Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fish Cutlets

Silence speaks volumes! This phrase simply explains my inability to coherently explain even to myself what this new health care bill is all about. I have tried keeping abreast of what is afoot by reading newspaper/magazine/blog articles on everything pertaining to it but have become none the wiser.

Picnic lunch

That does not directly translate to total failure considering my knowledge of Congressional inner workings as far as vocabulary has been greatly enriched - parliamentary maneuvers, deem and pass, appropriation, bait and switch (maybe not?) have all become everyday words. Nancy Pelosi apparently has done something no other speaker has done getting the health care bill passed not once but three times. The other side has been screaming about death panels, tea partying, ballooning deficits and socialism but no one truly has taken the time to explain clearly what is in the bill that is so bad or good for us the people.

One good thing about this bill that I do understand is that insurance companies cannot deny coverage for a preexisting condition but wait a minute that does not kick in till 2014?

Tort reform, single payer system all essential for keeping costs low have not been touched. Both sides are being disingenuous.

The vitriol from the tea partyers or tea baggers or whatever they call themselves is the hardest to understand. question. Perhaps they don't get sick or have pre-existing conditions!

So i won't yak any more about a subject that I have but the bare minimum knowledge. When has that kept me back you ask?

Fish cutlets - I was introduced to them by a friend 10 odd years ago at my then workplace. Until then I had tasted cutlets yes the vegetarian kind but not a non-veg kind. She brought a few over for me to take home with me. Having cooked one too many fillets of fish she had used the excess to make cutlets. She added potatoes and some spices and voila they became cutlets. They have been on the to cook list ever since. As for the friend, I am sad I lost touch with her but I do think of her whenever I see a fish cutlet. Shouldn't be hard to get back in touch, maybe I will soon. A restaurant served some tasty fish cutlets so every Sunday when we felt like some fried food we were there to taste some of those cutlets but it was time to give them a try at home.

These Srilankan fish cutlets on Maninas was the final push I needed.

add the onions,ginger and chilies to the potatoes

add the crumbled fish, salt and the powders

add the bread crumbs, squeeze in the lemon juice and mix everything together

shape the cutlets and coat them with the egg

dredge them in bread crumbs and deep fry in oil till golden brown

For these fish cutlets I used canned Wild Alaskan Salmon (Costco brand). Fresh salmon can be poached and used. Break the fish loose with your fingers. I have taken to adding ginger to almost anything cooked with potatoes or beans. Helps the gastro system.

The fish cutlets were cooked up for a backyard picnic on one of those amazingly warm and pretty spring days.

Fish and mustard paste are made for each other(yes Bengalis have known about this fact for a very long time) a slathering of dijon mustard on the bread slices goes a long way to enhance the taste.

Recipe Source: Srilankan fish cutlets

Fish Cutlets
1.Salmon fish flakes - 3 Cups worth - 18oz
2.4 Medium sized potatoes - 1 Cup
3.5 green or red chilies deseed and chopped fine
4.1/2 cup finely chopped onions
5.2 tsp cumin powder
6.1/2 tbsp curry leaves powder (fresh curry leaves chopped fine)
7.1 tbsp chili powder
8.3 tbsp bread crumbs and more (1 cup) for coating
9.1 tbsp ginger grated
10. 1 tbsp lemon juice
11. salt to taste
12. oil for deep frying
13. 2 eggs whisked

1. Boil the potatoes, drain, peel and mash (make sure to boil the potatoes whole so they do not retain too much water)
2. Add the salmon, followed by the onions,ginger and chilies
3. Add the powders chili, cumin,curry leaves powders and salt, squeeze in the lemon juice
4. Add the bread crumbs in and mix them all together
5. Beat the eggs and set aside, heat the oil in a frying pan.
6. Take a lemon size ball of the fish mixture and shape them in the palm of your hand to about 1/2 inch thick circles
7.Dip the cutlets in the egg and coat them with the bread crumbs.
8.When the oil is hot enough, fry them in the oil till the outside is golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Note: Be careful with the quantity of salt if using canned fish.

It occurred to me that this could be a perfect entry for Blog Bites #2 : The Copy Cat Edition hosted at One Hot Stove.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sauted Maine shrimp, Indian style

What do you do when a friend who lives in New England offers to ship you some Maine shrimp? Having no idea what they are I politely decline thinking in my mind "how different could these be anyway". It was daunting task to get my friend to back off so I let things take their course. The shrimp arrived in the middle of the snow storm. With plenty of time on hand and no where to go, it was perfect timing.

