Friday, July 27, 2012

Peyaz posto : sauteed onion with poppy seed paste, a delectable mash, or call it a scramble...



This is a Bengali classic and I hope I am not spoiling it. Decided to post the recipe on my beloved blog because I loved it from the core of my heart. It is a tasty comforting dish you would like to have more and more. Something which is healthy and wouldn't take you to the Guilt-land. Probably to the lala land of sweet dreams as it is supposed to induce sleep. No, it does not cast it's sleep spell on me. May be it does for you as it does to many happy bongs all around the world. Yes they are all very sentimental about their mustard and posto...

I have adopted Posto quite happily. The UP version of Posta ( as it is called in UP) chutney and halwa has been a childhood favorite and those are yet to come to this blog. My maternal grandmothers' place was a Poppy hub, being a cultivation center of poppy since the time of British, this small town called Ghazipur is known for it's opium factory. Our supply of poppy seeds was good and my mom loved making different things with it. But she never cooked any Bengali recipes. I learnt all these from my Bong friends, this one actually from an Oriya friend.

The recipe is simple. Soak the poppy seeds (white Indian variety) for a few minutes, drain water through a fine sieve and grind in a chutney grinder of your trusted mixie. Adding little water while blending to move the blades well. A generous cup of paste can be made using about 1/2 cup of dry poppy seeds.

You need some Nigella (kalonji) seeds, some chopped onion and some green chillies and salt to taste . 
Just that. 

And a little mustard oil to fry the chopped onion. The quantity of onion, green chillies etc can be varied according to how much of what you want in the finished dish. I used 1/2 cup of chopped onion for a cup of poppy seeds paste here.

Heat the mustard oil and tip in the Nigella seeds, immediately add the chopped green chillies and then the chopped onions. Fry till softened and pinkish. Take off the flame, add salt and mix with the poppy seeds paste.


Serve hot or cold.

Goes very well with plain Khichdi or a brown rice, split green mung and Bottle gourd Khichdi as I made with it. On the side is a begun Bhaja. A true Bong meal.


You would like it with Chapati, Paratha or even sandwiched in slices of bread as well. Some people like it mixed with plain boiled rice too. It is a flavorful scramble of a dish.

Looks like egg scramble to me. The husband often thinks it is an egg scramble. On that note, it can be a good breakfast dish too, even for Paratha loving Punjabis...

You decide whether it is a mash or a scramble. But try it if you haven't already...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Karonde ki chutney...hot and tangy condiment to your monsoon fritters...



Karonda is a beautiful pink white shaded berry that grows on a bushy spiny plant during the monsoons in India. We had a huge bush of this plant back home and used to pick the Karonda just for fun. Chutneys and Jams were made and relished by all of us. We were a big family with 5 siblings and a huge friend circle so chutneys and jams were always handy.

Packed with antioxidants. owing to it's rich pink purple coloration (Anthocyanins) and loads of Vitamin C, makes this berry quite good for health.The best way to eat this is using it raw as a fresh chutney but you can preserve it in the form of some coked chutney and jam or sweet preserve. A Murabba is quite popular with this fruit too which is nothing but candied Karonda that can be used as a garnish for cakes and muffins and for Indian Mithais.

This hot and sour chutney takes just 5 minutes to make if you start from peeling a few garlic cloves...

ingredients...
(to make half cup of chutney which makes 10-12 small servings)
about 20 Karonde (include more of the ripe dark purple ones always)
6 large whole dry red chillies
a dozen or more fat garlic cloves
1 tbsp of white synthetic vinegar
salt to taste


Preparation...

Place everything in the trusted chutney jar of your mixie and give it a good churn. A rough texture tastes better to some and some like it really smooth. Mine is rough and we are loving it.

keeps well in the fridge till it lasts or two weeks.


Serve as a condiment with your meals or as a chutney for fried snacks or even crackers or Khakhra kind of snacks.

Makes a great sauce to marinate chicken and fish for light quick fries.

How are you going to use it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All that glitters isn't gold... Chez Nini : only glitter no substance..



Chez Nini is a glittering place in an old Meherchand market of Delhi. Glittering at night at least.

There was a plan to go to this nifty French eatery and we were waiting for the day. On googling we found that this place is run by a lady named Nini who is the Masterchef there, supported by staff just to manage other aspects. Well, it sounded pretty good when you know that someone is passionate about food and is serving great food to people. We read in one of the reviews that she comes to every table and talks about her food too. Also, that she procures all the ingredients locally. Everything was sounding exciting enough to wait for the weekend. We landed there in anticipation. 'We' were a group of blogger friends, our spouses and a kid. Sid Khullar, Charis, Sumit, Sushmita and myself and a few more folks.Chef Murtaza of Fire, The Park also came to dine with us.

