Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Nutty, Corny, gingery, Oatmeal Cookie bars

11:57 AM


I have become too busy lately. Busy with work, with the never ending needs of a growing kid, with chores that now I have to do single handedly as Hubby seems never to be at home. Either he is travelling or coming home at midnight. With these we have some added responsibilities that we never had to take care of before as we were away. Am not complaining a single bit as this is how life should be and thank God I have trenmendous support from my Brothers. But life is hectic and sometimes I feel exhausted. I am a kind of a person who needs sometime for herself. Give me 15 minutes for myself and I would be recharged. Remember this post where I talked about my 'Me time' with chai, cookies and books. Thats how it is till date, the only change is now I prefer coffee.

With the constant visits from family and friends and with so many cups of 'chai' been guzzled down I hardly crave it anymore. So my new found 'me time' companion is my South Indian filter coffee. Sometime black, sometime latte. With this I prefer some home made cookies. Not those buttery chocolaty ones but something healthy, something easy with some rustic flavours.  I really do not like to stuff my shopping bags with those overtly priced so-called fat free, gluten free, cholesterol free and don’t know what else snacks from the super market. Rather I prefer to make them at home.

I have recenty started experimenting seriously with whole wheat flour and these cookie bars that I adapted from Sunita’s blog are a real winner. These are enough to convert anyone who doesnot believe in whole grain baking. Simply try this once and you would be convert for life…just like my father and husband. Who always believed that cookies could never taste good without APF, now they are advising me to seriously thinking of opening a cookie shop. Yes these are that good.
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Bengali

Tel Shim (Hyacinth Beans in mustard gravy)

4:59 AM

What do you see in my pictures? I don’t know what your answer would be but I see embarrassment. Yes, am embarrassed to click food, more so in the presence of anybody else except hubby. That’s why many a times I had spent hours in cooking an elaborate meal but could not click a single picture.forget about setting the scene with props and all,  am mortified even to utter the word food blog in front of friends and relatives. Yes!very few people know about my online avatar.

For instance this dish that I cooked when my Ma-n-law visited us in Bangalore. With the bounty that my hyacinth bean vine blessed me almost everyday was almost impossible to manage. How much hyacinth bean can you eat or share with your friends. Recipes are limited and picky eaters don’t even touch this vegetable. So when My MIL was there I made this tel shim for lunch. She loved it and dint touch any other dish that day. So after a couple of days I cooked it again and this time when she was taking bath I quickly

Clicking picture was really difficult in our Bangalore home, which was a single storied independent house. Except the main entrance door we dint get ample natural light elsewhere. So everytime I wanted to take picture I had to move the table and everything to the front door. Trust me it was very uncomfortable to take pictures that way.  Imagine a house situated on a road, a door 100 meteres away from the gate where a woman is bringing plates and spoons on a table near the door. Looking through the camera, putting another ladle of curry, scattering some flowers around the bowl. Wont you stop and watch the scene in utter disbelief? Trust me every time I did so I was mortified to think if someone comes and asks what would I reply. Remember the scene from the movie sex and the city where Charlotte rehearses how to show her hatred to Big by saying ‘I curse the day you were born’. In the similar fashion I rehearsed to reply the passers by, by saying ‘I am a Food blogger’.

So that mock proud food blogger today present to you a lousily clicked photo of a real delicious curry called tel shim. Tel in Bengali means oil and shim are the hyacinth beans. This dish is supposed to have oil oozing out from the gravy, which means lot of oil. If you are interested in having it the authentic way please feel free to use 3-4 tbsp oil. But I prefer to have a lighter version for everyday meal. Reserve that for some special occasion luncheons.


Between if you love Shim, you can check this recipe of mine too


Shim Bata or Spicy Hyacinth Beans Paste
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Bengali

Macher Muro Die Bhaja Muger daal (Dry Roasted Yellow Lentil Soup with Fish Head)

9:07 AM


Yellow lentil or Mug dal is like a special occasion dal for Bengalis. For everyday meals mostly red lentil or musoor dal is cooked, either in its plain soupy avatar or with sour mangoes or tomatoes. But on those special days when lunch or dinner needs an extra touch Mug dal is roasted on very slow flame with utmost care not to burn it and then delectable vegetarian and non-vegetarian version of Dals are made with it. Go to any Bengali marriage or party and the meal will start with this dal, begun bhaja (fried eggplant), Gandhoraj Lebu (Lemon) and some curry. Even in special occasion meals at any home this dal starts the show.

But not everyone is Bengali and not everyone can manage fish head with the expertise and élan in which Bengalis handle their ‘Macher Muro’ (fish head). If I understand it correctly then other than Asians (I am saying this as I have seen Chinese and Malaysians eat their fish heads too) no one cooks fish heads as a dish. Following this the obvious question rises…what happens to the fish heads then? If you have an answer please let me know. Anyways for us Bengalis Mache'r Matha or muro or fish heads are very coveted item. A new groom is always welcomed with a huge fish head, and on that occasion less is never more rather its ‘bigger the better’. Even on a baby’s rice ceremony (where the baby is introduced to real food) she is always presented with a fish head as an integral part of his first meal. 

