Monday, November 24, 2014

Sheermal - My First Indian Bread

Things have been a bit hectic for me and one of the things that got seriously neglected was the monthly bread baking with the We Knead to Bake group. I have missed five or six months of baking for one reason or another and I had to get back into it or the year would be gone and I would have hardly baked this year. I joined the WKTB group to learn different kinds of bread and to practice and learn new techniques. I was doing nothing, much to my disappointment. Well, there's no way to get back on to wagon apart from doing just that - getting back on. And so this month I'm back on the WKTB wagon, barely by the skin of my teeth.

The chosen bread for November is Sheermal. A mildly sweet, soft flat bread, sheermal has saffron and milk in it and can be quite rich because of the addition of ghee/butter and egg. This beautiful bread is commonly eaten in the regions spanning Persia, across the Indian sub-continent, as far as Bangladesh.

Incredibly easy to make, sheermal takes approximately three hours in all, including proving time. This is the recipe Aparna gave the WKTB group and I followed it mostly to the T. The only change I made was instead of rose water or kewra essence I used Orange Blossom water which comes from the Middle East. I didn't have rose water or kewra essence and I was looking for a chance to use the Orange blossom water anyway and the sheermal gave me the perfect opportunity.


2 1/4 cups sifted flour or maida
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup ghee
1 egg
1 -2 tsp Orange Blossom water
1/2 cup milk
a generous pinch of saffron strands

In a cup add the yeast to the warm water along with the sugar, if you're using active dry yeast or fresh yeast. This has become such an automatic step for me that I do it even with instant yeast though it's not necessary.

In your mixing bowl pour in the flour and sprinkle the salt and mix lightly. Now add the yeast mix and stir to combine. Beat the egg lightly and then add it to the flour mix. Give it a stir and now start adding the ghee a little at a time. Continue mixing till the ingredients come together to look like large crumbs. You can do this in a food processor if you have one. I didn't add all the ghee as I didn't require it.

Now add the milk a little at a time and bring the dough together. Once the dough formed a rough ball I took it out onto my work surface and kneaded it for a good 10 minutes adding milk, a little at a time, to ultimately get a beautiful and soft dough. I didn't use up all the milk either. I brushed my mixing bowl with a little ghee and put in the dough to prove. Cover the bowl with a damp napkin and leave it in a warm place, undisturbed.

Soak the saffron strands in a little warmed milk.

Once the dough has doubled (this can take anything from an hour to two hours) punch it down gently and knead for a couple of minutes. Put it back in the mixing bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to preheat to 180C.

Remove the rested dough onto your work surface and divide into four portions. Shape each into a ball. Gently flatten each ball to form a disc approximately 6 inches across. Brush the top with the saffron and milk generously and then prick the entire surface neatly with a fork. Place the prepared discs on your baking tray and bake at 180C for 12 to 15 minutes till the sheermal turns a beautiful golden colour.

Brush with butter as soon as you take them out of the oven. Serve with your evening chai or with a spicy gravy main course for dinner. I'm going to make some chicken to go with my sheermal :)

We Knead to Bake #22

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Dreams and Making Some of Them Come True

We all have dreams. Some are big enough to remain fantasies and some are doable but remain dreams. We often class both together and let them remain dreams. We think about them wistfully from time to time but don't really do anything about making them happen. While many seem impossible, many of the dreams are not. They are doable and all one needs is the ability to decide how important it is and then the conviction to simply go after it.

K always wanted to own a Bullet. An iconic bike for most Indians, he dreamed of owning one for many years. It was one of those dreams I heard him mention off and on through the years. We nearly bought one several years ago but he chickened out at the last moment saying it was an unnecessary indulgence. And he continued to dream in a corner of his mind.

A few months ago I asked him what it was that was stopping him from taking the plunge. We had the money and could easily fulfill this dream. It wasn't an unreasonable one after all. He had no answer - just a hesitation to spend a largish amount of money on himself. At least that's what it seemed to me.

Remember my Yolo epiphany? Well, it was Yolo time for him and I was making sure we bought the bike. Sometimes you just need to grab a dream and make it happen. What's wrong with a dream coming true? Why do we instinctively deny ourselves the little and not so little pleasures?

Well, we went to the showroom and booked the bike a few months ago. And now we are the proud owners of a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 (though I was hoping to buy the 500, but I know when not to push my luck!).

