October 02, 2017

Shubho Bijoya with rajbhog

Bengali sweet Rajbhog

I haven't been in India for durga pujo for many years now, but pujo still revolves around food, friends adda and happiness no matter where. Shubho Bijoya and Happy Dushera. I hope you had a wonderful festive season too.

I try to make something special during this season and this year decided to tackle rajbhog or as my kids call it - giant rasgulla.

There were many recipes I saw that involved adding food color, filling the rajbhog with mawa, or dry fruits. Instead I have tried to keep the recipe simple mostly for kids and for me. 

I tried it a few times with a few variations before posting.

Here is my cheat sheet.

I make homemade chana/paneer.

Don't let the chana/paneer sit out for two long. Mix it while it still has some moisture.

Mix some saffron and sugar in the chana/paneer.

Make sure the sugar syrup is bubbling nicely when the chana/paneer balls are in.

Ingredients:
(makes 10-12)
1/2 gallon whole milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 tspoon suji
1 tspoon flour
1 tspoon sugar
few strands of saffron

For syrup
21/2 cups of water + 1 cup of warm water
1 cup sugar
few strands of saffron
4-5 cardamom
1 tspoon rose water (optional)

Method:
Heat the milk in a deep bottomed pan till it  boils over then add in the juice of the lemon. Keep it on heat till milk separates.

Bengali sweet Rajbhog
Wash the chana well to get any excess smell out and strain it in a cheesecloth and hang it for 1-2 hours to drain excess water.

Bengali sweet Rajbhog
Then take the chana/paneer and mix in the saffrons, semolina/suji, flour and sugar and mix it well for a good 5-7 minutes, till it all come together smoothly.

Bengali sweet Rajbhog
Divide the mix into equal 10-12 parts. Then take each part, mix it in your hand and make a smooth ball. Repeat for each part. Know that the rajbhog will double in size during boiling.

Making sugar syrup:
Take a deep thich bottomed pan and add 1 cup sugar in 2 1/2 cups water. Once the sugar dissolves add in the saffron, cardamom, and the rose water. Let is boil for about 5-6 minutes till it is not so watery.

Add in the chana/paneer balls in the boiling sugar syrup and close the lid. Let it boil for 15-20 minutes. In the middle, you will have to add the extra 1 cup warm water, because the syrup should not get thick. It's consistency is important.

Keep the lid closed otherwise.

Bengali sweet Rajbhog
Let it cool preferably overnight before serving.

September 22, 2017

Lamb kofta (meatball) Pulao

Lamb meatball pulao

Another school year has started and this year brings a big change for us. Tiny M has started in a Young Five program this year and goes to the same school as his older brother Lil A. So far he is transitioning into his new school well. He likes his classroom and that he gets to do music, gym and especially library.

I just want to take a minute to slow down and remember this because before I know he will be finishing his elementary school.

Coming back to the recipe, I have something special to celebrate the pujo season.

I have made this lamb kofta pulao a few times now experimenting with some spices, herbs and fried onions. Now I stick to cooking the rice and the meatballs separately and combining them towards the end.

If you are entertaining this pujo season, it is a special dish. It does involve a few steps especially if you are making the meatballs but totally worth the effort.

September 09, 2017

Eggs Kejriwal on a Sunday morning

Eggs Kejriwal


We heard about Eggs Kejriwal first when Tejal Rao's piece appeared in The New York Times and have been meaning to make it since then. But it came to fruition just a couple of weeks ago when the summer vacation was coming to a close and we needed just something special for that send off.

Yes, even though it's called Kejriwal it has nothing to do with Arvind Kejriwal, rather it originated in Mumbai five decades ago. Rao's fascinating history of toast, egg and cheese is here.

We followed most of the recipe through, but there is tons of variations that can be done and we have done a couple and have several more in mind. Instead of mustard, we have tried it with harissa, or another turkish pasta Aswin brought home recently, and have dressed it up with Zatar (which has become routine) and each time it tastes delicious.

It makes a perfect brunch center piece because it cooks quickly. Once the guests arrive, just grill the cheese in the oven and top it with the eggs and serve.

Here is the recipe from The New York Times with some adaptions.

August 15, 2017

Tanjore marathi recipe - Vangi dahi bharit

We wait all year here for summer. We get through probably the toughest month of February in the hope of June and July. Sure the spring is a lot of work - cleaning, getting the vegetable patch ready, planting the seedlings, pruning.

But come summer the school is off, no lunch menus to be planned, movie night can be any day ;-), vegetable patch gives a small supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, chillies, peppers, farmers market is is full swing.

These two cucumbers were hiding under the plant for almost a week before I spotted it. How is your summer going?

This summer Lil A is riding his bike without training wheels, Tiny M is learning how to read. There are spell books and star wars from the library.

But before I get too far, let me tell you about the recipe. I have another special Tanjore marathi recipe - Vangi dahi bharit.

