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Sandesh- a message of love

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Sandesh- a message of love

I am a die-hard dessert fan. I love to end my meal with  tiny morsel of sweet. It does not have to be fancy , even a small piece of jaggery (palm sugar) works wonderfully.

I enjoy good cakes and pastries once in a while but my weakness is all the milk based desserts. Indian dessert are mainly milk based, and one particular region in India makes some amazing varieties. West Bengal is a state in the eastern India. Kolkata (Calcutta) is the capitol which on a side note was also the capital of ‘British India’.  West Bengal is known for many things, the ganges delta, the artistic talent, culture, and many famous personalities like Rabindra nath Tagore, Swami Vivekandanda to name a few.

Bengalis ( as the people from Bengal are referred to) are connoisseurs, be it poetry, music or food. Some of my favorite musicians are from this state.

Coming to food, Bengalis know how to enjoy food and like all other states in India, food is an integral part of the celebrations, festivals. One of the biggest festival is Durga Pooja, a festivals that is celebrated to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon.

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Durga painting by me

The diet from this region is rice centric and fish is an integral part. Ganges delta produces some amazing produce and of course the fish. More on this later

Back to desserts, my husband, Abhi, is not a huge dessert fan but even he can not say no to Bengali desserts. His favorite, Ras Malai. He is my partner in crime in everything, he supports me in every possible way and truly is a Life partner, through thick and thin. I am so lucky to have him in my life

We are celebrating our anniversary soon. He some how figures out the most perfect thing (or things) to give me. This year, I have received 2 gifts so far and I have a feeling that there are more to come.

I have always been obsessed with learning about food and culture from different cuisines. Old recipes, forgotten ingredients and stories associated with them, I love it all. Abhi knows that well, so this years two gifts have been 1. Spice from Kashmir 2. A mold from West Bengal . He did not have a lot of time on hand but still made sure to go and look for this for me. It says it all, he remembers and makes an effort

Now about the mold ( or mould), I am fascinated by the various molds used across the world and I am collecting them. More on that later .

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Abhi knew that I have been looking for Sandesh molds ever since I saw them, so when he visited Kolkata he remembered and brought some back for me. Those molds may not cost a lot but they are price less for me. It goes to show how well he knows me, how well he remembers what I like, and how much he love me to get such little things in his busy schedule.

I was sitting in the backyard having my morning chai, thinking about what to make for anniversary, and then I thought why not use the gift he got me.

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So today’s simple recipe is dedicated to our love- ‘Pyaar ka Sandesh’ which translates to ‘a message of love’. How appropriate I thought for the special occasion.

I know some of you might think it cheesy, well it is. It is after all made with fresh farmstead indian cheese. 🙂

What is Sondesh/Sandesh/Sandes, it is a sweet or confectionary that is made from sweetened Chenna. Chenna is a cottage cheese made from whole milk and curdled using lemom/lime juice or vinegar. This forms a base for many Bengali desserts that Abhi and I love.

Sandesh dates back to many years ago where possible a different version of Sandesh was made, however it is said that the Portugese influence might have introduced the current ‘cheese’ based version. Its a very versatile recipe, can be made quickly and flavored easily.

Today I have made a very basic Sandesh, clean and simple like our love and flavored with Orange Blossom. Orange blossom is one of most favorite fragrances along with saffron.


I followed the recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor’s web site

Prep Time : 31-40 minutes

Cook time : 16-20 minutes

Serve : 4

Level Of Cooking : Moderate

Taste : Sweet

Ingredients

  •  8 cups Whole Milk

  • 1/2 cup Granulated or powdered Sugar

  • 1/4 cup Lemon juice

  • 1/2 tsp Orange blossom water

Method

Step 1

Bring the milk to a boil in a deep, thick-bottomed non-stick pan. Add the lemon juice and stir till the milk curdles. Strain and immediately refresh the chhenna in chilled water.

