Bengali Cooking: Paneer Curry

 

NB: this post, or any like this, are NOT recipes. They are just my stories behind something I have cooked.

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Image courtsey: vegrecipesofindia.com

Say Indian food and most people will say ‘I love Palak Paneer’ (‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ coming in as a close second)

 

I detest both. Why ? Because in my snobbish opinion they have no subtlety of flavour. Both are the mish-mash of heavy flavours.  But it’s probably the same reason I prefer Vietnamese food over Thai.

Also every time someone orders palak paneer I am reminded of my father. My hardcore Bengali father, born and brought up in Calcutta, used to say “please no green ointment” if we ever suggested Palak Paneer. (referring to the green sludge the paneer nestles in) My mother used to say ‘its for people with no teeth’.

Yes we were very ‘tolerant’ like that.

Now I am biased and will say try the Bengali version of a paneer curry and enjoy the subtlety 🙂

1 Bayleaf, 1.5 inch Cinnamon stick, 3 Cardamon pods, 5-6 small Raisins (optional)

250 gms of Paneer

1 Potato

1 med Tomato cubed or half can of Chopped Tomatoes

1 Green Chilli diced

Turmeric powder, salt, cumin powder.

Sprinkling of Garam Masala (Bengali garam masala not the one you buy in Indian stores)

As with all Bengali cooking you start with marinating. Almost everything is marinated with salt and turmeric.  So cube the paneer and the potato and then go ahead and marinate it with turmeric and salt.

The way I measure stuff out is by expert eyeballing. Just sprinkle the powders over both. Just like you don’t want something to be too salty you don’t want something to be too ‘turmeric-y’. Use that reasoning.

Too much turmeric tastes horrible. You know when Indian food clings to your clothes ? Well it ‘tastes‘ like that smell.

Potatoes can be marinated anywhere from 15-20 mins. The paneer, 1 hour would be great!

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Lightly saute potato and the paneer, separately. The outsides should get lightly browned. The point here is not to cook them, rather just brown them.  Set aside.

Add more oil ( I use Olive oil for ALL my cooking).

Add the Bayleaf, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, raisins (optional) and the cumin seeds.

The seeds should spatter.

Now add the chopped tomato, chillies and flat tsp of Turmeric, 1 tsp of Cumin powder. All diluted with half cup of water.imgp3411

NB: like all seasoning even Indian seasoning will taste bitter if you a) put too much and b) don’t cook it well.

Fry the tomato till you think the rawness of the tomato is gone and flavours have homogenised.  Add water periodically to prevent sticking. Well I do because I don’t use too much oil.

Then add the potato, paneer and 1 cup of water. Stir everything, bring to boil and then simmer for…..15 mins.imgp3414

Taste it. Bengali food tends to be a bit sweet. So either the raisins or some added sugar should give you that sweetness.

If you can get Gur at Indian grocery stores, please use that instead of sugar. It’s also made from sugarcane however more earthy as it is less processed. It is really tasty.

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Image courtesy:vishwagujarat.com

Avoid if you don’t like the sweetness. Personally a good quality tomato adds that sweet flabour for me.

If everything tastes good you are done. Sprinkle the garam masala on top.

Bengalis are rice eaters so our curries tend to be more runny so this will be a bit runny. But if its too runny , like watery, then mash some of the potatoes in the curry, to thicken it.imgp3413

ENJOY.

I will post Bengali version of spinach paneer which is definitely not gloopy because we use chopped spinach.

Coming soon 🙂

 

 

Living in America. Day 91

Living in America.  Politics aside (aka clusterfk) it’s been real.

People often say ‘ wow this might be a culture shock’ when they find out I have been here only 91 days. What they don’t realise is WHAT exactly is this shock.

My dear let me tell you.

