Friday, 25 May 2012


When the two teams merged, there was an an official get-together to get to know each other well. While the gangs both sides were comfortably familiar with each other, it was the ones in the ivory tower who needed the ice-breaking. A list of questions was prepared that the department heads had to field, if that helps in getting to know one's manager better! To a banal question of 'what's your favourite food', Shane gave a spicy response. 'I don't really have a favourite food. I am like a pregnant woman. I have cravings.' One thing was established. The manager was witty. Thank God for small mercies!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Craving is a good thing. I feel like Andy of Shawshank Redemption as I write this. 'Remember Red, Hope is a good thing. In fact, it is the only thing.' Not that I can replace craving with hope but the sentiment is similar:) In matters of culinary art, craving creates wonders. Like it did with the leftover farfalle last week. It was a friend's birthday & we decided to surprise him with breakfast on the house. Pasta & muffins it was. Abundance was in the air & I ended up boiling more pasta than needed for four people. Made three-fourth of it. (Even that served 6!) And the next morning saw the remaining farfalle being put to creative use :) 
                                                                                                     The name of this 'bow-tie' pasta, farfalle, is derived from the Italian word farfalla(butterfly). The e at the end of the word is the Italian feminine plural ending viz., butterflies. So what does one do with all those butterfly look-alikes in the house? First thank the stars for giving you the foresight of keeping a portion aside when the excess was discovered. Next, thank them again for placing a delicious idea in your head. Thanking done, get down to business. Of beautifying the farfalle some more :) Sounds like fun, doesn't it!
                                                                                                    You don't always need leftover boiled pasta for the purpose! Boil it exclusively to make this dish. Give it any name you want. I leave it to you dear reader. If you come up with a fancy one, share it with me. 
1. Boiled farfalle pasta(or any other)
2. 2-3 whisked eggs
3. 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
4. 2 tsp mixed herbs
5. 1-2 cheese slices( or grated mozzarella)
6. 1 tsp pepper powder
7. 1 tsp olive oil  
8. Salt to taste
1. Mix tomato ketchup, herbs, olive oil & salt in the boiled pasta & toss gently with a spoon/your hand.
2. Pour half of the whisked egg in a greased baking tray and arrange the pasta mixture over it.

3. Make stripes(roughly/with a blunt knife) of the cheese slice & arrange over the pasta layer.
4. Sprinkle pepper over the cheese stripes & top up with the remaining beaten egg. 

5. Bake the pasta at 160° C for 8-10 mins.

Dig into the cheesy farfalle with the artlessless of a child. The tray will be wiped clean in less than five minutes. Take my word for it! 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mushy Mushroom

