Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bandha Kopi Diye Moori Ghonto (Cabbage in Fish Head)

The one vegetable that I truly dislike is cabbage. As a child I never ate it and nor did I eat after marriage. However, things change when you shop and cook for your family and within a monthly budget. You cannot just bin a veggie that cost you a couple of dollars just because you don't like it. The situation then becomes such where you need to find ways to like it. And this recipe is one! The flavor of the fish beautifully compliments the otherwise bland cabbage and makes an interesting dish. I do not like Fish Head also, btw, but the combination tasted good in totality!! :D  A happy Homemaker!

1 fish head washed and cut in half
1 medium cabbage finely chopped
1 medium onion sliced
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 medium potato cut into quarters (optional; I forgot)
1 tsp panchphoran (equal quantities of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, and onion seeds)
1-2 whole red chillies
1-2 bay leaves
2 each of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ghee (optional)
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2-3 slit green chillies
Mustard oil as required

Smear the fish head with a little salt and turmeric and keep aside for 10 minutes. 
Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan and fry the fish head till crisp and golden. Make sure you keep the pan covered at all times to avoid oil spilling on your hands and face and all around. Remove from heat and keep aside. Fry the potato quarters in the same pan till golden and keep aside. 
In the same pan, add any additional oil if required and add the panchphoran, whole red chillies, bay leaves, and whole garam masala. As the fragrance starts coming out, add the sliced onions and grated ginger and fry till onions turn pink. Add all the spices except the garam masala and ghee and fry for 2-3 minutes. Do not add the salt now.  Add the cabbage and mix well. Cover and  let it cook till tender and shrunk in volume. Now add the salt, fried potatoes and fish head. Cover again and cook for another 5-10 minutes while stirring in between. Now break the fish head with the tip of the laddle and mix everything together. Add the garam masala and ghee and check for seasoning. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Starbucks Oatmeal and Raisin Monster Cookies

Shopping in Singapore is good as long as you do not have clothes to alter. Unlike India, most stores here do not have a separate alteration counter and once bought, you really have to go places looking for nearby alteration services. On his birthday, husband bought some new formal trousers and the store gave him a vague idea about availability of alteration services in the next mall. We were running short of time and so decided to come back later. 
The next weekend we headed to the same mall as guided by the store sales guys (another problem in Singapore, Guidance!) and spent almost 1 hour looking for it but in vain. The poor 2 1/2 toddler obviously got exhausted with all the useless walking and demanded for a cookie. Luckily, there was a Starbucks right in front of us and we got her a monster cookie while the father continued with his search. The cookie was truly a monster and too heavy for my little one to finish it all (I was hoping she doesn't anyway!). So the rest was left to me and I am sure the others seated nearby could not have missed my grin when my baby said, " No More." As I dug  my teeth into that cookie, I was blown away. I usually do not enjoy cookies and cakes from outside but this was something else. Lightly crunchy, chewy, and melt-in-the-mouth, the cookie was to die for. I immediately got on to the job of finding its recipe using their own free Wi-Fi but nothing fruitful came up. I continued my search at night and finally found a recipe which seemed to do justice to those cookies. As for the trousers, they are still lying helpless in my husband's wardrobe waiting for an alteration! 
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking ones)
1/2 cup all purpose flour (you can use wholewheat also; I wanted to try the recipe as is to see how close it came to those cookies and hence did not alter the recipe)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I realized my brown sugar was inadequate and so added some white sugar as well; the original recipe called for an additional 1/4 cup white sugar, which I skipped)
6 tbsp or 85 gms butter at room temperature
1 egg 
1 tsp vanila extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup black raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries (you can replace with more raisins)
1/4 cup walnuts
More raisins for topping

