Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Simple Chili Pickles

Chili Pickles

Mankind has been eating chilies for over 10,000 years. Domesticated in South America, they were brought to India by the Portuguese and now appear in almost all Indian curries. A variety of chilies are pickled across India. Small Tanjore chilies, plump Andhra chilies, Long thin green / red chilies, long plump chilies, dry red chilies – all can be pickled. There are over 3000 varieties of chilies across the world, and all of them can be used in the pickles listed here.

The logic is simple. Chilies are slit / chopped / crushed / blended and mixed with a variety of spice powders & salt. They are then steeped in an acid (lemon juice / vinegar / tamarind pulp / yogurt) and left in sun for a few days. The acid prevents spoilage and sunning the pickle kills microorganisms. So all these pickles last easily for months and last much longer refrigerated. Feel free to change the quantity of spice powders / salt to suit your taste.


1. Water kills pickles. Ensure chilies are wiped dry before pickling.

2. Keep bottles and spoons completely dry. 3. A tiny pinch of citric acid / sodium benzoate can be mixed with the pickle to make it long much longer.

4. Refrigerating pickles to make them last much longer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bengali Kitchen Virgin Survival Manual

This cookbook focuses on greatly simplified Bengali recipes you can cook up on the very first try. (Click the image on the left to see the cookbook).

Step 1 : Cooking rice and dal is the basic skill you need to master. With a pressure cooker, cooking rice and dal is a no brainer. Just dump them in the cooker, add twice the water and pressure cook for 2 or 3 whistles – that’s it !

Step 2 : Understanding basic Bengali curries is the second step. Learn how to cook Dal, Bhaja, Jhol, Charchari, Shaak, Chaatni, and their variations.

Step 3 : Master kneading dough and you can cook up Luchi , kochuri, roti and parathas.

Step 4 : Learn easy to cook dishes like Chirer Pulao & Panta Bhat.

That's it. You are all set to survive in a Bengali household !

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Traditional Bengali Recipes

Bengali Cuisine – A Primer :

Key Starches : Rice, wheat ( eaten as deep fried refined wheat flatbreads called luchis).

Typical breakfast Luchi / Roti served with potato curry / dal.. Pantabhat is preferred in summer (cooked rice soaked overnight in water eaten mixed with salt, chopped onions, green chilies and a dash of lemon juice / yogurt). Pressed rice or puffed rice is also eaten raw / soaked in milk / cooked with spices.

Lunch : Rice served with 5-6 curries in a particular order listed on the left. Khichuri ( rice and lentil porridge) served with fries is popular during monsoons.

Key Flavourings: Mustard, Cumin, Nigella, Fennel, Fenugreek. Equal quantities of these are mixed together and called Panch Phoran. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, leaves Garam masala ( a readymade powdered mix of roasted cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise and coriander seeds) are also common.

Curry Bases : Mustard paste, Poppy seed paste ( soak equal quantities of mustard seeds and poppy seeds in water for 2 hours. Blend to a paste), tomato puree.

Preferred fats :
Mustard oil, Ghee, Peanut oil.

Protein Source:
Lentils ( Masoor dal, Mung dal, Channa Dal), Freshwater fishes (especially Hilsa), Chicken, Mutton & eggs. Beef is consumed in East Bengal (Bangladesh), Pork is eaten by the Anglo Indians & Chinese communities.

Common Vegetables: Eggplant, Potato, Squash, Ridge gourd, Drumstick, Spinach, Sweet potato, String beans, Pumpkin, Radish, Bitter gourd.

Building blocks:
Rice, Wheat Vegetables, Lentils, Freshwater fish.

Souring agents :
Green mangoes, dried mango powder.

Desserts :
Bengalis learnt the art of curdling milk to separate milk solids (chena), probably from Portuguese. This is used as a base for a wide variety of sweets – (Rasagolla, Rasamalai etc)

This cookbook lists 10 traditional Bengali recipes , greatly simplified, so that a first time cook can easily cook them. The following recipes are listed in this cookbook. Click the links for detailed recipes with photos from my fellow bloggers

1.: Pora (Grilled and mashed starter) (Begun Pora).

