Thursday, 29 January 2015

Asian Potatoes and Peanuts

So this post is yet another entry for the Kolkata Food Bloggers' event Know Your Blogger and this week's star blogger is Urmi of Ume's Kitchen. I have spent quite a few hours rummaging through Urmi's repertoire of delicious dishes, trying figuring out which of her numerous lip-smacking good recipes I should try and finally zeroed in on her Spicy Peanut Potatoes. Then I changed my mind and set out to try her lemon tarts, albeit with my own twist. The outcome of my experiment did not please me as much as I wanted it to, so I went back to the Spicy Peanut Potatoes

But while I took inspiration from Urmi's dish, what I whipped up is very different from Urmi's recipe. Driven by impulse, I gave the dish an Asian twist. So, there's peanut and there's potato but that's all that is common to the two dishes. I am not very fond of peanuts in my food, if you serve me a dish with peanuts in it you are most likely to find them stacked in a neat mound on the side. The only exceptions are perhaps a Phad Thai or a  crunchy Thai style salad. So I wanted to give the spicy peanut potato, distint Asian flavours, which I did. The result was pretty great. A few simple ingredients, you can alter proportions too suit your taste buds, and you have a delightful dish. Check it out. 


Baby potatoes - 500 g (boiled and peeled)
Finely chopped garlic - 2 tbsp
Fish sauce - 1 tbsp (optional)
Dark Soy Sauce - 2 tbsp
Tamarind pulp - 1 tbsp
Jaggery (melted) - 2-3 tbsp
Finely chopped red chilies - 3-4 tbsp
Roasted and crushed peanuts - 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds - 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil - 2-3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish
Lemon Wedges to serve with


Heat oil in a wok. Add chopped garlic and fry for a minute. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and give it a quick swirl.

Toss in the baby potatoes and chopped red chilies and give it all a good toss. Add jaggery and tamarind pulp and keep tossing o the fire for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning (be careful, both fish sauce and soy sauce have salt).

Remove from heat. Add the roasted peanuts and give it all a good toss. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and sesame seeds and serve with wedges of lime.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dum ki Raan

Every winter we hold a few mini-bonfire-and-barbecue nights for friends and family on our terrace. I love barbecue nights, I love planning for one, and every time we host one, I take charge of the food. That is, I decide the menu, I marinate the meats- chicken legs, goat chops and leg of lamb -  the previous night, make sure the salads are done and the bread and any other sides are taken care of etc. On the night of the barbecue however, I simply dress up, put on some lipstick and let my hair down. I do not go anywhere near the grills. I let my cousins and their friends do the grilling and roasting! I lap up compliments about how good the meats taste with a sugary giggle and secretly give myself a pat on the back for an awesome barbecue night. Come on, I am the one responsible for the great food people just chomped on. Only I wasn't and though I hate to admit it now, it was the people grilling the meat on that spit fire that should have been credited really - for their skill and more so for their patience. 

I would have never known had I not prepared this Dum ki Rann - slow roasted leg of lamb/ goat in a spicy and sweet gravy enriched with dates and cashew nuts. 

So, last Saturday, I resolved to be more active in the kitchen, I have been extremely lazy the last couple of weeks, and declared to the family that I will cook them a feast for Sunday lunch. I have wanted to roast a whole raan on a spit fire for the longest time and that is exactly what I planned to do as my Sunday project. So I spent Saturday evening at home tending to the raan, (not too fatty but some fat is a must) marinated it and satisfied, retired for the day.

Sunday morning was bright and sunny, but pretty windy. My mother warned that a spitfire might not be a good idea, considering it was my first time. She said, do it in the oven, put a burning coal inside the oven for the smoky effect. But I was determined. I had brought 3 kilos of coal, but sent for another 2 just to be sure. The bricks were ready. I was raring to go.

How I had pictured the morning: The smell of charred spiced meat in the air, the comfort of the winter sun on my back while I sipped on wine and basted the meat, between turning the pages of my story book, Beatles in the background perhaps, or some good country music.

How it all really turned out: First, I struggled to build the spit, then I struggled to light the fire. Then I sat their cursing myself for building too large a fire, then the fire went wild, thanks to the wind gods, it was now more like a bonfire really and I waited with mounting frustration so the fire would give up on the mad frenzy, I wanted hot coals not licking flames. My book caught fire in the meantime, and I forgot all about the wine. The only music there was was the rustle of leaves as the wind threatened to blow everything away. And there I was stomping around the terrace like a mad mad woman, cursing my fate.