Go to any Bengali household during the lunchtime and you will see fish heads are force fed to childrens. We have always been taught that eating a fish head makes us intelligent and we never doubted that or thought its fishy or made up. My fish loving family is a big believer of this fishy theory and love this thick, creamy dal for lunch. Even my 2 years old cant wait to have is meal and patiently sucking all the juices out of his share of Macher muro.

Even if you don’t eat fish, cook the dish without the muro and it still tastes great.
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Bread Paratha etc

Baking Basic white and brown Bread in India

11:30 AM

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...


[Bread making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."


And how I wanted to be a part of that homely ceremony of bread making, to experience that joy, to be hypnotized with that incredibly sweet aroma of freshly baked bread wafting out of my oven and filling all the corners of my home. Yes! that was a long long looong standing wish of mine to bake bread in the cosy nook of my kitchen.  And this wish aggravated every time I watched the cookery shows on where they made all types of fancy breads with every flavours imaginable.  I equipped me with gathered all the knowledge possible regarding the techniques, the measurements and all the know hows of bread baking. I exactly knew how much flour to sieve, what should be the temperature of the warm water to mix the yeast in,  I knew how long to knead the dough till it becomes springy and satiny to touch, I knew how to tuck the kneaded dough underneath to give the buns a smooth finished look. I could even sense the silky smooth stretchable dough in my hands.
So many times I dreamed of mixing the flour and the yeast and then pouring the water and the oil, giving it whatever falvour my mind fancies at that point of time and then kneading that dough to give it a silky springy texture to bake the most incredibly soft and flavourful bread of my life. Every time one of you baked a bread, it instantly gave me a high. I imagined going through this whole process again and again. I wanted to lose all my anger and pain and frustration on the dough while kneading it vigorously as all of you mentioned.  But every time I tried it in real life the yeast made me fail miserably. Not once, not twice but thrice. Can you imagine what a heart break that was! But I refused to give up and almost tried all the brands of dried yeast available in the market. Anyone who mentioned Bangalore and bread together in their post I kept on asking 'which brand of yeast did you use'?

Ask Archana who patiently listened to me and gave me suggestions and told me how to proof the yeast, or our very own baking genius Champa whom I flooded with queries.  But knowledge is nothing (only for bread baking!!!)  Unless you find out that obidient yeast who will listen to all your orders and will rise when asked for (not like my 2 year old, who refuses to do so).  But finally and thankfully I got the real thing I have been looking for, for such a long time. When I saw Suma (an amazing, amazing baker. I really wonder how she manages so many things with such ease. Even after taking care of her home, her work, two growing kids, she manages to bake such gorgeous, delicious, luscious goodies on a daily basis…go and check her blog for every baking recipe imaginable) baking some great breads I asked my usual question “which brand” and she gave me the key. The key to make perfect breads every time. And from that day onwards there is no looking back and no more store bought breads for us. Even my family including parents and Brothers are so hooked to it that they don’t like outside breads and pizzas anymore.
Though I have a long way to go and try all the recipes I have bookmarked for so long. Still today I am sharing two basic bread recipes, basic white and 100% whole wheat brown breads.

But before I start let me tell you something about yeast, which is not very easily available in Indian markets. As much as my knowledge goes I have seen 3 varieties here
Fresh Yeast
Dry Yeast
Instant Yeast


If you are in USA you would be spoilt for choices. Here is a great article to guide you through the many varieties available there.

The instant yeast is the most potent one and comes in coarse powdery form. You can directly add this to other ingredients before proceeding to make the dough, whereas this is most difficult to get in India. I use the brand called Gloripan available here.

Dry yeast, is also available in India, which comes in small granular form. You need to proof this before using it in the batter. Mix the sugar with lukewarm water mentioned in the recipe. Mix in the dry yeast and let it rise for 4-5 minutes. You can choose from many brands available in India but personally nothing worked for me.
Fresh yeast could be availed from your nearby bakeries. They come in cake form and have a very strong aroma. Proof as mentioned above.

Here is a quick conversion table sourced from here
1 teaspoon instant (aka instant active dry)=1-1/4 teaspoons active dry or 1-1/2 packed teaspoons fresh cake yeast

AND

for every 150gm (5.3oz, 1 cup) of flour in the recipe to use either of:
3 gm compressed fresh yeast (0.1 oz, 1/6 cake)
2 gm active dry yeast (0.05oz, 1/2 tsp)
1 gm instant active dry yeast (0.04oz, 3/8 tsp)

Another thing that I would love to clarify is this long and detailed post is meant for everyone  who wants to bake bread in India. We don’t get many good ingredients here and  I have learnt from my mistakes to arrive on a system that works for me. This is an attempt from my side to guide everyone who tries to bake bread in their Indian Kitchen.
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Bengali

Ilish Macher matha die Chalkumro’r Tarkari (Ash gourd curry with or without fish head)

12:40 PM



Do you believe India and Bharat are two different nations? I DO. Whatever we see or experience in the big metros or towns are mostly unheard of in the remote villages. Take for instance Education. When we get to choose from a variety of good play schools for our hardly 2 years old infant, in many parts of India students have to walk miles after miles to reach a basic educational institute. Leave aside the problems like bad infrastructure or medical facilities, even Safe drinking water is a big hurdle in most of the villages. I have many relatives living in villages in and around various parts of West Bengal and most of them have migrated to bigger towns for the basic amenities for their kids like education or medical amenities, or have send the kids away to Kolkata for their studies.


