Sunday, 27 March 2011

Keema for Stuffing

This is the recipe for a quick keema, not meant to be eaten as keema (that is a more elaborate and somewhat different process), but for stuffing flatbreads and samosas and sandwiches, and other stuffable thing you can think of. If you're adventurous: this makes excellent sushi-like curry-wraps, where a small, short cylinder of keema is surrounded by a layer of cooked rice, and wrapped in edible leaves, like steamed kumro pata.

First, ingredients:
Chicken or pork (don't waste good mutton on this) -- cleaned and minced.
Red/purple onions -- sliced thin (even diced, if you like).
Ginger -- minced, depending on how strong a flavour you like. I used a half an inch long piece, thick as my finger.
Garlic -- ditto, five cloves.
Green chilies -- chopped thin, if you can stand it.
Cumin, coriander and red chilli powder/flakes -- 1:1: tastebud preference.

First, throw the ginger and garlic in hot oil and let cook till it changes colour and becomes fragrant (this assumes you like the smell of frying garlic. Yum). Then add the onions and green chilies, and lower the flame (or the garlic, at least, will char). Fry till the onions become translucent, and a few thin pieces even turn brown.

Then add the minced or chopped meat. Stir thoroughly on medium, and let cook till it takes on a brownish-golden colour.


Now, in a bowl, make a thick paste with the powdered spices: cumin, coriander and red chilli.

Add it to the chicken in the wok. Stir well.


Add water. Cover and let cook on simmer, till the chicken is tender.

After the chicken has been thoroughly cooked, let the keema dry, still on simmer. A keema is gravy, while delicious, will be very hard to stuff. Finally, when the extra water is boiled off, this is what will be left. Use it with whatever form of carbs you like, then deep-fry it ;-)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Moglai Porota

The quintessential Bangla pronunciation of 'Mughlai Paratha'. I've no idea if the Mughals had anything to do with the actual dish -- perhaps they did and perhaps they didn't -- but the Bengali employs 'Mughlai' or 'Moglai' not to imply historical antecedent, but a certain deeply satisfying aristrocratic luxuriousness. "I had a moglai bath', one might say, to indicate a rich, extended, sensuous cleansing experience, in which all the works were brought out and every step of the whole nine yards thoroughly taken. Following this linguistic vein to its logical conclusion, moglai paratha is the last word in the upward mobility of parathas. It is what the modest aloo and gobi and muli parathas aspire to, and the daalpuris and peas kochuri wish they were... but aren't.

In short, a proper moglai paratha is a pocket of dough, filled with cooked minced meat, dipped in a thick milk-and-egg batter, and deep-fried. What it does to your heart might be a point of concern, but what it does to your tastebuds is pure magic.

Minced meat, cooked with onions, chopped green chilies and spices (recipe follows)
Kneaded maida (flour)
Eggs+whole milk
Chopped onions and green chilies (optional)

First, Beat the egg and milk well with a touch of salt and pepper, till frothy.


Now make a nice stretchy dough with a little sunflower/canola oil, some sugar, a pinch of salt, and warm water. Divide them into little discs of about four to five cm in diameter. Rub your chaki (rolling surface) with a little dry flour or oil, and roll out each disc. Don't roll it out too thin -- keep so it's just above being translucently stretched (say about half a cm thickness). Ladle a little cooked minced meat into the middle.

Don't stint on the meat, but be careful not to overstuff or the thing will come apart in hot oil. Now brush it lightly with the egg-and-milk batter, and sprinkle chopped onions and green chilies if you like.

Fold the sides over the meaty centre, so it looks like a rough quadrangle. Wet a finger and run it along the inside of the folds, sealing the flour surfaced.

Dip each sealed paratha into the egg batter, and deep-fry in sunflower or canola oil. Normally, they'll come out looking like the first paratha here. For the last paratha I made, however, I was still left with a good amount of egg batter, so I decided to pour it on top of the frying paratha to see what would happen.