I had no idea the shrimp season was a short six weeks, though it was extended this year. Anyway those shrimp were soft, sweet and tasty and a lot different in taste than the shrimp we are used to. The shrimp had shell with whiskers which had to be removed but no veins to devein.

For a seafood-shrimp loving family this was a treat indeed. To preserve the delicate taste just a simple masala seemed the right thing to do. Regular shrimp will work very well for this recipe.

1. 2 Cups of peeled shrimp
2. 1 cup shallots chopped
3. 1/2 cup tomatoes chopped or 2 tbsp tomato paste
4. 4 garlic cloves chopped
5. 1/2 tbsp ginger grated
6. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
7. 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
8. handful curry leaves
9. salt to taste
10. 1 tsp of oil
11. seasonings : cumin seeds

1. In a pan heat oil and add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Now add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute till they are nice and brown.
2. Add the tomatoes and salt and let them cook till they are soft.
3. Make sure all the moisture is absorbed before the shrimp are added (the shrimp need to be only cooked for a few minutes)
4. Now add the shrimp and mix so they are coated well. Add the lemon juice and mix it in. Cook them for 3-4 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Curious who the friend was? Well none other than our friend who blogs over here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green beans pakoda Kadhi (Green bean dumplings in a spicy yogurt sauce) - no frying involved

Almonds - a nut that is good for you. So much so that not too much thought goes into its usage, increases the creaminess and taste quotient when added to simple payasam, adds some mojo to the mixed nuts, makes a wonderful halwa or a burfi, flavored milk and the list goes on. It does not cost an arm and a leg to have bag of these nuts in the pantry. Looks like that might change - Bees are busier than ever as disease besieges colonies. I have read a couple of years ago about the the colony collapse disorder and how it was killing off the bees. When I saw the article I was curious to find the almond, honey bee connection.

shredded beans

Did you know that 80% of the world's almonds comes from California? CA gets more revenue from almonds than it does from wines. As the acreage under almond cultivation increased so did the need for pollinators(read honey bees). Pollination domain is not owned by the honey bees. Butterflies, bumble bees, moths, even wasps and bats are all pollinators in their own right but they are wild insects and not organized like the honey bees which live in colonies and make it easy to be transported.

add the chickpea flour, chopped onions and the spice powders

Like with every China connection the dumping of cheap Chinese honey into the US made the prices of local honey uncompetitive and US honey bee keepers could not stay afloat. But luckily for the US honey bee keepers, this coincided with the increase in monoculture where large acreages were brought under cultivation of a single crop. With the disappearance of small family farms, diversity of crops also disappeared which is essential for wild pollinators. Large scale commercial operations which specializes in a single crop organized in neat tracts of land formed with destruction of wild flower meadows, application of pesticides which removed weeds the wild pollinators were destroyed.

prepared batter

This destruction of wild pollinators threw a lifeline to the bee keepers in the form of commercial pollination. The almond growers in the absence of wild pollinators and not enough honey bees available locally required trucking of honey bees from the other parts of the country and thus providing an alternate livelihood for bee keepers.

use the paniyaram pan to make the pakodas

Not just almonds, oranges, apples, cranberries and even melons all required commercial honey bee keepers for pollination but none demand the prices that almond does in the world market, so the demand for the bee hives are set by the almond growers.

Reference: This excellent article on SFGate.com.

cooked pakoda

Arrive the diseases that are affecting the bee colonies and large numbers of bees dying off. Researchers initially thought they would arrive out one single virus affecting the bees but they found out it was a cumulative effect of several. The prices for bee hives have been going up steadily as more and more bee hives are in danger. Beekeepers do not fail to remind everyone that most vegetables and fruits we eat everyday require the honey bees for pollination.

yogurt mixed in with chickpea flour, turmeric and chili powder

As honey bees in the US are dying off, honey bees are shipped from Australia and diseases in that population affect the hives here.

the pakodas floating in the yogurt

There are others who decry this over dependence on honey bees which are not native to the US to do most of the pollination which the native pollinators had done a century before. They also argue bees and honey making again is exploitation of animals.