Step 2

Put the chhenna in a piece of muslin and squeeze till all the water is drained out.

Step 3

Knead the chhenna well with the heel of your hand. Add caster sugar and  knead again.

Step 4

Cook in a non-stick pan on medium heat for eight minutes. Remove from heat and divide into twelve equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and make a dent on the top.

Step 5

When cooled,add the orange blossom water. Shape using the mold or roll them up to a desired shape.

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Sita Bhog

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Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. It marks the beginning of the 10 day period where Lord Ganesha is brought home. This festival started by a freedom fighter in Maharashtra in 1894. India was then ruled by the british and  public place congregation was not allowed. So celebrating the Ganesh festival gave people an opportunity to congregate.

People keep the idol in the homes for 1, 3, 5, 10 days..it is all based on the family tradition. There is festive atmosphere and a lot of yummy food is made.

I like Ganesh because he is pretty chilled out…no hang ups, no hard rules.. Although he likes a few special things like Modak ( a steamed rice bun with sweet coconut filling), he does not mind if you offer him something else. 🙂

He is considered the beginning and the end.  He forgives everyone, they say which is why his tummy is big. He taken in all the sins and hides them in his tummy. He is also the god of knowledge & wisdom. When you start anything new, you worship him first. His ride is a mouse and they make quite pair.

He came this morning with his friend and said give me something to eat.

He came to play

Ganesh with his friend

So today I decided to make something special for him, something I have never made before and thought he also might like something new.

This dish was not easy to make but I am glad I did. It is not what it looks, so let us see how many of you know?

Today’s dish is called Sita Bhog. I learnt about it from a friend on another

SITA BHOG

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Bengal is a eastern region of India. It is known for its artistic talent and love for good food especially sweets.  When you say Bengali Mithai ( a word for sweet), you often  think of Rosogolla, Mishti Doi and Sandesh. Today’s dish is a mithai that is much lesser known. Burdwan region of Bengal is known for this sweet. Legend has it that it made in honor of a British Viceroy , when he visited  Burdwan in February 1904.
When you look at this dish, you can easily mistake it for a bowl of sweet white rice accompanied with miniature gulab jamun pieces, but there’ s more than what meets the eye and definitely the palate.

Sita Bhog

 

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Ingredients

Cheese Grain

4 cups whole milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup Rice powder 
1 tbsp milk for kneading if needed

1 cup Sugar
 1 cup water
 Oil or Ghee  for frying
 1/2 tsp Green cardamom powder( optional)
1 tbsp Golden Raisins
Saffron- a pinch

Gulab Jamun ( Nikuti)

1 cup Milk Powder
 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 pinch Baking soda
Oil/ Ghee for frying 
2 tbsp Yugurt

1 cup Sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp Green cardamom powder

Method:

Boil the milk in a large pan. When it starts to boil. lower the heat and add 1 to 2 tbsp of vinegar to it. Turn the heat off. Start stirring the milk, you will see that the milk has started to curdle. If needed you may put one more tsp of vinegar to completely curdle the milk. When you see a greenish colour whey, then pour this over a strainer lined with cheese cloth to drain out the water. Let it cool.
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Take the cheese in a big bowl and add rice powder .Mix it well. Keep kneading. If it feels rather hard, add a bit of milk into it and knead again. Make the dough soft & elastic.
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In another bowl put the sugar and water and let it boil. Make a thick syrup; Put the rest of the cardamom powder to it and the saffron for color and flavour.
Fry the raisins slightly in 1 tsp full of oil and keep aside.

Now put the pan on flame. Pour oil and heat it.
Take a sieve. Take one small ball of the cheese mixture and press it so that tiny, oblong, rice-like bits of cheese drops into the oil. Don’t take long stroke otherwise you would have a string more than a rice like grain.
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Deep fry till a light brown colour. Take them out and keep aside.
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This is what they look like when fried. Make sure you fry on a low heat and try to keep them white.
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Add the fried Raisins and the cheese drops in the sugar syrup. Mix it well. Let it be soaked in the syrup from 10 to 15 minutes and then spread it on a plate to cool.
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In a Mixing Bowl add Milk powder, Maida, Soda-Bicarbonate,1 1/2 tsp ghee. Add enough yogurt to make a soft dough.

