All those who know me or read my blog will know how much I love to bake. There is no better mood-booster than beating up a dough and baking it till perfection. So when my husband got a $50 gift coupon from Sears beginning of this year, I knew instantly how to put it to good use. Thereby came home an electric mixer and a food processor. And thus my effortless entry into the world of baking.
More than savoring the home-baked goodies, I like the process of preparing it; taking out my measuring cups, scooping out the flour, kneading the dough with my hands, sprinkling flour, the wonderful aroma – everything is like a therapy for me.
Last winter was terrible. With 3-4 inches of snow piled outside there was no way I wanted to go outside to buy those blue boxes of Danish butter cookies; so when the craving set in, out came my bakers hat and I inaugurated my hand mixer with this butter cookie recipe from here while BBC helped me in clicking some of the pics. Since that winter morning I never got around to upload this post and was looking for a special occasion to do so.
Now as I participate in the Bake Fest Event #21 hosted by AmritaVishal of Sweet ‘n’ Savory , I think it is a good time to share this entry of Home Baked Butter Cookies with you all. And trust me, if you have a hand mixer you can do this in a jiffy!
Butter, unsalted and softened – 1 cup or 8 oz
Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Vanilla extract – 1 1/2 tsp
Egg yolk – 1 large
All-purpose flour – 2 cups
In a big bowl add the softened butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and beat them together until smooth and creamy.
Add the egg yolk and beat in till everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Add the flour and beat just until incorporated.
Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and transfer the dough.
Knead it lightly just till the dough smooths out.
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log (round or square) that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Using the flat surface of the knife smooth out the sides so that you have sharp edges.
Wrap each log in a plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm (at least two hours or preferably overnight). Can also freeze the unbaked logs for up to two months.
Before baking, preheat the oven to 325°F. and line the baking sheets with a parchment paper.
Once the log is firm, with a sharp knife, slice the dough about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick or as you want.
Place the slices on the lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
Sprinkle some finely chopped nuts like walnuts or almonds if you want to and press them onto the surface of the unbaked cookie.
Bake them for 12 – 15 mins or just until done.
Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
While shaping them into logs ensure that the dough is tightly packed or else you might get holes in the center. Some of my cookies got that, but not much so it was okay.
Baking time may vary from oven to oven. Remember that the cookies keep baking even after taking them out of the oven. So do not over bake and allow them to cool on a cooling rack completely; if they are still soft, you can put them back in the oven for a couple of minutes again.
You can roll out the dough and cut them in various shapes using a cookie cutter.
You can decorate it using colored sugar or dip them half into chocolate.
I looked up the word “comfort” in thesaurus, something that I often do when writing. It suggests me words that were in my vocabulary, but at that moment, not in my mind. So thesaurus comes up with words like “contentment, pleasure, happiness, complacency, warmth, satisfaction, restfulness, snugness” among many others. And then my mind strays…
The words on my laptop screen blurs away and I can see my dad’s crinkly eyed smile as he is trying not to laugh at something, my mom’s crushed cotton saree slightly dampened by wiping her wet hands where I had hidden my face and cried to sleep a night long ago… I see my kaka (uncle) coming to wake me up early in the morning with my bed tea…me and my BFF sharing the earphone and listening to “Viva Forever” by Spice Girls… the feel of breeze from the air-cooler in those hot Rihand days while I lay on the cool sheets with no care in the world, the ride on my dad’s blue Priya as I hug him tightly from behind, I whispering to my brother in the dark of the night that in-spite of all his mischief-making and well-deserved reprimanding he is going for the school picnic since I saw mom putting out his clothes and backpack before switching off the lights.
The FB ping to notify that someone had messaged me brought me back from my reverie. I looked around … the sun was shining harshly outside while inside the AC was on a full swing. I was sitting on the plush couch with my blogpage and a re-sized thesaurus window open. I realized I was trying to write something related to today’s post for comfort food.