Experiments are the bane of domestic cooking. This is my considered opinion.

Battered and Fried.

 The 'normal' moglai porota.

 Extra batter on paratha.

Deliciousness happened, like a slightly peppery omeletter layered on top of a flavoured minced-meat pocket. But be warned: egg+milk absorbs oil like nobody's business. Eat this enhanced version at your own risk!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Tamarind Pickle

Or, more familiarly, tetuler achaar. Now, there are, of course, several kinds of tetuler achaar, classifiable under different heads. The two commonest classifications are: gola tetuler achaar, and, well, not gola-tetuler achaar. In the former, de-seeded tamarinds are soaked in slightly warm water till they dissolve to a large extent, and make a thick, paste-like, semi-liquid thingy. This is then strained to remove the tamarind skins, and the gooey tamarind water is cooked or flavoured further. The latter, first, doesn't bother to de-seed the tamarind, and second, doesn't bother to strain the mixture to remove the tamarind skins.

I think you can tell which my favourite method is.

Other classificatory heads are based on flavours: jhaal (hot), spiced-with-mustard, tok-tok (tangy), mishti (sweet), and innumeral combinations of these. This recipe here is a mix of sweet and tangy, with a slight hint of spice. It's incredibly easy to take, and very, very easy on the tastebuds ;-)

Akhi gur, jaggery made from sugarcane juice -- 250 gms.
Tamarind, whole -- 100-125 gms.
Whole cumin -- a fistful.
Sugar, jus in case.

First, wash the tamarind under a running tap and then soak them in a cup and a half of water. After a while, when the tamarind has soaked in a little water, squelch and mash it with your hand so that the tamarind in water now becomes a thick, semi-liquid tamarind paste.

Pour the jaggery in a deep saucepan or wok or skillet. Let it heat slowly. It will release a little oil that will grease the pan or wok. When the jaggery slowly turns liquidy, pour two cups of water, stir the pot, and bring to a boil. Keep boiling for three or four minutes (add more water if needed).

Heated jaggery.

Add a dash of salt, and the tamarind paste. Reduce the flame. Stir for a minute, making sure the tamarind paste dissolves, and doesn't lie at the bottom of the pan to char. Your work is done. Let it cook on low for as long as it takes for the pickle to reach your preferred consistency.

Remember, though: the pickle is all flowy and liquidy because it is hot. It will cool and congeal when you're done with it. So don't let it get too thick, or it'll end up in lumps when cold. Keept it, shall we say, at the consistency of bottled honey.

 While the pickle reduces, toast the cumin seeds for a couple of minutes on low. Grind them. This is the simplest form of bhaja guro moshla, or 'toasted and ground spice'. After you've taken the pickle off the flame, poured it out and let it cool for about twenty minutes, sprinkle two teaspoons of the spice on top, and fold it in. This will add that little kick that everyone will notice, but be hard-pressed to identify. Lovely, isn't it? ;-)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Nutty Caramel Sponge Cake

This is a recipe-test request for my friend N, but non-Ns are just as welcome to try. I should've done this myself, but I haven't a large oven at home, just a small one one size larger than a toaster oven, and anyway I'm far from an ecstatic baker. Something about precise proportions put me off. I'm rather a slapdash cook.

So, here's the recipe I'm rather keen on, but rather more keen on eating than on making. Perhaps, if N or other seasoned bakers assure me it's a really good eat, I'll put up sourly with the making part. So hop to it, people. Chop chop!

NOTE: N did make it, forthwith. That's a woman one can count on when baking is to be done. The cake is apparently delicious. Here are her pictures. She uses hazelnuts instead of walnuts or pecans, and adds sour/heavy cream to her caramel.

N's Cake: Bottom-up.

A couple of fistful of waluts or pecans (say 150 gms).
Flour -- 250 gms.