And then when I could no longer be patient I put the meat on the heat anyway, and then panicked when it began charring right away. Oh God! the flames. An hour later I gave up. My raan looked great on the outside with char marks et al, and it smelt heavenly too, but I knew the meat was far from cooked. I was too tired to struggle anymore so I simply transferred the meat onto a baking dish and into the oven it went. My mother threw a condescending smirk my way, and that upset me all the more. But I was determined to make a mind blowing lunch and finally I did.


Raan - 1.5 kilo (approx)
Ghee to brush while roasting the meat

For marination 
Minced ginger - 2 tbsp
Minced garlic - 1.5 tbsp
Minced papaya - 3-4 tbsp
Yoghurt : 200 g
Roasted cumin powder - 3 tbsp
Red chili powder - 2 tbsp
Salt - 2.5 tbsp
Mustard oil - 1/2 cup

For the gravy 
Finely sliced onions - 2 large
Minced onion - 2 cups
Ginger paste - 2.5 tbsp
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes - 3 large
Chopped mint leaves - 2-3 tbsp
Chopped coriander leaves - 1/4 cup packed
Finely green chilies - 2 tbsp
Dates (pitted and minced) - 2.5 tbsp
Cashew nut paste - 1//4 cup
Cumin powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder- 1 tbsp
Red chili powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder* - 1 tbsp
Raisins - 50g
Salt to taste
Mustard oil - 1/4 cup

For Spiced Caramel water to deglaze
Sugar - 50
Cardamom - 5-6
Cinnamon - 2 inch stick
Bay leaves - 2-3
Cloves - 3-4
Mace strands - 2-3
Ghee - 100 g


Rub in the salt and mustard oil, massaging it on the raan, apply a little pressure while you work the salt and oil into the meat. Keep aside for an hour.

Now rub in each dry ingredients in the marination list one by one.  Whisk the curd, minced papaya, garlic and ginger, into a creamy paste, add to the and coat it well, . Cover an refrigerate overnight/ or at room temperature for about 6 hours.

Roast it on a charcoal grill, basting continuously and alternatively with reserved marinade and melted ghee. Slow coking is the key and this will take a lot of time and patience.

Alternatively you can sear the meat on charcoal, thus getting the smoky flavours (brush ghee with ghee and baste with the marinade) and then transfer the meat and any remaining marinade into a finish it in the oven, at 160 degree for 3- 3.5 hours or until meat is cooked through. Keep basting with the juices the meat releases.

While the meat is being cooked, prepare the gravy.

First prepare the caramel water. Heat the ghee in a pan. Add sugar and wait till it caramelizes. Once it starts turning golden and bubbles, pour in 350 ml water. And stir until the caramel dissolves and bring to a boil. Add the whole spices and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Then turn down the heat and let it simmer until reduced by a quarter. Remove, strain and reserve the caramel water.

Now in a heavy bottomed pan, heat mustard oil. Add the sliced onions and fry until they are brown (be careful not to burn them though). Add the minced onion, garlic and ginger and fry until oil separates.

Now add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and continue frying one again. Once tomatoes turn mushy, add the turmeric, red chili, cumin, coriander and garam masala powders and continue frying until oil separates. Keep stirring and adjust heat level so that the masala doesn't stick to the pan too much.

Now add chopped green chilies, chopped mint and coriander, minced dates and cashew nut paste and salt, mix well. Fry on high heat for a minute, reduce heat and cook until oil separates, stir continually.

Now turn up heat and deglaze the pan with the caramel water, scraping out bits stuck to the pan. Let the gravy bubble for a a couple of minutes, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until oil floats up. Remove from heat and keep.

Once the meat is cooked through transfer to serving dish. Reserve the delicious liquids in the baking tray.

Return the gravy to heat. Add the meaty juices from the baking tray and toss in the raisins, bring to a boil. Turn down heat, simmer for a couple of minutes and then pour the gravy on top of the roasted raan. Garnish with mint leaves and serve piping hot, with naans or rotis.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Almond Tomato Pesto From Manjari's Kitchen

Winter has made me lazy. I struggle every morning to get out from under the quilt, and when I finally manage to scramble out of bed, I throw myself on the couch, pull a shawl around and stay there for hours. I haven't been cooking much either. Today, however, I had to will myself to cook because I was due sending in my entry for the Kolkata Food Bloggers' event "Know Your Blogger" where every week one Blogger is declared the Star of the Week and the rest of us cook and post about something from her blog. This star of this week is Manjari Chowdhury of For the Love of Food

Manjari is not only a fellow blogger but a goof friend too. She is a delight to be around. What is more delightful than her nature is the food she cooks, especially the gorgeous cakes and breads she bakes. Her blog is not only a treasure trove of recipes, it also offers a lot of helpful information related to cooking techniques, ingredients, etc. She knows what she is talking about and that makes her blog a safe place to go to if it is good food you are looking for. 

