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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 78: Orange, Banana, Pear & Ginger Smoothie for Breakfast

Day 78: Good morning folks! Hope your day kicked off well and is going smoothly. If you are wondering what I am doing so chirpy and bright in the morning, oh well spring is in the air and I have a lunch date with the girls. Jokes apart, as part of our plans of eating healthy breakfast and at least 5 portions of fruits and veggies daily, husband and me, we have started drinking smoothies in the morning. And not just any store bought smoothie, though there are some really nice ones out there in the UK market. We are making these smoothies at home. All it needs is some fruit shopping the day before and some juicing in the morning. We haven't yet graduated to vegetable smoothies, though we plan to. For now we are enjoying these fruity ones. I have been trying various combinations and today morning came up with something I really liked, so thought will share it with you. Do try it and let me know whether you liked it or not.

It really takes 5 minutes to make and has no hidden sugar, ugly preservatives & chemicals and is as fresh as you can get. Also when I am doing the fruit shopping, I get to control the quality, like I always buy fair-trade bananas and most of my fruits are organic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 77: Rains & the Indian Ginger Tea/Adrak Chai/Ada Cha

It has been raining a lot. The last two days. Sunday we woke up to the sound of rains against our window panes. Now when it's a Sunday and you are in no hurry whatsoever to go anywhere, waking up to the sound of rainfall is so blissful. I lay on my bed, listening to the pitter patter sound of rain drops, luxuriating in the fact that it was a Sunday and there was no need to hurry cos we planned to laze around the whole day. 

Of course when I wake up on a rainy day my usual green tea takes a back seat and out comes the kettle for some proper ada cha/adrak chai/ginger tea. Now I grew up drinking this tea as a medicinal remedy whenever I got a cold or got wet in the rain. So for me this tea and the rains have a close connection. 
When it rains and I am at home, I make myself a big mug of ginger tea and go sit near the window and watch the rain fall. I love the way rain drops clean away all that dust and refresh all the green around us and make it look greener. I could look at the rains for hours. 
I miss the monsoon of back home, of how eagerly we wait for the rains to start throughout a long and hot summer. How often we consult the weather guys, shake our heads when the oppressive heat continues and monsoon gets delayed by yet another week. How we rejoice when the monsoon clouds start gathering. And then the first rains of the season. Ah the sheer bliss. How people rush out and get wet.The dark clouds gathering at a moment's notice, people always being ready with their umbrellas, the sound of rains.

All this reminiscing is making me crave ginger tea. So let me stop and share the recipe of ginger tea with you. Then we can have ginger tea when it rains the next time round. What say? It is an easy recipe and the only thing special is the grated ginger in the tea. The ginger adds a warmth to the tea which tastes heavenly after getting wet in the rains or if you are down with cold. However much you are cold and shivering, the ginger tea will warm you in no time and makes you feel like all is well with the world. Try it, I am sure you won't be disappointed. 

The best way to make this tea is with loose leaf Assam tea. But if you do not have that, you can use any tea bag. But please do not use the ginger tea bags. Please take a couple of minutes to grate some ginger and add to the tea. If makes a whole lot of difference. Try the fresh way once, I promise you, you will love it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 76: Celebrating পয়লা বৈশাখ/ নববর্ষ/Bengali New Year with Keema/Minced Lamb Curry