Many years back during college days when I was visiting my parents my mom had prepared a very delicious mixed dal which she had learned from a Maharashtrian aunty. Again on one of her visits, she had made it for my lunchpack for office which my friends had loved and wanted a recipe for it. Mom had told me it contained five varieties of dal and kasoori methi etc, but since all that was gibberish for me then and I couldn’t have recognised one dal from the other, I paid no heed to it. First year into cooking and I came across this recipe from Tarla Dalal; I knew that if not the same recipe at least it might taste similar with some minor tweaks here and there. Pointless to mention it was an instant hit with my friends and was a triumphant moment when I taught this to my MIL as everyone in the family loved it too.
So when you get bored with the usual dal that you cook on a frequent basis and need a change of taste, or you are looking for a little something to go with your methi / aloo paratha other than raita or when you are organising a dinner with an elaborate menu and need just one more item which is not too heavy and yet complement the rest of the meal – I do hope you try this mixed dal recipe. As for me, I will have it anytime of the day!
Adjust the proportion of dal as you like it, what I have mentioned is according to my taste. You can also skip any of the dals if you want to. At times I skip on the last two varieties.
Green Whole Moong Dal – 2 tbsp
Black Whole Urad Dal – 1.5 tbsp
Toor Dal – 2 tbsp
Chana Dal (Cholar dal) – 1.5 tbsp
Split Moong Dal – 1 tbsp
Musur Dal – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Onions, finely chopped – 1 medium
Green chillies, finely chopped – 4-5 or to taste
Ginger Garlic paste, optional – 1 tbsp (there are times when I don’t use this)
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli powder – optional (I use only green chillies and skip this)
Yogurt, well beaten – 1/4 to 1/2 cup (adjust according to your taste)
Tomatoes, finely chopped – 1/2 medium (Since already using yogurt do not add too much as it will become too sour.)
Garam Masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Oil / Butter / Ghee or a combination of any of these – as required
Salt – to taste
Kasoori Methi – 1 tbsp or to taste (I like the flavor it adds so use it generously, but you can adjust according to your preference)
Coriander Leaves, finely chopped – to garnish
Wash thoroughly all the dals, drain and soak in sufficient water for an hour or two. Then drain. I generally soak the whole moong, whole urad, toor dal and chana dal. Split moong dal or musur – just wash and drain them before cooking as they can easily be pressure cooked easily while for the others soaking is preferred.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add cumin seeds, as they crackle add the finely chopped onions and green chillies with little salt. Fry them for a while till they turn translucent.
Add the drained dals and fry well for 3-4 minutes.
Add sufficient water, add turmeric, red chilli powder (if using) and coriander powder and salt to taste.
Cook for 3 whistles or till the dals are well cooked. Do not overcook, just till they are soft but not mashed up completely.
Now open the lid and check the water content. If too watery – cook till the desired consistency is reached. If water content is less add some water and bring the dal to a boil.
In a separate pan heat butter/ghee or oil.
Once hot, add the chopped tomatoes and fry well.
Reduce the flame and add the well beaten yogurt and mix well.
Put the flame on high and let it come to a boil. Sprinkle the garam masala and mix well.
Add this tomato-yogurt-garam masala mixture to the cooked dals and stir on medium flame for 3-4 minutes.
Check the salt/spice level and adjust accordingly.
Add the crushed Kasoori Methi to the dal and mix.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.
Best served hot with roti or parathas.
I am sending this recipe for “My Legume Love Affair” MLLA Event being organised by Aparna. Thie event was started by Susan – author of Well-Seasoned Cook in 2008 and now continued by Lisa – author of Lisa’s Kitchen. This is the first time I am participating in any event, so am kind of excited about it. I realized that it was high time I started venturing out in the world of flood blog events. So here goes my first one and hopefully many more to come.
Probashi Bangali is what I like to call myself. Born and brought up in a small town of UP, I had never really understood the connection that all Bengalis feel with the city of joy. To me Kolkata, then called Calcutta, was my hometown-on-papers while in reality it was just the place where I spent the summer vacations and where all my relatives stayed. It was a place that always used to scare me in my childhood – the traffic… the pollution and the people…. everything. That used to be my connection with Kolkata. On being asked my preferred place for pursuing higher education (which was not to happen in the small town that I was living) Calcutta would figure at the bottom of my list.
