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ZUCCHINI POSTO: BREAKING EVERY RULE OF THE POSTO CODE

On days which are grey, your mind turn even greyer. No, I am not obsessing over 50 shades of Grey nor have I found any Christian Grey in real life. Its just this mundane grey-ness which is souring my mood for the last few days. The Weather Gods and their over abundance of rain and cloudy skies over the Kansas City skyline are the biggest culprits in this regard. They are almost resembling a D-grade villain from a C-grade Bollywood Masala flick.All this greyness and the induced crazy mind set, made me step out of my comfort zone big time. No, I did not attempt a sky-dive like the recent sky-diving update clogging all our news feed everywhere. I landed up doing something which will surely earn me the wrath of the Chatterjee Culinary Queens. I dared to cook Posto with holud(turmeric), onion and kalo jeere(nigella seeds/kalonji). I have broken every rule of the Posto Code. For the household I have grown up in, its like committing a culinary harakiri. No, I was not intoxicated. I was fully aware of what I was doing, so cannot blame some spirit for my actions. There are days when one just acts crazy.

Some might ask, what the heck is the so-called Posto Code??? Well, its the unwritten Bible about the way Posto is cooked in Bong households. To be more specific, in Ghoti (West Bengali rather than East Bengali ) households. The code commandeth that Posto should be ground with a  few green chilies. When it comes to the actual cooking, then a dash of mustard oil, a handful of diced potatoes and salt should do the trick. Other ingredients should not overwhelm the signature flavor of Posto itself. And definitely never any turmeric. A whitish dry subzi which is always enjoyed with either Arhar(Toor) Daal or Kalai er Daal. And to think I dared to break this supreme Culinary Code.

I had picked up Zuchinis as I wanted to grill them with some Malai Kebabs. Both me and Hubby have been pushing each other, to marinate the kebabs, but both have been upto other things. So I decided that the kebabs could wait and lemme try something Bong with these veggies.I had dug into this dish,Zucchini-Aloo Posto this Summer, during the long East Coast trip. The taste had lingered on, and on this grey day, I decided, why not !! I had never asked the lady, how she had made her Zucchini-Aloo Posto, so I just cooked from my memory of the taste and ingredients. I decided to cook by my instinct, giving a damn to every established notion. If I can be a non-conformist in so many other aspects of life, can I not be that when it comes to cooking with an ingredient ? ! So here's my disclaimer. This is not a bid to woo anyone or to hurt some one's culinary sentiments. It's just a different day at the Bong kitchen. As long as the food's tasty, I believe in wasting no time, and polishing it off. That is exactly what I did, with the Zucchini -Aloo Posto, with some Bhaat and leftover Kalai er Daal. A vegetarian weeknight dinner, which was pretty satisfying.


ZUCCHINI ALOO POSTO : ZUCCHINI AND POTATOES TOSSED IN A POPPY SEED SAUCE 

Ingredients: 
Poppy Seeds: 5-6 tbsp
Green Chilies: 2-3(adjust according to heat preferences)
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
Zucchini: 2 : diced
Potatoes: 1 large: diced
Onion: 1 medium sized one: sliced finely
Kalo Jeere/Kalonji/Nigella seeds: 1 tsp
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp
Salt: to taste

Procedure: 

Soak the poppy seeds in some luke warm water for about an hour at least. Grind the poppy seeds till they form a thick white paste, in the blender. I made the mistake of adding a bit too much water.

In a large non stick pan, add in the mustard oil and let it get hot. Add in the kalo jeere. Wait for them to splutter and then add in the sliced onion. Cook on medium heat till the onion starts to caramelise.


Once the onion slices have started to change color, add in the diced zucchini and potatoes. Make sure that all the veggies are cut around the same size, so that they are cooked uniformly. Add some turmeric powder and let them caramelise around the edges. Make sure that you keep stirring infrequently.



Add in the Posto Bata or the Poppy Seed paste. Mine was bit too runny.


