Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Mango Cream Prawns

Prawns and mango make a great combination and the last time I did a series on raw mangoes, I somehow left out the prawns. Ever since I have been itching to do something with raw mangoes and prawn. Last evening I did just that. My brother is a huge football fan, a good player too and he was rather kicked last evening with  Real Madrid set to take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi finals scheduled for later in the evening. A good dish of prawns would only add to the mood, I thought. By the way we are Real Madrid fans. Of course, till then we had no idea we'll have a reason to celebrate too.

Besides, there was that carton of cream I had to finish. Yesterday was the deadline. So I whipped up this dish which had prawns in a light and subtly flavoured mango and cream muddle. It is a great dish for the summers when you do not want to eat food that's too spicy. And it is by far one of the simplest recipes I have come up with.My Dad loved it and hope you will too. Only a few ingredients and one light and delicious dish coming up!


Prawns (heads removed) - 600 g
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Fresh Cream - 3/4 cup
Raw mango - 1
Green chilies - 5-6
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Mustard oil


Grate the raw mango. In a grinder grind the grated raw mango with a  couple of green chilies in a smooth paste. Add the cream and give it a quick whirl. Remove in a bowl and keep.

Heat mustard oil in a pan. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the prawns and cook for a few minutes. Once the prawns releases it juices and turn opaque add the mango cream, rest of the green chilies finely chopped, salt and sugar. Reduce heat and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Remove and serve with plain rice.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Eggstravaganza: Eggs and peppers in a mustard cream sauce

The other day one of my school friends came over for lunch. We had grown rather close in the last couple of years in school and have been in touch ever since, sporadically though. I met only twice in these nine years since we finished school. Nine Years? Woah! Anyway, so I was rather excited. I had promised to cook for her and I had planned out a rather extensive menu. Guess what I ended up serving just three dishes of which one doesn't count as a dish proper. No I was not lazy, only she had picked the hottest day of the year up till now at least, to visit. The kitchen was nothing less than an inferno and I was almost nauseous. So I decided a light pulao and a chicken I make was all I was making. Besides, my friend is a small eater and she had already warned me against too much to eat. I slipped in a typical mango chutney we Bengalis swear by.
     Now this particular chicken dish requires fresh cream. Not much, about two tablespoons for the quantity I was making. Half way through the dish I realised I had no cream in the fridge. So I sent one of our helps to get a pack of Amul cream. He returned an hour and a half later, panting and sweating, with no cream. I had turned off the stove and was in a panic mode by then. Now that he had returned without the cream I was hysterical. He said he had tried 7 different shops but couldn't find cream, there was apparently no supply. So there I was pacing about the dining room, stomping about actually, cursing my stars etc when my Mum said that there was perhaps one place where cream would be available. New Market. Yeah right, that place, that heaven of a market is 15 km from my place and considering the weekday traffic it wouldn't take less than an hour and a half to get cream for there, cream I would need 2 tablespoons of. But hello, we are talking about a school friend coming over for lunch here, so New Market it was.
     So Shambhu Da, God bless him, took a metro to New Market and got me the cream. But he had brought a whole litre of it. My chicken was saved but I was left with a litre of cream. Now the shopkeeper had said it could be stored for a whole month even after it was opened. My mother said, "nonsense", three days at the most or it goes to the bin. Then she turned around to add, "Better not waste it."
So now I am finding all sorts of ways to use the cream. I trumped up this dish, this evening (day 2) with no intention to share it here but it turned out great and I though I might as well  share it. Some onions, capsicum and eggs in a mustard and cream sauce. And let me tell you I was eggstatic with the result.


Hard Boiled eggs - 5
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Onions - 2
Plum tomatoes (whole)-
Capsicum - 2
Chopped Parsley - 4 tbsp
Curd - 2 tbsp
Cream - 175 ml
Kasundi (mustard relish) - 3 tbsp
Chili flakes - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Butter - 4 tbsp


Cut the onions and capsicum in rings. 

In a bowl beat the curd, cream, sugar, chili flakes and kasundi together. 

Heat butter in an pan. Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a minutes. Add the onion and capsicum rings and the whole tomatoes. Sprinkle some salt and stir fry for a few minutes until the capsicum and onion rings soften but retain the crunch.

Add the eggs and give a good toss. Reduce heat and add the cream and mustard mixture and add half the chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning. Let is simmer for a few minutes on low heat. 

Remove from heat, garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot...or cold.  

Friday, 25 April 2014

Flourless chocolate torte: Another first time

I have been craving a simple chocolate torte for a few weeks now. Yesterday I got down to making one for myself. Of course, I didn't get more than a thin sliver, but that's another story.

Well a torte is a dense and rich cake, usually multilayered with fillings that could be anything ranging from butter cream and jams to ganache and mousses. Once cooled, the decadent cake is finished off with a fine glaze. Drool worthy I tell you. However, there are a few European versions are without layers too and since I was trying to make a torte for the first time I preferred to keep it simple. So I fished out a recipe that is so simple to make that you do a little jig just to celebrate its simplicity.