In a food processor, grind the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, walnuts, cranberries, and raisins. Keep aside. 
In a mixing bowl, take the butter and sugar and beat till smooth and light. Add the egg and vanila essence and whip further till creamy. Now slowly add the oats mixture and mix till everything is well combined. 
Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take spoonfulls of the batter and drop it on the prepared tray. Gently flatten the top with the back of the spoon into a flat disc. Do not keep it too thick nor too thin.  Leave a space of 2" and repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle some raisins on top and gently press it down. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes until slightly golden on top but still soft to touch. Gently press down on one cookie with your index finger and if it springs back, you will know your cookie is done. 
Remove from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely and then store in air tight container. Enjoy this Starbucks style Monster cookie with your daily cuppa! Makes 16.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bengali Maacher Jhol (Bengali Fish Curry)

Fish and Bongs are like the two sides of the coin. Inseparable! While there are a few exceptions, but majority of Bengal population thrives on fish. And why not? It is easy to cook, readily available (even in a pond), and loaded with nutrition. Over the years, the traditional bengali fish recipes have been passed on to the new generation, each doing their own tweaks as per their convenience. However, the basic essence has always remained intact so much so that today people, and not just Bongs, across the globe love and enjoy Bengali food and even recreate it in their kitchen. Today's recipe is one of the simplest Bengali Fish Curry, which gets prepared on a regular day in the most humble household as well as any sophisticated high society one! Try it and enjoy this recipe if you and your family have a liking for fish. 
Rohu fish fillet as per your serving size (I used 8)
2 medium potato, cut into wedges
1 medium tomato chopped
1 tbsp ginger grated
1 tsp cumin seeds freshly roasted
1 tsp coriander seeds freshly roasted
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp sugar
3-4 slit green chillies as per taste
1 tsp onion seeds or kalonji
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
Mustard oil for frying the fish and 1/2 tbsp for gravy if required
Salt to taste

Wash and clean the fish. Apply little salt and turmeric and keep aside for 20 minutes. You can keep it for longer as well. I applied it in the afternoon and kept it in the fridge till I made the gravy in the evening. However, take the fish out and bring it back to room temperature at least 1 hour before frying. 
Make a paste with the roasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, chilli powder, and turmeric powder with a little water. Keep aside. This is usually done on a silbatta or mortar and pestle for the ultimate taste. I had to do it in my regular grinder like in most modern homes!
Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan with a lid and bring it to smoking point. Add the fish pieces, leaving enough space for it to be fried golden on all sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cover the pan with the lid while frying to avoid spillage of oil on the outside as well as on your face and hands. Also, keep adjusting the heat so as not to burn the fish. Remove from heat and keep aside. 
In the same pan, add any extra oil if required. Now add the kalonji and slit green chillies and let it splutter. Fry the potato wedges till golden. Now add the chopped tomato and continue frying on a medium heat till soft and mushy. Add the ground paste and rinse the grinder with a dash of water and add it to the pan. This will ensure that your masala does not stick to the pan without adding any additional oil and also saves you from wasting the residual masala. Take care while stirring the masala now as it might break the potatoes. When the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan, you will know that your base is ready. Now add the salt and sugar as per your taste and 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil and then add the fried fish. Cover and cook on a medium flame till gravy thickens to desired consistency. Pick 3-4 potato pieces in a bowl and mash them with the back of a spoon. Put it back into the pan and stir. Check for seasoning and remove from heat. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and slit green chillies and serve hot with steamed rice. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bengali Mutton Curry

Weekends are special in every household and so is mine. However, it is not about food always in my household. In fact, I hardly cook on weekends unless I have guests for dinner. For me weekends are more of spending time with family, go shopping, and spend some me time. This weekend was special, however, as I had to clear my pantry before going on a werkend holiday to Cambodia next week. So with mutton being on the cards and husband requesting for some authentic Bengali Mutton Curry, I had to do some homework before I could get on with it. After going through a lot of recipes, this recipe from Bong Mom's CookBook seemed really convincing, though a bit elaborate. As it was weekend and husband was there to take care of the baby, I decided to go for it. The end result was stupendous and this recipe turned out quite a stunner, with some minor changes at my end. If you love mutton and love the Bengal style of cooking, you cannot stay away from this recipe.