you will be forgiven if you think this is pudding but it is pakoda kadhi

"We have been losing bees and beekeepers in this country for 60 years, and now we are at the point where almost half the colonies in the country are needed to pollinate almonds in California," vanEngelsdorp said. "We are close to the margin" of a viable ratio of pollinators to crops, he said. "It's amazing to me how close we are to that line."
Source: Washington Post article

These facts by themselves should be quite alarming. Most food crops, vegetables and fruits that are grown in large number are from a very few species and those are dependent on a very few creatures to sustain. The way our food is sourced is severely fucked up and the more I read about it the more scarier it gets. There are smart people who make decisions they are surely seeing these problems that scientists and those in the food movement have been talking about for years.

Haagen Dazs has an interactive and very feature about honey bees, their importance to food production and how we can help to save them.

The Recipe
Now on to a bit more pleasant things. I have spoken a bit about this hole in the wall place we used to frequent. Cheap but fresh Indian food, what if the place was a bit dirty we did a carryout or avoided looking at the floor. At this place was my first introduction to methi parathas and pakoda kadhi. A sardarji who manned the griddle was also a server suggested both the dishes. Who would turn down a recommendaton from the cook himself? Skeptical at first about a pakoda kadhi, huh?

In my corner of India, we knew pakoda very well, the very popular deep fried snack, as for kadhi was called mor kuzhambu, often made when there was an excess of sour yogurt and the crisper held no fresh vegetables. One was a tea time snack the other at least in my childhood home was a night time side dish for rice. But in my world the two had never met in a cooking pot.

But the taste hooked us from the very first try and became a regular restaurant order but not always consistently tasty and always with a layer of yellow tinged oil floating on top. Two things about this dish had me in knots about trying this simple and easy recipe, cooking the yogurt on a stove top and bringing all the work to a naught when the curdling happens. Deep frying the pakoda was the other. The more kadhi I saw on blogs and my doubts being cleared, slowly but surely I was running out of excuses. An occasion presented itself with an over abundance of yogurt. I was to make homemade yogurt for around 80 people and like is my habit I made yogurt for 150 people and left with plenty of sour yogurt. RC's baked pakodas and Sharmila's assurance that the chick pea flour keeps the yogurt from breaking had me experimenting with a dish which until then was a restaurant only fare. I had some green beans turning black and made itself the main ingredient in the pakoda.

Recipe Source: Kadhi Pakoda from Edible Garden

Green bean pakoda kadhi
To make pakodas
1. 2 cups of minced green beans
2. 2 cups of chick pea flour
3. 1 tbsp chili powder
4. 2 tsp cumin powder
5. 1 tbsp curry leaves powder
6. 1 tsp cumin seeds
7. 1/2 tbsp ginger grated
8. 1/2 onion minced - 1/2 cup worth
9. salt to taste
10. oil for making the pakodas (grease the paniyaram pan)

For the yogurt gravy (kadhi)
1. 4 cups of yogurt (from fat free milk) whisked + 1 cup of water
2. 1 1/2 tbsp of chick pea flour (I used a less than 1/2 cup and it was a bit much)
3. 1/2 tbsp of chili powder
4. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
5. 3 tsp of grated of ginger
6. seasonings : cumin seeds, 3 red chilies broken and seeds removed, asfoetida
7. 1 tsp oil
8. salt to taste

1. To make the batter for the pakoda, mix the ingredients in the to make pakoda section, add 1/2 cup of water and make a thick batter.
2. Heat the paniyaram pan, grease the holes and pour the batter into the holes. Let them cook on one side, flip and cook on the other side. Make sure a tooth pick or any sharp needle like object inserted comes out clean.
(You can stop here and enjoy the pakoda paniyarams but we won't do that)
3. Set aside and start to prepare the kadhi
4. Whisk in the chick pea flour with chili powder,turmeric powder to the yogurt.
5. Heat a thick bottomed pan, heat the oil add the cumin seeds, asfoetida and red chilies. Add the ginger and saute for a minute or two.
6. Reduce the heat all the way to low and add the yogurt, raise the heat to medium low and let it heat through, add salt.
7. Add the pakodas and continue to cook for 12 - 15 minutes.
8. The time you cook depends on the consistency of the kadhi required ( I cooked it for about 20 minutes and it became quite thick like seen in the picture)

Serve over rice or parathas.