Now I always feel that it's best that you shop for your own kitchen. In fact, in recent times I have begun to enjoy shopping for ingredients, even the stench of the fish market excites me. But yesterday, I was feeling rather lazy. Besides, the very thought of stepping out in this heat and jostling my way through throngs of enthused shoppers while sweating like a little piggy didn't appeal to me much. I do not usually buy my ingredients from air conditioned malls, I have specific shops at specific old fashioned bazaars that I head to in times of need. So I bullied someone else to do that for me. Well, I didn't exactly bully him, he was headed that way anyway.

And though I will be grateful to him for getting me the ingredients, I was a tad disappointed because he got me chocolate compound instead of dark chocolate. Now like a friend, a former chef and now a professor of culinary sciences, said -- the difference between pure chocolate (for cooking) and chocolate compound is that in chocolate compound the chocolate liqueur and cocoa butter is substituted with vegetable oil and cocoa powder. However he pointed out that working with compound chocolate is easier than handling chocolate. And he said the difference isn't much either, unless you're a persnickety gastronome. To me though the difference in taste is hardly recognizable, there is a distinct textural difference, which I believe comes from the difference in the fat used, vegetable oil as opposed to cocoa butter.

However, to me the real problem was the sugar content in the compound, it was higher of course. So I had to work around that. Coming back to my recipe...Now tortes are usually made with lots of eggs and very little flour, the recipe I found had no flour at all. And it was a torte with no layers, just a dusting of cocoa powder to finish it off. I was not in the mood for jams or jellies, was a little too lazy to trump up a mousse or ganache and I am not a huge fan of butter cream. So I decided to keep it simple.

The method is pretty simple really. Melt the chocolate and butter together. Beat the eggs and sugar. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and bake. And you have a rich, dense, gooey torte ready. But I had the sugar level to deal with. The recipe comprised usual white sugar. Now I substituted the sugar with Demerara sugar (less sweet) and a little less than the quantity suggested. Later instead of just the cocoa powder, I finished it off with a dusting of both cocoa powder and icing sugar. The effect was nice indeed.

By the way, about torte,  it seems the Sachertorte, a classic layered torte with a layer of apricot jam and a coating of chocolate icing that originated in Austria, (invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel Von Metternich) is a royalty of sorts among tortes. Did you know that in Austria December 5 is celebrated as National Sachertorte Day? Ah I was just reading about it here. Well, the next time I make a torte, Sachertorte it is going to be.

Unsalted butter - 175 g  + more for greasing the pan
Large eggs - 6
Chocolate Compound - 340 g
Demerara sugar - 5 - 6 tbsp
Pinch of salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder ad icing sugar for dusting


Preheat oven at 175 degree centigrade. Grease a 9 inch spring form  pan and keep. Chop up the chocolate and in a heatproof bowl combine the chocolate and the butter. Place the bowl on another bowl half-filled with oiling water. The bottom of the bowl containing the chocolate shouldn't touch the water. Set aside to let the chocolate and butter melt. Then stir to combine the melted butter and chocolate together, remove from bowl of boiling water and cool a bit.

In another bowl combine eggs, sugar and salt and beat until thick and pale.

Now fold in the chocolate mixture with the eggs mix, first half and once combines the rest. Pour into the greased springform and bake at 175 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the top is almost set, barely wiggles and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with only a few crumb. Remove on to a rack and cool.

Finally finish it off with a dusting of cocoa powder and icing sugar. I would prefer to serve it cold.

Note that the above recipe is an adaptation of the original one. For the original recipe see here. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rustic chicken stew tart:Confessions of a first time tart baker:

I am not much of a baker. I have never baked regularly. Only once in a while. And I have quite a few disasters to my credit. As a child I loved watching my mother bake that cake occasionally, some times I would beg her to let me cream the butter and sugar and she would, but only for a few seconds. When mum baked cakes we didn't have fancy blender or electronic whisks and she would do it all manually. It meant real hard work. Probably one reason why I always avoided baking, though I loved the idea of it.

The other reason is I often felt intimidated by it, especially considering Ma's categorical insistence on adhering to measurement. Now I am a restless person, mostly I like to follow my whim and throw things in and around according to my crazy moods. I have found following recipes rather tedious, a little boring too. But then of late I have felt this tremendous urge to bake. Now my mum has not baked in a long time and she has over time given away most of her baking supplies to friends, neighbours, relatives, etc. So right now I am in the process of building my own inventory. And every time I buy a new item I feel an indomitable urge to make something with it right away.

