Tag Archives: Bengali

Mango Date Chutney with a Bengali Touch

It’s the end of May, and I’m so happy to announce that Winter has finally decided to leave Minnesota!  In all my memory–granted, that’s a little less than 30 years–I have never suffered through such a horrible, never-ending season.  It was terrible.

The -60 degree F (-51.1 degrees C, for all you non-American peeps out there) windchills not only made life miserable for me (actually, this winter life was miserable for nearly everyone!) but it also took it’s toll on my beautiful gardens.

Sadly, my beloved lavender plant did not survive.  It’s dead stems are still protruding out of the ground and I keep hoping maybe–just maybe–they’ll send out some new, green shoots.  So far, no luck.

I’ve been meaning to get a few new posts up on this space for quite a while now, but I’ve just been so busy with cleaning the yard/gardens, mulching, and planting.  I keep telling Piyush that he gets the better end of the deal.  He pays for the supplies and I do all the labor while he’s out golfing.  Haha…after all, a happy marriage is all about compromise!

bengali mango and date chutneyLast week our local market had mangoes on sale.  The mangoes we get here in Minnesota are mostly tasteless and I don’t really enjoy to eat them plain as a snack. However, they do star wonderfully in a delicious, homemade chutney!

Typically (or at least what Piyush tells me), in India mango chutney is made with green, unripe mangoes.  But because ours have little flavor I always choose to let them ripen until they’re at their sweetest.

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Simple and Delicious Gobi Sabzi: Indian Spiced Cauliflower

indian spiced cauliflower, fried cauliflower, cauliflower sabziThere are certain foods that have the fascinating ability to transport me to another place and time.  Sometimes it’s the taste of a fragrant, freshly baked slice of bread.  One bite and I’m nine years old, back in my grandmother’s farm kitchen giggling with my cousins.  Oh how I miss my cousins…

Other times it’s one sip of a cheap keg beer at a friend’s wedding causing me to remember my college days and all the (embarrassingly fun) moments with long-lost friends whom I’ll probably never cross paths with again (even you, crazy Toby!).

And then there is is this.   Continue reading

Anda Curry (Egg Curry)…My way!

anda, anda curry, bengali egg curry, egg curry

Anda Curry is one of Piyush’s favorite dinners.  It’s inexpensive, incredibly quick to throw together and is super simple to make! In fact, it’s so easy that Piyush is usually the one who makes this dish for himself–although his recipe is completely different than mine.  He likes his curries “watery” and I prefer mine thick.  Tomato, Tuhmahto. 

The hardest part to this curry is cooking the eggs, and even that is easy if you know a few tricks. Continue reading

Aloo Sabzi: Potatoes Cooked in Mustard Oil

potato curry, dry potato curry, bengali potato curry, bengali potatoes, potatoes cooked in mustard oil, potato sabzi

Dry Potato “Curry”: Aloo Sabzi

Sometimes the most ordinary of foods can be made extraordinary simply by pairing them with the right ingredients.  For this delicious potato dish, I took a lot of inspiration from my mother-in-law’s cooking and the tasty foods I ate while in West Bengal. Continue reading

Kala

Gulab Jamuns and Kala Jamuns: Indian Sweet Success!

Whoa! I haven’t blogged for over a week! I had quite a few posts started, but I just couldn’t find the motivation (or the time!) to complete them.

But really, if I’m being honest, it’s probably mostly because I just wanted a break from the computer…and the kitchen.

Indian Sweet Kala Jumun

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you may remember my first attempt to make gulab jamuns.  If you’re new to my blog, Namaste and thank you for visiting! You can read all about this tasty little sweet HERE.

Although gulab jamuns are quite tasty, kala jamuns are definitely far superior in taste (in my not-so humble opinion).  Kala jumuns are simply blackened gulab jamuns.  A scant teaspoon (more or less, depending on your recipe) of sugar is added to the dough.

When the dough balls are fried, the sugar begins to caramelize, creating a dark colored shell.

Frying the dough balls

After a few minutes…

Kala Jamuns: Black Gulab Jamuns

I’m not really that good at frying things–remember when I melted the plastic spoon (what was I thinking?!) trying to deep fry samosas?–so some lessons I’ve learned when deep/shallow frying are:

  1.  Do not use plastic utensils.  This should be pretty self explanatory, but apparently it isn’t.  Either that, or I have no common sense.
  2. Don’t keep the heat turned to HIGH, you’ll end up burning your food–and yourself.
  3. Don’t put too many things in the oil at once.  The temperature will lower significantly and the food might be oily/mushy.
  4. Don’t use the wok.  I’m not sure why this didn’t work for me, because it seems like it’d be a great pan to fry stuff in.  But my oil got way too hot, way too fast…and wouldn’t cool down.  My food was burned on the outside and raw on the inside.  Maybe there’s some frying-with-a-wok secret that I’m not aware of?  Care to enlighten me?
  5. While frying stuff–especially things that cook relatively quickly–you’ve got to pay attention.  This isn’t the time to organize your spice cabinet, or unload the dishwasher.  Trust me.

