Jhol Bhaat – a vegetable stew served with plain rice

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If there is one thing we Chatterjees are proud of (among the many others) and cherish – Jhol Bhaat would rank the top most. ‘Jhol’, in general, means a thin curry and can be of vegetables, fish, chicken or eggs; but I am, here, referring to a vegetable curry that formerly used to be prepared at my in-laws joint family home in Barhampur, W.B… This dish is like  a family tradition… every Chatterjee man wants his wife to master their skills in it… every mother wants her Daughter in law to make this for his son… and every Chatterjee bou love talking with their co-sisters (-in law) how this family is crazy about it. Everyone will have endless tales woven around it… number of variations considering you can add or skip any number of vegetables / spice.

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Early days of marriage and BBC brandishes his skill at dishing out his favorite ‘Jhol’, chopping off big chunks of cauliflower florets, potatoes and eggplant, stir frying them with cumin seeds, salt, some slit green chillies and turmeric and a thin gravy of tomatoes, ginger and asafoetida (this dominating the flavor) and finally topping it off with fried ‘bori’ (sun-dried lentil paste nuggets). The whole process of cutting and preparing takes 20-30 minutes. My MIL makes different kinds of jhol with the different spices and seasonal vegetables but for the two of us this is how we like it.  In those initial days every Sunday lunch would be the husband’s task to make jhol bhaat. Not to mention… plain steamed white rice is the only way to serve this curry with – or so says the man. I have tried having it with roti / paratha and it works for me as long as I am thick-skinned enough to ignore the nearby gapes and stares.

Those over enthusiastic days of being newlywed and covertly wanting to win approval  made me master this simple dish in no time… Now, I know better! I have taken over this custom of Sunday’s Jhol Bhat, while my husband boasts about it on our weekly Skype chats with my MIL. Though I  have to admit there are still days when he enters into the kitchen and announces his intention of preparing this meal and I gleefully agree to do the clean up.

So while Friday-Saturday nights see me cooking Chicken Kasa (spicy and thick chicken gravy)  or pasta/pizza to celebrate the weekend mood, Sundays are most often ‘being-at-home’ phase with simple comfort foods  like this one. This followed by the afternoon nap gears us up for the upcoming week. With this post I am hoping to achieve a high score as the devoted member of the Chatterjee clan. Is anyone listening???

DSC_0322Here is how it goes:

 Ingredients:

  • Vegetables: Adjust the amounts as you like.
    • Cauliflower – 1/2, cut into big florets
    • Potatoes – 1 big, diced into cubes
    • Egg plant,  – 1/2, If using Chinese egg-plant variety – 1; cut into rounds
    • Any other vegetable of your choice cut into mid size chunks; some suggestions might be carrots, beans or peas  .
  • Bori – a handful; these are sun-dried lentil paste nuggets. You can  prepare this at home and store it for later use, but it is easily available in Indian Grocery stores as “Moong Dal Wadi”
  • Oil – 1-2 tbsp or as required
  • Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1/4th tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp + a pinch
  • Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
  • Ginger, grated or paste – 1 tbsp
  • Green Chillies, slit lengthwise – 4-5 or to taste. Can use red chilli powder (to taste) instead.
  • Tomatoes, chopped or grated – 1 medium
  • Water – as required
  • Coriander Leaves, finely chopped – to garnish

Method:

  • Soak the egg plants in a bowl of water mixed with a pinch of turmeric and salt.
  • Combine the ginger paste, turmeric powder, cumin powder in a bowl.
  • In a thick deep pot or wok or karahi heat up some oil and lightly fry the bori till they turn slight brown in color. Drain and keep aside.
  • In the hot oil add cumin seeds, once they start sizzling add the slit green chillies and all the vegetables except egg plants.  Fry the vegetables on medium flame with 1/4 tsp of turmeric and little salt for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the mix of ginger and spices and fry for a while.
  • Next add the grated/chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes stirring in between.
  • Add substantial amount of water, mix well, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes till the veggies are halfway cooked.
  • Drain the eggplants and add to the brewing stew. Eggplant absorbs a lot of oil on frying so we do not fry them beforehand. Stir for a while and cover and cook till all the veggies are done.
  • Adjust water for the desired consistency and  salt or spice for taste.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with plain steamed white rice.

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Gobi (Cauliflower) Manchurian

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What do you say of a nice romantic date? I say maybe we go out to a fine place for a cozy candle light dinner… or I make you sandwiches and you carry a picnic hamper as we head out to the beach… lets go back to our teens and catch a nice movie in a theatre with a huge bag of popcorn and coke… if not then lets shut down all the gadgets and let me cook you a nice dinner that we will then have on bed, we can tuck our feet into the comforter, maybe share a glass of wine and chat aimlessly like those initial days. Will it bring a smile on your lips? Will that make you happy? I know it will…

To the good times then, now and forever…

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Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower – 1/2 medium, cut into small florets
  • Oil – for deep frying

For the batter:

  • All purpose flour – 5 tbsp
  • Cornstarch – 3 tbsp (flour:cornstarch will always be in 5:3 ratio)
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste (If you are adding Soy sauce which already is salty, add accordingly)
  • Black Pepper powder – to taste
  • Red chilli powder – to taste
  • Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp (optional but adding it gives a nice deep color)
  • Paprika – optional, to be used for extra red color
  • Water – to make a thick batter

For the sauce:

  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Onion – 1/2 medium, finely chopped
  • Garlic, finely chopped – 3-4 colves
  • Green chillies, finely chopped – to taste (since you are adding chilli sauce adjust accordingly)
  • Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp
  • Chilli Sauce – 2 tsp (adjust to taste)
  • Tomato Sauce – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste (soy sauce has some salt in it so add accordingly)
  • Sugar (optional) use only if required – sometimes if the sauce becomes too tangy you might need to add little sugar, check the taste first and then decide if you need to add it.