So when my newest Tart Mold Tray arrived by courier last evening I couldn't wait to bake the first tart of my life. I couldn't wait till this morning, I was itching to do something. So I prepped for the filling, marinated the chicken and put it in the fridge last night. Oh I wanted to make a savoury tart with chicken but something light considering the heat. So I came up with the idea of making a filling inspired by a simple, creamy chicken stew is a light tart shell. The inspiration behind my filling was the kind one of the most popular bakeries in Calcutta has in their chicken envelopes. It was a trial and error method but I am almost there at the first go. I like my version enough to keep it just like this. So I woke up at 6 this morning, usually that's midnight for me. And before I brushed my teeth I was making tart dough (I had washed my hands though). The next few hours are all a haze in my mind. The sweltering heat, beads of sweat, the flours between my fingers, the struggle with lining the tart tin, my brother stealing away big spoons full of the filling which naturally fell short...what chaos. I realised lining a tart tin is not art it is war, at least it was for me. May be things will cool down the next time. By the way the patches pf butter is the dough is a good things, that how we want to roll baby. I had started to panic when Mum shared her wisdom.

By the way I in my dreams last night I was deep frying pizza slices and tossing them into the dustbin, one after another, non stop. Talking of pizza, and this is uncanny, I got to know this morning that Pizza Hut will be serving Biryani now!!! No offense meant, but I feel pretty offended by the stuff they serve as pizza, at least here in Calcutta, and now Biryani? Ummmmm

Like I said, it was my first time baking a tart so I looked up for recipes for tart shells online, settled for the simplest, dared to tweak it a little bit here and there....teeny weeny little. The filling is my own little baby though.

Recipe for tart shell dough: 
All purpose flour - 370 g
Cold unsalted butter cut in cubes - 125 g
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Sugar- 1 tsp
Ice water- 4-5 tbsp

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and stir around for a bit to aerate it.

Now add the butter to the flour and mix it, cutting the butter into the flow. You will have a gravelly mix of flower and butter.

Now add the ice water and gently bring the dough together. Do not over work the dough.

Keep the dough on a sheet of parchment and roll it out so that its big enough to fit your tin. You will see patches of butter in your dough which is a good thing. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and keep it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Recipe courtesy www.chow.com

Rustic Chicken Stew Tart

Tart shell dough (as directed above)
Boneless chicken diced - 1 kg
Diced Capsicum - 2 cups
Diced Onions - 2 cups
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Fresh coarsely ground pepper - 1 tbsp (heaped) or to taste
Nutmeg powder - 1/2 tsp
Milk - 1/2 cup
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Butter - 30 g


Prepare the tart crust: Preheat oven at 200 degree centigrade. After the tart crust dough has rested in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, bring it out and line your tart dish with the dough, fill it with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 10-12 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave it to rest.

Prepare the chicken stew filling: In a bowl mix the chicken, capsicum and onions together. Add garlic paste, salt and fresh, coarsely ground pepper. Leave the chicken in its marinade for at least 3 hours. I left it in the fridge, covered over night.

Heat butter in a pan. Add  nutmeg powder and add the chicken. Stir fry the chicken for about 5 minutes on high heat, reduce heat, cover and cook for another 15 minutes approximately.

Remove cover, adjust seasoning, add a little sugar and cook on medium heat to let the juices reduce. When the chicken is almost tender, and most the juice has reduces, add the milk and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle the flour and mix well. Give it a minute or two and remove.

Getting it together: Preheat oven at 200 degree centigrade. Carefully pour the chicken stew filling into the pre baked pie crust and bake it for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

PS. The filling is yum on its own or on toast or as a filling for puff pastry!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Chocolate Fruit and Nut cookies and a slice of my imagination

I stayed awake all night, last night. And all the while I watched back-to-back episodes of Most Haunted, a very popular Paranormal Investigation Series in the UK and one of my major pastimes during my university days. The show takes you to the many purportedly haunted locations in Great Britain -- medieval castles, opulent mansions, dilapidated churches, abandoned theatres -- where the team conducts an over night investigation equipped with various ghost detecting gadgets and a couple of psychics and mediums. The show isn't scary, in fact it is funny mostly and at times annoying. OK a few episodes do send that chill down your spine but what I love is to to hear about the legends, local lores and stories associated with these sites of immense historical value. 

Since I share bits and pieces of my life with you here I thought I'll share this with you too. I am sucker for stories about the paranormal. No I am not fearless. I am in fact, very very scared of ghosts. Should I ever have the good fortune of an otherworldly encounter, I ll perhaps not come out of it sane. And yet spending a night at a haunted house is among the top things on my 100 Things to Do before I die list. Yes I have that list too. Yeah, go ahead...call me a clown. 

Anyway so I love horror films and stories about spirits and astral beings lingering in the shadows of the night, apparitions vanishing into nothingness, vengeful wraiths and disembodied cries piercing the still of the night. Like I said, during my university days I have spent hours watching Most Haunted. What made it even more exciting then was the fact that I was in England at the time, and I could visit these places if I wanted. Actually I did. 

I went to the University of Sussex in Brighton, a charming beach resort in the south of England. And in Brighton was this stately manor house, the Preston Manor. On a cool spring afternoon, after I had returned from my classes and got on with my daily routine of watching videos on YouTube I happened to chance upon an episode of the Most Haunted featuring Preston Manner and I decided I had to check the place out. 

