Bhapa Doi (Baked Yogurt) Cheesecake: Eggless & No Cream Cheese

Say mishti doi once and most faces light up- from Bollywood celebrities to those far away from their homeland Bengal. It’s an emotion after all!

But its lesser known and equally delicious cousin Bhapa doi (steamed yogurt) deserves a mention too!
With a creamy and light pudding-like texture coupled with the earthy flavour of nolen gur (date palm jaggery), this cheesecake is a sure winner this winter ❄️

You could play around with different toppings like strawberry glaze or chocolate shavings or you may also mix fresh mango puree in the cake batter to make it even more sinful.

With minimal ingredients and a hassle-free baking technique, this cheesecake comes together in a snap! Try it once and feel the magic 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cups parle g/ good day or any digestive biscuit crumbs

1/2 cup melted butter

200 g plain yogurt

100 g hung yogurt

300 ml condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

3 tbsp liquid nolen gur (date palm jaggery)

4-5 tbsp fresh milk (preferably full fat)

Chopped almonds and pistachios for garnishing

Method:

In a bowl, add 2 cups of Parle g/ Good day or any other digestive biscuit crumbs and the melted butter. Mix thoroughly until well combined. Now press the crumbs into an even layer at the bottom of an 8-9 inch spring foam pan. Keep refrigerated for at least 15-20 minutes.

In another bowl, gently fold with a spatula the following ingredients- plain yogurt, hung yogurt, condensed milk, vanilla essence, liquid nolen gur and fresh milk. Don’t use a whisk! Just mix the ingredients with a spatula without over mixing, else the cake may crack while baking.

The best thing about bhapa doi/ steamed yogurt is that there is no fixed measurement of ingredients unlike regular baking. You can add/ reduce the quantities depending on how sweet you want the cheesecake to be but just make sure that the batter is of slightly thicker consistency.

Pour the batter into the cake pan.

Put few drops of the liquid gur/ jaggery on top with a spoon and now spread them with a toothpick/ skewer to your liking and create any random design as seen the pictures below.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 degree Celsius for 50 minutes. Don’t forget to pour some hot water on a baking tray and place the cake pan on top and then bake (water bath).


Refrigerate for at least 5 hours and serve chilled garnished with chopped almonds, pistachios and a drizzling of some warm nolen gur🤍

Aloor Bora (Bengali style crispy potato fritters with chilies)

Recipe no: 4 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

This has to be the easiest recipe among all that I’ve ever shared on my blog.

Maa used to make this quite often during my growing up years and I loved these fritters with some rice and lentils. Best comfort food ever🤍 I still remember coming back home from school, quickly changing and rushing to the kitchen to see what’s for supper. That really was the highlight of my day!

So I knew I had to include this simple dish in my #regionalkitchensofindia series. Most of us have the usual potato chips/ fries/ aloo bhaja at home all the time, but have you tried fritters with the potato skin unpeeled, Bengali style?

Bengal had faced several challenges in its long history which had adverse implications on its economy. As a result, women came up with several innovative ways to utilise everything they had in their kitchen and minimise wastage. No peels, skins, stems or fish head got thrown away 😅

You can enjoy this with either a simple meal like dal-chawal (lentil and rice) or with your evening cuppa. Simple pleasures of life 🙂

Ingredients (for about 10 small fritters):

9-10 small potatoes, boiled (don’t remove the skin)

1 tsp roasted cumin powder

3 finely chopped green chilies

1 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves

Salt to taste

3 tsp rice flour

Mustard oil to deep fry

Method:

Boil the potatoes & mash them without removing the skin. That’s the essence of this dish.

Add salt, roasted cumin powder, lots of chopped green chilies and coriander leaves. Throw in the rice flour for binding and mix everything well.

Make small balls and fry them on medium heat in very hot oil (preferably mustard oil).

Chicken Dak Bungalow- from the erstwhile British Raj in India

Recipe no: 3 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

One of the most mystifying dishes from eastern India, chicken dak bungalow is a colonial recipe developed during the British era in India.

I first tasted this legendary chicken curry at a famous Bengali restaurant Bhojohori Manna back in my teens. Since then I have been quite fascinated by this unpretentious yet wholesome dish made with meat (mutton/ chicken), eggs, potatoes and freshly ground spices!