My Maternal aunt lives in a big town in Midnapore district with her husband (my uncle or Mesomashai as we call in Bengali). The two grown up kids are working and studying in Kolkata. Recently, my uncle experienced vigorous pain in his left chest. Immedieately they assumed heart problems and took him to a  renowned doctor (with 3 very important degrees from foreign Universities). He checked him and said its not heart problem but normal indigestion and acidity. Gave him some antacid. Next day after lunch he again had pain in the same area, this tim it was excruciating. Again the same Doctor checked him and gave him more antacid with some de warming medicine. But my family wasn’t happy with these circumstances and decided to transfer him to Kolkata for a good check up. On Arrival to a good multi specialty hospital in the metro he was diagnosed with several heart attacks and severe artery blockages. He was put into the ICU the very moment and remained there till he was finally transferred to the operation theater for an open heart surgery.

Though we all are thankful to God for giving us another chance to safely take him to the doctor but what if we have believed in the previous doctor’s observations and had kept him there. And this also raises the question of what happens to others who do not have the means to come to bigger cities for medical needs. Not everyone is blessed enough to spend such huge fortunes on treatments. But isn’t it the basic amenities that we all need? Why cant we make it sure that everyone is getting minimum facilities to live a healthy life. Is it really difficult to upgrade the govt run hospitals and health centers with proper facilities, equipments and good Doctors? I do not have any answer to this. But am scared to think of all those people living in the villages, without any resource depending on the health centers there.

This curry that I am sharing today is a no nonsense no fancy everyday dish which is sometimes cooked with Hilsa head for suitable special occasions. Though this looks very similar to the bottle gourd but has a very distinctive flavour. Which is more noticeable when cooked. Mostly it is cooked with simple spices like ginger and cumin or with fish heads. I never cooked this dish as it was difficult to get tender ash gourds in Bangalore which is a prerequisite for this dish. Mostly ripe varieties were available there for adding to sambar. Also the Chalkumro (ash gourd) plant I had in my Bangalore house never rewarded me with fruits. It gave me ample amount of leaves and stalks to cook this and this but it never bore any fruit.



So this time when after the operation of my uncle my masimoni chopped the gourd to cook I dint waste any time and was ready with my camera. It tasted delicious with steamed rice and since then I have cooked it twice in 2 weeks. Just today I made it without fish and trust me its still delicious. Am not much of a fish eater and being a Bengali I should be ashamed to declare that I liked the vegetarian version more (now my hard core non vegetarian family will disown me for sure).
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Desserts and Sweets

Cherry-Plum Cobbler

4:03 AM

Baking with fruits is a new phenomenon in my kitchen, which started last year. Thanks to the blog world and those luscious summer bakes that you clicked and presented and which made me droooool in all its true senses. Before that the frugal me never thought of buying those packs of overtly priced strawberries or cherries.  They looked oh so luscious from a distant with a divine aroma but when bitten makes you throw it as soon as possible for its more sour than lemon taste.  But anyways Hubby wanted to try them and brought a packet when they were offered at half their original price.  After looking for a good recipe to fit our circumstances I got one based on David Lebovitz’s. it was easy to assemble and called for very few things. So on one weekend night when the hubby was busy putting the baby to bed I made this to jazz up our healthy meal of Moroccan Harira. And boy did we like it??? We were totally floored with the union of this just out of the oven hot cherry-berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream...a match made in heaven.

Since then I have made it several times and every time I wanted to post the recipe. But just the thought of the cobblers cooling down made me sick. I wanted to enjoy the whole experience of scooping out a small spoonful of the bubbling fruit sauce with the soft buttery biscuit and then seize a tiny bit of melting vanilla ice cream and putting the dripping spoon in my mouth. Trust me its heavenly and by no means I could ever let it go, NO, not even for my blog. But this time when Hubby got a big packet of cherries from New market and we enjoyed the cherry cobbler for dinner for back to back two consecutive days….I finally was ready to click this blissful dessert for my blog.

So I took out the linen I planned for the shoot, wiped the spoon and charged my camera battery.  However, once the cobbler was ready the scene was different. Hubby quickly grabbed one ramekin and asked me to manage with the other three. It’s always difficult to shoot a great dessert which is supposed to be enjoyed hot what aggravated the situation of the greedy hubby licking his spoons clean in front of me. After blaming him that he doesn’t show any support to my blog finally the foodie in me could not resist. I finished the shoot in hurry with whatever was in front of me.  So now, you know whom to blame for these lousy pictures. Right!!! But take my words on the recipe. Do yourself a favor a make a batch of this wonderful summer fruit dessert, and no matter what enjoy them hot.
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