 I have had the chance to sample few of her chocolaty treats. Once it so happened, at a food festival we were both attending, Manjari whispered from across the table,  "There is something for you, something I have made." I could no longer concentrate on the food in front of me, the same morning I had seen one of her posts on Facebook, a gorgeous chocolate tart, I had not been able to get my mind off. What are the chances that the something she had brought was a slice of that decadent chocolate tart? I couldn't wait to get out of the restaurant we were dining at. 

About half an hour later, we were finally in the privacy of my car and Manjari brought out a box from inside her bag. I was stuffed after all the food we had had at the festival. The very thought of food made my stomach lurch dangerously. But then she lifted the lid off the box and I squealed in delight. It was after all a slice of the chocolate tart I had been fantasizing about. And though my stomach continued to protest all the while, I preferred listening to my heart. And thank heavens I did, because that was in fact the most delicious slice of Tart au chocolat I have had and I am a tart fanatic. 

However, I chose to make one of her savoury dishes instead. I wanted a quick fix lunch and there was pasta at home. What could be better than muddling up a great pesto and making a pasta lunch out of it. So I made Manjari's Almond Tomato Pesto. I did add my own little touch to it,butostly i stuck to her recipe. It is easy, flavourful and light! I loved it, so would you. 


Tomatoes - 2 large (blanched and peeled)
Almonds - 12-15 (blanched and peeled)
Mint leaves - 7-8 
Garlic cloves - 5-6
Fresh Grated Parmesan - 2-3 tbsp 
Olive oil - 1/4 cup 
Chili flakes to taste 
Salt to taste 


Put all ingredients in a mortar and muddle away with a pestle, streaming in olive oil from time to time. Finally, add salt to taste and top it off with some more olive oil. Have it on your pasta done al dente.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Chocolate and Almonds Puli

I do not have too many memories of Makara Sankranti celebrations at home, simply because it has never been a big deal. It is strange actually, considering how my family seizes every opportunity to celebrate. We are celebration fanatics and yet, unlike many of my friends, I do not have memories of my mother, aunts and grandmother staying up all night making the mandatory puli pithe, rice flour dumplings with a sweet coconut and jaggery filling, and paayesh, traditional rice pudding with date palm jaggery.

You see, the Hindu festival of Makara Sankranti, dubbed as Poush Sankranti is Bengal, is a harvest festival in essence. And in Bengal making prticular kind of sweetmeats with rice and date palm jaggery is mandatory on this day. And though every year we would feast on pithe and paayesh relatives and friends would bring over, I have missed the thrill of making them in one's own kitchen.

One of my  close cousin's birthday falls on Makara Sankranti, usually celebrated on January 14 (sometimes 13 or 15, depending on the Lunar Calendar actually) and we often spend the day at their place in Chandannagar, a charming town on the River Hoogly, a former French colony. My aunt makes the best patishapta, crepe rolls of sorts stuffed with coconut ad jaggery or sometimes with coconut and kheer, and ranga alur pithe (sweet russet potato dumplings in a syrup) I have had. At there place Poush Sankranti calls for double celebrations. So, typically the Sankranti cum birthday feast would comprise Korai shutir Kochuri, mashed and spicy green pea stuffed fried bread, Aloor Dom, Phulkopir Kosha, a spicy cauliflower curry and an array of pithe including the ones mentioned above. Finally there is a nolen gur enriched paayesh to round up the meal.

This time however I made some puli pithe at home, so I could send the recipe as my entry to KFB's event Poush Sankranti Specials. However, I drifted just a bit from tradition and gave the traditional puli a twist. There is no jaggery or coconut in this puli pithe, unlike a traditional puli which ususally comes with a coconut-jaggery filling. Instead there is chocolate and almonds. This one is special. And delicious. Not as sweet as the traditional pithe but pleasantly different.


Rice Flour : 200 g
Hot water : 180 - 200 ml
Cocoa Powder :  2 tbsp
Vanilla essence : 1 tsp
Chocolate chips : 50g + 100 g
Milk: 1 litre
Cinnamon stick : 1 inch
Sugar : 1/4 cup
Almond : 50 g (coarsely ground)


In a deep bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let he milk simmer and reduce to half.