Add in the salt and red chili powder. Mix well. Cook for around 2-3 minutes  Then add just enough water  to dunk the veggies. Cover and cook and keep stirring frequently.


Keep checking for veggies, so that they do not turn mushy. My poppy paste was a bit too runny, so I did not add too much water.


This is a dry dish, so make sure that you dry up the water. The poppy paste should be coating the veggies and not be runny.


Do a taste test. This dish has a slight kick to it for the red and green chilies.

Turn off the heat. Add in a teaspoon of mustard oil and keep covered, till you are ready to dig in.


Serve with some steamed rice and either Arhar(Toor) Dal or Kalai er Daaal.

Bon Appetit !!!







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PALAK MURG: CHICKEN IN A SPINACH CURRY

I could start off ranting how Palak Murg could be a very good idea, to mix your greens and proteins and so on and so forth. But the chilly weather this afternoon, is making me sulk a bit.

Whenever its the beginning of the cold days, the mind is not too happy. It takes me a few days, to get adjusted since I made my home in the Midwest. When I am not in the best of my moods, my mind goes on a re-wind track. I know, I am supposed to be very positive and always happy, but the mind cannot help but wander into some sour by lanes. One such sour by lane being, yes, who else ,but THEM.

I am sure its a known fact by now, how my ILs and myself feel about each other. Well, too many incidents which highlight the sour and totally absent sweet relationship we share. As I was preparing dinner a few nights back, the ingredients and the dish in question itself, refreshed my memory more so in  this regard. PALAK MURG(Chicken cooked in a  Spinach Curry) has always been one of my signature dishes, at many get togethers, during my Delhi days. I had no clue that Hubby had bragged about this dish to his family as well. And that this bragging would manifest itself in a not so pleasing way for me, right after the big fat Bong Wedding.

It was a day after our reception, and we were super busy. Packing our bags, opening all the Tatwa trays which had been a part of my Phulshojjer Tatwa and what not. It was a mad rush, as we had very less time in our hands. Our flight was in exactly three days. Hubby and myself were almost like headless chicken running around, trying to get everything done. The airlines had changed our itinerary,which meant we also had to go and pick up our new tickets. Just when we were in the thick of things, MIL made her presence felt in our room. In her usual cold self (I have never seen her smile), she announced that I needed to cook lunch, as it was a custom apparently. Had I not already made some food, in the morning of our reception, the customary Bou Bhat. Seemed like that was not enough to please these heartless souls. Hubby mumbled under his breath, so much for customs. I knew I had to leave all the work at hand, and get it done. Cooking under a short notice, well, that does not deter me. Maybe the lady concerned, or the ladies concerned had little clue about it. What irritated me was that it was almost noon.Yes, almost noon. They had chosen this time to let me know I need to fix lunch for 20 odd people. No, I am not exaggerating. Hubby's family houses too many relatives on an every day basis, and come any vacations or occasions, an even bigger clan descends under the same roof. As I descended to the floor below, I was thinking, as to what I will make, at such a short notice. When I reached the kitchen, my eyes were open wide. There were literally almost a dozen or so bunches of Spinach on the kitchen counter and did I just see some raw Poultry as well. Hubby had bragged a bit too much, I guess.

It was almost like Kitchen Stadium and I felt like Iron Chef myself, who had just been the mystery ingredients. Imagining myself as a combo of Iron Chef Cat Cora and Iron Chef Bobby Flay, was a good idea. Helped me sail through. But where be my Sous Chefs, as it happens in Kitchen Stadium. There were none.Maybe I forgot to mention that the domestic help, who could have been my Sous Chef, had been given an afternoon off, strategically. "Too filmy," my Bestie, said,when she heard of it. Isn't it !

Lunch was served and was lapped up by the gang without even a word of appreciation. Why was I even expecting. Poor Hubby had to bear the brunt of whatever was on my mind, post lunch, for sure. The man quietly took it all in.