For the marination
1 kg mutton washed and cleaned
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp mustard oil
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
2 tbsp grated raw papaya
2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp salt
For the special paste
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
15 black peppercorns
8 dry red chillies
8 fat cloves garlic
2" piece ginger
1 tsp mustard oil
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
Dash of water
For the gravy
2 large onions finely sliced 
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 large tomatoes pureed
2 large potatoes quartered
6 green cardamoms
2 black cardamoms
8 cloves
3 bay leaves
3 whole red chillies
1 mace
1 tsp good quality garam masala
3-4 green chillies slit
Salt to taste
2 tbsp mustard oil

The preparation time is quite time consuming for this recipe and so I shall share with you the process step wise, like I did, to ease the entire cooking procedure. 
Step 1
Marinate. Wash and rinse the mutton and keep it in a vessel with a proper lid. Add all the ingredients listed under marination and mix well. Cover and marinade overnight. 

Step 2
Make the paste. Dry roast the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and whole red chillies. Cool and make a fine paste with the rest of the ingredients. Keep aside. Traditionally, it will be best if you can do this paste on a silbatta (mortar and pestle) as the older generation used to do. Gives the optimum results. Trust me!
Step 3
Prepare for the gravy. Slice the onions and keep aside. Puree the tomatoes and keep aside. If using fresh ginger garlic paste, prepare and keep aside. Cut the potatoes and heat the oil in a big wok. Remember, you will be using the same wok for the rest of the procedure. So choose accordingly. Fry the potatoes till golden. Keep aside. 

Step 4
Now it's time to start cooking. Take the same pan where you fried the potatoes and add thevwhole garam masala listed under gravy. I did not add any additional oil apart from 2 tbsp oil added while frying the potatoes. When fragrant, add the sliced onions and fry with a pinch of sugar till browned and caramalized but not burnt. Next add the puree and fry till the excess water evaporates and the raw smell disappears. Put the mutton along with the marinade and fry on high heat for 5 minutes till the mutton turns brown. Now reduce the flame and continue stirring intermittently till oil droplets start appearing on top. This will take a good 20-25 minutes. A point to note here. I have not made this curry in the pressure cooker as the raw papaya added during marination tenderizes the meat sufficiently and cooks perfectly even in the pan. In fact, the mutton started coming off the bones while frying!
You will know that the mutton has been fried well when you see droplets of oil floating on top. Now add the spice paste and rinse the blender with a dash of water and continue frying the mutton along with the spice paste for another 5-10 minutes till everything is well mixed. Add the fried potatoes and give a gentle stir. Add salt and 1.5 cups of water. Cover and reduce the flame to minimum once the gravy comes to the first boil. Stir in between and keep covered until you see oil floating on top.
If you want reduced gravy, remove the cover and cook on high flame till the gravy reduces to desired consistency. Now add the garam masala and check the seasoning. Add some fresh slit green chillies for an awesome taste. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Egg Curry with Fresh Spices

Husband said the other day it has been ages since he had his favorite egg curry with big chunky potatoes and fried boiled eggs and some hot freshly made phulkas to go with it. He does not usually request for any particular dish but when he does, I take extra care to make it just the way he wants. So I got everything ready and also got my baby involved into making it. Just as I was frying the eggs and potatoes, he called up to say he will be dining out with his office friends and will be late! Gosh! I was really tempted to bin the pan that very moment. It is not that I don't like him meeting up with his friends, but such impromptu meetups are certainly annoying. Nevertheless, I went ahead with the curry (why should I remain hungry because of him) and will be relishing every bite. As for his request, I won't be making any Egg Curries for at least a month! 


Boiled eggs as per your serving requirement

2 medium potatoes, halved and par boiled

1 medium onion

1 medium tomato

4 garlic cloves

1" piece ginger

2 green chillies

2 sprigs of coriander leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 each of cardamom, cloves, and 1" cinammon

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp mustard oil

For the ground masala

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp black peppercorns

2 whole red chillies


Dry roast the ingredients under ground masala and make a fine powder. 

Take the onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, green chillies, and coriander leaves in a blender and grind to a fine paste. 