That Kasab is getting vegetarian food comes as news to all. While it goes against the ethics of hospitality to serve veg to a meat-eater, somebody has taken it upon himself to not let that deter him. So what if Ajmal is an honoured guest, he must eat what others do. So what if the venue is the Arthur Road jail, so what if the guest has taken lives, so what if he is a national threat, so what if  cooks were illegally shifted from other prisons to cater to the gunman & his seven jailors, or perhaps, for precisely these reasons, Kasab has to be treated like any other  under-trial. Finally! 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We know now that there are periodic reviews in the police department like in other lines of business. Thank God for the realization. It was during one such internal checks that the irregular transfer of cooks came to light. Heartening. Made stronger by the fact that a corrective action followed. The top brass of the Mumbai Police immediately ordered the transfer of the cooks to their original postings. Which leaves our esteemed guest to eat ghaas phoos cooked by the convicts. Unfair to the one so used to biryani & other speciality cuisine. But then, when has life ever promised to be fair!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The vegetarian menu has roti, dal & sabzi, both for lunch & dinner. Of course the variety of the veggies & dal differs in each meal. Also, dinner in the prison has to be eaten at 3.30pm, the barrack closing time. Even here our esteemed guest had a privilege. He would be served dinner after sundown, though he is already in a closed barrack. Damn, all entitlements stripped at once. That's cruel. The vegetables are palatable, one just hopes. How else can AK survive? He will live here for ever, remember? Atithi devo bhavah is the       
backbone of hamara bharat.
                                                                                              Talking of tolerable veggies, I suggest the inmates make Mushy Mushroom for our friend. He will love it so much that he will want to become an Indian national. We can then utilize his rifling skills to bring our enemies to book. Sounds like an idea, doesn't it. How about doing a GB project on that. Rohini?    
                                                                                                      Oh, and here's the recipe, people. Even lesser mortals can enjoy this :) And super-simple.
                                                                                                          Ingredients: [Serves 3-4] 
1. 200gm mushrooms - quartered
2. 1 medium onion- cubed
3. 2 cloves garlic- chopped
4. 1-2 green chillies chopped (deseeded)
5. Cornflour- 2tbsp
6. Sauce:
i. Soy- 1tbsp
ii.Tomato- 1 tbsp(optional)
iii.Chilli- 1tbsp(optional)
7. 1/4tsp turmeric
8. 2tsp sugar
9. 1 1/2-2 cup water
10. Salt- to taste
11. Refined Oil
1. Boil the mushroom in salt & turmeric water for 5-6 minutes and strain.
2. Coat the boiled mushroom with cornflour, shallow fry and keep aside.
Remember to: Pour water in the vessel(in which mushrooms were being coated) to make cornflour water. No need to add extra cornflour. Leave aside for later use. 

3.  In a wok, stir the onion, garlic & green chillies for 3 mins on high.
Onion should be translucent & not brown. 
4.  Add the fried mushroom and saute well. 
5.  Add the cornflour water & let mushrooms cook on medium flame for 5-6 mins.
6.  Pour in whichever/all the sauces, salt & sugar & bring to boil. Keep gravy or dry. 

This recipe tastes equally good with everthing- roti/parantha/naan/rice/fried rice or noodles. Huff! Spoilt for choice, aren't we!                                                                                                                                       Serve hot.                                                                                                                                                                                        Itna mushy ki bas pyar ho jaye                                Itna tasty ki dushman dost ban jaye                     Mushy Mushroom banayein                                       Sab ka mann lubhayein                                               Itna khilayein                                                                         Ki bhai jaan ghar na jaane payein....

Monday, 21 May 2012

(Microwave) Besan Laddoo

Truth be told, I had no intentions of making Besan Laddoo at this point in time. It is not Holi, it is not Diwali. If anything, it is just a week before I travel. And you want to keep it simple at such times because your focus is packing. Not cooking. And that is precisely why I end up making this sweet my second last Sunday in London. Because I am moving. And because I must utilize my grocery to the best of my ability till the last breath of my life:) Tell you what? I got so ambitious that I wanted to make boondi with the besan & carry some to India! Realized I don't have the equipment to turn dream into reality. Settled for besan laddoos instead. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not without some prior research though. Why do all that mehnat of endlessly stirring the chickpea flour in the kadhai ? There has to be a short cut. And there is! Just put your microwave to good use. You did not invest so much in it to just warm your food & milk! Make some laddoos. Share them with your friends. The joy of sharing equals none. And tell them how you accomplished this in less than thirty minutes! Also, tomorrow is Nive's birthday. Though kaju katli was her favourite once upon a time, who knows she may even dig the online besan laddoo that doesn't threaten the waistline!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    During my hostel days, Amrita di was the besan laddoo owner. That was a patent tuck that would come when she came back after the hols. That she was my roomy & we got along well only made matters sweeter for me :) Lately, the best BL I've had is from Kopal's maayka. These were soft, did not fall apart when bitten into & had that gooey feel that is so close to jannat. How bhai & Kopal made them last for more than a day still baffles me! With the paeans, it needs to be mentioned, that this IS a fattening food. If consumed like a glutton. But you are not. A chef cannot be greedy. Make laddoos for the khaandan, the aroma of the ghee coated besan & the satiety that accompanies those smiles, will make you full anyway. 
                                                                                                      Did I hear you say 'What rubbish! I want to make my laddoos & eat it too'? Well, a chef can be greedy. But only at times. Like this one. I made the laddoos yesterday afternoon. Of the 12 large laddoos, I've eaten only 4 1/2. In less than 24 hours. You call that greed? Naah! I call that need. The exhausted body, with all that packing & weight-lifting, demands glucose! 
                                                                                                      Aah, too much banter. Let's get started guys. And don't tell me I didn't warn you about this sinful delicacy ;)

