CHURCH STREET CAFE : A bite of New Mexico: Feeling Hot Hot Hot !

Feeling Hot Hot Hot ! Well, that is the exact expression how New Mexican Food makes you feel.Yet you tend to reach out for it, whenever you can.Addictive is maybe a better word for it. You know you are going to reach out for Sopapillas(fried pastry) dripping with honey, at the end of your meal, yet you will not order a plain burger and opt for something traditionally New Mexican. As Wikipedia defines, what differentiates New Mexican food from the rest of the South western cuisine, is the pre-dominance of the red and green Chiles.  Red or Green Chiles or Chile Sauce is actually a sauce which is made from roasted Green chiles or dried red Chiles, and a slew of spices, including cumin, corainder. The sauce is usually topped over many traditional New Mexican dishes, or also used as a marinade for other dishes.Green Chile is milder and is lovely in a Green Chile Chicken Soup, with just a hint of heat. Its the Red Chile, which is to die for.Well, this is something which is very evident. While driving across the state, we were fascinated with the obsession of the New Mexicans with Chile(the spice) in general. If they use a spice as a protective charm outside their houses, shops and churches and what not, then its very natural, that they have an abundance of that spice in most of their food. For those of us, who love a spicy kick to all that they eat, New Mexico is heaven on a platter.
It was our last meal in New Mexico, where I could resist the temptation of taking a few pictures, before I polished off the platters.The Old Town of Albequerque, nestled right along the historic Route 66, was where we headed to.Our Destination: Church Street Cafe, located right behind the historic San Felipe de Neri Church. Featuring high on the list of recommendation for every possible travel guide, so we knew we had to check out the place for all the hype it generated. Casa De Ruiz, or the house of Ruiz is undoubtedly one of the oldest structures in the state, and now, in its present avatar of being a restaurant, is surely, one of the best places to dine. We simply had to soak it all in. We decided to sit on the patio, in the lovely tiled tables, as it was a bright sunny afternoon. However that was a decision we would regret in just about some time. Now for the food. We munched on some complimentary warm Tortilla Chips and Red Salsa, as we pored over the menu.
We have our piggy fetish, as we believe, just like Tony Bourdain, that a hint of piggy goodness, lends a different dimension to any dish. Our server, also called Tony, mentioned to us, that the chef starts her day by making batches of fresh red and green chile and the red salsa, which were digging into. So we could try the dishes which were doused in the red and green chile, if we liked spicy fare.Like, well, didnt we just mention that we Love spicy fare. For appetizers, hubby settled in for Chicarrones. Cubed pork rind, deep  fried with kosher salt and served with a red Chile emulsion and warm tortillas. We had to dunk the crunchy pork, in the inferno in the bowl. How could something so spicy be so tasty ! I still remember hubby's expression,"We have to learn how to make this at home. This is insanely good !"
It was around this time, when I found the giggling in the table across ours grow a bit louder, till I heard what I heard. "Why is this woman taking pictures of all the food she is about to eat !" But since I had tastier things to concentrate upon, I let the chicas get away with it. Next came my lunch platter. I opted for Old Fashioned Chille Rellenos. Spanish style stuffed Chiles with meat and cheese, and then dipped in an egg batter and deep fried. Topped with a choice of red or green chile,and served along with beans and spicy Spanish rice.Since I was confused about which Chile to top my Chile Rellenos, I opted for half and half: both red and green.There was not one, but two Chile Rellenos.The menu had no mention of that.It came with a side of Sopapillas and honey.One look at the platter, and I knew I had bitten more than I could chew. It was a meal enough for two, and I had ordered that for myself, after stuffing myself with Chicarrones.
Hubby was already half way through his Carne Adovada Al Horno (which I forgot to take a picture of), while I was staring at my plate.He had opted for oven cooked pork, marinated and cooked in Red Chile, garlic and oregano. It was served with a side of  Spinach and some Spicy Spanish rice.
While I was making my way around the plate, began the trouble for choice of seating. It was the Sopapillas, which attracted a bevy of almost militant Pigeons, who tried to make a dash every now and then for my fried pastry.It was later found out that our server, Tony, had been feeding crumbs of Sopallias to these Pigeons for quite a few days. So, whenever these birds sighted the pastry, they felt it was laid out for them Well, they did make away with mine, after I had just a bite of it. Well, that is a regret I still have.