Examine your dreams and if you find you have one that isn't so impossible or unreasonable, go on and make it happen.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Spiced Chicken Legs - A Quick and Easy Dinner

The hubby dislikes chicken, even more so if it's in the mundane basic curry avatar. But chicken is conveniently available and cooks fast so I like it. As a compromise, though I cook it often, I try to make it as interesting and appealing as possible and what comes to my rescue are the variations of the simple pan grilled chicken. All I do is marinate in select spices or condiments for about half an hour and then slowly pan fry till it's done. On the side I make mashed potatoes or fries, grilled vegetables or even a salad, depending on what I have at hand. I do make elaborate curries which take time and effort to make and those are always a hit but they're time consuming and need some planning and gathering of ingredients. The pan grilled chicken is my friend when I'm in a hurry or just not in the mood for a lengthy session in the kitchen.

Spiced Chicken Legs

4 to 6 chicken legs
Cajun spice mix or any other spice mix that you like, or mixed dried herbs
bacon fat (optional)
olive oil

Make deep cuts in the flesh of the chicken legs. You can also use thighs for this recipe. Rub salt, pepper and a generous teaspoon of your preferred spice mix into the chicken pieces. If you're using dried mixed herbs add some minced garlic to the marinade.  Leave the chicken to marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat the bacon fat in a non stick pan. Add a splash of olive oil to it and let it warm up properly. Place the marinated chicken pieces in the hot oil and sear properly on all sides. Lower the heat and let it cook covered for around 10 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook evenly on all sides till the chicken is cooked right through. You can add a very small amount of water (a couple of tablespoons at the most) to the pan if required but be sure to dry off the water completely as the chicken cooks.

Serve the chicken hot with fries, potato mash, grilled vegetables, garlic bread, whatever you have at hand :)

If you like, fry a few slices of bread in the pan juices after you have taken out the chicken. The bread tastes divine!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dohneiiong - Pork with Black Sesame, from Meghalaya

A few days ago I went for an incredible lunch that featured the cuisines of the north eastern states of India. From aperitif to dessert, it was a wonderful gastronomic tour of seven states and I learned a lot about the cuisines of this region. I think the biggest lesson I took home with me is the fact that momos are not from the North East. They're from Tibet and Nepal, although they have penetrated into many regions of India, not just the NE.

Given my love for pork, I was quite thrilled to see a dish featuring my favourite meat on the menu. That wasn't all - we also saw a demonstration of how this dish was made. The recipe was shared with us and I am going to share it here on my blog for one very simple reason - you will find the ingredients anywhere and quite easily. There's no exotic ingredient that you have to beg your friends to bring back from their home in the NE.

Dohneiiong - Pork with Black Sesame by Gitika Saikia

Half kilo pork belly
100 gms black sesame seeds. Roasted and powdered
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp fresh ginger garlic paste
3 - 4 green chillies, chopped
1 tbsp red chilli paste
1 tbsp turmeric powder
mustard oil

Boil the pork belly and cut into largeish cubes.

In a thick bottomed pot or casserole dish heat a few tablespoons of mustard oil till it smokes. Reduce the heat and chuck in the sliced onions. Let it fry stirring it once in a while. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Once the onions have changed colour add the pork cubes, chillies and the chilli paste. Stir well and mix properly. Add the salt and the turmeric too. Saute on a medium flame and let the pork cook for a good 10 - 15 minutes.

Mix a little water into the sesame powder to make a thin slurry. Pour this into the pork. Water is added to the sesame powder to make it easier to mix it into the pork, so don't use too much water. Now cover the pot and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. Give it a stir once in a while and it will be ready to serve as soon as the water is gone and the oil is released.

This tastes best served with sticky rice but you can enjoy it with whatever rice you make at home.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Tour of NE India Through Food at the APB Cook Studio

Mumbai is seeing a growing interest in the regional cuisines of our vast country and I have been fortunate enough to sample many of these not so easily accessible cuisines at various events and, sometimes, in private homes. We've been seeing food festivals emerge as a trend in the last few years with the Koli festivals, the Pathare Prabhu food fest and, very recently, the CKP food festival. There are also big dos like the annual Upper Crust Show and the Good Food magazine event where food professionals and businesses from across the city showcase their products. And there is the band of home cooks who are now having pop ups, custom designed private meals at their own residences, and sometimes they do a special event at unique venues like the APB Cook Studio.

