Wednesday, December 14, 2011

jhingey posto...ridge guard with poppy seed paste...bengali style...

Have you ever heard a Bengali talking about food , this is one community madly in love with food . Shopping for food , cooking and serving the food takes a better part of their time and when they start
talking about food they forget about time and space and you feel like being transported into the wonderland of sorshe , kalo jeere , mouri and posto bata ...blah blah blah ..... :)

It was during one such blah blah blah that i realized i would like this jhingey posto which was the hot topic during a club meet . I decided to make it and it became a hot favorite at home . I have never tasted this recipe at any of my bong friends as they tend to overload the dining table with all sorts of meat and fish whenever they invite somebody and the humble veggies are given a miss. For me , it is the simple vegetarian fare of bengali cuisine i like the most and i had to train myself to make those to my taste . Yes , this curry may not be a true blue bengali progeny , because i made it as i overheard it and like the way i made and have been cooking it like this since then..............let's see if you like it and the bong friends can point out where a bengali element is missing ........i don't miss anything in this curry and it is a favorite of both the extremes .... vegetable haters and vegetable lovers in the family..... :)

Jhingey is ridge guard and you have to peel it before using it , the taste of this guard is a bit different from the regular smooth sponge guard and this curry uses the ridge guard only .... though alu posto is quite similar and other veggies can also be experimented upon.

It is a quick recipe once the peeling and grinding has been done. Cooking time is irresistibly low, especially if you like the vegetable almost half cooked like me.

(2-4 servings depending on what side dishes it is served with)
Ridge guards 400 gm
slit green chillies 2-3 (you would like the heat to be mild in this curry so use less green chillies if you otherwise avoid much heat or use the less hot ones)
nigella seeds 1 tsp
mustard oil 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 1/4 tsp (optional, omit if you want a white gravy)
salt to taste

Paste of poppy seeds 3/4-1 cup ....this is white Indian poppy seeds called posto or posta ...
(wash about 1/2 cup poppy seeds through a sieve, let it drain and then make a paste in mixie using some water)


Peel the ridge guards first of all. You might like to lightly scrape them if they are tender but the bigger ones need the ridges to be removed using a peeler and most of the skin too. You can retain some of the skin if you like but i usually peel off the skin altogether. Cut about 1.5 inch long pieces first and then slice them in batons lengthwise, making 6-8 long batons out of each piece.

I would like to mention that the cut of the guards makes a lot of difference in the taste and texture of the finished dish.If you cut round and thin slices it releases more water and the vegetable gets very mushy. I have seldom cut a ridge guard in thin slices. For a chana daal or mung daal cooked with this guard, i cut it into dices and that works perfectly well for that. So it is thick (1 cm) batons for this recipe.

Heat the oil in a pan, mustard oil for the authentic bengali thing, and throw in the nigella seeds and wait till they crackle a little. Add the slit green chillies and let them fry and release the heat in oil, just for a few seconds though.

Tip in the chopped ridge guard , add salt, turmeric if using and toss them all.   Cover and cook on medium flame till the slices get wilted and release some juices. 5 to 7 minutes to be precise.

This is the time to add the poppy seeds paste , mix well and cook till a gentle boil. The poppy seed paste is added when the ridge guard is almost done. I like the ridge guard 3/4 done , or till there is still some bite in the pieces and they are not really mushy so the cooking time is about 5 minutes covered before adding the paste. You can always cook the guard longer if you like them mushy.

The curry looks a nice and creamy thing when finished. No garnish is required for such a stunning looking jheengey posto..

Serve hot with chapatis or rice. It taste great with both and doesn't really need any side dishes if you really like it. Jheengey posto could be your quick fix meal in that case, some rice made in microwave and jheengey posto prepared in a pan in the meantime...that's it.

Making a smooth paste of poppy seeds is quite a challenge as the seeds are very tiny and some of them always remain whole if we do it in the mixie jars. People who make the paste using the flat stone mortar and pestle(sil batta) vouch for the smooth paste that results. That kind of work out has become outdated in our modern kitchens...I still possess 3 types of mortar and pestle and yet I seldom use them. Time saving gadgets are the call of the day.

Difficulty in making a smooth paste of poppy seeds has led to some experiments in my kitchen and I have used some additives in the paste time to time. Got very good results with melon seeds and almonds. Poppy seeds and either melon seeds or almonds in 2:1 ratio work really well for the dish. You can always reduce the amount of melon seeds or almonds if you want that grainy posto in your curry.