Heat ghee in a deep frying pan.Make small 15-20 oval shapes and fry until golden brown in color.
In another pan add water and sugar and put it to boil, Heat until it make a light syrup.. Put these small balls into the hot syrup. Let it cool and then you can mix these Gulab Jamun in the Cheese grains prepared earlier.

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Kozhi Korma – a delicious curry with southern indian flavors

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Kozhi Korma

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When I came to the US of A, I barely knew how to cook. I still remember my first attempt at making a ‘Capsicum- Potato’ stir-fry, it was a disaster. I underestimated how big the bell peppers were and created more of a mess than a stir-fry. I used to call my Mom practically every day to ask for recipes, and call to India would cost $1.2. I think I used to spend just as much money on phone calls for making dinner as I spent for groceries.   Internet was not available so the only source was cook books and of course, Call Mom.

Fast forward a few years, internet came along and so did Facebook. I sometimes wonder how we lived our lives before the internet was around. I love being able to learn about  different cultures, their traditions and rituals, and naturally along with that their cuisines.  I love sharing what I have learnt and along the way learn a few things from people who are generous enough to share their knowledge. I am learning how to bake, how to take good pictures and so much more.

One such source is a Facebook group I am part of, it is all about honest to goodness food. Many talented chef are part of that group and share some amazing tried and tested recipes. One such recipe is ‘Kozhi Korma’, my co food lover Harjeet shared it.

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It is amazingly easy to make but very very yummy. It uses very basic ingredients that you would have in your pantry and comes together very quickly. I like the fact that it comes together in less than 30 mins.

Ingredients

1 lB chicken ( I prefer using boneless since my family likes it that way)

3 Tablespoon Oil
2 Teaspoon Ginger chopped
3 Teaspoon Garlic chopped
3 Tablespoons Coconut milk
2 Teaspoons Green chili chopped
2 Teaspoons Chopped coriander
10 Curry leaves
4 Tablespoons Onions chopped
4 Tablespoons Tomatoes chopped
1 Teaspoon Aniseed
1 Teaspoon Mustard seeds
1″ Cinnamon
5 Cloves
Salt to taste
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
3 Teaspoons Coriander power
2 Teaspoons Red chili powder
2 Teaspoons Tamarind pulp
1 Teaspoon Curry powder

Kozhi Korma Ingredients 1


Method


Heat oil in a Lagan add mustard seeds,cinnamon,clove & curry leaves
Add onion and sauté for them for a while.  

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Now add chicken along with  chopped ginger, garlic, green chili & stir fry for a while. Add all dry spices and sauté them for a while,add some water and cook till chicken is little tender.

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Add chopped tomatoes and add coconut milk. Add tamarind pulp and check for seasoning.Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with steamed rice.

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BIRYANCINIS- Biryani goes to Italy

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I love watching Master Chef India. On that a couple of weeks ago someone had made arancinis with an Indian flavor. I remembered my experiment from two years ago a and thought I would blog it today. 

Here is my post from a couple of years ago. 

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Arancinis are fried rice balls that are stuffed with cheese, originated in Sicily. I ate Arancinis in a famous restaurant in New York. Since then I have been meaning to put Indian tadka on it.

 So here is my attempt of ‘BIRYANCINIS’

  

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Ingredients 

2 cups of rice

3.5 cups of water ( that is how much I use)

2 green cardamom 

2 brown cardamom 

2 inch stick of cinnamon 

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp black pepper corn

1/4 tsp cloves

Few thread of saffron soaked in 1 tbsp milk

Chopped mint and cilantro

1 egg

Method :

Soak rice in cold water for atleast 45 mins. 