North Eastern cuisine, like the term Indian cuisine, is a complete misnomer. There is such diversity in ingredients, cooking styles, influences, and food preferences that one simply cannot class the cuisines of the seven north eastern states of India under one banner. The Cuisines of the Seven States of the NE Demo and Dine event at the APB Studio today gave me a glimpse of this incredible diversity. With Gitika Saikia as our guide, we were taken on a culinary tour of the entire north eastern region The sheer variety of meats, herbs, local vegetables, cooking and preserving processes, and styles left me amazed and hungry - hungry for a deeper knowledge of what seems to me a wonderful world of food.

The menu for the event was -

An apertif made of amlakhi (amla) and hilikha (haritaki).

Pasa - A soup from Arunachal Pradesh. A flavourful broth of herbs and lightly cooked fish, this soup was one of the highlights of the meal for me.

Dohneiiong - Pork in Black Sesame paste. A Pork preparation from Meghalaya.

Eromba - A vegetable and fermented dry fish preparation from Manipur

Bai - A wonderfully light clear soup of assorted vegetables, bamboo shoot, lime leaves and rice, this delightful one pot meal is a staple from Mizoram

Akhuni or Axone - A chutney made from fermented soy beans. This is from Nagaland. Naga cuisine has loads of different chutneys that are pounded fresh just before the meal and I was fortunate enough to eat many varieties in the hostel in Pune, thanks to my Naga friends.

Mosdeng Serma - A chutney of fish, tomatoes and local herbs, this one was from Tripura.

Dau Jwng Sobai - Chicken cooked in urad or kaali daal. This is an Assamese preparation that had minimal ingredients, was slowly cooked, and ultimately tasted really good. This dish had 'khaar' or alkali extracted from the banana plant as one of its ingredients and the taste of the khaar was distinct, yet not overwhelming.

This was served with sticky rice, and an assortment of pickles for extra zing. The rice was served bundled neatly in banana leaf packets.

This is what my plate looked like piled up with food! The mash you see in the foreground is Eromba, of which I don't have an individual photo.

Dessert is not a traditional concept in the region and it is only in recent years that the trend of serving dessert at the end of a meal is slowly picking up.

Gitika served a simple flavourful dessert that was basically khoi, a variety of puffed rice, cream, and sugarcane jaggery layered in a bowl.

The session began with Gitika demonstrating two recipes, the Dohneiiong, and the Dau Jwng Sobai. Gitika is a naturally ebullient person and as she took us through the recipes she also told us about her experiences visiting various tribes in their villages, invading kitchens and shamelessly begging to taste whatever was being cooked, and even wheedling goodies to take back home!

As we ate our way through the cuisines of the Seven Sisters we were aware that this was just a mere glimpse of all that lay in that magical world in that mysterious corner of our country.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lau Bori - Another Example of the Simplicity of Bengali Vegatarian Food

I have a cook who comes over twice a week to ensure my fridge has a good amount of Bengali dishes in it. I make sure she cooks something typically Bengali, that you would find served in any random Bengali household - those ubiquitous preparations that are mundane and simple everyday fare that would make most Bengali housewives laugh at my interest in them. For me these are not mundane as I didn't grow up eating them. For me most of these are absolute revelations.

Take this Lau Bori for example. Once she had finished cooking I asked the cook to give me two minutes of her time so I could write down how she made the lau bori. She rattled off the recipe in four sentences and I looked at her, amazed. That's it? Didn't you add any more spices to it? Or anything else? No, she said. That's it. Now taste it and tell me if you like it.

Lau Bori

1 small Lau or bottle gourd, peeled and cut into thickish matchsticks
1 potato, peeled and cut like the lau
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tej patta or Indian bay leaf
1/4 tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
1 minced green chilli
mustard oil
1 tbsp posto bori, or any other bori

Heat mustard oil in a wok or kadai and fry the bori. Drain excess oil and keep aside. In the same oil throw in the kalonji, green chillies, tej patta and grated ginger and fry for a minute. Add the cut lau and potatoes and fry well on high heat stirring nicely. After a minute or two reduce the heat and cover the kadai. Let the vegetables cook. Once they're around half done add turmeric and salt and mix well. Once again cover it and let it cook further. Don't add any water. Keep the flame low and let the vegetables cook in their own steam for another few minutes. Then add the fried boris and cook covered for a further few minutes till the lau and the potatoes are cooked though.
Garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander.

I enjoyed this with fresh hot rotis.