I never had the understanding of the culture that we Bengalis are always so proudly boasting of. My parents tried to give me and my brother the most that they could. The bong traits in me resulted in me being a part of the school choir and other cultural groups, wearing glasses as early as in Class 4th (a permanent ornament for the Bongs – sorry for the typecast), developing a sweet-tooth and being what you may call a ‘good student’ (it was a commonly accepted notion amongst us that Bengali kids are the studious kinds). But that was where it ended. I hated Bengali food, could not bear the thought of having plain rice or fish or patla musur dal (lentil soup) or any curry which had sugar in it…. so while my brother was the mach-bhaat (fish and rice) types I was the roti-sabji one. I liked the thick dal with my rotis, loved any cuisine other than bengali and my meals were always accompanied with a fight with my mom for not having fish. I would wait long for everyone to leave the lunch table and then would quietly throw away the fish into the garbage when no one looked (something that I still feel guilty about). I remember me and my brother skipping the Bengali movies on Sunday afternoons on DD2 Bangla channel which my family loved to watch, except obviosuly the Gupi Baga series that even I loved. And though I danced to many a Rabindrasangeet I never really bonded with any of them. Infact I spoke Bengali so poorly that my relatives would make fun of my hindi mixed bengali language.
So somehow when I ended up being in Kolkata after high school (life has its own ways of surprising us!) my family was very – very – skeptical of how I might cope with the city life. And to be honest the first year I hated it terribly.
Life changed for me. The first year when I was staying with my dida.. she made me eat all kinds of Bengali food… from Uchchey shedhdho (Boiled bittergourd) to Loitta mach (Bombay duck fish) to lau er payesh (a dessert made of bottle gourd) – names that I had never heard of. Since I was preparing for my entrance exams that year my only recreation used to be the evening bengali movies that I would watch with my dida… mostly the Uttam-Suchitra or Soumitro-Aparna Sen ones. I learned to travel in the crowded buses and packed local trains, and in that one year stint at Kalyani University a friend of mine taught me how to read and write the numbers in bengali so that I could read the bus numbers. At night when I would sleep next to my dida, she would recite poems to me – what we call ‘abritti’ in Bengali. That’s when I got introduced to ‘Korno Kunti Sombaad’ – one of my favorites – in my Dida’s emotion packed voice. My friends and other family members introduced me to other bengali movies and songs. Hostel life, when I finally joined LBC, was a different chapter altogether. The celebrated menu of any bengali meal – the fish – for which I would have so many fights with my mom – became the only edible food in the lunch menu. The crowded street with all kinds of queer people became my co-passengers. I learned to protect myself and even vocally fight back in many cases in the crowded buses and trains – something that the daily passengers of Kolkata will surely understand. The constant hustle-bustle of the big city became my companion whenever I would feel lonely. Eventually the town girl who was once not sure if she would survive in this city started thriving.
After years of alienating myself from Kolkata – gradually, unknowingly, unwillingly, I started falling in love with it. The city gave me love and joy and a few heartbreaks and tears too… but more importantly made me what I am today. I rose above my biases and opened my heart to the city with all its givings and misgivings and the city, as it does with everyone, embraced me and added a distinct imprint on my life.
I still love to call myself a probashi bangali instead of a true Bangali. My tastes have matured from Bollywood movies to foreign movies and yet I love to watch the mature Bengali movies of the recent years… While I listen to A.R. Rehman and Adele I also have a playlist of songs ranging from Anjan Dutta, Chandrabindoo to Lopamudra and the modern versions of Rabindra Sangeet…Old Uttam Suchitra movies hold more passion and romance than the current Ranbeer-Deepika movies… Though I am perfectly fine with the quiet and peaceful life of the US, there are times when I long for the traffic filled Bypass rides and the liveliness of the city life… While there is no place like New York city or Las Vegas, Victoria Memorial of Kolkata will always hold the memory of the most precious moment of my life… Comfort food ranges from dal bhaat aloo posto, rajma chawal to roti and mixed dal… While I still follow and prefer the North Indian style of cooking Indian meals, I have also come to love kosha pathar mangsho (Mutton curry) with mishti pulao (Rice), the slightly sweetend chanar dalna and I never forget to add a little sugar in my egg curries… While we both are still not crazy about fish, I have found that cooking it little differently suits our palate better. I have tried to imbibe in me best of both the worlds and keep myself open and receptive to the wide world where there is so much more to experience and learn.