Miri, says that the best kadhi is when it is simmered for 12-15 minutes.

It was not that hard in the end. The biggest problem was keeping off the pakodas before they hit the yogurt. It was a perfect with some soft rotis.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mochai (Hyacinth bean) Rice in a pressure cooker

The place in this post is a school in the outskirts of Coimbatore near the foothills of the Western Ghats. Sra and Kay you were both pretty close.

dried mochai

Mochai and Avrakkai (both hyacinth beans) had me confused like no other. I was talking to my inlaws and they explained it to me.

cooked mochai

Mochai beans are a type of avrakkai whose pods are tough and cannot be eaten even when they are tender and grown for the beans. And the other varieties of avrakkai are grown for the pods and even when mature the pods are still edible.

saute the onions for the paste

I remember fresh mochai beans as being available in January around Sankranti. Mochai with brinjals was the most popular pairing cooked in a spicy tamarind gravy.

make the paste

Now getting fresh mochai beans is possible only in my dreams and till a few years ago the same was true for the dried beans as well.

onions and chilies for the rice

Then one day I found a packet at an Indian grocery store and pounced on it with glee but when I went back a while later when mine ran out they were no where to be found. Now I have a found a regular source for these beans.

heat oil, add the seasonings and saute the onions

I have a stash in the pantry though I don't cook them that often.

add the beans and the paste

add the rice

add water, let it come to a boil, add the weight and let cook for 8 minutes

cooked rice

Bharathy over at Spicy Chilly had a recipe for Mochai Sadam which I wanted to try the minute I saw it and the added bonus Nupur's Blog Bites event where the theme is Pressure Cookers. With sambhar powder in the mix I could not ignore it could I?

Serve with yogurt and vadagam

Mochai Sadam
1. 1 cup of mochai beans soaked overnight
2. 1 1/2 cups of rice (I used ponni raw rice)
3. 2 tbsp onions chopped
4. 4 green chilies slit
5. 2 - 3 garlic cloves minced
6. seasonings: curry leaves and mustard
7. ghee or oil

For the paste
1. 10 small onions (I used frozen) or 1/2 cup chopped red onions
2. 1 tsp cumin seeds
3. 1 tbsp curry leaves powder (or use 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves)
4. 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder
5. 2 tsp turmeric powder

Saute the red onions till they are browned , add the cumin seeds and saute for a minute. Add the powder, give a good mix and blend to a smooth paste without adding too much water.

1. Cook the mochai beans in the pressure cooker and set aside.
2. In the pressure cooker , add the ghee and when hot add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to splutter add the curry leaves followed by the onions, slit green chilies, saute till the onions are soft, add the slit green chilies and garlic.
3. Now add the beans, followed by the blended paste. Mix it well.
4. Add the rice and mix it gently so the masala paste is coated well.
4. Now add water just enough to cook the rice along with salt and let the water come to a boil. [Ponni rice require 1: 2 1/2 cups of water)
5. Close the lid, put the weight on and cook for 8 minutes (time may vary but cook for just enough time for the rice to be cooked)

Serve with yogurt and a few vadagams.

Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner for the Giveaway.

Congratulations! Happy Cook.

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kids Lunch - Egg Chapati and a Guess

Does the view from your window make a difference to the quality of work you produce? Imagine this view, a mountain with silvery waterfalls with dreamy clouds floating on top. The view should rejuvenate the senses every single time I would think. But if you are seeing it every single day does it lose its value? Does it get boring as seeing a concrete jungle or a wall and there is no difference in productivity?

Now look at these photos and guess what place this is.

Can you see those waterfalls?

On weekdays 5:30 - 7:00AM is probably the busiest around our home. Breakfast and lunch to be packed for the kids. DD and DD2 both hate PBJ sandwiches and with that out of the picture a quick, creative and unjunky but like fast food is the criteria. Can't spend too much time and be late for the bus. This egg chapati fits the bill perfectly, takes less than 15 minutes and a tasty no whine lunch is ready. Just have the dough ready ahead of time.

egg on chapati

egg cooked, cheese spread on top

packed and ready to go

Egg Chapati
1. Prepared chapati dough
2. 2 Eggs
3. 2 handfuls of grated cheese
4. 1/2 cup cooked broccoli or grated carrot (optional)
5. pepper and salt to taste
6. 1 tsp ghee

