made. But after tasting the homemade one I definitely would never go back to any shop for my dose of Christmas fruit cake. If you remember I posted one rich fruit cake recipe some 2 years back. I pretty much follow the same recipe till date, but with time have devised my own way of preparing it that suits me the most. Now, am confident and can bake it without fail. Am planning to post that revised recipe next but today I would like to share a light fruit cake recipe which could be prepared any time the cravings strike. It doesnot require the month long soaking of fruits or stirring your own caramel but is just as delicious.

Light fruit cake

Please mail to ahomemakersdiary@yahoo.in for the recipe. Thanks
I got this recipe from a book baked it this year for the first time. Trust me its gorgeous and perfect for those who doesnot like boozy flavours in their bakes. So if you think this year you missed the mark and cannot make some fruit cake for your family, don’t worry. Gather the fruits and nuts of your choice and bake it today. You have enough time to rest the cake before Christmas to mature the flavor and taste. 


Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Oats and Coconut Cookies with Nutella icing

8:39 AM


Some people are lazy and then some are lazier. And if you are looking for the laziest then look no where here I am. don’t know what has gotten into me this year but am feeling uninspired. Planning to make a lot of things but when it comes to cooking I don’t want to enter the kitchen, or more strangely am cooking and eating but don’t feel like clicking the food. Such a bad phase for a food blogger.

But given the circumstances I should have simply divulged in baking.  as this year would be the first time when am around my own people. First time when during Christmas I would get some 20 hungry mouths to stuff my cakes and cookies with. Almost all my cousins have planned to visit us in Santiniketan for Poush meal. But rather than baking gorgeous goodies I kept on procrastinating the whole process.

Anyways finally yesterday was able to gather myself up and baked the family favourite oats and coconut cookies. And while am writing this post a light Christmas fruit cake is being baked. This cookie is one of those recipes that made me confident about baking. Its easy and almost no fail recipe. I have been baking these for 3-4 years now and it has never let me down. Its easy and even an amateur baker can bake these cookies with perfect end result. the best part is the oats gives it a nutty flavour and an healthy edge. Sometimes I add chocolate chips but today wanted to jazz them up for Christmas. So iced and decorated it with melted nutella, white chocolate and chopped pistachios.

Desserts and Sweets

Gajar Ka Halwa (Carrot Halwa)

8:57 AM


I am sucker of seasonal produce. I know am repeating the same thing again and again but there is something in the freshest of vegetables that makes me happy instantly. I also love this fact that we Indians highlight seasonal produces in every aspect of our life. Take any season and we have some delicacies planned around that season’s availability. You cannot name a home. Though available almost all year around but you cannot name a home where pickles are not made in summer or gobi ka paratha is not enjoyed for winter breakfasts. In our home though we eat healthy light food almost the whole year but winter is a different story altogether. We simply cant resist to cook with the colourful vegetables this season offers. So fresh, so juicy, so colourful it’s a sin not having them this time of the year. At least once we would make karaishuntor kochuri (green pea stuffed fried flatbread)and notun alur dom (newpotato curry), nolen gurer payes (rice pudding with date palm jaggery), pithe and Gajorer halua or gajar ka halwa. It’s a tradition and I don’t want to break that.

Last weekend when my local sweetshop finally declared that they would now sell milk solids or khoya I knew tht this is the time to make one of the most enjoyed Indian delicacy, Gajar ka halwa or carrot halwa. This is so famous and so much loved that it almost enjoy an iconic status. take any old hindi movie from the 70’s or 80’s. Somewhere in the movie gajar ka halwa is mentioned. Either it is made by a mother to treat the son who was away on some noble mission or by a daughter in law to prove her culinary skills. Growing up watching all these I always thought preparing this delicacy must have been very difficult. Though maa prepared this every year but as long as I had my bowl full of warm ghee soaked halwa, I never bothered to check how she made it. I first made this when after marriage a group of husband’s friends came for dinner. I prepared the dish for the first time and then with time I have devised my own way of cooking this. I really don’t mind making it rich and with lots of dry fruits because in our home its made only once or twice each season. Below is my version.

Memoir

Let's Pray...

11:06 AM

By now you all must have seen this  tragic fire in AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, which has claimed 91 lives so far. The worst tragedy of recent times when people dies at a place where they think they are at safe hands. Its not the death of some helpless patients but with them our faith and trust in such institution also dies. We are shocked, angry, sad, scared and helpless all at the same time and are still shivering every time the footage is shown on TV. All we can do is to pray to God to bless the souls who died and give courage to their families. Who were forced to watch helplessly when their near and dear ones were choked to death. though not family but I mourn with them. 