Note: The quantities for the sauces mentioned are approximates since I never measure them while pouring. Just eye ball it, add little at first,  taste it and add more if required.

For Garnishing: (use any of these)

  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Chilli vinegar – optional but adds a great flavor. Follow instructions mentioned below on how to prepare this.
  • Chopped green chillies – for extra spice
  • Spring onions, roughly chopped – I did not use it this time

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Method:

Marinate and deep fry:

  • Soak the florets in hot (not boiling) water for 2-3 minutes. Drain completely and pat dry.
  • In a bowl add all the ingredients for the batter except water and mix well. Add little water at time and keep mixing with a whisk to get a thick batter of pouring consistency. Do a taste test and adjust the spices accordingly.
  • Add the florets and mix them so that they are well coated with the batter. You can add some extra flour if the batter is too thin or add extra water if it is too thick.

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  • Keep aside the marinated florets for almost an hour to a couple of hours, the longer the better.
  • Heat oil in a deep fryer / pan. Once hot add the florets in batches and fry them till they are cooked and turn golden. Do not over fry or they will turn mushy.

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Note: The first time I was making this, I got the proportions messed up so that batter was falling off when frying. Once the entire batch was done, I added the fried florets in the leftover batter again and re-fried them.

  • Drain the fried florets onto a paper towel.

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Prepare the sauce:

  • Heat up a pan and add 1 tbsp of oil. If using the same pan as used for deep frying the florets remove the oil leaving almost a tbsp of oil.
  • Add the chopped onions, garlic, green chillies and fry for a couple of minutes until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add all the other ingredients – sauces, salt and sugar (if needed) and mix well.
  • Sprinkle some water and cook for a couple of minutes so that it comes to a light boil. Check taste and adjust salt and the sauces accordingly.

Note: If you want you can prepare the sauce before hand. Fry the florets just before serving as they will loose the crispiness if kept for a while. You can assemble the dish just before eating.

Assemble the dish:

  • Reheat the sauce if made previously.
  • Add the florets to the sauce. Mix gently.
  • Garnish with any of these – chopped cilantro, green chillies, chilli vinegar or chopped spring onions.

How to make chilli vinegar:

You can use this for any Chinese / Indo-Chinese cooking. So if you need it very frequently make in large quantity or else if you are going to use it once in a while like it do make a smaller portion.

  • Take 3-4 tbsp of white vinegar.
  • Roughly or finely chop 2-3 green chillies and add them (along with the seeds) to the vinegar. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Use it for garnishing.

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Serve it as a side or a starter.

Aloo Gobi/Cauliflower Curry

Another long weekend is peeking around the corner – the 4th of July weekend! Feels awesome – We already have a vacation planned with almost 6 families to Maine and I am eagerly looking forward to having a great time. The last couple of weeks have been equally good with family visiting and our short trips to NY and NJ meeting friends. No reason my blog has been taking a second or third (maybe even lower) priority these days. Did not have much time to explore with any new recipe either.

Seems like I need to finish up the stocked items in the freezer before I leave for Maine. So… the first item that needs an immediate attack is ‘GOBI’ or cauliflower which has been lying untouched in the freezer since last week. Well I know what needs to be done with that. Just  a simple Aloo Gobi curry – that way I do not spend too much time in the kitchen, I save the last two potatoes from growing tubers on their surfaces and being stashed away in the trash bin, and finally the main thing – my foodie husband has a good meal at the end of the day. Hurray!

This floral head occupies a very special nook in my husband’s heart and palate, specially the flavor of the florets stir fried with cumin seeds/jeera. As a matter of fact his bachelor days’ meals consisted of ‘Gobi’ or ‘FulKopi’ (as called in bengali) in almost every alternate day. I used to wonder at times if I should be memorizing Gobi recipes rather than having such long chats late into the nights. Well a smart girl like me did not take much time to realise that in order to pease my food-loving hubby I should learn how to make nice dal and a gobi recipe and that should keep me good for few days.  That was a long time ago… and now after almost a year of being the mistress of my house, I know that ‘aloo gobi’ or ‘Aloo FulKopi’r Dalna’ or in simple words cauliflower and potato curry still establishes a soft spot with BBC.

So this simple recipe made my way remains a delight for our household and I hope finds a place in your dinner table as well.

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower – 1/2 medium
  • Potatoes – 2 medium
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
  • Tomato, finely chopped or pureed – 1/2 cup
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Green chillies, slit – 1 or 2 or to taste
  • Red chilli powder – to taste (optional)
  • Garam Masala powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp or to taste (optional)
  • Yogurt – 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Freshly chopped cilantro or parsley – for garnishing

Method:

  • Wash the cauliflower, cut into half, separate into medium-sized florets and trim the stems.
  • Peel, wash and cut the potatoes into small cubes.
  • Marinate the florets and potato cubes with a pinch of turmeric, salt and red chilli powder for a minute or so.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Add the florets and stir fry till a light golden color. Once done drain from oil and keep aside.
  • Stir fry the potato cubes till a light golden color, then drain and keep aside.
  • In the same pan add the remaining cumin seeds, let them sizzle.
  • Add ginger paste, slit green chillies, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and tomato puree and fry well till the oil starts separating.
  • If desired add well beaten yogurt and mix well.
  • Add the fried florets and potato cubes and mix well.
  • Cover and cook till completely done. Add some water (if required) depending on the amount of gravy desired. Care should be taken that the florets do not turn mushy.
  • Adjust salt, add garam masala and sugar if desired.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.