Coming to today’s recipe – it is an attempt to accolade my bengali roots that I have come to understand lately. And the one thing that I have realized about bengali cuisine is that given a chance Bongs would put every edible thing in a poppy seed paste with lots of green chillies, maybe add some mustard or coconut and come up with a heavenly dish…! For the countless egg lovers here is a simple Bengali preparation – Eggs in poppy seed paste – Dim Posto
Eggs – 4 hard boiled, shelled and halved
Potatoes – 2 small, cut lengthwise into quarters (optional)
Onions – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Green chillies – slit lengthwise, 5-6 or to taste. I usually dont use red chillies but you can.
Poppy seeds – 4 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 2 tbsp for paste (optional, can skip it)
Kalonji/Kalo Jeere/Nigella seeds – for tempering (optional).
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp and a little more for sprinkling on the eggs and potatoes.
Red chilli powder – to taste, if not using green chillies
Salt – to taste
Oil – as required. Preferrably mustard oil but I use white oil.
Water – as required
Chopped coriander leaves – for garnishing
Hard boil the eggs, once done keep aside and let them cool. De-shell and cut them into halves length wise. Sprinkle salt and turmeric and keep aside.
Boil the potatoes half done and keep aside.
Make a paste of poppy seeds, mustard seeds with salt and some water. I generally use the Sunrise mustard powder which I soak in 1-2 tbsp of water and salt for 15 mins. I grind the dry poppy seeds in a grinder and then soak it in water for 15 mins along with the mustard powder or sometimes separately.
Heat oil in a pan, fry the thinly sliced onions till browned, drain and keep aside.
Fry the eggs in the oil with the yellow side facing the pan and the white side up. That way the boiled yolk will not separate from the whites. Once done flip the eggs carefully and fry the white sides. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
In the same pan, add some more oil if required, heat it and temper with the kalonji / nigella seeds.
Add the half boiled potatoes with some salt and turmeric. Add green chillies and fry a while.
Next add the green poppy paste / poppy mustard seeds paste, salt to taste, red chilli powder (if using) and mix well.
Add some water – quantity according to the desired gravy – and let it come to a boil. This will not have too much gravy so adjust the quantity accordingly.
Once the potatoes are completely cooked, check for salt and spice. Add salt / chillies accordingly.
Now you can add the eggs to the gravy and mix it carefully so that the yolk does not come out. Alternatively you can arrange the eggs on a serving dish with the yolk side up, and pour the gravy along with the potatoes on top of it.
Garnish with the fried onions and chopped coriander leaves.
Serve it immediately. This dish tastes best with plain rice when served immediately after cooking as on reheating the poppy paste gravy tends to dry up.
I remember a play me and my brother (who was a year senior to me) along with some others enacted in our high school. Me (Grade 11th) and my brother (Grade 12th) were both very good at stage dramas and participated in most of them. Our much-loved chemistry ma’am, also my class teacher had this play for us for some occasion that I do not recall right now. I do not recall the name of the play as well, but given a chance now I would name it – ‘Heal the world’ and have the MJ song with the same title play at the end / beginning of the play. So this play was about the world (called Mr. World and played by my brother) which was battered and injured and bleeding. I remember making the costume for Mr. World using my grandmothers plain beige shawl, sticking a world map and making fake red stains (to show it bleeding) and fake holes in it. Attempts would be made to heal this world. Some of our friends represented money, power, etc., etc. (I do not remember the rest clearly) and they would then try to heal the world but with no success. Finally towards the end I would enter the stage, dressed in pristine white, representing ‘Love’, will give a small speech on how I could heal the world from all the vices and its injuries. It ended with the world being a cleaner and a nicer place.