Rest in Peace....

Meat n Poultry

Winter Warmth: Warm Mediterranean Salad

11:07 AM

Here is a quick post to bring you some winter comfort. A perfect bowl of warm vegetable and egg salad. We love this salad and it fits the bill perfectly when you don’t want to slog in the kitchen for hours to prepare dinner. Just cut the veggies thickly, blanch them in salted water, toss with some olive oil and herbs and there you are, with an warming meal. Serve in pretty bowls, curl up on the sofa, wrap your finger tightly around it and enjoy the goodness.

I prepared this long back in Bangalore, when the single cherry tomato plant from my green patch was generous enough to fulfill all my requirements. It was difficult even for us that the tree grew from a single cherry tomato that I brought from my favourite super market and just buried the whole thing in the vegetable garden. Almost a year later that turned into a huge bush laden with small cutesy tomatoes. I really miss that garden especially when am tied here with two tiny spaces passed on as balconies.

The recipe belongs to a cookbook called ‘Mediterranean; quick and simple recipes’, which I got from my library. it’s a paperback but contains some real good recipes. After drooling at the picture for some days I finally decided to make it with some minor amendments to suit my situation. So here is my version. Pardon the lousy pictures which were clicked at night and we then were really struggling with the new DSLR. Give it a try this season. It’s a bowlful of goodness, which will keep you warm.

Chutney Pickle n Preserves

No Oil Sweet and sour LemonPickle

11:13 PM

Pickling is an ancient art of preserving seasonal produce. All over the world fruits and vegetables are preserved in oil or brine to enjoy in lean seasons. But for us Indians its much more than that. Pickle for us is that inevitable part of our meal without which our taste buds are not satiated. A breakfast of hot alu paratha on some chilly winter morning is unimaginable without a spoonful of chili pickle on top. Or take our very own humble khichuri. It does not taste the same without some sweet n sour mango pickle at the sides.

And to satisfy that cravings we have a long list of varieties of pickles. In India pickle making is a tradition, which is shared by almost all households. Our mothers and grandmothers have always taken out time in every summer and winter to make those special pickles using the secret family recipes. They will order mangoes in summer and many an afternoons will be spent peeling and cutting and drying them under hot sun. In winter aunts and elder sisters from the neighbourhood will also join in the pickle making process while enjoying the late afternoon sun. They will talk for hours while picking through the tomatoes, chilies or limes with careful eyes. The vegetables would then be cut and mixed with spices. Pungent mustard oils would be poured and the cooking of all the spices with the oil will create a heady aroma, which will stay there for some days bearing the memory.

In our ancestral home we used to have a huge room called Bhandar ghar or food storing room. The room had huge ceramic and earthen pots and most of them were filled with various types of pickles and murabbas. I can still remember those early afternoons when men of the house went to work and unlike other such normal days the kitchen still buzzed with activities. It was a long time consuming process of measuring, dry roasting, grinding, mixing and cooking the spices. but everyone seemed to enjoy that over some chitchatting, leg pulling and gossips. Even they did not mind the month long process of bringing the jars outside every morning to cook it. Later the finished pickles were poured in huge jars with utmost care and stored in the pantry. Every time someone left home for hostel or for work small batches were taken out to pack for them. To make their bland hostel food bearable and also to remind them the love and warmth of home.

My mother still do the same every summer and winter. Though not such big batches that my grandmother used to make but still pretty much a decent quantity to feed her three kids and their families. The two little ones in the family have already picked their favourite and never stay away from ordering Didu to send some more when their jars are empty. Lately I also have started learning and making these pickles and preserves sharing them among family members. I love this process where so much of my family tradition is attached. Every time I refill my elder brother’s stock of Gur aam, his eyes light up. This makes me proud and makes me believe that am walking on the footsteps that have a long history of tradition.

My Home and Garden

Mid-week Cheer

7:03 AM

Winter has finally entered our part of the world. After a month long peek-a-boo we can finally feel the chill in the air. And to cheer us all various fairs and exhibitions have started all over Kolkata. Every weekend is like a fun trip around the city. But things are always not such fun. This weekend at the handicraft fair my purse was stolen. This is my first such experience and I was stunned. It took me a couple of hours to believe what actually has happened. By that time we reached home and hubby and I were busy blocking the various credit and debit cards that were also lost. Finally after 2 days the works are done and to cheer my gloomy self I baked a fresh batch of Moroccan Orange muffins. Will share the recipe soon but today here are some clicks that brought immense happiness to me.

