Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nolen Gurer Sandesh ( Cottage Cheese Fudge with Date Palm Jaggery )

Winter is here with all its beauty. It may not be that pleasant for our east coast friends who has to face the 6-inch tall snow walls right now. But here in San Diego we are having better time with slight colder breeze of winds and nice sunny afternoon. In our native land, winter is synonymous with some of its signature food and sweets. One of them is “Nolen Gur”-r Sandesh. Nolen gur or date palm jaggery - a key ingredient in most winter delicacies from sandesh to payesh and everything in between.

Today I will share the mouthwatering recipe of Nolen Gurer Sandesh. This is one more sweet that any Bengali can die for. The season starts immediately after Diwali or Kali Puja. Since we were in India this time during the festival season, we were lucky to get some good quality Nolen gur. Though it’s available nowadays throughout the year, it definitely tastes better during winters because of its freshness. Restaurants and sweet shops preserve nolen gur in its solidified form or as “patali gur” at freezing temperature and then serve it during other seasons of the year.  

In my recent trip, I also got some beautiful molds for making Sandesh.  Some of you already asked me about where you can find these molds in Kolkata. They are available in Natun Bazar near Girish Park, Kolkata. Since now I have the “gur” in my refrigerator and the molds to make the shape, then what to wait for ? I made the Sandesh that my readers were waiting for long time. I learnt making Sandesh in traditional way couple of years ago. Though the process is little time consuming but not so complicated.  Also off late, I learnt about an alternative process of making Gurer Sandesh that uses Ricotta Cheese. It’s hard to believe that both the versions taste alike. Using ricotta cheese in the place of home-made Indian Cottage Cheese (i.e. Chenna ) means the process is more simplified and it cuts the cooking time by half. So in the same post I will share both the methods. Try out whatever is convenient to you and pamper your soul!

(Traditional way ) Recipe of Nolen Gurer Sandesh : For 10 to 12 pieces 

Ingredients :

Whole Milk : 1 and half liters
Lime juice : of a whole lime 
Nolen gur : 6-7 tablespoon or to taste 

Method :

1. Boil the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium to low heat, stir occasionally. Once the milk starts boiling, lower the flame. Pour the lime juice and stir in. Milk will start cuddling and change into chenna ( cottage cheese ) and greenish water. 

2. Remove the pan from heat and leave the chenna in this condition for 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Pour the chenna - water mixture over a cheese cloth or a soft cotton cloth and let the water drain away. 

4. Put this cloth with the chenna under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes to remove the lemony smell. Then hang the chenna along with cloth on the kitchen faucet for around 45 minutes. 

5. Now once again squeeze the cloth, if there is any extra water. But note that the chenna should not get too dry. 

6. Put the lump of chenna over flat surface and knead it. Start kneading with the heal of your palm for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add Nolen Gur ( Date Palm Jaggery ) and knead again until jaggery is totally mixed with the chenna. 

7. Put a nonstick pan on low heat, add the kneaded chenna. Cook the chenna at low heat by stirring it continuously with a spatula for about 4 to 5 minutes.

8. Brush the inside of the molds with little ghee ( clarified butter ).Take out the warm Sandesh and shape with molds. If you don't have any molds just toss into balls. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

( Easy way ) Recipe of Nolen Gurer Sandesh : for about 20 pieces 

Ingredients :

(Part Skim)Ricotta Cheese : 32 Oz.
Nolen Gur ( Date Palm Jaggery ) : around 12 tablespoons if it is liquid 'gur' or If you are using 'patali gur', take little less than one ball or as per the desired sweetness.  
Ghee (Clarified butter) : 2 tablespoons.

Method :

1. Take a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese and the jagerry and mix it well. If you are using Patali Gur. Cook it in the microwave for few seconds. The jagerry will be soft. Mix it nicely until jaggery is totally mixed with the cheese.

2. Take a nonstick pan and add the cheese jaggery mixtureCook it at low heat by stirring it occasionally. It will take time, once mixture comes out clean from the side of the pan that means you are done. Don't make it too dry, because when it comes to room temperature automatically it will become tight. So avoid cooking for extra time. Otherwise it will turn out KodaPak r Sandesh.