The interiors were cozy, nicely done, dimly lit and soft music playing .I liked the lighting along the trunk and branches of a tree figure and a nest holding some more lighting in the middle.


The tables looked beautiful, the crockery elegant and our anticipation was being fed by the neat arrangement of desserts on the counter. The place is quite small and you can see pretty much everything on display. It gets quite a packed room when all the tables are occupied. You get a table only on reservation and probably the place is packed almost always..

The menu card was a huge piece of hard and heavy cardboard, unnecessary IMO because small tables, smaller chairs and congested seating makes it difficult to even hold those huge menu cards. We chose to have a 4 course meal and placed our orders. Everyone chose French onion soup, hoping to get a great start.  It came in a ceramic bowl, topped with a bread (specified as Melba but it was a regular slice of brad) that soaked into the soup and then sprinkled with cheese and broiled. The initial spoonfuls were aromatic and tasty because of the cheese but the soup underneath  was insipid.

Huge Disappointment.


The breads were good, an olive Focaccia and a sliced bread drizzled with Olive oil, nicely warm, made for comfortable bites. Though it came much before the soup as a complementary platter, each platter having just 5 small pieces of bread between 4 people. Great bread served in small quantity can be a frustration :(


Charis had ordered a Beetroot lace salad which we had great expectation with. We ordered a Salad Nicoise`. I said Nikoise and the server corrected me saying Nee-suaz. I was actually glad at this and expecting the salad to be a super yummy original thing. My love for salads is phenomenal. And so was the taste of these two salads tried. Only Phenomenally Awful.

Let me elaborate.

The beetroot looked divine with the softened matchsticks, sprinkled with a blob and half of Feta. But there were some more sprinkles that ruined it. Who would like a generous spluttering of black and yellow mustard seeds when having a salad? The herb was there in color, the flavor lost between mustard seeds and Sunflower seeds turned rancid. Can you imagine how a rancid nut can spoil even the most flavorful food? The two and half segments of sweet lime saved the grace in a few bites. A great salad compromised on ill stored or cheaply procured sunflower seeds and over enthusiasm over mustard seeds.


And the Nicoise`. There were red and green Amaranth leaves in the salad, too many of them. It looked divine, tasted flat. Green beans, boiled egg quarters , few black and green olives, a few Capers. All of them to be picked individually to get taste otherwise the salad was dead. There were some halves of boiled baby potatoes. Too waxy and hard to absorb any flavor.The toasted almond flakes were slightly rancid in this case as well. No preserved fish or any kind of fishy sliver included :(


 This Beer batter jumbo shrimp and chips was ordered by Nachiketa and she liked it. I didn't taste it so can't tell my verdict on it. By the look of it it is a clean dish with well defined favors. If that sauce is not as acidic as the one served with the Confied Duck legs.


This was also Nachiketa's plate and she liked it. Pan seared Sole pinwheel with an Orange sauce glaze. Those Amaranth leaves are still a turn off in this plate to.

Main course was much better for us as well.


We had ordered a Confied Duck legs and it came on a bed of fresh vegetables. The duck was good, crunchy and hard on the outside and moist on the inside. Something you get when you poach the meat first and then fry it, this duck leg was not 'Confied', talking of the cooking procedure or the final result.

It should have been soft and falling off the bone, as pointed out by Sid. 

The vegetables were crisp, fresh and flavorful. There was some sweetcorn too in the platter and this dish looked divine in a deep ceramic platter. Talking of the colors and textures. 


I liked all the vegetables. This was much better than the salad but there was no connection between the veggies and duck legs. May be it was deliberate. Oh yes, there was a nice cute cup of dressing or sauce with it but it was so tart and acidic it spoiled the flavors when poured on a small portion. Too runny, too acidic for my taste.


We had also ordered Crispy fried pork belly. It came on a bed of boiled green mung and chickpeas, few slices of stir fried carrots and an Aubergine mash on the side. Few leaves of Bok choy and a pouring sauce in a cute cup.

Again the sauce/dressing was too acidic and runny. The pork belly was too crisp for me but I still liked it. The inside was soft and glutinous. Flavor of pork. No other flavor to dress it up.The lentils were flat, the aubergine mash awful. Bok choy crisp and nice, but not very fresh. Good pork served with wrong ingredients.


 Sumit had ordered the Aubergine gratin out of curiosity, it came in a an earthy ceramic bowl with lid. The cheesy top was edible but the mashed aubergine below was a disappointment. I took a spoonful and asked Sumit about his opinion. He just shrugged.

The aubergine with the pork belly and in this gratin both were made using the seedy variety of aubergines, probably too wrinkled and stale vegetable. Not something you expect at a plush French eatery,


We felt cheated actually. The prices are premium , the food evokes hope but falls flat. We waited for the desserts and we all chose to our fancy.

The best thing of the day came, ordered by Sushmita, relished by all of us. This was one winner dessert honestly. Saved the grace somehow.


