Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nankhatai....Cardamom Flavored Eggless Cookies

Holiday Season is here.......I just love this time of the year when you can see decorations everywhere. Everything is in the festive mood. Everything becomes bright colored and sparkling. You can see decorations and fairy lights all around. Even if you don't celebrate this festive season its very hard not to get enticed from these lights and decorations.

A light breeze of cold air, foggy mornings, warmth of the woolen clothes, fragrance of hot coffee are the things which we can enjoy at this time of the year. 

Baking is my way of celebrating festive season. The aroma of freshly baked cookies and cakes embarks holidays. This time I was very eager to bake a very basic cardamom flavored cookie which is also known as "Nankhatai" in India.

These cookies are very simple to make and require very few ingredients which we always have at our home. So, whenever you crave for some homemade cookies try them out. I can assure once you make and store it you can't keep yourself away from these goodies.

Here's the recipe:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Garlic Naan......Garlic Flavored Yeast Free Indian Flat Bread

Naan.......A flat Indian Bread which doesn't need much introduction. It is appreciated all over the world. A meal in an Indian restaurant is incomplete without having "Naan" in it. A Naan is an oval-shaped, soft, pillow-like bread which is brushed with butter and pairs well with every Veg and Non-Veg curries . 

Traditionally, Naans are prepared in Tandoor (Clay Oven) on extremely high temperature. Since I don't have that kind of oven I make it in my conventional oven. It can also be made on a stove-top or skillet. There are many variations of Naan. You can flavor it with whatever herb you want and stuff it with your choice of vegetable or meat.  

I always thought making Naan at home is impossible. The texture and taste we get in the restaurant is impossible to replicate. But then one fine day I made "Paneer Makhani" and was thinking it would taste great with "Garlic Naan". It was then I experimented with the recipe of Naan and was quite amazed with the result. 

So let's dig deep into the recipe:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Achari Aaloo.....Pickle Flavored Potatoes

Achari Aaloo.........Aaloo or Potato is very versatile root vegetable which fits into any curry you make. When it comes to Indian cuisine you can see generous use of potatoes. That's why there are so many recipes made with Aaloo whether its Dum Aaloo, Jeera Aaloo, Aaloo Paratha, Samosa and the list is never ending. There's a secret about Bengali's.....they can't imagine their Chicken or Mutton Curries without potatoes........Sssshhhhh

Somehow, I don't like potatoes because it adds lots of extra pounds. So I try to use them as minimum as possible in my daily diet. But, when it comes to Aaloo Paratha or Achari Aaloo I can't resist myself.

Achari Aaloo.....Achar means Pickle in English. But we don't use pickle in this recipe. Instead we use the spices which are used to make pickle to infuse the flavor of pickle. This dish gets its tanginess from Amchur Powder (Dry Mango Powder). You can replace it with vinegar or lime juice. There are many variations of this dish. You can replace potatoes with chicken, mutton, paneer, cauliflower or any other vegetable of your choice.

So, let's start with our finger licking piquant recipe:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eggless Mango Mousse....No Cook No Bake Mango Mousse

Mango Mousse.......Yes, I know this is not the season of Mangoes but last week when I went out for grocery I saw a can of mango puree which caught my attention. Immediately, chain of "Dessert-full" thoughts ran through my mind because when it comes to Dessert my imaginations get wings and they fly randomly. I have a sweet tooth so does every Bengali and I love to try desserts from every cuisine.

These days fruits and vegetables don't have any season constraints. We can get all our favorite fruits and vegetables all year round but mangoes. We can get them in puree form tough and enjoy its taste throughout the year.

Mango is considered as the king of all fruits and it deserves too. It is also known as national fruit of India where summers are incomplete without them. 

There are endless recipes made from mangoes starting from pickles to sweets. The recipe I am going to share today is Eggless Mango Mousse. It's hassle free and requires very few ingredients.  A Mousse may be sweet or savory. Dessert Mousses are typically made from whipped egg whites or whipped cream and flavored with chocolate or fruit puree. I used Mangoes but you can use any fruit of your choice.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Paneer Butter Masala.....Cottage Cheese in a rich creamy gravy

Paneer Butter Masala.......Whenever I hear this name a clear view of Paneer cooked in bright orange colored rich creamy gravy runs through my mind which looks so inviting.  Anyway let me stop my day-dreaming and return to the post.

I am a great fan of North Indian cuisine may be that's because I have spent 7 years of my life in Punjab, India. So ask me anything vegetarian, I would say it's Paneer Butter Masala. A very popular North Indian dish which has now secured its place in the menu card of most of the Indian restaurants around the globe. As the name is self explanatory Paneer (Cheese) cooked in Butter and flavored with various spices. The gravy is thickened by using cream and cashew nut paste (though optional) which serve as the base of the gravy.

I love each and every preparation of Paneer whether its Palak Paneer, Matar Paneer, Paneer Paratha, Paneer Bhurji and the list goes on......