Bengalis have a rich tradition of making boris and there is quite a variety of these daal based dumplings that are fried and crumbled or scattered whole over many vegetarian dishes. I found posto bori in one little shop in Lake Market in Kolkata on my last visit. They're much smaller than other boris and in fact, look like white chocolate chips.  I hadn't a clue what I would do with them but fortunately the cook does!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kolmi no Tatrelo Patio - A Lesser Known Parsi Classic

The Parsis have a rich and varied cuisine with a predominance of eggs, meats, fish and sea food. One of my favourite dishes is Kolmi no tatrelo patio. A simple preparation that can be put together in half an hour, the best way to eat it is with ladi pav that is abundantly available in Mumbai. You can also have it with rotis or regular sliced bread.

Kolmi no Tatrelo Patio

20 medium sized prawns
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup fresh coriander, washed and finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
20 curry leaves
8 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
chilli powder
mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp fresh Parsi garam masala* powder made with pepper, cloves, cassia bark, cardamom, black cardamom, star anise, shah jeera, nutmeg and mace.

Clean the prawns - shell and devein. Wash well, drain and then marinate in salt and turmeric.

Take a flat thick bottomed tava and heat oil on it. Crackle the mustard seeds once the oil is hot, reduce the heat and add the curry leaves, garlic, onions and spring onions. Cook slowly, stirring as you go.

Once the onions turn pink add the green chillies and cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the dry powdered spices and the sugar. Stir well and mix properly. Cook this for another four to five minutes stirring the mix continuously. Now add half the fresh coriander leaves and blend well. After a minute or so add the vinegar. Lower the heat and let it cook for another minute or so, stirring all the time. Add a little salt keeping in mind that the prawns have been salted already.

Now add the marinated prawns and mix them into the onion and spice mixture. Once the prawns are cooked sprinkle the remaining coriander on the top and serve it hot with pav or with dhan daar - plain yellow daal and steaming hot rice.

The word patio evokes a dish that has a thick red gravy that is sweet, sour and spicy, made from a masala paste, and served with dhan daar. That's one version. The tatrelo patio is a dry dish with similar flavours but from different ingredients. In this version the heat comes from green chillies and there is no ground masala paste used. The word patio actually denotes the vessel it is cooked in - a flat, squat, thick bottomed vessel, which looks like a flattened pot. A thick iron tava also serves the purpose for this dish.

*Parsi Garam Masala can be used in a variety of preparations like you would use any other garam masala blend. Make a batch and give a new flavour to your daily curries and side dishes.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Visit to Udvada

Udvada is to the Parsis what Mecca is for Muslims, Kashi for Hindus and the Vatican for Christians. This quiet little village in Gujarat houses the holiest of holy fires, the Iranshah.

When the Parsis first landed in India, at Sanjan on the western coast, they established the first fire temple on Indian soil in memory of Iran and in thanksgiving of their safe journey to India. The holy fire was eventually housed in its current location at Udvada.  It has been tended since then and has never been allowed to go out and has been burning continuously for more than 1,100 years.

Devout Parsis visit Udvada as often as they can, offer worship at the Atashbehram, and then  amble off for some local shopping, and a good meal either at Ashishvang or at The Globe Hotel. You can also book rooms here and stay over. The rooms at The Globe have beautiful four poster beds, and a glimpse of those were enough to make me want to stay!

Lunch at The Globe - Mutton Dhansakh, Papeta Marghi, rotli, tareli boi (mullet), kachuber, brown rice.

I had an impromptu chance to go to Udvada because K was going there for some work. Of course, I tagged along and I took my camera too. This was another opportunity to go around taking pictures, a chance to practice, learn and improve. And a good way to stay out of K's hair too. I got the chance to check out the Irani bakery, to get in and poke around a traditional Parsi kitchen, to have a sumptuous meal at The Globe, and to wander the streets where I also bought some local products.

The Irani bakery is run by a gentleman called Rohinton Irani. He keeps traditional Irani baking techniques and recipes alive and has a limited but classic range of products for sale. Cookies, macrooms, khari, sweet khari, batasa, nankhati, mawa cakes, buns, brun, sliced bread and of course, ladi pav, are available at his shop.

Batasas waiting to be baked.

The Chulavati or hearth is rarely seen in kitchens these days, even in the villages. My mother in law had distinct memories of her great-grandmom Soonamai cooking at such a chulavati. She has written about them in her first book Jamva Chaloji, and I was thrilled to finally see one myself. In the old days the chulavati would be set into the floor but in later times many households had them built at table level to make it easier to use. Since fire is held to be supremely sacred, the chulavati is also revered. It is often decorated with rangoli and pictures of the prophet might also be kept nearby.

