Pages

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baklava



A few days ago, one of my friend mentioned of her craving for Baklava. It reminded me of my fondness for this delicacy. Since then, I have been thinking of making Baklava, but I knew it wasn't going to be an easy job, but it was an ambitious project for me.
I do not do much baking and I have never worked with phyllo sheets before. This recipe needs a lot of expensive ingredients in large quantities. So when I "finally" decided to make baklava for my office party, I was excited but even more nervous.
When I started with the preparation, I kept telling my husband the same thing over and over that this is going to be a waste of time, energy and money, but I will try. It was actually my nervousness why I was blabbering, but I was doing to pump up myself for this daring act.To tell you the truth, this is not my original recipe. Again google was the savior :). I found few recipes which felt like comparatively easy. Although I made a few modifications in the amount, I stuck with the "tried-and-tested" method. It wasn't very complicated in itself, but the tricky part was assembling the whole thing. My husband helped me a lot with it; I suggest you have someone to help you during the assembling part as otherwise it is impossible to do it alone.
Once I finished putting everything together, I put it into the oven muttering "Jai Maa" :).
An hour later when it was ready, I was the happiest person in the world; I was jumping all around and grinning ear to ear. Yes, it was that good! And this time I asked my husband the same question over and over: "Doesn't it taste better than the restaurant quality?"I wasn't taking many pictures and the ones I have here doesn't justify how good it was. But I promise I will make this again soon and will post better pictures!

Ingredients:
For the syrup :
Water - 2 Cup
Sugar - 2 Cup
Honey - 1/4 Cup
Cinnamon - 1 Stick
Lemon juice - 1 Tbsp

For the filling :
Almonds - 1 and 1/2 Cup (Finely chopped)
Walnuts - 1 Cup (Finely chopped)
Pistachios - 1 Cup (Finely chopped)
Sugar - 1 Cup
Cinnamon - 1 Tbsp (Ground)
Nutmeg - 1 Tsp (Ground)
Clove - 1/4 Tsp (Ground)
Breadcrumb - 4 Tbsp
Salt - 1/4 Tsp

Butter
Phyllo pastry sheets - 1 Package (20 thin sheets)

Preparation:
Syrup :
Start with heating water.
Add the sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in it.
Bring it to a boil.
Once the sugar dissolves completely, keep it covered on low flame for at least 5 minutes.
Now add honey and put it on high heat until it dissolves, then keep it covered on low flame for 5 minutes.
After this remove from the oven, cool it down and then put it in the fridge to chill the syrup.
Remember to discard the cinnamon stick just before use.

Baklava :
Thaw the phyllo sheets completely in room temperature and always keep it covered with a damp towel.
Preheat the oven at 350 degree F.
Mix the filling ingredients very well.

Brush a 13x9 inch baking dish with butter.
Cut the phyllo sheets into half (so a total of 40 sheets) and stack them on a damp towel and cover it with a damp towel. This is important to prevent the sheets from drying.
Next stack 2 phyllo sheet on the baking dish and brush the top with melted butter. Repeat this process 10 times and brush every second sheet with butter. It should now be a total 20 sheets in the baking dish. Brush the top sheet very well with butter.
Now spread the filling evenly on the top sheet. Pour 2-3 Tbsp of butter on the filling mixture.

Continue layering for rest of the 20 phyllo sheets, and keep brushing the every second sheet top with butter.
Butter the top sheet very well and also pour butter along the edges.
Once done, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, so the butter solidifies back.

Next cut the baklava with a sharp knife into desired shapes/sizes, cut all the way through.
Bake this at 350 degree F for 1 hour or until the top turns golden in color.
At this point, take the dish out from oven and slowly pour the chilled syrup along the edges, between cuts and over the top.
Let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hour. Keep it covered while it cools down.