2.: Shukto (Bitter, mixed vegetable curry )

3.: Dal (Flavoured Lentils )

4.: Bhaja (Fries) ( Begun Bhaja)

5.: Shaak ( Leafy Greens curry) Mulo Shaak

6.: Charchari (Mixed vegetable dry curry) ( Panchmishali Charchari)

7.: Jhol (Thin, spicy gravy) (Macher jol)

8.: Ambol ( Sweet and sour dish ) Kancha Aamer Ambol

9.: Ghonto (Stir fried) Lau Ghonto

10.: Bhapa (Steamed ) Bhapa Ilish

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No cook Indian Desserts

Click the image on the left to see the cookbook listing 10 easy no-cook Indian desserts. For detailed recipes and pictures, check out my fellow bloggers below…

1.: Anjeer Laddoo A huge variety of ball shaped laddoos are cooked across India. Most use sugar syrup / hot ghee as a binder. Anjeer laddoo uses the stickiness of dates / figs to bind the laddoo

2.: Panchamirtham (Tamilnadu)
This no cook jam was invented in the temple town of Palani, Tamilnadu. Tonnes of panchamirtham is distributed as Prasad to devotees everyday. Roasted and ground millet flour (Thinai) mixed with honey is another delicacy served here.

Kesar Kulfi (Punjab)
When milk is frozen it sets into a hard crunchy ice. The western world discovered that when milk is constantly stirred and mixed with air while being frozen, it sets into creamy ice cream. Indians discovered that if most of the water in milk is removed by boiling it for hours, and the thickened milk is then frozen, it sets into a thick chewy ice cream – the Kulfi.

4.: Shrihkand (Maharashtra)
Varieties of thick creamy yogurt / yogurt cheese exist across the world. Mixing in powdered sugar and flavouring agents makes it the much loved shrikhand.

5.: Sweet Poha Long before corn flakes and cereals became popular in the west, rice flakes (poha) were common in India. You can in fact look at this recipe as a muesli variant. Mixed in with milk / yogurt, this recipe can double as a breakfast cereal.

6.: Elaneer Payasam (Tamilnadu)
A Kongunadu delicacy which relies on the delicate flavours of sweet coconut water and tender coconut flesh.

7, 8, 9.: Doodh Kela, Ambyache Shikran (Maharashtra) . Mavina hannu Rasayana (Konkan)
The flesh of fruits like banana / mango is mixed in with milk and sugar to create these simple desserts. Try using condensed milk / cream in place of milk and jaggery / honey in place of sugar. Using custard apple flesh gives Mumbai Haji Ali’s famous Sitaphal cream.

10.: Aam ras (Maharashtra) Though this can be eaten as a dessert, it is usually served as a dipping sauce along with pooris.

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Cooking is fun - Duplication is a pain !

"It is extraordinary to me that the idea of creating thousands of recipes by mixing building blocks takes immediately to people or it doesn’t take at all. .... If it doesn’t grab a person right away, ... you can talk to him for years and show him demos, and it doesn’t make any difference. They just don’t seem able to grasp the concept, simple as it is". ( Thanks Warren Buffett !)

"What's angering about instructions in many cookbooks is that they imply there's only one way to cook a dish - their way. And that presumption wipes out all the creativity." Cook dishes your way - Download  1001 South Indian curries now and learn to cook, not to duplicate ! ( Thanks Robert Pirsig !)

"Recipe purity is no different from racial purity or linguistic purity. It just does not exist. Cuisines are alive and change all the time. What is traditional today was esoteric just a few decades back. So being a 'foodist' is as bad as being a racist !

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
Okay, let me start from the very beginning. 1500 crore years ago, with a Big Bang, the Universe is born. It expands dramatically. Hydrogen forms, contracts under gravity and lights up, forming stars. Some stars explode, dusting space with the building blocks of life. These condense into planets, one of which is Earth. Over time, self replicating molecules appear, multiply and become more complex. They create elaborate survival machines (cells, plants, animals). A variety of lifeforms evolve. Soon, humans arise, discover fire, invent language, agriculture and religion. Civilisations rise and fall. Alexander marches into India. Moguls establish an empire. Britain follows. Independence. Partition. Bloodshed. The license raj is in full sway. I'm born. India struggles to find its place. Liberalisation. The Internet arrives! I move from Tirupur to Chennai. Start a company. Expand into Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. Poof! Dot com bust. Funding dries up. Struggle. Retire. Discover the joy of cooking, giving, friendships and the pleasures of a simple life. Life seems less complicated. Pizza Republic, Pita Bite and Bhojan Express bloom !

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