1. Roll out the chapati
2. Heat a griddle and cook the chapati on one side till spots start to appear,flip and cook for a few seconds. (Keep the heat at medium low to avoid burning).
3. Place the undercooked side on the griddle and break the egg on top, spread it around.
4. Place a lid to cover the egg and cook for 2-3 minutes till the eggs are set. (if you like runny eggs you can stop now but I like to cook the eggs completely)
5. Lift the chapati and before you flip it on to the pan, brush the pan with the ghee and let the egg side cook for 2 more minutes
6. Flip again and spread the cheese over the egg and let it melt. If you adding broccoli or carrot add it now and let it heat through for 2-3 minutes.

Giveaway - Details on the side bar. Drawing in a couple of days and will be posted by 8:00 AM ET on Friday, March 19, 2010.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rice layered with chicken and potatoes & Giveaway still on

Giveaway is still on and goes on till March 19, 2010. Details on the right sidebar. Non-bloggers are welcome too, leave your contact details-email address on the comment.

Genetically Modified Foods was the topic of conversation on Science Friday on NPR. There were discussing about how GM crops in US, India and other developing countries. There was a Monsonto technologist, an Anthropologist, a scientist and a director from a bio-fuel group. It gave me a bit more understanding of the GM crop usage in India primarily cotton.

marinating chicken and roasted potatoes

Addition of dried fruits and nuts to any dish elevates it to the next level. A humble lemon rice morphs from boring to interesting with the addition of roasted cashews or peanuts. The same goes for any quick flavored rice preparation.

The effect only gets magnified when nuts and raisins are added to chicken biryani. There is not much that can go wrong with chicken biryani but this addition elevates it to different level altogether and gives the impression that quite a bit of time has been spent slogging in the kitchen. It works at my house every time.

onions and spices being cooked

DD2 loves looking at cook books with colorful pictures. She was intently going over the pages of Taste of the East written by Deh Ta Hsiung, Rafi Fernandez and Steven Wheeler which has a section on Taste of India and chanced upon the above mentioned recipe and has been asking it be cooked with the emphasis on the nuts and raisins.

If you cook biryani the dum way, this is probably very familiar to you. The addition of potatoes and peas being the only difference.

Cooking in the oven works better than using the stove top which has always ended in burn rice at the bottom.

Rice layered with chicken and potatoes
1. 2 lbs chicken cut into desired pieces
2. 2 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
3. 1 cup of green peas (frozen or fresh)
4. 6-8 green chilies slit + 1 tbsp chili powder + 2 tsp turmeric powder
5. 2 cups sliced red onions
6. 2 tbsp grated ginger
7. 6 garlic cloves chopped fine
8. 1 cup cilantro leaves
9. 1/2 cup mint leaves
10. 1 cup beaten yogurt
11. 1 cup chopped tomatoes or 2 tbsp tomato paste
12. 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup of water
13. 1 tbsp milk + few pinches of saffron powder
14. 1 tbsp ghee
15. 2 tbsp cashews + 2 tbsp raisins
16. 1 tbsp oil
17. Whole spices - cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, star anise
18. 2 Cups of basmati rice washed and soaked in water for 1/2 hour
19. salt to taste

1. Marinate the chicken pieces with yogurt, chili powder, turmeric powder, salt, 1 tsp each of ginger and garlic and set aside for 1 hour.
2. Bring water to boil and soak the rice in it for 5-10 minutes, drain and set aside.
2a. Soak the saffron in warm milk and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F if finishing in the oven.

3. Heat oil in a pan and fry the potatoes till golden and set aside to drain
4. In a pot(that can be put in the oven at 375F) you will be finishing the cooking heat the 1/4 of the ghee and the rest of the oil. Add the whole spices and when they turn brown.
5. Add the onions and saute till they turn translucent, add the chilies, ginger and garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
6. Add the coriander and mint leaves and saute till they are wilted.
7. Add the chili powder and salt. Now add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft, if using tomato paste mix it in.
8. Add the chicken and let it cook gently for 8-10 minutes. Add the peas if doing so.
9. Now layer half of the rice on top of the chicken.
10. Then make a layer of the potatoes and layer the rest of the rice on top.
11. Sprinkle the water all over the rice. Make holes in the rice and pour the saffron flavored milk into the holes. Place the rest of the ghee on top.
12. If using the oven, cover the pan with aluminum foil. Else close the pan with the lid.
13. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Or in the oven for 15 minutes.
14. Heat a tsp of ghee in a pan and roast the cashews and raisins.
15. When the biryani is cooked toss the rice gently and garnish with the nuts.