Dak = Post

Dakbangla or Dak Bungalows were government owned rest houses for the sahibs (British administrative officials) who were traveling for work and needed a place to spend the night. These bungalows were situated mostly along the postal routes in very remote areas and hence the name ‘Dak‘ bungalow.

Source: Wikipedia

Often the officers would arrive late at night or without any notice and the guest house caretakers/ khansamas (cook) had to prepare dinner within their modest means and with what was available locally or could be procured quickly.

There was nothing fancy about the curry but it was delicious and comforting, just what the tired and weary souls of the traveling British officials would be craving.

The dish was mostly prepared with fowl because it was cheap and readily available or maybe mutton sometimes if the budget permitted (or when a goat was hunted on a hunting trip by the guest). Basic spices from the pantry were used which were freshly grounded, some green chilies and potatoes (eggs were added much later) resulted in a mildly spiced curry that was simple and mouthwatering.

There are many resources online with different variations of the recipe, but unfortunately there is no one single authentic recipe of this glorious dish because each dak bungalow prepared this curry based on the availability of resources, time, guest requests and most importantly the skills and whims of the cooks who would sometimes skip an ingredient or add a new spice!

Sadly, due to lack of documentation, most of the dak bungalow recipes are now lost. Whatever little we have today are retrieved from the families of the skilled khansamas and caretakers.

An absolute must have with some hot steaming white rice, if you want to time travel and relish the flavours of yesteryears 🙂

Ingredients:

300 g chicken (bone-in)

4 medium potatoes, halved

2 hard boiled eggs

For the chicken marinade:

3 tbsp yogurt

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (I used Kashmiri red chilli powder because it has no heat and gives a brilliant colour)

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1 tbsp mustard oil

For the gravy:

3-4 tbsp mustard oil

1/2 tsp sugar

1 large bay leaf

2 cinnamon sticks

3-4 green cardamom

1 dried red chilli

1 medium onion roughly chopped

1 heaped tbsp grated ginger and garlic

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

Salt to taste

2 whole green chilies

1 large cup warm water

Method:

Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under marinade in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder on the potatoes and the boiled eggs. Poke some holes in the eggs so that they don’t splutter in hot oil while frying.

Heat a wok/ kadhai with mustard oil and fry the potatoes followed by the boiled eggs for 4-5 minutes each. In the same wok, add the whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, dried red chilli and some sugar. Sugar helps in caramelising the gravy and lends a beautiful colour.

Now add the chopped onion and fry until golden brown on medium heat. Throw in the grated ginger and garlic and mix well for a couple of minutes until the raw smell disappears.

In a bowl, add the dry spice powders like turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chilli and salt. Mix with little water to form a paste and add it in the wok. Stir fry well for 5 minutes on medium heat.

This is the time to add the chicken to the gravy. Mix everything well and cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until the oil separates. Cover the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes on low heat. Now throw in the potato and add a cup of warm water and let it come to a boil.

Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. Now add the eggs, whole green chilies and adjust the salt/ sugar. Cover and cook for the last 5 minutes or until the chicken is absolutely tender and the gravy looks perfectly done.

Garnish with some chopped fresh coriander and serve hot.

Shoukheen Lau (Traditional bengali style bottle gourd/ lauki curry with grated coconut and mustard)

Recipe no: 2 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

A legacy of lost flavours…

Durga pujo (most important festival for Bengalis) at my choto pishi’s (paternal aunt) in the suburbs of Calcutta dates back to the early 1960s. The huge imposing estate in Naihati close to the Ganges has witnessed many a grand celebration over the years when cousins far and near and members across generations would gather to participate in the festivities with much fervour.

Of the many pujo bhog (food offered to goddess Durga) recipes, the one that stayed with me is this bottle gourd dish with shorshe baata (mustard paste) and narkel kora (grated coconut).

The humble lau/ lauki/ bottle gourd with earthy flavours results in a hearty soulful dish reminiscent of glorious days gone by 🙂

Ingredients:

1 medium sized bottle gourd (lau), chopped in thin slices

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 slit green chilli

2 whole green chilies

4 tbsp grated coconut

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

2 tbsp mustard oil

For mustard paste:

1 tsp black mustard seeds

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

Salt to taste

1 small green chilli

1/3 cup warm water

Method:

Take a medium sized bottle gourd/ lau and chop it up in thin slices as shown in the picture below.

