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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Semaiyer Payesh(Sweet Vermicelli pudding)

This post goes out to 'Hearth and Soul Blog Hop#41'!
Imprisoned inside our homes for the greater part of the ruthless snowy months, we would plan out with friends over steaming cups of coffee about where our first springtime jaunt will be!Like the rumbling steam inside a heated cooker,the desire to have a peek at the clear,azure sky with sinewy strands of white clouds kept on swelling up in our hearts.The primal nature of man,I believe...the desire to be listlessly free!

And what better a place for this rambuctious freedom than Niagara!We have been there umpteen times now(almost anyone on the countenance of the Americas must have been so!) but the lure of the gurgling waters,cascading down incessantly onto sculpted stones,the banshee strains of the swooshing water playing a lithe tune and the sheer magnanimity of the Falls have managed to leave me spellbound everytime I visit.The Falls,to me,is an ornate pride that steals all glory with humble and silent acknowledgement,years and years on;an exhilarating experience that keeps on lingering in some corner of the being.

Sunny Saturday for us,was thus,a visit to Niagara.It was warm,pleasant and the sun shone bright.A perfect outing and a happy mind!

There has been a post lying drafted for quite sometime now and I intend to put this up before the sun sets on the day!The post is about how I made 'Semaiyer Payesh' for a Friday evening gathering at a friends's place last week.'Payesh',in chaste Bengali,or 'Payasam' is originally a sweetened milk and rice concoction which serves as an auspicious offering to deities as part of Hindu rituals and is a must for a Bengali birthday.There are variations of this recipe though,with rice being replaced by 'Semai' or 'Sevaiyan' which is nothing but sweet Vermicelli.So essentially,the preparation in question is a sweet and creamy Vermicelli dessert.

Just to let you know,I am hosting the 'Let's break Bread together' event at my place and its currently on till April 22. I'd love to have all your yummy Bread recipes to drop in - so do take out time to pay me a visit and keep posted!

Monday, March 29, 2010

My blog template is nuts!

There seems to be some problem with the server which hosts my blog template.It is for this reason,that my blog has temporarily lost the blogpost headers.

I believe the problem will be sorted out very soon and my blog will have its original look shortly.Please do keep visiting in the meantime and the blogpost headers in the sidebar will help figure out the headings for the time being.

Thanks for dropping by!
Have a nice day!

Updated - My blog template is now up and working!Things are in order and I'm at peace...Amen!:)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spiced and curried up Salmon

This post goes to the lovely 'Hearth and Soul Blog Hop # 37' and the 'Fish Blog Hop' at Katherine's place!!

The temperature plummeted yesterday evening,without a warning.I was out with a couple of friends hanging about the nearby departmental store after calling it a day at work.It was not a leisurely visit,and hence not all sugar and spice.I had to pick up some veggies and some common household knick-knacks.The veggie tray had almost been gawking at me for the past couple of days reminding me of my promise to fill it up and then  going back on my word again and again for dearth of time and energy.I was beginning to feel a bit contrived.
 I picked up all that I needed and was trudging back home when a scathingly chilly wind lashed across my face.It had not been that bad even an hour ago but out of nowhere the breeze now seemed to have turned into a gusty wind.And it grazed my face and bare hands and I so longed to be indoors!

I checked the weather forecast...the temperature had dropped unwittingly and it would go over the other side of zero by nightfall.Ohh not again!And I thought spring was here!

All the wind and chills made me start craving for something nice and spicy for dinner.Standing at the refrigerator door,opened wide,a can of Clover Leaf Sockeye canned Salmon caught my attention.Why not give this a try!I had devoured a canned Salmon preparation at a friends' place long back and had found the fish to have a nice sweet fishy fragrance about it.As such, I am not too much into canned foods.My growing up years in India somewhat saw canned food as a strict no-no(it is much in vogue now though!) and I was always advised to eschew canned ready-made foods and churn up a home-made gruel,whatever it might come out to be!

Having been raised on such beliefs,initially it would be hard to look canned foods in the eye.But I was slowly growing seasoned over the passage of time,and learned to gingerly manage dinners with canned edibles now and then.And this was precisely what I was going to do this cold,Thursday night!A dinner of canned Salmon cooked with some gorgeous Indian masala and fried rice,a spicy dinner to go with the nip in the air!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Of apples,yogurt and sunshine!

