September 10, 2014

B is for Bhaate Sheddo

Bhaate sheddo

I am back with ABC of Bengali cuisine.

Now, B can lead us to many crunchy Bengali food journeys with bhaja (fried) and beguni (dipped & fried eggplant). But I want to deviate to talk about simple comfort food that has been had in almost all Bengali households -  bhaate sheddo.

 I love a good bhaja and had a good share of them while in India.This kumro bhaja with fresh kumro (pumpkin) was just divine and was perfect with a hot cup of chai after the rains.

Bhaate sheddo literally means cooked with rice. It becomes a one pot meal where most commonly potatoes and sometimes even eggs are cooked with rice. Sometimes lentils like mushrir dal (masoor dal) will be put in a pouch and dropped in the boiling rice water to have some boiled lentils on the side.

When the rice is cooked, the potatoes, eggs and the lentil pouch is separated. The potato and the eggs are mashed with oil, salt and green chilli. One can also add some chopped raw onions to the sheddo mix.

My thakuma would burn or fry a red chilli and mash it in the alu sheddo. It tasted divine. Now thakuma had rice for breakfast, and lunch. Most of the times, her breakfast was bhaat aar sheddo. When me and my cousins were little we would sit around her during her breakfast time. She would make a little round ball of rice and sheddo and each of us would get a bite. 

When also usually had bhaate sheddo after a long journey. While we would unwind, Maa would quickly put rice with eggs and potatoes and we would eat it with some gawa ghee (cow's milk ghee) before going off to bed.

Other vegetables can also be added to the sheddo. Bittergourd or karela is also boiled (not with the rice of course) and mashed with boiled potatoes to make alu karela sheddo, kumro or pumpkin is also boiled to make kumro sheddo.

Here is a simple recipe for alu sheddo.

2-3 potatoes
1 green chilli - chopped or fry a red chilli
salt to taste
1 tspoon mustard oil
1/4 onion chopped (optional)
tiny bit of cilantro (optional)

Boil the potatoes and mash it well with mustard oil and salt. Add the green (or red) chilli, onions or cilantro.

You can alternatively heat the mustard oil, add a pinch of turmeric, the chilli and onions for a minute. Pour it over the potatoes and mix it together.

Bhaate sheddo
Serve with hot rice and ghee.

August 28, 2014

Tanjore Marathi specialty Ambode

This time when we were in India, a friend was coming to visit for lunch and we decided on  ambode and kadhi for the lunch menu.

Now, this is a dear friend from Ann Arbor and the kids were very excited to see a familiar friendly face, but were also confused and asked "Why are you in India?"

Once they settled down, the boys had a lot of fun showing off their new toys, chota bheem t-shirts and had Bourbon chocolate biscuits together.

We said bye to the friend with some sadness knowing we won't see him back in Ann Arbor when we are back. 

Coming back to the lunch menu, ambode is a mixed dal vada which can be made two ways - usually without onions. You can add onions then it becomes more like masala vada. You can also add curry leaves, or methi leaves to add a different taste.

It makes its presence during festivals when ambode and kadhi is a popular combination followed by payasam.

I was able to click a step by step picture and this come directly from my MIL's kitchen in Bangalore.

1/2 cup chana dal
1 tbspoon toor/arhar dal
1 red chilli
1" ginger - grated
1/4 tspoon coriander seeds
1/4 tspoon cumin seeds

handful cilantro chopped finely
salt to taste
1 cup oil to fry the vadas

Tanjore marathi ambode
Soak the dals for 3-4 hours.

Before grinding, drain the water and take about 1 tbspoon chana dal out.

Tanjore marathi ambode

Do a coarse grind with the rest of the dal with minimal water with the red chilli, coriander and cumin seeds and little bit of the cilantro. It's easier to grind the spices and then add the dal for a coarse grind.

Add the cilantro ( and onions if you're adding) and spoonful of chana dal set aside earlier and mix it well.

Tanjore marathi ambode
Take a small round ball of the mix and flatten it to a patty shape.

Tanjore marathi ambode
Heat the oil in a wok/kadai. Once the oil it hot (test it with a tiny little batter), add the vada and fry for 2-3 minutes till they turn brown.

Tanjore marathi ambode
Take them out. They are crunchy and soft. Serve them warm.

We had ours with tomato bhath, rice and kadhi followed by payasam.

August 18, 2014

Ridge Gourd and coconut salad and tales of India travels

Hello friends! We are back from our India travels. It was a hectic month traveling with both kids to India for the first time.

We spent time in Bangalore and Delhi for most parts. Then, we did little trips to Mysore and Rishikesh. It was a month of visiting friends, spending time with family and of course eating. Before we knew, a month had flown by and we are back in the US.

2014 india visitThere is no doubt that one of the big highlights of the trip is that we got to eat Indian mangoes. Both the kids and us devoured all the different mangoes that were available.

The choices were immense. There was langda, dusheri, chausa, banganpalli, sindoori and many little ones for which I cannot recollect the names. Oh it was just delicious! Sweet as sugar, the kids loved it. We probably had one if not more everyday!

2014 india visit During our travel we also had a chance to savor local, traditional meals and thalis whether it was North Karnataka thali or a vegetarian thali at the famous "Chotiwala" restaurant in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.

There will be a separate post on my India travels. In this post I want to talk about all the good homemade food I ate. Delicious, simple, or complicated, they were made with so much love for us. Rice rava upma, mirchi ka salan, katla macher jhol, multigrain dosa, mishti aamer achar (sweet mango pickle) are just some of them.

Ridgegourd & coconut salad
I also ate this delicious ridge gourd and coconut salad that was speckled with pomegranate and peanuts. You can easily substitute ridge gourd with zucchini or even cucumber. I can bet this will be the star of any dinner.

