Bangali Tikona Porotha (Triangle Paratha)

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“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard 

This statement holds true for any kind of bread there is, especially Parathas. There is something deliciously satisfying about hot fresh off the griddle parathas on cold wintry evenings. All I need with it is some salt, a couple fresh green chile and fresh butter, Yum! Short-Cut Ranna (Cooking) in our house on lazy cold evenings usually meant Aloor Pyager Chorchori and Porotha, a few extra would always be made for my dads favorite breakfast of Baashi Porotha and Lonka (One day old paratha with fresh green chilli) the next morning. A ritual every time we were T-few hours away from a family vacations.

Parathas are very popular in India and pretty much every region has a version or two of it. I am calling this Bangali, because so far I have only eaten this shape of paratha in bengali households. Tikona in Bangla means triangle.

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

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cup whole wheat flour + more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil as shortening + more for cooking
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Warm water as needed to make dough

Process:

  1. Making the dough:
    • In a wide mouth bowl/ food processor mix in the flour and ghee/oil.
    • Then gradually add in the warm water and work the flour to make dough.
    • Knead till the dough is soft, smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands.
    • Cover with damp cloth/paper towel and let sit for 20-30 mins.
  2. Rolling the Paratha:
    • Take a golf ball size portion of the dough and roll it into a ball.
    • Dust it with flour and flatten it using your fingers to form a disc.
    • Place the disc on a flat surface and roll it out into a circle around 1/8 inch thick.
    • Brush the surface with a little bit of oil/ghee. This is just to make the parathas flaky, don’t use too much oil, just a drop or two and spread it out.
    • Fold into half to make a semi-circle
    • Brush surface with a little bit oil/ghee
    • Fold again to make a quarter of a circle.
    • Dust it with a little flour and roll it into a triangle shape (roughly) around 1/8 inch thick.
  3. Cooking the Paratha:
    • Heat griddle to medium-high heat (I usually test by waving my palm over the griddle to feel if its hot enough). If your using one of the electric griddle with temperature control, heat griddle to 375-400F.
    • Toss one of the rolled paratha on a heated griddle.
    • Flip when it begins to puff a little.
    • Press down the sides with a spatula to ensure they get cooked too. It will ballon up a little at this stage.
    • Brush a little oil/ghee and flip.
    • Again press down to ensure corners are cooked.
    • When you see a few dark spots forming here and there, on both sides, take it off the heat.

Notes:

  • My mom says that cooking the rolled side (top part touching the rolling pin) first results in better parathas.

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)