Boil  water with all the whole garam masala like Cinnamon, clove, cardamom, bay leaf.  

Add soaked rice and cook until done. When it is almost ready add saffron. 

After it was cool add chopped cilantro n mint. Add the egg and mix. 

 Stuffing

1/2 onion chopped

1 lb minced chicken 

Chopped mint 

1 green chili chopped fine

Powdered garam masala containing cardamom, shahee jeera,mace powder

1/3 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1/2 bread crumbs seasoned with dry mint & paprika

Sauté chopped onions till caramelized.

 Add chopped green chili, garam masala powder.Add minced chicken and cook. Add a lot of chopped mint.

 When cooled, add the shredded pepper jack cheese( enough to bind) .

Make balls of the cooked rice with chicken mixture in the centre. 

Dip the balls in beaten egg white( we had only used yolk for the filling), roll in bread crumbs.  Deep fry in oil( next time will try it in appam pan).

Serve with cilantro raita as a dip.

Lehsun-mirch ki chutney

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If you observe food from any particular region,  you can start learning a lot about the people, the weather, the produce available etc. It is very evident in the various cuisines from across India.

One such cuisine is the cuisine of Rajasthan.

I am in love with everything about this place . This land is known for its sand dunes, colorful dresses, camels and palaces. It is the western state of India, the dessert state, water is very scarce here and fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily available all the time, so a lot of the dishes from this region use ingredients that are available easily. Things like lentils, grain flours, dried chilies, dried vegetables and milk products.

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I have been to Rajasthan a few times and fell in love again with its people and food. I have learnt a few recipes on my visits and would be sharing them here.

Today’s recipe- Chili Garlic Chutney

I love spicy food. Today’s recipe is easy and can be made very easily, most of the ingredients should be available in your pantry. It is one of those dishes that can perk up any dull meal or add a bit of spice to it.2015/03/img_2445.jpg

Ingredients:

10-15 Red Chilies

6-8 fresh garlic cloves

2 tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder

1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds

2 tbsp Oil

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp tamarind pulp( optional)

Method:

Some people also add onions, I feel that they make the chutney sweet so I don’t add it.
Soak dry red chilies in warm water for 1 hour.

In a blender grind the garlic & soaked chilies with little water.

Heat oil in pan, add mustard seeds. When they splatter, add the cumin seeds. Add fenugreek seeds and fry for 10 secs. Add the red chili powder. Add the chili garlic paste. cook till you see oil separating,mix salt & sugar and mix well. Add tamarind pulp to taste.

Chutney is ready, serve it with any Indian meal.

Note:

I mix it with greek yogurt and use it as a dip for fresh vegetables.

I also mix it with a little bit of butter and use it as a spread for sandwiches.

 

 

 

Tricky little temperamental Treat

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French Macarons

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I had never seen a Stand Mixer until a few years ago. Always wanted to buy one since I saw it but could not justify the investment …until today, I bought my first KitchenAid..

Growing up in India I did not know much about baking. For one, we did not have any oven or any stand mixer  at home.  Mom made cakes on the stove top in this contraption and creamed the butter & sugar patiently with just her hands. I always love the cakes she makes but now I appreciate even more knowing how much effort went into it. When I came to the US I tasted so many yummy baked good and I started baking as well. The first time I tasted Macaroons, I did not care much more it. I personally don’t like coconut & chocolate together. Every time my daughter asked me to make Macroons, I kind of made excuses since I thought she was referring to Coconut Macaroon.

 

Then last year, Whole Foods opened near where we live and I got to see and taste French Macron for the first time, and let me tell you I fell in love with it.  Every time we go grocery shopping to Whole Foods, we coem back with a pack of macrons. They are yummy but expensive and I never felt like I ate to my hearts content.