 But the Lychee and coconut cupcakes were just white cupcakes with a sugar paste top.No Lychee or coconut was discernible. We could not finish it between the two of us.


We had heard about the Carrot cake so ordered one slice. It was a normal cake with a cream cheese frosting and some caramelised hazelnuts on top.. Moist and somewhat gooey, nice texture given by nuts and yet it lacked something. Some people would definitely like it. Those who like anything cake.


This mango cheesecake was good. Sumit had ordered it probably, had a bite and liked the light thing. Not much impressive though.

May be a spoiled evening doesn't let you enjoy a few mediocre treats. We do enjoy a few of those normally.

And yes, cold and uninterested waiting staff don't make the situation better. Serving the courses in confusion, not remembering who ordered what and not bringing steak knife with the toughest of crisp fried meat to cut are some blunders hardly to be missed.


I wouldn't go there again for sure. That Sticky toffee pudding is one dessert one would like to visit Chez Nini if one doesn't bake desserts at home. Otherwise I would hop on to a French blog, download a recipe and bake for myself. Bloggers cook great food all around the world I know.

The bill amounted to 1600 plus per head as we did split the bill. I told you we felt cheated, a weekend dinner screwed up and a hole in the pocket.

Read Sid Khullar's review of the place here..

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keema waala Samosa : deep fried indulgence...




A plateful of piping hot something is not a particularly inviting idea in this smouldering heat. But just think of someone talking about samosa all over twitter and facebook and the husband has already demanded a keema paratha you would definitely be tempeted to some heat and deep frying.

So a friend was talking about baked samosa that I find awful to be honest because the fat in the shortening of pastry dough would not be any less if you want a crisp pastry on samosa. Why not deep fry it because anyway you have them very occasionally only. And then I decided for a Keema samosa dinner that day. Any such heavy snack becomes a dinner for us always. I had this Khajur Imli ki chutney in the fridge and the Samosa took me about 40 minutes from scratch.

recipe of the keema stuffing....

ingredients...
(for about 20 small samosas)
keema (mutton mince) 250 gm
finely chopped onions 1/2 cup
finely chopped(minced) ginger 1 tbsp
minced garlic 1 tsp
garam masala 1 tsp or to taste*
red chilly powder 1 tsp or to taste
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
salt to taste
ghee 2 tsp
whole cumin 1 tsp

*I used 2 tsp of my everyday curry powder and 1/2 tsp of the special garam masala

procedure...

Heat ghee in a kadai and tip in the cumin seeds.

Wait till the cumin seeds crackle and then throw in the garlic, ginger and then the chopped onion in that order. Fry till pinkish brown, adding salt at this stage would help in hastening the process..

Tip in the powdered spices , mix and then add the mutton mince. Mix and keep stirring. It takes about 15 minutes to get cooked and dry. Cook longer if the keema (mince) is coarse.

Check seasoning, adjust and let it cool.

recipe of the cover pastry...

ingredients...
maida (white flour)200 gm or one cup
ajwain seds 1 tsp
salt to taste
ghee 1.5 tbsp for shortening
ghee for deep frying


procedure...

Mix maida, salt and ajwain seeds.

Rub in the ghee and mix well.

Add water and make a firm dough.


Make 10 portions out of the dough and roll out small discs.

Halve the discs in half moons and make a cone with each semi circle, folding the straight side up.

Then stuff the keema inside , crinkle the edges and seal with pressure. Repeat with all the discs..

My little trick to flash fry the samosa is to microwave a batch of samosas placed on a greased plate first for 2 minutes and then dunk them immediately in hot ghee so they get fried in minimal time and come out as crisp as the street side shops or college canteens.

Did you check out the samose I saw live demo almost daily while in university and tried making them later? 
Those are the real potato stuffing samosa that is a college time favorite of all Indian students I guess.

These keema samosa are more of a specialty of a few places and mostly are made at home because very few people trust the meat at street shops. They are best home made.


The khajoor imli ki chutney was perfect with the spicy heavy stuffing. We had our dinner earlier than normal that day and it was worth having a deep fried indulgence in a hot summer day.

These are small samosa almost the size of Indian limes. The reason I make them small is that I have to fill the pan less for deep frying them. Bigger samosa would need deeper oil/ghee to deep fry. Reusing the ghee is not harmful because of high smoking point and more stable fatty acids but if you are using other cooking oils you must be careful about reusing the oil. Using lesser in the frying pan makes sense.

Smaller samosa are cuter and crisp too.


Do you see that dark and thick khajoor imli ki chutney?

That bowl was licked clean.

We had some samosas as leftovers the next day with tea.

Reheated in MW they were not as crisp as fresh but as tasty. Those who love keema would know how leftovers are guarded with utmost care.


How often do you have such fried goodies as your dinner?