Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mushroom Pepper Fry

Who doesn't love mushrooms? We sure do! A lot! And are constantly trying to find new ways to enjoy these beauties. We differ slightly in the way we like to eat the fungi - while I prefer them in simple stir-fries, grills and soups so as to be able to enjoy their natural flavour and texture to the maximum (as with most other foodstuff), Sunny likes to go the whole masaledaar hog - rich, spicy gravy-drowned mushroom curries and kormas. Me being a more selfish, er, picky eater, the last two times I cooked them, our mushrooms were made into simple, tasty and wholesome stir-fries - once with vegetables and once on their own. Sunny being the last person to denounce my cooking on earth, he ate them up quite uncomplainingly (not that he had any other option), though the only compliment he offered was that the taste kind of "grew on you" - so that finally when he was able to relish the dish he was at his last bite! This, from a usually effusive person, was a bit of a damp squib; though trust me it was quite tasty if one is into the whole natural flavours thing like me. So I gave the dish a 50/100 score and decided to move on.

Last Sunday Mr.Mushroom Man brought the bounty home again, and commanded me to cook them up Sunny-style. Now, blame it on my selective comprehension or onto the fact referred to here in fine print, or both as mutually symbiotic causalities (do I have any idea what I'm talking about?), I decided to reach a compromise and cook something nice and spicy which would be light on the stomach too. I had no desire to ingest copius quantities of fat-laden gravy and consequently spend my Sunday evening snoring away to glory. So I cooked this fry up in a jiffy, and boy! did it turn out to be nice?! Its full of natural umami (like artificial MSG or Ajinomoto) flavours, the onions add a nice crunch while the roasted peppers give hint of grilled smokiness - resulting in a unique yet well-rounded taste. The best thing is that a small quantity goes a long way in both whetting and satisfying the appetite. We both liked it, and here it is for you to savour.

  • Button/Cremini/Baby Porcini Mushrooms - 250 gms.

  • Potatoes - 2 small
  • Anaheim Peppers/Pahadi mirch - 2
  • Onion - 1 medium, diced finely
  • Garlic - 2 large cloves, finely diced/minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper - 1-1/4 tsp. or to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar - 1/8th tsp.
  • Key lime - 1
  • Vegetable oil / Butter - 1 tablespoon


  1. Wash and chop the mushrooms into roughly equal-sized medium dices.
  2. Wash and pat-dry the chilli-peppers. Roast them over open flame/grill till the skin is charred black. Immediately put them inside a plastic bag and keep aside. The peppers will sweat and after about 5 mins. or so, take them out and peel-off the black skin with your fingers. It will come-off easily. If you want you can give the peppers a quick wash to rid them of any residual black bits, but personally I prefer to leave them as is as that is where the flavour resides.
  3. Finely chop the peeled peppers. Mix with the chopped onions and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil/butter in a skillet/pan/wok.
  5. When smoking, add the garlic and stir for a second or so until golden and fragrant.
  6. Immediately add the potatoes and stir fry for about 5-6 mins. on high so that they form a crispy outer layer.
  7. Add the mushrooms to the pan, give a leisurely stir or two on high, add the salt and sugar, mix and cover.
  8. Lower the flame to medium-high and simmer the pan until the potatoes are cooked through.
  9. Add in the onion-pepper mix and the ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Cover and cook for a minute and then remove from the flame.
  10. Let sit for around 5 mins. Then squeeze-in the juice of the lime and mix thoroughly.
  11. Serve hot with fresh roti/paratha/buttered toast.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nani's Saambhar

Getting back home at around 8-8:30pm everyday, the last thing I want to do is to cook a full elaborate meal of dal, chawal/roti and subzi. Though I love cooking and most of the days do go with the full meal routine - dinner being our most substantial meal of the day, since we just grab some quick bites at lunch in office - there are days when I just want to sit back, relax and do nothing. One of the most onerous tasks of married life is cooking everyday, and it becomes especially cumbersome if both partners are working fulltime. And if you are like us, who are fed-up of eating lunch outside every single day and crave good, wholesome home-cooked food, then ordering in is simply not an option.