First, my 2 and half year old little sunshine. This is his bunny face that he makes if given something that he does not like. I gave him some carrot juice to drink when he was back from school…rest of the story is written on his face.
This is what I did with the leftover orange peel. Saw this at pinterest and wanted to try this at home. Very easy to make. check out this video for the how to part. That smelled amazing.
Filled the home with a soft and sweet citrus-y aroma. Am definitely going to make this again and again through out winter.
Last but not the least the handmade dry flowers. I bought some at the craft fair and was so enthused, made some at home too. 
What do you think of them? Aren't they gorgeous?


What brings you cheer in the middle of the week? Share you stories too.

Bengali

Fulkopi Alu'r Dalna to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

10:42 AM


Few years back I dint know what thanks giving day is all about and frankly speaking I dint care. As a young girl I was not aware what real responsibilities mean. I loved my family, took care of them, did whatever work they gave me but somewhere in my mind I knew I am taken care of. I knew whether I do it or not works would be done to make our life smooth and running. But today it’s a different story. Yes every now and then I complain for being stuck in the household chores and how the hubby is getting all the fun by going to work. I get angry on my little one for scattering his toys and creating a mess. I argue with my father for little little things and throw a feat every time Maa says something critical. Forget about the way I argue like a mad woman when traffic is stuck in the road or the summer heat is unbearable.
A bunch of water Hyacinth flowers, collected on our way back from the property in the suburbs. Its a spectacular scene  when they bloom together all over the water bodies. 
But at the end of the day when I come to bed to my family, that little soft bundle smelling of milk and innocence gives me comfort. I feel blessed to have him in my life, for having this luxury and stay at home to watch him grow, to hold him tight anytime I feel like. So every night I count my blessings and Thank God for everything. For having this opportunity of being treated as equal with my brothers,  to have such loving parents and siblings providing me a cushion to fall back upon, to have such a wonderful husband like ‘A’ who listens to my every whim and unconditionally supports and believes in me, to have wonderful friends and family who appreciate every little things I do for them, to have a beautiful son in ‘R’ who never never forgets to tell me ‘tumi khub bhalo Mummum (you are a very good mother)’, to have a family to come back to, to have enough food to cook and feed them, to do things that I enjoy and mostly to be myself.
A visitor who came to say Hi!!! 
But life is not fair everywhere and sometimes without any reason. This relisation have made me more optimistic. I have learnt to thank, to appreciate and to be grateful. The glass is always half full for me and nothing is taken for granted anymore. So today when I feel gratified I also pray to God to bring good health, peace and happiness to everyone. While I write this lets look around ourselves and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It's the little moments that make life big.

Fulkopi’r torkari is a light flavourful curry made with cauliflower, potatoes and green peas. This dish is also a simple everyday dish, but what makes it special is the fresh seasonal produce. I waited for my mom’s vegetable garden to deliver the first homegrown cauliflower of the season to cook this dish. The cauliflowers she grew are small and not perfect. But the fact that they are Tended and cared for with love brings joy to the table. Its not only food that nourishes our body but also something that soothes our soul.

Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Best Ever Eggless Banana Muffin

1:14 AM

This shot is inspired by a similar picture of Dario Milano
Everyone makes lemonade when life gives us lemon. But a foodie thinks differently and she rather chooses to make some lemon curd. So few months back when I was endowed with huge piles of bananas I exactly knew what I was making. This dates back to this when my uncle was hospitalized for his bypass surgery. Its another story that the operation took him a whole of 3 months to finally  being discharged from the hospital.He kept going in and out of the hospital for several wrong reasons and negligence of the doctors.Thank God that he is finally fine and has joined work as well.