I like the curry so much that I even deviated from using a posto paste ....Now you know I love the ridge guard as a vegetable just too much. I always store a powder made with almonds,poppy seeds and black peppercorns (in 1:1:1 ratio) in my fridge to have it with milk whenever i have my headaches (migraines to be precise, it works really well if you take in the beginning)....

Sometimes I use that powder for instant jheengey posto with the heat of some kaali mirch instead of hari mirch. And since i use a powder, I usually cut the guards in semi roundels so it release more water and does some justice to a powdered instant solution.....

The taste in this case is great too but definitely different when a fresh paste is used. Make a fresh paste when you are trying it for the first time . The powder version is for those who have migraines :-)

The recipe was lying in the drafts for about two years now , half written and neglected. A picture of nicely cut ridge guard by Shail Mohan on facebook got me talking about jheengey posto and she wanted the recipe. And this was a cue for my fingers to work but i am frustrated at the end of it as there is no ridge guard in Delhi markets right now and i really want to have it for my dinner. Facebook can be really unfair at times.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

bajre ka maleeda ... a rustic dessert or meal made with pearl millet flour...

A thick roti made with pearl millet flour, crushed to bits while still hot, then drizzled with ghee and mixed with jaggery is our bajre ka maleeda that is one essential winter food. Also called as bajre ka choorma or choori, this is one dish that no one can refuse, the only thing is that many people think it is too difficult to make it. That truth is far from it indeed.

Get some bajre ki roti made, that is all you have to do whenever you want a dessert heavier than your meal or a dessert meal all alone to savour in leisure. This used to be a regular dessert at the end of the day during winters when we were growing up. It was always made in large quantities and the leftovers were great for breakfast too. Sometimes the breakfast would be just bajre ka maleeda, the ways we accommodate our favourite seasonal foods.

Bajre ka maleeda or choorma is a great breakfast option as mornings are better time for heavy meals.

Just go get some pearl millet flour or bajre ka atta and have a sweet meal any time of the day. Although I would like to have it for breakfast always, the reason being you just cannot stop eating it till you feel full to the brim. So serving this maleeda as a dessert is out of question at my place. It is always a meal preferably a breakfast or weekend brunch.

Let's see how to make this maleeda. 

Making the bajra roti is the only step which needs some skill, although anyone can do it as you do not need to make a perfectly round roti or evenly thick roti for that matter. The only condition is that the roti must be cooked properly, being grilled slowly on the gas flame after roasting it both sides on the iron griddle..

How to make bajre ki roti

Knead a dough using bajre ka atta (pearl millet flour) and some warm water. Kneading small portions of the flour, just enough for one roti is convenient as the dough remains warm for flattening it by patting it under both your palms. So pour some warm water in about half a cup of flour first, mix and knead, then make a ball and rub some more between your palms, smoothen and then pat between both your palms to flatten it. The roti can be anywhere between 1-1.5 cm thick.

Pat the roti on hot griddle, let it brown slightly both sides and then grill slowly on the gas flame till cooked. It will puff up as a sign of being cooked and will break easily .

Alternatively the roti can be baked in an oven, laid on a greased baking tray, for about 15 minutes at 180C. The roti gets a nice thick and hard crust in both the cases, the insides remain softer but crumble easily.

The roti should break easily into to halves when folded and that is a test of being cooked. Also, the inner parts should not be gooey if you check.

Repeat to make more rotis and keep them wrapped in a cotton napkin till mashed or broken to make maleeda.

How to make maleeda 

Drizzle some molten of softened ghee over the warm pieces of roti. Top it with powdered jaggery or shakkar (unrefined brown sugar in this case) and enjoy the maleeda crushing each piece for every bite you take.

Or crumble a warm roti using your fingers and gather it on the plate like this.

You can make maleeda even if you don't get bajre ka atta (pearl millet flour). Just use any whole grain flour and follow the above process to make a thick roti.

Use corn meal or coarse whole wheat flour or powder either daliya (broken wheat), or burgul or even couscous or a mix of all these flours. You get different taste with all these flours but every time it is equally delicious.. This maleeda is made with many millet flours, each having it's own taste and if we do not have access to millet flours we resort to coarse whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour mixed with semolina and some bran, with great results.

have you had maleeda before?
Try this simple dessert/snack/meal and toss that muffin you are munching..

And if you have witnessed all your childhood winters sinking your teeth is such delights, come on...make it again for yourself.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

keema wala gobhi musallam...