Tip:
I struggled a lot with separating the phyllo sheets, as the edges were wet and they stick with each other because of damp towel cover. Be patient while working on it, as the sheets can tear very quickly.
This dish needs a lot (I seriously mean it) of butter, so make sure you use butter very generously.
Also ensure that the syrup is absolutely chilled when you pour it on top of the oven hot baklava.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coffee Martini

Mixology is such an exciting art. I have always wanted to take courses on mixology, but am yet to realize this dream. I started reading about it from different websites and often experiment at home. So far I have made various types of cocktails and most of the time they tasted good. The best thing about mixology is that there are no bounds on the "ingredients" per-se; you can tweak with your choice of spirit, liquor, mixers (or even their portions) and the taste differs so much.
Today I was in mood to try a new cocktail and my husband wanted it to be a bit strong. So I decided on Kalhua and Amaretto, which I recently bought, and used Baileys which was sitting in my fridge from a long time. The surprise item of this cocktail was milk. I never made a cocktail using milk earlier, so I was excited. Believe me it tasted AWESOME! Give it a try.



Ingredients:
(To make 1 drink)
Amaretto (Almond flavored liqueur) - 1 and 1/2 Oz
Kahlua (Coffee flavored rum) - 1/2 Oz
Baileys Irish Cream - 1/2 Oz
Heavy Cream - 1 and 1/2 Oz
Ice cubes

Preparation:
Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Add ice in it.
Shake well and strain into a martini glass. You can serve it on the rocks as well.
I sprinkled a pinch of coffee granules on top.



Type: Martinis
Glass: Martini
Strength: Strong

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chicken with dried chilies (শুকনো লঙ্কা মুরগি)

I had few chicken drumsticks left in the freezer. Today was a lazy day and I wanted to cook something easy but different. I remembered this recipe which I had read in an old magazine. This recipe is not the same as "kancha lonka murgi" (কাঁচালঙ্কা মুরগি)/green chili chicken. In this flavorful recipe I have used dried red chili (শুকনো লঙ্কা).



Ingredients:
Chicken (6 drumsticks) - cleaned/washed
Onion - 1
Ginger - 2" piece
Garlic - 1 tbsp (crushed)
Whole garam masala (cardamom - 2, cinnamon - 1" piece, clove - 4)
Dried red chili - 10 (deseeded)
Salt
Turmeric powder
Sugar
Oil
Ghee

Preparation:
Grind onion and ginger together. Next sieve it to collect the onion-ginger juice.
Smear chicken drumsticks with salt and turmeric and keep it aside for a while.
Heat oil and ghee together in a wok.
Add whole garam masala in it and fry for few seconds.
Next add the chicken and fry until color changes to light brown; it is important not to overcook the chicken.
Now add the onion-ginger juice and crushed garlic into it. Fry it for a while, then keep the flame low and cook until the raw smell of onion goes away.
Add salt, sugar and dry red chili to it.
Cover it and cook it in low flame until chicken is well cooked.
I kept the gravy of thick consistency (মাখা মাখা).



Tip:
I have used a muslin cloth to collect the juice out from onion-ginger paste.
I have used 3-4 round dried red chilies (these are not that hot, but add flavor) and 5-6 dried red chilies (with seed) in this preparation to keep a balance of flavor and taste.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bhoger Khichuri ( ভোগের খিচুড়ি )



This past week was the last major festival of the year for us Bengalees, it was time of Kali puja (কালিপূজা / দীপাবলী ). Others are more aware of it as Diwali, the festival of lights. This year I prepped my home with lots of candles, diyas, lights, flowers. The aura it creates is very refreshing and brings calmness and happiness in life.




We recently discovered a Durga temple very near our home and absolutely loved the atmosphere there. The temple is in a small shopping mall. The priest here is an interesting person. He is from southern part of India, but can fluently speak in Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, English. He has a unique style of puja; you won’t believe, he actually talks with the deity, goes into a trance at the same time. This temple is one of those rare ones, which encourages people to actively participate and allows home cooked food for puja.

We (me and my husband) kept fast for the day until late in the evening. We decided to bring homemade khichuri (খিচুড়ি) at the temple.

