Sweet Pilaf : Mishti Pulao

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Rice is intertwined with human life as a thread in a fabric. Any important event in ones life is celebrated with either cooked rice or uncooked grains.

Take for example ” Annaprashan”, an event to celebrate a child’s first solid food eating event. This is as big an event as a wedding. Rice is the main course along with other supporting dishes. A new bride is welcomed in her  husband’s family with a potful of rice grain, signifying prosperity for the whole family. “Serving rice” to the extended family is the first ‘token’ chore for a new bride. Blessings from the elders involve a few grains of rice. Puffed paddy grains are sometimes offered to mourner’s during a man’s last journey to the crematorium.

Pilaf or Pulao recipe changes with every geographic location. We in Bengal love it on the sweeter note. This dish goes very well with any main dish. It is a bit heavy on the oil and butter, but celebrations don’t happen every day, does it?

Here is the recipe.

Recipe: Serves 6.

Ingredients;

Basmati Rice                                         3 cups

Cashews                                              1/3 cup

Raisins                                                 1/3 cup

Butter                                                   1/2 stick ( 1/4 cup )

Canola oil                                              1/3 cup

Bay leaves                                            4-5

Cumin seeds                                        1 tsp

Saffron                                                  big pinch

Milk                                                      1/3 cup

Cardamoms                                          5-6 pods

Cloves                                                  6-7

Cinnamon                                             2, 2 inch pieces

Ginger paste                                           2 tbsps

Salt to taste

Sugar                                                    2 Tbsps

Method;

Preheat gas to 400 degrees F.

Soak the saffron in warmed milk. Make a paste from the fresh ginger.

Wash the rice in two changes of water. Take a big saucepan with boiling water. Put the rice in, as soon as it is half done, take it out drain the water.

In another pan take the canola oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. Saute gently, as soon as the cumin seeds get a bit of colour add the raisins, wait till they get plump. Add the cashews next, fry till lightly coloured. Add the ginger paste and fry a few minutes. Make sure the spices do not burn, a sprinkle of water can be added now and then. Put the gas off when the raw smell of ginger is gone.

Take an ovenproof casserole. Pour the rice and the above spice mix, spread evenly. Sprinkle the butter on this mixture, add the salt and sugar, cover and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take the casserole out, add the milk with saffron. We want some grains to remain white. Gently fluff it with a fork. Keep covered in the oven again for another 30 minutes with the gas off.

Give another mix and serve.

The rice grains should be separate. Check the salt and sugar to your liking. Enjoy!

Cilantro Fritters : Dhoney patar bora

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There is no denying of the fact that summer has departed us. The leaves are turning yellow, the ‘Pumpkin spice latte’ is back in stores, and to top it all off there was frost this morning. Flip flops, lawn mowers, barbeques will slowly give way to hats, mitts and snow shovels. This cool weather calls for hot beverages, soups and for me fried food! Ya I know….

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A hot cup of tea needs some crispy fried snacks by its side. This is a match made in heaven. These fritters are best enjoyed piping hot. It can also be made and frozen for later use. Just fry them when you need. I have some ketchup and mayo as dip, use any dip of your choice.

Here is the recipe.

Recipe: Made 13 pieces.

Ingredients;

Whole wheat flour                                     2 cups

Rice flour                                                   1 cup

Poppy seeds                                              1 cup

Chopped cilantro                                         2 cups

Salt to taste

Jaggery                                                         1 tsp

Chilly powder                                                   1 tsp

Asafoetida                                                       1 1/2 tsp

Water as needed

Oil to fry.

Chaat masala                                 1 tbsp

Method;

Mix  the first eight ingredients with water to form a dough. Let it rest for half hour.

Divide it into equal portions. Make a patty about one and half inch diameter.

Take a nonstick pan on medium heat. Shallow fry the patties until golden brown, flip and fry the other side.

Collect them on kitchen towel. Sprinkle some Chaat masala and enjoy.

 

 

Pear fudge : Pear Burfi

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As exotic as it may sound, growing up in India, my go to fruits were Mangoes, Jackfruits, Custard apples or Pineapples. Mango fudge, Custard apple pudding or Pineapple chutney were my heros, in the world of desserts. Including pear in a dessert was surely outside my comfort zone. I wanted to give this a try.

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The moment I decided to use pear in the dessert, I knew it had to have some texture. If you know me, you know that I am a bit biased towards texture. ‘Burfi” it is going to be. With a very few ingredients, these can be whipped up in no time.

It is just perfect for that little pick me up around mid afternoon. Can also be stored in air tight container in fridge for about a week.

Give it a try friends. I was quite pleased with the result.

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Recipe Made 25 pieces.