Ingredients:[makes 5-6 laddoos]
1. 1 cup besan
2. 3/4 cup ghee
3. 3/4 cup sugar
4. 1 tsp cardamom powder
1. Mix the ghee & besan well and put in the microwave(high)
for 2 mins.

2. Take out from the microwave, stir the mixture & put it back for another 2 mins. 
3. After a total of 4 minutes, you will get the roasted flavour of besan. Take out to check the browning. 
4. Put the besan back in the microwave for another minute & let it roast.
5. Let the mixture cool for a while & then add the sugar and keep mixing. The sugar will melt partially.  
6. Add the cardamom powder after the sugar is mixed properly, give it a final fold & make laddoos. 

The laddoos will form well if you refrigerate for over an hour. Do it if you are making besan laddoos for guests.
                                                                                                                                                Cz if it's for the family, you may be accosted on your way from the kitchen to the fridge & the tray whisked from your hand. The loving parivaar  doesn't want you to lift weights, you see!  

The next time I'm going easy on the ghee. Even with a little less, the laddoos can be formed well. Add a tbsp of milk, instead.  
                                                                                               Garnish besan laddoos with silver vark, raisins, almonds or any other dry fruit. Why those colossal cashews here? You guessed it! I am left with enough kajus for seven days :)
                                                                                                            Happy Birthday, Nive. May your life be as rich & as sweet as the besan laddoo. And not as half as fattening! See you soon.

Chilli Potato

Yesterday was Mome's birthday. Mome(spelt Mom, may be read like an anglicized Ma, so I play around with the spelling. Pardon me.) and I were best friends at school. It is mandatory to have a best friend till you reach your father's knee. Makes one feel special, on a pedestal from those unfortunate enough to have just friends, equips you to face dreaded questions from the adult world in the lines of who is your best friend, what is your favourite subject, bodo hoye ki hobey etc & generally makes you feel loved.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In those ancient days of no TV, no internet, human relationships had a different feel n flavour. It was an absolute joy going to each others' house(without making a prior phone call!), playing hide & seek, relishing the snacks that were made in mother's kitchen(we had not heard of McD's & the likes then), admiring each other's dresses(frocks we called them) & taking a rickshaw back home, if your friend lived far or just walk it if it was closer. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mome was one of the most intelligent girls in class. I did not know the word intelligent then, she was very tej, as they would say in Begusarai. Padne mein bahut tej hai. And not just padna, my best fren was an artist par excellence, very good with words & generally sharper than most kids. She had the maturity of conferring titles on our classmates-she herself was Baby Face, I was Laugher - that made us feel like grown-ups; the spunk of drawing small beetles on the wall when both of us were sent out of the class for laughing(!) and the sense to know that she was an artist when I described her as a drawer to the handsome Red House Captain who made us all swoon :D  
                                                                                                     Our girl is Dr. Sucheta Mallick Choudhury now, Asst. Prof.,English, University of Houston-Downtown. This Doctor publishes research papers that will secure her a place with the literary greats & still has the love & patience to cook delectable dishes, pictures of which make all on Facebook salivate! This Chilli Potato is a belated birthday wish to the friend who set a benchmark for my later friendships. And whose childhood epithet gave me the tenacity to go on when life did not permit much laughing. 

Try this finger-licking dish people. Make it for your best friend if you have one. Or get one, by making this today :) Both ways, you are the winner!