Torans hanging at the lintel of every door are a hallmark of Parsi houses and I saw  very pretty torans in Udvada. Traditionally made with glass beads, these days plastic beads are also used. A special frame is used to 'weave' the torans and this is an art that is slowly dying out. How sad.

Leela lasan na papad or papads flavoured with green tender garlic is one of the things every Parsi brings back from Udvada. These are delicious eaten with curry chawal, ras chawal, khichri kheemo, or even as a snack with beer.

Parsi tea must have mint and lemon grass to flavour it and if you're lucky, you might get your hands on fresh peppermint while you're in Udvada. I did!

I also bought embroidered head scarves as little gifts for my sisters in law. Though machine embroidered, the motifs are the same as were hand embroidered on the gorgeous satins and Chinese silk Garas. Parsis cover their heads with caps or scarves when they are in a fire temple and these were being sold at a shop just outside the Iranshah Atashbehram. The shop sells all manner of Parsi knick knacks, pickles, prayer books, kors or saree borders, and torans too. The torans were priced between 1,500 and 4,000 Rupees.

Udvada is not a bustling busy town. It's not a sleepy village either. There's a beach, there's great food, and there's Parsi heritage in every corner. There's plenty for non Parsis to appreciate here so if you do get a chance, go check it out. The Gujarat highway is excellent and it will take you roughly three hours to get there if you're based in Mumbai.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chocolate Ganache - Easy Primping for Cakes

Chocolate ganache - it's one of those things that every home baker and cake lover knows about and loves. We've all seen so many pictures of luscious ganache topped cakes and cup cakes all over Facebook and Instagram  and drooled at each one of them. I've been drooling too but have never made ganache myself.

The thought of heating cream seemed suspect to me. I know. There's no logical reason for my suspicion but I was suspicious anyway. I am like that. I am wary of trying new things and new techniques and find excuses not to try things instead of just leaping in and just doing it. Yes, silly of me but there you are!

For the last few weeks I haven't been in the mood to cook or bake or paint or do any of the things I really enjoy. Blogging has suffered too. Then this morning the hubby was moaning about sticky cakes and puddings and God knows what else and I thought, let's make something new today. Ganache came to mind and I also had all the ingredients - yes, both of them! So I made the usual pound cake, slashed it in half and then slathered the whole thing inside and out with the ganache.

I was chatting with my friend Garima who bakes and cooks a lot and she assured me that ganache was ridiculously easyto make and of course I could make it, and of course it would turn out very nicely too. She explained every nitty gritty detail and I must have asked her every possible question about ganache making. She answered. Patiently. Aren't I lucky to always have a helpful friend at hand, just when I need them?!

Chocolate Ganache

250 gms cooking chocolate. I used Morde's Dark Chocolate
125 ml cream. I used Amul cream

Grate the chocolate and put it in a clean bowl. In a saucepan heat the cream stirring slowly till it begins to bubble. Take the cream off the heat and pour it on to the grated chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir gently to blend the cream and the melting chocolate into a smooth silky ganache.

That's it.

The next time I make ganache I'm going to add a hefty spoonful of coffee. I think it will be magical.

Make any cake that you like and frost it with this delicious chocolate spread. Add sprinkles to jazz it up if you like. You will have a beautiful cake to perk up your tea time.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Slow Cooked Mutton Chops with Caramelised Onions

Mutton chops are of two kinds - the potato covered croquette like ones like these, and the delicious cut of meat that I cooked for dinner.

These babies were lying in my freezer forever. I had marinated them and bunged them in hoping to cook them soon but somehow the opportunity just never came. Today we had nothing on the agenda and dinner was going to be at home. I had these out and thawing and they were ready to be cooked in a few hours. The initial plan had been a sort of gravy and I had planned to fool around with poppy seed paste and other bits and pieces but somehow I wasn't in the mood for something fussy. So the chops ended up being slowly pan fried with a generous handful of sliced onions.

Grilled Chops with Caramelised Onions

Marinate a few chops with curd, ginger garlic paste, salt, turmeric, cumin powder, a good dash of coriander powder, and your favourite garam masala blend. Let it marinate for a good six hours or overnight in your fridge.

Slice a couple of onions finely. In a flat non stick pan heat a couple of tablespoons of any neutral oil. Once the oil is hot add the onions and fry gently till they begin to turn pink. Add the chops and fry on high heat for a couple of minutes turning the chops to sear all sides.

Lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid that fits. Let the chops cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Turn them over and cover and cook again for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add any marinade that's left in the bowl. Don't add any water.  Let the chops cook on low heat as slowly as possible. Mine took around an hour to cook. Just check occasionally to ensure that nothing's getting burned.