Ingredients;

Grated pear                                      2 cups

Milk                                                  1 cup

Milk powder                                     1/2 cup

Desiccated coconut                       1/3 cup

Sugar                                             1/3 cup

Cardamom powder                        1/4 tsp

Ginger powder                               1/4 tsp

Almond slivers, Rose petals            1 tbsp

Candied ginger, goji berry slices    1 tbsp

Candied ginger                             few slivers

Ghee                                           2 tbsps

Method;

Take the grated pear and one table spoon ghee on a pan on medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the milk and milk powder and keep stirring. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the milk almost dries up. Throw in desiccated coconut, sugar another table spoon of ghee, cardamom and ginger powder. Cook  for another few minutes till the whole mixture comes together. Put the gas off.

Collect the mixture on a greased plate.  Use a spatula to make the surface even. Cut in squares. Garnish with nuts, rose petals, candied ginger slivers and berries.  Let it cool completely and put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Enjoy!

Ruskadam : Soft cheese balls with surprise inside

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With the festival season on we can never have too many dessert recipes. Would you agree? I know my blog is a bit dessert heavy, but really this is such a happy outcome!

Ruskadam or Roshkodombo, as we call it in Bengali is a unique dessert. It has a few layers to it, The tongue comes in contact with the grainy exterior, leading to a smooth cheese cover, which opens the door to the final surprise a sweet, juicy, fragrant, coloured, cheese ball.

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Kolkata has sweet shops around every corner. Any happy event be it birthdays, marriages, a child’s first solid meal to graduation celebration, calls for elaborate sweet items. Visiting a friend after ages or even a wedding invitation may have an exquisite collection of sweets or Mishti.

The total absent of sweet shop in my small Prairie town made me more curious towards trying these recipes myself. Some are family recipes. There are some that I have perfected through information available online. This is one such recipe. I was very proud of the outcome. Give it a try friends. You will be so proud of yourself!

Recipe;

Ingredients;

Whole milk                                4 litre

White vinegar                            4 tbsp

Sugar                                        3 cups

Icing sugar                                1 cup

Corn flour                                 2 Tbsps

Milk powder                            1/2 cup, more for dipping

Food colour                             few drops

Rose water                              1/2 tsp

Saffron                                    20 threads

Method;

Make the chhena ( Cheese ):

Take the milk in a heavy bottomed pan on high heat. Bring it to boil and put the gas off. Let it sit for 5 minutes. In a bowl mix the vinegar with same amount of water. Pour this mixture little by little to the milk , until the solids separate and the light green whey is visible. Drain this through a cheese cloth. wash the cheese with cold water then let it drain all the water out. You can either hang the cheese cloth with the cheese in it or cover it with thick kitchen towel.The cheese should be dry.

Collect the cheese on a flat surface and knead it with the palm of your hand, until it can be gathered in a smooth ball with no creases, about seven to eight minutes. Mix the corn flour and knead again for a couple minutes.

Divide the dough into two. Take half the cheese, add the food colour yellow or red and mix evenly, then form smooth balls, I had 24.

Making the syrup 1 :

Take one cup sugar and four cups water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour the  above balls a couple at a time., cover and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. The balls will enlarge in size, add hot water time to time to keep the volume same. Put the gas off, collect the balls, discard the syrup.

Making of syrup 2:

In another pan take the rest of the sugar  ( 2 cups ), and one cup of water. Bring it to boil  only till the sugar has melted.  Put the gas off. Add the rose water, saffron threads and the cheese balls. Keep in the fridge for about 8 hours, this causes the syrup to penetrate evenly in the balls, gives a great fragrance and colour. Strain the balls through a strainer so that all the syrup is drained off.

Making of the soft cover layer:

Take the second half of the dough and mix it with icing sugar and milk powder. The mixture should not be sticky. Adjust with more milk powder if needed. Make 24 small balls. Flatten the ball on the palm of your hand, seat one ball, wrap the cheese mixture all around.

Final layer :

In a bowl take another couple table spoon of milk powder. Run the balls on it to get a even coat of milk powder. This gives a grainy texture to the outer layer.

Give your self a pat on the back and enjoy.

 

 

Bajre ki burfi : Pearl millet fudge GF

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Food is strongly tied to emotions, wouldn’t you agree. Strange as it may sound, but food brings back memories some cheerful some sad, reminds one of an event, some recent some from way back when!

Bringing sweets to neighbours is very common, be it sharing a good news in the family or in festive seasons. I feel it is similar to bringing a box of chocolates or sharing a pie here in the west. The type of sweet depended on the season or the festival or it could even be a surprise.

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Growing up, I have vivid memories of our friend bringing these burfis to us on a steel plate covered with a beautiful crochet cover, around this time of the year. Bajra ( Pearl millet ) flour was something we were not familiar with. It is a common staple in the western part of India, having very hot and dry climate. We were very intrigued by this unfamiliar burfi.

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With gluten allergy becoming so common, we are all looking for alternative grains. Bajra is  an anti acid forming food packed with nutrients and antioxidants. I have not used any refined sugar, which makes this burfi very desirable.

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The festive season is on. Give it a try friends like I did on Ganesh Chaturthi.

Here is the recipe.

Recipe, Made about 30 pieces One inch square.