So whenever I make Palak Murg after that Iron Chef like experience, I smile a wry smile to myself.



PALAK MURG: CHICKEN COOKED IN A SPINACH CURRY

Ingredients: 
Chicken: 1 whole: Skinned and cut into medium sized pieces
Onion: 1 large: Grated
Garlic: 4-5 large cloves: Minced
Coriander Powder: 1 1/2 tbsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp (adjust it accordingly, as some green chilies also go into this dish)
Spinach: 1 lb(cleaned)
Canola Oil: 4-5 tbsp
Salt: To taste
Green Chilies: 2-3
Tomato Ketchup: 2 tbsp (as I did not have fresh tomatoes)

Procedure:
Blanch the Spinach for a few minutes, till they wilt.




Strain the wilted spinach and discard the water. Blend the blanched spinach along with a few green chilies and keep aside. Meanwhile, in a deep pan, add canola oil and fry the onion till it starts to change color. Add the minced garlic and cook it for a minutes. Make sure that the masala does not get burnt.


Add in the dry spices and mix well. Fry them for a minutes, till you can see the oil leaving the sides of the pan. If you feel the masala can get burnt, add in a few splashes of water. Mix in the tomato Ketchup or if you have chopped fresh tomatoes and mix well.




The Chicken pieces go in next. Mix well so that the masala coats the chicken pieces well. Cover and cook till the chicken is almost half done. Keep stirring frequently. Do not add water. The protein will be releasing some water, and some moisture will be generated from cooking it covered.


Once the Chicken is half cooked, add in the spinach paste, and mix well. Season with salt. and continue to cover and cook. Make sure that you keep stirring it infrequently so that it does not stick to the pan.


Spinach tends to release some water as well. So if you feel that dish has become too watery, then cook uncovered. But as this concoction comes to a boil and if you are cooking it uncovered, it makes a mess on the stove top.


When the chicken is cooked, make sure that the gravy is not too runny. Cook uncovered for some time more, if you need to. Check for seasonings and dig in.



I serve Palak Murg with some hot rotis. Or if you have Pita bread at home, it goes fine with that too. Dunk in your bread and enjoy !

Bon Appetit !!! 
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Planned for Preeoccupied's Mishti Pulao,but landed up with "What's in a name PULAO ! "

Pulao is something which I do not make very often but I love to eat a lot. Whenever I have to make some Pulao or Pilaf, I tend to rely totally on tried and tested recipes. Be it the Prawn/Jhinga Pulao or even a normal Peas and Jeera Pulao. Somehow, I do not feel very confident about fancy rice dishes. I worry about the rice getting mushy while I try to cook it, or being under seasoned. My string of worries run long and quite long.I know, I know, what all of you are thinking. That its a mental block, a very strong mental block. I need to make a strong resolve and just get over it, and probably even make Pulaos more often. Maybe that should  help me out. Don't know what will work for me and my phobia for rice dishes.

Coming back to my latest plans, we had to entertain a group of Hubby's work mates who are vegetarians. So Hubby suggested that rather than normal rice for lunch, why not some Pulao.His quick suggestion was an instant worry for me. One of the guests had an allergy with the bean/pea family, so the Easy Peasy Peas Pulao was ruled out right at the go.The only thing that came to mind, was Preeoccupied's Mishti Pulao. Pree's Pulao looked simply yumm and somehow reminded me of the Mishti Pulao back home. There was something in those pictures, which reminded me so much of my growing up years and some of the tastes I grew up with. Mangsho and Mishti Pulao, was also a popular Sunday special for us too. Thanks so much Pree, for bringing back so many great memories and for inspiring me to try my hand at making a Pulao for my Lunch Guests. 

I decided to finish up all the cooking and lastly make the Pulao. So that it had all my concentration. Great idea, I thought to myself. 