Heat a frying pan with mustard oil until it’s smoking hot and then temper it with mustard seeds and a slit green chilli. Once fragrant, add the chopped bottle gourd/ lauki and continue to stir fry on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Now cover the pan and let it cook on low heat. Meanwhile for the mustard paste, throw in the two mustard seeds, green chilli and salt in a blender with some warm water and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Now blend few times to get a fine paste. The longer you soak the mustard seeds, the better.

Remove the cover from the pan and add the mustard paste and mix everything well and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt as per your taste.

Slowly add in the grated coconut and sugar and stir fry on medium heat for another 5-6 minutes. Throw in 2 green chilies and cover and cook for 10-15 more minutes or until the lau/ bottle gourd is well combined. There is no need to add any additional water.

Switch off the flame and give it a standing time for 5 minutes. Best served with some plain white rice 🙂

Did you know that the bottle gourd skin is actually very delicious when fried?!

Next time you prepare this or any other bottle gourd dish, don’t throw away the peels.

Chop them up in very fine slices along with some thinly sliced potatoes and stir fry them in oil (preferably mustard) tempered with nigella (kalonji) seeds and slit green chilies. Add in salt and turmeric powder and finish off with a sprinkling of some poppy (posto) seeds on top before taking it off from the stove.

Ta daa ! Your delicious lau khosha bhaja/ (fried bottle gourd skin) is ready!

Authentic Chhanar Dalna (Bengali Cottage Cheese Kofta Curry)

While cleaning my bookshelf a couple of days back, I stumbled upon this slightly mildewed Bengali cookbook ‘Randhan Shikkha‘ which translates to ‘cooking lesson’. The book is from the 1950s and belonged to my late mother-in-law who had given it to me knowing my love for cooking and vintage recipes 🙂

A treasure trove of earthy Bengali dishes long forgotten…..

That’s when I decided to dedicate this whole month to recreating uncelebrated heritage recipes from the regional kitchens of India that no longer enjoy the privilege of being talked about, written about or included in the menus of a typical Indian restaurant.

These culinary classics from our grandmothers’ times are slowly getting lost in the age of convenience and fusion food.

So what better way to start the new year than to share some of the most authentic regional recipes starting with what else but Bengali cuisine. After all, Indian food has so much more to offer than just butter chicken, chole bhature, masala dosa or mishti doi!

Recipe no: 1 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series.

Chhana/ Chana = cottage cheese; dalna = gravy/ curry.

Soft pillowy fried cottage cheese (chhana) balls simmered in a freshly made ginger-cumin-green chili based gravy, finished with a big dollop of ghee (clarified butter).

Chhana is not to be confused with paneer. Technically they are made in the same way but chhana is much softer and moister and is kneaded like a dough to make soft balls for kofta curries or the iconic rasgullas.

Looking back I recall my thakuma (grandma) cooking her signature cottage cheese and potato curry on special occasions when niramish (vegetarian) meals meant strictly no-onion and no-garlic. My maa still makes it every year during nabobarsho (Bengali new year) if she’s in town.

The dish probably has its origin back in the times when Bengali Hindu widows were prohibited from eating anything non-vegetarian including onion and garlic, so women prepared a lot of recipes with milk in order to get required protein in their food and since then the recipes have passed down several generations.

The quintessential ‘aada-jeere baata‘ (ginger-cumin paste) is the heart of his curry. The gorgeous aroma of this paste made in the mortar-pestle evokes a sense of comfort and transports me straight to my thakuma’s hneshel (grandma’s kitchen).

Bittersweet memories!

Try out this simple recipe the next time you want some protein-rich vegetarian dish. It is guaranteed to make your tastebuds dance!

Ingredients (9-10 medium sized koftas):

The original recipe calls for homemade chhana/ chhena (cottage cheese), but I used Nanak’s fresh paneer which tastes fantastic and is extremely soft, making it the perfect substitute. For those of you unsure of your chhana making skills or are pressed for time, I would highly advise to get very good quality fresh paneer made from full fat milk.