Today is the Bengali new year 'poila baishak'. According to the traditional Hindu calender today we start the year 1421. Am in a rather nostalgic mood today thinking about poila boishaks of my childhood. While the autumn festivals like Durga Pujo & Kali Pujo were grand, this was more a family affair. The schools were generally closed during this time, the offices were also closed, so everyone would be  home. By the time new year rolled around it used to get really hot in Kolkata. So the day was mostly spent indoors, while the evenings were reserved for social visits and a visit to the fair.
I remember the first thing that my parents used to say was that "on new year's day there can be no fights, no tantrums, no sulks, because if you behave badly today, you have to spend the rest of the year on a bad note". In retrospect it sounds like a foolish idea yet as kids we used to follow it so diligently. On poila baishak we would pray to God for long life, health & peace, drink milk like good children {a sore point for me since I hated milk} and be nice to everyone {including brother, no flying off the handle even if you kid brother does something  horrible to your prized toy, not that my brother was that kind} and behave properly {essentially listen to the elders}.
I remember getting up early, all excited because poila baishak was another occassion when we used to get new clothes apart from durga pujo. There used to be a pujo at home, and after that you seek blessings of all the elders. Lunch used to be grand. Ma used to cook some delicacy or the other like 'misti polao' (traditional bengali sweet rice) and 'kosha mangsho' (goat meat slow cooked over a long time with spices and big chunks of potato) or 'rui macher kalia' (rohu fish curry either in mustard sauce or with in a yogurt sauce), or keema (minced meat with potatoes and peas) and of course some kind of desert like 'payesh' (rice pudding made the Bengali way with jaggery).
In the evenings we used to go to the 'choroker mela' ( spring fair) which is held generally every year at this time. Now choroker mela was a very interesting & exciting event for us. My brother and me, we loved going there because dad always used to pamper us no end. I remember buying handfull of glass bangles, terracotta toys, my brother used to go for musical instruments which make an awful lot of noise. Usually some cousins allways used to accompany us. Oh what a lovely time we had getting on those merry-go-rounds, eating 'telebhaja' (pakodas/fritters).
Then we used to go visit some relatives or freinds and have nice dinner either their place or back at home.
Before long poila baishak used to be over. I remember that as a kid before going to bed we used to do a check whether we have been on our perfect behaviour. Otherwise there was that dread that whatever wrong we had done would get repeated throughout the year. And who likes to be scolded throughout the year?
Poila boishak always used to be the harbinger of mangoes. The mangoes before poila baishak never taste as good as those which come after the new year. That was another reason why we used to wait for poila baishak with so much excitement. Soon after the markets used to be flooded with sweet mangoes from all over Bengal and sometimes they would come all the way from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Ah the taste of those mangoes. 
The recipe I am going to share today is a popular Bengali dish--minced lamb. Like everything else, we cook the minced meat with spices over a couple of hours. So this recipe is not for the faint hearted or the impatient sorts. But when you taste the dish, you will realise that all that effort has been totally worth it and then some.

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves: 6 people generously
1. 900 grams minced lamb
2. 3 large potatoes, peeled & chopped into little cubes
3. 1 cup of peas
4. 2 medium red onions finely sliced
5. 1 medium red onion paste
6. 3 heaped tea spoons of ginger & garlic paste
7. 4 tea spoons of tomato puree or 3 to 4 medium sized ripe tomatoes diced up
8. 2 to 4 green chillies, seeded or deeded, according to taste
9. Whole garam masalas-- 3 green cardamoms, 3 cloves, half an inch of cinnamon, 2 bay leaves
10. Dry masala powders:
i. 1 tea spoon of turmeric/haldi
ii. 1 tea spoon of red chilli powder
iii. 1 tea spoon of cumin powder {heaped}
iv. 1 tea spoon of coriander powder {heaped}
11. Flavourings:
i. Half a tea spoon of sugar
ii. Salt to taste
12. 4 table spoons of sunflower/vegetable or any odourless oil
13. Garnish:
i. Chopped cilantro
ii. One tea spoon of ghee heated {optional}
iii. Squeeze of lime juice