This keema wala gobhi musallam is a whole head of cauliflower cooked covered with a keema masala dry curry. This recipe can be baked if using a bigger cauliflower or you need many cauliflower heads to serve a gathering. This was a small head and was just enough for two servings so I cooked it in a deep pan so all the steps of cooking can be done in a single utensil and it saves time too. So this is kadai cooked gobi musallam covered with mutton mince(keema). Cauliflower acquires a new dimension of taste in this recipe as the juices from mutton mince get absorbed really well . This is one dish which remains always in demand and doesn't demand much work to be done, although slow cooking is the best way to get a great tasting gobi musallam. Slow cooking will not be a problem if you keep on working on the next steps of the recipe while frying the cauliflower and then working on the side dishes later when it takes it's time on the stove top.

You can always cook broken florets of cauliflowers with the keema masala following the same recipe if you find it difficult to wrap the masala around cauliflower , or to core the cauliflower the way it is done here. The taste of the small florets remains the same if you cook them the same way but a musallam packs in a surprise element. The keema masala covers the cauliflower completely and it doesn't look like a vegetable hiding under  the spicy looking rich masala. It's only when you cut through it like a pie when the cauliflower is revealed...

And don't worry about the oil/fat content of the recipe. The picture is the proof, there is no oil on the plate can you see...

(2 large servings)

mutton mince or keema 200 gm
one medium sized cauliflower (this one was 400 gm)
one large onion (half of it diced finely and half cut in bigger chunks for the paste)
garlic cloves 5-6 fat ones
ginger peeled and diced 1-2 tbsp(to suit your taste)
dry red chillies 3-4 or to taste
every day curry powder 2 tsp
special garam masala 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
freshly made tomato paste1/2 cup
salt to taste
mustard oil 3 tbsp or any other oil you use

Core the cauliflower as shown in the picture, removing the hard stalk so a cavity is formed through the flower to let it absorb all the flavors.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep pan, tip in a tsp of salt in the oil directly to avoid any splattering of oil and fry the cauliflower turning it all the sides to make it brown like this.

Keeping the flame medium low and turning the cauliflower every few minutes is the key to even browning but do not worry if it brown unevenly. Just that it should be browned all around.

Make a paste of the onion,garlic,ginger and red chillies till the cauliflower is frying. After that, pour in the remaining oil into the same kadai and tip in the onion paste. Add salt to taste and keep frying the paste till it looks glazed. If you use more oil it will release the oil when fried, using less oil needs patient frying (bhunoing) of the masala paste.

Now add all the powdered spices and 2 tbsp of water to make them into a paste and bhuno again for a couple of minutes or till the spices get nicely aromatic.

Add the ground meat or keema and keep stirring till it gets cooked , takes about 8-10 minutes on low flame. You can cook it covered after mixing it nicely , but check for the water content to prevent burning in the bottom.

Add the tomato paste, mix and cook for a couple more minutes.

Now, using your spatula, shift all the fried masala paste to one side of the pan and place the fried cauliflower in the center of the pan. And scoop all the masala paste all over the cauliflower to cover it completely.

There will be some watery fluid around the cauliflower due to the tomatoes , add some water if the tomatoes have dried up. Cook covered on very low flame so the cauliflower soaks up all the flavors while cooking together. All the fluids are dried up when cooking is complete. Otherwise cook without lid for a while so it becomes dry.

Transfer carefully to a platter and garnish with onion rings and coriander greens if you wish.

Use a pie spatula to cut through the cauliflower and to serve it . I actually thought there would be some leftovers but the two of us polished it off with plain whole wheat chapatis.

Onion rings are great with a spicy dish like this, although pickled onions or onions rings doused with lime juice will be better if you make the gobi musallam hot and spicy. This recipe made a very mild spicy musallam and the kick provided by the red onions was a great accompaniment to it.

A raita can be served as a side with chapatis and/or rice with it . We like it so much i never make a side dish with it if i am making it just for the two of us. A much repeated recipe during winter months, we eat seasonal vegetables only and eat minimal meats during summer months.

I have another recipe of keema with a summer vegetable which is our favorite too and i make it whenever our plain simple meals of summer need a kick. Stay tuned in for the summer keema special.

This gobi musallam doesn't promise a quick meal but it's worth all the time it takes by slow cooking it for about 30 minutes. You can always make your chapatis, any other kind of breads or rice to go with it on the side as slow cooking gives quite some space to multitask.

How about a slice of a tree vegetable loaded with some meat ? And no , there are no vegetarian versions of this musallam.

Gobi musallam with just the spices is another thing....may be i make that soon take pictures and post it here :-)

After all that version is a childhood favorite while this one is something i my taste...and it has won hearts. What about you?