Aloo Pyager Chorchuri (Potato-Onions Stir-Fry)

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Chorchuri is a char flavored bengali style stir fry, Chorchori being the noun and the vegetable used to make it, the adjectives. As a child I had asked my mom why this dish was called Chorchori, she said it is because when the vegetables are getting charred, they make a sizzling sound that sounds like ‘chor’ which is also an indicator that the dish is almost done. I am not sure if that’s accurate or not, but thats the story I go with.

Any number of vegetables can be used to make this, but in the Aloo loving Mukherjee household, potatoes have always been the main ingredient with others making a guest appearance or not. This particular dish was a breakfast favorite served with Luchi or Bashi Porotha (Stale Parathas made the night before). There is something about warm porotha, potatoes along with the smell and taste of mustard oil that makes it one of the most comforting dish for lazy mornings.

The charred part is the best part of the dish and my sister and I always called dibs on who gets to clean up (read lick) the wok, mom won most times, go figure!

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I like to cut the potatoes and onions in wedges, because thats how my mom did it, but its not a rule.

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-30 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium size potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium sized onion, cut into wedges
  • 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
  • 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. Add the potatoes, onions, green chili pepper,  turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
  3. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  4. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  5. Garnish and serve.

Note:

  • If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go.
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Badhakopir Ghonto (Cabbage Ghonto)

IMG_4045Health benefits of Cabbage are endless and its a vegetable for which we should make space in our plates on a regular basis. I cook cabbage often and in various ways, but I have noticed that this is one preparation that has converted even cabbage haters to cabbage likers. Its a favorite among my Non-Bengali and Non-Indian friends. Every single time I have served this, it has been a hit. To me its special because it brings back memories of school days and sharing lunch boxes, especially one of my best friend who always claimed rights on this.

A few days after our wedding H and I were grocery shopping, I reached for the cabbage and immediately heard him say “I don’t like cabbage baby”. I just responded with ‘But I do’ and bought it nonetheless. Same evening I cooked this. He tasted some and since then he likes cabbage. I like eating it with rice/quinoa and Bhaja Moonger Dal with a squeeze  of lemon juice, H likes it with paratha. IMG_4057

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 4-5 fresh green chile pepper, slit
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ghee + 1 tsp for garnish
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnish

Process:

  1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add the potatoes. Saute for 2-3 mins, till they get a little fried.
  3. Add cabbage, mix it in, then add ginger, cayenne, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add tomatoes and the green peas, fold them in. Cover and cook, stirring on regular intervals. Cabbage and tomatoes leave enough water to cook the vegetables, but if you think its not enough add a bit of water. Remember this is a dry dish, so if you add too much water, you will need cook longer.
  5. Check for doneness by cutting one of the pieces of potatoes. If the potatoes are fully cooked, turn of the heat. Add the ghee, garam masala and sugar. Mix it in. Garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with rice and dal or chapatis.

Bhaja Moonger Dal (Moong Dal)

 

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Bhaja in bangla means fried. Moong dal is first roasted with the tempering giving it a nutty aroma and its characteristic flavor and then cooked till mushy. Every Bengali household has their own version of this dish, this was how my Dida (maternal grandma) cooked it. Growing up we called it Didar dal to differentiate it from my Thama’s (paternal grandma) version. This was usually cooked on days in the year where the menu had to be Niramish (Vegetarian) and served with rice and Badhakopir Ghonto (Cabbage Ghonto).

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Moong Dal is one of the healthiest lentils with high content of fiber, minerals, proteins and Vitamin C, and a very low calorie count. Essentially its a dieters best friend! Its also light and easy to digest making it really good recovery food. Now add in some ginger, turmeric, flavors from the tempering of spices, carrots and green peas, and you have a wholesome and delicious lentil stew that you can enjoy as is or with some rice or quinoa. This is one of my go-to recipes for those days when I have long working hours and limited time to cook and need something light to eat.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 20-25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow mung dal
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ghee/ oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut for garnish (Optional)

Process:

  1. In a soup pan, heat ghee over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add the moong dal. Saute for 2-3 mins, till they get a little fried.
  3. Add carrots, mix it in, then add ginger, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add the green peas, fold them in. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally till the dal is mushy. Add more water if needed, depending on whether you like dal to be runny or thick.
  5. Turn of the heat and sugar. Mix it in. Garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Notes:

  • You can use a pressure cooker instead of a soup pot. Just remember that moong dal cooks very quickly.

 

Mast-Mast Chorchori or Shaager Chorchori (Bengali Vegetable Stir-fry)

IMG_4035Bengali cuisine is known for its spread of confectionaries and sweet delight, but is not limited to it. According to Wikipedia it is the only cuisine in the Indian-Subcontinent which has been traditionally developed as a multi-course meal, quiet similar to the modern structure of continental food. I am not sure about the ‘only’ part, but it sure is a multi course meal. A typical meal is geared towards a balanced meal and incorporates a lot of vegetables. It starts with a dish made of something bitter to serve as a palette cleanser, followed by a Shaag (leafy green vegetables), then comes the Dal accompanied with a Bhaja (fried vegetable) or Chorchori (stir fry) or both, then Macher Jhol (Fish), chatney, Doi (yogurt) and finally a dessert. Served with rice. And within this nutrition packed diet lies the secret behind the good skin and good hair bengali women are famous for.