Aside from frying the dough-balls, they also have to be rolled properly.  If your dough balls have cracks all over them, they will probably break apart in the oil.

They might also become hard in the centers…and no one enjoys hard gulab jamuns!  There are a few simple ways to avoid the cracking of your gulab jamun dough.

First, you’ll want to be sure the dough isn’t too dry.  You might need to add a little additional liquid–only a tiny bit at a time.  The ideal gulab jamun dough should be pretty soft, and not crumbly.  It also shouldn’t be sticky or overly wet.  You’re aiming to find a happy balance between wet and dry ingredients.

If your dough seems fine, then maybe you need to re-think your rolling technique.  What i do is pinch a piece of dough and roll a ball between my two hands.  The ball will usually have a few cracks.  Then, I simply flatten it in my hands and re-roll the ball.

The photo on the top is what my dough looked like after I just rolled it into a ball with my hands.  This is what that same piece of dough looked like after I flattened it and re-rolled it:

You can see it’s a pretty huge difference!

Now, since we’ve talked a little about technique, let’s get to the recipe!  This recipe is quite good–perfect, even.  It took quite a few trials, and a lot of failures;

FAIL! The dough was too wet and I used too much baking soda. The dough looked perfect, but as soon as it hit the oil it swelled huge…and then collapsed.  The oil also was not hot enough.

but I’ve finally figured out how to make this extremely popular Indian sweet at home!

After my first trial, I got quite a bit of feedback from blog readers (thank you!) and my in-laws.  In fact, Maa (my mother-in-law) was so determined to help me, she attempted to make a batch so she could give me some pointers (and a great recipe!).

Maa’s looked so pretty, so perfect;

Maa’s beautiful gulab jamuns

but sadly we don’t get fresh khoya (thickened milk “dough”) here in America.  And I definitely didn’t have time to sit over a stove and stir all day.  So I did a little searching and found a bunch of things I could use in replacement of the fresh khoya.

Luckily, I was able to find something called “mawa milk powder” at my local Indian market.  Mawa powder is probably the next best thing to actual fresh khoya.  It’s similar to milk powder–but it’s thicker.  It is basically a dried version of khoya (you can learn about the differences between regular milk powder and mawa powder HERE, if you’re interested).

So now that I had the mawa powder, I had to figure out how to turn it into khoya.  I did a lot of research online, and couldn’t really find a definite answer.  I found one recipe that said to use 2 cups mawa powder and 1 cup of liquid.  So I tried it.  I kept adding milk/mawa until I got the amount of khoya Maa told me I’d need.

The dough looked promising, but it just didn’t work.  The gulab jamuns fell apart in the oil and became quite flat.  After a lot of experimenting, I finally stumbled across the magic and mysterious ratio of mawa powder to liquid!

Kala Jamuns with a candied raspberry, pistachios and rose petals

The sugar syrup is quite easy.  Just toss 3 cups of sugar along with about 2 1/2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  I added a few spices–cardamom and rosewater (I never really measure)–and let it cook for a good 20 minutes, until it thickened and became quite sticky.

When it’s the right consistency, remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

You can add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, maple syrup, lavender, rose water…the options are endless!  Just be sure to taste and add a little at a time so that the spices don’t become overwhelming  (especially important with cinnamon and rosewater!).

This makes quite a lot of syrup, more than you’ll ever eat with the gulab jamuns.  When the sweets are gone, I strain the syrup into a bottle and toss it in the fridge, labeled as “Gulab Jamun Syrup”.  It’s perfect on pancakes, in coffee, or to use in baking!

Gulab Jamun (Kala Jamun) Recipe:

Makes approximately 15 gulab jamuns–depending what size you make the dough balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Mawa powder (available at Indian grocery stores, or online)
  • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 small pinches baking soda (approximately 1/8 tsp.)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. half & half (start with 4, add more if needed)
  • spices- as desired (cardamom, clove, cinnamon…ect. Add whatever you like, just be sure not to add too much)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (only if making kala jamuns, leave out if making gulab jamuns).

Directions:

  • Heat a mixture of oil and ghee (I add about a tbsp. of ghee to whatever the amount of oil) in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick fry-pan).  You don’t need a ton of oil, maybe anywhere from 1/2 c. to 1 c. (this can be re-used a couple times).   Heat to approximately 300 degrees F.
  • While the oil is coming to temperature, toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Knead the mixture for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and soft.  Add additional liquid, as needed.
  • Roll the dough into crack-free balls, about the size of a large marble.  They will expand while cooking.
  • Once the oil comes to temperature, fry the dough balls in batches–about 4 at a time–until the outsides become brown or black (for kala jamuns) and the interior is cooked.  This should take about 4 minutes.  Be sure to flip the balls around so that all parts have equal color.
  • Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute.  Toss into the syrup.
  • Let the gulab jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 20 minutes to an hour before serving–for best flavor!

Kala jamuns, unlike gulab jamuns, are not traditionally served in a bowl of sugar syrup.  Instead, they are usually left to soak the syrup, and then served “dry.”  But I say, do what you want! :)  Rules are made to be broken!