I had just about finished writing my post on Delhi-wala Matar Paneer and was enjoying an adda with S, (a girl friend of mine). We usually catch up with each other, almost every alternate day, post 5pm, and indulge in a lil bit of girlie banter.Somehow its now become a routine for us, and I guess, we both look forward to it. What I love about S, is that she is always so warm and she is always there for me, in whatever way she can. Moreover its an added bonus that she tolerates all my ravings and ranting about very possible thing,almost every second day. She has a magic touch, I guess, as she always brings a smile on my face, on days when I am down and out. She is the ideal mix of the elder sister I never had and a close girl friend. Any time spent with girl friends is super special, as these are almost our sources of sustenance. Hence every girl friend, is super important.  Did I mention, what a brilliant chef S, herself is. She cooks up a storm on a regular basis. There is simply loads to learn from her. So when S mentioned that she was looking for a goat liver recipe, I knew I had to contribute my two cents to it. Had she not stayed so far from me, I would cooked up a batch for her, and dropped it off home. But since that is not possible, over this weekend, as hubby has a backlog of work, so we cannot drive over to Columbia, to meet and greet her with some Bong style liver.
When cooking with liver two things are to be kept in mind. Firstly the liver needs to be marinated for at least an hour, in some ginger-garlic paste, to rid it off its minerally flavour.Secondly, if liver is over cooked, it turns chewy.Hence some caution is to be exercised while cooking with liver. The Kanch Lonka flavour in this dish, is totally courtesy my mom's East Bengali roots.The level of heat can be totally adjusted to suit one's taste. My husband is not much of a garam masala fan, and hence I tend to skip it at times, while making this dish. However for some, its a sacrilege, if a goat meat dish is not finished off with a dash of garam masala. I am not being a fence sitter here, but somehow I can never bring myself to take sides in this debate of garam masala and goat meat. Coming back to the liver, here is how it goes. I am sure, many of those who have East Bengali Blood in your veins, especially that of Syllhet, will find this dish, uncannily familiar.


Goat Liver: 1 lb: cubed
Potatoes: 1 large Yukon Gold/Idaho Gold: cubed
Turmeric Powder: 1 tsp
Green Chilies: 2-3 made into paste: 4-5 more, slit longitudinally
Ginger-Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Vinegar: 2 tbsp
Onion: 1 large: blended
Cayenne Pepper: 2 tsp
Garam Masala: A pinch (Optional)
Mustard Oil: 3-4 tbsp
Peas: 1/2 cup

Marinate the liver in vinegar, ginger-garlic and chili paste for a few hours.

Coat the potatoes with some turmeric powder and fry them lightly in oil,till they start to caramelise around the edges. Keep them aside. 

 In the same oil, add the onion paste and fry it lightly, till it starts to change colour.  
  Add in the marinated liver, along with the marinade in the fried onion paste. Make sure that the onion paste does not get burnt when you are cooking it, as onion paste has a tendency to get burnt very easily.

Keep stirring frequently, so that the liver does not get burnt. When the liver has started to caramelise, add in the fried potatoes and the cayenne pepper powder and mix well.
Cover and cook, till the potatoes are almost done. Then add in the slit green chilies and the peas.Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Finish off with a pinch of garam masala and serve hot. It goes well with both steamed rice as well as Rotis/Naans/Parathas.

Here's hoping S enjoys it as much as we did !

Bon Appetit !



Ahhh, my Delhi days ! Where art thou ! The days of mayhem, the days of broken hearts, the days of back to back late night films, and the days of eating without worrying about calories.The days of not maintaining logs for daily food, to be frowned upon by your trainer the next day at the gym. The days of madness and loads of good food. Since i raved and ranted a lot about my kebab passions, so will try and not go along that path anymore. But Delhi days were also synonymous with very typical Delhi dishes, like the decadent MATAR PANEER, which tastes nothing like its namesake served across the homeland. The Delhi taste is something which is uber special.So on days when I felt that I needed to de-tox myself, I headed for some Matar Paneer, in my neighbouring Guptaji ka Dhaba in Malviya Nagar in South Delhi. It was just the right gravy you needed on a cold Delhi night, to dunk your rotis in. Nostalgia hits again.