The moral of this play was understood clearly by all of us, but somehow today I understand the real implication and lesson behind it. The lase week had been a rough one and had made me anguish over the fact that the world was becoming such a chaotic place. So much is happening around us that should not be. No country is unscathed from man-made disasters (as I like to call them) as if natural disasters weren’t enough. To think of what kind of world we will be leaving to our next generation – it really bothers me. The entire last week I had been scrolling through all the newspapers and reading so many awful crimes that made me feel so sullen. But I am trying to keep myself away from the newspapers for a while and boost my spirits by trying to think of good things… And that brings me back to my blog.
This is a long due post and I made it for Holi. Back at home we call this Rasogolla ‘r Payesh but I guess it is a sort of ‘Rasmalai’ made with Rasogollas. I remember this as my Dida’s (maternal garndmother) special dish and she makes it using milk and sugar. However, I had it the easy way and used some evaporated milk and some condensed milk.
Rasogollas – 10 – 12. (My Dida used the large ones and would cut it into half but mine were mid size so I kept it as it is.)
Whole Milk – 3 cups roughly
Condensed milk – 1/4 of a 14 oz can
Evaporated milk – 1/2 of a 14 oz can
Cardamom powder – to garnish
Note: You can use either the above mentioned combination, or you can choose to adjust the proportions, or omit the condensed milk and/or evaporated milk. If not using condensed milk add sugar as required. In the latter case it will take a little more time to thicken the milk.
Put a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Add the evaporated milk and whole milk and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring in between.
Add the condensed milk and stir well. Add sugar at this stage if not using condensed milk.
Meanwhile using hands gently squeeze out the sugar syrup (without squashing) from the rasogollas and keep it aside.
Once the milk is sufficiently thickened to your liking and sugar adjusted, add the squeezed out rasogollas and let it simmer for almost a minute. Do not stir much as the rasogollas, being soft, might break.
Sprinkle some cardamom powder for garnishing and let the rasogollas absorb the milk.
Transfer to a serving plate or bowl; refrigerate till chilled and serve.
If you are not sure of handling the squeezed out rasogollas you can also put them in a serving plate or bowl and pour the thickened milk over it and let it soak.
If you have the thickened and sweetened milk in excess, like I did, use only what is required and keep the rest aside and chill. You can serve it later as a ‘sort-of-thandai’.
2011 September – Dubai Airport – I am traveling with my husband to India via Dubai… tired… excited and yearning to see my family, to celebrate the festive season and to be in my city. Another couple of hours for my connecting flight, have already seen enough of the airport (which is very very nice) and so am stretching out on one of the lounge chairs, my husband on my right and an unknown lady to my left. In no time the two of us are engrossed in a conversation with the lady. She is a Dutch, hailing from Holland and is going to visit a couple of friends in Kolkata for the Durga Pujas. We talk a lot about the countries and culture we belong to and I tell her about my city of joy. That amidst all the colors and the beauty of the place she may find it a little noisy and cluttered, and that I find those very traits make the city so much alive, specially at this time of the year. As we talk aimlessly the time for our connecting flight draws near and we bid good byes. The last glimpse I have of her is in Kolkata airport as each of us stand in the immigration line. Two people – from different parts of the world meet for a while and then carry on to their respective destinations.
She is forgotten… I do not recall her name any longer… just one of the many people we met on a long distance journey. The chances of us meeting again is null – zero. Holland is not a place I plan to visit very soon. And I do not expect her to be in Kolkata ever again.. well neither in US. So that is the end of our story.. the chance meeting with an interesting person … good conversation and time well spent. One of the benefits of staying in different places and traveling is that you get to meet many kinds of people, you get to hear many kinds of stories, different experiences… different lives. And I am always enchanted by good stories. The stories make me think .. make me imagine… make me long.