The chops will have no gravy, just the darkly caramelised onions that have absorbed the marinade and the flavours of the meat.

Serve these as a starter on their own. Be sure to add some of the onions to each serving. Eat with your fingers and I promise you, you will lick them clean. A simple no fuss dish, slowly cooked. Poetry on a plate.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mangshe'r Chop - Goat Mince and Potato Chops

Durga pujo for most Probashi Bangalis (migrant Bengalis) means visits to the pujo pandals, not just to admire the goddess and participate in the usual rituals but frequent visits to the multitude of snack shops and caterers that serve all those Bengali favourites - rolls, fish fry, fish chop, mangshe'r chop, varieties of porota, aloo'r dom... the list is endless!

Unlike most other communities, the Bengali doesn't believe in abstinence during the pujas. We do have ritual fasting but it's for just a few hours of the day. Some observe the fast strictly and don't even have a sip of water, but as this lasts from the time you wake up till noon at the most, it's not too hard to do. Even youngsters do it with enthusiasm - after all it's for just a few days every year. A bit of fasting to kick off each day followed by serious feasting to make up for the morning's penance!

Whether you're feasting at home or are pigging out at the pandals, good food and lots of it is always on the menu. One thing I always look forward to are fish fry - a microfilm thin slice of fish that's crumb fried to perfection, served with a tangy and potent kasundi and sliced onions.

Another favourite is the mangshe'r chop. My grandmother would make this at least once whenever we visited her in Kolkata when we were little. I have strong memories of her scolding my aunt or the maid (whoever happened to be helping her) to mash the potatoes properly, not to be stingy while pouring oil into the kadai,  or to leave the chops alone as they fried.

There she would be perched on her tall wooden stool hunching over the low table on which the gas burner was kept, supervising to ensure that each chop was perfectly shaped, was uniformly covered with the potato, that they didn't break while frying, that the burned crumbs were not left behind in the oil or the next chop would invariably have ugly black flecks on it. She would fry one or at the most two at a time, nudging them gently, giving them the time to fry properly till that perfect even golden colour was achieved. Of course we would be waiting impatiently so we could gobble those beauties in a matter of minutes!

Someone asked me for a recipe for mutton chops and I thought it would be nice to have it on the blog. It's a fairly simple recipe though it can be fiddly because you have to form the chops properly and fry them carefuly so they don't break. Here's my recipe for mangshe'r chop as I remember it from my Didin's kitchen.

Mangshe'r Chop

200gms mutton kheema
1 onion finely sliced
1 green chilli, minced
Half tsp each turmeric, chilli powder, jeera powder and garam masala powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Half tsp sugar
20 raisins, stems removed
Salt to taste
2 tbsp mustard oil

3 potatoes, boiled and mashed

2 eggs, beaten

Bread crumbs

Oil for frying


Marinate the kheema for some time with salt, the dry spices and the ginger garlic paste. 

Heat a little mustard oil in a pan or wok and fry the onions. Add the sugar and let the onions only turn pale brown. Don’t caramelise too much. Chuck in the minced green chillies, fry for a minute and then add the marinated kheema. Stir well and cook for 10 to 15 minutes breaking up the lumps till the kheema is cooked through. Add the raisins and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Dry out whatever water has been released to make a dry kheema stuffing for the chops. Taste and check that the salt is enough.

In a bowl mash the kheema as much as you can with your fingers to break up any lumps. Add half a boiled potato and mix in well. This helps bind the kheema and keep it together while shaping the chops.

Mash the potatoes with a little salt. Make sure you have a smooth lump free mash. 

Now set up your production line with the mashed potatoes, the kheema filling, eggs, and bread crumbs. 

Beat the eggs and put them in a bowl. I should have set up this shot after doing that! 

Form a ball of potato in your hand and flatten it out. Put a little log shaped bit of kheema on the potato and cover it from all sides to form a squat drum shaped ‘chop’. Make all the chops in this shape and set out on a plate. 

Put your kadai on to heat and pour in a generous quantity of any neutral oil – sunflower, peanut, whatever you use to fry stuff.

Dip a chop in the egg and coat it well. Then roll in the breadcrumbs pressing the crumbs lightly so they stick. Remember to coat the two ends of the chop too. 

Fry in hot oil till it’s a beautiful golden colour.