3. Take it out from the pan and let it cool down. You can put it into the refrigerator for half an hour. Now warm up the ghee, add 1 tablespoon of it to the Sandesh and knead it nicely.

4. Brush the inside of the molds with little ghee ( clarified butter ) and shape with molds. If you don't have any molds just toss into balls. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mushrooms in Mustard Sauce

Hi there, I am back to my blog after a long vacation. We visited India after two years during the peak festival season from Durga Puja to Diwali. It was simply awesome time to roam around the city of joy with parents and my sister. Did plenty of shopping and gathered props from different antic shops in Kolkata. We indulged in our favorite street-side food so much that all of us returned with some extra weight. It would be bagful of good memories which we can cherish until our next vacation.

Once I returned, I have been wondering which would be my next post. Any fall recipe or winter special may be more appropriate but somehow after coming back I craved more for our Bengali cuisine. So prepared some traditional Bengali dish and thought of sharing the same with you. Today’s recipe is Mushroom in a Mustard sauce. It’s a simple preparation with basic ingredients that goes well with steamed white rice. It’s not only an easy preparation but also takes a little time to whip up.

Mushrooms remind me of very interesting-looking little 'creatures' that we used to call 'Banger chhata' (frog’s umbrella) in our childhood days. The name was due to its shape like an umbrella and grown together with frogs on hay stacks. They are also commonly known as “Poal chatu”. At that time mushroom was available only during the monsoon. Nowadays since it’s being grown by farmers like any other vegetables, we can get mushroom all through the year. The taste of naturally grown mushroom is little better though. But for the mushroom lovers out there, an array of edible mushrooms is always available in any supermarket.

Among all mushrooms, button mushroom, oyster mushroom and enoki mushroom seem to be very popular . Straw mushrooms and Portobello are also quite popular. You can use either oyster mushroom or Button mushroom with this recipe.

Among all the mushroom preparations this recipe is my favorite, hope you would like it. It is our family recipe that was used to cook “Poal Chatu” and later the same recipe was unchanged to cook packet mushroom.  Apart from its rich taste and delicate aroma, it has high nutritional value. This is one of the favorite vegetables for the people who tries to avoid non-vegetarian food.

Recipe of Mushroom in Mustard Sauce ( Poal Chatu r Jhal ) : serves 4 

Ingredients :

Button mushroom / Oyster mushroom : a big box, approximately 500 g, wash and chop into bite sizes 
Oil : 3-4 tablespoons, preferably mustard oil 
Nigella seeds ( Kalo jeere ) / Kalonji : 1 teaspoon
Green chili peppers : 3-4, slitted 
Ginger paste : 1 tablespoon
Turmeric powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder : 1 and half teaspoons
Red chili powder : 1/2 teaspoon 
Yellow mustard seeds : 1 tablespoon 
Black mustard seeds : 1/2 tablespoon 
Salt :
Extra Green chillies and mustard oil 

Method :

1. Take the two kind of mustard seeds in a blender. Add a pinch of salt and 1 green chilli and few tablespoons of water and grind it to a paste. Set it aside.

2. Take a pan, add oil and heat it up. Once oil is really hot, temper the oil with Nigella seeds /Kalo jeere / Kalonji and 3 to 4 slit green chillies. 

3. Once the aroma comes up, add the chopped mushroom. Give some stirs, soon mushrooms release a lot of water. 

4. Once the water dries up, add ginger paste, add turmeric, coriander powder, red chili powder to it. Mix everything together. 

5. Add salt and again mix well. Add the mustard paste and stir in everything. Stir frequently and let it cook for couple of minutes or until mushrooms are done. 

6. Check the seasoning, add salt and chillies if needed. Drizzle few drops of mustard oil and switch off the gas. Serve hot with a bowl of steamed rice. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mango Lassi Popsicles

Just before bidding goodbye to Summer, today I am going to share a perfect recipe for this season - Mango Lassi Popsicles. What could be more satisfying than a mango drink in this summer! This frozen Mango lassis is just too appropriate for beating the current heat wave of southern California. Specifically September and October are the hottest months here in San Diego.  When we came here five years back, the climate was very pleasant but in last three years, there was not much rain and summer is not pleasant anymore here. Good news is that we have only one more month before the winter starts.

