Bengali Cooking: Paneer Curry


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

Image courtsey:

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!


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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. 😦


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


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