For the chhana/ cottage cheese koftas:

220 g fresh paneer, crumbled

1 tbsp all purpose flour/ maida

1 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

White oil to shallow fry

For the gravy:

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large bay leaf

1 large cinnamon stick

4-5 green cardamom

3 cloves

A paste made of 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 green chili and 2 inch ginger chunk (preferably in a mortar-pestle)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder

2 medium potatoes diced in cubes

1/2 chopped tomato

2 whole green chilies

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

11/2 tbsp white oil

1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp garam masala (preferably Bengali gorom moshla)

1 small cup warm water

Method:

In a bowl add the crumbled paneer, all purpose flour, salt, sugar and knead well like a dough for at least 6-7 minutes. Now divide the dough into slightly flattened balls/ koftas of equal size.

Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the koftas on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. It takes about 2-21/2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep aside.

In the same frying pan (remove the excess oil, only keep about 2 tbsp), temper the oil with cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves. Once the spices are fragrant, turn the heat into medium-low and add the ginger-cumin-green chili paste into the pan carefully as the oil may start spluttering a lot. Stir fry for 2 minutes.

This is the time to add the potatoes, red chili powder and turmeric. Keep frying for few more minutes until the potatoes are softer. Now throw in the chopped tomatoes and whole green chilies and continue to fry until the oil separates and the spices are well cooked.

Add some warm water (depending on how you want the gravy consistency to be), salt and sugar and let it come to a boil. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Now add the koftas/ channa balls into the gravy, a dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of garam masala. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Switch off the flame and keep it covered (standing time) for 5 more minutes. Serve hot with steaming white rice or ghee bhaat 🙂

Gajar Halwa Tarts

Gajar Halwa Tarts

As a kid I remember eagerly waiting for winters. Marigold blooms, afternoon picnics, cozy blankets & of course bowls of warm & comforting gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) made by maa.

I would help her peel & grate the carrots in the hope of getting a bigger share than my sis 😀 Those indeed were the days. During winters, we would rush home from school, throw our bags & run to the kitchen to see what’s in store, just in case we were in for any surprises! Truth be told, my sis was least interested, it was more my thing. Nothing gave me more joy than watching maa or our cook whip up something fancy in the kitchen while I eagerly waited for my turn to relish them 🙂

With the winters approaching, I have been craving gajar ka halwa for a while now & thought of following maa’s recipe with a few tweaks here & there & also turn it into tarts. Not only they taste heavenly but look pretty too! Go ahead & try it out.

Here’s the recipe (for 12 tarts):

Ingredients

450 g peeled & grated carrot

2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew

60-70 ml ghee (clarified butter)

200 ml milk (I used oat milk)

130 ml condensed milk

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

12 tart shells (I used store bought)

Pistachios for garnishing

Method

Roughly chop 2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew & roast them in 2 tsp ghee. Keep aside. Heat 50 ml ghee in a heavy bottomed pan & add about 450g peeled & grated carrot.

Mix well & cook until the colour changes & the carrot looks well combined.

Halfway add 2-3 tbsp ghee again & stir everything well.

After 10 mins add 200ml milk (I used oat milk).

Keep stirring & simmering on medium heat until the mixture reaches boiling point. This is where you add 130 ml of condensed milk & 1 tbsp sugar. Lower the heat & let everything combine well & come together.

Keep stirring for 10 more mins until the carrot no longer sticks to the pan. Stir in half a tsp of cardamom powder & the fried nuts back into the pan & continue to cook until the halwa turns dark orange/ reddish. 

You can have it as it is or make tarts like I did I used store bought tart shells. Fill each shell with the halwa (pudding) after poking holes in the tarts with a fork. Now line them up on a baking tray.

Before going in the oven

Preheat oven to 180-190 degree celsius & bake the tarts for 12-13 mins. Garnish with chopped pistachios & drizzle some condensed milk before serving.

Little cups of heaven 🙂

POTOLER DOLMA (Stuffed Pointed Gourd in a spicy gravy)

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Potoler Dolma is a delectable Bengali dish which is a quintessential part of any traditional function or festival. The stuffing/ filling used in this recipe is minced mutton (keema). But of course, the options are many, like- grated coconut, paneer (cottage cheese), minced prawns and all are equally delicious! As you know that my mum is here, so it goes without saying that this is her recipe 😀

I realized that I had never bothered to find out about the origin of the word ‘dolma’. Upon researching, I learned that, in Turkish, Dolma means stuffed. It is also commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines. It was during the time of the Sultanate’s rule in Bengal that this dish ‘Potoler Dolma’ was created using local vegetables/ meat.