What exactly is the secret to the quintessential Delhi-wala Matar Paneer. Firstly, the paneer is not fried, before being introduced in to the bubbling gravy. That is what makes it super soft once its served. Paneer , being a protein, will have a tendency to get rubbery, once its over cooked.Hence the Delhites skip the frying stage of the paneer, while they whip up their delicacies. This is something, which I figured out, while savoring the dish,over the years. But the second part needed some snooping around. It was the search for the mystery ingredient, which lends the dish its signature taste. It took me a long time to get to this secret. I used to try and re-create Matar Paneer, but could not get the taste. Till, one day, I decided to chat up with one of the young boys, who helped around at Guptaji's Dhaba, while I waited for my order to be packed.The journo in me, got the  secret out:  A few tablespoons of Coriander paste, added to the gravy, in the final steps of cooking. That's what makes it special. The young boy mentioned it quite casually, as if it was something which everyone other than me, already knew.

Paneer: Thawed and cut into cubes: 12 oz/340gm
Coriander Paste: 3-4 tbsp(made by grinding 1/2 a bunch of coriander leaves with lemon juice and a little water, in the blender).
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste
Cumin Seeds/Jeera: 1 tbsp
Canola Oil
Tomato: 2 large: blended in the food processor
Onion: 1 large: blended
Ginger-Garlic paste: 1 1/2 tbsp
Frozen Peas/Fresh Peas: 1 cup
Coriander Powder: 1 tbsp

Add canola oil to a pan and add the jeera seeds to it, till they start spluttering. Add in the onion paste and the ginger garlic paste to it, and cook it till it starts to change colour lightly. Then add the tomato paste to it, and cover and let it cook for around 3-5 minutes.
Then add Coriander Powder and Red Chili Powder and Salt and mix well. Cook  the masala, till you can see oil along the sides of the pan. The masala needs to be well cooked at this stage, or else it will lend a raw taste later on. But care should be taken so that the masala does not get burnt. Needs to stirred frequently.
Once the masala has been cooked well, then add the peas and half a cup of hot water. Cover and cook for around 3-5 minutes.
Next add the cubed and thawed Paneer to the gravy. Remove the cover and continue to cook.
 Once the gravy starts simmering, add in the coriander paste. Mix well.

 Reduce the gravy, so that its thickened.Be careful, so that the Paneer does not start to disintegrate. Check for seasonings.
Serve hot with rotis/parathas/naan, with some desi style green salad.

Bon Appetit !



My Bong soul gets super happy whenever I head to the local Bangladeshi store for some much needed fish shopping.Usually its a monthly trip to get loaded with Pabda, Ilish, Rui-Katla,Tengra,Bata, Koi or even the occasional Chital Maachh(Spotted Featherback). The latter happens to be one of hubby's super favorites. While I am more of a fan of Chital Machher Peti, he prefers Muitha.Minced Chital marinated with ginger-garlic paste and seasoned with dry spices, and then formed into dumplings, which then form a part of a curry.Well, too much work, I feel. But sometimes, we go through the wild phases of cooking up a storm, and hence the Muithya gets made. Hubby had taken the first step, and picked up a box of minced Chital off the freezer at the store, while I was negotiating with the fish monger, as to how thick I wanted the Katla to be sliced.
My Dimma (maternal grandmother) was well known for her signature Chital Maachher Muitha, and I can still feel the taste on my tongue, if someone mentions Muitha. It was the quintessential East Bengali touch in her recipe which made it unparalleled. The soft dumplings, in the rich curry, was the perfect holiday staple. On the other hand, Hubby is in love with his mom's rendition of the same dish. Since there is no way of reaching out to my Dimma, quite reluctantly,I picked up the phone and dialed the cross-continental number. Given the fact, the salt and pepper relationship which we share, I was not too sure whether she would hand over the actual recipe to me. Following her recipe, I tried the prep work, and it was just then, I realised what had happened.She had conveniently forgotten to mention a simple step in the prep work for making the Muithas or Dumplings and I smiled a wry smile to myself. Washed my hands, and tried a trick which I had learnt from my Thamma(paternal grandmother), while she had been teaching me how to make Narkel Naru, during my teens. The trick worked. Finally I could mould the minced sticky fish into the Muithas.Well, while mixing the minced fish with ginger-garlic paste and dry spices, its important that our hands are oiled.Or else, the sticky fish cannot be moulded into the small dumplings. So I dipped my hand in some canola oil and mixed the marinade together along with some flour, and voila the dumplings were looking as they should look like. I had to re-oil my hands a few times, to complete the whole batch.