Heat oil in a pan and fry the potatoes and eggs till golden on all sides. Slit the eggs gently on all sides else they might splutter while frying. Remove from oil and keep aside. 

In the same pan, add the cumin seeds and the whole garam masala. Now add the onion paste and fry till the water evaporates and oil starts coming off the edges. Add the ground masala, salt and sugar and fry further till a lovely aroma starts coming out. Now add the fried eggs and potatoes and 1/2 cup water or as per your gravy requirement. Cover and let it cook for 5-10 minutes till the gravy thickens. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with steamed rice or chapatis.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bruschetta - The Perfect way to Use Leftover Bread

So this is how my delicious Lemon Bread came to a scrumptious finish. I strongly believe nothing in this world happens before its pre-destined time, food too! Making a Bruschetta had been on my mind since I don't know when and every time I set out to make it, something else would crop up. My thursday mornings are particularly hectic as compared to the rest of the days as I go for an extended Yoga class after Gym. By the time I reach home, I have just about enough time to cook my baby's lunch before I rush to pick her up. As such, my lunch is either the previous night's leftover or something extremely quick and easy. I thoroughly enjoyed my quick-fix, healthy, yummy, and filling lunch today and thus finally my Bruschetta's got their due in my kitchen!!

Bread slices as per your requirement cut into halves
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 medium tomato finely chopped
1/4 bell pepper finely chopped (any color or a mix of colors)
2 tbsp sweet corn kernels
2 tsp garlic finely chopped
2 tsp black olives finely chopped (I forgot !)
Seasoning of your choice (I used a mix of oregano, basil, parsely, and red chilli flakes)
A dash of lemon juice
A dash of olive oil
Salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste
Butter or any bread spread of your choice
Grated cheddar cheese for the topping

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degree celsius with only the top rod on. On a skillet, lightly toast the bread slices. Alternatively, you can butter the slices and toast them while pre-heating the oven. Take care however not to burn them. 
In a bowl, mix all the veggies (onion, tomato, corn, garlic, olives) and the seasoning and give a good stir. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and keep it aside till the bread is toasting. 

Now, take the bread slices and put the veggie topping generously on top covering maximum space. Top it with some grated cheese and crushed black pepper. Repeat for the rest of the slices. 

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5-7 minutes till the cheese has melted and the veggies look a little toasted. Remove from the oven and serve hot!

Khatte Aaloo (Baby Potatoes in a Sour and Spicy Sauce)

The most relaxed time of the day for me is the night time when everyone is asleep and I know that there is nothing else left to be done and the day has passed just as it should. I then lie down waiting to get drowsy while I surf on my handphone. Read news, search for something on Google, read posts on CAL and scroll down my Facebook timeline. It was then that I came across this recipe in another Bengali food group posted by a lady who was remembering the stories of her Grand Aunt who was a widow and how her life transformed at the age of 16 and her life after that. This recipe was one which her Grand Aunt used to prepare for her siblings whenever they used to visit her. And as luck would have it, my battery conked off even before I could get to the end of the post. The rest of the night, I kept thinking about that Grand Aunt and how her life would have been when she lost her husband at the age of 16 and her struggles and sacrifices she had to make to survive in that rigid society! As for the recipe, I decided to go ahead with whatever little I could remember. I may have missed a few ingredients here and there, but nevertheless, it was truly an awesome dish without any onion or garlic, as it was the custom for widows in those days!


10-15 baby potatoes or as per your serving size

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1/2 tsp heeng

1 tsp coriander seeds 

3 whole red chillies or as per your taste

2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 medium tomato pureed (if using tomato, you might need to add 1 tsp lemon juice to make up for the sourness)

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (deggi mirch/kashmiri chilli powder)

1/4 cup water

Salt to taste

1-2 tsp oil (mustard oil preferably)

Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing (I was out of stock)


Par boil the potatoes and peel and keep aside. Do not cut the potatoes, unless you are using regular potatoes. 

Meanwhile, dry roast the coriander seeds and whole red chillies. Grind them in a grinder with a dash of water and keep aside. 