This recipe is absolutely perfect, and I think it’s the closest I could possibly get to recreating what I tasted in India!  Especially for the kala jamuns.  The outsides were sweet, black and oh so tasty!  The insides were moist and soft–not at all dry!

Piyush and I enjoyed these outside with a steaming glass of chai.  Indian sweets pair excellently with chai!

We also shared most of the sweets with friends and family (after all, I made about 5 batches…I was determined to make them perfect!), but they can also be frozen along with some syrup.

If you freeze them, pop them in the microwave for a minute–or so–to warm them up!

Toss in some slit chilies!

Aloo Gobi (Indian Spiced Potatoes and Cauliflower)

Since knowing Piyush and his family, I have eaten–and grown to love–foods I swore I didn’t like.  Foods I absolutely, positively hated.   Foods like: cucumbers, chilies,tomatoes (unless they were served in a bottle clearly marked HEINZ–I love ketchup) and the oh-so-dreaded cauliflower!

On the (very) rare occasions that my mom prepared this unpopular–at least in my household–white vegetable, it was either served raw with ranch dressing (I hate ranch!) or boiled until it turned to mush.  It smelled funny; and I didn’t like it.

I had completely banished cauliflower from my life.

That is, until I tasted aloo gobi.

Aloo Gobi: Indian Spiced Potatoes and Cauliflower

I don’t quite remember the first time I tried this dish, it was so long ago; but I can tell you that it changed my life.

It taught me that vegetables could–and do–have flavor.   This simple–yet complex– vegetarian dish also helped me to realize that vegetables don’t have to be mindlessly tossed on my plate alongside a giant hunk of chicken.

Instead, they can shine on their own; as a flavorful and filling meal.

Aloo Gobi is an easy, and very inexpensive, dish to make on a busy evening.  In it’s simplest form, it consists of potatoes, cauliflower and Indian spices.  But Indians are very innovative, so you’ll find that every part of the country–and practically every household–has their own version; sometimes adding tomatoes, peas, curry leaves, or even a few squeezes of lime juice.

This is my basic version, but feel free to make the recipe your own.  Add what you have on hand.  Do you have some forgotten carrots in the back of your fridge?  Are they sprouting little roots?  Peel them, and toss them in!  Personally, I think crushed peanuts would be a pleasant addition.  Anything goes!…well, almost.

Toss in some slit chilies!

Aloo Gobi ( Spiced Potato and Cauliflower)

Serves 4

This recipe will yield an incredibly delicious, but rather dry dish.  If you would like to make this dish more like a curry, add a little water and some chopped tomato (about 1 roma tomato would be just fine).  Aloo Gobi is delicious served with naan or rotis, and makes an excellent side dish!

Ingredients:
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (or 1/2 regular-sized)- cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium sized potatoes- peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 jalapenos- seeded and diced (leave the seeds in for extra heat)
  • thai or serano chilies- leave whole, but slice 2 or 3 slits in the chili (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • salt- to taste
  • black pepper- to taste
  • 1/4 corriander (cilantro)- chopped, extra to garnish
Directions:
  • Prepare all vegetables and keep them near.  Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
  • Once the seeds begin to pop and crackle, add the cauliflower, potatoes, chilies, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin and garam masala.  Stir everything to combine.
  • Continue to stir/fry for about 10-15 minutes, until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked to your liking.
  • Once the vegetables are properly cooked, season with salt and pepper and add the chopped corriander.
  • Serve, garnished with additional chopped corriander.

Indian spiced potatoes and cauliflower: Aloo Gobi

Tonight, because Piyush wanted something more than just the aloo gobi, I served it with some vegetarian momos.  Momos are incredible, and if you haven’t tried them, you must!  You can learn more about them, and find my recipe HERE.

Aloo Gobi with Vegetarian Momos

And now, because I’ve been talking about vegetables, I thought I’d share a few shots of stuff from my garden.  This heat-wave we’re currently experiencing is causing my plants to struggle a little, but overall they’re doing pretty good.

…and I have to admit, no vegetable tastes better than one you’ve grown yourself.  I feel so excited when I pull something out of the dirt!  And so proud!  :)

This shallot became an awesome raspberry vinaigrette! I’ll share the recipe soon!

Heirloom Amish Paste Tomatoes. This plant was almost dead, but it’s been coaxed back to life!

Basil! I have a giant basil plant as the centerpiece on my outdoor table. It’s thriving, and smells so good!

And because it really is amazing….

It deserves a close-up! :)

Home-Style Chicken Masala (Indian-Spiced Chicken Stew)

It’s no secret that I love Indian food.  Love may even be an understatement.  Truthfully, I am obsessed with the cuisine!

Sure, I enjoy the typical restaurant fare: chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and even heaps of naan slathered with ghee (clarified butter).  Yes,  I admitted it.  I love ghee.  But, that’s not the point…(**quickly changes topic**)

What I’m trying to say is that the restaurant stuff is good, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the rustic and inventive food served in the Indian home.  There is absolutely no comparison.

The curries my mother-in-law (Maa) and my father-in-law (Baba) create aren’t just food.  No way.  If you could just have one taste, you’d understand; these curries are love.

Home-Style Chicken Masala

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