Here is how to do it.

1 ridge gourd - chopped thinly into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh cocunut - sliced thinly into small pieces
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted almonds - sliced
1 tbspoon lemon juice
1/4 tspoon fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste

Mix the ridge gourd and coconut pieces together. Sprinkle the lemon juice, salt and pepper and keep it aside for 30 minutes. Just before serving add the pomegranate seeds and almonds/peanuts and serve immediately.
Ridgegourd & coconut salad

We ate ours with vegetable makhani, dal and mirchi ka salan.

July 09, 2014

Panchphoron asparagus

Panchphoron asparagus

Does it happen to you that some week just turn out to be intense cooking week when creativity flows and everything seems to come together perfectly? It happened last week, weekend actually.

It seemed like every meal we cooked had a new element or a new dish. We all took turns cooking as well so that worked well too.

This asparagus was cooked during that time for a dinner with friends who were moving away. The combination of panch phoron, garlic and asparagus went so well together, I couldn't believe I hadn't made this before.

In other summer news, we are getting ready for a big trip. We all are traveling to India. I have traveled with one of the boys at a time, but two together? Any tips on how to keep them occupied during the flight?

How is your summer going? What are your plans?

(serves 3-4)

Big bunch of asparagus - washed, trimmed and cut (I chopped it in half, but you can keep it whole too)
3 cloves of garlic - sliced thinly
2/3 tspon panch phoron (bengali five spice)
2 tbspoon olive oil
salt to taste
pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Panchphoron asparagus
Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is quite hot, add the panch phoron and garlic. Let it sizzle for a minute and immediately add the asparagus.

Let it cook on medium heat uncovered for 3-4 minutes. Then add the salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Panchphoron asparagus
Take it off the heat and serve warm.

We had ours with pulao and kofta curry.

July 03, 2014

Capturing summer with mint and corn pulao

Mint and corn pulao

It's World Cup time! How many of you are watching the World Cup? Lil A was just born the last time World Cup came around. This time, he is kicking the football (yes I said football not soccer!) around. Mostly, the kicking happens in the backyard, but sometimes he sneaks the ball inside too.

We have a long corridor and he will spend a lot of time playing there. But just yesterday he kicked the ball high in the living room and one of the vases knocked over.

He was immediately contrite and said "can I go to the backyard now?" It was 8 in the morning! Needless to say, kids are enjoying the summer and spending a lot of time outside - playing, running, biking.

This mint and corn pulao captures the flavors of summer - fresh, light, and aromatic. There are probably many versions of mint pulao recipes. In this, I don't grind mint into a paste, rather it is chopped and rice is cooked with it. Result is a heady aroma of mint that is absorbed in each grain of rice.

(serves 4-5 people)
3 cups basmati rice - soaked in water (you can try other rice too, but the cooking time will vary)
1/3 cup mint - chopped
1 cup corn  I had 2 fresh corns and I used them, you can also use frozen corn
6 cups water
4 cardamoms
1/2 onion - chopped finely
1 tspoon grated ginger
1 tspoon cumin seeds
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
salt to taste
2 tbspoon oil

Take the corn off the cobbs. Boil it with some salt just to take the rawness away. I boiled mine in microwave for 2 minutes.

Mint and corn pulao
Heat oil in a deep walled vessel. Temper it with cumin seeds and cardamoms. Wait a minute as they sizzle. Then add the chopped onion. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add grated ginger and half of the chopped mint. Let it cook for a minute.

Then add the corn, cumin powder, chilli powder and salt. Saute for a minute. Drain the water from the rice and add it to the mix. Saute for good 3-4 minutes till it all mixes together. The rice to water ratio is 1:2. Add six cups of water, cover the vessel, the heat is medium high and set the timer for 20-22 minutes.

Don't stir it. Let it cook. Once there is a 5 minutes left, add the rest of the mint and check the rice to see if it is done. After the timer goes off, take the rice off the heat and let it remain covered for another 5 minutes. Then stir it lightly and serve warm.

Mint and corn pulao
I served it with a spicy chicken curry and asparagus.

Have a great July 4th.

June 26, 2014

A is for Anarosher Chutney (pineapple chutney), aloo posto

Sandeepa of BongMom Cookbook recently started A-Z of Bengali Cuisine. She is crowd sourcing the recipe suggestions for each letter. It's at letter C now. If you're not following, you're missing the fun.

I recently commented on Beguni, and she asked me to join in. I couldn't resist, so here I am starting my own A-Z of Bengali cuisine. It may take some time to finish it but it will be a lot of fun to find a recipe for each letter.

Shall we get started? Any Bengali will tell you, the first thing that comes to mind for A is aloo posto. I blogged about it many moons ago and over time have made variation to it adding other vegetables like okra, jhinge. Here is another one - aloo and zucchini posto.

pineapple chutney

A is also for the various aamer chutney (raw mango chutney), and anarosher chutney (pineapple chutney). These light chutney or chaatni as Bengalis call it, is a light sweet, tart combination, rather watery with pieces of fruit. It's a perfect way to finish a meal.  It is typically served at the end of the meal, but we love to add it as a side too.

I have also served it with starters and crackers and is a good combination with some cheese.

I recently made a big batch of anarosher chutney or pineapple chutney. The pineapples were leftovers from one of those multi-fruit platters. We got it for a get together recently. Kids polished of grapes, watermelons etc but the pineapples just sat there.

We ate a few but it just sat there. This was the perfect time to make chutney.  The chutney, one the other hand, was gone in a couple of days. We ate it with meals, on burgers, on crackers till it polished it off.

If there is no fresh pineapple, use canned pineapples. You may have to reduce the cooking time for canned pineapples.


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