In the meantime tip the rice flour in a large bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder, vanilla essence and mix well. Now stream in the warm water while stirring it in with a spatula.

Knead the dough. It will be hot so consider wearing gloves. Be careful. Once you have formed a soft dough divide into 15-18 equal portions and keep. Keep the dough covered with cling film at all times, exposure to air will make it dry in no time. It is important that you work fast.

Roll out each portion dough into discs, put a little ground almonds and a teaspoon of chocolate chips on one side of the disc, fold the other end in to form half moons, press the edges with your thumb to seal. Your pulis are made.

Now add sugar to the milk and let it simmer for a couple of more minutes. Now turn the heat level to high and add the puli one by one. Let them simmer for a while and once the pulis float to the top.

Fish out the pulis and keep no a plate.

Add the cinnamon stick and hundred grams of chocolate chips to the milk ad let it reduce to half  of what it is.

Add the pulis back into it carefully, let is all simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle the remaining coarsely ground almonds and serve warm or cold.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Saag Murgh : Spicy Spinach Chicken Curry

I love spinach.  It is without a doubt that spinach is my favourite leafy vegetable. At home, one of the winter lunchtime regulars is a simple stir-fry seasoned tempered with mustard seeds, fenugreek and  dry red chilies. Sometimes it's finished off with a generous sprinkle of poppy seeds. I can polish off obscene amounts of rice with just that. Then there is the Palong Shaaker Ghonto - a classic Bengali dish, a medley of winter vegetables like spinach, radish,  pumpkin, etc cooked with few spices. I add spinach in my lentil soups and curries, make parathas and fritters with it, I like it in my pies with some crumbled feta, I love the quintessential Palak Paneer and then I like to add spinach to my meat curries and fish stews.

My boyfriend on the other hand hates spinach. He refuses to eat anything that has spinach in it. I was shocked when I first found this out about him, I mean who doesn't like spinach...I think I even wondered if I was dating a normal person. Anyway, I have bullied him into eating spinach a few times. And today was one such day. I had some fresh spinach in the fridge and I decided to make a mean Saag Chicken with it and then my wicked streak came into play, I picked up the pone and invited him over for lunch. The moment I lifted the lid off my bowl of Chicken in a spicy spinach gravy, he crinkled his nose and said with a suspicious  nonchalance, "My stomach is hurting, I think I'll skip lunch." Moments earlier he had been going on about how hungry he was. Talk about grown men. But I wouldn't let go so easily. After a good deal of coaxing and cajoling, threatening and pleading, he sat down to eat.

An then he couldn't stop. In fact, he asked for a second helping and a third and swore he could eat spinach everyday if it tasted the way it did today. Okay I am bragging, but this recipe is really finger licking good. One of my absolute favourites. I love to have it with phulkas or crisp parathas, check it out.


Chicken - 1 kg 
Spinach (cleaned and chopped roughly) - 750 g 
Coriander leaves - 1 cup (packed)
Mint leaves - 1/4 cup 
Garlic - 10 cloves (large)
Ginger - 1 inch 
Onions (thinly sliced) - 2 large 
Cardamom - 4
Cinnamon - 2-3 inch 
Cloves - 4 
Black cardamom - 2 
Bay leaves - 2 
Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp 
Coriander - 1.5 tbsp 
Fennel - 1 tsp 
Peppercorns - 1.5 tbsp 
Tamarind extract - 2 tbsp 
Salt to taste 
A pinch of sugar 
Mustard oil - 4-5 tbsp 
Ghee - 1 tbsp 


Boil the cleaned and roughly chopped spinach and drain. Rinse under clean water and drain. Squeeze out excess water from the spinach and keep aside. 

Dry roast the peppercorns, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds and grind to a coarse powder. 

In a food processor pulse the spinach, coriander, mint, green chilies,  ginger and garlic with a little water. 

In a heavy bottomed pan add mustard oil and ghee and heat until hot. Reduce heat and add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and black cardamom. Once they begin to exude their aroma, add the onions. 

Fry the onions until a deep golden brown. Add the pulsed spinach mix and fry until oil separates. 

Add the dry roasted spice mix, turmeric and red chili powder. Add the chicken and fry until oil separates. 

Add salt and then add warm water enough to cook the chicken through. Once chicken is tender and oil floats up, add a pinch of sugar and the diluted tamarind pulp. Mix well, cook for another two-three minutes and remove from heat.