Serve hot with kasundi (mustard sauce), chopped onions and a fresh green chilli.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chicken Casserole with Pork Sausages

There are some days when nothing seems appealing from what's on the dinner menu and cooking seems tedious. Today was one such day that was spent largely catching up with sundry chores and dealing with a few things from the larger picture that is life. I was tired. I needed comfort. I wanted it easy for a little while. And I wanted to eat something nice. I press ganged the hubby and the mother into helping and cooked a simple casserole that was warm and comforting, just what I needed.

I had rooted through the freezer and removed the remaining fat and juicy pork sausages that a friend brought for us all the way from Bangalore. (Another friend has since brought us more, and that is waiting to be collected) These sausages are great in a stew or casserole and that's what I planned to make. However there were just 5 sausages left and on their own they wouldn't be enough. The hubby went out and bought chicken, and some lovely fresh ladi pav from the local bakery.

I also rooted around in my pantry cupboard and fished out a packet of casserole seasoning that my friend had sent from London. The hubby and the mother peeled and chopped potatoes, sliced onions, peeled garlic, and chopped celery. Once the prep was done it was super easy.

Chicken Casserole with Pork Sausages 

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
5 or 6 fat spiced pork sausages, like English breakfast sausages
2 large onions, thickly sliced
2 -3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
8-10 cloves of garlic
2 tablesoons chopped fresh celery, stem and leaves
1 sachet Colman's Season and Shake Pork Casserole spice mix
olive oil

Heat a stove top casserole dish and pour in a slug of olive oil. Place the sausages and cook for a few minutes till they turn brown. Don't worry if the sausages split. Remove to a dish leaving the oil and juices in the pan. Now in the same pan put in the chicken pieces. Drop in the leg pieces and the bony bits first. Braise for a bit till the chicken starts to brown.

Add in the onions, celery and the garlic. Stir for a few minutes and then add the remaining chicken pieces (mainly the meaty breast pieces). Braise further till the chicken turns opaque. Open the seasoning sachet and sprinkle it all over the chicken and onions. Stir and mix well. Now add the potatoes and cook for a further few minutes.

Pour in enough water to cover the chicken pieces completely. Add the sausages and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook covered till the potatoes are cooked through. The spice mix will also thicken the resulting gravy. Add a little salt only if required.

The casserole is ready once the chicken and the potatoes are cooked. Serve hot with fresh bread.

If you don't have the spice sachet you can still make a very good casserole. Use a tablespoon or so of mixed dried herbs instead, along with a stock cube. Add pepper too. Thicken the gravy with some flour.

Use more veggies if you like. Root vegetables will work very well here, as will mushrooms. Make a pot full and enjoy it with fresh dinner rolls, ladi pav, or even regular sliced white bread.

We sat at the table, all three of us, and ate a family dinner - a rarity in my house! 

Chicken Sandwiches with Homemade Mayonnaise

A simple sandwich can occasionally become a religious experience, it can be so good! This chicken sandwich was just that and I am so eager to write about it, I haven't finished eating it as yet! I have spent the morning running from the kitchen to the dining table and from there to my little 'studio window' where I now take most of the photos for this blog, just so I could capture everything in glorious detail. Of course the hubby contributed to the circus with his creative inputs and also cut the sandwiches for me so I could take that droolworthy photo you see above :)

The hubby made a fresh batch of mayonnaise, and there were leftovers of a wonderful Lebanese style roast chicken that he'd brought home yesterday as a treat for me.

We also had fresh crunchy celery in the veggie basket. Sandwiches were on the menu, no question!

The chicken was duly shredded and the celery washed thoroughly and then cut into tiny pieces, but large enough to give crunch and texture to the filling. A fresh loaf of regular white bread was bought and the mayonnaise made.

All you do is slather on the mayo onto a slice of bread, sprinkle a good pinch of that fresh crunchy celery, arrange your shredded chicken and slap on the top slice, duly slathered with mayo of course.

Here's how you can make mayonnaise at home

2 eggs
2 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
2 heaped tsp sugar
neutral oil as required, in an oil can or jug so you can pour it easily.
a pinch of salt

In your blender jar crack the two eggs. Add all the other ingredients apart from the oil. Give it a whizz.  Now slowly pour in the oil in a steady thin stream, keeping the blender running,  till the emulsion comes together and you get the thick wobbly consistency of  mayonnaise.

You can also make this in a stand mixer with the whisking blade. Mayonnaise is traditionally whisked by hand, but why that when there are beautiful machines to do the hard work for you?