I kept it very simple and used basic minimum spices. I don't know how but anytime you cook  ভোগের খিচুড়ি, it has this special aroma. You try it any other normal day, it never turns out the same.





Ingredients:

Rice (gobindobhog/sonamasoori/atop chal) - 2 cups
Moong/moog dal - 1&1/2 cup
Potato - 2 (halved/quartered)
Cauliflower - 1 cup (cut into big florets)
Carrots - 1/2 cup (cut into 1" pieces) (ডুমো করে কাটা )
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Bayleaf - 2
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Dry red chili - 2
Green chili - 2 (slit)
Ginger - 1 tbsp (paste/grated)
Turmeric powder
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Garam masala powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt
Sugar
Oil - 1 tbsp
Ghee
Water (lukewarm/hot)





Preparation:

Wash and soak rice in water for 30 minutes.
Dry roast moog dal in a wok until it turns golden brown in color (it will have a nice aroma too). Let it cool and then wash with water.
Fry potatoes, cauliflowers and carrots. Add little salt and turmeric powder while frying. Keep it aside.
Next heat oil.
Add the bayleaf, dry red chili, green chili, cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds.




Add ginger, cumin powder and fry it.




Now add moog dal, salt, turmeric powder and fry for some more time.




Next add water; cover the wok and let the mixture cook until the dal is half done.
Then add the soaked rice, green peas, fried potatoes, cauliflowers and carrots into it. Add salt, turmeric powder and water; mix, cover the wok again and let it cook well.




Keep checking it from time to time and add more water if needed.
When rice and dal are well cooked, turn off the heat, add ghee, sugar and garam masala in it; mix well and keep it covered for a while.





Tip:

Generally I like to keep the proportion of rice more than dal rather than having them same.
While frying ginger add a little salt to it; this will prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
I always keep khichuri a little watery by the time it is done, since it always absorbs water while cooling down.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mutton Liver Curry (মেটে চচ্চড়ি)

When I was a kid (and in my teens too) the one thing I despised most is food. I was very choosy with what I ate; only thing I liked was boiled rice with a big scoop of ghee and mashed potato (আলুসেদ্ধ). Vegetables, lentils, fish were on my "nah!" list, but I liked mutton dishes, specially liver and fat. My grandma and aunt(s) still tell me so many funny stories from my childhood.

My husband is a big foodie and loves (actually crazy about) mutton dishes. Whenever we cook mutton at home, we always end up fighting over who is going to eat more!

Last night I made mutton liver curry (মেটে চচ্চড়ি), which is very famous in Bengal. I made a quick jeera rice and kachumbar salad to accompany it. Hopefully you will like it too!






Ingredients:
Mutton Liver - 2 lbs (cut into 1/2" pieces)
Potato - 3 (cut into small pieces) (ডুমো করে কাটা)
Onion -1 big (chopped)
Ginger - 1 tbsp (grated)
Garlic - 1 tsp (grated)
Tomato - 2 (cut into small pieces)
Green chilli (chopped)
Cilantro (chopped)
Bay leaf
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Clove
Cumin seed - 1/2 tsp
Coriander seed - 1/2 tsp (crushed)
Red chili powder  1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - 1/4 tsp
Salt
Sugar
Oil
Ghee
Water - 1/2 cup (hot/warm)

Preparation:
Add red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric powder in about 2 tbsp warm/hot water. Mix well and keep aside for use later.
Heat oil.
Fry potatoes on medium heat and keep aside.(Add a pinch of of salt and turmeric to the potato while frying).
In the hot oil, add bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and fry until it crackles. Next add cumin and crushed coriander seed and fry a little more.
Next add onion in it, add some salt and fry on medium heat. When the onions gets translucent, add ginger, garlic, green chili and fry till the onion gets brown.
Now add tomatoes, cover the pan and cook it on low flame allowing the tomatoes to melt. Stir it occasionally until  the mixture is well cooked.
Add the spice mixture into it and cook until oil oozes out.
Now add the mutton liver to it and cook well.
Add fried potatoes in it and continue frying.
Add hot/warm water, mix well, cover it and let it cook until the liver is well cooked.
Finally add ghee, sugar, garam masala and mix well. Check seasoning and add salt if required.
Garnish with cilantro.