The stately manor house with its ornate gardens, is surrounded by the lush expanse of the Preston Park. The fascinating history of the manor goes back to the late 16th century and the house has passed through many hands in its time. And with it have passed down tales of unearthly noises, mysterious apparitions and disembodied voices. According to one legend a nun had been murdered on the grounds of the house and her body unceremoniously buried under one of the ground floor balconies. Her remains were found hundreds of years later in 1896 or 97. The story seems probable because, adjacent to the manor is an 11th century church with a graveyard around, reportedly haunted as well. Read more about the manor here 

Now we (I had dragged three of my friends along) went to Preston Manor on a March afternoon and while we were thrilled and almost hoping to have a brush with the other world, the Edwardian interiors of the house with its opulent setting betrayed nothing. No eerie feeling, no cold spots, no disembodied whispers and definitely not a full blown apparition. We ventured underground to check out the kitchen and servants' quarters where the bells seems to ring on their own though they are no longer connected to electricity and a feeling of foreboding overcomes visitors. Blah...NOTHING. I was rather disappointed. 

So I went ahead and asked one of the men at the reception. An older man, of about 60. He seemed rather amused but confirmed the news of the haunting. In fact, he called his colleague who had experienced something in the house. Supposedly she was locking up one evening, when she heard footsteps on the floor above and heard people talking. She thought it was perhaps a colleague and went up to check. Of course there was no one. But no, the ghosts of Preston Manor didn't say a hi to us. However, all of us were overcome with this unsettling feeling when we visited the church grounds. I couldn't wait to leave. Later no one confessed, but we were all pretty uncomfortable there. Could it be? 

However, while we were taking the final batch of photographs in front of the house, we saw a scary face against the ground floor glass window.The SCREAM kind a face. We were a little startled but oh it was the good old man with a this skeleton mask he had pulled out from somewhere. And what a laugh he had. 

Then he called me to the window and told me "Young lady remember this, these are times when you ought to be more scared of the living, than the DEAD." 

And where do these gorgeous chocolate cookies crammed full with almonds, cranberries, cashews and raisins feature in the scheme of things? Well after my nightly rendezvous with the paranormal of course I couldn't sleep. I was imagining things despite willing myself to think happy thoughts. And so I baked some cookies at 4 AM. I had made a lot of cookie dough so I baked another batch this afternoon. And let me tell you, these are delicious. I started my day with some cookies, a glass of chilled milk and my favourite author. And it has been a happy day so far. 


Plain flour - 200 g
Butter - 180 g
Cocoa Powder- 30 g 
Castor Sugar - 90 g 
Vanilla essence - 1/2 tsp 
Chopped almonds - 75 g
Chopped cranberries - 50 g
Chopped raisins - 30 g 
Halved cashews - 22 


Cream the butter and sugar together until sugar almost dissolves. 

Add the vanilla and cocoa powder and mix well. 

Add the chopped nuts and dried fruits. Mix well. 

Finally add the flour and mix to form a soft, mushy dough. Use your hands at this stage. 

Divide the dough in two or thee parts, shape into a log, wrap in aluminium foil or cling film and keep it in the freezer for about 1/2 hour - 45 minutes. 

Pre heat oven at 180 degree centigrade. 

Line a tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil. Grease it little with a little melted butter. 

Now take out the dough logs from the freezer, cut into 1 cm roundels and line of the baking tray. Do not crowd the cookies in, give them enough space to expand. 

Bake in the over for 12-15 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. 

Once out of the oven, let it cool completely before removing them from the tray. 

Store in air tight jars

PS I am sharing a piece of fiction I wrote here. It was published by the American Speculative Fiction E-zine Fiction Vortex. If you have time read it and leave a comment here. Good, bad , whatever. Would mean a lot to me.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Shubho Nobo Borsho :Kasha Mangsho

Shubho Nobo Borsho to all you wonderful people!

Ma suggested I take a break from the kitchen today. "Why do you want to sweat it out in the kitchen, g out and have fun.," she said. Strange. Usually, she is the one who complains that I am always having fun, that I am never around and while every girl my age helps out at home I have no clue how she runs the house. Well I was surprised. And then I surprised her. I said that I wanted to be home. And how could I not do my favourite thing the first day of the year. My mother has over the years drilled into my head that the first day of the year sets the tone for the entire year. By that logic, when I was a kid she made me study at least for a couple of hours even on Nobo Borsho so that I would study every day for the rest of the year. Neat. So while all my friends were having fun I would be sitting with my books all decked up in my New Year special buys and teary eyed.

I reminded her that by her own  logic if I would cook good food today, I will be cooking good food all year round. "That's exactly what I was trying to avoid," she said. I went ahead with the cooking anyway and made a Kasha Mangsho. For me a Kasha Mangsho should necessarily be made without a drop of water. Just the meaty juices and fat with a heavy dose of mustard oil and definitely spicy hot. Kasha Mangsho is made in at least 5 different ways at my place, this is my recipe which is a current favourite. For me though, the Kasha Mangsho I used to have as a child, remains a favourite and I often crave that oily treat.