Oh the lovely sunshine!!The sun is again on us after a short (or should I say relatively long?!?)hiatus of about a week and it feels so lovely.We have spent almost whole of the last week fretting,grudging and admonishing the cloudy skies with furrowed eyebrows.Our ire has finally given vent and Bingo!!We have this lovely sunny day!
 I sit down by the window munching on a rosy apple cut into slender slivers.A bowl of pearly white glistening yogurt,fresh out of the freezer,rests on the coffee table.I intend to demurely slather up a generous blob of the yogurt with an apple sliver and dash it straight into my mouth!The crunch of the apple rings across and so does the freshness of the creamy yogurt.Infuses the sense of a totally wholesome and healthy dessert all rolled in one.My version of an impromptu apple-yogurt cream dessert!

A couple of days back,I managed to lay hands on a French Vanilla flavored yogurt at the local store.I am quite lousy at selecting yogurt,out of the whole gamut of them on fare,since it is not among my favorites.The one I most commonly get is the natural yogurt for marinating my chicken curries and occasionally maybe a strawberry or peach-flavored one(more so on the Husband's whim).But this day,the French Vanilla version somehow caught my eye!Not that I had tasted it before,but somehow the label looked inviting!I have been quite in love with French Vanilla coffee at Tim Horton's and something in my head cajoled me to give this one a try.I obliged.

Back home,I decided to add French Vanilla Yogurt to my usual cake recipe and bake a French Vanilla flavored cake with cashewnuts thrown in(I had those at hand!).It turned out to be quite good with the soft scent of vanilla lingering on in the oven,long after the cake was done.

Linking up this post to 'Hearth and Soul Blog Hop # 44'!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ChinBen Chicken - its all in the name!

This post goes to 'Hearth and Soul' Blog Hop # 40' and 'Friday Blog Hop' at Katherine's!!!

The culinary veterans in my family have always loved to enlighten us youngsters with some or the other tenet about traditional home cooking.One of the oft repeated ones would be that a traditional dish should always have the ingredients that it demands,in the perfect quantities and should be cooked in the way that it has been for ages galore!The slighest hint of any diversion from methods would be angrily balked at and would be prophesized to result into utter disaster!

The obedient flagbearer of family customs that I am,I have thus refrained from even trying to tweak any traditional recipe.That it often comes out to be something else inspite of my sincerest efforts should be considered a shortcoming on my part,but never blasphemy!

But then,the impish rebel in me has a mind of its own!And that is precisely why,I do derive a sadistic pleasure in zeroing in on some very basic ingredients and camouflaging them in iconic combinations with the sincere urge to create something absolutely nascent.Whatever be the chimerical thought,the bottomline however remains,that the end product should be edible and presentable...the minimum requirements!

The latest idea to hit me,on these lines,was to prepare something which would be a cross between a Chinese and a Bengali dish!A virulent mayhem ensued in whatever grey and white matter my cranium manages to house and I finally settled down for a Chicken dish with veggies,while would be Chinese at face value but thoroughly Bengali in taste!The good news is that,luckily enough I was not banished to Alcatraz at the end of the day and the plates were relievingly clean!Phew!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Cauliflower delight

My side of the bed usually has the sunrays sauntering in every morning.But today would be clearly different,the mind thought at the first flutter of my woken-up-from-deep-slumber eyes this morning.I already had the forecast by heart since whole of the week,the husband and I had fussed a lot over whether to make plans for the weekend or not.The forecast had indicated,in clear bold letters - 'CLOUDY' .After having spent countless weekends cocooned behind closed doors all through snowy winter,my heart quite obviously longed for a weekend jaunt;but then a cloudy day would not be my idea of a day I can happily spend outdoors,the husband reasoned.I reluctantly nodded connivance.

As the day drew on,clouds huddled in the sky and loomed large.This would be one of those days,when I would like to snuggle up on a deep couch with a steaming cup of fresh hot chocolate,wrap myself up cosily in a warm blanket and pore over an engaging novel sans any distractions whatsoever!And what better than a whole lazy Saturday,I thought!I finished off more than half of the novel,lapped up my hot chocolate in gluttonous sips(I even had a second helping!) and lazed to my heart's content before finally giving a thought to lunch.

There has been a cauliflower gazing helplessly at me each time I open the veggie basket in the refrigerator for quite a few days now.I had been saving it for something grand,but I knew not what it would be!Fed up at my own procrastination,I rummaged through recipes and finally chanced upon a lovely recipe by Sandeepa on Bong Mom's Cookbook - Chaal Kopi.So that would be it!Chaal Kopi on a misty Saturday afternoon!I took liberty to tweak it at a couple of places just to make up for the absence of some of the ingredients and hence have rechristened it 'Chalfulkopi'.Nevertheless,the idea remains Sandeepa's...and thanks to her for the fantastic recipe:)

I am sending this very favorite recipe of mine to the lovely event 'Flavors of Bengal' started by Nayna of 'Simply Food' and being guest hosted by Priya of 'Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes'.Thanks for the lovely event ladies!
Also linking this to 'Healing foods - Cauliflower' event at Vardhini's wonderful place!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shrimp,coconut and euphoria!