Tip: 
Always mix spice powder in warm/hot water and keep it for a while. This enhances the flavor and color of the dish.

Jhinger Chapor-ghonto (ঝিঙে-র চাপড়ঘন্ট)

This dish brings back waves of memories from my childhood. I learnt this recipe from my maternal grandma (দিদা). My maternal grandma's place (মামাবাড়ি) is in a small town in North 24Parganas. I visited her for summer holidays every year when I was in school. It was a vacation I waited for all the year.

As a child I was quite mischievous! I played with my friends/cousins for the entire day, there was no studies, no scolding. My dida used iron pots (লোহার কড়াই) and clay stoves (উনুন) to cook. I helped her pickup dry leaves from trees in the backyard and then use them to fire up the stove for day's cooking. It was only at my dida's place that I saw this style of cooking & I was a part of that process; it intrigued me.I still cherish those days, they are memories that I hold very close to my heart.





Ingredients:
Ridge gourd (ঝিঙে) - 4 or 5 (cut into small piece) (ডুমো করে কাটা)
Matar dal - 1/2 cup
Mustard seed - 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek/Methi seed - 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli - 2
Cumin - 1 tsp (Dry roast and ground)
Cumin powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt
Sugar
Oil
Water

Preparation:
Soak the matar dal for 6-8 hours and then grind it to a thick paste Add some salt and sugar to it.
Heat some oil in a nonstick frying pan and make a thick pancake out of the matar dal paste.
Cook it on medium flame; it might look dry but no need to add any more oil.
Cook until both sides little brownish.
Once cooked, break the chapor into pieces and keep it aside.

Heat some more oil in the frying pan.
Add the mustard seeds, methi seeds, dry red chilli and fry it until crackles.
Add the ridge gourd pieces in it and fry it well. It will ooze out water.
Once the water dries out, add salt, sugar, cumin powder, coriander powder and mix it well.
You can add little more water if you need to cook the ridge gourd for some more time.
Add the chapor pieces now.
Finally add dry roast cumin powder, mix well and serve.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kolai Dal with Shrimp

Kolai (কলাই) dal and alu-posto, this is a killer combination for ghoti's (like me).
Kolai  dal is my dad's favorite. Back at home, every Saturday we used to have only vegetarian food and this was a must have. Inevitably alu-posto was always served with kolai dal.

My dad loves kolai dal made in its purest form; perfectly boiled and "foron" (ফোড়ণ) with bay leaf, dry red chilli, fennel seeds and ginger paste. But I was bored with this usual preparation (that slurry liquid!).

When I came back to US last time, my mom-in-law packed in a small packet of kolai dal. I thought of trying this interesting recipe I have seen long back in a magazine. I kept it simple and did not go for too many spices. The result was really good. I am sure you will like it!


Ingredients:
Kolai dal - 1 cup
Shrimp (I used the pre-cooked variety available in stores) - 1 cup
Onion (chopped) - 1 cup
Green chilli
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Dry red chilli
Bayleaf
Oil
Ghee
Salt
Turmeric

Preparation:
Boil kolai dal with a pinch of salt and turmeric.
Next rub in salt and turmeric with shrimp and keep aside.
In a pan heat oil
Add dry red chilli, green chilli and bayleaf
Add chopped onion and fry till it turns brown.
Add  the marinated shrimp in it and fry on high heat.
Next add ginger paste and keep frying until little oil oozes out.
Now add the boiled dal (add water if needed). We want the dal of a thick consistency.
Finally add ghee and green chilli, switch off the flame and keep covered for a while before serving.

Tip:
I have used frozen cooked shrimp, so I thawed it for some time before using it. If you are using raw shrimp add it with onion in the beginning and fry it well.