  1. Gigantic cats. The local tabbys are the size of a small pig. Maybe its Washington State thing, I don’t know.
  2. Diet Coke is sweeter here than anywhere else in the world.
  3. Milk. You cant find small cartons of milk anywhere. So for our household of two we buy it from STARBUCKS. Yep !
  4. Bread. Try finding sliced bread in a supermarket that does not contain ‘sugar/sweetener’.  Trader Joes, QFC, PCC, Fred Myers and Safeway. We are SO SICK of eating sour dough 😦 the only one without added sugar/sweetener. ( I miss Hong Kong’s Garden WholeWheat bread. Tastes like old cardboard if not toasted but has ZERO sugar/sweetener or oil)
  5. Cheerful coffee shops overflowing with baked goods that also sell beer and wine! Good one!
  6. Doors. American doors are playing with my head. I am still not able to open doors.  I have lived and travelled all over the world, yes even Australia (haha) but never have doors proven unfathomable. It’s worse when people sitting inside can actually see me struggle. Push, Pull, Shove….break door.
  7. Light switches. It’s always  On (for Off) and vis-versa. So two goes each time.
  8. And (my biggest bug bear) you can not buy Oral contraceptive pills over the counter.  You need a prescription.WTF ?

A journey of wonderment.

Adjustment aside what do I love, day to day?

  1. Friendly helpful people
  2. Fresh unsalted, no added fats/oils, no added sugar or sweetener peanut butter. One that I make myself in the giant blender at the supermarket ( they are roasted peanuts, not raw, but thats fine)
  3. AMC cinema that sells PLAIN popcorn! You mix the butter and salt by yourself (which we never do ) Low guilt carbs. Love that.
  4. THE MOUNTAINS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. Oh the mountains. Oh I love them. The Cascades, the Olympics and the king amongst them, Mt Rainier! I bow to thy majesty.
  5. Fresh oysters. Whenever I want and how many I want.

and …..wait for it……

Makeup that caters to my brown skin!   I exist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Banana Pancake

We are a household of 2, not counting the cat.  And thus I often end up with one lonely yellow, spotted banana.

( Who would want to count this ugly cat ? Look at that face. Stuff of nightmares!)Zeb

Back to the banana. It’s always perfectly ripe for baking but here is the dilemma. Try locating a recipe that uses 1, only 1, banana. At the minimum it’s 2. And then add to that something that uses 1 banana, and NO wheat.

Finally I found one. Mix one mashed banana well with 1 egg. Heat a frying pan with some butter, spoon the batter in. Cook like you would a pancake.20160713_110902

In my head I imagined something like the Bengali desert Malpua (The batter for malpua is prepared by crushing ripe bananas, adding flour and water. The mixture is sometimes delicately seasoned with cardamoms. It is deep fried in oil, and served hot.)

Hmmm yum and a perfect option for a carb free breakfast.

Not.

It could be me but it tastes just like..Egg…and Banana.20160713_111914

I also decided to spread some St Dalfour (no added sugar) Cherry Jam 20160713_111951

But then it tasted like Egg.Banana.Jam

At a pinch its not bad but not the answer I am looking for.

The quest for what to do with one spotty banana continues.

 

Coconut Flour Muffins

NB: All measures are American. I baked in a Whirlpool Microwave Convection oven20160705_171907

Don’t be scared by how they look. Out of all the Coconut flour bakes I have made these turned out the best.20160705_174306

While I don’t take credit for the recipe, it’s a Pintrest thing, the reason I decided to post about these muffins is because the recipe definitely needs some adjustment.20160705_173719

The recipe calls for 3 eggs, but I found that makes it a bit too eggy so the next time I am planning to use 2 eggs + 1 egg substitue (baking soda+vinegar or applesauce)

It asks for 1/4 spoon of salt but that made it too salty so next time a pinch. No measuring spoon, just a pinch and be done with it.

In-spite of the muffins turning out pretty yum they were a bit soggy. Now coconut flour is like a sponge and gobbles up liquid, so the recipe asks you to add water in order to maintain a batter consistency.

While this is an important step you will have to be the best judge of that given your current kitchen/baking conditions.

I use Bob’s RedMill Coconut flour.

I had freshly washed blue berries (that were still wet) and then I mashed them roughly so they got even more wet with the water and juice.

And though I used only 2 tablespoons of water, given the above blue berry situation 1 tablespoon will suffice in the future. The batter should not too wet.

As for the sugar and butter, as with ALL baking, I either leave sugar out completely or cut both sugar and butter by half.