Yesterday we had some friends over for dinner at our place and an evening of unadulterated 'adda' (a session of light-hearted banter,which is a must for any Bengali den) followed. It had been quite some time since we have had one;everyone had somehow got entangled in one or the another preoccupation in the past couple of weeks...mostly deadlines to meet,working late,endless paperwork...everyone was looking forth to such a Friday evening very soon...

After a good scouring of politics,state of affairs in Kolkata (my home state in India)...ever-burgeoning price of fish and vegetables...Bollywood,new releases,movie reviews...a couple of impromptu strains from a Manna Dey or a Kishore Kumar number,the discussion eventually turned to another Bengali favorite-food!Amidst all the chatter and laughter,my mind seemed to reflect time and again on the thought,that,over a stretched period of time,living away from the place where I grew up,the people whom I have known and the places I have known so closely,I have realised that all souls living this existance far off from their own country and homeland have tried to establish their own identity in a new land through the social trinity of culture,cuisine and camaraderie.And that was exactly what we were up to,this balmy spring evening in March...trying to find a common oneness in our adopted land. 

All the lopsided reflections apart,I had decided to keep some very authentic Bengali items on the menu for dinner last night.More so,because some of our not-Bengali friends(who have by this time become accustomed to our incessant chatter in 'Bangla'!) constantly demanded a generous spread of these Bengali delicacies!I will post my 'Chingri Malai curry' (Shrimp in coconut sauce) preparation today but with a small disclaimer;the original preparation,as I have seen my Maa prepare,uses coconut milk,whilst I use the milk as well as the coconut.In my opinion,coconut adds a certain choppiness when combined with shrimp and that is what refrains me from keeping the coconut at bay!If coconut is not your cup of tea,feel free to tweak my recipe replacing shredded coconut with coconut milk:)

Sending this post to 'Midweek Fiesta # 6at Amy's place,'Fresh Food Friday' at 'la bella vita' and...
...'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's Country Cottage!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mushrooms and memories

It often occurs to me that memories are such strange stuff!I find it bewildering enough,that all the years I have spent on this earth now,I have been doing something or the other every milli and microsecond.I will not say that I remember everything but yet,there are things that give a peek now and then,completely upstaging me at times!

For the first job that I ever had,I had to travel quite far away from my own home city to a neighboring state.The state was Orissa (a state in India renowned for its rich cultural heritage)and the city was Bhubaneswar.Emerging from the everyday chaos that is Kolkata,Bhubaneswar seemed to be a sleepy,peaceful city where the hustle and bustle swarmed just around the railway station and maybe just a couple of places like Rajmahal Chhak,Master Canteen and Kalpana Square.For us,these places would be reluctant substitutes for Nandan,Park Street or Esplanade...but nevertheless,our much-wanted weekend jaunts,on those bleary weekends when we would not have packed ourselves off to Kolkata on the Friday night Puri Express or Chennai Mail,either to impose a self-restraint on our purse strings(which would anyway go loose within a few weeks time!) or give company to a friend in need,who would have been bogged down with some damned ghoulish assignment at work.

During our trips round the city,I would often notice wobbly makeshift wooden tables by the roadside,with transparent packets of something arranged in neat rows on the table.Be it sunshine or rain,the owner of the tables would stay put on equally wobbly stools and vend away the packets.It seemed like the packets housed something really interesting...they would fly off the tables in minutes!Having garnered a curiosity for quite sometime,I eventually queried a friend and found out that the fare on sale was actually mushrooms!I got to know that mushrooms are very popular as a food item all across Orissa and more so,as a proteinaceous 'veg' substitute for any kind of meat.It was news to me,since in Kolkata,mushroom is a so-called exotic item and culinary trysts with mushrooms do not happen every other day in the common householder's kitchen.

Now when I was talking of memories,I was talking of this mushroomy memory coming back to me last evening.Without much ado,a packet of button mushrooms soon found way into my kitchen and off I went,rattled away in haste for a spicy Chilli Mushroom culmination!(Psst...I might well confess that is neither the original nor the traditional way of cooking it...I just happened to rustle this up for my friends and they liked it lots!I'm still on the lookout for tastier versions...till then mine is all I can offer:))

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rain,rain go away...come again some other day!

