Friday, 30 September 2011

Thievery and Sleepy-time

Dear lovely people,

This food blog is going on a temporary hiatus, because a little ray of sunshine stole my camera today... with my 8GB memory card, and 4GB of pictures on it. It had snaps of two excellent ilish dishes -- the most delicious fish you will ever eat -- and plenty of little things I've been making for myself in between severe bouts of hard work. I might have pictures for one or two of those recipes on my hard drive, but after that, till I buy a new camera, it's the long goodbye, folks.

P.S: all advice re. buying new camera most welcome. Email me!

Much love,


Monday, 12 September 2011

Sattu Tikka and Parathas

For those unfamiliar with the ethnic hierarchy of things north of the Vindhyas and east of the Bihar, a little food-tutorial is in order. Sattu -- chhatu to the urban Bengali -- is the designated food of 'those Biharis'. The phrase conveys, at the same time, a suppressed yearning for the robust constitution of the sattu-eaters -- which the Bengali spectacularly lacks -- and a compensatory feeling of intellectual superiority, in which the Bengali is second to none.

Consequently, the first time I ate sattur was three weeks back, when my boss shared his sattu parathas with me. "What wonder is this?!" I exclaimed, and he gave me the following recipe. Well, not exactly the following recipe, because I've added and subtracted, but he gave the whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Take two cups of chana-sattu (chholar chhatu), or a healthy powdered grain of your choice. Add chopped green chilies and diced red onions.
 Add a scoop of subcontinental pickle of your choice (I used green mango), a pinch of red chilli powder, the juice of half a large lemon, a dash of sugar, and salt to your tastes.

 Add a little mustard oil and mix it up. At this point, this can be used to stuff flatbreads, although I don't advise it. Sattu has the habit of breaking out of the flour shell.

To wit. And this was the best of the lot, too.

To avoid this very annoying process, you could skip the stuffing and add the flour directly to the seasoned sattu. Then just add water, and mix it like you would mix normal dough. Before doing this, btw, I added chopped tomatoes to the mix. Because I looove tomatoes.

Add half a cup of flour to the mix above, and then mix it with water to make a nice, slightly-sticky dough.

Since this slightly-sticky dough is hard to roll out with a pin, divide them into smaller balls of dough, smooth and flatten them between your palms, and fry the slightly-thick sattu discs on a skillet. When they're done, they will look like tikki/tikkas.

Letting it get some colour.

Stack them like pancakes, and eat with spicy pickled lime and tea :-)

Or, if you had decided to slave for your food and ended up with piping-hot sattu parathas, stack them like pancakes, and eat with spicy pickled lime and tea. See? That's why you should follow the path of least effort in the kitchen.

 The green chilly is to placate the people who chose the hard way. An organic consolation prize. Enjoy! :-)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Iced Mint-tea

It's amazing how easy it is to mess up a simple cup of tea, given that all one needs to do is boil water and drop in some leaves.

I'm very good at messing up tea.

However, one easy way to avoid making a complete fool of oneself over a cuppa is to load it with flavours. A simple cup of delicate Darjeeling or Assam strong is hard to brew, but sweet, minty, fruity, desserty teas are the easiest thing on the planet. And, given how coddled with over-stimulation our tastebuds are these days, they're bound to go down better with most people than a plain old cup of second-flush.

While I absolutely draw the line at peach teas and mango teas and the like, I'm actually rather fond of iced mint tea. It's sweet, has that slight bite of the minty after-taste, and it's very, very soothing (the latter probably has everything to do with its temperature and nothing to do with either mint or tea, but I'm not willing to substitute a tall glass of minty-sweet caffeine with ice-water just to test the theory).

Here's how to make it. In pictures!

Drop washed mint leaves in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Boil for about seven to ten minutes.

Watch the water change colour to a curious shade of green.

Missing pictures: while the water is boiling, either pour it into a warm pot with three teaspoons of strong black tea (there's eight cups of water here, but since we're not making regular tea, we can skimp on leaves). Or, you could skip that traditional ceremony dump the tea leaves into the saucepan. Turn off the heat immediately and cover with a lid or plate, preferably of earthenware.

After soaking it for seven minutes, strain it into a cool metal container. Mix in as much sugar as you like (I need three teaspoons for this much -- and this strongly brewed -- tea). Then put the container in the fridge for three or so hours.

Glorious colour, isn't it?

Pour yourself a glass.

Drop in a little decoration.

And a little more.

And then take the perfect still-life watercolour picture.

For tea addicts like me, who'd love to prefer all kinds of things flavoured with it, try this slushie-dessert version. Take some of the minty tea in a bowl. Pop it in the deep fridge (freezer). Take it out after an hour. Crush the newly-formed ice and make it all rough and broken. Pop it back in. After two or so hours, this is what you get:

Mint-tea slushie, slightly melted.

Save it for after lunch :-)  Enjoy this while the ridiculous heat lasts, people! Autumn is almost upon us.