How to make Keema:
1. Finish all the peeling, chopping & dicing
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil, while the oil is heating up on medium heat, add the whole garam masalas. If you add the masalas at this stage, they will flavour the oil as it heats up.
3. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onion and the sugar. The sugar will help caramelise the onions while they fry and also bring a balance to the taste of the dish. {Adding sugar to savoury dishes is a speciality of West Bengali cuisine}
4. Once the onion has turned light brown, add the dry masala powders {turmeric, chilli, cumin & coriander} and fry till the oil starts to separate and bubble on the sides. On medium heat should take about 5 minutes.
5. Once the oil starts to separate add the ginger, garlic and onion paste and the tomato puree. If adding diced tomato, do not add at this stage, cos tomato has a lot of juice/water and will dilute the frying process.
6. After 3 to 4 minutes of frying the oil will start separating again, add the minced meat. Mix well and continue frying on low medium heat. If it gets too dry add a few drop of water at a time. This process will need at least 20 to 30 mins. Yes browning the meat with Indian masalas is a matter of infinite patience. But overcome this and you have the best minced meat curry you have ever eaten.
7. In the next step add the cubed potato pieces and continue frying for 10 to 15 minutes more.
8. Add the peas and chopped tomatoes, mix well.
9. Next comes the green chillies and salt according to taste.
10. Add about 2 to 3 cups of water, cover the pot and let it come to a boil.
11. After 10 minutes or so, take off the cover, it must be bubbling by now, mix well and continue cooking for 5 minutes more. By now the dish will look semi dry and not a lot of moisture should be left in the pot. Switch off the heat now.
12. Let it rest for 10 minutes or so.
13. Garnish with cilantro, ghee and lime juice. Serve with rotis, naan, parathas or pulao rice or even pao (buns smeared with butter).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 75: Day: Marylebone Farmer's Market

How do you spend your Sunday guys? Do you wake up late, laze over breakfast, do your laundry, iron you shirts for the weekday, water your plants, curl up with a book and a cup of coffee or go for a jog or a run or have brunch with friends? We do all of this, err maybe not the jog/run bit and sometimes I drag husband to the various farmers' markets that take place around London. When we used to live in North London our favourite was the Alexandra Palace Farmers' Market. We absolutely loved going for a walk in the park and then roam around in the market, having lunch from the Moroccan stall and then potter around the market picking fresh produce, eggs, maybe buy some speciality olive oil.
Ever since we have shifted to Sutton we have not done much of this. Partly because I have not been able to figure out anything nearby which is easily accessible by public transport. So when BBPC {Bloggers' Buzz Photography Club} decided to go shoot one of the Sunday markets I was really excited. We decided to go to the Sunday farmers' market at Marylebone. Just a 5 minute walk away from the Baker Street tube station, this market is held in the local car park. As markets go this one is not very big or sprawled out. There are some 20 to 30 stalls of fresh vegetables, eggs, meat, jams & preserves and of course some of the bakeries sell fresh bread and sweet treats and then there are some stalls selling hot food. There was a guy in the corner selling dumplings and doing brisk business. A local of local people were shopping there. We spoke to some, they said they look forward to the market day every sunday.
Some photographs of the market:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 74: An Easy Peasy Shortcut Khichuri/Khichdi: One Pot Rice & Lentil Mishmash...

I was talking to a friend of mine who has recently got married and shifted to the West with her new husband. Of course while in India she never bothered to cook. But now away from home, she terribly misses home cooked food and of course Indian take-aways do not do the job. She is one of those people who hates cooking. When I asked her what is her main peeve against cooking, she said it was the chopping. She did not mind the stirring, or patiently frying the masalas. But she hates chopping with a vengeance. A couple of times her freshly manicured nails have been chopped of and one time her sweet smelling nails smelled of garlic. Horror of horrors! That put her off chopping for ever.
So I decided to share an easy recipe which with a little bit of judicious shopping involves almost no amount of chopping. Yes you heard me right. This recipe is for all those ladies out there who stay away from cooking because you are freaked out by the idea of damaging your precious manicured nails or nail art.
It is an easy peasy, shortcut khichdi recipe. In case you are wondering what khichuri/khichdi is, it is a rice and lentil preparation with a little spice thrown in. It is an one pot dish, popular all over India and each region has their own recipes and specialities. Not to be left behind we Bengalis also have our versions. One is made with moong daal and served as prasad to the Gods, while the masoor daal one is a particular favourite monsoon food.
This khichdi is not the Bengali version. It is a mix and match of the Bengali, Maharastrian and UP versions. When I used to live in Delhi, my friends and roomies often used to cook khichdi. Sometimes I crave their versions, since I am not going to get that here, I settled for the next best thing-- developed a recipe of my own to satisfy my cravings.