Well,its been raining for the past four days now!How strange for the rain to be happening at this time of the year!People around here tell me that these should have been the days when it would be time for the snow to say goodbye and springtime to set in.Indeed it had!We had snow on the last day of February,but the moment March butted in,there was lovely sunshine around,lifting up my mood.But then suddenly,the clouds rushed in from God-knows-where and I watched with agony as the weekend almost flew by behind closed doors.

Not that it was all that boring!Because I just cannot afford to let myself wallow in any sort of negative feeling for too long(they say that's just in my blood;its B+!!) So,I just let my culinary juices flow and thought of rustling up something spicy to mix'n'match the dank weather outside.Weekends for me is usually something a bit removed from the usual dal-bhaat-torkari routine that we have.I rummaged my freezer and lo and behold!There was a whole packet of shrimps nestling right there.So I instantly knew what the dinner would be - spicy,hot garlic and ginger shrimp(cooked the Chinese way) and noodles!The husband is very fond of Chinese dishes and so I almost make it a point to make a mental note of any seemingly easy Chinese recipe that I come across.This rainy day,those mental notes did me a huge favor!The rainy day was no longer cloudy and morose as I cooked my way to glory!

This post of mine goes to the lovely space at Hearth and Soul Hop...
and to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's lovely space!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chatpata Chingri Chat(Tangy Shrimp Salad)

I have been pretty irregular of late!So many things have happened since I wrote my last post.Sandra Bullock has won the Best Actress Academy Award for 2010 and Ben Stiller's mockery of the chartbusting 'Avatar' has left James Cameron flustered!It is nice to see Ms.Bullock getting recognised for her astounding performance in 'The Blind Side'.I have always been an ardent admirer since I first watched her perform in 'Speed'.I am not so much of an expert in analysing theatrics,but still my measured understanding of the arts tells me that she has indeed come a long way,so far as her acting is concerned.Kudos to the no-frills actress.We all will wish to see more such performances from her!

Now although I had cleverly skirted the issue of my being irregular,I must truthfully confess that I had been having a pretty tedious time at work and had been bogged down by a couple of just-not-leaving-you-in -peace issues.Thankfully they are off my back now and I can take a deep breath!Often when I have such days on my schedule at a stretch,I go for a couple of fast yet smart dishes that are both tasty and easy on the cook.I will share one such recipe today.It is basically a Shrimp salad (in chaste Bengali we would call it 'Chingri bhate' which means softened and mashed shrimp) which tastes yummy as an accompaniment with steaming hot boiled rice.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A homemade Mocha cake on International Women's day!

A post for the 'Hearth and Soul' Blog Hop # 38!Happy International Women's Day everyone!

Its International Women's Day and just a flurry of thoughts to share before I unburden my excitement on a finely churned out recipe!

Not all countries in the world observe the 8th of March as International Women's day,but a great many do.Started off by the Socialist Party of America in 1909,this day was flagged off initially to recognise the status and human rights of women in contemporary society and honor their existence.But gradually,the political flavor waned away and made way to just another day when women from all walks of life would be celebrated on a common platform.

This day did not hold much significance to me as a kid.As, I presume,must be the case with many of my contemporaries!In those days,we did not have mobiles and text messages or even the Internet to flood us with customized messages,letting us know that such a day actually exists!But then,not a day actually went by without being in awe of the amazing women all around me and that started right from the home ground.I remember being dumfounded at my Ma's incredible ability to be always there, doing all the right things;from the lunchbox to our homework to delicious lip-smacking meals...to the restless fussing during my exams as I woke up late nights and burnt the midnight oil to tackle my Geometry extras at the last minute- she was always there.Growing up,it gradually made sense that there had been a lot of trials and tribulations and scores of her sacrifices,just to make me the person that the world knows today as.And I learnt to be all the more thankful to God.

Some of my teachers,who taught me in Kindergarten and eventually till middle school,also managed to leave a lasting impression on me and at times,I wonder,just how mystical they might have been!After all,molding a character ain't no easy task!But they did so with all gusto!A thought for all those incredible ladies - 'Thank You'!

