Sunday, June 24, 2012

Enjoying The Monsoon Rains With Bangali Khichuri....

This photo is taken by my brother-in-law.

Monsoon rains have started in India. It came a couple of days back and people are happy that the rains are finally here. By the end of August they are going to be tired of the incessant rains, but as of now the blessed rains are being welcomed and enjoyed by everyone. Ah the fun of getting drenched in the first rain of the season!

Coming of the monsoon, a word which comes from Arabic word 'mausam' (meaning weather) is an important event in India. Starting from the ministers deliberating in the Parliament to the common man on the road to  the farmer working on his patch of land, everyone eagerly awaits the monsoon rains. Agrarian India's economy depends on the arrivals of the rains at the right time. If the River Ganga is the riverine lifeline to millions of Indians, then monsoon is the seasonal one.

Apart from the practical dependence, Indian poets wax lyrical verses about the monsoon rains, the pregnant clouds, the overcast sky, the damp smell of the earth after the first rains, the rain kissed paddy fields, the rain washed blade of glass, the young girl getting soaked in the rain, the river's belly swelling with the goes on and on . It is all over Indian literature, cinema, music, sometimes I think it has more mentions and is more celebrated than the king of all seasons-- spring.

As a child I remember reading about the mechanism of the monsoon winds, how the sea breezes are created due to low pressure in the Indian subcontinent and how wind comes in from the sea which has higher pressure. Somehow the mechanism always fascinated me, so did the power of these winds to change an overheated landmass to a fertile, verdant one.

Image source:

One of the most popular dishes that we Bengalis love to eat during the rainy season is khichuri--a rice and lentil mishmash. Sometimes we put in veggies, sometimes we do not. We serve this with some fries/fritters. For this month's World on a plate the theme is traditional grains/pasta salad. Now where I come from a salad is thinly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with a sprinkling of rock salt. So after racking my brains over what salad to make I decided to make khichuri, nearest to grain salad that I could think of.


1 cup Basmati rice [Clean the rice throughly till the water runs clear and soak the rice in water for twenty to thirty minutes.]
1 cup Red Lentil [Soak for at least half an hour]
Couple of green chillies, seeded or de-seeded according to heat tolerance
Couple of juicy tomatoes, chopped
Half a cup of peas
One fourth cup of fresh coconut, chopped
One large onion, thinly sliced
Whole garam masalas-- 2 to 3 cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, whole black inch bark of cinnamon...slightly crushed...
2 table spoons of sunflower or any other oil
1 tea spoon of haldi/turmeric
1 tea spoon of red chilli
2 tea spoons of ginger paste
1 table spoon of garam masala power
2 table spoon of dhaniya/coriander powder
1 table spoon of sugar
1 tea spoon of ghee
Salt to taste


In a heavy bottomed pan, add one table spoon of oil, add the chopped onion and fry till the onion is translucent. Then add the  soaked red lentil, the bay leaves and the green chillies, fry the lentils for the couple of minutes before adding the soaked rice. Mix everything well and fry for the couple of minutes till the rice grains turn truculent. At this point add about 3 to 4 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Once the rice and lentil are almost done, this will take 15 to 20 mins, add the peas and continue cooking. Add more water if needed. Once the rice and lentil are cooked through, lower the heat.

In a frying pan, add the remaining oil, add the whole garam masalas and the tomatoes. Then add the haldi, red chilli and coriander powder. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped coconut pieces and fry till the coconut pieces turn light golden brown. Then add the ginger paste and fry some more. At the very end add the sugar and salt according to taste. Now add this masala to the rice and lentil and mix well. Then add the ghee and garam masala powder to the rice, mix well and turn off the heat. Let the rice rest for about 10 mins before serving.

This is usually eaten hot, but you can also have this cold. I know several people who loves cold khichuri. For added spice we usually have this with a pickle or chutney.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Being Random & Pineapple Kesaris....

How random are you? Or let me be precise, how random is your behaviour at times?

I am sure we all (me included in capital letters) behave randomly at times. At times, to be honest I behave extremely randomly. Sometimes it is big, sometimes not so. Like I plan my life one way and then ditch it all and go off to do something completely different. I know it is a bit of a whopper. Mostly I am not that random. Mostly it is small things like I start to say one thing and then end up saying else. Or I start planning one meal and then cook something altogether different.

If at this point you are nodding your head in solidarity, cheerio my friend! Let the random souls of the world unite and shake hands or exchange recipes or just say hi.

For this month's Blog Hop Wednesday my usual randomness has been in full force. I am paired with the sisters Harini and Jaya of Tamalapaku. Now when I first checked out their blog, I loved the watermelon drink they had made. Since summer was knocking, I decided that we must have that drink. Then it started to rain in London and it got cold again, so summer drink seemed wee bit inappropriate. Since my husband's graduation was right after the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, I thought their microwave cupcake would be ideal. Also the fact that it is super quick to make added to the attraction. Right now I am BUSY. My in-laws are visiting and I am rushed off my feet. Literally. Then today, being already two days late, when I sat down to copy the recipe, I chanced upon another--their recipe of Pineapple Kesari. Now this is something I have been planning to make for sometime, I have got an old recipe of Sanjeev Kapoor's bookmarked for the last couple of years. Also a pineapple has been languishing in my fruit basket for sometime, I am sure feeling sorry for itself while its other fruity friends got devoured and it got left behind. So I decided to use the pineapple and make some halwa. I know pineapple halwa is the last dessert one expects while looking at photos of Oxford. You would expect some scones, or Victoria sponge, or at least some fairy cakes. But instead I have some halwa. Talk about being random. 

Okay, I know I have been rambling for sometime, let me shut up and share some photos of Oxford and of course the recipe.

The famous Radcliffe Camera of Oxford. You can read more about this library of the University of Oxford here.
Cycle stand in city centre. Now Oxford for me would never be complete without its numerous bicycles. Most of our friends who bought cycle in Oxford at the beginning of their term, had their stolen. So whenever students gathered they would invariably discuss cycles! 
How could a photo album of Oxford be complete without students?
Vice Chancellor giving graduation speech! The ceremony was solemn and traditional, some of it in Latin and most of the medieval customs still followed today!
This was the dessert served during the college lunch. Frankly the food was nothing to write home about.

Now onto the pineapple halwa/kesari. I followed recipe step by step, the milk did curdle like warned, but it not much affect the taste of the finished product. Maybe next time I will try it with water. You can find the recipe here.

Ingredients for the Halwa 

  • Semolina / Sooji /  1 cup
  • Pineapple bits 1 cup 
  • Milk/water 2 cups 
  • Sugar 3/4 cup
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter 1 tbsp
  • Cardamom Powder 1 tsp
  • Saffron few strands
  • Dried Nuts ( slivers of almonds, pistachio and raisins) for garnish

Method Of Preparation 

  • In a heavy bottomed, non stick pan dry roast the sooji until it turns golden brown in colour and becomes aromatic. Set it aside and let it cool down.
  • In the same non stick pan, heat milk (or water if using), pineapple and sugar. Add in a tablespoon of ghee and cardamom powder. Let it boil until the pineapple bits are cooked enough. (About 8-10 minutes)
  • Soak the saffron strands in a teaspoon of milk and set aside.
  • When the pineapple is cooked well enough, slowly sprinkle the roasted sooji while mixing well so there are no lumps formed. Add the saffron strands soaked in milk.


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