Mushoor Daaler Boda’r Dalna (Masoor/Red Lentil Fritters in a spicy curry)

Dear Cousins!

Since you guys are busy with other things, lemme carry on my writing.  This is a dish that I learnt from Ma. Now one must note that she doesn’t like cooking, yet every time she cooks, she does create wonders falsifying the notion that only people who love to cook can cook good food!! Usually, she just throws in this and throws in that and !!VOILA!! a splendid dish emerges…one can rightly call her a good careless cook! She tells everyone that she can’t cook, apparently when compared to me, but Ma, you are my true inspiration to cook.  From childhood I saw you create amazing things out of nothing or with limited things…Baba used to say, ‘Anyone can cook well with a lot of oil, spices and expensive ingredients; but your mother cooks well even with limited resources, that’s why she is a good cook!’  I second my Dad in this….you rightly exemplify the funda of jugaad (we Indians are so adept in jugaad, that there is even a wiki page on it!!).  You were the one who taught us how to bake a Cake in a pressure cooker; grill an awesome Pizza on a pan, where even the dough is homemade without yeast; make a Egg & Crumbed Bread pizza (will surely write about that in another post); the gorgeous but delicate steamed Caramel Pudding; Mutton Rezala; 1/2 an hour Chicken Biryani; Fish Biryani and the entire fare of Bengali foods….shukto (a veggie dish with a bitter taste) to payesh (rice cooked in a sweetned milk thats been thickened through slow cooking)…I guess this is why I too have learned the art of using jugaad ingredients & less oil!! My mother – my inspiration, my strength and my friend!! This post is dedicated to you, Ma…

Mushoor daale'r Boda'r Dalna

Mushoor daale’r Boda’r Dalna

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Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

Dear cousins!

Its been quite long that we all have written letters to each other through this blog…but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been in touch with each other. My recent visit to India and the numerous messages exchanged via chat portals filled the time between my last post and this.  So someone will ask us now, why continue the silsila of letters again?? To that I would happily answer, I MISS MY FOOD TALK!!! Its not that we have stopped cooking, eating or travelling in the last 1.5 month; we just couldn’t catch up with our food blog.  Now I feel that I must apologise to our food and travel Blog for abandoning it like an orphan…Niloy has been making me feel guilty for quite some time now about this, but when last night I received a mail from Facebook saying, ‘You haven’t visited your Curry Cousins Page for some time’ the guilt reached another level…(I actually freaked out considering how much these sites and search engines know about us!! It reminded me of a discussion that I used to have with my friends like Chandni, Smaran, Ali and Mubbashira that in today’s world, someone is always watching….).

Anyways, coming back to my topic, let me start the writing again with a delicious yet very simple garden bake. One cold evening, when Niloy was away for an office party,  I suddenly had a craving for cheese…I ended up making this with whatever was left in the fridge!!!

Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

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The Quintessential Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani with Panchmehl Daal and wholewheat Naan

Thanks a ton Didiiiiiiiiii for putting up the masala chai recipe coz this would be a perfect reference point for me to make a good tea!! You know how I don’t like drinking tea (another reason of being a Fraud Bengali as they are known to be avid tea-drinkers) and as a result I am regrettably incapable of making that good “Kadak Chai” or strongly brewed milk tea which many Indians love.  Every time I make this tea, either the milk quantity or the leaves are in excess leading to a pretty yukky tea..those who endure the torture of drinking this would politely say its good! But am sure the moment I go back to the kitchen they look for the nearest plant pot to discard the tea and silently mock at my culinary skills!! haah!!! HOPEFULLY not anymore!!! 🙂

Today I would write about Butter Chicken which is possibly the best known Indian dish in the world. One can find many versions of this on the internet and I tell you each one looks awesome! But they all go back to the original concept that Moti Mahal Delux produced in 1947 by cooking leftover Tandoori Chicken (roasted whole chicken with spices)  in a tomato based velvety gravy with copious amounts of cream and butter.  Therefore mine is similar to the 100s of versions available.  However, the only difference I have in my recipe is I use caramelised chicken instead of tandoori.  I think when you roast a chicken without skin (the normal practice in India), the boney ends tend to become a bit hard if one is not able regulate the temperature properly.  I know Didi you wouldn’t agree with me on this point, still I would insist that the results of my dish and the one you make (with roasted chicken) would be same. Coz ultimately it is the gravy and the aroma that should sweep one off from their feet, right? So here is my version!