Ingredients: [Serves 5-6]
1. 5-6 boiled potato- quartered
2. Chopped Onion- 3/4cup
3. Ginger Garlic Paste/finely chopped- 2 tsp
4. Chopped Cilantro- 1/2tbsp
5. Chopped Green Chillies(deseeded)- 1/2tbsp
6. Maida- 2tbsp
7. Cornflour- 2tbsp
8. Sauce:
i. Tomato- 1.5tbsp
ii. Chilli- 1tbsp
iii. Soy- 1tbsp
9. Ajinomoto- 1/2tsp
10. Sugar- 2tsp
11. Salt- to taste
12. 1 1/2-2 cup water
13. Refined Oil
1. Prepare a batter of maida, cornflour, ginger garlic paste & salt. Dip potato pieces in this batter & deep fry till crisp & brown.
                                                                                                                                             Keep aside on absorbent paper to soak excess oil.

2.  In a wok, stir the  ginger garlic for 3 mins on high.  Toss in the onions & fry for another 3. 
Add the chopped green chillies & fry for a minute.   
Keep stirring all the while.
Onion should be translucent & not brown.
3.  Add water, all the sauces, salt & sugar & bring to boil. 
Put in the fried potatoes & let simmer for 5 minutes on high.
Add ajinomoto & chopped cilantro & take off the flame.

Chilli Potato(gravy) tastes best with fried rice or noodles. If you keep it dry, you can serve it as a starter.

Serve hot.
                                                                                             Starters are so easily available in superstores these days that I always end up making manchurians as a gravy dish! As you like it, folks. 
                                                                                                        PS: Mome(Bangla) means wax(candle). A child by this name is white & soft. As they grow, they shine like candles & dazzle the world. Amen! 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Khurafati Kookies

She is 60 plus and off sugar & high cal food. Like many her age, lifestyle symptoms like high BP, cholesterol etc need to be kept at bay. Taking her out to eat is a challenge what with the lady in question being on restricted diet for ever. Minimal sugar, no fruit that is extra sweet, no item that is starch-laden and more. Add to that the fact she is a cook par excellence herself and you have the perfect recipe for a high-nosed mom who is hard to please.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But please you must & please you will. What with Mother's Day having acquired such a status that you cannot let the day pass without doing some khurafat. Long ago, when I'd asked the class how they intended to make it special for their mothers that Mother's Day, Tamal had the noblest intention. "By staying out of the house!" Almost a decade later, I am following his funda. Increased the distance. Decided to stay out of the country. And cook for her from here. There is less risk involved. A dish served on a platter may be met with disapproval but one served online is bound to touch the right cord. Or the right bud :) Especially when the recipe is a variation from her own kitchen. 
                                                                                                    'What are you doing with the leftover gulab jamun ras?' 'Haven't decided yet. Tell me.' And ma sent me her mishti nimki recipe, the Bong cousin of the shakarpara. This was one of my favourite tucks during college. In its tweaked version, I baked it into Cookies instead of deep frying it in a kadai-full of oil. Herself on a perpetual controlled intake, what makes her send me an oily recipe! I am not growing any younger or slimmer by the day! That was Benjamin Button. 
                                                                                                    This one is for you mum. Can't help the sweet. (Can be made with sugar-free too!)Went easy on the oil, tho. Serve this for tea, friends. And your mother will confer you the ustad title. Mine did :)  
1. 1 cup maida
2. 3/4 cup sugar syrup
3. 2 tbsp refined oil
4. 1/4 tsp baking powder
5. 1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Put oven to pre-heat at 350° C. 
2. Mix the ingredients well and knead into a tough dough.
3. Roll out like thick rotis, cut them into any shape you want and bake them in the pre-heated oven @ 350°C for 8-10 mins. 

Crunchy cookies are ready to be served. Hot or cold as she likes it! 

