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Friday, January 29, 2010

Chana & Aloo Curry (Chick Peas and Potato Curry)

This dish is an adaptation of Chana Masala which I made earlier in this blog. However, this chick pea dish also includes potatoes and other veggies.

Chana & Aloo Curry
serves 4 to 6, Prep: 20 min., Cook: 25 min.

  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 1 can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp. of garam masala (it's a blend of spices you can buy in the ethnic food aisle.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp of tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. of corriander
  • 1/4 cup of water or vegetable stock.
  • 2 tsp of oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp of sugar 
  1. In a large skillet or pot, add cubed potatoes and brown over medium heat with 1 tsp of oil. Add turmeric and 1/2 tsp of salt to potatoes.
  2. Once potatoes are browned (about 7 mins.), add onions and saute with garlic, ginger and tomatoes.
  3. Once the onions are translucent and the peppers and tomatoes. 
  4. Add the chick peas and saute.
  5. Add salt to taste, sugar, tumeric, corriander, bay leaf and garam masala and the 1/4 cup of stock or water. Let it come to a boil.
  6. Let the stew simmer... until it is the how you want it. Some people like it a little soupy while others want it thicker.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dining Out - Desi Style

Growing up, my father and grandmother (my mom's mom) cooked Indian meals at home. My mom was practically scared to enter the kitchen, other than to clean, during that time because they would always cook.

We did go out and eat sometimes, but after my father passed away - we ate out a lot more. Most Indian cuisine in restaurants are north and south Indian and not a lot of it is cuisine from where my family is from in Calcutta.

The other day I went with a friend to dinner at Dhaba, a restaurant off Lexington Ave in New York City. I was surprised to see that this restaurant had cuisine my family would be familiar with, stuff I grew up on and stuff they snacked on from street cars.

According to the Web site, the restaurant is a part of a chain, each restaurant with different names, located in Westport and Greenwich, Conn., Lee, Mass., Elmford and Brewster, NY and two other locations in New York City.

We ordered keema, a ground lamb dish, and navarathan korma, cauliflower, vegetables and paneer in korma, a sweet cream-based sauce. We also got a mango lassi, a mango milkshake, shared garlic naan and mehti pakoras, or fried fenugreek.

Keema is something I regularly grew up on - probably because it was easy to make and could be eaten with already prepared breads.

Here's a recipe for Keema. The ground meat can be chicken, beef, lamb or turkey. Also the one we had in the restaurant had chopped boiled egg in it as well. There are a lot of spices - but it tastes incredible at the end.

Lamb Keema
serves 6, Prep: 20 min., Cook: 30 min.


  • 3 tbsp of cooking oil
  • 1.5 cups of finely chopped onions (preferably ground):  
  • 2 tbsp of minced garlic
  • 1 inch of finely minced ginger
  • 2 serrano peppers, chopped
  • 1.5 pound of ground lamb
  • 1/4 tsp. of turmeric powder 
  • 1 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half 
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 black cardamons, crushed
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 eggs, boiled then chopped, if desired.


    1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add onions and sauté onions till clear about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and serrano pepper. Continue sauteing for about 90 seconds.
    2. Add ground lamb. Over medium heat break up lamb and cook until browned.
    3. Grind whole spices in coffee grinder. Add all spices to the lamb and saute.
    4. Add tomato puree and mix through.
      Add water and bring it to a near boil. Turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer covered for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook until most of the water is evaporated.
    5. When meat is tender, stir in baby peas. Shut off heat. Do NOT cook peas for long time, they loose color and become mushy. If desired add in chopped boiled egg.
      Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

    Serve with paratha, puri (puffed bread) or naan.

    We also drank mango lassi. It is so easy to make. You can also use peaches, strawberries or pears

    Mango Lassi
    4 to 8 servings, Prep: 15 min., no cook time

    • A can of mango puree (for four people you need 8 oz. for eight people you need 16 oz.).
    • 16 oz. of yogurt (8 oz. for 4 servings, 16 oz. for 8 servings)
    • 1 bottle of rose water (found in Indian grocery stores).