The preparation more or less similar to the regular pressure cooker biryani and if you want to use the pressure cooker that should work too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Giveaway - Tweet or Blog to increase your chances

If you tweet or blog about this giveaway and leave your comment, you will be entered more than once. Details in the 'A tomato question and Giveaway' post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A tomato question and a Giveaway

**** CLOSED****

If bar stools are your thing, look no further, click on the link and you will be in bar stool heaven.

I was contacted by CSN stores which comprises the above mentioned online store and 200 others to do a giveaway. The links below show the sponsored prizes and a lucky winner will take home one of them.

But what has tomato got to do with the give away? Tomatoes occupy a big part in a lot of cuisines, they sure do in Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, most South American, Ethopian - well I can't think of any that does not use them.

For the Giveaway:
1. Leave a comment with the names of the tomatoes you regularly buy along with the names of 2 tomatoes you would love to get your hands on.
2. Choose ONE among the three items shown above that you would really like to win.
3. Valid contact information, either your blog address or email address where you can be contacted.

4.Please feel free to tweet or blog about this giveaway by linking to this post.
Copy the code below:
<a href='http://indosungod.blogspot.com/2010/03/tomato-question-and-le-creuset-giveaway.html' target='_blank'><img alt='Giveaway at Daily Musings' border='0' height='125' src='http://i180.photobucket.com/albums/x101/indosungod/CasseroleBluenew.jpg' width='200/>Giveaway at Daily Musings</a>

To tweet:
Giveaway at Daily Musings(@indosungod) - http://tinyurl.com/yepsgp6

Let me know in the comment section and you will be entered twice or thrice(if you tweet and blog).

That is it really.

1. Shipping to USA and Canada only. Giveaway ends March 19, 2010.
2. A lucky winner will be chosen by a random generator.
3. CSN stores will ship the item to the winner. *

* I do not get any compensation monetary or otherwise from this giveaway

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Notun Alor Dum and Doi Maach

Every day for the first 18 years of my life (barring maybe the first two) I grew up singing a Bengali hymn. As a child in India I had a better understanding of alien cultures than the unique parts that made India whole. Blame it on the education system with its emphasis on the British East India Company and the Mughul rule. The Macaulayan distortion of Indian history was what was fed to us through the elite education system as it still does today. I digress but that is my defense.

The Bengali hymn, none other than the Indian National Anthem written by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel prize for literature. Hence Bengal occupies a special place in India, as for matters of Bengali cuisine, it might as well as have been on the other side of the world, that is exactly how much knowledge I had of it. From my corner of the world in TamilNadu anyone who lived north of the Vindhyas were predominantly wheat eaters and chapati making just came naturally. Imagine my great surprise when a blogger friend who will be introduced soon, confessed she was not good at making them.

I'll quickly state a few other facts that come to mind whenever I think of Bengal and feel free to please dispense me of any wrong ones.

1. Unlike most Brahmins who are vegetarians, Bengali Brahmins eat fish.
2. Clothes most specifically ready made garments were sold by the Kilo. - this fact mentioned by my dad of what he saw when he visited Calcutta Kolkata long before I was even born.
3. Goddess Kali is a very important deity
4. Communists have ruled the state for as long as I can remember (and)
5. Their love of literature and poetry.

But something happened a few years ago that gave me a deeper and a richer understanding of Bengali cuisine, when I discovered Sandeepa's excellent blog Bong Mom's CookBook. She loved her rice and read the previous paragraph again to learn one other truth about her.

Along the way I discovered a few more excellent blogs none of which need any introduction but I will list them all the same.
Soma's eCurry
Shramila's Kichu Khon
Sayantani's A Homemaker's Diary
Mallika's Quick Indian Cooking

I am sure there are many more good ones out there. Please feel free to list your favorites ones in the comments.

Read Sandeepa's latest post, don't ask me how she anticipated what I was going to talk about today!. As for rasagulla - the other stereotype, those days and maybe even today they came in tins packed I guess all the way from Calcutta (or was it Haldiram?), my dad loved them and bought them wherever he found them, as for me I loved my ammayee's gulab jamuns more.