I use a special garam masala I make at home.

Special Garam Masala 

Cardamom - 5
Cloves - 5
Cinnamon - 2 inch stick
Black cardamom - 4-5 seeds
Coriander - 3-4 tbsp
Cumin - 1 tbsp
Fenugreek - 1/2 tsp

Simply dry roast the spices and grind together.

Moving on to the recipe!!!


Mutton - 1kg

For marination
Curd - 100g
Minced onions - 1 cup
Garlic paste - 3/4 tbsp
Ginger paste 11/2 tbsp
Raw Papaya paste - 2tbsp
Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
Kashmiri red chili powder - 1 tsp (heaped)
Red chili powder- 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1tbsp
Special Garam Masala * - 1tbsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tbsp
Mustard oil - 1.2 cup

For cooking
Ghee- 2 tbsp
Cardamom - 2
Cloves -2
Bay Leaves - 2
Sugar - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Dried Red chili
Coarsely ground peppercorns - 1tsp


Marinate the mutton overnight with all the ingredients listed under marination.

Heat ghee in a pan. Add the cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and wait till they splutter, reduce heat and add sugar.

Once the sugar caramelizes add the marinated mutton and turn up the heat. Once it comes to a boil, turn down heat to minimum, cover and slow cook for an hour and a half. Make sure you stir it through once every 15 minutes.

Remove cover, add ground peppercorn, whole red chilies, adjust seasoning (add a little sugar, optional) and cook without cover on medium heat until oil separates.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A lunch to remember!

“French cooking?” he puckers his lips, frowns, and blurts out, “outright boring.”  He is staring into my eyes. I let out an awkward giggle that comes out more like a stifled grunt.

Star of the show! 
He is a burly man with handsome features,  sports a stubble, speaks in a somewhat  gravelly voice , and with an unmistakable French accent . You can’t miss the tattoos peeking from underneath the sleeves of his immaculate, white chef’s coat and a cool pair of shades sits on his head . And he has magic in his fingers.  
I am talking about Toronto based chef Marc Thuet, a Frenchman who finds the severe traditions of French cooking boring, insists on having utmost fun with his ingredients, enjoys cookinG, hates routine and if you don’t find him at home or in his restaurants, he is, perhaps, off hunting bears in the Canadian wilderness.

This afternoon I had the good fortune of tasting a few of Chef Thuet’s signature dishes at Le Thuet, a special gastronomic experience hosted by the Taj Bengal and I can’t quite stop drooling over the mere reminiscence of the superlative meal that I was served.

Chef Thuet and wife Biana Zorich 

Just the other day a fellow food writer popped a question at a similar lunch to the group eating together. He asked which was the last memorable meal we had and where? To our dismay not one of us came up with the likeness of a concrete answer. I wish I was asked the question now.  I can say without a hint of doubt that it was the best meal I have had in a long, long time.

When Chef Thuet and his wonderful wife and business partner Biana Zorich, the duo is a part of Canada’s culinary elite and runs some very successful restaurants in Toronto, left Canada, the temperature was a freezing -20. Imagine there predicament landing in Calcutta and having to surf a few heat waves. One they had to tackle the heat and two, Chef Thuet had to make a few changes to his menu. Of course, the local produce and ingredients available also urged him to tweak the menu. However, the first thing, he introduced his cold cucumber soup to the menu, perfect for the summer heat, just what you need to cool if off. “The cucumbers here are lovely and I had to make this soup,” he says.

For the soup the chef seasons the cucumber and leaves it for about 48 hours so that the water runs out and then he blends the cucumber with thick hung curd, a few spices and some beautiful, fragrant Israeli mint. It does have a faint resemblance with the our raita but then in it go chunks of goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  Subtle on the palate, refreshing, with the burst of tang from the goat cheese and the tomatoes, this one made for a promising beginning. I hear, the chef also makes a non vegetarian version of the same soup with poached scallops and prawns. Hear seafood lovers!

With the soup came a hunk of Baguette Traditional, a traditional French sour dough bread had rolled just like olden times. It’s soft yet chewy, very light and fluffy. “The dough for this classic French baguette  is fermented 4-6  times,” says the chef.  Tear off a chunk, dip it in the golden green olive oil that comes along, and relish its goodness.

The main course comprised, Cured Quebec duck magret, sweet water prawns, black cumin caramel and mango followed by Gremolata crusted lamb rack, basil and goat cheese mashed potato.

Cured Quebec Duck Magret with Roquette, Parmesan and a drizzle of Olive oil

Interestingly, the Cured Quebec duck magret accompanied the chef all the way from Canada. Magret basically breast of ducks specially treated, read force fed, to produce fois gras. Fois gras, made of fattened liver of duck or goose, is of course France’s most famous delicacy.  Now the breast is question is super meaty, the size of a brick, and Chef Thuet cures the meat in his signature style – first the meat is seasoned with grey sea salt and left for 4-5 days, then the chef prepares a rub with 14 special spices, rubs it on the meat and hangs the meat for 7 days. “You can hang it for as long as you like but I want my duck to be meaty rather than dry like prosciutto,” says the chef. 