My Meso works for Idian forest department and is an avid gardener. In their ancestral house they have a huge garden where every variety of fruits and vegetables are cultivated. It was pretty obvious that everyone who came to visit him during his stay brought bagfuls of fruits and vegetables from their garden. The variety kept on changing. Sometimes it was bagful of spinach, pointed gourds, brinjals and other times it was pumpkin, bottle gourd and mangoes. But one thing that was pretty constant to appear on a weekly basis was banana. Every time someone came, they brought bunches of banana, consisting of 50-60 fruits. So much so that even after eating them for breakfast, evening snack and after dinner dessert we had huge piles of bananas.  My so deep fry loving maternal uncle jumped with joy and advised us to make some kalar bora or sweet banana fritters. But I went bananas at the thought of using so much oil.
So I came up with this idea of making eggless banana muffins, full of nutrition from almonds and banana…healthy and delicious. The best part is it’s easy to prepare, easy to store, easy to carry and one can enjoy this as a snack or as a nutritious dessert. With this in stock you are sorted. Serve them to your sudden guests, pack them for hubby’s evening sncak or kids tiffin box. Everybody loved it when I first served it with evening tea. When my MIL who does not have much appetite for sweet things(including me*) reached for the second muffin I knew it’s seriously good.


On another note I went through a root canal treatment this weekend and its painful. while I recover and kill time with the internet you enjoy this recipe.

Here is my version of turning scrap to fab!

Noodle and Pasta

Pasta Primavera with Fresh Basil

3:19 AM

I always love this time of the year and loving it more here in Kolkata. The weather is pleasant with bright sunny days and soothing nights. There is a crispness in the air which makes it impossible for us to stay home in the evening. All we want is to go out and enjoy the fresh air. Though that is not much possible in a crowded city like Kolkata still we are going out every evening to have a walk around the locality.

Another thing that brings cheer to me is the fresh winter vegetables that have started appearing in the market. Though in this age of preservation almost everything is available the yaer around yet there is something special about the seasonal fresh produce. I love roaming around the local vegetable and fish market, touching and smelling just from the farm greens and vegetables.
All these together make me crave some fresh flavours and light saucy meals, which could be enjoyed while watching our favourite Programs. So this weekend when I found some fresh basil in our local Spencer's I instantly knew what I am going to make. So Pasta Primavera it was for us that night with loads of fresh basil thrown in for that heady aroma. I paired that flavour with some freshly squeezed lemon juice…together they were refreshingly comforting.
Pasta Primavera is an Italian –American dish where loads of crisp spring vegetables are added to the pasta. Primavera means spring so its wise to choose crisp fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, beans, onions, corns etc. The flavours here are kept very simple and mostly are finished with sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese. Our kid is a sucker of cheese and he could eat it as is. I chose an array of fresh vegetables including new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, beans, fresh corn, capsicum, carrots, onion and loads of garlic. Here is how I did…

Bengali

Tinkona Parota Ar Alur Dom; Perfect Bengali Breakfast for the Festival

1:10 AM

This Diwali I was extremely lazy and trust me or not dint prepare a single thing for the festival.Managed to clean the house for Durga puja and luckily my new maid is very good at keeping things as it is. Hubby would be soon off for a long abroad trip so the only thing that I find myself doing is washing, ironing and packing things for him. In between that am cooking meals in a ziffy and  lazing with books in front of the TV, where its ‘Chota bheem’ playing all the time. The baby on the other hand was home as his school was closed for the week and he did whatever he wanted to with double the energy. Really Wished could have borrowed a little enthusiasm from him to cook at-least one festival item for Diwali. Rather I searched for restaurants near our locality and finally went to Rajdhani for a huge festive thali meal.

The baby though was very happy. Now he is at an age when he has started understandng and enjoying things. That whole morning he kept on jumpng and screaming when the electricians fitted fairy lights around our housing. Went out with his father and Dadu with a long list of various coloured lighting crackers and candles that he needed. By evening he stared shouting for some red, blue, yellow tinkle tinkle lights (twinkling fairy lights) and candles around the house. He was so stubborn that finally I had to get out of my ‘lazing all day round’ mode and take him to the nearby shop. Once home he demanded to light up all the candles he bought.

So it was lights and candles all around the house. Below are some clicks of that evening...
The various candle holders from my collection
Lavender scented Candle on the Dining Table 
Some Diyas to the Deity and a hand painted Lantern
A Half-done wall painting project glowed in the soft lights
on the Fridges and Shoe rack
 On the bookshelf where the little one neatly arranged the leftover candles around the lit one