We have been making ice pops, ice cream and ice cream cake for most part of this summer to beat this heat. This ice pop recipe is a nice after-school snack that your kid would love to have. It is creamy, smooth and has tart flavor.  It can send you back to your childhood days because in some parts of India, without mango or mango lassi, summer vacation was not complete. In India, Lassi is nothing but a traditional summer drink which is similar to fruit smoothie. On the other hand, many Indians keenly wait for summer only because of Mango. So a combination of these two is so perfect for them! Other than mango lassi, there are other kinds too like salty, sweet or bhang lassi. The last one is very popular in northern part of India during the festival called Holy. It is made out of “bhang”, a liquid derivative of cannabis. In Indian sub-continent, Bhang has been used as an intoxicant for many centuries.

Mango lassi is a blend of mangoes , yogurt, sugar and a touch of spice. I combined all of the above in a food processor and made it as smooth as it can be. You can swirl it into popsicle molds with some mango-less yogurt/milk mixture for a pretty smooth affect. Now Mango lassi in popsicles are ready to freeze.  Making popsicles is major fun and so easy that even a novice can make it. You don’t need to worry if you don't have Popsicle mold. You can use paper cup, take some glasses or muffin tins and pour the mixture into the same and then freeze. In terms of flavor, the options are endless. You can change the flavor as per your taste and choice. The yogurt makes the popsicles so tasty and creamy. If you like your pops icy, better to skip the yogurt and make it simpler.  

Recipe of Mango Lassi Popsicles : Makes 6 to 8 popsicles, depending on the size of popsicles molds

Ingredients :

Ripe Mango, chopped : 2 cups ( 3 medium sized mangoes )
Greek yogurt / Strained yogurt / plain yogurt : 1/2 cup 
Sugar : 2 tablespoon, or to taste. 
Ground Cardamom : a pinch (optional )

Method :

1. Combine mango, yogurt, sugar, ground cardamom in a food processor or blender and blend it until smooth. 

2. Pour the blended mango mixture into the popsicle molds or small paper cups and freeze for one hour. Then push a popsicle stick into the center of each pop. Place back in the freezer until solid. 

3. To unmold, place the mold up side down under warm running tap water. 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Focaccia Bread

Off late I have been thinking about sharing a bread recipe instead of sharing same kind of dessert or curry recipes. Most of us get nervous when it comes to making any bread related stuff. I am not an expert either in this field. But when it’s something new, I get excited to try it out. So I went ahead and did the experiment with today’s recipe of Focaccia Bread. I tried couple of different recipes of Focaccia Bread and eventually decided to stick to below one. Hope you will like it.  

Before coming to the recipe, let me give a brief introduction of Focaccia Bread. It’s a flat oven-baked, very popular Italian bread. It can be used as a side to meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread. In style and texture, it’s quiet similar to pizza. If you want something simple and classic, try rosemary and sea salt toppings. But when I searched about Focaccia, I found dozens of different and delicious toppings. The ones I liked are caramelized onions, half olives, cheese and half jalapenos. If you prefer to make focaccia to be a simple herby bread, you may allow only olive and herbs besides sea salt.

It is best served when it is warm. The recipe that I have tried today is highly inspired by Lorraine Pascale's Focaccia Bread. Though I have changed a bit here and there. The process of making Focaccia starts by making a dough of flour, oil, water, salt, sugar and of course yeast. Then it’s baked in an oven. A common practice is dotting the unbaked bread to create multiple wells in the bread. It helps to preserve the moisture in the bread. As a next step, olive oil is spread over the dough prior to rising and baking. Here is the details of the recipe. 

Recipe of Focaccia Bread : One flat loaf , serves 6 to 8 

Preparation time : 30 minutes 
Cooking Time : 25 - 30 minutes 

Ingredients : 

Bread Flour : 500 g ( 2 cups and 1/4 cup )
Active Dry Yeast : 2 tablespoons / 1 sachet 
Olive oil : 80 ml (1/3 cup plus extra for drizzling ) 
Water : 150 - 250 ml ( 1 cup ), warm ( 105 degrees F )
Vegetable oil / oil spray / olive oil : 
Salt : Large pinch 
Sugar : 1 tablespoon
Cheese for topping :  as per your choice, I used a blend of  Mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago, 1/2 cup,
Fresh Rosemary : 2 teaspoons, minced ( optional )

Method : 

1. Take a mixing bowl, add yeast and warm water and whisk it. Add olive oil, salt, sugar and the flour. Mix it well using a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff and sticky to mix. 