Ingredients;

Bajra flour                                2 cups

Ghee                                      1 cup

Jaggery ( Gur ) powder            1 cup

Poppy seeds                          1 tsp

Slivered almonds                    1 tbsp

Method,

Grease a metal plate about half inch deep.

Take the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Add the Bajra flour. Mix properly and cook on low medium flame till the colour changes slightly about 20 minutes stirring frequently.

Add the jaggery and keep stirring for another 10 minutes. The mixture at this point comes together, releases ghee and looks shiny.

Turn the gas off. Pour this on the greased plate. Use a spatula or the back of a greased steel bowl to make the surface smooth. Sprinkle the poppy seeds and slivered almonds over it to garnish. Make some soft cut on it and let it cool. Separate out the pieces from the cuts made before.

Enjoy guilt free!

Inside Scoop.

Bajre ki atta  and Gur, both are available in any Indian or health food store.

Kumro Phul Bhaja : Squash blossom fritters

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Did I tell you Zucchini plants and I do not get along. I mean when my neighbours, friends, co workers are growing zucchinis, almost the size of a baseball, my plants have officially declared war against my efforts. Make sure you water them properly, are they getting enough sunlight, cut the bottom leaves off, maybe you have all male flowers, try pollinating them yourselves…. came the friendly advice. I left no stone unturned, armed with knowledge from google, I set out on a sex determination mission, is the back of the flower plump or flat? ….

I also had planted a few Squash plants, the stickers on them showed amber coloured beauties. A picture of beautifully carved squashes on the front door step during Halloween flashed in my mind. I dutifully watered them, counted the blossoms in my fingers. Alas that is where they stopped too. Not one matured into a respectable size.

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Accepting my defeat, I decided to consolidate my gains. If no veggies, I am going to use up the flowers. It is past mid August, the leaves will  change colour pretty soon.  I plucked the flowers and enjoyed these beautiful fritters with a hot cup of tea. With the thunderstorm  at the background, I felt like I won. What do you think friends?

Recipe; Made 11. 

Ingredients,

Squash / Zucchini blossoms         11

Besan ( Chickpea flour )                 1/2 cup

Poppy seeds                                  1/2 tbsp

Turmeric powder                             1/4 tsp

Nigella seeds                                   1/4 tsp

Baking soda                                    a very small pinch

Chaat masala                                 1 tsp

Canola oil for frying

Salt to taste

Method,

Wash the flowers nicely. Cut off the sepals from outside and pistil from inside the flower. Lay them on kitchen towel to dry.

Make a batter with the above ingredients and a table spoon of oil. Mix water slowly and whisk to get rid of lumps. The consistency should be that of a cake batter or a tad runnier. Let it stand for about 20 minutes.

Take canola oil in a deep pan about an inch deep on high heat. Dip the flower in the batter, coat it evenly. Gently drop this in the hot oil, crank the heat down to medium now, look for a change in colour to light brown , flip it over so both sides are cooked,

Collect them on kitchen towel. Sprinkle the Chaat masala on top.  Enjoy them with a cup of piping hot tea.

Inside Scoop,

Chaat masala available in Indian grocery store or online.

 

Besan Burfi: Chickpea flour fudge: GF

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IMG_2122I am a big fan of Besan aka chick pea flour. The fact that it has a protein component, always gives me a reason to justify a second helping of sweet! Being gluten free comes handy when you are cooking for a group. Besan is one of those ingredients that can be used to make appetizer, main course, desserts, savoury snacks, you name it!

IMG_2125The Hindu month of “Shravan’ is said to be auspicious. After the scorching heat of the previous months, “Shravan” ushers the monsoon. The parched earth  turns green again, the fertile earth holds new life in her womb. People observe fast, especially on mondays. Fasting always comes with feasting. And why not?

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This recipe takes no time to be ready. Do give it a try and let me know how it goes friends.

Recipe; Makes 20-25 pieces depending on the size.

Ingredients,

Besan                           2 cups

Ghee                            3/4 cup

Sugar                           3/4 cup

Water                           1/2 cup

Cardamom powder      1/2 tsp

Almond and pistachio sliver to garnish

Method,

Take a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Add ghee and besan, roast it by stirring continuously till a slight change in colour, nutty aroma and the ghee gets released from the besan, about 18 minutes. The timing may be influenced by the humidity, type of flour, the heat element of the gas. I would recommend focussing on the appearance of the besan. Put the gas off, Take the pan away from the gas. Keep stirring for a few more minutes, the hot pan can still burn the besan.

In a separate pan take the water and sugar on medium heat. let the sugar melt first and then thicken, for about 12-15 minutes. Add the cardamom powder. When a spoonful of this syrup is let to drop, it does not drop freely. A drop of it when collected in a bowl, and carefully felt between the thumb and fore finger, feels sticky and draws like a thread. Put the gas off.

Very carefully add the besan mixture in instalments to the syrup. Put the gas on low for another minute to let everything come together.

Take a greased metal plate. Pour this mixture on the plate. Garnish with slivered nuts.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Make cuts , whatever size you prefer. Let it sit for another hour and then separate the slices.