Minced Chital Fish: 1/2 lb
Ginger paste: 1 tsp for marination and 1tsp for the gravy
Garlic paste: 1 tsp for marination and 1 tsp for the gravy
All purpose Flour: 1/4 cup
Salt: to taste
Onion paste: 3 tbsp for the gravy
Chili Powder: According to heat preferences. I used 1/2 tsp for the marination of the Muithyas and 1 tsp for the gravy.
Coriander Powder: 1 tsp
Cumin Powder: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder: 1 tsp: for the gravy
Canola Oil: 2 tbsp: for making the dumplings
Mustard Oil: 3 tbsp; for making the gravy
Tomato: 1 large: blended in the food processor.
Green Chilies: 2 to 3
Potato: 1 large: cubed

Thaw the minced Chital and then mix together ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chili powder and marinate for at least an hour.
Mix in the flour to the marinade, as a binder,and start forming small dumplings(small balls) by oiling your hands with some canola oil.The dumpling swell up once they are steamed in the curry, so do not make them bigger than a narkel naru. 
 Make sure that you oil the plate in which you are keeping the Muithas, or else they will stick to the plate. This prep stage can be done a day in advance. The Muithas once formed, can be covered with cling film, and kept in the refrigerator for a day or overnight.
Now for the gravy, heat mustard oil in a pan, and add the onion paste, ginger-garlic paste and longitudinally slit green chilies.Cook it for some time till the onion starts to change its colour.Add in the turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt, tomato paste and cook on medium heat for around 3 minutes, by stirring frequently.
Once you can see around the edges of the pan, then add in a cup of hot water, and stir well. Cover and cook till the gravy starts to form. Slowly introduce the Muithas and the cubed potatoes in the simmering gravy. You can skip the potatoes if you want to. I did not pre-cook the Muithyas in boiling water before introducing them into the gravy.
 Cover and cook for around 10 minutes,so that the Muithyas can get steamed within the  gravy. Muithas should have swollen up a bit in size and should have taken on the colour of the gravy. Check for the done-ness of the potatoes. The Gravy should have also thickened a bit by now.
If the potatoes get cooked, then the Muithas should get cooked by that time. The Muithas usually develop some slight cracks on them, which just reveals that they have been cooked well. Just to be sure, take out one dumpling, and cut it in half with a knife. If the interior looks cooked, then its done.Do a taste test of the gravy.   Reduce the gravy,once the Muithyas have been cooked, so that the gravy is not watery. The gravy should be thick in consistency but not too dry, as the Muithas will be absorbing a lot of the gravy, once the heat has been turned off. Serve hot with steamed Basmati rice.

Bon Appetit !