Vangi Dahi bharit

My MIL was visiting a few weeks ago and when she comes I am always waiting to learn a new Tanjore marathi recipe. She suggested Vangi dahi Bharit. It is a version of bharta but instead of tomato, the recipe uses yogurt.

When Aswin's cousin and her mom were visiting, they mentioned that the recipe can be made either with yogurt and sometimes the yogurt is substituted for tamarind juice.

Similarly, the eggplant can be replaced with other vegetables which are sautéed then then added to the yogurt with a tempering. This version is quite simple, but you can add ginger, onions, or even a hint of coconut to the bharit.

It goes as a great side for many things. We served it with a simple dal and pulao.

June 27, 2017

Instapot Palak or Saag Paneer

Instapot Palak Paneer


When it comes to trying out a new technology, A is better than me. He got us hooked to Echo (now kids have more conversation with Alexa than us), fitbit, and now Instapot.

When we got it last year, he was the one who cooked food in it - delicious egg curry, then sambar, rice, dal and Palak paneer was the ultimate. Since it is Lil A's favorite we make it every week.

And soon enough I was hooked to the Instapot too. The masala chole was another discovery. But I digress.

I cook the palak in the instapot and saute the paneer in a pan and it's ready within 30 minutes.  The one trick I have learned is to add some herbs with the greens and it makes it taste fresh and delicious.

June 13, 2017

Tarkari diye chanar dalna (Paneer and vegetable curry)

Vegetable and paneer curry


When all the leaves fell down last fall, we discovered an abandoned nest in the red maple tree in our front yard. It was small and lasted through most of the winter. In the spring rain last couple of months, it almost disintegrated.

The leaves came back in the maple and we forgot about the nest. Then just yesterday, we found that the birds have come back to the nest, readied it and made it their home again. Now there are four little babies hanging out in the nest.

In other news, the veggie patch has been planted, the roses are blooming again and it is the last week of school.

The temperatures are soaring, we had a few days in the 90deg F. When it happens, I switch to light curries and this chanar dalna or paneer curry is one of them. With onion, ginger and tomatoes as the base, you can add any vegetable available. I added potato, carrot, peas and beans, but you could add some cauliflower, broccoli, summer squashes too.

May 28, 2017

Black beans and vegetables rice

Blackbeans & vegetables rice

School year is slowly coming to a close and as we near it somehow it increasingly get busier - class trips, holiday planning, activities for kids and summer planning. While it is exciting, it is a little nerve-wrecking too.

The local YMCA here has a bunch of kids camps that are fun but fill up quickly. Last year, I was on time and managed to sign up Lil A. This year, I didn't have the summer plans ready in February when the camps opened. By the time I went to register, the classes were full. I managed to find other camps.

But am curious, how do your kids spend summer holidays?

On the other hand, summer means lot of outdoor fun and grilling.

As the grilling season begins, I am always looking for sides to go with the entree - tandoori chicken, grilled veggies, kabobs, etc. Watermelon salad is a favorite. And I think I may have found a new favorite.

This black beans and vegetables rice will go with everything. I made it quickly over a weeknight dinner with some friends and served it with some chicken curry and a lettuce and cucumber salad. I used snow peas, cherry tomatoes and green beans, but you could put virtually anything. The flavor of the rice comes from the fresh vegetables, garlic and fresh herbs. I used cilantro and parsley but I could see dill and mint adding a bunch of flavors too.

April 28, 2017

Teriyaki Salmon curry with vegetables

Salmon Teriyaki with vegetables

Now that the weather is warming up, what have you been up to?

The Eberwhite woods are in front of us. When the weather is nice, I sometimes cross through the woods for Lil A's school which is on the other side. The woods is home to a pair of great horned owls. We hears the owls in the fall when Lil A had his soccer practice outside.

This spring the owls have babies - two little baby owls. They are high up in the tree and we could see them with a binocular. We have taken several trips to get a glimpse of the babies.  In the process we also met some western painted turtles who live by the swamp, and even saw a snake.

The babies are now learning how to fly. Here is a story that appeared in the local media about it.  

Coming back to the recipe. Lil A loves salmon and snow peas and peppers too. So I combined all of them together in a recipe. It was delicious. Except for the kids, I had to separate them and serve it.  I served it with some plain rice, but you could even serve it with noodles. 

I bought a bottle of teriyaki sauce and a pack of panko crumbs. I also added a small tomato puree in the sauce and the sweet and sour sauce was delicious. 

Here is the recipe:

April 13, 2017

Gajar matar er tarkari - carrot and peas

Carrot and peas curry


Aswin went to India in February for a short visit. While he was at my parents place, my mom made the gajar-matar er tarkari for dinner. A staple that is made during the winter months with the red carrots that are available during the season with simplest of phorons (tempering) and served with hot rotis.

You know where this is going. Aswin loved it so much that I was on the phone asking my mom the recipe.