Butter, softened by keeping at room temp -- 225-250 gms.
Sugar -- keep 300 gms at hand, but you may not need all of it.
Sour cream/heavy cream -- 200 gms or slightly more.
Eggs -- 2, at room temp.
Brown sugar -- 100 gms (actually, taal michhri will do very well at home).
Ground cinnamon (optional)

First, lightly toast the nuts on a skillet or saucepan. Stand close at hand and turn them over ever so often. After about ten or twelve minutes, you should be able to smell a divine, nutty, toasty smell. The nuts might look a little oily, too. Take them off the flames.

N's Cake: Caramel-side up.

Keep a third aside (50 gms -- but you know, if you like a really nutty body, add more). Grind the rest coarsely. Don't grind for too long, or the oils that were almost released earlier will make the a paste of the powder. And we don't want lumpy pastes. Now chop the third you'd kept aside.

Actually, on second thoughts, chop the entire lot. Why risk grinding when it could go wrong? Besides, I do like feeling little pieces of nut in a mouthful of soft, buttery cake. So much better than I'd like finely ground, invisible powder.

N's Cake: The Two Layers.

Sift the flour with a tablespoon of baking powder and a pinch or two of salt. If you like -- and have weak arms like mine -- you might run the softened butter, sugar and cream in a mixie/food processor together. This will make mixing the batter much easier. Or if you have those electric beaters or whisks or things... (I don't. A hand-held whisk with no electrical or battery help is what I've got. Mostly I use it to mash potatoes).

So then, to the flour, add eggs. Whisk energetically. Add soft butter, sugar, cream, OR the convenient mix you may have just made, plus one tsp. vanilla extract/essence. Whip whip whip! When the batter reaches a thick, smooth, and altogether desirable consistency, drop the third (or more) chopped nuts in and whip some more to distribute them evenly. Pour in a greased (and papered, if you want) baking plate/mould.

N's Cake: The Caramel Within.

Optional topping: melt two or three tablespoons of butter in a pan. Add brown sugar/taal michhri and caramelise on low till ALL of it melts. Add as much heavy/sour cream needed to make a thick, caramely topping. Add the ground or chopped nuts, cinnamon, and if you like, any other flavouring agent of choice. Take off the flames and without letting it cool, spread evenly over the cake batter.

If you skip the topping but want to use the caramel, mix it in the batter. If you want to skip the caramel altogether, the nuts can all go into the cake batter.

Bake at 350F or 170C for about half an hour or forty minutes. Serve with coffee, tea, or as a side to yourself.

N's Cake: Cross-section

This should be is absolutely divine. Try!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Breakfast Canapes

No, seriously :-) Here's how do it.

This is the breakfast that first plopped the idea into my head:

Sausages stir-fried with hard scrambled eggs, onions and green peppers/chilies optional.

Eaten with hot buttered toast.

But there's trouble there. I bought some pretty awful chicken sausages from C3 -- I can actually taste the preservatives, that's how bad it is -- and I don't recommend trying the canapes till you've laid your hands on some decent sausage. For me, recommend a good local brand of porkies, please, Tuna.

Anyway, after the sausage is sorted, you'll need:
Onions -- diced.
Cheese of choice.
A little butter or ghee.
Bread, preferably soft loaves.
Fennel seeds/pNaach phoron/cumin (optional).
Plain mayonnaise (optional).

The sausages I used were frozen. So I rubbed them with a little butter and popped them in the microwave. I kept them in till I smelt the first tendrils of the spicy, warm-sausagey smell. Then I promptly took them out. Too much microwaving leads to dry sausages -- and these weren't sterling stuff to begin with.

Now chop the sausages into little chaktis. That is, chop 'em up breadthwise. Chop onions and chilies/peppers. Heat oil. Put the sausage in. Let fry on low, covered. Go away. Come back after five to give it a few stirs. Add onions and chilies. Repeat. Don't fry for more than seven minutes, and never on high, because this will dry the sausages too. We're just trying to let the pre-cooked stuff take on some lovely golden-brown colour.