A timely article in the Washington Post - Mmm, Kolkata: Eats on the streets and off the beaten path was perfect to spur me along.

I have learned so much about, admired and anticipated tasting various Bengali dishes and had to start somewhere. I wanted to try fish/shrimp in mustard paste or vegetables in poppy seeds paste first. Life interfered and potatoes happened first.

I am a succor for potatoes small, big ,round,oblong, thin, fat - you name it and I will buy it if I can see it. One look at this Karaishutir Kochuri aar Notun Alur Dom and a date was set and was also the first dish to be tried. I did not add the whole spices, garam masala or sugar the recipe called for.

Recipe Source: Sayantani's Notun Alor Dom

Baby Potatoes in onion yogurt sauce
1. 10-12 baby potatoes boiled and peeled, pricked with a fork and set aside
2. 1/2 of red onion minced using a food processor - 1 cup worth
3. 1 inch knob of ginger grated - 1 tbsp
4. 2 tomatoes chopped 1 cup
5. yogurt - 3-4 tbps whisked
6. coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
7. 2-3 tsp cumin powder
8. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder (or to taste)
9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
10. salt to taste
11. seasonings: cumin seeds.
12. 2-3 tsp oil


1. In a wide mouthed pan (kadai) heat oil and roast the potatoes for 3-4 minutes and set aside. ( i forgot to rub them with turmeric and salt, please remember to do that)
2. Add the onions and saute, as they start to turn pink, add the ginger and saute till they are brown but not burned.
3. As the onions are sauteing dry roast the coriander seeds and powder them
4. When the onions are brown, add the turmeric,coriander, cumin and red chili powder and mix it in.
5. Now add the tomatoes, cover and cook till they are completely mushy. Switch off the flame.
6. Cool the pan for 5 minutes , add the whisked yogurt and put the pan back on the flame, add the potatoes, salt and let them cook for 8-10 minutes. I did not need to add any water as I was using yogurt made from fat free milk. Add 1/2 cup of water otherwise.

No kachuris only chapatis but thoroughly enjoyed.

Next up is the Doi Maach. One of my cousins was fond of non.veg (chicken/goat) so much that he wanted to take the day off from school if he found out non.veg was being cooked that day. In our(my) family that kind of enthusiasm is reserved for fish. It is one item we can eat without any problems whatever way it is cooked. A day was reserved for cooking doi maach as I am not lucky enough to know a source of Rohu or Hilsa, what I had on hand - frozen flounder had to do. I rubbed them in turmeric and salt and set them aside for a while. DD had to go somewhere and I just under an hour to finish the cooking and this was done with plenty of time to spare.

Fish curry in our parts was usually made with the head, tail and a few pieces usually with the bone left behind after the fleshy ones were taken for the fish fry. The fish pieces dropped into the gravy was never fried before hand and because the only most sturdy pieces were used they did not fall apart in the gravy. Lot of Bengali curries use fried fish in the curry and keeps the fleshy pieces together and from falling apart. Even the delicate flounder maintained most of its shape. Here too I did not add the whole spices - the rush got to me and I forgot.

Recipe Source: Sandeepa' Doi Maach

Fish in yogurt sauce
1. 8 fillets of flounder smeared with turmeric and salt
2. 1 cup of minced onion (I did not make a paste)
3. 2 tbsp of grated ginger
4. 1 cup of whisked yogurt
5. 3 slit Thai red chilies
6. 1 tbsp turmeric powder
7. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
8. 1 Tbsp oil
9. salt to taste
11. Whole spices - cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom (I did not add them)

1. Heat 3/4 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and the sear the fish pieces on both sides
2. Now heat the rest of the oil in the kadai and add the whole spices if using.
3. Add the slit chilies and minced onions and saute, when the onions start to turn pink add the ginger and saute till the onions are brown.
4. Add the turmeric and chili powder and turn off the heat.
5. After 5 minutes add the whisked yogurt. I did not add any water because the fish will leave water.
6. Let it cook on medium low heat for 6-8 minutes.
7. Add the fried fish and salt if required and let it cook till the gravy thickens.

Serve over rice.

We enjoyed the fish preparation immensely.

My experiments with Bengali cuisine will continue at the rate of one every 2 weeks. Let's see if the schedule sticks.