Shubho Mahalaya and a Kalakand recipe (in Microwave)

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My city, like all others, is always buzzing with activity, with people and their busy lives, but this time of the year it is at its peak. This is the festive season, season to celebrate, to rebond with friends and families, to share smiles and exchange furtive glances with your special one. It is the time when everything else is forgotten and forgiven… everything other than love and happiness. Mahalaya brings about the final countdown towards 10 days of maddening glee. Hands filled with bags of bargained and non bargained items, bellies filled with food which is a must after hours of shopping, minds filled with ticking off items from the to do lists while adding some more to it, and hearts filled with content. ‘Pujo ashchey…’

My city, the city of joy, is not always filled with joy. Most often you see it struggling with the nuances of daily lives, with the shackles of its non progressive approach to simple things and competing feebly and, may I add, complacently with the other fast growing cities. The city which was once the capital of this country, which was once and still is the abode of great men and women, the centre for literature, art and culture, now appears to be saddled by its own legacy. Do not get me wrong,  I am completely in awe with this place. I came here unwillingly, fell in love with it inspite of all my prejudices and then lived here for 10 years. So I am already a victim of its irresistible charm. I know there is something so special here that will touch your heart and make you yearn for it when you are far far away. May be that is why when I look at other cities and countries, I realise that there will never be a place like Kolkata, but on the other hand I also wish it was so much more… So much potential and yet the stagnancy here drives all us Kolkata lovers away from it. Bengal has always and will continue following the “Cholchey – Cholbey” policy irrespective of who is in power. There was a time when I would defend this city with all reasonings, and with hope. Sitting miles and miles and mountains and oceans apart I am confused at the mixed emotions this city arises in me – to just give up and move on with my life or to hold on to that blind faith that someday something good will happen out of it.

Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee
Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee

However this isn’t why I am here. Today I wanted to convey my best wishes for the coming days. “Mahalaya” which in Hindu mythology means Homecoming of the Goddess Durga and the dawn of this day marks the ceremony of ‘Chakshudanam’ – literally meaning giving eyes to the Goddess (the artists, who make the idols, paint the eyes of the Goddess on this auspicious day). And Durga puja, being the main festival of Bengal,  is now in its final stages of preparations. I can see it all infront of my eyes… the roads all lighted up, the streets scurrying with innumerable people with their last minute puja shopping before they start pandal hopping, bamboo barricades being set up for the visitors, long queues for big and small restaurants, no place to walk in almost any part of the city.

But amidst all this I can not resist writing about the irony of this day and the bizarre situation of the city with the recent events. While on one hand we are all set to wroship the epitome of feminine power and strength, there is a section of the city (if not whole) which is hurting. Hurting against injustice, struggling against the inaction against female attrocities, fighting against a failing system. While one half of the city is getting together to celebrate, the other half is hoping that their rage will bring some change, will stir the conscience of a dying world, will empower people to have the right to walk and talk freely without being questioned about the lateness of the hour or the length of the dress. As we embark upon the celebratory mood, let us not forget this other half, let us keep reminding ourselves that we have to fight against the disappearing humanity. It might be a long time before we reach that goal, but lets hope and act for a better tomorrow!

So Shubho Mahalaya and may you all have a safe and delightful time!

I have a quick recipe for you – ‘Kalakand’ in microwave. This is an Indian sweet/dessert usually made with milk. Inspite of the hustle bustle of the Puja days, this sweet will take just 18 mins of your time and 2 main ingredients. Although, if in India, you can easily buy it from the local sweet shop wouldn’t it be nice to surprise your guests with this homemade version? This recipe is taken from Showmethecurry

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Ingredients:

  • Ricotta cheese – 15 oz
  • Condensed Milk – 14 oz
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional, but preferred)
  • Chopped nuts – for garnishing, I used chopped pistachios. (optional)

Method:

  • Pour the condensed milk into a microwave safe bowl, preferably a square or rectangular one. That way it becomes easy to slice the sweets.
  • Add the ricotta cheese to it and mix it well witha  spoon/ whisk.
  • Cook it in the microwave as follows:
    • 5 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix everything well.
    • 3 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – cross covered / partially covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
  • Once done, sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Level out the mixture evenly by pressing it with a spatula or a flat spoon.
  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts for garnishing and press it lightly onto the surface of the prepared sweet.
  • Cover it and allow it to cool down and set a couple of hours. You may set it in the refrigerator (if in a rush) for an hour but I avoided it as I did not want it to harden too much.
  • Once set, take a knife and cut into the desired shape – squares / rectangles / diamonds.

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Paneer Bhurji

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Memorial day weekend began for me on Thursday evening but it has not been a typical one. I am in a New Jersey hotel while it is pouring cats and dogs outside and BBC is attending a 3 day long training in a nearby hotel. So no long weekend trip this time. However I still consider myself to be on a vacation… with no cooking and cleaning, warm breakfast awaiting me just down the corridor for the next three days and I get to laze around and read as much as I can. Yesterday I watched a movie on the, skyped with  my family after a very long time, finished the Nicholas Spark e-book – “At first sight”– that I had borrowed from the library on my kindle sitting in the breakfast lounge while the radio played all the right numbers and had my evening tea sharp at 4pm. Once BBC was back we went out to a nice Afghan Restaurant after which I started with Dan Brown’s Inferno. The first couple of pages look good enough to make me feel this weekend will be worth spending my time with Dan Brown, as is usually the case with his books.Today seems to be a repeat of yesterday while tomorrow evening we plan to catch up with some friends before we head back home on Monday.

Sometimes it is good to break the monotony of your daily life, good to have nothing to do at hand, no responsibilities. Though I am still a full time homemaker and would usually be doing the same things like reading books, watching movies, browsing on the net, yet they are accompanied with self made routines and not to mention the daily chores. I can hardly complain about my life here, but there are times when I long to get back to my own country and to pick up my career where I left it 4 years back. Unquestionably once I return to India I will be missing my life here which has been so good so far, I will miss the ease of living a hassle free life here. But I have this feeling deep down that maybe its time for us to steer our lives in a different direction, at the least explore some different avenues. Currently its all a jumbled up maze of questions in my mind… where we are … where we want to be, what more I want to do… And some even bigger questions – Am I happy? Will I be happy if I can go back to where my family is and start with my  career again? Will I not long for the pace of life I have come to love here? Is it the rat race that I want? and believe me even this one – Will I get time to bake? Am I thinking too much? Only time will put each piece in the right place.

Photo Courtesy - BBC
Photo Courtesy – BBC

Not sure how things will turn out for us and if I am not mistaken it will definitely not be the way we are planning it to be. Lets see what this year holds for us.

For now I am posting something I had made sometime back and was long due.

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  • Paneer or Cottage cheese, crumbled or grated – 200 gms
  • Green peas, cooked or boiled – 1/2 cup
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Onion – 1 small to medium, finely chopped
  • Tomatoes – 1 medium, finely chopped
  • Ginger,  minced – 1 tsp
  • Garlic, minced – 1 tsp
  • Green chillies, finely chopped – 3 to 4 or to taste
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch (optional)
  • Garam masala – 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Amchoor powder – 1/8 tsp (optional)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Cilantro, finely chopped – to garnish

Method:

  1. Grate or mash the paneer or crumble it in a food-processor. If using homemade paneer no need to do this as it is already crumbled.
  2. Heat oil in a pan on medium flame; once hot add cumin seeds, let them splutter.
  3. Add the finely chopped onions, saute for a while till they become soft.
  4. Add green chillies, salt, minced ginger and garlic and saute them for 3-4 mins.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry them till they are cooked.
  6. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder and mix well. Sprinkle a few drops of water if required.
  7. Next add the crumbled paneer and the thawed peas (if using frozen cooked ones); mix very nicely so that all the spices blend it together.
  8. Sprinkle a few drops (maybe 1 tbsp) of water if required and cover and cook for 3-4 mins.
  9. Garnish with a handful of finely chopped coriander and serve it hot with rotis or paratha.