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I love the intricacy of the dish. From scooping out the flesh and seeds of potol, to frying it, preparing the stuffing, making the gravy and then cooking everything together. It’s a work of art and the end result is just brilliant! But I never really cooked it at home (lazy me :P) and now living away from home in India, I rarely get to eat it these days. But a small cute incident made me fall in love with the dish all over again and so now, I intend to make it once in a while.

It was during one of our trips back home in Calcutta, when my mum made potoler dolma among a host of other dishes, for her beloved son-in-law and me 😀 As S took a bite, he nonchalantly remarked that this dish was his favourite! It’s very rare that he actually says something like that because he is not much of a foodie and doesn’t really care what you give him to eat (savior at times 😛 ). Of course I know what he enjoys eating but he never says what his favourite is, so this was a sweet revelation for me. And when mum wanted to cook something special on naboborsho (Bengali New Year) which was on 15th of April, this dish was my first choice. It was pure joy to watch him savour his ‘favourite’ dish 🙂

Ingredients:

For Stuffing:

  • 10 potols/ pointed gourds
  • 250 g minced mutton
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 large grated tomato
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled and crumbled
  • Scooped flesh and seeds of the pointed gourds
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil for frying

For Gravy:

  • Whole garam masala, crushed (5-6 green cardamom, 4 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick)
  • 1 tsp jeera/ cumin seeds
  • 2-3 green chilies
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil

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Method:

Deseeding the potol/ pointed gourd

Cut the two ends of a potol and very lightly scrape it using a blunt knife. Now carefully scoop out the flesh and the seeds from inside without breaking the potol. You can use a fork or the back of a small spoon to do this.  Keep the seeds and flesh aside to be used later.

Now rub a little salt and turmeric on inside and outside of the potols and fry them in mustard oil. Keep aside to cool.

Stuffing:

Heat some mustard oil in a kadhai/ wok and add chopped onions. Stir for a while and when they get soft, add ginger-garlic paste. Stir for a minute or till the raw smell goes away, now add the tomatoes and throw in green chilies. Fry well. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala and mix everything well. Now add the keema (minced mutton), flesh and seeds of potols, salt and mix well. Cook for a while till you see oil separating from the mix. Now mash the potatoes and add into the stuffing mix. Combine everything well and cook till the gravy dries up. Let it cool.

Now fill the scooped out and fried potols with the stuffing. Make sure that they are stuffed till the edge tightly. Keep a little stuffing aside to be added into the gravy later.

Gravy:

In the same wok, heat some more mustard oil, add some sugar to get a rich red colour of the gravy. Once it caramelizes, add crushed whole garam masalas, cumin seeds and green chilies. Once the aroma of the masala releases, add ginger paste. Stir for a while. In a small cup, mix turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder with some water to make a paste and add into the gravy. Throw in the tomato puree and keep stirring till you see oil separating from the masalas. Now add water and salt and cover the kadhai and let it come to a boil (medium flame). Now add the potols into the gravy along with the extra stuffing. Cover and now cook on a low flame. When gravy thickens to your desired consistency, add some freshly ground garam masala and switch off the gas. Cover the wok and let it get a standing time of at least 10 minutes.

Serve hot with plain white rice.

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NOLEN GURER PAYESH (Rice Pudding with Date Palm Jaggery)

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For me, this very name brings back a lot of memories. No festival/ wedding/ function in winters is complete without a dessert made with nolen gur. The sheer variety of desserts that can be made using this lip smacking gur/ jaggery is endless. From payesh to pitheys, ice cream, sandesh, and so much more! Every household has their own version of this dish and today I am going to share with you how my mum cooks it. She is now here with me in KL, and she got some nolen gur packed for me from India. Yay!! S loves anything sweet and I am always looking for ways to satiate his sweet tooth, so what better than homemade payesh. Its gluten free and the best thing? It was cooked by mum and it tasted heavenly! Someone rightly said, Desserts is stressed spelled backwards 😀