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I grew up in a nucleus family with two working parents, so every day meal was not this elaborate. However, a non-elaborate meal still included Dal, Shaag, Bhaja or Chorchori, Maacher Jhol and Doi. When I got married, my South-Indian husband thought (Still thinks) I was crazy to cook so much for a single meal. I changed my habits a little and now cook a minimalistic meal of Dal, Rice, Shaag and a side of vegetables. Yes, that is minimalistic in my book!

Making this takes care of my serving of vegetables and Leafy greens in one dish! Plus it is delicious. This is one of my very favorite side dishes and my entire life I have called it ‘Mast Mast Chorchori’. Traditionally Eggplant (Brinjal) is one of the main ingredients in this dish and if your not allergic to it (Like I am!) I recommend adding some, apparently it tastes better.

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 4 servings    Level: Easy

One important thing to keep in mind before you start prepping, this dish is a medley of hard and soft vegetables all cooked together, while chopping keep that in mind and adjust size accordingly. Also the green is added right at the end. 

Ingredients:

  • The vegetables
    • 1 medium size potato, chopped
    • 1 bunch red radish (10-12), chopped (keep the greens)
    • 1 medium sized carrot, chopped
    •  1/2 butternut squash chopped (traditionally pumpkin is used)
    • 1/2 acorn squash, chopped (optional)
    • 1 yellow beet, chopped (optional)
    • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
  • 2-3 cups of mixed greens, roughly chopped

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The picture above shows approximate quantity of greens, its a dinner plate heaped with greens. I used a combination of the greens from the radish, baby spinach, baby kale, collard greens and broccoli rabe. Traditionally only spinach  is used.

  • 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • salt to taste

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and celery seeds. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. Add all vegetables (except the greens), turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
  3. Add the green and mix slightly. Cook till the greens wilt. Don’t overcook the greens, this dish is suppose to be dry, overcooking the green will make them release too much water. (Also its healthier)
  4. Remove from heat and add a spoon of ghee at this point if your using it.
  5. Serve with rice or enjoy it as is.

Note:

  • If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go. Cook the them separately and mix it in before you add the greens.
  • The biggest chunk of effort for this dish is the chopping. To save time use frozen chopped vegetables. I buy my produce from the local farmers market on Sunday Mornings (benefits of living in California). Once I am back I spend a couple hours chopping, bagging and freezing. I have high quality ziplock bags labelled that i rinse and re-use. That way during the week when I actually cook, it’s easy and I don’t have to clean up everyday.

Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice)

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Jeera Rice and Aloo Gobi was the very first thing I had ever cooked for Husband, his taste buds approved and the rest is history. This is a simple rice dish ideal for those days when you had a tough day at work and need a touch of richness in everyday food without too much effort. It is also great for dinner parties. It goes with pretty much every dish, in our household it is a must whenever we make Basic Yellow Dal.

Time for Prep:5 mins|Time to Cook:20 mins|Yield:2-4 Servings|Level:Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1.75 cup water or broth
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black cumin
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for Garnish
  • 1 tbsp Fried onions/caramelized onion for Garnish (optional)

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 1-2 mins.
  3. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add water, salt and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 10-12 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish.

Note:

  • After the rice has been soaked, Drain and spread it on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out. This ensures that you get nice seperated grains of rice.

Omeletter Jhol (Omlette Curry)

IMG_4000I love eggs and pretty much every preparation of it, but omelettes have a special place in my heart. Bitting into a piece takes me back to long train journeys from Hyderabad to Agra filled with my dads jokes, my moms come backs and us giggling our guts out, early morning stops at Jhansi station and our family ritual to always relish freshly made omelette from one of the street vendors before our final stop at Agra.

For this dish, we start by first making a masala omelette and then simmer it in tal talle jhol (thin and runny gravy) for a fat and fluffy goodness to enjoy with rice, chapati or bread. Why not just the eat the omelette as is? Because this dish takes the omelette from delicious to DELICIOUS!! IMG_4001My dad was in sales and marketing and travelled often in my growing up years. This was something special my mom made for us girls to make those days feel like fun. We called it the ‘Girls Night Jhol’. I make this with left over Frittatas as well. And if you don’t feel like eating an omelette, bake or fry a couple fish fillets and simmer that in the same gravy and you will get classic bengali maacher jhol (Fish curry).