Cured Quebec duck magret, sweet water prawns, black cumin caramel and mango

The dish is question had a generous cut of cured Quebec duck wrapped around prawns in a subtly sweet, slightly tangy and perfectly creamy sauce with pickled ginger and bits of mango. Perfectly executed, the dish is light on your palate and a perfect balance of subtle flavours. The best part:  the duck definitely enjoys the glory pot in the dish. Better still, just so we could savour the duck with  out any trimming, the chef sent to the table a platter of finely cut duck meat topped with Roquette, Parmesan shavings and a drizzle of olive oil. 

The second dish, Gremolata crusted lamb rack served on a bed of basil and goat cheese mashed potato, baby carrots, mushroom and asparagus. The meat was perfect, done rare, the perfect dark pink inside and the fatty juices dripping crazy.  And the delicious;y creamy mashed potato with the basil and the goat cheese brilliantly complemented the gremolata crust of the lamb. I sure hope no one noticed while I was shamelessly scraping away at the last dregs of meat.

Wild mushrooms risotto with Parmesan shavings

Next in line was the Wild mushroom risotto generously topped with Parmesan shavings. Now I have spent almost a month in Italy (three weeks to be precise) and I have had some great risotto there but none quite like this one. This risotto is by far the best I have had. “Great rice and great wine make for the secret behind a good risotto,” says the chef. Biana, laughs, “He is French with no love lost for Italians and he makes this brilliant risotto.” I agree! It was definitely a stunner, thearborio perfectly cooked, al dente, creamy but no too much, a little smoky from the Shiitake and truffles that the Chef uses in his recipe. It was very very difficult to be polite with that dish around, is all I can say.  

 Chef Thuet is an emotional man. His wife Biana and he appeared in the award-winning reality television series Conviction Kitchen, where ex convicts  were trained to run a restaurant. But two seasons later the chef refused to continue with the show. “During the course of the show these people you train and work with become extremely attached to you , dependent on you. Once the show is over we cary on with life and they are left on their own. It is very difficult for them. It was painful for us. So we decided no more!” he shares. And I have no doubt that a person as emotionally charged should make such great food.

In front: Saffron Tartlet with golden peach and Alphonso compote, maple syrup and walnut rumble; Behind: Chocolate caramel Mousse Verrine with sea salt crumble

Anyway, so finally it was time for desserts, something I look forward to and wait for, even before a meal commences. For desserts there was a gorgeous Saffron tartlet, light and buttery, filled with golden peach and alphonso compote, maple syrup (trust the Canadians with maple syrup, the Canadian province of Quebec alone produces one third of the world’s total produce of maple syrup) and walnut crumble. Now at any other point in time I would go crazy over this dessert, but this time something else claimed my attention and affection, completely. A Chocolate Caramel Mousse Verrine topped with sea salt crumble. I cannot but not use the word orgasmic when I am talking about this bite of unadulterated Sin. The gooey dark chocolate laces your mouth with its bitter sweetness and just when you are least expecting it a burst of salty distraction bowls you over. This one  is a winner, the star of the show. And I will go back, just for this, one more time.

Crazy thing I did: Popped a anti allergy and dug into the prawns anyway. This one time I couldn't resist and glad I didn't.

PS. The food festival Le Thuet exhibiting Chef Marc Thuet’s signature dishes will be open for lunch and dinner till April 18, 2014 at The Hub, Taj Bengal.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

What to expect: Poila Boishakh Buffet at ITC Sonar

For the longest time Bengali cuisine had been a domestic stronghold and an archetypal Khadyoroshik Bangali couldn't extol the virtue of home-cooked food enough. The Ma-Thakuma-Pishima clan possessed the most extraordinary culinary skills, to a bonafide Bangali. Mochar ghonto, no matter how cumbersome a deal was cooked at home and shukto was best made at home. Not many could imagine going restaurant-hopping to sample a ghonto or a malaikari. That was food we had at home. Until, things changed.

Of course, hole-in-the-wall eateries selling chop-cutlet (deep-fried goodies) were always a favourite and then there were the pice hotels that sold unpretentious, mundane Bengali food, but fine-dining specialty restaurants are comparatively new. That makes one wonder what happened to that fiery pride in home cooking? Yes true a part of the clientele in these restaurants comprise NRI Bongs and foreign tourists keen on sampling the region's delicacy. But that can't just be it. Bengalis are venturing out of their homes to have food that once was a part of regular meals. 

We could perhaps discuss the sociology of Bengali cuisine another time. I shall get to the point of this post. So, with Poila Boishakh, Bengali New Year, just round the corner, Specialty restaurants and city Five stars are all gearing up for the celebrations and on offer are elaborate Bengali meals. I recently sampled what's on offer at the ITC Sonar (As a member of the Kolkata Food Bloggers I had received an invitation for a preview of their Poila Boishakh feast). 