But am not that a bad and lazy person you see, rather am clever so even when hubby could have started complaining about no festive food at home, the next morning I prepared this typical Bengali breakfast. which is the Bengali style triangular and layered fried flat bread with potato gravy. Its like the Eastern counter part of North Indian paratha for breakfast…only difference is our parota is sinfully made with bleached white flour and loads of oil. Which is poured right from the word ‘Go’. First we add generous amount of oil as shortening then we roll and shape it with little more oil and finally oil is drizzled in an generous manner on the paratha while cooking….pretty scary. Though this paratha is a regular fix in most Bengali families for Sunday breakfast but in our 5 years of marriage this is the first time I prepared it.
 Any potato curry complements this dish really well to give you an instant nirvana. You can make simple alu bhaja (fried potato juliens) or alu’r bati charchari but both of us like it with some gravy. So I prepared a simple and light alu’r dom. If you like the spicier version of this curry please see this. Though all purpose flour and me are not best of friends still once in a while we love to have this. Have this on a lazy weekend when no work is scheduled. Enjoy this breakfast with your favourite newspaper and a cup of tea. for me the best part is its so heavy and filling that instantly you will like to hit the bed and doze off, skipping the lunch.No more cooking for that day.

Bengali

Narkel-er Tokti or Coconut and milk Solid fudge

1:16 PM

My son started going to school from yesterday. I don’t know how to express myself but am happy, excited, elated and scared at the same time. Excited because the whole process reminded me of the time when I first hold that bundle of joy some 2 and 7 months back. All wrapped in cothes, not moving a finger yet still making many  statements with his eyes. since then he has been like my constant companion, my sidekick, we hardly have spent any time without each other since his birth. I am happy also to see my little one growing up every day. Every time I look at him I realize something new about him and starting school is like embarking on a new journey of developing  a new world for himself. I know am sounding like a sloppy mother but that’s what I feel right now as I am on a roller coaster journey of emotions. I am sad and miserable at the same time as the baby who knew no one but his mother will start making a life and world for himself from now on. I know I need o let him fly and help him to gather air under his wings but still the mother in me feels miserable for the 2 hours he is at school.
The baby on the other hand is very excited and loves his school. The first time we took him there he almost refused to come back to us. All he wanted was to play with all the toys there.  I really was a little worried and thought he would have cold feet on the first day and would cry but he was too enthusiastic, a little too much for my comfort. Come on dint we all cry on our first day to school and pleaded with our parents not to leave us there all alone among starngers. But that dint happen to my son, the one who came home teary eyed was me. Hubby tried to support me by saying that he would always be there by my side. But still are not every 2 and half year supposed to cry and miss their mother?  Am not sure yet and life seems quite complicated. So while I figure that out, yu relish this recipe of simple sweet made with coconut.
We Bengalis allow ourselves a long time till Diwali or Kali puja to share bijoya greeting. So am taking that priviledge and here is another recipe to serve your guests during the festivals. Narkeler tokti or sometimes also called chandrapuli is generally a sandesh or fudgy sweet made with coconut and milk solids. Though it share almost the same ingredients as Narkel naru still its very different in taste, texture and shape. While grated coconut is used for Naru, the same s ground to a smooth paste to give tokti its smooth and soft texture.  Its an elegant looking sweet which could be prepared in a jiffy to impress  your guests.

Bengali

Elo Jhelo; A Crunchy and sweet treat to wish ‘Shubho Bijaya’

1:39 PM



I know am awfully late in wishing you Shubho Bijaya, Happy Dassera and Shubh Navrati. But trust me, I have reasons and these are not at all lame excuses. I have been travelling a lot which has made me tired, sick and weak. So much so that right now am on antibiotics to overcome the congestion in my chest. Yes its that bad. But being late is always better than not wishing you at all. So here is a big bear hug coming your way with Bijaya greetings. How did you enjoy the puja my friends? Mine was very relaxed. We spent time together as family but missed going out and pandal hopping. Kolkata was full of huge pandals and beautiful artistic decorations. Even our own apartment association celebrated the puja in a very nice homey manner. We loved the themes and decorations that the famous pujas of Kolkata selected this year and wanted to visit the pandals. But they are not my cup of tea. One has to stand in a que at least for 2-3 hours or more to get into the main pandal near the Durga idol. That too after covering a 10 minutes distance in a couple of hour. Most roads are blocked and it seems whole Kolkata spent time on streets on those five days. So we rather chose to get away from all the hustle and bustle to spent time in a quite village at my in laws place.