                                                              Dear Ma, I may not be as good a cook as you but I am trying. Yes, I know I've chopped my hair when you'd like it longer & I don't don the sari as often as you may like me to. But I love you as much as you love me. Don't miss me too much. If you do, I'll come back & cook for you. And you may want me to go away again. Remember how you had to get well soon because I was making okhhaddo maachcher jhol for you after your surgery :)
Happy Mother's Day, Ma. Love you. 

Friday, 11 May 2012


As Vinayak coughs up sugar reading the Sweet n Sour post, we decide to go more sugary. With chashni this time. We'd started our Food Stall with Mishti Mukh, a sweet potato delicacy akin to gulab jamun. Only healthier, I'd said. That was Jan 26th this year. From then to today there has been no more pantua in the house. Because there have been other things. There's been halwa & kadha prashad; seviyan & sheer khurma; pua & malpua. Apart from my favourite zarda pulao & noto kheer, Ma's favourite goja jhiljhili & P's favourite thekua & gujiya. Never a dull moment in the kitchen.    
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             In our childhood home, we celebrated all festivals of all faiths. There was biryani on Eid & cake on Christmas. Apart from tricolour cakes on 26th Jan & 15th Aug, we would have veg speciality cuisine on 2nd Oct. There would be Easter eggs & pudding and come summer we would have Mango mela at home. My father, the biggest enthusiast I've known, would buy mangoes wholesale and all the neighbourhood kids participated in a mango fest. Whoever ate the maximum mangoes was the winner. We had to retain the seeds for the final count. Dad played time-keeper & judge. Life was one long celebration.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We've taken it further with our Food Stall. Now we've started celebrating everyone's birthday in our kitchen :) Dickens' bday, something healthy for the author; Kopal's bday, ok fried chicken today; DC 's bday, let's do something new, how about thalipeeth; Preeti's bday, let's make sheer; Sunita's favourite spice for her bday; Taposi's, chal machchi banate hain. Birthdays done, now over to other special days. Muthia for mum on Mother's Day, devil for/by the devil on Valentine's, Sachin's 100th century, Kohli's 183....the list continues.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Missed Gurudev's birthday this 7th. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861- 7 Aug 1941) was the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for his Gitanjali in 1913. A polymath who revolutionized Bengali art by his non-adherence to conventional forms, Tagore's compositions are followed by two nations as their national anthem. India & Bangladesh. Interestingly, the composer of Sri Lanka's anthem, was a student of Tagore and the song is inspired by Gurudev's style. That Robi Thakur, as he was fondly known in Bengal, is an alumnus of University College London(ULC) & was in England 134 years before I was, makes me feel connected with him in some way. Is it mere coincidence that on his 150th birth anniversary, I was visiting Oxford, the seat of art, literature & learning? 
                                                                                                  While no tribute can be fitting enough for a man of his stature, the cook in me refuses to let him be on his birthday. Albeit, belated. Gurudev, that day I was at the Oxford University so you will have to pardon the delay in the golap jaam, Gulab Jamun. Years ago when I went to Shantiniketan, I roamed around your Visva-Bharati with the openness of the sponge. A university that is ' the world- centre for the study of humanity beyond the limits of  nation & geography', left me speechless. What admirable vision, what focussed execution! Koti koti pronam Gurudeb. Please accept this sweet offering. My shraddhanjali to you today.  
Gulab Jamun
1. 1 packet Gits gulab jamun mix
2. 1/5 cup water
Sugar Syrup
1. 2 cup sugar
2. 1 1/2 cup water
3. 4-5 whole cardamoms
1. Put water & sugar to boil. Drop the cardamoms in for flavour.   

 Add water to the GJ mix & knead into soft smooth dough.

3. Grease your palms & make small balls with the dough.( A 100 gm pack makes 20 GJs)
4. Deep fry on medium heat till uniformly brown. 

5. Drop hot GJs in the hot syrup & leave for at least 30 minutes before serving.

                                                                                             Serve GJs hot or cold and see that lip-smacking look that makes a house a home.