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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Vegetable Chop

If you've grown up in or around West Bengal, this is the stuff you've had in trains or run out to the local corner shop for in the evening when unexpected guests showed up at home. If you've not had the pleasure, this is what you've missed out on. The perfect street food-turned-fancy-beetroot-croquettes.

For 15 to 20 chops, roast half a teaspoon each of cumin and fennel seeds, 6 cloves, 3 cardamoms, a small stick of cinnamon, two dried red chillies, and a dried bay leaf or two, then grind into a fine powder. Mix this masala with two blanched and chopped beetroots, two mashed carrots and two mashed potatoes, and a spoon of ginger paste, half a cup of crushed roasted peanuts, salt to taste, and a pinch of sugar. Roll the mix into the shape of croquettes, and then roll each croquette in dry corn flour for a thin coat. Dip in a flour slurry and then coat with breadcrumbs and put in the fridge for 30 min or until you're ready to fry. , Deep fry and serve HOT with cucumber salad and kasundi (Dijon mustard sauce) to avoid sacrilege.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dhoka Daalna

Here is a traditional Bengali vegetarian dish that basically gets eaten at every stage of its making. You'll see why.

Dhoka-r daalna

Soak 250g of chana daal overnight. Drain and grind with a spoon of salt, a dash of asafetida, an inch of ginger, 2 green chillies and half a teaspoon of baking soda. Transfer the mix into a greased steaming pan, and steam (preferably in a pressure cooker without its whistle on) for 5 minutes. TASTE IT! (YUM)

Cut the cooled mix into cubes and deep-fry in mustard oil. TASTE IT AGAIN. (Best snack ever)

Heat a little mustard oil in a pan and add to it two bay leaves, two cardamoms and 3-4 cloves, and a dry red chilli. Add a pinch of kalonji. Add half a chopped onion, a half spoon of garlic paste and a spoon of ginger paste, and then a diced potato, and cook together. Add half a small tomato and cook some more before adding a fat spoon of yogurt, and a spoon each of coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and salt. Simmer with a little water until the potatoes are cooked, and then add the fried Dhoka pieces. Finish off with a spoon of ghee, a green chilli and a sprinkle of garam masala. Serve hot with rice! TASTE!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Za'atar Chicken

.... Or as my husband insists on calling it, "The Za'atar Chicken from Qatar."

Preheat oven to 200C. In a baking dish, mix a kg of skinless chicken, bone-in, with a tablespoon of garlic, a spoon of sumac, a spoon of cumin powder, a spoon of paprika, two spoons of za'atar, a drizzle of olive oil, a diced onion and a few slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes; in the last 5 minutes of the bake, top with more za'atar and sumac (to taste), a quick dash of smoked paprika and a handful of chopped parsley. Serve with oven-crisp khubz and toum (garlic sauce)!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Black Forest

I'm currently surrounded by birthdays (including my own last month), and baking cakes has never really been my star talent. Nevertheless, here's a stab at a very simple and easy black forest cake for my husband's birthday.

Bake a simple chocolate cake: a cup and a half of self-raising flour, 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 300g butter, half a cup of caster sugar, 3 eggs and a spoon of vanilla essence. Bake in a round dish at 180C for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the dish once cooled. Carefully make two through-and-through horizontal cuts to slice the cake into three round slabs. 

Get a jar of pitted cherries, about 600-700g. Remove 10-12 cherries for topping later. Take the rest of the cherries and a cup of the cherry juice they're in, and boil together in a saucepan with two fat spoons of sugar and a spoon of cornflour. If you're feeling quirky, add a spoon of spiced dark rum. Boil, then simmer, till the liquid is thick. Cool in the fridge.

Now, take 500g of thickened cream and beat with an electric beater till the cream starts to form peaks. On your cake base board, place the bottom slab of the chocolate cake. Dish out half of the cherry sauce on it. Cover with a layer of cream. Place the middle slab of chocolate cake and layer with the rest of the cherry sauce and another layer of cream. Place the top slab of the cake on top. Cover the cake with cream. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles or dark chocolate chips, or grated chocolate, or all three! Use the rest of the cream to put into a piping bag and make pretty stars, if you like! You're done.