    1. In a blender, add desirable amount of mango puree. 
    2. Add equal amount of yogurt
    3. Add four to six drops of rose water.
    4. Blend and serve over ice.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Macher Chochori (Fish & Spiced Vegetables)

    For Bengalis, like me, fish is a staple in most meals. I believe it's because Calcutta is a coastal city, so fish is regularly accessible, but it's also one of those foods that everyone can afford. The fish doesn't have to be the best cut, and many times various fish can be used depending on the season.

    We had a this fish dish at Christmas, although it was by a caterer. The dish was darker in color than this recipe will turn out, and a lot spicier, but it's a interesting dish if you're a fan of fish. I haven't tried to make this yet - but this recipe is from a Bengali recipe Web site I have linked. I have changed the measurements to reflect the measurements we use in the U.S.

    Kechki Maacher Chochori (Minnow Fish Chochori) 

    Serves 4 people, Prep: 20 min., Cook: 30 min.

    • 1/2 lb. of Kechki maach (Minnow fish), other fish will work too, like tilapia and catfish.
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 tsp. of garlic paste
    •  ½ tsp. of ground turmeric
    • 3 to 4 Green chilies, chopped
    • 2 tbsp of cilantro, chopped
    •  ½ tsp of cumin powder
    • 1/2 tsp of salt
    • 1/4 cup of oil
    1. Wash the fish carefully in water. Rinse and drain properly.
    2. Fry the fish in a little bit of oil in a pan until seared. Then set the heat of very low, so the fish dries slowly. This will keep the fish intact and retain its fresh look.
    3. In another pan, brown onions in oil over medium heat.
    4. Add garlic, turmeric, salt and some water (about 1/4 cup) . Saute thoroughly.
    5. Add the fish and chili.
    6. Once the fish start to dry up and become flaky, add fried cumin powder and coriander.
    7. Wait for a few more minutes to let the oil separate out, and serve.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    An Indian-American Holiday

    So Christmas is a big deal in my family, even though we're Hindus. My mom and i both went to Catholic schools growing up and grew up in an environment where Christmas was a big deal, so we've carried on this tradition.

    Plus as a family we're pretty open-minded religiously, so we don't mind celebrating the birthday of someone who brings so many people joy. And - on top of that my aunt is Jewish, so we're open to anything, we'd do Hanukkah too if we had a chance.

    Anyway, like any family gathering we have a mixture of American and Indian cuisines.

    This year the menu was extra special - my Wednesdays of planning and preparing International foods with my roommate, Sara, paid off, and I decided to cook some of those recipes. Most of my family enjoyed all of the food, although I will admit, the brussel sprouts may not have been their favorite. But it's never a bad thing to open your family's culinary palate.

    Because these recipes come from other Web sites - I will link to those sites, but I have made adjustments to some of the recipes. Most Indians don't eat pork products, so bacon is a no no. I also adjusted any vegetarian recipes so they didn't include chicken stock and used veggie stock instead.

    Maple-Roasted Chickens with Sage Butter
    Instead of using turkey as Tyler Florence's recipe calls for, I used two chickens and roasted them side-by-side in the oven. I did not stuff the chickens with stuffing because I personally think that is gross, plus vegetarians then can no longer eat the stuffing.
    Another trick - cook chicken breast side down for 30 min per chicken first and then flip over a cook normally according to directions that come with the package.

    Southern Cornbread Stuffing
    Again unlike Paula Deen, I did not use chicken stock. I substituted with veggie stock. I also did not add poultry seasoning. You can use a store bought italian seasoning, or just add salt and pepper.

    Balsamic Braised Brussel Sprouts
    so this recipe, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, another food blog, uses pancetta. I cut that out and the flavor didn't change.

    Butternut Squash Risotto
    This recipe was delicious - even about 3 or 4 days later. Just make sure you have a lot of stock on hand, because the rice take s along time to cook. Ina Garten uses chicken stock and pancetta, which I again replace with veggie stock. Still tastes amazing.