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Chicken with Fennel – Mouri Murgi

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This post goes out to my friend ‘Appy’. I should have posted this a long time ago, but I just never got to click the pics. Usually on weekdays I cook regular stuff for lunch and anything ‘good’ for dinner. And I like to click mostly in daylight, the lighting in my kitchen is not that great so evenings don’t work for me. Weekends are, therefore, the best time when I cook elaborate meals for lunch and have the perfect light for the shots. The only problem is that I never seem to get much time for the shots as we both are eager to devour the food rather than wait for the perfect shots. So most of the times I have to be satisfied with the ‘not-so-good’ clicks and try to make it up with post-processing.

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Appy gave me this recipe a long time ago and since then I have made it innumerable times and served it with parathas or various rice preparations. And every time I have sent a short note of thanks (silently) for this wonderful recipe that we have come to love so much.  If I remember correctly she had told me this was originally a recipe for mutton. Since we hardly buy mutton and its mostly chicken for us, I never tried out the mutton version of this, but if anyone out there tries it out do let me know how it turns out to be.

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Now, I must tell you about this friend of mine, as this post is actually her recipe. When I ventured into the world of cooking she played a very significant role in inspiring me. I have gathered so many recipes and tips for cooking from her kitchen. We have shared so many discussions about cooking and kitchen + home management. I had also envisioned us cooking together like Hetal and Anuja from Showmethecurry – hah..! Guess that will have to wait for some other time – maybe – when we both stay close by and that does not seem very likely to happen anytime soon. Till then I am very happy with my blog and that I get a chance to compile all the recipes which I can pass on to someone someday….

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I was not sure what name to give to this recipe, so I just named it the first thing that came to my  mind. But feel free to suggest some good name for it, if anyone can. Also since we Bongs love to have aloo/potato with chicken I often add it. It up to you, go ahead and add some potatoes if you want it, or skip it if you don’t.

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Hope you try this recipe and like it. Look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

Bon Apetit!

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken – 600 gms (approx). I used half of a whole chicken
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Black Peppercorns – 1 tbsp
  • Yogurt, well beaten – 1/2 cup
  • Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Onions, thinly sliced – 1 large or 2 small
  • Green Chillies, slit length wise – 7-8, adjust according to your preference. Can also add red chilli powder if you want.
  • Bay leaf – 1 large
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Green chillies finely chopped – (optional) to garnish
  • Lime juice – to garnish
  • Cilantro, finely chopped – to garnish

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Method:

  1. Dry roast fennel seeds and black peppercorns. Let them cool down and then grind to a powder.
  2. Marinate chicken with well beaten yogurt, ginger garlic paste, and half of the ground spice powder. Keep the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for anytime between half an hour to 10 hours. The more you marinate, the better.
  3. Heat oil in a deep pan.
  4. Once hot, add a bay leaf and the onions. Fry them with a pinch of salt.
  5. As the onion starts browning add the remaining ground spice powder and mix well.
  6. Next add the marinated chicken and fry on high for a couple of minutes.
  7. As the chicken starts browning reduce the flame to a medium and cover and cook. Keep stirring in between and if required add a few drops of water. Usually I don’t have to add any water as this is not a curry dish and there will not be much gravy.
  8. Adjust salt and if required add red chilli powder. I usually add a lot of green chillies.
  9. Once the chicken is completely cooked garnish it with lime juice and finely chopped cilantro. Add some extra chopped green chillies if you want it to be extra hot.
  10. Serve it hot with Paratha (Indian bread), or rotis or with pulao.

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