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!

Lao Posto (Opo Squash with KhasKhas/Poppy Seed)

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Posto or khaskhas or poppy seed is a pretty popular ingredient in bengali kitchens. It has this euphoric sleepy effect, which makes it a perfect ingredient for those lazy weekend afternoons, when all you have in the days plan is some reading and a nice long afternoon nap. And in a bengali household, thats usually the plan. We love our adda (chit chat/debates/political discussions), literature, good food and lazy afternoon naps followed by Cha (tea) and biscuit cookies (pronounced biskut) at 4:00 pm.

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Its not often that I find opo squash or bottle gourd in the local farmers market. I always do a little happy dance when I find them (Yes, fresh produce makes me happy! I am weird that way). This vegetable is one of my favorite, its versatile, light and packed with health benefits. But if your unable to find some, you can replace it with zuccini or summer squash as well.

Opo squash is very high in water content and usually shrinks to 1/2 the quantity when cooked so be careful while adding salt. Less is more, remember you can always add more salt later if need be.

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 30 mins     Yield: 4-6 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized Opo Squash, cubed (around 3 cups)
  • 6 tbsp khaskhas/poppy seeds
  • 5-6 fresh green chilli, slit in half
  • 2-3 dried red chilli
  • 1 tsp black cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp ghee or 2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

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Process:

  1. Soak khaskhas/ poopy seeds in water for 15-20 mins.
  2. Heat 2 tsp of ghee in a pan in medium -high heat, add black cumin and dried red chilli, wait till they splutter.
  3. Add the chopped opo squash/ bottle gourd, pinch of salt and fresh green chilli, saute for 3-4 mins.
  4. Cover, reduce heat and let the squash cook until tender, 15-20 mins.
  5. In the mean time, drain and transfer the soaked khaskhas/ poppy seed to a blender, add a couple green chilli and salt to taste and grind to make a smooth paste. The paste should be thick and not watery.
  6. Once the squash is tender, add the poppy seed paste, mix it in so that its evenly coated, cover and cook for 5 more mins.
  7. Turn off the heat, add 1 tsp of ghee and 1 tsp of sugar, mix it in.
  8. Serve with plain rice.

 

Noodle Soup

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Its fall finally! The beautiful shade of blue of the sky, the pretty colors, the chill in the air and in my case the allergies which come with the season. After a long day at work nothing is more comforting than a warm cup of soup while watching new episodes of my favorite TV show. Add a few spices and I not only convert the regular store bought broth into something delicious and deeply satisfying, but also cook myself a natural remedy to relive those allergy symptoms. This recipe is super easy and one of my go-to when I have had a long day at work or I am feeling a little under the weather.

Every culture around the world, home cook and professional chef, have their version of a noodle soup. This is my version. Its a hybrid of pho chay, ramen noodle soup and my mom’s recipe for a home remedy she gave me for my seasonal sniffles and sneezes.

I am detailing the vegetarian recipe, but scroll down to see the notes section for suggestion for a Non-Vegetarian version. 

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to cook: 30 mins      Yield: 2 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • For the Broth:
    • 4 cups vegetable stock/broth
    • 3-4 shallots, chopped
    • 2 inches of ginger, grated
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 2-3 star anise
    • 2 tsp coriander seeds
    • 4-5 cloves
    • 1-2 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp cayenne
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 2 tsp soy sauce ( I prefer using a soy sauce reduction).
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
    • 1 tbsp oil
  • For the Noodle:
    • 1/2 lb or 7 oz thin rice noodles
    • 6 cups of water
    • 1 tsp oil
    • salt to taste
  • For the toppings (Choose all or just a few):
    • 1 thinly sliced carrot (I usually just peel layers, then roughly chop them)
    • Thinly sliced green bell pepper
    • Mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 3-4 baby boo choy
    • Handful of kale, shredded
  • For Garnishes (Choose all or just a few):
    • 1/2 cup scallion, chopped
    • 2-3 chilli pepper, finely chopped
    • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
    • 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts (or any sprouts)
    • Handfull cilantro
    • Handfull basil
    • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
    • Hot sauce
    • Fried Egg

Process:

  1. To make the Broth:
    1. In a large pot heat oil, add the spices (cinnamon, anise, clove, fennel, coriander, black pepper) and dry roast in low heat
    2. When you smell the aroma of the spices, add the ginger, shallots and sherry (if using) sauté for 4-5 mins or till onions loose their raw smell
    3. Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, honey and cayene
    4. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 mins
    5. Strain and keep hot till ready to serve
  2. To prepare the toppings:
    1. Slightly steam or blanch the vegetables chosen
  3. To prepare the Noodles (While the broth is simmering):
    1. Bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil, add salt and oil
    2. Turn of the heat and add the noodles
    3. Cover and let stand for 20 – 30 mins or till the noodles are tender
  4. To serve:
    1. Divide the noodles in two bowls
    2. Arrange the toppings over the noodles
    3. Ladle in the broth
    4. Top with garnishes and serve warm.

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Notes:

  • For Non-Vegetarian version:
    • Use chicken stock for the broth
    • Chicken topping: use shredded rotisserie chicken or stir fry chicken breast pieces with some soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper
    • Sauteed shrimp topping: Stir-fry peeled deveined shrimp in hot oil with minced ginger, minced garlic, ground pepper and salt.
  • For Vegan Version:
    • Use stir fry tofu for the topping
  • For a pure vegetarian version:
    • Don’t use the fried egg as a garnish
  • The rice noodles can be replaced with Ramen noodles or Maggi that is popular in India, ditch the seasoning that comes with the package and just use the noodles
  • Instead of just soy sauce I like using a soy sauce reduction because the flavor is more intense
  • Use a tea steeper to add spices to the broth, to skip the straining step

Baked Pasta (Grown-up Mac and Cheese)

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Back in 2005 I baby sat my friend April’s kids often. While the 6 month old toddler, Sophie, absolutely loved eating Kichadi, the older one, Maddie often demanded Mac and Cheese. This was my introduction to this classic American comfort food. I am not a fan of packaged food, so I asked around for a recipe to get started. Traditionally this American dish is made using 3 simple ingredients: Macaroni, cheese (preferably sharp Cheddar) and butter. These are layered and then baked in a hot oven. However, I always sneaked in a serving of vegetables along with it.

Over the years I kept experimenting with various combinations of cheese, type of pasta and vegetables.

Pasta and cheese casseroles, Pasta al forno (pasta baked in an oven) have been an integral part of Italian cuisine for centuries. In addition there is an English version by Elizabeth Raffald which uses Béchamel sauce along with Cheddar cheese, mixed with cooked Macaroni, topped with grated parmesan then baked into gooey goodness. So there was plenty of inspiration out there to help me find the perfect balance of gooeyness, goodness and a little bit of nutrition (in that order!).

My cheese preference:

  • Smoked Gouda for the smokiness and the earthy flavor.
  • Swiss for its nutty sweet flavor.
  • Gruyere for the grainy texture and saltiness.
  • Cheddar for its sharpness.

For moisture I like using Alfredo sauce, because it just brings together the flavors of the cheeses. For a recipe click here.

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

Ingredients:

  • 8oz of uncooked Penne
  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh green peas, Cooked
  • 1/2 cup baby kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated smoked gouda
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs

Process:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cook the pasta in well salted water as you normally would, but drain the pasta while it is still slightly underdone.
  3. Pour drained pasta in a large bowl.
  4. Add the Alfredo Sauce and mix well.
  5. Add the green peas, spinach, kale and red bell peppers, fold in.
  6. Now add gruyere, cheddar, swiss and smoked gouda cheese, gently fold them in.
  7. In a separate bowl mix in the grated parmesan and bread crumbs.
  8. Transfer to a greased baking dish or smaller baking dishes for individual servings.
  9. Top it with the parmesan and bread crumb mixture and bake for 20-30 mins (Reduce time if doing individual servings) or until the top is nice and brown and the pasta is hot and bubbly.

Serve Hot!

Notes:

  • Any type of pasta can be used, however I had more success using shorter, tabular pastas like Penne, Rigatoni, Ziti or Macaroni.
  • The proportions here are just indicative you can always add more Alfredo sauce or milk or water if you want it to be more moist, more cheese for creamier texture and cooked meat for some protein.