Appetizers and main course was almost done, when I opened Pree's recipe on my phone for a final revision. It was almost like, high school examination,when you are trying to cram in last minute preps into your over worked and under-slept brain, a few hours before the exam. 

I decided to make myself and Hubby some coffee before I started off on my nemesis: Pulao. Just then the catastrophe happened. Yes, you heard that right. The Microwave conked off. The only reason why I was a tad bit confident about being able to re-create Pree's recipe as it involved a foolproof way of preventing the rice from turning mushy. And I do not even have a Rice-Cooker as  a back up plan. Which just meant, either I tank my plans of making Pulao or I give it a bold try nevertheless. With caffeine fix from a can, I thought of something else: Why not De-construct the Pulao? That way, I am at a lesser risk of messing up. 

Thus was born "What's in a name PULAO !" 

A de-constructed and very much inspired Mishti Pualo. 

I know Pree does not like the idea of messing up with a good recipe, but I am so sorry. I so wanted to have that Pulao myself. And in my current condition of cravings, I guess, she will forgive me. Though, I personally do not forgive my Microwave, for conking off just on that very day. 

But let me tell one secret: What's in a name Pulao experiment rocked ! I had no clue that it would be so tasty. For the first time, in a party there were no leftover for the next day. 


WHAT'S IN A NAME MISHTI PULAO ! 

Original recipe: Preeoccupied's Mishti Pulao 

Ingredients: 
Basmati Rice: 3 cups: washed twice. 
Cashew Nuts: 1/4 cup: chopped in half
Golden Raisins: 1/4 cup: soaked in water for at least an hour, so that they plump up
Nutmeg Powder: 1tsp
Sugar: 3-5 tbsp
Green Cardamom: 6-8 
Cinnamon Stick: I large piece, broken into a few smaller pieces
Clove: 4-5
Desi Ghee: 3-4 tbsp 
Salt: to taste
Turmeric Powder: 1 1/2 tbsp
Ginger paste/Grated Ginger: 1 1/2 tbsp 
Baby Carrots: Cut into rounds and blanched: 1/2 cup
Bay Leaves: 4

Procedure: 

In a non stick frying pan, I added the desi ghee, and then the whole garam masala and the bayleaves. As it turned aromatic, I added the dry fruits and the grated ginger. I fried them for a few minutes and let the cashews caramelise a bit. I should have added the blanched carrots at this stage but then it skipped my mind. Make sure that the ginger does not get burnt. Add in salt, some sugar and the nutmeg powder. 


I boiled the rice with some salt, half the sugar and turmeric powder, till it was almost 70 percent done. I strained the rice and laid it out on a large and deep roaster pan(baking tray) on my dinning table, and let it dry out a bit. 


I added the dry fruits and garam masala mixture on the rice and mixed it with a fork. (Do not forget to add in the blanched carrots if you had not done so earlier.)  I must say, it did look pretty pretty at this stage, and the kitchen was divinely aromatic. 


After all the rice was thoroughly coated with the ghee mixture, I covered the roaster pan(baking tray) with some heavy duty foil and cooked it in a pre-heated oven for around 15-17 minutes at 350F. I checked it around the 10 minute mark, to see how the rice was done. Adjust the timings according to your oven. As I opened the foil, I knew, all was not bad on that day. It was a good experiment.  

My guests finished the last bit of Pulao and that was proof indeed that the What's in a name Pulao had saved the day ! 


Bon Appetit !! 






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BATI CHORCHORI for my Bestie

My Bestie and simply amazing fellow blogger, Priyanka,  had requested me, quite some time back, to post about Bati Chorchori.She is a foodie herself, so a request from her, was extra special for me. With both of us, now in two different countries, for the last few years, weekend meals have lost much of their meaning. Weeekends for Priyanka and yours truly, started off with a typical Girl's Evening Out, which stretched onto a Girl's Night Out or sometimes Girl's Night In, with loads of great food and loads of high spirits(well, literally). All our cribbing about the men in our lives, comparing our respective bosses to Miranda Priestly, washed down by rounds of Rum or Mojitos or Vodka or Dry Martinis, and food, food, food all the way. We even have our very own signature Midnight Salad. We used to whip up this particular salad, at her place, to accompany us, on our nightlong adda, till the dawn was almost cracking. Waiting with bated breath to rewind to those days. Even in my last visit to India, we made sure, we did all of that, to keep the good times rolling. Nostalgia !


