Plumpy peppers…a really old but all time favourite with all categories of people…I, for instance love to cut it into half and see all the juices and stuffing ooze out..it is a big favourite among Europeans and Latin Americans who use a variety of ingredients to make the stuffing. Different countries have different names for it…like Bharva Mirch (India), Pimiento Rellenos (Spain), Dolmah (Balkan Countries), Punjena (Croatia), Yemista (Greek), and so on and so forth…The common fillings used are ground meat, fish, cheese, potatoes, corn, rice and herbs. At times I stuff them with boiled eggs too.
Oh and don’t you just love the colors??!!
Today am not posting a recipe…but just the pics of a very simple yet amazingly delicious dish..its my kinda comfort food 🙂
As usual…..I did the vanishing act, again 🙂 but have a good reason for that this time…Ma and Baba were here to stay with us in Melbourne…Oh! What a wonderful time we had together…visiting Tasmania where we went to Hobart, the 2nd oldest settlement of Australia and New Norfolk (a rusty old town rich in Antique shops dating back to World War II). We traveled a lot in the last few months, but in between I did cook..Baba and Ma, as you guys know, love variety and I wanted them to taste everything that isn’t easily available in India…from quails to new fish varieties like salmon, snapper, etc.., from veggies and fruits like fennel, butternut pumpkin, celery, persimmon, to ‘strange’ foods like raw oysters and mussels. In the next few posts I will share some of the recipes I that I made for them.
To start with lemme write about Shikampuri Kebab. Now the Mughals are praised for bringing in the concept of kebab to India. But it seems making kebab in different forms was a well-established tradition in India. The Rajputs made ‘Suley’ or smoked kebabs with the game meat they brought in from their hunting expeditions. To preserve the meat they would spice & pickle it and then cook it the next day over an open fire in the forest. When the Mughals came, they brought in their version of the kebabs and introduced the use of dried fruit, fragrances such as rose and kewda and nuts with the meat.
Interesting eh?! Anyways, going back to the post, here is the recipe.
Now that you live so far away and rarely get the typical Bengali summer vegetables like potol (butter gourd)or jhinge (ridge gourd), do you crave our traditional dishes? If I were in your position I know I would. World cuisine is great but when it comes to comfort food, nothing beats the kind of food our mums make. There was a time right after I got married, when I didn’t know even the basics of Bengali cooking. I knew how to cook non Indian food, while ma had always been in charge of the traditional stuff. Hence, after marriage, most days, come cooking time, I could be found calling up ma long distance, asking for help! It took me years to learn how to make traditional dishes. Meanwhile, Prasanta had to endure watery, tasteless, sometimes burnt, and many times simply inedible food. Innumerable times I have put the rice pan on to boil and simply forgot all about it, till the whole house reeking of charred rice acted a s a rude reminder!
I think I have come a long way since then, although I still burn food quite regularly. That is, I guess my Achilles heel 🙂
Today I wish to share with you a typical regular Bengali lunch menu, which usually starts with a bitter dish called Shukto, lentil dish (dal), a vegetable dish and a non vegetarian dish, which could be fish, meat or eggs in curry form. There are usually accompaniments like fried aubergines. But as we were expecting guests I didn’t make bitter or deep-fried stuff, because it isn’t to everyone’s taste. And to finish the meal we serve a sweet-sour chutney, I made pineapple chutney, which acts as a palate cleanser before the sweet dish without which no Bengali meal is complete. (Today the sweet dish was store bought so it doesn’t feature in this post).
Relishes or spreads are an amazing creation I think…they make simple bread taste wonderful or can help you polish off a plate of fresh carrot/cucumber sticks (a wonderful idea for a canapé menu too)!! So here is a simple recipe for a red pepper relish, but I must confess that it was inspired by the Romanian relish called Zacuscă. The first time I had it was when my Romanian friend, Gabi’s mother sent her numerous bottles of freshly made and bottled batch of Zacuscă. Traditionally it is made by roasting tomatoes, red pepper, garlic, onions and sometimes aubergine (the Turkish version Ajvar usually has it) and then everything is cooked on slow fire for 2-3 hours till the veggies are reduced to a pulpy mash. In cold countries like Romania such preserves are made in summer for the winter time when it is difficult to get fresh vegetables. My relish isn’t this complicated, but I can assure you it does taste satisfyingly divine!!
Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomatoes Relish
Red Pepper Relish
3 Red/Yellow Peppers (you can also use an aubergine)
3 large cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp of Chopped Parsley
2 Tbsp of Sundried Tomatoes
Lemon Juice, Salt and Red Chilli Flakes to taste
On a medium gas flame, roast the whole peppers one by one. If you don’t have a gas flame, grill them in the oven. When they are roasted and soft, put them in a plastic bag for about 5-7 mins to make them sweat…in this way you get the charred skin off easily! Add the peeled garlic, parsley, red chilli flakes, salt and sun-dried tomatoes. Blend well. Check for seasoning and add lemon juice to make it more tangy. Serve with some freshly baked bread or use it to spice up your sandwiches and burgers!!!
Now reading the title someone will think, ‘Is she crazy?? How can Jam making be hassle-free or easy??” Just the idea of making Jam at home evokes fear among most of us (till a few months back it was same for me too!! Didi, do you remember we made a Guava jelly once and my goodness, we spent almost a whole day for it!!!??!). But I had an eye-opening experience about this seemingly difficult thing and decided to give it a try…
I spent a long weekend at an Australian farm here. What an experience it was!! Rolling hills with walnut and chestnut orchards; jumping Kangaroos and screeching Cockatoos here and there; a bunch of gregarious Aussies (and a lovely lady from New Zealand); and farm-style meals involving a wonderful spread of freshly cooked dishes as well as cold cuts 4-5 times a day……it was just AWESOME!! My friend from New Zealand, Mary served us some lovely preserves and very casually mentioned me the process of making them. She made it sound as easy as cooking rice!! She even cooked some berries to make jelly ring for us and explained that making jam/preserve was similar. Just boil all together!!
I have made 3 types of Jams since then and trust me they were lovely yet simple!! I make small amounts so I don’t have to spend hours on cooking and canning the jams.
Mixed Berries-Chilli Jam and Spiced Mango-Ginger-Chilli Jam
Aaaah….the Meat Loaf…brings back such fond memories of our early cooking adventures Didi…remember..you saw the recipe in one of Jethima’s cookbooks and decided to make it. I was staying at your Kirti Nagar home for a few days then…you being the Head Chef and I being your Sous Chef began making this dish. Once it was done, we quietly took it to the terrace, with our plates and ate the whole loaf!!!! Ufo (our beloved pet dog) kept inspecting the area around us lest we drop a few bits and pieces for him..but in despair 😛 Thinking of that day today is so strange..we both have come a loooooong long way from that phase…not only in-terms of cooking but also in terms of our girths 😀 Do you have some pics from that time to post? Maybe looking at them I will get inspired to work out!! hehhehehee….anyways, going back to the post today, I am sharing it coz I think it is an easy dish even though it sounds complicated. Don’t you agree Didi?
Lamb Meat Loaf with Homemade Olive Bread and Grilled Veggies
Hmmmmm….seems like you two have abandoned the food cause…yet again…I know you guys are busy…so don’t worry, I will continue to bombard you and the world with my experiments and food ramblings :D. Lately, I have been a bit lazy about cooking elaborate meals and keep devising strategies to concoct quick and easy recipes. You would wonder why this laziness has crept in….I think its because I am feeling a bit anxious about my own life these days. Yesterday I completed 1 year of stay in Melbourne. A lot has happened in this last year…met many new people, made some wonderful new friends, explored new places and savoured new tastes…yes, it has been an eventful year…so I spent the last few days thinking about the highs and lows of the year…hence it made me a bit anxious…but don’t worry, the eternal optimist in your lil sister would never die and will echo what Meg Ryan says in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ – “I live a small, but meaningful life”. Anyways, as I said earlier, I simply didn’t feel like spending long hours on cooking…the result – some super easy meals!
In this post and the few to come I will share these easy meal ideas which not only look sinful but taste wonderful too..they are the reasons why Niloy didn’t complain about my laziness!! The first one is a Pancake tower 😀