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about ten minutes by hand on lightly floured work surface.  The dough will feel stretchy when it pulled. To test if the dough is ready, make a ball with dough then, using a well-floured finger poke a shallow indent in the side. If the dough springs back, then it is ready. Or knead it for a few minutes longer. Total kneading time is about 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large bowl, place the dough into the bowl. Coat it with extra olive oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and let it rise in a warm place until the volume gets doubled. It will take 1 to 2 hrs.

4. Take  a baking sheet, coat with olive oil / oil. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Press gently into a rough oval or rectangular shape. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap.  Let it rest for 15 minutes. 

5. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil on the top of the dough. Poke oil-covered fingers deeply into the dough to make dimples all over the surface. Let it rise again until the dough becomes double, it will take approximately 45 minutes. 

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C. Drizzle 1 more tablespoons oil on the surface of the dough, sprinkle cheese, rosemary ( optional ), or other toppings ( as per your choice), Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen and light golden brown. 

7. Remove from the oven, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brush it on the top of the loaf, leave to cool on the baking pan. Cut and serve. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chilli Chicken

Indo-Chinese Cuisine is my weakness; probably the same is true for most of the non-vegetarian Indians. When we grew up in nineties, India was yet to be globalized and the American or Italian cuisines like Burger, Fries, Pizza or Pasta didn’t make their entry to my home country. At that time, Chinese cuisine was the only option for dinning out. Calcutta has a long history of pioneering Indian style of Chinese food, mainly because of its reasonable Chinese population from pre-independence era. India’s only Chinatown is located in Calcutta and it’s the place that started the Calcutta’s famous roadside stalls of Chinese food. These food stalls adopted Chinese cuisine with mixing Indian taste into it.  Today the Chinese food has become an integral part of the Indian culinary.

Chilli Chicken is one of the popular dishes in this cuisine and I am going to share its recipe today. In abroad, we miss those road side stalls, the big wok, the smell of burnt garlic, soy sauce, the sound of stir-frying. So once in a while I try to make this dish at home because it’s both my son and husband’s favorite one.

In general, Chilli Chicken refers to a type of dry chicken preparations that is made with fresh chili peppers. There is no standard recipe for it and everyone makes their own version of this popular dish. There are multiple variations of chilli chicken recipes. More commonly boneless chickens are used in Chilli Chicken and batter-fried chicken cubes are stir-fried with onions and green bell-peppers. They are coated with hot and spicy sauce. Sometimes it comes up with little gravy, but generally people prefer to cook it dry or without gravy. It goes well with fried rice or chowmein. If you don’t like chicken, the same recipe can be tried with fish / vegetables / Paneer. 

I have learnt this dish couple of years ago and always make the healthier version which means that there is no MSG and with less sodium soy sauce and no food color.  You should find the recipe is easy and quick to prepare.

Recipe of Chilli Chicken : Serves 4

Ingredients :

Chicken : 1 lb/ 500 g ( around ), skinless, boneless, chicken breast or thigh, cut into bite-sized pieces

For Marination  and first part 

Vinegar : 1 tablespoon
Ginger paste : 1/2 tablespoon 
Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon 
Soy Sauce : 1 tablespoon 
Chili sauce : 1/2 tablespoon 
Pepper Powder : 1/2 teaspoon ( freshly ground )

Cornstarch / cornflour : 2 tablespoons  
Egg : 1
Oil : for deep frying 

For the final cooking :

Oil : 2-3 tablespoons 
Onion : 1 big one, or 2 medium, cut into 1 inch chunk. 
Green Bell peppers / capsicum : 2 small, or 1 big, chop into 1 inch sized square pieces. 
Green chillies / green hot peppers : 3-4 (as per your tolerance ), chopped
Ginger + Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon 
Soy sauce : 2 tablespoons 
Tomato ketchup : 2 tablespoons
Chili sauce : 1 teaspoon 
Cornstarch / cornflour : 1 teaspoon
Water : 1/2 cup 
Spring onion / green onion / scallion : 1 stalk, finely chopped 
Salt : ( if needed )

Method :

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. Take a big bowl and place the chicken pieces into it. Add vinegar, ginger paste, garlic paste, soy sauce, chili sauce, pepper powder to it. Mix it well and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. 