We only went out once all decked up in new sarees and matching jwelleries, Visited lots and lots of relatives and enjoyed our time of togetherness. We also went to Santiniketan to my parents and loved our mid night quite visits to all the pandals in Santiniketan and around. 
Below are the pictures of one of my favourite puja which I love to visit every year. Remember this post where I shared the story behind a very unique weekly craft market? This puja belongs to the same area of Boner pukur danga near Santiniketan Ashrama. This puja is called 'Hiralini Durgotsav, which was started in 1989 by an artist and teacher Bandhan Das. He is no more but what he has left is his touch of beauty and art. Right from the idol to pandal decorations to puja preparations, everything have a touch of art.  He planned to create 5 different Durga idols which would be totally different in material and look. Which they use on alternative years and repeat the same after each 5 years. When one idol is made of the regular clay the others are made of wood, metal and other materials. The protima is unlike any we generally see in pandals.  Here Maa does not hold any weapon rather she holds beautiful lotus flowers in her ten hands to bring in World peace. Another unique point about this puja is the involvement of local santals. They take care of every preparation and minute details. They bring a distinctive tribal flavor to the whole atmosphere. The evenings are filled with their performances like tribal dance, drama and weapon skills. I have heard that along with regular khichuri bhog they also offer tari (fermented Palm sap; Toddy).

Picture: Somnath on picasa
Picture: Sujit Sengupta
courtesy: Subhendu Dhabal
This year they were worshipping the metal idol. We went there at about 11:30 at night and there was not enough light. But still we managed to get some photos which I am sharing below. It had a very quaint feel to it amidst the sonajhuri forest and the unique wavy red laterite soil formation called Khoai. Local craftsmen sell their art in small stalls around the area. They also bring in authentic Bengali festival foods like ghugni, pithe etc.

Today am also sharing a fried dough sweet pastry called Elo jhelo which is almost synonymous to Bijaya or the last day of Durga puja, symbolizing good over evil. This is very similar to the preparation of Jibe gaja that I shared earlier, but the form of this snack is very different. Below is my quick recipe.

Bengali

First Guest Post: Kasha Mangsho and Polao/ Bengali Style dry Chicken Curry and Rice Pilaf

9:15 AM



This is the time of the year when we long to go home, a time of family get togethers, food and festivities. but our busy schedules sometimes dont allow us to do that our heart desires. so when some of us soak in the festivities  some cannot do that due to their prior commitments. yet we try to celebrate the puja wherever we are by getting ready in new clothes, visiting the local puja place and cooking special meals for friends and family.  we try hard to recreate the special magic of this very special festival and taste of home. My Orkut friend Krishna is one such person. She stays in USA and shares glimpses of her life and kitchen at her newly started blog Always Smile. The thing that makes her very special is her enthusiasm in everything creative. a vibratious and enthusiastic person who finds time for doing new crafts and trying out new recipes. She is here today to share a very favourite Bengali meal of Kasha Mangsho and Pulao.

Kasha Mangsho/ Chicken Kasha or Bengali style dry chicken curry is the glamorous version of this homey Sunday special chicken curry that I shared sometimes back. This is a very special dish made specially on occasions like birthdays, wedding parties or large get togethers. The polao or Bengali preparation of aromatic white rice pilaf is the perfect accompaniment for this royal chicken dish. together they make my experience of having  first guest post very very special.

Over to you Krishna...

It is almost four years that I left my home country to come to the USA. Since then, I have been participating in Durga Puja celebrations here. Actually it is not four years, rather eight years I was not in Calcutta during pujas. Though the flavor of Calcutta-puja is not present here still I don’t miss that much. Rather, I enjoy cooking special dishes during the puja time here.  So, when Sayantani invited me to contribute on her blog, I readily accepted that. Since I received her request I had been wandering what to cook? At last I decided to cook Bengali polao and chicken kasha on Saturday, 1st October. The menu for rest of the puja-days is yet to be decided. Here I’m sharing the recipe of Polao and chicken kasha. Unfortunately I cannot tell that these recipes are very authentic, because I changed it little bit during cooking.

Bengali

Chana’r Payes (Bengali Style Cottage Cheese and Milk Pudding)

10:58 AM

 Today is Mahalaya, the end of Pitripaksha and the beginning of auspicious Devipaksha, the time when Bengalis all over the world gears up for the celebration of their biggest festival Durga Puja. At the crack of dawn through chanting of Mahisashur Mardini mantras, we pray and invite the goddess to descend on Earth. (read my last year's post here)


Today is also my and hubby’s birthday. Yes! Like our lives we also share our birthdays. But today all of us are very tired. We just got back from our trip to Orissa and the change of weather has made the baby sick. The maid is also absent for the last 10 days after she got her new dress and bonus for the puja. Now am highly suspicious that she is gone for good and its high time that I look for a substitute. With loads of laundry and a dirty house almost made theirs by the ants and spiders in our absence, I hardly get any time to plan anything for the big day.
I also am very low on energy right now to cook a full-fledged meal for us, so happily shelved that idea of an elaborate birthday meal for another bright sunny day. Rather planned for a mousse cake and good home delivery. But call it family pressure or whatever I at least have got 12 calls since morning with birthday wishes and esquires about the menu for our big night. Finally I had to give in when even my 4 years old niece wished and asked me if I had made payes. So finally I had to surrender and decided on this chanar payes, which my man can’t resist.