Heat oil in a pan and add the fenugreek seeds and heeng. Fry for a second or two just until the seeds brown a little. Now add the peeled potatoes and the kashmiri chilli powder and fry till golden on all sides. Now add the ground paste, tamarind paste/tomato paste and salt and mix well. Rinse the grinder in which you ground the masala with about 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan. Coat the potatoes well with the sauce and cover for 5 minutes. The sauce should by now coat the potatoes properly and the excess water dried up. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot with pooris, paratha or steamed rice!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Lemon Honey Bread

So it was Sunday again and time for me to decide on my weekly breakfast. I was bored of all the healthy wholewheat goodies I have had in the previous weeks (sometimes, too many health food tend to mull down their worth) and wanted to try something regular yet interesting. I was curious about adding lemon in breads and was quite surprised to find out from Google that Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a very good dough conditioner and results in a very soft and moist crumb. I set about to experiment this new ingredient in my weekly bake and the results are for all to see!! 

3 cups all purpose flour (use 2 1/2 first and then add as required)
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
200 ml warm water (a drop of the water on the back of your wrist should feel comfortable)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon rind
1/2 tsp salt
50 ml milk at room temperature
1 tbsp room temperature butter plus more for greasing
1 tsp vital wheat gluten/bread improver (optional)

Dissolve the honey and warm water and add the yeast. Give a good stir and let it stand for 10 minutes. The yeast should become foamy and frothy and the liquid almost doubled in volume. 
Mix the flour, salt and bread improver (if using) and make a well in the center. Pour the yeasty liquid and start mixing with a spatula, moving in a single direction. Once the flour starts coming together, add the butter and lemon juice and start kneading the dough. Add the milk little at a time as required. Add some extra flour little at a time as required while kneading. You may also grease your hands in between with butter if it gets too sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and continue kneading for 10 minutes. The dough should be non-sticky but soft, smooth and elastic. Grease the dough from outside and loosely wrap in a clingfilm. Put it back in the bowl and keep it in a warm place (I keep in the microwave) and let it rise until doubled, about 1-1.5 hours. 
Now take the dough out and punch it down in a lightly floured surface to release the gasses. Line a large loaf tin with parchment paper. Shape the dough into a rectangular log and place it in the prepared loaf tin. Cover and put it back in the warm place for the second rise until doubled, about 1 hour. 
Pre-heat the oven at 200 degree celsius and keep a pan of warm water inside in order to form steam. Sprinkle some sesame or flaxseeds on top of the dough and gently brush the top with room tempetature milk. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden, sounds hollow when tapped on the top and the internal temperature of the bread is between 90-100 degree celsius. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a wire rack. Let it cool completely before slicing. 



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Kacchi Mutton Biryani-The Bengali Way

As a homemaker, when it comes to gift something special to your loved ones on their birthdays and special occasions, it is food through which you can show your love more appropriately rather than buying them a gift with their money. The dishes that you cook out of love and of their interest makes them even happier than buying an expensive gift from the store. Mutton was what my husband wished to eat for his birthday and I travelled by bus, then train, then walked to buy the best mutton in Singapore and again rushed back via the same route to be just in time to pick up my baby from school. The love and effort that went into the making of this biryani definitely showed in the end result. Husband was glad and conpletely enjoyed his birthday meal. My gift was well accepted and ackowledged!

For the Marinade
500 gms boneless mutton (you can use with bones too)
1/2 tbsp salt plus more to taste
1/2 cup fried onions (thinly slice the onions and let it dry on a paper towel for 1/2 hour. Fry till crisp and brown, but not burnt)
1 tbsp fresh ginger paste
1 tbsp fresh garlic paste
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp raw papaya paste (for tenderizing the meat)
To be ground for the spice mix
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
6 green cardamoms
6 cloves
2" piece cinnamon
2 black cardamoms
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 mace
1/2 javitri or nutmeg
2 bay leaves
2-3 whole red chillies

For the Biryani Rice
2 1/2 cups long grain basmati
2 each of green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf
4 cups of water
1/2 tbsp salt