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There are certain ‘musts’ in this recipe to make the authentic payesh. The first is Date Palm Jaggery or Nolen Gur/ Notun Gur. In India, this particular jaggery is available only in winters and it is an inherent part of the culinary tradition of Bengal in winters. It has a rich nutty flavour and simply melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The second one is the type of rice to be used, which is Gobindobhog (an aromatic rice). You can substitute it with basmati rice but it won’t be the real deal 🙂

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Ingredients (to serve 4-5 people):

  • 1 Litre full cream milk (full fat or full cream milk is essential for that creamy consistency)
  • 60-65gm gobindobhog/ basmati rice (this ratio is important! For every 1 l milk, approx. 60gm of rice to be used)
  • Nolen gur/ Date Palm Jaggery (no strict measurement for this, as per your taste)

*Note: If you don’t have date palm jaggery, you may substitute it with date syrup available in most groceries or brown sugar*

  • 2 tsp Raisins
  • Few crushed green cardamoms
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • Almonds for garnishing

Method:

In a deep bottomed pan, heat the milk. Let it come to a boil while stirring continuously, so that no cream is formed. While the milk is boiling, add the crushed cardomoms and the bay leaves and keep stirring with the ladle until the milk thickens. Now add the rice into the pan (the rice should be washed and dried on a flat surface before adding into the milk). Again keep stirring and when the rice is completely cooked, throw in the jaggery or sugar and mix well till completely dissolved in milk. Once the pudding thickens to your desired consistency, add the raisins and switch off the flame after 2-3 minutes. Garnish with dry fruits of your choice. You may serve it hot or chilled, tastes great both ways 🙂

3 important tips to remember for the perfect payesh:

  1. Always use full cream milk for best results.
  2. While cooking, keep stirring the milk continuously so that no cream/ layer forms on top.
  3. Most importantly, keep in mind that the jaggery/ sugar should always be added after the rice is cooked perfectly. Once the sweet goes in, the rice stops getting cooked further.

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Patishapta (Rice flour crepes with coconut filling): Celebrating Makar Sankranti

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In India, the harvesting season is considered extremely auspicious and households all over the country celebrate during the month of January by making sweets of all kinds. Each region has its own take on the festival but the underlying essence remains the same, i.e. to celebrate the prosperity and bring in more luck for the coming seasons. In Bengal, it is known as Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti, while in Northern India its Lohri, Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Pongal in South India. Different names but similar in spirit 🙂

I have grown up relishing pithey– a sweet made with rice flour, semolina, jaggery, coconut, etc. The sheer variety of pithey can be overwhelming, but one particular which is an absolute favourite and has a lot of fond memories attached to it, is ‘Patishapta’. I am filled with nostalgia as I type on my keyboard because dida (my maternal grandmother) used make the most scrumptious patishaptas I have ever had. Ever since I can recall, I eagerly waited for her to make them and the delightful whiff of her freshly made crepes still lingers in my mind. In fact she couldn’t even take the first batch out from the kitchen as me and my sisters would pounce on the plate to claim our share 😀 She is no longer with us today but the sweet memories still remain fresh as ever.

Last Friday, Makar Sankranti was celebrated in India, and so I decided that I would make Patishapta. I called up mum and noted down the recipe like an obedient student and then checked my pantry. Thankfully I had all the ingredients in stock! Though the magic of my dida couldn’t be recreated but it was tasty nevertheless because S couldn’t stop at just one 😉

So here’s the recipe- (Traditionally, Nolen Gur or Date Palm Jaggery is used but since I didn’t have that so I used brown sugar instead)

* I am not very particular about measurements, unless it is for baking. I just go by my estimation, so you can adjust accordingly.

Ingredients (for about 8 Patishapta):

For the stuffing:

  • 4 cups grated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or as per your taste)
  • Green cardamom powder (preferably crushed in a mortar pestle)
  • 2 cups milk

For the batter:

  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 cups maida or all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • Sugar to taste
  • Water for semi runny batter

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Method:

In a kadhai/ wok on low-medium heat, dry roast grated coconut for a few minutes. Now mix sugar with the coconut and keep stirring continuously. Carry on with it for at least 15-20 minutes. Now add freshly crushed green cardamom powder in the kadhai and mix well.