And while the recipe didn’t ask for it I sprinkled semi-dark chocolate chips once the muffin batter was in the pan. Those gave it the additional butter and sugar hence above mentioned sugar-butter step can definitely be reduced.

Am excited to try part 2 as soon as I am done consuming current batch.

Husband who appreciates all my culinary attempts has run away from them, crying.  He wants good old self raising white flour. So these muffins- ALL MINE!

 

 

 

 

A Bengali Afraid Of Chicken

I can cook ANY vegetable no problem but avoid meat & fish because I am scared. A Bengali woman afraid to cook meat & fish will surprise a lot of Bengalis.

We Bengalis are traditionally ‘non-vegetarians’ and fish curry-rice is a staple.  Some Bengalis, like my sister can even eat fish curry rice for breakfast and let me tell you she is not considered odd in our community.

Some Bengalis are militantly non-vegetarians. If a vegetarian-only buffet was to be served at a wedding there would be a mass walkout and the family would never live down the shame!

My mother was constantly appalled (and ashamed) at my vegetarian dinner parties.

But meat and fish are tricky. There is Salmonella at one end and overcooked rubber at the other. I never can successfully navigate between killing myself or my taste buds.

But one must conquer one’s fear. So one does what she can. One chooses to experiment on one’s husband, naturally.

I often play with chicken. Get that right and then graduate to the more advanced ‘red meat’ level.

Fish curry is another matter. For a Bengali fish is our birthright. It must be sweet river fish and whole level of culinary expertise that is fiddling around with mustard paste, coconut juice (not milk, not water) and banana leaves!

Cook curry only with meat on the bone, none of that namby-pamby boneless rubbish. I learn’t from Ma to marinate it in yogurt with ginger-garlic paste, chillies/chilli powder, cumin powder, corriander powder, salt and turmeric.IMGP2809

Get additional ingredients ready. They are ginger paste, coriander, cumin & turmeric powders, chopped onion and those giant chillies. Again be sensible with the chillies.IMGP2807I used canned tomato paste and mixed in the coriander, cumin and turmeric powders.20160528_140601

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Save the marinade. It will form part of the curry.20160528_140733

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once onion and ginger are well cooked, add the liquid ingredients.20160528_140953

So far so good. I know the flavours must mesh together.

Then add the drumsticks….and pray20160528_144634

Cooked for ages, covered, uncovered, all on LOW till it looked like this.20160528_160006

I should have checked the chicken but didn’t. But then I cooked the chicken drumsticks for quiet a while so I am confident I wont kill anyone today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bengali Cabbage

Damn it I LOVE cabbage, any style. I even love Brussels sprouts. And Bengali style cabbage  my comfort food.

But this one today didn’t come out good. I took it off the gas too soon. I didn’t wait for ALL the moisture to evaporate and it now tastes like mush. Let it be a lesson for all 🙂 20160528_135503

Bengali style cabbage is not al dente ( like the South Indian poriyal style where the cabbage still retains its green colour)

Ma used to say for Bengali cabbage you need to cook it till ALL the water/moisture from the cabbage is gone. If not it won’t taste good.

It’s a fairly simple recipe but towards the end of the cooking process timing is KEY . Lets call it Part 3.

This is where cabbage goes from soggy (tasteless) to delicious. Funnily enough it becomes ‘cabbage’ again. Hard to describe.

It will go from this….CB1

to this…IMGP2806

to this….IMGP2812

But don’t stop here.

It still has moisture, I could see it.  Cook on low till the moisture is gone. I had forgotten how muddy-mushy cabbage can taste at this stage.

It started like this, Part 1cabbage

I marinated it with my usual turmeric and salt, and also added some garam masala powder I had sitting in my fridge. ( purely optional)marinate

Part 2 – I tempered it with Cumin seeds & large chillies.Obviously when using sharper chillies, use sparingly. Once the seeds have popped add the ginger.

Ahh the ginger, not my finest hour here either. I was getting hot and tired in the  kitchen so I cut corners. I usually add smooth ginger paste and not roughly sliced ginger. 😦tadka

I will tell you why. Once the cabbage cooks its hard to differentiate the ginger from the cabbage and a mouthful of ginger doesn’t taste good.