Travelling is one of the those hobbies, which unite me and hubby, among other things. Its our taste for adventure, its our passion to explore, which takes us for at least one trip, every month. And baby, when we travel, we usually try and avoid the usual touristy crowd. No wonder I am yet to explore the Big Apple in its entirety. We land up in places like Taos Pueblo, which is a small village tucked away at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in New Mexico. It is surely a place where time has been standing still for the last 1000 years almost.When we say that we really mean it! In a country like the US, which screams of consumerism at every possible step, is this small Native American village,where for starters, the residents do not believe in using electricity. After spending a week in New Mexico, if someone asked me about the highlight of the trip, it would surely be visiting the quaint village.UNESCO declared Taos Peublo as the first Living World Heritage Site in 1992. It does live up to that reputation word by word.
Nestled in an Indian Reservation, Taos Peublo is home to more than a 100 Peublo Indians, whose ancestors had migrated here, about a 1000 years back. The first thing which is told to you at the visitor's center, before you enter the village that its a scared place, and we should keep that in mind. In a working village full of so many families settled there, what amazed us was the silence which greeted us, as we walked through the gates. Another startling thing, was the overlaps which I found with between the Native Indian culture and our culture(Indians) all along the village.A quick chat with a few of the elderly ladies of the village, confirmed the overlaps, which I thought I was noticing. The houses were Adobe structures, which meant that they were made of mud, straw as the main ingredients. The houses are plastered with Adobe every year, to cope up with seasonal erosion.The first overlap which I noticed. I could easily be in a village in remote Rajasthan, in the Thar Desert. But here I was, thousands of miles apart, in a  different continent, in a different racial territory. The only difference was, that rather than the thatched straw roofs which we see in the villages back in India, here the houses were flat roofed and definitely lower structures.
The villagers continue to cook in semi circular mud ovens called Hornos, giving cooking ranges or stoves a complete miss. Baking bread or biscuits, roasting venison, or even whipping up some Chile, it was all deftly done in the Hornos. Here came the second cultural and social overlap. These outdoor ovens somehow reminded of the Chulhas(outdoor stoves), which are so prominent in rural north western India.  

Religion is something which has adapted itself along with the changing times, here in the village. The Spanish brought with them Christianity. San Geronimo Church is an example of the architectural achievements of the Natives.After the famous Taos Revolt, and many other socio-cultural movements, Christianity exists side by side with the Native Religion. For example the central figure in the altar at the Church is that of Mother Mary, whom the Natives equated with their Central deity: Mother Nature. Native Ceremonies are observed along with Mass, by the villagers, throughout the year.
As one enters the village, one cannot help but notice the cemetery with an old bell tower. Well, this was the location where the Church initially stood. The Natives were faced with clashing cultures, with the two consecutive Spanish conquests and then the US government. While the US-Mexico war was going on,the Natives revolted against the US government and killed the Governor stationed at Taos. The US troops avenged the murder while killing many natives and destroying the first Church. There were many people who had gathered at the Church, and all of them fell at the hands of the forces.All that remains of the old  Church is the bell tower,which dates back to 1600s.
Warding off the Evil Eye is another cultural overlap which I caught my eye at the village. Back in India, we have always seen, how Chili Peppers and Lemons are used as a defense against Evil Eye, outside homes.The story was quite similar here. Every house had a bunch of red chili peppers hanging at the gates, to ward off the Evil Eye. This is something which I noticed throughout the state of New Mexico. Chili Peppers hanging near the doorway or on the walls, was a common fixture everywhere.
A friend of mine,asked me,why was the river water full of soap suds/surf, as she glanced through the pictures on a social network. Well, I had to add that it was not soap suds/surf, but good old ice, which was flowing by. Did I mention it was freezing at Taos Peublo! The icy Red Willow Creek cuts through the small village and is the source of drinking water for the residents. The Willow trees growing along the banks of  the river, lend their name to it. The river flows from a scared lake, called the Blue Lake, which is out of bound for non- residents, as several Native ceremonies are held out there. 
When I was relating the stories of this village to my mother, back in India, the first thing she asked me, how do the Natives make their living. As the Natives pointed out, the Place of the Red Willows was at a cross-roads of trade, and continues to be so. Nowadays, the natives handcraft silver and turquoise jewellery and pottery, among other things, like agriculture and animal husbandry. Native American Jewellery is quite a rage. Well, I made sure I had splurged a lot on those exquisite designs.Speaking of jewellery I have to mention, how a native lady, Wahleah, gifted me a pair of Dream Catcher earrings. A Dream Catcher is a Native Indian Charm, which is usually kept in the bedroom, which helps, in chasing away evil spirits and harbouring only the good spirits. I was  chatting up with her, at the village, exchanging notes on cultural overlaps, when she went to ahead, and asked me to keep that particular pair of earrings. She mentioned that Dream Catchers only work, when they were presented by someone, and I should expect some good luck coming my way. Hoping Wahleah's foretelling works for us pretty soon.
Au Revoir! 