To start with, the chilled glass of creamy Gondhoraj Lassi was quite the respite from the heat that has claimed the city's peace. Basically, a generous amount of Gondhoraj lemon rind is tossed into regular lassi and the concoction is allowed to rest for a few hours so that the flavour steeps in and then the lassi is skillfully churned with the juice of the same lime, chilled and presented in pretty glasses. It was quite pleasing on the palate, though I would have ideally opted for the Aam Porar Shorbot, a celebrated beverage in this part of the country made with charcoal-grilled raw mangoes, which was also on the menu. The Chef shared how the mango was charred in Tandoors, just how they should ideally be, and to me that should be the USP of the drink.

For appetizers there was Beckti Paturi (Bekti fillet laced in a pungent mustard marinade, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed), Jhuri aloo bhaja (potatoes cut thin and fried crisp) and Chingri Trigoonabhaja. Now I am allergic to prawns and couldn't sample the Chingri Trigoonabhaja, I had to make do with an innocuous vegetable chop instead, but this dish seemed rather interesting. By the look of it and the bits I gathered from the Chef, it was Chingri in a crust made of poppy seeds, sesame and kalonji (onion seeds) fried deep. I couldn't comment on its taste, but if the reaction of the others seated at my table was anything to go by, this one was perhaps the star of the appetizers platter. I must say  though that the paturi failed to impress me. The fish was fresh but over cooked for my liking and the mustard too pungent to savour. 

Now the tricky thing about judging Bengali cuisine at a restaurant is that there is always a point of reference, which, though helpful in a way, sometimes makes in job difficult. You will always compare the mochar ghonto with that you have had at an aunt's place and aunt most often wins. Now I am not an authenticity snob, as I have mentioned before, the dish simply has to make go "mmmmmm" to win my heart. Both the Mochar Ghonto (finely chopped banana flower cooked with select spices to make a dry savoury treat every Bengali swears by) and Thorer Chhenchki (Banana stem, finely chopped, boiled and stir fried), failed to impress me - I couldn't find that balance of flavour or the play of texture typical to these simple treats. The aloo posto was insignificant too and while I loved the hint of asafoetida in the Chholar Dal Narkel Diye, I wished it was a tad sweeter. But that's just me. 

For the main course, there was Chingrir Malaikari, yes I had to pass, followed by Rui Macher Kalia and Kosha Mangsho. The Rui Macher Kalia was light on the palate, I think it was the closest a five star restaurant could get to home-style cooking. But it was definitely not the best Kalia I have had in town. I was seriously let down by the fish itself. Again, no complaint about the freshness or quality of the fish, but I do think I riper fish would have done better in the Kalia. While it was a generous slice of fish, it had too many bones, the flimsy ones being the most irksome. I personally prefer the fish ripe, with a bit of the fat I so love when I am making a kalia or having them simply fried. In a jhaal (usually a mustard-based curry) or a jhol (soupy curry) too ripe a fish doesn't work. 

However, the Kosha Mangsho was a hit. Especially when paired with the Luchi. About the luchi, these were some of the best I have had. No matter how mundabe luchi (Bengali version of the puri) sounds, not everyone can make that perfect luchi. The piping hot luchi - large, round, a light golden in colour, soft, the upped crust just a little crisp, and puffed-perfect so that the moment I dug into the centre with my finger whooooshhh it went - was for me the star of the show. And the perfect accompaniment was the Kosha Mangho, the boneless pieces of meat oh so tender. Spicy but not overpowering not fiery. It was not the typical kosha mangsho we make in Bengali kitchens, but it was one tasty dish. 

Desserts comprised Chenar Jalebi (Chhanar Jilipi) Raj Bhog and Nalen gurer Payesh. I wonder where they source their gur from in the middle of the summer for the payesh was just how I like it. Creamy and not too sweet. Over all a sumptuous meal, but not an extraordinary experience. 

Recommended for the Luchi and Kosha Mangsho 

Pochet pinnch: Rs 2000 plus taxes with soft beverages and Rs 2750

plus taxes for unlimited premium brands of select alcohol

Timings: April 11-19 Dinner Buffet
             April 15 Both Lunch and Dinner Buffet 

Where: Eden Pavillion
ITC Sonar 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Borir Jhaal and my favourite person