Chanar payes also known as ‘channamrito’ is not very common in Bangali mishti’r dokan or sweet shops. Rather very few chosen shops sell this delight in small plastic cups. Chanar payes is always enjoyed chilled with some chopped green goodness of pistachios. This cardamom or keora flavoured thick creamy and little grainy dessert is a delight to eat. The recipe is quite easy to assemble provided you have patience to stir the milk to thicken it to desired consistency. Below is the recipe

Soup and Salad

Grilled eggplant, fresh vegetable and chickpea salad with za’atar

9:50 AM



For most homealone lunches I prefer to have salads or soups. Like many of you cooking for self is not something I enjoy and some dats even whipping up a soup seems like a task. Those days fresh salads come into my rescue. Recently hubby went to Chennai for a week and I took a break from the kitchen chores. Apart from cooking the baby’s food I prefer not to enter there and lunch comprised of some fresh salads with grilled veggies, paneer and cheese.

This is one salad that I particularly enjoyed. There is not much recipe but the za’atar gave it an extra edge. For all those who does not know what za’atar is I will refer this link. In short it is a middle eastern spice which is a mix of several dried herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac. This has a very nutty taste and a lovely green color. I got my batch from Israel which Hubby got for me on his last trip there. In my pantry this is mostly used as a topping for focaccia bread and manakeesh or as a seasoning for salads and cocktail samosas. If you don’t have this try adding dried herbs like oregano or mixed Italian seasoning and top it with dry roasted sesame seeds.

The extra crunch of the fresh vegetables like cucumber, carrots, tomato, corn and onion goes really well with this soft grilled eggplant and the nutty flavours of za’atar. Here is the quick recipe.

Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake With Chocolate Butter Cream Icing

12:52 PM



I am the designated birth cake baker for my family and some friends. For every birthday they know where the cake is coming from. Now a day all they do is give me a call to confirm the flavour and the colour. Now September and ocober are the months of birthdays in our family including mine and hubby’s. Even some close friends have birthdays in these months. So for the last couple of weeks I have been baking cakes one after another and trying to decorate with as little ingredients and equipments I have. Every time I do so I wish I was in US to lay my hands on all those cake decorating supplies to make perfect decadent cakes consistently. But that’s not possible so I try to make do with the fewer things from my pantry.

For my mom’s birthday I baked this chocolate fudge cake and decorated with chocolate butter cream icing. It was decadent in all its senses, undoubtedly the best cake I have ever tasted.Truly this is an recipe worth keeping. The cake was moist, lightly fudgy and very soft, almost to a melting in the mouth consistency. To intensify the chocolaty flavour they suggested adding some coffee granules which I always do, it deepns the flavour and gives it depth. 

The chocolate butter cream icing was my own recipe. I googled for a good butter cream recipe but shivered at the thought of using so much butter and sugar. So I planned my own recipe and it clicked. The butter cream was smooth like silk. It tasted awesome without being very rich. The only concern Ii had was I wanted a deeper colour, next time I am going to add more chocolate.

Before I get into the recipe let me share a few words on the decoration, though I have never shared any decorated cake on this space but that’s what I love to do in my spare time. I am a self tought decorator and give it a try on every opportunity. Below are some of the cakes that I decorated. This cake was the easiest to do. It was done within 15 minutes but placing those silver sugar beads were a pain. I need a good pair of tweezers asap.

Meat n Poultry

Chicken Chanp (Juicy Spareribs in Thick Spicy Gravy)

4:34 AM


I am a very easy kind of a person and luckily have got a husband of the same sort. Both of us are happy with small things and little efforts. We hardly complain about anything. More or less put us in any situation, give us any food that’s edible and seasoned right, we are happy. We love to experiment with food and have a vast palette and variety is always welcome. Generally we prefer to have one dish meals for dinners on weekdays. Mixing rice with dals with subzis is little cumbersome when after a hard days work even moving a finger seems like a job. Rather we find it relaxing to have our meal from a bowl. That way rice based meals are quite filling. Make a quick fried rice, pulav or khichri and have it while watching the TV. Often I make a quick soy briyani and prefer to have it with raita (spiced yogurt) at the sides.

