Kumror (Pumpkin) Chokka

img_6127

Fall is my favorite time of the year the slight nip in the air, the smell of pine, festivities everywhere and fall vegetables, I love every one of them! Chokka in bangla means a spiced dish of vegetables cooked almost dry. Kumror Chokka is a traditional bengali dish that is made using Pumpkins, potatoes and chickpeas.While traditionally this dish is made during the summer months, I make this in fall, with fresh Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash from the local farmers market. Serve it with Porotha or Puri and its just perfect of cold evenings.

This dish was very popular in my maternal grandparents house. Story goes that when ever my grandparents argued about something, my granddad would step out and comeback home with a Pumpkin as peace offering. And my grandmother would make this, their favorite dish and they would laugh about their disagreements over a meal. Love Birds!

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: 15-20 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 3-4 green chile pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1-2 dried red chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and dried red chilli pepper. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. In the mean time muddle together ginger, garlic and fresh green chile pepper with a pestle
  3. Add the potatoes, muddle spices, turmeric and salt to the now aromatic temper. Sauté for 4-5 mins.
  4. Add butternut squash/pumpkin and chickpeas, mix them in. Cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 10-12 mins.
  5. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  6. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  7. Garnish with ghee, garam masala and chopped cilantro.

 

Advertisements

Aloo Pyager Chorchuri (Potato-Onions Stir-Fry)

IMG_2088

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!

fries-how-to-cut

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.

Peas Pulao

IMG_4106

This past week marked the 42nd wedding anniversary of my parents, growing up we celebrated the day with a gathering of friends and family and my mom like always cooked up a feast. Peas Pulao or ghee bhaath, always played an award winning supporting role, complimenting the flavors of the side dishes. In my opinion this dish is the underdog of bengali cuisine and never gets its due credit. Long grained basmati rice flavored with aasto gorom moshala (whole spices), jeere (cumin) and ghee makes for perfectly light and aromatic companion to pretty much any side dish, or to be eaten as is.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 15 mins     Yield: 6 Servings     Level: easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3.5 cup water or broth.
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

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 2-3 mins.
  3. Add the drained 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 green peas, cilantro, mint and sauté for a minute before adding water, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 12-15 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 or with just Raita.

Notes:

  • For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated drain and spread soaked rice on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so appetizing.
  • If your using frozen green peas, thaw it before using.

Onion Fritters

IMG_4068

Last few days in California felt like the monsoon season in India. Peaks of sunshine in between rainy days, glorious rainbows and slight chill in the air. The only thing missing was the ‘geeli mitti ki saundhi saundhi khushboo’, the sweet aroma of the soil when it first gets wet after the hot dry summer days. The special smell of the soil back home!

I love rain. There is something so calming about walking in the rain, soaking it all in and jumping in the little puddles of water (yes, sometimes I am like a 5 year old and I love it). It transports me to childhood days when as soon as it rained, we would go out for a drive to Tank Bund (in Hyderabad) in search of a Bhutta Wala (street vendor selling corn on webs), watching greedily as he grilled a delicious corn on the cob on a bed of coal, once done he would dip a half a lime in salt and then rub it on the corn before handing it over to us.

IMG_4067

On other days my foodie dad would convince mom to make bhaja boda and cha (onion fritters and tea). Hard to find a Bhutta Wala in California, so I just made some fritters instead. When we lived in Connecticut, this was a favorite for snowy days.

Here I am deep frying the fritters, but in the past I have tried to bake it too. I dropped spoonful of batter on a cookie sheet layered with parchment paper around 1/2 inch apart from each other,  sprayed a little oil and baked for 20 mins in oven pre-heated to 400F/205C, then broiled for 5 mins, flipping them halfway. While it definitely is a lot healthier, it doesn’t taste the same.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup chickpea flour/gram flour/besan
  • 2 tbsp rice powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp ajwain / carom seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2-3 green chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 inch ginger, grated
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • water if required
  • oil for deep frying

Process:

  1. In a mixing bowl mix the sliced onions, ginger, garlic, ajwain, cumin, cayenne and salt. Let it sit aside for 20-25 mins. Onions will release quite a bit of water.
  2. Add in the chopped cilantro and green chilli pepper and fold it in.
  3. Heat oil for deep frying on medium heat.
  4. While oil is heating, add rice flour and chickpea flour, mix it in to form a thick batter. Add in water if needed.*
  5. Mix it in really well (I use hands at this point), all ingredients need to be evenly distributed or you will get pockets of intense flavor and pockets of bland batter.
  6. When the oil is hot enough* (around 375F) add spoonful of batter into it one by one. Depending on the size of the vessel your frying in, don’t over crowd. I was frying 5-6 spoonful at a time.
  7. When the fritters are slightly cooked, turn with a slotted spoon and continue frying.*
  8. When the fritters get an even golden brown coat and look crispy remove them with a slotted spoon. Place on kitchen paper towels to soak out the extra oil.

Serve hot.

Notes:

  • Be mindful while adding water and add only 1 tbsp at a time. The batter needs to be thick and just enough to coat all the onions to get a crispy fritters. If you add too much water you will get soggy /meaty fritters instead.
  • Also add a couple (2 or 3) teaspoon of hot oil in the batter and mix it in. This makes the fritters crispier and they tend to absorb less oil while frying.
  • To test if the oil is hot enough, take a tiny bit of the batter and drop it in the oil, if it floats up and begins to get brown, the oil is ready.
  • The oil should not be too hot, otherwise the fritters will get brown quickly but will remain uncooked inside.
  • You will probably need to turn the fritters a couple times to get it evenly fried.
  • If you are not comfortable frying and want to bake instead then. Drop spoonful of batter on a cookie sheet layered with parchment paper around 1/2 inch apart from each other. Spray a little oil and bake for 20 mins in oven pre-heated to 400F/205C, then broil for 5 mins, flipping them halfway.

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)

 

IMG_4053

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).

IMG_4056

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.

IMG_1164

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

IMG_4029

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.