Sunday, September 21, 2008

Simple Pleasures

Growing up in Bihar , one vegetable that would turn up on the dinner table was the ubiquitous bhindi .
Eaten with hot chapattis , with a bowl of arhar daal on the side , it was heaven .
Easy to clean ,cut and cook and immensely tasty, bhindis played a stellar role in the kitchen recently , when my maid was on leave .
One easy dish which I repeated more than twice was this :-

(picture - courtesy - Wikipedia)

Fried Bhindi

  • Bhindi - 500 grams
  • 2 medium oinons chopped fine
  • Mustard Oil
  • Half teaspoons each of cumin,coriander,turmeric and chilli powders
  • Chaat masala - 1 teaspoon

Fry the onions till pale brown and translucent and add the chopped onions . Sprinkle a little wheat flour over the lot .Add the powdered spices and toss . Cover for a bit and steam. Take off the covers and stir the vegetables till they are dry . Add the chaat masala and serve with hot off the stove chapattis .

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chitol Muithas for Poila Boisakh -

I almost didnt post an entry for RCI Bengal but a stray comment in Sandeepa's blog about cooking chitol mithas for Saturday lunch led to her asking me to put in an entry The chitol is a large freshwater fish with a very soft , oily delicious stomach , which is called "peti"or the area around the stomach and a fleshy back ringed with bones called the "gaada" in Bengali . out of which the muithas are made .

The oilier the chitol peti is ,the more delicious it is, and cooked in a light coriander -cumin paste curry with a tempering of cumin seeds and bay leaf and boris (lentil puffs fried to a crisp before being immersed in the gravy) , is to die for

The muithas are a little complicated but the result is so absolutely delicious that the effort is well worth it .The flesh on the back is between two layers of bones so make sure you tell the fish seller to splice it down the middle so that the scraping is simpler . I normally use a teaspoon to scrape the thick flesh off .


For the muithas

  • Chitol gaada or back- 250 gms
  • 1 onion, minced fine
  • 2 medium sized potatoes boiled and mashed smooth

The gravy

  • Two medium sized potatoes diced
  • 1 bay leaf and a stick of cinnamon
  • Onion and ginger ground to a paste – three teaspoons
  • Turmeric,cinnamon and cumin powder mixed to a paste –two teaspoons
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Scrape the flesh off the fish back . Mix the scraped fish with the potatoes and add the mined onions and salt to taste . Form into large roundels .Meanwhile heat a pot with a litre of water and let it boil . Immerse the roundels in the boiling water . I sometimes add a little ginger garlic paste and salt . Boil for at least 10 minutes or so till a knife inserted in the roundels comes out clean .Slice the roundels through when cool and dice them , Fry to a light brown .

To make the gravy

Heat mustard oil in a wok ( any other oil if you are queasy about mustard oil) . Temper with the bay leaf and cinnamon. Add the pastes and spices and fry till cooked . Add the potatoes and cook till soft . Add 2 cups of water . When it comes to the boil, add the fried muithas . Add salt /sugar to taste .Serve with steamed rice.

And while I do grumble when AG toddles in on Sunday morning with a whopping lot of chitol gaada for muithas the glee in Tani's eyes when she sees her favourite muithas for lunch is reward enough !

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bangali mochaar ghonto

Here is my contribution for JFI Bananas from my very nascent food blog!

The banana plant is one of the most useful plants from the eating point of view . Just think of it - one uses every part of the plant and for multifarious purposes . A much loved plant in Bengal, it also serves as Ganesha's wife during Durga Puja . The "kola bou" is bathed and washed very early on Saptami morning and clad in a red bordered sari, placed next to the rotund little god.You can see her standing next to Ganesha in the picture .

In Bengal the various parts of the plant that are used as food are the fruits of course, the flower and the stem. The leaves are used for serving food and also used to wrap up fillets of bhekti for paturi or for steaming hilsa in mustard .My husband Ag has often been known to come back from the market with the entire plant - cut up of course , into its various parts and the cook can protest till the cows come home but AG will have his pound of flesh where the banana plant is concerned !

The stem or "thhor" is used to make thhor chnechhki or chapor ghonto . In the first recipe , the step is chopped very fine and fried with a tempering of nigella seeds and red chillies . The second is more elaborate and calls for diced wax gourd,aubergine and small daal chapors made with ground chholar dal , pressed to flat cakes and shallow fried . Then with a tempering of Bengali paanch phoron or five spices and bay leaves cooked over low heat tastes delicious .

I would say that banana flower or mocha is the tastiest part of the plant and has always been a favourtite vegetable with us . I can still taste my Ma's mochaar ghonto and mochaar chop. The trickiest part is to cut the vegetable though and you have to be careful about keeping the wanted parts and throwing out the unwanted parts .