I found out time to bake a rich Mocha cake today.I had been panning sample recipes from the www before mustering courage to make the final go!And muster I did!Join me as I share my slightly-tweaked-here-n-there recipe for a Mocha cake. This is especially for all Moms out there - our best friends for life!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bacon curry Indian-style on a lazy Saturday afternoon

The azure skies have had a sparkling shine all throughout this past week!All of it was so refreshing after last week's massive snow-haul!The small garden at my doorstep had almost turned into the Snow Queen's abode;the snow almost reached upto the window-sill.Seemed like I could reach out and scoop in a handful of white,grainy snow.All of it is slowly melting to water and there are small puddles all over the place.Back in India,we would have small puddles with shimmering water all over our garden after every thunderous monsoon spell.With the first rains,there would be a drab mistiness hanging in the air. The earthy scent of parched land recently bathed in rainwaters, would waft through and the cool,almost peppery breeze would graze past the skin!The puddles in my garden,as I see them now,take me back to those good old days,albeit, it is the snow melting into water and leisurely tapering away into small streams and not the rainwaters any more!
I tried out a lovely new recipe today.Borrowed my Ma's incredibly simple way of cooking Chicken Keema curry and tried it out with minced Bacon instead of minced chicken.It turned out to be quite as good,save for a slight extra crunch that comes with the Bacon.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick-n-Easy Chicken Biriyani

Caught up with the movie 'Coco before Chanel' yesterday! This 2009 movie is a biographical account of the life of famed fashion designer Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel who turned out to be one of the greatest fashion trend-setters in the early 1920's thereafter leaving behind a remarkable fashion signature that demands recognition to this day.The movie,originally in French (Coco avant Chanel), has been directed by Anne Fontaine and chronicles the life of Gabrielle from the time she was left at an orphanage by her father to her becoming the doyen of the Chanel empire.Fontaine takes the audience through a determined young woman's emotional journey and depicts how Chanel tweaked her amorous dalliances with rich French gentry to create her own niche in French upper class society.Her perseverance of her dreams and beliefs led her to carve out a fortune, using her immense talent and razor-sharp business acumen.Acclaimed French actress Audrey Tatou plays the title role and is quite convincing as the naive,yet determined Coco.It was a good watch with ample food for thought!

Check the link from YouTube for the movie trailer:

It happens often,that after a good movie,my heart craves for good food!Yesterday was no different,and I felt like having something sumptuous but simple.It was then that I remembered that a half-used pack of Shaan Biriyani Masala has been nestling idly in my kitchen cabinet for quite some time now.Why not rustle up a plate of piping hot Biriyani!The heart and stomach echoed connivance, and I was on my way!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Holi-special Malpoa (Sweetened flour and semolina pancake in sugar syrup)

The festival to usher in Spring is finally here!Wish everyone a very happy,fun-filled and colorful Holi 2010!!

In Bengal, Holi is celebrated more as 'Dol Jatra' which,roughly translated,means 'The Swing Festival'.As per ancient lores, Lord Krishna, a mythological Hindu character and a revered deity among Hindus would enjoy the advent of springtime by frolicking with his 'Gopinis' or female companions. He would amuse them by playing mellifluous tunes on His flute, all the while swinging with his lady love,Radha.The tradition of 'Dol Jatra' takes up from there and the ritual is to place deities of Lord Krishna and Radha on a bedecked swing or palanquin and carry on celebrations all around them,smearing each other with 'Abeer' or colored powder.As kids, we would get decked up in yellowish-hued sarees with dense,closely-knit marigold wreaths adorning our sprightly selves and danced to choreographed compositions of Tagore.It would take weeks before we could actually get over the intoxication of the 'Dol Jatra' celebrations,all the while wishing deep in our hearts,that the festival would come a bit sooner the next year!

In traditional Bengali homes, special sweets and savouries are prepared to usher in Holi celebrations.In keeping with customs, I prepared 'Malpoa' which is a sweetened flour and semolina pancake dipped in sugar syrup, and crisp 'Nimki' or deep-fried flour crackers with whole spices.Both of them are very easy to make and can be done in a jiffy!I will post the Malpoa recipe for today's post.

Peyajkolir chorchori with Chingri(Spring Onion mishmash with Shrimp)

It has been snowing hard for the last couple of days.The snowflakes seem to be cascading down the skies in a never-ending flow,filling up every nook and cranny they can find.The snow is there on roof-tops,on windshields...on the window-sills and on even the nook above the front-door keyhole!

There is snow nesting snugly amidst the flaky olive green branches of the pine trees.The snow fills up our walkway and shovelling is the first thing one gets to think about,first thing in the morning.

Everything is white everywhere.I desperately need some color in my life!

Spring Onion or 'Peyajkoli' as we know it in Bengali,is basically a plant in itself.It is a half-developed root bulb which makes it a bit milder in flavor than Onions.It also goes by the name 'Green Onion'(US and Canada) while the Irish refer to them as 'Scallions'.Mostly it is used to flavor up soups or in salads,but the Bengalis have a very beautiful way of cooking it with potatoes and shrimp.The resplendent ochre curry is sure to whet up your appetite!