1. One cup rice (any rice will do, I use Basmati rice)
2. One cup daal/lentil (you can use masoor or moong or a mixture of 3/4 varieties like I have used this time). But be sure and soak the daals at least for 2 to 4 hours or even overnight before cooking. Masoor daal cooks pretty quickly. So if you are using only masoor & kong daal no need to soak it extra long, but the other daals do need that extra soaking.
3. Half a cup of tinned tomatoes or 4 tea spoons of tomato puree
4. One tea spoon each of minced ginger and garlic (you can find jars of minced ginger and garlic in grocery stores)
5. 2 table spoons of vegetable or sunflower oil
6. 2 tea spoons of ghee, if you do not have ghee you can alternately use butter or vegetable or any other clear oil. But you won't get the flavour of ghee in your khichuri.
7. Half a cup of fried onions (yes fried onions, no peeling, no chopping, no crying. You will find these in South Asian grocery stores and they make cooking often very simple.)
8. Masalas:
i. One tea spoon of cumin seeds
ii. 2 to 3 whole red chillies
iii. 2 pinches of asafoetida
iv. 1 tea spoon of turmeric powder/haldi
v. 1 tea spoon of red chilli powder
vi. Salt to taste
9. Curry leaves {optional}
10. Two to three green chillies, snapped from the middle
11. Chopped cilantro for garnish at the very end {optional}

1. Soak one cup of rice and one cup of masoor daal or any other daal or even a mixture of different varieties /lentil for about 20 mins in cold water. Remember to wash the rice and daal at least a couple of times till the water runs clear, before soaking.
If using mixed daal, please soak those daals which take longer to cook for longer periods of time. Like this time round I used some remaining black urad daal, I soaked this daal for about 2 hours.
This is a good recipe to use up little leftover lentils.
2. Heat about 2 table spoons of vegetable/sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
3. Add a tea spoon of cumin seeds, 2/3 whole red chillies (seeded or deseeded according to taste, I prefer deseeded) and a pinch of asafoetida. Let the cumin seeds crackle and then add one tea spoon of turmeric powder and red chilli powder each. Keep the heat medium low and cook till the turmeric powder starts to smell cooked.
Then add the rice and daal and about 2 cups of water and salt according to taste (I generally add about one tea spoon of salt and taste it once the khichdi is cooked and adjust according to need), mix everything well together and let it cook. Keep the heat medium low and stir occasionally, so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
After 10 mins or so add half a cup of fried onion and half a tin of tomatoes. Mix well, you may need to add about a cup or so of water around this time.
In a small frying pan heat about 2 table spoons of ghee (can use oil if you want, but will not get the taste/flavour you get from ghee), add one tea spoon of finely minced ginger and garlic each or if you do not want to go into the bother of chopping, just use ginger garlic paste. Also add a couple of green chillies (seeded or deseeded) and a pinch of asafoetida, cook till the ginger and garlic are well fried.  You can also add 5/6 curry leaves for some extra flavour. Add this to the rice and daal mixture and mix well. Let the mixture boil for 5 mins more, before checking the taste and also whether both the rice and the daal are cooked. Once you are satisfied, switch off the heat and garnish with some chopped cilantro. Let the rice sit for about 10 mins before serving with poppadoms/papads, pickle, fritters, Indian omelette, fish fry (a typical Bengali way of serving) and some even serve this with yogurt.
* I use up my left over lentils in this preparation.


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