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) with Wholewheat Naan and Panchmehl Daal

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani

Chicken                            800 gms (With bones or boneless)

Yoghurt                           250 gms

Lime juice                       2 tbsp

Ginger-Garlic paste       2 tsp

Tomatoes                       1 kg chopped (or 2 cans of tomatoes)

Onions                             2 large chopped

Ginger                              4 inch piece cut in julienne

Garlic                               1 whole chopped

Green Chillies               5-8 cut into long slices

Spices                              3-4 strands of Mace, 5 whole and 3 powdered Green Cardamom, 5-6 Cashew nuts

Fenugreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi) 2 tbsp

Kashmiri Chilli powder  1 tbsp

Butter (50-100 gms) and Full Cream (200 ml)

Freshly made Garam Masala Powder   1 tbsp

Salt and Chilli powder to taste

Marinate the Chicken for 2-3 hours (if boneless cut into 3 inch pieces) in yoghurt, salt, 1 tsp red chilli powder, lime juice and ginger-garlic paste (if you like you can add red/orange food color but since I don’t like using artificial color, I skip it). When done, in a pan put 2 tbsp butter and fry the strained chicken pieces in batches (use very little butter/oil at this time).  Caramelise them well on medium to high heat and set aside.  In the same pan which is now brown with all the juices from the chicken, add 1 tbsp butter, the mace, 4-5 cardamom pods and 1/2 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder.  The idea of butter chicken is to get that nice orange colored gravy which many get by adding food color. I used another trick – I learned it from a TV show where the chef’s tip was that if you add kashmiri chilli powder to the hot oil, the curry gets a lovely red color. After this, add the tomatoes. Once they are softened, add the onion, 1/3rd of the ginger and all the garlic. When everything is soft, add the cashew, keep on the fire for another 2 minutes and then blend the mixture into a fine paste.  Run the whole paste through a metal sieve and discard the seeds/skin residue.

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In a fresh pot, heat 2 tbsp butter and add half of the remaining ginger julienne and green chilli slices.  Fry them well and add the tomato paste as well as the fried chicken pieces.  Cook for 10 minutes in medium heat or till the oil begins to surface on the curry (cook for 15 mins if there are bones).  Mix in the cream, season as per taste (salt, chilli and kashmiri chilli) and stir well.  Simmer for another 5-7 minutes – the gravy thickens by this time into a creamy consistency due to the cashew paste (keep a watch or else the gravy might become too thick and stick to the pot..if this happens, add 2-3 tbsp water).  In a separate pan, dry roast the fenugreek leaves for 2-3 minutes and then powder it.  At the end, sprinkle the garam masala powder, cardamom powder, ground fenugreek leaves, ginger julienne and a dollop of butter on top and serve. Some like a dash of lime juice with it too, but feel free to savour this delicate and flavorful dish as you like! Vegetarians can replace the chicken (and the yoghurt) with paneer to make Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhni with all the rest of the ingredients and process remaining the same.

Panchmehl Daal:

I learned this from my friend Mubashira, who is an awesome cook like her hubby Ali. She instructed me to take 1 part each of Red Masoor daal, White Urad daal, Arhar daal and Moong daal mixed with 2 parts of Chana daal (I tweaked the recipe by reading more about it though). Together the whole mix should be 1  cup (for 4 people).  You boil these together with 1 tsp Fennel seed powder, 1 tbsp cumin powder, 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, green chillies, salt and 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter).  I pressure cooked all together for 15 mins till it was a nice mash.  Then one has to temper it. In a pan, put 2 tbsp ghee, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 whole red chillies (broken).  Add 2 finely sliced medium sized onions and fry till golden brown. Add to the daal, mix well, season with salt and add water for the desired consistency.