2. Remove the excess water from the chicken. ( if required ) Now add the beaten egg and cornstarch to the marinated chicken pieces. Mix it well again until the chicken pieces get a coat of cornstarch. 

3. Take a deep frying pan, add oil and heat it up. Deep fry the chicken pieces over medium high heat in small batches. Fry them till they get nice brown color on the both sides. Take them out from oil and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. ( If you want to avoid deep frying, just add 2-3 tablespoons of oil and follow the rest of the process.)

4. Take a wok or a big pan, add 2-3 tablespoons oil. Once oil is hot, add the ginger garlic paste. Give some stirs and add chopped onions, green bell peppers and green chillies. Saute them for few minutes over high flame. Do not overcook, the onions and bell peppers should remain crunchy. 

5. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and tomato ketchup. Stir to mix it nicely. Add chicken pieces, stir and mix until chicken pieces are well coated with sauce. Check the seasoning and add salt or sauces if needed. Add the chopped spring onions and stir. If you want the dry version of Chilli Chicken. Switch off the gas and serve it with Fried Rice or Chowmein or can serve it as an appetizer.

6. If you like to have your Chilli Chicken with thick gravy, then mix the cornstarch with water and add the mixture to the prepared chilli chicken. Stir and mix it for couple of minutes over medium high heat. Serve hot. 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mango Kalakand ( Mango Flavored Indian Cottage Cheese Fudge )

After a break, I am back with a traditional Indian sweet dish today. When I noticed that my last post was 100thone, made a plan to celebrate this event with some dessert recipe. Thanks to all of my readers to follow this blog and encourage me all the time.

When it comes to sweets, you will find different variety of cuisines in IndiaSome of these dishes are popular only in a specific region. But there are others that get widely popular and manage to cross boundaries of many states and regions. Kalakand is one such sweet preparation, which was invented in northern part of India, specifically in Rajasthan. But it has made its name in every part of the country and commonly appears during festival season of either parts of India. Kalakand, also known as Sandesh, is made out of solidified, sweetened milk and cottage cheese.The name of this Softcrumbly, bite size , milky-white, square-shaped sweet makes all Indian’s mouth water.

You can follow several different styles to make kalakand. In one process, it’s preferred to use sweetened and solidified milk(khoya), while others like to use condensed milk. The whole preparation can be either done in a microwave or on a stove-top, whatever is the easier way for you.  I am not against the fact that the traditional method can still provide you the best results. It gives the best texture and the perfect softness, but at the same time, the easier method is not that bad as well! Though I have tried both, today I will share the traditional one. 

The process starts with making some fresh paneer. All you need is whole milk and something acidic, like lemon juice or vinegar. Making Paneer at home is little time-consuming. If you would like to take the short route, you can however skip this step completely. I mean, you can buy paneer from any Indian store or replace paneer with ricotta cheese. But I have preferred to use fresh paneer. As I said, most of the time Kalakand looks milky white. But since I added some mango pulp to give some summer flavor, so it got a nice yellow color in my preparation. Hope you would like this than the usual kalakand.  

Recipe of Mango Kalakand : for 24 pieces 

Ingredients :

Home-made fresh paneer : 500 g around ( 2 cups )
Sweetened Condensed milk : 1 can (400 g)
Milk powder / Dairy whitener  : 2 tablespoons 
Mango pulp : 4 to 5 tablespoon 
Cardamoms : 3-4, crushed
Pistachios : few, chopped 

Method : 

1. Mash paneer coarsely and add milk powder to it. Add the condensed milk and mix it nicely. 

2. Take a thick bottomed pan, pour the mixture into it and heat it up. Cook on medium high heat. Add the cardamoms and mango pulp. Stir continuously till the mixture becomes thick. It will take 8 to 10 minutes (approximately ).

3. Remove from heat, and spread it on to a greased dish. Sprinkle chopped pistachios.

4. Put it into the refrigerator and let it cool. Cut into squares and serve.