For the assembly
2 medium potatoes cut into halves
1 medium potato sliced into medium thickness roundels for lining the bottom of the biryani pot
1/2 cup fried onions (prepared as per the procedure detailed above)
2 tbsp ghee , divided
1 tbsp kewra essence, divided
A big pinch of saffron soaked in cold milk
1 cup milk
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup aaloobukhara or dried pitted prunes (optional; I did not have it)
3/4 slit green chillies, if you like it
Oil for frying the potatoes
1/2 cup aata or wholewheat flour made into a dough for sealing the edges

Step 1
The first step towards making this biryani starts one day ahead. Take the mutton pieces and wash properly. Rinse well and apply salt and keep aside for 20 minutes. 
Meanwhile, dry roast all the ingredients listed under powder and let it cool. Now grind to a not-so-fine yet not-so-coarse powder and keep it handy. 
Wash and rinse the mutton again after 20 minutes and take it in a clean vessel with a lid. Drain out as much water as possible. To this add the yogurt, sugar, ghee, fried onions, papaya, salt to taste, ground spices and mix well. Add salt keeping in mind that this is how your biryani will taste along with the rice (which will also be cooked in salty water). Cover the vessel and keep aside the mutton for marination for atleast 4-5 hours or overnight. The more the better. 

Step 2
Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Boil water with salt and add the whole spices. Add the soaked and drained rice and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the water. The rice should be just 30-40% cooked. Keep the rice in a colander until used. 
Heat oil in a pan and fry the potato halves until golden on all sides. Remove from heat and drain excess oil on paper towels. 
Step 3
If you have marinated the mutton overnight, ensure that you bring it to room temperature before starting the procedure. The best way is to take it out of the refrigerator first thing in the morning and let it remain for 2-3 hours before cooking. 
Now grease the bottom of your biryani pot. Ensure that it has a tight lid. Meanwhile, put a thick iron skillet/ tawa on the stove top and let it heat up. Arrange the sliced potatoes in a single layer with minimum gaps in between. You can use more sliced potatoes if you need. 
Now spead out about 1/3 of the rice in an even layer. Sprinkle 1/2 of the fried onions, 1/2 of the ghee, 1/2 of the kewra essence, and 1/2 of the raisins and prunes (if using). Now spread the mutton and the marinade over the rice and fill out any open gaps. Add the fired potato halves and slit green chillies if you like it spicy. Top it up with the remaining rice and spread evenly. Add the remaining ghee, kewra essence, raisins and prunes, and  fried onions. Sprinkle the saffron milk on the rice followed by 1 cup of milk. Roll the atta dough into an elongated rope and fix it along the rim of the vessel. Seal it with the lid tightly placed on top and ensuring there are no gaps in between for the steam to escape. 
Put the vessel on the hot tawa and reduce the gas to minimum and forget about it for the next 1-1.5 hours or until you start getting the biryani fragrance. Switch off the flame and let the vessel remain on the hot tawa for 1/2 hour. Remove the lid now, mix the biryani with a spoon and serve hot with your favorite raita and green chutney. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

My First Swiss Roll

15th of August was husband's birthday and he wished for a cake which was low in calorie as well as in guilt. Now, birthday cakes are meant to be indulged rather than count the calories. However, being the finicky guy that he is about cream and butter, I knew I had to pay heed to his demand or be ready to gulp down the entire cake myself. A bit of research showed me that it wasn't that diffucult a job either. You can have a beautiful birthdayish cake even without adding that cup of butter. The answer to my problem was a Swiss Roll. I was so pleased to know about the ingredients, I immediately set about on the task to get my tools ready. The basic success of the Swiss Roll depends on how well you have separated the eggs. A little drop of yolk in your egg whites will spoil your chances of getting the perfectly whipped stiff white peaks and creamy egg yolk batter. So you should either have an egg separator ready or be quite an expert of doing it without the tool. 
The next important step is the baking of the sponge. You should bake it just until the toothpick inserted comes out clean. A minute more than that and you will, although still have a beautiful soft and moist sponge, get cracks while rolling it with the filling. While I failed to understand this in my first attempt and hence got a few cracks here and there, it is definitely a lesson well learnt. I also tried to decorate the swiss roll with a baked pattern but I guess I have to read up a little more to get hold of the technique. My pattern got a bit burnt and so I had to invert the swiss roll and add the filling on the side of the pattern, hence those red starwberry spots in between the chocolate filling. So keeping the decorated Swiss Roll for another day!
4 large eggs separated (it is best to separate eggs when they are fresh and cold out of the refrigerator; once separated, bring them to room temperature before starting the procedure)
1/4 tsp salt
A pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
3/4 cup castor sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanila extract