It's been more than a decade that my grandma, Dad's mum, I called her Dida, left us. I have not yet come to terms with life without the old woman's presence. Every time something happened in my life in these 13 years -- a new adventure, a new job, admission in my dream university, new guy, good results-- I wondered what Dida would say had she been around.
Now it was not like Dida and I always got along, in fact, mostly we didn't. We fought over the television remote, cheese straws my aunt would send especially for Dida and I would steal, we fought over Shah Jahan and Mumtaz's love life, Dida always had it mixed up between Noor Jehan and Mumtaz; we fought over my hair which I left open always and she insisted I tie up and so many other things....we fought over.
      Dida was quite the kid -- every time we had a fight, she would pace about the landing of the staircase, around the time Dad got home from work and the moment my father entered the house, Dida would complain. Dad would have a good laugh, that would make Dida angrier, and he would have to scold me.Dad's not the kind to scold, he always breaks into laughter mid way through his tirade.
       But then, dare anyone else in the house lift a finger at me. She was always there to save me from Mum's beatings and my elder cousins' teasing. She called me Putul (doll) and to her I was the fastest kid around. The joy, the pride, the satisfaction that my smallest achievement would evoke in her was overwhelming. You know, that is why, no matter what I do today, everything seems just a little incomplete without her around.
        Anyway, why I have been telling you all about my Dida is because I made one of her favourite dishes last evening. Bori'r Jhaal. For those who do not know, bori is nothing but sun dried lentil pellets, sometimes spiced. In Bengal bori is usually without spice. The range is broad with bori made of different kinds of lentil used in different dishes. Some are subtly flavoured like the Hing'er bori with a hint of asafoetida. That's the one I used for my borir jhaal. Now my Dida had vegetarian food and she was quite the fussy eater. The cooks in our house were all rather scared of her, let's say petrified. She couldn't be served the same courses on two different days of the week, no repetition. Except for the Borir Jhaal, which she insisted on having every day.

So I thought I am going to share the recipe with you and also send it as my entry for Kolkata Food Blogger's Poila Boishakh, Begali New Year special event Poila Boishakh with Veg-Bengali dishes. This borir jhaal is a tad different from the regular borir jhaal I have had. It has capsicum in it and in my version I use kasundi, instead of mustard paste. The zing of mustard, the tang of tomatoes, the flavour of capsicum and the heat from chilies, give the humble bori a rather exciting makeover.


Hing'er Bori - 150g
Tomato - 2 finely chopped
Capsicum - 1 finely chopped
Kasundi or mustard paste - 2 tbsp
Panch phoron - 3/4 tsp
Green chilies - 3-4 slit
Mustard oil
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder - 1/2tsp
Sugar to taste


Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the bori until they are a deep golden. Strain and keep.

In another pan heat about 2 tablespoons of mustard oil. When the oil is near smoking point add the green chilies and panch phoron and reduce heat.

 Once the paanch phoron begins to splutter in the oil and exudes its aroma, toss in the tomatoes and the capsicum and fry for a few minutes, 3-4 minutes approximately.

 In a small bowl mix the turmeric and red chili powder, add about 2 tablespoon of water and make a smooth paste. Add this to the tomatoes and capsicum. Fry for another minute and add water, about 3 cups.

Add salt, sugar and bring it to al boil. Add the bori.

Once the bori softens, stir in the Kasundi/mustard paste and remove from heat. Serve with plain rice.

As for Dida 
I wish that someday I can be the person you thought I already was

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chicken and Prunes Kebab

The vegetable and prune kebabs I had sample at Calcutta's Astor Hotel a few days ago had got me thinking. I wondered how a meaty kebab with a burst of sweet and tang from the prunes turn out. And I had to try making some my way. Yesterday, though tired after a rather extensive press lunch at a city hotel, and half roasted in this sweltering heat (a half roasted me isn't a pretty view), I decided I would go prunes shopping. I came home with prunes alright, and with that some cranberries, lots of mozzarella, some good wine and chocolate. Was I a happy woman? You bet. 

Anyway, I came home to find my parents had guests over. Mum's bestie was over and what could be a better reason to get something grilling in the oven. Well, the only worry was what if my experiment failed. Fingers crossed I got to grinding, chopping and mixing. The idea was to make a spicy kebab, where the spice and heat will be punctuated by the sweet and sour prunes. 4 hours later I had served some of the softest and tastiest kebabs every one swore they have had in a long time. 

I my recipe I have suggested an overnight marination for the kebabs, though last evening I had only marinated the chicken  for three hours. However, a few pieces of chicken remained in the marinade, I grilled them this morning and they were even tastier. 


Boneless chicken - 1 kg
Prunes (chopped) - 150 g 
Curd - 3-4 tbsp 
Cashew nut paste - 1 tbsp 
Green papaya paste – 2 tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Kashmiri red chili powder - 1tsp
Red chili powder – 1tbsp
Nutmeg powder – ¼ tsp
Garam masala powder – ½ tsp
Coriander powder – 1tbsp
Cumin powder – 1tsp
Oil – 4 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar – ½ tsp 


Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients, except the prunes, overnight, in the refrigerator.

Bring out the chicken from the fridge, toss in the prunes. With you fingers make dents into the chicken and stuff the bits of prunes into them. Keep for another half an hour.

Preheat oven and grill the chicken in batches of 8-10 pieces for 20 minutes at 225 degree centigrade.

The kebabs are creamy and absolutely melts in your mouth….literally.

Serve with some mint and coriander chutney high on heat.