Healthy Naan:

Didi, I was running late that day when I cooked this fare..so I quickly used the same recipe as the pizza dough (proofed the dough for an hour) but replaced the white flour with atta (whole wheat flour) and oil with ghee.  I rolled them into long elongated shapes, stuck cumin seeds on top and put them in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 15 mins.  Now these turned into pita breads, so I made the rest of the naans on a frying pan. I kept the heat on medium and let the naan rise from one side. Then flipped it over to cook it well from both sides.  The good thing about these wholewheat naans was that they remained soft even after they got cold unlike their white flour versions which become chewy and hard when they are cold. Some critics would even say this is not a naan, but trust me there are so many recipes of naans, and all I would say is this, “These are Dakhina’s versions of healthy and soft naans” 😛

Didi and Daibi, do try out my versions of these famous dishes and let me know how you like it.

Till then, lots of love,

Dakhina

Basic Chutneys and Sauces

Pizza sauce

You can always use the sauce out of a bottle, no crime in that, believe me I understand the woes of a busy mother or a weekend cook. But if by a miraculous stroke of luck the planets have aligned to give you the leisure and time and most importantly the energy to make your own sauce…I promise you by all that is holy, that it is WORTH making from scratch. And its not difficult either. ( plus… a definite plus…i will let you cheat)

Ingredients

Tomatoes, red, ripe and firm!          1 kg (chopped)

Garlic                                                          1 whole pod ( minced)

Olive oil                                                      1 tbsp ( or any white oil)

Oregano                                                      1 tsp

sugar and salt to taste ( can also add red chilli powder to adapt it to our taste)

The proper way would be to blanch the tomatoes in hot water, skin and de-seed them. (But I usually cheat)

Add olive oil to a heavy bottom pan, once the oil is warm add the chopped garlic and fry till golden brown, remove the fried garlic and keep. Add the oregano and the chopped tomatoes, sugar salt, chilli powder. Cook till softened. Now I use my hand blender and blitz the tomatoes! ( the cheating bit i told you about), then I add back the fried garlic and cook till the sauce coats the back of a spoon. There is your yummy, fragrantly fresh sauce ready.

White Sauce (1-2 Cups)

Flour                                           1.5 tbsp

Butter                                          2 tbsp

Milk                                             1-2 cups (depending on how thick you want it)

Salt and pepper

In a heavy bottom pan, melt the butter and fry the flour in it.  When the flour is nice and sticky, lower the heat and add milk slowly while stirring continuously.  Let it simmer till the lumps melt away and season with salt and pepper for a smooth white sauce.

Tips: At times the lumps don’t wanna go..so whisk it with a blender for few seconds and you would get a fine and shiny sauce.  For variations in the sauce, herbs or cheese or garlic or nutmeg powder can be added.  But I must confess I love the nutmeg and cheese combo in my white sauce..it can turn any boiled vegetable into a divine dish!!

Hot-spicy Green Coriander/Mint Chutney (1 cup)

Coriander Leaves/Mint                       1 Bunch

Garlic                                                          1-2 pods (depending on how strong you want the flavor of garlic

Green chillis                                            2-3 (to taste)

Sugar                                                         Optional to taste

Lemon Juice and Salt                        To taste

Grind to paste everything together.  Add few drops of water if you face difficulty in grinding.  Season well. For coriander chutney, 1 tbsp of coriander powder as well.

Sweet-Tangy Tamarind Chutney

1/2 cup Tamarind Pulp

1  cup sugar

1 cup water

chilli powder 1/2 tsp

ginger powder 1/2 tsp

roasted cumin powder 1/2 tsp

salt pinch

mix sugar, water, tamarind pulp. boil till it coats the back of spoon. add the ground spices. Serve with Indian snacks.

Mushroom Pâté/Dip/Sauce

Fresh Button Mushrooms               100gms

Garlic                                                       1-2 pods (depending on how strong you want the flavor of garlic

Onion                                                       1

Butter                                                      2 tbsp

Chives, Salt and Pepper to taste

Coarsely chop the onion, garlic and mushroom.  In a pan, melt the butter and add the garlic.  After 1 min, add the rest and fry/cook till tender and the excess water has evaporated.  Put the mix in a blender/grinder and blend/grind till paste.  Garnish with chives  and serve with crispy pan-fried bread or at breakfast with warm toasts and eggs.  You could also add some cream and make it more like a sauce and serve as a dip/sauce with tortilla chips, potato fries, oven baked potatoes or veggies and fritters. Some nuts liek walnut or cashew could be added for more flavor.