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, September 8, 2014

Euphorhea - The Blog. On Facebook and Why

Recently a bunch of bloggers in Mumbai got together just to connect with each other, to see the faces behind familiar blogs , and to discuss ways to improve and grow as bloggers. Many issues, some basic and some complicated were discussed and the interactions encouraged and invigorated the participants into doing blog related stuff that were not getting done.

Some went home and wrote new posts and I pondered about the pros and cons of creating a Facebook page for my blog. I was already sharing links to my posts on Twitter and on Facebook on my personal page, and on a couple of selected food-centric groups there. I wondered if I would be overdoing it by creating a page, yet another space to post links. So I posted my question on the Mumbai Food Bloggers group to ask what the other bloggers thought.

The response was singular - go for it! There was not a single con, it seemed to be just a long list of pros. And they all made sense. The biggest advantage was that the page gave the blogger a platform to connect with readers.  All of us bloggers have realized that we don't get much of a chance to connect or interact with readers on the blog itself. On Facebook you can have a full conversation. Keeping in mind the fact that I spend so many hours plugged in to Facebook anyway, it seemed to me that a page for this blog was just logical.

So, here it is!

I hold the comments left on the blog itself closest to my heart. I still feel that little thrill every time I see a new one. But, it's time to move with the times so whether you want to connect here (hit the Join this Site button) or through Facebook, I'll be waiting to hear from you :)

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lebu Sondesh - Lemon scented Sweet Cottage Cheese

Sondesh is something that is quintessentially Bengali and you will find it hard to find a Bengali who doesn't like this subtly flavoured fresh cottage cheese sweet. I'm not crazy about it but I do enjoy a couple of them once in a way, and always have a few when I'm in Kolkata.

Over the last couple of visits there I have bought myself quite a pile of sondesh moulds. These are available in the markets in Kolkata, usually in the shops that sell paraphernalia related to religious functions and rituals.

I also had a pile of fragrant gondhoraj lemons waiting to be used. So I decided to make sondesh with gondhoraj lemon zest for flavour instead of the usual cardamom.

Sondesh with Gondhoraj Lebu

2 litres full fat buffalo milk
1/2 cup lemon juice. I used Dabur Lemoneez
3 tbsp castor sugar
zest of 2 gondhoraj lemons, or of 4 regular limes
elbow grease
Sondesh moulds smeared with ghee

Bring the milk to a boil in a large vessel. Pour in the lemon juice and stir well. The milk will split into solids and whey. Let it boil gently for a couple of minutes so that the whey and the solids are completely separated.

Line a colander with a fine cheesecloth or large piece of muslin and then pour the split milk into the colander carefully. Let the whey drain out.

Gather the cloth together to make a bundle and hang up the fresh cottage cheese to drain. Squeeze out as much whey as you can, but be careful, it's hot. Let  it hang over the kitchen sink tied to your faucet for 30 to 45 minutes. While you want most of the whey to drain off you don't want a dried out cheese. It must remain moist.

In a clean plate take out the drained cheese.

Now's the time to use that elbow grease! Knead the cheese well for a as long as it takes to get a smooth texture that is as free of granules as possible. I broke it up and then pushed it to one side of the plate. Then little by little I pressed the cheese down on the plate with my thumb. In this way go through all the cheese, squashing and kneading as you go. I think a pav bhaji masher might be useful here, but since I don't have one I went the traditional way. Eventually you should have a smooth ball of soft cottage cheese.

Add the sugar and the lemon zest and knead it all in well for another 3 -4 minutes. Taste the mixture and add sugar if you need it.

Now comes the fun part. Take out your best non stick pan or wok and cook the kneaded cheese for 4 to 5 minutes stirring all the time. Make sure the pan is squeaky clean because the cheese will absorb any smells or flavours from the pan. I tried to mash the cheese further with a wooden spatula as it cooked. The cheese will get soft and pliable. Don't wait for it to harden or your sondesh will not form into the shapes, it will crack. That's because the cheese hardens as it cools.

Remove the cheese from the heat. Now take small amounts of the sondesh mixture and put it on the greased mould. Press the mixture in gently so the impression of the design comes through nicely. Leave it in the mould for a couple of minutes and then unmould gently and arrange your sondesh on a pretty plate.  Work as quickly as you can and heat the sondesh mixture slightly if it has gone cold.

If you don't have the traditional moulds you could even use the silicon chocolate moulds, or simply make little balls and press down to flatten like we do for pedas. Sprinkle some lemon zest on top of the ready sondesh and they're ready.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52