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The sugar and coconut should combine really well to give a slightly mushy texture. In my case it was taking a lot of time and so I used milk (not used in the original recipe). Maybe my coconut wasn’t that fresh as I used store bought grated coconut. It is very important to use fresh coconut, although after adding milk (you can also use condensed milk for a gooey filling) I got the right texture and it also enhanced the flavour. Once the filling is ready, remove from the kadhai and let it cool.

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Now for the batter, in a large bowl, mix semolina with some water and let it rest for about 30 minutes. After that, add maida and rice flour. Mix well with water to make a batter which is slightly runny. Add some sugar according to your taste.

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Heat a tawa/ round flat griddle. Drizzle few drops of oil and smear it all over using an eggplant stem. Pour a ladle full of the batter into the center of the tawa. Spread it evenly using the back of the ladle.

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When you see bubbles forming on top, put the filling in the center of the crepe and gently fold from both sides. Once folded, press for about 30-40 seconds on each side and remove immediately.

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You can serve them hot just like that or if you have patience, then drizzle some condensed milk/ melted nolen gur (jaggery) on top for a blissful experience 🙂

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Ray classic Mahanagar & Narkel diye aloo posto (fried potatoes with grated coconut & poppy seeds)

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week   -H.W Longfellow

Since childhood, Sundays have always meant celebration. From waking up late to watching television for an extra hour, lazing around, playing with friends in the park even in scorching heat & most importantly that special Sunday lunch. Bongs are very emotional about this one meal of the week when everyone’s at home, no school, no office, no weekday stress & mommy cooking up a storm in the kitchen 🙂

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mahanagar
Image source: http://www.exoticindiaart.com

It was as special as a five course meal at a fine dining restaurant. But it had to be a true blue bengali meal through & through. From shaak bhaja (stir fried greens) to shukto (bong style mix veg curry, slightly sweet), daal (lentils), maacher jhol (fish curry), kosha mangsho (spicy sauteed mutton), chaatni (a sweet relish made with mango/ dry fruits/ tomato) & doi (yogurt) preferably mishti/ sweet. Yes! All these were a part of our sunday meals.

Even to this day, Sunday lunch is a big deal. If I am home, I try to cook something traditional, simple & comforting. Just how home made meals should be 🙂

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Last Saturday for dinner, the husband & I went to a swanky Japanese bbq restaurant. Though the food was nice but it was a little too bland for my liking 😛 Blame it on my love for all things spicy!

So naturally, we were craving for some simple home made food for lunch. I made the following:

  • Bhaja moong’er dal motorshuti diye (yellow lentils with peas)
  • Narkel aloo posto (fried potatoes with grated coconut & poppy seeds)
  • Begun’er jhal (A spicy eggplant curry)
  • Shaada bhaat (Plain white rice)

Bhaaja Moong'er dal motorshuti diye
Bhaaja Moong’er dal motorshuti diye

Begun'er jhaal
Begun’er jhaal

Narkel diye aloo posto
Narkel diye aloo posto

Shaada bhaat
Shaada bhaat

Yeah no longer a five course meal but tasty & filling nonetheless 🙂

We also follow a tradition of watching a movie at home in the afternoon post lunch, some old classic. ‘Mahanagar’ (a Satyajit Ray masterpiece) it was this time. A contemporary movie about a housewife in Calcutta who despite coming from a traditional family gets a saleswoman job & feels economically emancipated. The movie remarkably explored the social dynamics of the 60’s & is widely regarded as one of Ray’s greatest films.

Recipe: Narkel diye aloo posto

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium sized potatoes, diced in cubes
  • 3 tbs oil (I used olive oil)
  • 3 green chillis slit
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs ginger paste
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste

Method:

For the poppy seeds paste, take 3 tbsp of poppy seeds in a bowl. Add 1 green chilli, some salt and a little warm water and keep aside for about 30 mins. Grind them into a smooth paste.

Now heat oil in a wok, add the slit chillis & cumin seeds into it. Keep stirring for 30 seconds and throw in the ginger paste. Once the raw smell is gone, add the grated coconut & stir well. Turn the heat to medium. It will take about 4-5 minutes for the coconut to brown & get that wonderful aroma.

Now add the diced potatoes & fry well. Sprinkle some salt, sugar, turmeric & red chilli powder & keep stirring until the potatoes are almost done. Add the poppy paste & mix everything together. Cook for 5 more minutes & you are done!

Serve hot with rice/ rotis.