 

So I decide to try and make Macrons at home. Usually I am good at following instructions and recipes, so I figured I can make macarons as long as I have the recipe and ingredients. Boy was I wrong, I failed miserably…not one, two, more like 6 times.  I had almost given up…but then I remembered that I had a set a birthday goal for my self. Yeah, like people set New Years resolutions, I make Birthday resolutions. On every birthday I set a few goals and try to complete them before the next birthday. So going back to Macrons, making them is one such goal I made last year and just could not give up.

I tried the seventh time… and very proud to say it worked. And that is how that KitchenAid came into my life..

French Macarons- a delicate temperamental cookie..but worth every min spent on it.

Macrons have very simple ingredients and looks very deceivingly easy looking, but the trick is in following all the steps and tips. I watched many you tube videos, read many recipes and then finally settled on this one..

 

Ingredients:

Cookie:

7 oz Confectioner ( powder) sugar
4 oz  Almond flour/meal
4 oz  Egg whites at room temp
3.5 oz granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp gel color of your choice

Filing

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups Confectioner ( powder) sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp milk

Method

A. For cookies:

Part 1- Dry mixture
  1. Sift the almond flour and the confectioner sugar at least 4-5 times. This makes the batter light and also ensures that there are no lumps in the batter.
Part 2- Meringue
  1. Making meringue- Take the egg whites and start beating them on a low-medium speed until it foams
  2. Add granulated sugar slowly. Once all the sugar is added, add the cream of tartar.
  3. Kepp checking in between and make sure you stir in between so make ensure that there is no liquid egg white remaining at the bottom of the bowl.

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  1. Scrape down the sides, add the food color
  2. Beat on high till you get a soft peak.
  3. It is not done if you get a beak, when you left the whisk out of the egg mixture.
Part 3- Mix the ingredients
  1. Mix 1/3 of the almond flour mixture in the egg mixture.
  2. Using the folding action mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
  3. When the dry flour is sort of mixed, add the next 1/3 and continue
  4. THIS IS IMPORTANT- DO NOT UNDER MIX OR OVER MIX. THIS PICTURE SHOWS YOU EXAMPLES.
  5. When you can see a ribbon falling from your spoon, your batter is ready
Part 4- Piping and baking the cookies
  1. Draw circle on the paper. These will act as a template for piping your cookies.
  2. Out that template on the baking sheet.
  3. Line your baking tray with parchment paper, on top of the template
  4. Fill the mixture in a pastry bag and using a #2 round tip, pipe the cookies on the parchment paper

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  1. Make sure you keep the tip almost buried in the mixture so you don’t get a point on the cookie- if you get a point it will look funny and the point will burn during baking
Part 5- Drying of the cookies
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Take the tray with the piped cookies and tap really firmly on the counter. This will ensure that the air trapped is released

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  1. Let the tray sit on the counter until the cookies have a skin on top and are dry to touch. Depending on the weather it could take from 20-30 mins
  2. I write the time on it so I know when I can check.
  3. Now your cookies are ready to go in.
Part 6: Baking
  1. Make sure that the oven temperature is right.
  2. Bake th cookies  for 10-15 min
  3. Turn half way to ensure even baking
  4. Check if the cookies are done- when you gently try to move the top and it kind of wiggles and slides, the cookies are not done.

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  1. Watch carefully  though since they go from not done to done very quickly
Part 7: Cooling
  1. I know it is tempting to eat them right away
  2. Wait for 3-4 minutes to take the cookies off the baking tray
  3. Let them cool completely before you fill them up.
B. For Filling
  1. Beat the butter until creamy
  2. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time.
  3. Add the color, lemon juice and zest and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
There are 7 key points to remember, I have listed them here and have mentioned again along the way.
  1. Measure your ingredient- I recommend weighing them instead of measuring in a cup
  2. Sieve the almond meal & Suagr
  3. Beat your egg white just till soft peak stage
  4. Don’t over or under mix the Egg & Almond mixture
  5. Make sure the air is tapped out before you bake the macrons
  6. Make sure they dry out before you bake
  7. Make sure the oven temp is right

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