Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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

 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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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



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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake With Chocolate Butter Cream Icing



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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Chanp (Juicy Spareribs in Thick Spicy Gravy)


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.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mutton Biryani (Kolkata Style)


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.
Read More...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mohonbhog (Bengali style Semolina Halwa)

I always seem to act on inspiration. There are some days when I don’t feel like doing anything and drag myself through the daily chores and there are days when I feel like a feather and almost glide on my feet to run the errands. Though am not sure what inspires me but certainly they are not very big. A bunch of bright yellow sunflowers or a fresh whip of moist summer breeze is enough to get back my spirit. Some days I feel so inspired that I finish a whole lot of work which even  puzzles me.

Take for instance today. I was literally bogged up and was tired of doing a lot of work. But after I fed the baby and put him to bed for his afternoon nap don’t know what got me and I wanted to make something special for Eid. Suddenly remembered all those time when as a student we used to visit a friend’s place and tucked in all those gorgeous sheer khurma and pulao her mother used to make. Even last year, a dear friend of ours sent us the yummiest sewai (vermicelli) and biriyani. I wanted to make something rich that will make this day special. Immediate desire was to make sheer khurma but dint have vermicelli in stock. so after a lot of deliberation I decided upon Mohonbhog, a Delicious and rich semolina halwa with nuts and raisins. A taste from childhood , a dish made iconic by Tagore. He has mentioned about this ghee soaked, dry fruits laden semolina based dessert in many of his books. And the combo that he talked about is Luchi-Mohonbhog, a true Bengali delicacy of fried flatbread and semolina halwa.
This dessert is primarily prepared as an offering to Lord Krishna or Mohan as he is fondly called. Thus it got its name. When we were kids we loved to savour this after a scrumptious meal. Dida used to always make it with our favourite breakfast of luchi-alur charchari. we preferred to have this wrapped in a luchi and biting into this sinfully good treat was a delight. Later when I grew up and went to other people’s home from different regions I discovered that this is a very popular dessert that almost everyone cook in their home. As Shakespeare once said "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Whether you call it kesaribhat or sheera or mohonbhog or suji ka halwa, this simple delight never fails to please us.
I cook it in a different way than my Mom. She fries the semolina in ghee till brown and then adds the liquid and sugar. But I prefer to soak dry roasted semolina for sometime to make it soft and to give the dessert a melting in the mouth texture. Also traditionally this is cooked in lots of ghee. Generally ½ cup ghee is used to cook 1 cup semolina. I could not make myself to do that and used ¼ cup instead. Here is how I did it.
Read More...