I don't find much difference between "Paneer Butter Masala", "Paneer Makhani" and "Shahi Paneer" where all these dishes are made with onions, tomatoes, butter, cream and nuts. It solely depends upon the preference of the cook to add or subtract the ingredients. Whatever the case is, the end result is scrumptious and mouth watering dish served on your plate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Garlicky Egg Curry....A simple recipe to satisfy any Garlic-a-holic

"Sunday Ho Ya Monday Roj Khao Ande"..............we all have seen that advertisement in our childhood. Me and my husband both are egg lovers. Whenever I don't like to cook anything I reach out for the eggs in our refrigerator and yes, they never disappoint me. 

Egg is a very versatile cooking ingredient. You can cook it the way you like and it tastes good in any form you cook either its poached, scrambled, omelette, boiled, or in a curry . Yesterday it was a very dull day for me and I wasn't feeling to cook anything and suddenly this Egg Curry struck in my mind which wouldn't take much time to cook and pairs well with anything starting from naan, paratha, chapati, fried rice or simply a bowl of steamed rice.

For this recipe you need hard boiled eggs. You would have noticed, usually eggs get cracked while boiling or at times even after boiling you have hard time to peel them off. It's due to the temperature. When you take out eggs from the refrigerator and put it in boiling water it tends to crack. So here is the trick which I learnt. Take a pan with cold water, dip the eggs in it and add a teaspoon of salt (this will prevent the eggs from cracking). Place the pan on low heat. After 5-6 mins increase the heat to medium and let it boil for 7-8 mins. Remove the pan and run the eggs under cold tap water. So, here you are with the easily peeled hard boiled eggs.

Now let's start with our recipe:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rui Macher Jhal......Rohu Fish in Mustard Sauce (My go-to Fish Curry)

Maach-Bhaat (Fish and Rice) is every Bengali's comfort food. A Bengali's love for fish is endless. There is a popular saying too "Mache Bhate Bangali" i.e. Fish and Rice makes a Bengali. We eat so many different fishes starting from fresh water ones like Rohu, Katla, Pabda to salt water fishes like Hilsa, Pomfret etc. But to be very frank I like only specific fishes maybe because I grew up mainly in Central India where we would get only 2-3 varieties. Whatever the reason is, the varieties I eat I just love them.

Here in Portland, Oregon we get Rohu, Hilsa, Pabda, Tangra etc in a Middle-Eastern shop but all in frozen form. Thanks to an Asian store out here where we get fresh fishes like Shrimp (Prawn), Pomfret, Bhetki and Tilapia (lately I started eating that). 

The recipe which I am going to share today is generally prepared with Hilsa or Ilish but I have seen my Mom to make it with Rohu too but with a slight twist. She adds cumin seeds along with the mustard seeds which not only reduces the pungency of mustard seeds but also gives a nice flavor to the dish. I like to make it the way she does. So, let's dig into the recipe:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

B for Biryani......Kolkata Style Chicken Dum Biryani

Biryani.......Naam toh suna hi hoga :) 

The name is enough to make anybody drool and especially the Indians. The origin of Biryani is still debatable. Few says that it was originated in Persia and then brought to India by the Mughal Emperors. However, some also say that the dish was known in South Asia even before Babur came to India.

Biryani is a medley of basmati rice, meat(chicken, mutton or lamb), potatoes, various spices and condiments. In India every house hold have their own version of Biryani. It is generally made in two ways:
1. Kachhi (Raw) Biryani: where marinated raw meat and partially cooked rice are layered and cooked on dum (steam) over low heat.
2. Pakki(Cooked) Biryani: where cooked meat and partially cooked rice are layered and cooked on dum (steam) over low heat.

For us, Sundays are always special not only because its a holiday but also because its on Sundays that our home is filled with rich, aromatic fragrance of Chicken Biryani. Yes, I love making Biryani on Sundays without it our Sunday is just incomplete. 

I learnt making this royal dish from my then colleague and friend Farina Sheikh. She's one of the finest cooks I have ever met. I still have the recipe in my diary that she had shared with me but I made slight changes to it to adjust our taste buds. 

Making Biryani is a lengthy process it needs lot of TLC (Tender, Love and Care) and the exact spices, you can't skip any step nor you can replace any spice with the other. But at the end when you serve it on your plate its a pleasure seeing the beautiful Chicken Biryani cooked with the aromatic spices and condiments. Your home even your neighborhood gets filled with its fragrance.

I firmly believe a person first eats with his eyes and then tastes with his tongue. So the look of the Biryani (or any thing you cook) is very important. There's no meaning of cooking a Biryani which doesn't even look like one. So few things to keep in mind while cooking it:
1. Use the best quality long grain Basmati Rice
2. Marinate the Chicken for at least 2-3 hours. Overnight is preferable.
3. Be cautious not to overcook the rice. So always keep an eye while boiling the rice.

Let me take you through the beautiful journey of preparing this royal dish.