Yesterday was such a day, er, evening and while I didn't want to cook anything elaborate, I also didn't feel like going out or ordering in - as Sunny suggested. So instead of going hungry, I just whipped up something that was one of Nani's special go-to recipes - easy, fast, wholesome, tasty and nutritious. The best thing about it is that its a full meal in itself, and though as self respecting bheto-bangalees we had it with rice, it can be easily served with fresh buttered bread/rolls/buns/toast. Better still, just fry-up some croutons and pop them in. Very tasty!


Masoor dal (Red lentils) - 1 cup (washed till water runs clear and soaked)
Vegetables: potatoes, beans, okra, brinjal, pumpkin/squash/gourd, carrots, seym (snow peas), drumsticks: no need to be specific here, just go wild - 3-4 cups, washed and chopped into medium dice

Mustard seeds - scant 1 teaspoon
Curry patta/ sweet neem - 1 tablespoon, washed and dried
Whole dried red chillies - 2
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Garlic - 2 large cloves, sliced finely
Ginger - 1/4 teaspoon, grated
Tomatoes - 2 medium, diced
Turmeric - scant 1/4 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - scant 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1 teaspoon
Sugar - 2 teaspoons
Amchoor (dried mango powder) / Tamarind paste / Kokam - 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves - 1 tablespoon, chopped
Salt - to taste
Mustard oil - 1 tablespoon
Water - 5 cups

1. Heat oil in a wok/pot until smoking and add the mustard seeds, whole dry chillies and curry leaves.
2. As soon as they stop spluttering add the garlic and stir for about 5 seconds or until fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn.
3. Immediately add the chopped vegetables and onions and stir-fry on high for about 5-6 mins.
4. Add the soaked dal (minus the water) and stir to combine. Let fry for a minute.
5. Add salt, sugar, cumin and turmeric and mix thoroughly. Fry for 2 minutes on high and then add the water.
6. Bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the veggies are cooked through (around 20 minutes).
7. Add the tomatoes, ginger, coriander and amchoor. Mix, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
8. Remove from flame, taste and adjust the seasonings and serve hot in individual bowls.

If you want to make it more fragrant, as Nani typically did, just add a blob of pure ghee and a scant teaspoon of roasted methi (fenugreek) powder. Divine!
I didn't have either yesterday, but it tasted luscious all the same.

Serves 2 as main course, 4 as accompaniment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Luchi - Chholar Dal

Sundays are fun days at our home. Meaning we try to do minimum work and spend maximum time lolling around. It also means having a special breakfast and lunch, of which we cook a large quantity so it can double up as dinner too. Less work, see!

So Sunny had been harping since time immemorial about having a traditional Bengali breakfast of Luchi (Maida Puris / refined flour flatbreads fried in oil) and Torkari (vegetable curry). I'd planned on making them this weekend but as luck would have it, I had to work both on Saturday and Sunday, and we had a nice simple lunch of rice, dal and vegetables which Sunny had prepared while I was in office. We ate up all of it, and when we got back home after a little evening stroll, I was too tired to prepare anything elaborate for dinner. Sunny piped in his suggestion of Luchi with Chholar Dal (Curried Bengal Gram), and while I was apprehensive about its being an onerous task to undertake, it surprised me by taking just an hour - from start to finish - to be ready. And was delicious to boot!