For the filling
4 cups icing sugar 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp butter (preferably unsalted) cut into squares
120 ml milk at room temperature

P.S.: This is a standard chocolate sauce recipe. The excess sauce you can store in the fridge for later use. You can also use any filling as you wish like fresh fruit jam, whipped cream, etc. 

Take a 32x23 cm flat baking dish and grease it. Line the dish with parchment paper in a way that there are no bubbles or raised edges. It should be as smooth as possible. This will help you get a smooth wrinkle-free base once baked. The greasing of the bottom of the pan before lining helps keep the parchment paper in place. 
Now, take the bowl of egg whites (which you had separated while the egg was still cold from the fridge and brought to room temperature) and ensure that there are no drops of yolk or dirt in it. Add the salt and cream of tartar (if using) and beat them to stiff peaks but not dry. Takes about 10 minutes in the electric beater with the paddle attachment. 
Now beat the egg yolks till creamy. Add the sugar little at a time and beat till a pale thick and creamy batter is formed. This will take another 5-10 minutes. I usually first beat the egg whites till stiff and then use the same attachment for the yolks. It is okay to have whites mixed in the yolk but strictly no for the reverse. Hence, if you intend to use the same attachment for both the whites and the yolks, you must always beat the whites first. 
Now sift the flour and baking powder. Add the vanilla extract to the batter and beat for a second until combined. Now, add the sifted flour to the batter in two batches and mix till smooth and no lumps remain. 
Meanwhile, start pre-heating the oven at 180 degree celsius for 10 minutes. 
Now add the egg whites and with the help of a spatula (never use an electric beater) fold into the mixture till smooth. Take care not to overmix the batter which will deflate the whites. Also, always move the spoon in one direction to fold in the whites. Pour this batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Check at 15 minutes and then again in 2-3 minutes. A minute over baked and you are sure to get cracks on top while rolling as well as hard edges. 
Immediately remove from the baking dish and onto another parchment paper of the same size. Roll the swiss roll along with this parchment paper and let it cool. This will help gain its shape. When just warm, unroll it gently and spread the filling without spoiling the bend and roll up again. This time without the parchment paper. Once rolled, cover it up with the paper loosely and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Slice when cooled. You can also chill it and bring it slightly back to room temperature before serving. 


Friday, 15 August 2014

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Carrot Bread

There were some fresh carrots lying in the fridge and some wilting spinach in the freezer. There had to be a way out to use them before the carrots loose their crunch and the spinach its life. However, stir fry or salad or sandwich was definitely not on my mind. Not being a vegetable lover, I had to think of something to camouflage the goodies and feed myself and my family. Bread it was and what better way to have a complete meal along with a bowl of soup! A wonderfully healthy and wholesome bread made with 100% wholewheat, goes well even with your faborite dip or a fresh and fluffy Spanish Omelette! 