    As for the Indian dishes:

    My grandmother made fried rice. I will test out a recipe soon and add it as a separate entry.
    My mom made my chick pea masala recipe from this blog. My mom's friend, Sonai, brought two very traditional Indian dishes - Dhokar Dalna and a fish dish, I'll figure out what it's called later and add a recipe to the blog. This recipe was a adapted from Ahaar, another blog about Bengali cuisine.

    Dhokar Dalna, a lentil cake in sauce.
    serves 6 to 8, Prep: 30 min., Cook: 45 min.

    • 1 cup cholar dal (chana dal/Bengal gram)
    • 2 medium tomato, chopped
    • 2 large Idaho potatoes, chopped into cubes.
    • 1 tsp ginger, grated
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1 tsp cumin seed powder
    • pinch of asafoetida
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • 2 green chillis
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • 1/2 tsp ghee
    • 2-3 tbsp oil
    • salt to taste

    1. Wash and soak Bengal gram lentils in water for 4-6 hours. Drain water and grind the dal to a paste in a mixer.
    2. Heat 1 tsp oil and temper it with 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, asafoetida, 1/2 tsp ginger paste, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and salt. 
    3. Pour the ground dal and cook till the mixture is soft and sticky, but not completely dry.
    4. Smear little oil in a dish. Pour the cooked dal and spread evenly on the dish. Press lightly with your spoon so that it sets properly. Cool and cut the dhoka into square or diamond shapes. 
    5. Heat two tbsp oil and fry the dhokas to light brown. Remove and keep aside. 
    6. Then heat the rest of remaining oil in a deep bottomed pan and temper it with the 1/2 tsp remaining cumin seeds. Fry for a minute till it stops sputtering. 
    7. Add cubed potatoes and brown. They will become more tender as they stew in the pot with other ingredients.
    8. In the meantime, puree the tomatoes, ginger and green chillies together. 
    9. Add the pureed mixture with turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin seeds powder and saute for 3-4 minutes on low heat.
    10. Then, add about two small cups of of water and salt and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes. 
    11. Add the fried dhokas, and bring the curry to a boil. 
    12. Reduce heat and simmer for another 4-5 minutes till the dhoka starts to soak up part of the curry.
    13. Put ghee and garam masala and take it off the heat. It should be the last thing added. just before the dish is taken off the heat. 
    Serve with warm rice. 

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Freezer Desi

    While I will be the first to tell you that most pre-produced or frozen Indian meals are disgusting, I have decided that Indian food can take time to cook, so it may be nice to know what are some quick foods to eat when you're on the go and want some Indian food.

    Because I live in New York City currently, frozen Indian meals can pretty much be found everywhere from Walgreens and CVS to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, as well as pre-cooked packaged meals that can be stored in a cupboard.

    However, if you're not in a big city, it may not be as readily available, but there are most likely Indian groceries stores somewhere nearby and so it can be found.

    In an earlier post, I discussed Trader Joe's Dal Makhani. It wasn't like my grandmother's - but it was edible. However, the Palak Paneer was disgusting. Seriously, it looked like gelatinous green stuff with over processed cheese in it. Not edible at all.

    I also tried, TJs Chicken Makhani which is frozen and served with rice. It was actually really great. Their frozen vegetable samosas are awesome too.

    The Mirachi brand is also good, according to my mother, as well as the Deep brand.I have heard through Food Network reviews that Amy's brand has good Indian food as well, and I believe it's organic.

    If you like Indian breads, like naan, parathas and kulcha, you can find them frozen in most Indian grocery stores - as well as, in some gourmet sections too.

    If you're me and really like to make your own foods another short cut is too just buy a spice mix or the sauce itself. My chicken makhani recipe used Patak's brand sauces, and I use their curry regularly too.

    Trader Joe's and Whole Foods both have pre-made sauces in jars. We recently tried TJs Korma Sauce. It tasted good, but it was a little runny. I'd suggest thickening it up a bit with a roux or adding cream.

    If you're a New Yorker, try shopping in Jackson Heights, Queens and "Curry Hill" which is in Manhattan in the 20s on Lexington Ave. Curry in a Hurry surprisingly has some good Indian cuisine, even though its marketed as fast food.