Anyway add the cabbage. Stir fry for around 10 minsIMGP2800

Then cover and cook on LOW stirring occasionally.  After around 10 mins add frozen peas !peasStir, cover and keep cooking on low.

You take cover off when it looks like this and here starts the TIMING bit. Be patient.CB1

You basically do not want soggy cabbage. It’s all about taste and eyeballing at this stage.

I have cooked it till it became a bit too dry and that’s awful too.

Lets see what hubby’s verdict is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aubergine Potato

This post is for my sister. It is not a recipe rather some pics with a few words thrown in.

She will know what I mean. Sis has 2 kids and likes to get food related inspiration from me, as me from her.

So Ru here goes;

I was walking past a vendor selling long slim aubergines and a whole bunch of really long (longer than a runner bean!) green chillies. I think it might have been from her farm in the New Territories.

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When I see chillies I salivate, so I had to buy them. I did and bought the aubergines too.

These chillies lack heat, at-least for those  who are used to eating Indian, Sichuan or  Thai food.

I chopped both and then like Ma ( rather most Bengalis) I marinated them in salt and turmeric for around 10 mins before cooking.

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I also cubed a potato and marinated it with salt and turmeric.

I then added some water and zapped it in the microwave to soften it (microwave no!!. Oh well I am not that paranoid with the microwave and sometimes it’s just bloody quicker)

I didn’t get to post any pictures of the potato because they didn’t come out- the light was all wrong. 😦

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To temper I decided to use a mix of Fenugreek (methi) & Mustrad (rai )seeds

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Then added the aubergine-chilli combo20160528_125536

Cooked on low till the aubergine looked like this.IMGP2805

At this stage I added the potatoes that were nice and soft.

Cooked on low for another 10 mins- just enough for the flavours of the auberine and potato to mesh together.IMGP2811

Best Hot Chocolate: Shanghai

According to my humble palate it’s at the HOF, French Concession side street, in Shanghai. 75% Caribe.

Melted chocolate. Chocolate/Cocoa like my tongue imagines it. Pure. Not of milk, not of sugar, not of cream. Neither is it bitter.

The empty cup deserved the pic because it housed something so wonderful, as opposed to the full cup. The full cup looked like any ordinary hot chocolate. And mind you it wasn’t till I sipped it did I realise its magic.

Again it’s my palate comparing it to Max Brenner Sydney and Godiva in Cambridge. I have to say I haven’t tried hot chocolate in Japan. Now Japan would be a strong contender, I can see that!

Anyway been in Hong Kong for more than 15 years and this is my first visit to Shanghai. Shame on me! We visited over Easter,  March 2016. Sunny, cool and dry.

The BundPudong

SideStreet

We walked around the city, the main bits. Took the metro a fair bit. And that was fun and we discovered more in and around because of this.

It was with our walking around that we discovered this gem. Corner of Sichuan Road and Guandong road, zero tourists, atleast when we were there, the pan fried dumpling shop.

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We ate too much. The flavour was better than in Hong Kong, which means, it’s better than in the whole world!

Taxis can be hairy only because our Mandarin is non-existent so we avoided them, unless there was a hotel concierge guiding us.

Ofcourse what would a blog post be without a picture of Sephora, along Nanjing Road.

Sephora

Nanjing Raod

But I need to tell you is something I don’t see in Hong Kong. The BIGGEST Innisfree, Too Cool for School and DHC shops. I am talking 2 floors !

I didn’t take any pictures because it wouldn’t capture their magnificence. It was awe inspiring.

We stayed near the bund, perfect !

And The Hyatt on the Bund has spectacular views and that’s me in the rooftop bar The Vue (not enjoying) my Dirty Martini. Don’t know why I ordered it.

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Next trip Suzhou & Sichuan (only to eat tonnes of spicy Sichuan food)

‘Makeup Diet’ Resolutions

I don’t make New Year resolutions, because resolutions can be made at any time. Have a Goal and a  how to get there.

My exercise ‘resolutions’ I almost always keep, albeit some take longer to achieve.

The ‘I will wake up at 6 and exercise before work’ took me 10 years to get to but I finally did.

The ‘work out for 60 mins each time‘ took me 6 months. So not ground breaking achievements, but I didn’t give up and remembered my ultimate goal every time I failed.