An authentic bengali meal that can be prepared in a jiffy - what can be better than that?! Here's how I went about it-


For Luchi
Maida (Refined / All-purpose white flour) - 2 cups
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
Sooji (fine grain semolina) - 1-1/2 tablespoons
Vegetable oil - 2 teaspoons + more for deep frying
Yogurt - 1/2 cup, whisked lightly to thin out
Water - as required, for kneading

For Chholar Dal
Chhola / Chaney ki dal (Split Bengal Gram) - 200 gms.
Fresh coconut - 2 tablespoons small dice
Raisins - 1 tablespoon
Whole dried red chillies - 2, broken into half
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Green Cardamoms - 5
Cloves - 8
Bay leaves - 2 small
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Green chillies - 4
Ginger - 3/4th teaspoon, grated
Mustard oil - 1 tablespoon
Sugar - 1-1/4th tablespoon
Turmeric - 1/4th teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Water - 4 cups
Pure ghee (clarified butter) - 1 teaspoon, optional

1. Wash the dal till the water runs clear and soak it for a minimum 10 mins.
2. Wash and dry the whole spices. Chop the green chillies. Wash and soak the raisins.
3. In a pressure-cooker/large pot/skillet heat the mustard oil on medium-high until smoking. Immediatedly add the cumin, red chillies, bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves and stir till the cumin stops spluttering.
4. Add the chopped chillies and grated ginger. Stir for about 5-6 secs. or until fragrant. Do not let the ginger burn.
5. Immediately add in the soaked dal (minus the water), diced coconut and raisins and stir to mix in the spices. Let fry for about 2 mins.
6. Add the salt, sugar and turmeric and mix thoroughly.
7. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Remove the scum that rises to the surface.
8. If using a pressure cooker put on the lid and the vent and cook until 3 whistles on high. Remove from the heat and let cool.
9. Alternatively, if using a pot/skillet (like I did yesterday), after the dal comes to a boil lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer till the water reduces and the dal is cooked yet al-dente with a thick gravy consistency.(About 40-45 mins.)
10. While the dal is cooking, prepare the dough for the luchis. In a large bowl/platter mix together the maida, sooji, salt and 2 teaspoons oil.
11. Add in the yogurt, and working with your fingers mix it in the flour till the mixture acquires the texture of breadcrumbs.
12. Add water and form it into a ball. It will be slightly wet at this stage.
13. Transfer to a floured surface / sprinkle liberally with dry flour and knead till the dough becomes soft and elastic.
14. Set aside if using later (the dough will rise and aquire a slight tang - perfect for Bhatooraas!)
15. For immediate use, break small balls (about 1" diameter) off the dough and roll out into thin round luchis (approx. 3" diameter) with a rolling pin on a floured surface.
16. Heat sufficient oil in a wok for deep frying. Let your husband fry them in pairs till nicely puffed-up and amber, while you roll out around 20-25 of these cuties.
17. The dal will have cooked by now. Remove from heat, taste and adjust the seasonings, and mix in a teaspoon of Ghee, if using.
18. Lightly mash the dal with the back of a ladle.
19. Serve in individual bowls with the cute hot luchis.
20. Enjoy!

Serves 4.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fish Moilee

An extremely simplified version of the Goan fish curry, this dish combines very few ingredients to create a richly flavorful dish that's light on the stomach too. Ideally had with plain rice and curd.

Rohu (fresh water carp)- 500 gms. cleaned and cut into pieces

Onions - 2 medium or 1-1/2 large, sliced
Green chillies - 5-6, broken into half
Fresh coconut - 1/4 of a large one, diced
Mustard seeds - 1 heaping teaspoon soaked in water
Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
Mustard Oil
Black cumin seeds - 1/8th teaspoon

1. Wash the fish and rub with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Fry in mustard oil till medium crisp and set aside.
2. Grind together onions, chillies, coconut and mustard seeds with a little water added. Mix in sugar and salt to taste.
3. Heat the oil remaining in the skillet and add the cumin. Once they splutter add the onion-mustard paste and stir on medium-high.
4. Once it starts seeping a bit of oil and leaves the edges of the skillet, add a cup of water and bring to a boil.
5. Add the fried fish pieces, cover and simmer for around 10 mins., or until the gravy is reduced to your desired consistency.
6. Serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

P.S: We were too hungry to take a picture of the finished product. Will try to post a pic next time. :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Easy Fruit Salad

