Thursday, December 28, 2006

Prawn Malai Curry

Chingri Macher Malai Curry is a classic Bengali dish and is my husband's all-time favorite dish with jhinge posto being a close second. (I wish my food list was that simple. I would have trouble listing even my top 20 food items if asked!) Last weekend we were having some friends over for dinner and my husband suggested I make this as one of the items for our guests. Heck - he even offered to de-shell all the prawns for the party, so how could I refuse?

I also wanted to participate in the JFI - Coconut hosted by Ashwini on her blog "Food For Thought" and this dish is made with coconut milk. Eventually for the dinner party I made 2 other dishes using coconut but selected this for the JFI event. Maybe if I have time complete the other write-ups in time, I'll ask Ashwini if I can submit more than one entry :-)

I am sure most Bengali families have their versions of malai curry, with a few tweaks here and there…… and here's mine.

2 pounds prawns/shrimp.
1 can coconut milk (can make this at home but I used store bought)
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 medium-large tomato chopped fine
1 and 1/2 inch ginger
2 tsp garlic paste
1-2 tsp turmeric (or as needed)
1 green chilly or 1 tsp red chilly powder (or adjust to your own taste)
whole garam masala (4/5 green cardamom, 7/8 cloves, 1 inch stick of cinnamon)
1 tsp garam masala powder
~ 2 tsp sugar
Salt and oil - to taste

Heat oil and fry the whole garam masala pieces for a 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic and onion and fry till onions are slightly brown.
Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric, salt and ginger and fry till the oil separates from the masala.
Add the prawns and fry them till the grey color just turns to red/orange. Don't over-fry them beyond this point as they tend to get a little hard on over-cooking.
My MIL fries the prawns separately with salt and turmeric and adds them to masala paste at this point, but I prefer to add them to the masala and fry. I feel the prawns get a bit leathery of pre-frying them, but this is really a matter of personal taste.
Add the coconut milk a little water and cover and let it come to a boil.
Throw in the tsp of garam masala powder and mix well. Then cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or the prawns are completely cooked.
I usually taste the gravy at this point and sometimes need to add a little more sugar or chilly powder. The taste should have a slight tinge of sweetness to balance the other masala but not be too sweet.

As I complete this write up, I realize one thing…. it is hard to give exact measurements of ingredients for dishes even if we make them regularly. The reason I acknowledge this here is all my life I have complained about my Ma, mashi's and pishi's all of whom are excellent cooks. Whenever I ask them for recipes, they list all the ingredients but when asked how much they just say "andaaje" (Means by approximation or use your judgment) and I would complain that if I had a judgement on these things, I wouldn’t be asking them for recipes. But as I do my own write-ups and start to list recipes which I hope someday my daughter can use I am very tempted to say "andaaje" for a bunch of things (specifically the sugar and garam masala powder above)… and the cycle of life continues :-)

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Simple Fish Curry

It's the end of the year, deadlines looming large and work has been especially busy. On such days I really try to think of quick but healthy meals. I had already left the fish out in the morning to de-frost so it needed to be cooked and I had to supress the urge to sit on the couch and order a pizza delivery. In the traditional Bengali style I have seen at home fish is always deep fried first then added to the jhol (or curry). Though I love to eat it that way, frying the pieces is not my favorite task. It creates quite a mess with oil splattering around (needing much clean up afterwards), needs me to be around and most of all is not very healthy.

I decided to try broiling the fish instead of frying and I must say I was pleased with the results. It was not as good as frying the fish (and I would recommend by all means when you have the time and energy do fry it) but was much easier, healthier and the loss in taste was marginal. For simple homestyle cooking, I would certainly try this again.

The recipe is what we just call "tomato maach" or fish with tomatoes. The red color is from the tomatoes. You can adjust the chilly powder to your pwn spice level. Ours is not too high and the color is from the tomato, not chilly powder

1 lb fish (catfish/tilapia any white fish of your choice. I used tilapia fillets)
1 medium-large tomato chopped
~ 3/4 cup chopped onions
1 inch cinnamon stick
3-4 cardamoms (elaichi)
4-5 cloves
~ 1 tsp coriander powder
1 inch piece ginger (paste or grated)
1 tsp garlic (paste or minch)
1/2 tsp chilly powder
1 tsp turmeric
oil and salt to taste

Prep the fish:
Marinate the fish with some salt and turmeric.
option (1) Deep fry the fish pieces and set aside.
option (2) coat the fish pieces with oil (almost like marinating it in oil) such that it has a thin coat of oil on all sides. You could also use Pam Cooking Spray. Broil on high till the fish starts to turn brown on the top. Turn over for the other side. This took me about 15-17 minutes.

Prepare the gravy:
Heat oil and when it warm add the garam masala(cardamom, cloves, cinnamon) and fry. Add the garlic and onions and fry till the onions start to turn brown. Add the tomato, coriander powder, haldi and ginger and fry a few minutes. Then turn the gas low and cover and cook till the tomato has become paste like. I use very little oil so hard to spot if the oil separates from the masala, if you are a bit more generous with the oil this will be the sign to add some water. Once the gravy starts to boil, add the fried or broiled fish pieces and cover the dish. Let it sim for about 10-15 minutes till completely cooked. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kolkata's Mishti Doi

No account of Bengali sweets is complete without "Mishti Doi" or sweet yoghurt. It is a must-have item on all auspicious occasions for Bengalis.Having grown up outside Bengal for most of my life, mishti doi has always been a special treat. (Till recently I don't think it was available in Bombay).... Something we would have only while visiting family in Bengal or Bihar.

So when a friend gave me the recipe for Mishti Doi (and a very simple one too!) I was thrilled. I made it at once and then I filed it away so well that I never foundit again! :-) The other day, I tried it from memory and it turned out very close the mishti doi we get in Kolkata.

Without much ado, here is the recipe:

1 can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 can (12 oz) Evaporated Milk
~1 cup plain yogurt

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a flat over-safe container. Bake at 200 F for about 1 hr 15 min or till it sets. Cool and then refrigerate.

BTW, did you know that even early Vedic texts speak of curds and call it the "food of the Gods"? A blended curd-rice dish is mentioned in the Rigveda as karambha (I have been told that is it's name name even today in Gujarati).

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A new beginning

It's been a while that I have been surfing other people's food blogs and have always wanted to start one of my own. It would be really nice to have an archive of recipes, musings and reminiscences for my daughter…. but I'd keep putting it off….too many other things to do!!

Then while I was surfing VKN's MyDhaba, I read about the "Feed a Hungry Child" Campaign. A very good cause and I was determined to contribute a few recipes to it. I thought this would be a very good time nudge myself and get the ball rolling…

I am worried about a lot of things, Do I have time to maintain a blog? Do I really have enough recipes of my own to do this? Will this become one more of my hobbies that start off with great passion and then forget about once the novelty wears off?
Only time will tell....

But for now: Tadaaa! Welcome to my blog!