Green Beans Bharta – Mashed Green Beans

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As a child, have you ever been enamored by magic? I used to be. And I wanted to be special, to be different from others, to have uncommon abilities. I so ..so.. aspired to be a brilliant child and to be at the top of my class. Whenever I would get weary of studies my imagination would run wild. In that wild world I would be transformed into a person with a special photographic memory so that every thing that I read would be etched in my memory forever; that way i just needed to glance through the pages of my study-books and I would top all my exams. As I grew up, I secretly started hoping that maybe someday I would discover this extraordinary power of mine.  And when I traveled with J.K.Rowling to the world of Harry Potter, I found myself again nurturing that exotic dream.

In hindsight I am glad that I do not possess any such photographic memory because (a) some lessons are best learnt the hard way, so they go a long way; (b) forgetting is sometimes a bliss for only then can we move ahead in life; and (c) Being Normal is the best thing that can happen to you.

But that does not mean I totally deny the existence of magic.

“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”
Nora Roberts

In perspective it just holds a different meaning. You have known magic if you have ever fallen in love, ever created a child, if any of your dreams have ever come true.. you have known magic if you have looked at the creation around you, the world around you, if you have witnessed the change of colors and seasons or the mesmerizing view of a sunrise or the sun setting across the ocean.

I have seen the impossible and the unimaginable happening, so I will never close my mind to such a magic.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Roald Dahl

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Today’s recipe is of Green French Beans. If you are like me who only cherishes the thought of beans in Fried Rice or Chowmein then I can assure that you will be pleasantly surprised with this. I had never known such a bharta to even exist till I came across BongMom’s Cookbook. According to her this Bharta – spelled as Bhorta with an ‘o’ – is made in Bangladeshi style with mashed beans and coconut. Now, I love coconut and anything with coconut in it and was very happy when it turned out to be so good. I have to confess that though I make it as a second side dish, I end up
having my whole meal with just this and whited steamed rice.

So if you love beans, you will love this dish too. And if you are not a beans lover, then for sure do try this once and let yourself be beguiled with this magical dish.

Ingredients: DSC_0117

  • French Beans, cut into 1′ length – 2 cups
  • Oil (preferrably mustard oil, but vegetable oil will do) – 1 to 2 tbsp or as required.
  • Onions, thinly sliced – 1 small
  • Garlic, chopped or grated – 1 tbsp
  • Green chillies, slit lengthwise – 5 to 6 or to taste, can use red chilli powder instead
  • Salt – to taste
  • Coconut, grated – 1/2 cup to 1 cup; I use it generously
  • Coconut, grated / Coconut flakes – for garnishing (optional)

Method:

  • Heat oil in a pan, once hot add the thinly sliced onions and saute.
  • Add garlic and green chillies and fry well.
  • Once the onions start getting translucent add the beans and salt. Mix well. Cover and cook till the beans are tender stirring in between.
  • Once cooked, transfer the fried beans mixture on a plate and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once cooled add it to a blender along with coconut and little water and blend to a thick wet paste.
  • Heat the same pan, add a few drops of oil to it and add the wet paste.
  • On medium flame cook the paste till most of the moisture is dried up.
  • Garnish with grated coconut and serve with hot rice.

Suggestion: Mix small portions of the paste and rice with your hands/fingers and enjoy!

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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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Hara Bhara Kabab – Green Kabab

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ingredients:

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  • 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

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Method:

  • 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.

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Cooking the kababs:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Serve them with any chutney, tomato sauce or dip.

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