Sunny doesn't like fruits. Or rather, doesn't eat fruits. Leading a solitary hardworking bachelor life away from the parental home attached him to fast, filling and easily-available food on the go, and fruits figured nowhere in this list. Except of course the much revered banana - fast to peel and good(?) to eat. Apples and oranges didn't count - apples can't be eaten without having been nicely peeled(!), sliced and presented on a platter, and oranges are just too much of a bother. Most men don't think of food in terms of nutrition value and so the compulsion to buy and eat fruit, if it isn't readily available in the house, is not there for them. Such is the case of my darling husband too.
I, on the other hand, am an avid fruit lover. I fact I can't survive without having eaten some fruit or the other every day. Early in our childhood our parents ensured that we had a steady supply of fresh vegetables and fruits at our home, and so despite being non-vegetarians we dearly love our fruits and vegetables as well.
One of the problems/inconveniences that I faced when I started living with Sunny after our marriage was that there was no fruit for me to eat at our house. He would buy loads of fresh veggies and fish every week, but never ventured to bring home any fruit. Despite repeated reminders he would forget, and the situation became so tough that I started craving bananas, which is the only fruit that I absolutely detest! So one fine morning I decided that enough was enough and went ahead and brought home a huge bag of oranges, grapes, pomegranates, cranberries (Beyr) and Kool, and served them washed and nicely arranged in a plate to Sunny. Imagine my consternation when he took one bite and refused to eat any more saying that they were too sour. The fruits were juicy and sweet, but to a palate unaccustomed to their slight fruity acidity they would obviously taste sour. Neanderthal!

Anyways, I happily polished off my plate of ripe lusciousness, but my mind was in a frenzy trying to work out some way of making this grown-up obstinate child like all the goodness that he was missing out on simply because of an apparent sourness. Voila! Inspiration struck, and I came up with a concoction that has him literally licking his fingers and asking for more every time I serve it to him. It is simple and common enough, probably many of you already make it yourself.

Fruit Salad

1. Fruits - any combination/type will do: oranges, sweet limes, grapes, strawberries, pomegranates, bananas, chikoos, apples - all nice washed, pitted/hulled and peeled as needed (leave the peel on on apples). Dice into bite-sized pieces.
2. Sweetened condensed milk - 1 can


1. Combine all the diced fruit in a large bowl. I only had strawberries and grapes this time, but they more than sufficed. Aren't they pretty?

2. Pour in the condensed milk and lightly mix with a slotted spoon so that all the fruit is thoroughly covered.

3. Chill for at least an hour and serve.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday Night Feast

Papa came visiting on an errand from Mom yesterday and Sunny had insisted the previous evening that we do not let him go unfed. This is his way of letting Papa shed-off his inhibitions about eating at his daughter's house. He even suggested the menu to me! Sweet! I just love his sense of hospitality :)

Anyways, I scooted home from office yesterday and this is what we finally had for dinner at 10pm -

Mix-veg Dal
Jeera Gobhi
Sorshe-bata diye Maachh
Dhaniya ki chutney (sour)
Tomato chutney (sweet)
Gurer kalakand & sandesh
(from Akarshan)
My favourite Gulabjamuns (from Haldiram's, Papa brought!)

Quite a feast, as Sunny said. And all with one functional gas-stove burner, as Papa commended.
I'm flying! :)

Recipes to be up soon.

Friday, March 13, 2009



Arhar daal - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Turmeric - scant 1/4 teaspoon
Asafoetida - a pinch
Water - 2 glasses (more if required)

Curry patta - 10-12
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Garlic - 2 cloves, sliced into roundels
Ghee - 1 tablespoon

Wash and cook the daal with all the ingredients except the last 4 in a pressure cooker or a pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

In a skillet/wok heat the ghee on medium-high until hot and fairly smoking. Immediately add the mustard seeds. As soon as they stop spluttering add the curry leaves and 3 seconds later add the garlic and stir. Turn-off the gas in 5 seconds and immediately stir in the cooked dal. Mix well and serve in individual bowls.

Serves 2-3.