Before I start off in this carnivorous journey, here's wishing everyone around the globe a very very HAPPY HOLI. May your life brighten up with the colors of Spring. For me, its yet another year, when I am away from colors, though the weekend Holi Mela(Fair) at the Hindu Temple seems like a tempting idea. Playing with colors and all also biting in to some quintessential Holi food like Gujiya and Thandai.Well, the man is cooking dinner tonight, so I thought of writing about another meal which he had whipped up. just about some time back.

 Coming back to my carnivorous amour: Grilled Liver Bruschetta with Pickled Red Onion. Hubby came up with his own version of a meaty bruschetta.Just to add some extra punch, he added pickled onions rather than the regular one. Well, I had pickled them earlier for a salad, but they went on to be a part of his creation. Needless to say, it was a much better use, than my salad. We love Bruschettas as an appetizer, during our Italian meal nights. But this time around, we decided to spin the table a bit. Make the appetizer into an entre. We did not even have any fancy Italian bread at home, so had to  make do with regular white bread.
 The grilled liver had been browned to perfection, and was soft at the core. The pickled onions added the right crunch along with a slight tang.The flavour which defined the dish and brought all its mryiad components as one dish was surely the grated lemon zest. A touch of Parmesan Cheese and some Cilantro leaves added the rustic touch to the Bruschetta. On hind thought, I feel, the Parm could also be replaced with some  crumbly Feta, for those who like bolder tastes.for now, let me not to mess with the man's recipe. One thing is to be kept in mind, when one cooks with any kind of organ meat, that it needs to be marinated in some ginger-garlic paste at least for an hour, to reduce the gamey flavour. And the marinade should be discarded while cooking the meat.


Chicken Liver: 1 lb
Ginger- Garlic Paste: 2 tbsp
Red Wine Vinegar: 1/4 cup for pickling the onions
Parmesan Cheese: 1/2 cup: Grated: for garnishing the bruschettas
Cilantro leaves: a handful
Dried Oregano: 1 tbsp
Lemon zest: 1 lemon zested
Lemon juice: juice of 1/2 a lemon
Olive Oil: 2 tbsp and some more for drizzling over the bruschetta.
Sugar: 2 tbsp
Red Onion: 1 medium sized one, sliced.
Salt: to taste
White/Brown Bread Slices: 6. Feel free to use any bread that you might have at home.

Marinate the chicken liver in ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, some lemon zest and a dash of olive oil for at least an hour.
Pickle the sliced onions in the vinegar,salt and sugar for a few hours. You can even pickle it a day in advance in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
 Add butter to the grill(or a pan) and add the liver pieces to it. Try and discard the marinating liquid, as much as you can, though some of it will hit the grill along with the liver pieces.
Brown the liver pieces, by stirring them frequently and carefully. Make sure that the liver chunks do not break, while you are cooking them. Season it with salt and dried oregano.
Once the liver has been properly browned and cooked, keep it aside in a  plate.
 Add the sliced pickled onion to the grill and add some cayenne pepper to it. Cook till it retains some crunch. Make sure not to add the pickling liquid.The onions would have an inherent tartness to it, for the pickling process. Keep them aside in another bowl.
Meanwhile toast the bread slices in the oven. We just cut the slices by half, though you can be creative with it, on how you keep the bread slices. Peel a garlic clove and cut it slightly on the top, and then rub the garlic clove on the toasted bread. Repeat it for all the bread slices. You might need around a few cloves of garlic to complete the process with all the bread slices. This helps in building the flavors.
Place all the bread slices on a baking dish. Layer them first with the grilled liver and then add grated Parmesan cheese.
Build on the layers of flavor with some lemon zest. On hind thought I feel, the man should have added the lemon zest over the layer of pickled onions, as that would have made it prettier.
Top it with the spicy and pickled onions and drizzle some olive oil. Bake it in a preheated oven at 350F for around 5 minutes.
Top it with cilantro leaves  torn off the stem and serve hot.
 If you are not too fond of pickled onions, then you can alternate them with normal raw red onion slices, and rather than Parmesan, you could add crumbled Feta cheese to bring about some of the tartness. Its all about experimenting with flavors after all.
Bon Appetit !