I didn't have the red carrots, but I made it immediately with the orange ones available here. One bite and it took me straight back to the cold winters, when one is covered in a shawl constantly drawing the edges closer, the fog of the cold winter washing by as the auto whizzes through a street still waking up. And in the bag in the lap is a tiffin-box packed with parathas and this sabji.

Carrot and peas curry

That's the power of taste, and memories embedded somewhere deep inside.

March 26, 2017

Making jalebi from scratch

Making Jalebis - Indian sweet


I had an unusual request this week. Doing an Indian food demo for a class of undergraduate students learning about "Foods of Asia".

This was my first demo class ever and I was nervous. It was in a residence hall kitchen and the faculties are pretty spectacular. I chose to make - Chicken tikka masala, dal with dill and tomatoes and pulao.

I prepped and marinated the chicken before but other than that, we did the rest during the class. The students helped me chop the vegetables, stirred the dal and rice, and made the chicken tikka.

The funniest moment came when an Indian-American student in the class refused to eat dal saying he ate it every day growing up. I told him "that is what I do to my kids too. I hope they won't hate dal when they grew up."

It was a fun experience - interacting with the students, the professor and the graduate student. Tasting food with them and watching the interactions. Thank you for the opportunity.

Now I am interested in doing some cooking classes. Friends who have done it, will you give me some advice? What are some of the key lessons/tips?

Coming back to the recipe, it's one of the things I learned to make at home because the kids like it. Such a balance - making them eat what I want them to eat and what they want to eat.

Here is how I made it. I just searched the internet and used the recipe from the blog - Madura's kitchen.

February 13, 2017

Brownies for Valentine's Day

Brownie

Time for Valentine's Day, what are you doing? Any chocolates, cookies or brownies in the making? I love a good brownie. For years, I resisted making it at home and then caved in when Tiny M confessed to a major chocolate love. How can you not, right?

For recipe, I turned to the famous Browneyed Baker's Bake Brownie. I've like that it doesn't use any baking powder or soda like some of the others did. I tried it with only chocolate and only cocoa and the it tastes best when both of them are added.

I've made it many times and the brownie turns out just the way we like it, rich, dense, and fudgey. It is rich and indulgent, and just perfect for Valentine's Day.

Here is the recipe with my tweaks. For original recipe, click here.

January 27, 2017

Pikachu birthday cookies

Pokemon cookies


Pikachu, Charmander, Bunnelby and the list goes on. These names were alien to me just a year ago and now I hear them non stop as Lil A debates their power, damage and strengths. In case you were wondering, they are all Pokemon characters and Lil A is into collecting Pokemon cards.

Pokemon cookiesIt all started last summer when a couple of his older friends gave him a few Pokemon cards and he was hooked. Slowly he figured out the trading part. He was so excited when he got his first EX card. Yes, it is supposed to be a big deal!

So when his birthday rolled by, I decided to surprise him with some Pokemon cookies. I ordered a few Pokemon cutters and got to work. As this was a school treat, I decided to minimize glazing.

I put some food color in the cookie dough and just colored the eyes and mouth with sugar and food color mix.

It made the impact I was hoping it would make. Lil A was all excited and he and his friends enjoyed the treats.

Here is a small trick I learned with this cookie. For best results, refrigerate the dough before putting it in the oven as well.

Here is how I did it.

January 17, 2017

Kashmiri lamb rogan josh to start the year

Kashmiri Lamb roganjosh


It's been a while since I have been here. When things get busy with illnesses or some difficulty, I tend to draw in and focus my energy on getting through it. You know how it goes, right. With two little kids, it is kind of inevitable.

Everything is fine now and I am coming back gingerly, having been away for so long.

Wreath cookies Hope you had a good holiday season. I had a couple of cookie exchange and here is what I made for one of them - wreath cookies. Regular sugar cookies. Tiny M and I had a lot of fun making it.

He was very interested in helping me, carrying them to the tray, and occasionally tasting little cookies that came from the donut holes of the cookies. I set aside some cookies for them and they colored their own.

When I was at the Farmer's Market last month, I picked some  lamb shoulders with nice marbling. The next day a couple of foodie friends were coming for dinner and I knew I had to make something special with it. I settled on lamb rogan josh without knowing it was one of their favorite dishes.

I got the recipe off the web from one of the blogs. The recipe called for 3 tbspoon of kashimiri chilli powder. I am usually cautious and will taste, but for some reason I forgot to this time. So when it was time to taste, I almost choked. The heat was too much, overshadowing the taste of other spices.

I decided to throw out the entire curry and start all over again. This time settling on a much lesser amount of the chili powder. Maybe our tastes are milder, maybe the kashmiri chili powder I had was too spicy, or maybe both. I will never know. But now I have a recipe that works well.

This recipe has no onion, or garlic. The flavors come from the black cardamom, dry ginger, fennel and asafetida (hing). Use ghee for best flavors. If it feels too much, temper in ghee and use oil for the rest.

The second version came out great and it turned out to be a great evening.

Here is how I did it.


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