12 months later…
2012 (October) – Dubai airport – I am going to India for 4 weddings in the family, one of which is my own brother’s. All geared up for the major preparations… the only not-so-good part is that I am traveling alone. The husband will follow me a month later. I have my books and music to give me company but I was already missing him. I managed to chat with a couple of my co-passengers (all of them going to Kol). I am about to reach the specific Gate allotted for my next connection when something familiar crosses my eyes – or someone. I am not sure if my memory serves me right – but – I know I am right – It is her !
Not able to withstand any longer, I reach up to her… to check if I am correct, to check if she remembers me from a year ago. And voila – she is the very same lady from Holland and she remembers. For a couple of seconds I feel I am in a déjà vu. What was the probability of us meeting again, in the same airport, traveling on the same day and around the same time of the year ( just a 2-3 days left for Dushera as last year). I had thought none and was gladly mistaken. We hug each other as if long-lost friends. We click our pics, talk for some time, exchange mail ids. I am happy, so elated. I want to share this with BBC, the strangeness of the whole situation has affected me strongly. And as I hop onto my flight I am smiling.
Life is, after all, so full of surprises; and the world around us is becoming smaller day by day. I now have a Dutch friend and a reason to plan for a trip to Holland someday. As Oprah says – “… chance encounters aren’t necessarily accidental; in fact, you can make your own luck by opening yourself to the world. ” I want to be receptive to new things in my life… new people, new places, new experiences. And one day I do hope to begin to understand the mysterious ways of this universe.
P.S. – As I posted this to the blog, I updated my Facebook browser and a birthday reminder pops up – its that of my Dutch friend. How strange that today is her birthday and unknowingly I dedicated today’s post to her. (Happy Birthday dear friend!)
Today’s post Hara Bhara Kabab is inspired from Tarla Dalal’s recipe. Hope you enjoy it.
Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese) – 1/2 cup
Spinach leaves – 1 cup tightly packed
Chana Dal – 2-3 tbsp
Ginger, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
Garlic, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
Green Chillies, chopped – 3-4
Green Peas, boiled – 1/4 cup
Water – 3/4 cup
Salt – to taste
Chaat Masala – to taste
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Bread Crumbs – 2 tbsp
Oil/Oil Spray – as required
Grate the paneer or process it in a food processor.
Clean, wash and blanch the spinach as mentioned. Blanching Spinach greens: On a high heat bring a large pot with water to boil. Add the spinach leaves to boiling water. Cover and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the leaves using a slotted spoon or drain using a colander. Wash the wilted leaves with ice cold water. Drain water and squeeze out any excess water from the leaves.
Pressure cook chana dal with ginger garlic and green chillies with 3/4 cup of water for 2-3 whistles or until the dal is cooked. Drain the dal and remove excess water.
Blend the cooked dal with boiled peas and blanched spinach leaves to a fine paste. If required use only 1-2 tsp of water.
Combine this paste with the grated paneer.
Add salt, garam masala and chat masala to the mixture.
Add bread crumbs and mix well.
Take a spoonful of the mixture and shape it into a round ball. Press the balls to get a round flattened shape like that of a cutlet. You can keep the round shape or form cylindrical shapes as well. However I find this shape easy to cook on stove top.
This is an optional step. If you want your kababs to be have a crunchy coating you can roll them onto some additional bread crumbs or else you can omit this step and fry the kababs as it is. I tried coating them with bread crumbs but did not appreciate the result. Additionally the bread crumbs were giving it a burnt look. You can try it both ways for the first time.
Cooking the kababs:
Stove top: I used this method and it is definitely a healthier option. Heat a skillet on a medium flame and spray some oil. Place the kababs and cook them well turning around for even cooking. If required keep spraying oil or drizzling melted butter on each side as they get cooked.
Deep frying: You can deep fry the kababs till they turn golden brown. You can also make a batter of flour/maida, dip the kababs, roll them on bread crumbs and deep fry them.
In the oven – Preheat oven to 350 F and bake them on both the sides till they are cooked. This should take 15 – 20 mins (10 mins approx. on each side) depending on the oven size. Baste them with oil / melted butter on both the sides when you flip them.