Coming back to her request, Bati Chorchori, it was, for one of our weekend lunches, in Priyanka's honor. Bati Chorchori, Crispy Uchhe Bhaja and Mushur Daal with some Gorom Bhaat was our Saturday Lunch. Bati Chorchori with some random veggies, like Broccoli, Carrots,Potatoes and not to forget some Prawns. We were tired of steamed veggies, and Bati Chorchori seemed like a good idea, to prep these veggies. Priyanka had asked me to post about it after I had made it, so that she had an idea on my take on the classic dish. Well, I am guilty in this regard. I did cook it up, but writing about it, took a really long time. Sorry about that girl ! As I cooked up some Bong food, after quite a few days, her request came back to mind.

Bati Chorchori is something which I guess gets made in every Bong household, with their own variations. My mom makes it in her own signature syle, and MIL does it in her own. How do i make it. Well, the ingredients differ for me, but I stick to my Mom's basic Bati Chorchori to experiment with veggies, which the man isnt too fond of eating. Add in some Chingri Maachh(Prawn/Shrimp) and he loves the veggies. So Bati Chorchori saves the day. The name Bati Chorchori, literally translates to,"Cooking in a Bowl." The idea is to add in all the ingredients and the spices  and a dash of water and cover and cook. The steam generated cooks the veggies or protien, and its usually an easier dish to tackle. Bati Chorchori can be cooked up with Veggies, or even small fish, like Mourala or Anchovies or even Prawns. If Bati Chorchori is made with just Protiens, then it has a heady dose of onions and garlic and some chopped fresh tomato and not to forget some Shorsher Tel(Mustard Oil). Bati Chorchori with veggies is usually made without onions or garlic. Its the prawns which often do the trick. My mom makes her Bati Chorchori with some mustard paste and some prawns, and I stick to that, but I have adapted it to suit me.So go ahead, chop up some veggies and add in some mustard paste and cook up some Bati Chorchori.


BATI CHORCHORI: 

Ingredients: 
Large head of Broccoli: 1: Cut into florets and discard the stalks.
Baby Carrots: Cut lengthwise: 1 cup
Potato: 2 medium sized ones: Diced.
Mustard Paste: 2 tbsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
Tumeric powder: 1tsp
Salt: To taste
Green Chilies: 2-3 : chopped(adjust according to heat preferences)
Mustard Oil: 3-4 tbsp
Prawns: De-veined and Peeled and 1/4 cup: I did not have the smaller shrimps, so I diced the larger ones, so that they are almost the size of the veggies.

Procedure: 

In a large pan, add in the mustard oil, and once its hot enough, add in all the broccoli, carrot and potatoes. Stir fry for a few minutes.


Add in the mustard paste, chopped green chilies, the dry spices and salt. Mix well. Cover and cook on medium heat, for around 5 minutes, till the spices lose their rawness. Add in a few splashes of water if you feel that the veggies are sticking to the pan, or the masala can get burnt.


Add in about half a cup of water. Mix well. Cook covered, till the veggies are almost done.


Add in the shrimps, mix well. Cover and cook, stirring frequently.


Cook till the prawns have turned pink and the water has dried up. If you feel that you have added more water, then just cook uncovered, after you have added the prawns. It will help dry out  the dish. Make sure that the veggies do not turn mushy, but are cooked through. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly. This is a slightly spicy and dry dish.

Serve with some hot steamed Basmati Rice and Mushur Daal. I had also made some fries to go with it.


Bon Appetit !!!


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