2 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup carrot puree (boil the carrots, drain and reserve the water, and puree the carrots in the blender)
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk powder
1 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional; you can use 1 egg optionally or skip it)
1 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
100 ml lukewarm water (use the liquid in which you boiled the carrots for maximum health)
2 tbsp olive oil plus more for greasing

For the filling
1/2 cup spinach puree
5-6 slices of cheese
2-3 tbsp coriander and garlic paste (blend together in the grinder)
1 tbsp your choice of seasoning (I used a mix of cumin powder, coriander powder, and pinch of homemade garam masala)
Salt to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Prepare the filling first. Mix all the ingredients except the cheese slices and keep aside. If you feel it is too watery, drain the liquid and keep it in a bowl for use in some other curry or gravy. 
In a bowl, take the warm water (feels confortable when put on the back of your wrist or 40-45 degree celsius measured on the food thermometer) and dissolve 1 tbsp sugar. Add the yeast and mix thoroughly. Let it stand for 10 minutes undisturbed until frothy and foamy. 
In another bowl, mix together the flour, milk powder, salt, wheat gluten, and remaining sugar. Now slowly add the frothy yeast liquid and start mixing the dough with a spatula in one direction till all the liquid is absorbed. Now add the puree and start kneading with your hands. It will feel very sticky and messy at the beginning. Add the oil and continue kneading while adding some extra flour if required. Do not add too much flour. The dough needs to be smooth, non-sticky, and elastic but will still be a little soft and moist as for wholewheat we need to keep it moist. Oil the dough on the outside and loosely clingwrap it and keep in a warm place to rise for about 1-1.5 hours or until doubled. 
  Now roll out the dough on a clean and lightly floured surface into a rectangle. 
Arrange the cheese slices on top unevenly and fill up the spaces with the spinach puree. Start rolling in towards the other end, pinching the edges as you go.

Now grease two loaf tins and line them with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into half and keep each half in the prepared loaf tins. 
Cover and keep aside for 1-1.5 hours or until doubled. While nearing towards the end of the proofing time, start pre-heating the oven at 180 degree celsius for at least 10 minutes. Slice thin long strips of capsicum and arrange on top alternating with slices of cheese. 
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until browned on top and the tap sounds hollow and the internal temperature is between 80-100 degree celsius (on the higher side). 
Remove from the loaf tin immediately and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. 


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wholewheat Jaggery and Ginger Biscuits

I am dedicating this post to my dear Aunt, Ira Chakraborty or Ira Jethai as we lovingly call her. Jethai refers to Mom's elder sister in Assamese. She is no longer with us today but her recipes continue to remind us of her beautiful and loving ways of showing her love for us through her awesome yet simple dishes she used to cook for us whenever we used to visit her. 
A very soft spoken lady, she was the eldest of the family and I used to hear it from Mom how she used to be the strict guardian when it came to protecting and disciplining her siblings. It has been almost 2 years now and while we are busy with our routine lives, her memories and thoughts continue to linger in our minds. The recipe for these biscuits were recently found by one of her daughters, who made them and then shared the recipe with me. The only change I made was with the flour and the kind of sugar used in the recipe. The cookies are deliciously crunchy and healthy and leaves me with fond memories of her everytime I take a bite with my cuppa!
1 3/4 cup (150 gms) wholewheat flour
1/4 cup (50 gms) wheat germ (optional; can be replaced with equal quantity wholewheat flour)
1/2 cup (100 gms) butter
1/2 cup (100 gms) brown sugar (you can reduce the quantity if you want as per your taste)
1/2 cup jaggery grated
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Note: If you are using all cup measurements, please use it throughout and do not mix the metric. If you use cup measurements for some and grams for other ingredients, you might end up with a imperfect batter/dough. 

Take the butter, sugar, jaggery, lime juice, and ginger powder in a bowl and melt it, either in the microwave or on stove top. If using the microwave, ensure that the jaggery is completely melted and no solids remain. Keep aside and let it cool. 
Now sift the flour with soda, baking powder, and salt. Take this in a bowl and add the wheat germ, if using. Now add the melted butter and jaggery mixture and start mixing the dough to a smooth lump. Ensure that the dough is not too dry nor too wet and the mixture just holds together. 
Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take small portion of the dough in your hands and gently roll it between your palms and flatten it to about 1/4 inch thickness. Arrange the flattened dough balls on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Keep at least 1" space between the cookies as they expand while baking. 

Sprinkle some sugar on top and bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes till the cookies are browned (not burnt) but still a little soft to touch. Do not bake the cookies till hard. You will end up with rock hard cookies. 
Remove from oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool completely before storing in air tight jars.