Ingredients :-

Mocha cut fine
Potatoes diced small
Grated coconut
Red chana soaked overnight
Bay leaf
Cumin - 2 teaspoons, Turmeric and chilli powder - 1 teaspoon- made into a paste
Cumin seeds for seasoning .
Mustard oil.
Ghee / Powdered Bangla garam masala or powdered cinnamon,clove and cardamom- half teaspoon.

Steam the mocha and keep aside . Fry the diced potatoes and keep aside . Heat oil till smoking point and do the seasoning with bay leaf and whole cumin seeds . Add the masala paste and fry till the oil separates . Add the potatoes and cook till tender . Add the mocha , chana and grated coconut , salt and a little sugar for taste ( my ma in law BRG would kill me if she knew this )and cook till tender . Before removing add a teaspoon of ghee and garam masala. Serve with steamed rice .

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday mornings

Sunday mornings normally start late around 7 in the morning with the tea tray and 3 Sunday papers . The teapot is a little larger than my weekday one to help me browse through the Sunday papers and the supplements . The quest for breakfast begins a little later - sometimes it enatils a drive to Annapurna on Lansdowne Road where we pick up a packet of phuchkas , dhoklas and khandvi and phephraas hot off the stove .
At times we hare off to Prema Vilas for idlis , dosas and vadas or to Maharanis or Sree Hari for kachuris and alu sabzi or chholar dal . The Sree Hari chholar daal has a unique taste which I have never been able to replicate although I suspect some gur or molasses goes into it - not sugar .
Most times we eat luchi with alu chhenchki and look for ways and means to innovate with the tuber .
Last week BRG came up with this recipe for the potato curry with the luchis . It was a little unusual but with a distinctive flavour .


  • 500 gms potatoes - diced small
  • Fenugreek seeds - half teaspoon
  • Turmeric powder
  • Green chillies - slit lengthwise
  • Oil - preferable mustard
Heat the oil to smoking point and add the fenugreek seeds . Toss in the potatoes , a little turmeric powder, salt and cover till the potatoes are soft . Just before removing from the wok, add the green chillies .

Not bad . BRG being a bangaal and proud to be it has a way with the simple joys of life .

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Not exactly a passion

Cooking with me is not exactly a passion ; nor do I cook out of necessity . Mine are more forays into the kitchen on weekends to cook that something special or to toss up something for the children's dinner . With Ma cooking was an art and the kitchen her studio where she scaled great heights . A lot of imagination, love and devotion went into this daily chore . Whether it was toasting bread and slathering butter and marmalade or jam on it , or frying up luchis and alur chhenchki for breakfast or the ubiquitous maccher jhol ,everything tasted like manna from heaven . Much of it was comfort food , remembered now with a lot of tenderness and nostalgia .

So when I cook seriously like Ma , I pay a lot of attention to detail and I love to cook fish . I love the great ceremony of Bengali fish cooking .

First the washing of the fish , then the anointing with noon holud ( salt and turmeric), and setting aside while one organises the spices , cuts the vegetables which might go into it ,heats the mustard oil to smoking point and then lowers the fish gently into it .

While the ubiquitous maccher jhol or fish curry is a dish most Bengali families eat on a daily basis , the fish kaalia is something of a celebrity dish meant for special occasions . Here's how I make it


  • Rui fish - 8 pieces preferably from a fish weighing around 2 kilos
  • 2 medium sized Potatoes - halved around the middle
  • Mustard oil
  • Turmeric - 1 tsp
  • Coriander ,chilli & Cumin powder - 1 tsp each
  • Whole Garam masala - 2 sticks of cinnamon,three cloves, 2 small cardamoms
  • 1 medium sized onion and an inch of ginger - ground to a paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Whole green chillies
  • Ghee or clarified butter - 1 teaspoon
  • Tomato puree 2 tsp
  • After marinating the fish in a turmeric - salt mix , fry the pieces till brown in mustard oil
  • Fry the potatoes and keep aside
  • Discard the oil and pour in 2 tbsp of fresh mustard oil . Heat till smoking and put in the bay leaf, whole spice .
  • Combine the onion-ginger paste with the dry spices and add with a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree . Cook on a low heat till the oil comes to the surface . At this stage add the fried potatoes with a cupful of water
  • Cook till the potatoes are soft .
  • Add the fish pieces and cover .Add salt and a pinch of sugar
  • Since the fish has been fried over high heat , it is already cooked . Cooking it in the gravy only enables it to soak up the flavours of the spices .
  • Before removing it from the heat add a teaspoon of ghee and serve with rice .