Time to Prep: 10 mins|Time to Cook: 30 mins|Yield: 4 Servings|Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • For the Omlette
    • 4 eggs (I use just egg whites)
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
    • 2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
    • 2 tbsp plum tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 tbsp green bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
    • 1 green chili peppers, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
    • Red pepper flakes (Optional)
    • salt to taste
    • pinch of sugar
  • For the Jhol (Gravy)
    • 1 tbsp oil (or less)
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp caraway seeds
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
    • 2-3 green chili peppers, finely chopped
    • 1/2 inch ginger, mined
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp chile powder
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • Salt to taste
    • 1 potato, cut in thin half-moon shape (around 1/8 inch thick)
    • 1 carrot, cut in thin half-moon shape (around 1/8 inch thick)
    • 1/2 fresh or frozen green peas
    • 2 cups of water
    • pinch of sugar
    • 2-3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped for garnishing
    • 1 tsp Harissa or Sriracha (optional)

Process:

  1. Making the Masala Omelette:
    • Break eggs in a bowl, beat it. Add milk, salt, pepper and sugar and beat some more (this helps making the omelettes nice and fluffy).
    • Fold in the onions, tomatoes, peppers, chiles and cilantro.
    • Heat some oil in a frying pan/omelette pan in medium heat, pour the egg batter and swirl till its evenly distributed. Cover and let it cook.
    • Slide it on a plate and slice it into triangles, stripes or however you fancy.
  2. Making the Jhol (gravy):
    • Heat oil in a pan and temper it with cumin and caraway seeds.
    • When you can smell the aroma add the onions and chile peppers, sauté till the onions soften.
    • Add in the potatoes and carrots, turmeric, coriander powder and chilli powder. Fry till they start turning golden.
    • Add the ginger and garlic, sauté
    • Add the tomatoes and green peas, fold everything in. Cover and cook till tomatoes are mushy.
    • Add 2 cups of water, bring it to a simmer then cover and cook till the potatoes are cooked.
    • Taste and adjust seasoning, add a pinch of sugar.
    • Add the omelette pieces and simmer for 3-4 mins.
    • Garnish and serve warm

Notes:

  • If you have left over frittata, cut it up into pieces and use instead of omelette. This help converting leftovers into something delicious and new in a jiffy.
  • I like to mix in a spoonful of Sriracha or Harissa to the Jhol to add some extra zing to it.
  • While traditionally its served with rice, my favorite way of eating this make a sandwich with the omelette piece and dip that in the jhol before every bite.
  • If you don’t feel like eating an omelette, bake or fry a couple fish fillets and simmer that in the same gravy and you will get a classic bengali maacher jhol (Fish curry)

Bhapa Doi (Yogurt Pudding)

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Bhapa Doi in english translates to steamed (bhapa) yogurt (doi), it has a consistency similar to cheesecake but without the use of any eggs or gelatin. Hung yogurt is mixed with milk and then steamed in a steamer or a pressure cooker, chilled and served. It does not require any fancy ingredient and is ridiculously easy to make.

Yogurt is considered to be auspicious among Bengalis, I remember my mom feeding me and my sister a spoonful of yogurt when we would be on our way out for an exam or interview. Which makes this yogurt based traditional bengali dessert very popular. I figured what better to start the new years with!IMG_3978Back in the days, this was a slightly complicated process when milk and sugar had to be first simmered over slow heat till it became thick and creamy before mixing it with yogurt that was hung for hours. Now all you need is some condensed milk and some greek yogurt.

This is just the basic recipe, I tend to get more creative. I have made this with various flavors, toppings and garnishes. My absolute favorites are caramel and raspberry flavored topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. I have also served it like a creme brûlée, with a crunchy layer of torched sugar on top. Have fun experimenting and figuring out your favorite.

Time for Prep: 1 hour   Time to cook: 30 mins  Yield: 6 Servings   Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hung yogurt
  • 10 oz condensed milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon powder
  • pinch of saffron, for garnishing

Process:

  1. Place the hung yogurt in a bowl, using a whip cream it slightly.
  2. Add the condensed milk, mix it in.
  3. Add the milk and cardamon powder, lightly whip till everything is well blended and the mixture is smooth and creamy, around 2-3 mins.
  4. Pour in the mixture in Ramekins (in my case it exactly filled 6 ramekins), cover the mouth with foil and steam in a steamer or pressure cooker for 20-30 mins or until done. The time will vary depending on the size of your mould, in my case it was 30 mins.
  5. T0 check for doneness, insert a knife right in the center, if it comes out clean its done.
  6. Let it cool down then refrigerate for 2-3 hours, serve cold.

Notes:

  • To make hung curd: Pour yogurt in a cheese cloth and hang it till almost all of the water drains out. For regular yogurt it takes around 4-5 hours. If using Greek yogurt the same is done in around 30 mins.
  • If you want to make a diabetic friendly version of this, going old school is the way. I have made it a couple times by simmering milk with sweetener until it was nice and thick, I then added 1 cup yogurt to 2 cups of simmered milk.
  • There are versions out there which talk about baking the mixture at 300F for 20 mins or so. But it kind of goes against the very name of the dish, it is called ‘Bhapa Doi’ after all!