But my family is quite opposite, they cant even think of having Biryani with raita. They need a side dish, that too something elaborate. Give them Alu ka paratha (spicy potato stuffed flat bread) and raita and they will look at you quizzically, "what should I eat this with" would be their question. So on Maa’s birth day when I planned to make mutton biryani and chicken Chanp, Hubby was quite surprised. But that’s how things are here. The other guests also received this combo well.  And everyone simply could not get enough of this gravy. Big tender juicy chicken breast and leg pieces  with a creamy spicy coating gravy, flavoured with keora and rose water…what was not to love about this curry.

As I have already told in my last posts that this is a much loved dish for Bengalis. Talk about Biryani, chicken chanp and rezala and they will all go dreamy eyed. These dishes are like an epitome of Bengal’s culinary culture. One can travel from the farthest point of south Kolkata to North Kolkata just to have this dish for dinner. Ask any Kolkattan and he will brief you about the best place to have these dishes and if you ask more you will get an detailed analysis of why the chanp of one shop is better than the other. Blame it on our superlative tastebuds that can differentiate between garam masala having more cardamom or cinnamon or our nit picking nature that we can say whether ginger was first added to fried onion or the garlic paste.

Anyways the dish I cooked receieved a lot of praise. Everyone went all ga ga over it, especially the gravy. Even before leaving, a friend enquired if he could pack little bit of the chanp from leftover. Yes, it was that good. Try it for yourself to know the truth. Here is the very unique recipe.


Meat n Poultry

Mutton Biryani (Kolkata Style)

10:20 AM


Everyone is aware of the food crazy Bengalis but what lesser people know is their consciousness of quality when it comes to their favourite dishes. They are simply crazy about certain restaurants that cater to their tastebuds. They almost worship these places that has been enjoying the iconic status for quite sometime. They love and believe in the quality of these places so much that, if faced with a challenge where their life would be at stake, they can vouch on the name and reputation of these restaurants. I wont be surprised if someone takes oath like “I so and so hereby promise on the name of Shiraz’s Biryani that….” Unbelievable but ask any probashi Bangali (who lives outside Bengal) what he is planning to do on his next visit to homeland, with twinkling eyes they would name all the famous eateries they are going to visit to eat their favourite food. The specialties of these restaurants are so exclusive that some only specializes in one product. For example take Golbari, which is a small shop in the by lanes of North Kolkata. Go there on any day in the evening time and you would be greeted with a huge serpentine queue. Believe me or not they gather there only for one product, Kasha Mangsho (Dry Spicy Meat). Similarly, Paradise’s Sherbet, Bedwin’s Egg Roll, Shiraz’s Rezala and many others today enjoy the cult status.

Royal India (now called Royal India Hotel Pvt. Ltd.) at Chitpur is one such restaurant. This is a very old shop, which started in 1905, and they specialize in Lucknowi style cooking. Still after 106 years of its inceptions their Biryani and chanp(spare ribs) are so good that they are considered as one of the best three Mughlai restaurants in Kolkata. Now they also have branches all over India.

Last year when my MIL was visiting she carried some Bengali magazines. On a lazy weekend when I was flipping through the pages I discovered some Mughlai recipes shared by this hotel. I knew it was like a secret recipe being published so without wasting any time I copied it. The process of the Biryani was quite tedious and so I reserved it for some special occasions to cook it for a big gatherings. I had to wait for more than a year to cook this.

Last week it was my Maa and cousin brother’s birthday. To celebrate that I threw a party and invited some close relatives. I cooked their famous Mutton biryani and chicken chanp.  The dishes earned such huge praise that I literally blushed. Everyone just licked their plates cleaned and said it tasted exactly like the store bought ones. I was happy and literally blushing. Now everyone have very high regard for my cooking and they are finally convinced that I am one of the best cooks in our family. What else can a girl ask for???

Process wise this Biryani recipe is very different. After the meat is cooked the oil or the rogan is separated from the meat and later that is put on the rice. Actually this was to be cooked in pure ghee but I used part white oil. Here is the detailed recipe. The ingredient list is a big one don’t get intimidated by that. All the items are easily available.
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