I added the chilies at the beginning, by the way. Don't. They'll fry to a crisp and look like dried-up little black insects.

Now add a little more oil, pushing the sausages to a side to make room for tempering. Add fennel or phoron (if using). In half a minute, on low, the seasoning will be cooked. You'll know because the mmm! smell of frying fennel will fill your kitchen. Mix it up with the golden-brown sausages. Pour it off into a dish so the fennel/pNaach phoron doesn't char.

When it cools, mix it with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise. That is, if you're using any. I left it as-is, without adding mayonnaise to my sins.

Cut a loaf into thick but small squares and put some of this stir-fry/mayo mixture on each hot, buttered piece. Now put a piece of cheese on top. Put it back on the skillet, in the microwave, or in the toaster-oven for a few seconds, till the cheese melts, coating the sausages and buttered toast in gooey goodness. Serve with a steaming sweet cuppa, and maybe a fried egg.

What was mmm mmm good, again? ;-)

Toasting bread.

Buttered and heaped.


Melted :-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Kopir Dnatar Chochchori

Finally, the last decent kopi of the season, and one final taste of the delectable dNatar chochchori. Believe me when I tell you, people, that Bengali vegetarian fare is the ticket, for I bring you proof!

You'll need:
Kopir dNata -- the green stems that surround a cauliflower and hold it together.
Kumro (pumpkin) -- sliced breadthwise, then diced lengthwise.
Potatoes, cut into boat-like slices (nouka kore kata)
Brinjal/eggplant/aubergine -- chopped into an inch wide pieces.
pNaach phoron.
Mustard oil.
Salt, sugar, turmeric, salt.

First, the tricky part, if you're new to this:
Tear off the leaves from the dNatas. Then chop off the thick end.

Now make a small cut an inch or so from one end. Don't cut all the way through. Instead, break it away from the rest of the dNata, leaving the outer husk at the back intact. We will use this little length of left-alone husk for leverage, to strip the rest of it right off the dNata.Watch:

Carefully break off the first slice, leaving the outer husk intact.

Now use the leverage to rip the husk right along the vein

Now chop the dNata into inch-long pieces. Then pound the pieces ever so slightly. This will make them cook faster, and better.

Heat a tablespoon of oil. Rub the brinjals with turmeric and salt, stir-fry them briefly, then cover and let cook on low till they take on a nice fried colour and are tender. Take them off the wok. I'd say "drain them", but it isn't necessary. Brinjals absord oil faster then privileged classes absorb resources. Now you'll see it, now you won't.

Heat the mustard oil. Be generous, pour two teaspoons (or more!). I used one medium potato, three dNata, a quarter of a slice of pumpkin and a sixth of a medium brinjal, and I needed nearly three teaspoons of it. Now add three pinches of pNaach phoron. The smell of frying mouri (saunf. It's other English name escapes me at the moment) will hit you right away. It's a delicious smell -- a subtle suggestion of sweetness.

pNaach phoron is the little multi-coloured bowl to the top left.

Don't wait. Add the vegetables right away, including the fried brinjals. Toss and turn till its well-coated with the tempered oil. Now sprinkle a pinch of turmeric, some salt and a little sugar. Some people also add red chilli powder, but in my opinion it upsets the balance of flavours.

Give the wok a few final stirs. Sprinkle a little water -- really just as much as you can hold in your palm, a little less if you have a big palm! There will be no gravy, so mind how much you add.

Simmer. Cover. Leave it alone for twenty minutes. Don't interfere with natural processes. The vegetables will cook in the steam, and the fried brinjals will release some of the oil they were holding captive (there is a political lesson here, if your mind is so inclined).

Come back, lift the lid, raise the flame to high and toss the curry compulsively for two minutes. The tender vegetables will now take on lovely brown spots. Take off the flame.

Serve hot with white rice, and maybe some mushur daal :-)