The ‘give up added sugar‘ resolution on the other hand, I am still working on. 10 years and counting.

But my 2015 ‘don’t buy Makeup or skincare till you use up what you have’ I have been successful (ish) for 6 months now. ‘Ish’ if you count my purchase of the YSL Lip Oil in Dec 2015. 😦

I obsessively research everything. But this research also leads to purchasing the ‘whatever is better than what I have right now‘. Greed I say!

I have only 1, rather small, face. Products take ages to get over. Boringly so coupled with the fact I don’t throw makeup till it smells, looks or acts weird. Yes sorry, but it hasn’t done my skin any damage for the past 20 years and maybe because I have normal, blemish free skin.

Boredom makes me buy new stuff and I am trying to resolutely conquer that boredom.

Now I research, make notes and hold off purchase.

And a few things happen. I either lose interest in that particular thing OR something better comes out or better still, realise I don’t actually need it!

But before I adjust the halo on my head a word (few words)

Potential Red Flags of Failure. Hourglass, Laura Mercier, Christian Louboutin, Tata Harper & SASA Hong Kong

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit. I own NONE of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting powders and its FINALLY come to HK. Here I might stumble. Why ? because the Mac Definitely Defined highlighter I have, I am not happy with. Also I am looking for GLOW and not highlight. available only via Net-a-porter

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder. I don’t own any translucent setting powder. My Bobbi Brown Warm Natural pressed setting powder does a great job but sometimes I feel it makes me too matte and can be a tad pale for my skin-tone.

Christian Louboutin Bengali Lipstick I am Bengali and I MUST have it. Not available in HK and I haven’t found it on any company shipping to HK

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask I own too many masks but I am waiting for the WOW. Maybe Tata Harper will be the one?  available only via Net-a-porter

Sasa Miscellaneous Look I have managed to enter Sasa for the past 6 months and come out without a purchase. But the YSL Tinted Lip Oil has really got me into Lip Oils. And I hate it when my lip makeup clings on flakes and dry patches.So I thought I would give the myriad Korean and Japanese lip essences/oils a go.

If they turn out to be nothing but the usual ho-hum lip balm then, beware Wallet, the Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil might hit you.

 

Curried Chickpeas

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This is not my recipe, but taken off the internet. And as with all receipes, I read it and mess around with the ingredients to make it my own.

Chickpeas have a 101 ways to cook them. Dry, wet, with meats, with spinach, plain. IMG_0242.JPG

This is a great quick, snack-y receipe.

Canned Chickpeas (1 can for 2 people)

One small onion cubed.

Curry Leaves – 5

Mustard Seeds + Splash guard

Dry Red Chillies – 3

Salt

Turmeric

Red chilli powder – optional

Chaat Masala

Dried Mango Powder (Amchur)

Oil to fry

1. Drain and rinse canned chickpeas. Par boil the chickpeas in salted water to slightly soften. This is a hard step to gauge. Basically this is to cut down on chickpea cooking time but also they should have enough time to soak up the spices that will follow in the steps below. Drain. Pat dry

2. In a wok, heat oil.  Add mustard seeds ( use your Splash guard here, these little seeds sputter everywhere!) They will crackle and burst.

3. Add the dry red chillies and the curry leaves. Add the onions. Caramelise.

4. Add chickpeas, salt, turmeric powder. Stir around. It can get  dry here, add water little water. Enough to soften the dried bits and to mix the all the spices with the chickpeas. Also enough to create good steam. If the red chillies are not hot enough you can add the chilli powder.

5. Cover the wok and cook on low heat. This step is basically to soften the chickpeas and really soak up the seasoning.

Keep an eye out as mixture tends to dry up super quick. Test the chickpeas and once you are satisfied, cook without cover.

Add the Chaat Masala and Amchur here. This is to add a sweet-tangy kind of bite to the peas.

Stir.

If the mixture is bit wet, then cook without the lid to evaporate the liquid.

This receipe is pretty dry.

Defintely serve this with whipped up natural yogurt. Seasoned with salt, little bit of sugar and chopped cucumber.

I dont need any bread or rice with this.