Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For The Love of Durga Puja – An Indian Thali

A Vegetarian Thali dedicated for the 6thday Of the Durga Puja in Bengal, a journey across the taste buds




Durga Puja is a huge affair in India, especially in the region of Bengal, a religious festival at its core; it celebrates the ‘Devi Shakti’, the celebration of the divine goddess power winning over the power of the demons.  It is a six day festival, starting from the sixth day the days of the names are respectively sasthi, maha-saptami, maha-astami, maha-navami n vijaya-dashami. In some parts of India, Navratri is being celebrated at the same time and the tenth day of Navratri is the day of the Dashera/ Vijayadasami. This puja is widely celebrated across the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal.


                It is a fantastic festival, the biggest Hindu Festival in all these states and as years pass by the celebration only gets bigger n more colorful. Though it is a religious festival, everything about life comes to life during this time-food, fashion, music. It is the food scene which gets interesting here-I can actually divide the whole range of food during the festival in 2 categories, one will be the food for the Puja and another will be food not intended for the puja. The food that is offered during the 6 days to the goddess Durga is mostly vegetarian, though on certain day fish is offered to her. All the food that is offered to her is termed as ‘Bhog’, which is food offered for the divine. Interestingly most of the vegetarian food is cooked without onion n garlic. Bhog is cooked in enormous amounts at times, which is offered to the goddess and then distributed to the people worshiping her and the food is considered blessed.


                                          So on the 6th day of the puja this year I went to my kitchen and cooked up 6 dishes and 1 salad which made up my puja thali. ‘Thali’ is the word meaning a whole meal served in one big plate, the plate can consist of dishes from 6 to 16! However often several small bowls of food are served alongside one big plate and all the savory n sweet comes together in the package. So there I was with my first ever puja thali, in fact my plan was to cook a new thali for each day and to present it with all of you, but my computer did crash just then! May be it was a divine plan! 


                                                                         For this thali I made 6 dishes, one CHOLAR DAL/CHANA DAHL, which is a lentil dish, a dish of green beans n potatoes pan-fried with spices, deep-fried flat bread called LUCHI,  SAFFRON PULAO/PILAF of Govindobhog rice, VERMECELLI PUDDING /SEWAI PAYESH, PLASTIC CHUTNEY of green papaya and a simple salad of cucumber n tomatoes and fresh strips of coconut.

The ‘CHOLAR DAL’/ ‘Chana Dahl’ is a savory lentil dish, flavored with coconut n hing (asafetida) n green chilies the taste is balance of salty n sweet. Very subtly spiced with turmeric, its color is light bright yellow and it is fantastic paired with the deep-fried flat bread ‘LUCHI’ or ‘POORI’.


‘LUCHI’ is made from plain flour, they puff up as they are being deep fried, lightly crisp on the outside n soft inside, the proud moment of a LUCHI is when it has puffed up with a lot of air inside him!


                                                                 The ‘Green Beans with Potato’ is spiced with ginger, cumin seeds, red chili powder, turmeric, coriander. The green beans still have a little crunch in them while the potato is soft n has absorbed all the flavors together. This dish is good paired with the saffron pulao of ‘GovindoBhog Rice’ which I served.


                                                                             The ‘ GovindoBhog Pulao with Saffron’ is made using the ‘GovindoBhog’ rice , the rice grains are small in size and they are very aromatic, they impart a beautiful flavor both to sweet n savory equally, so much so, they are often used in cooking the food for the gods-‘BHOG’ and often at home where something special is being cooked. The pulao is flavored with saffron, cloves, green cardamom, a touch of turmeric and raisins are added to them.


                                           The ‘Simui/Sewai/Vermicelli pudding’ is a sweet dish, made from thin vermicelli strands with milk, Ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, Indian bay leaf,  it gives fulfilling sweet feeling, I like it cold.


The ‘Plastic Chutney’ is sweet chutney of green raw papaya, light n fresh in its taste. The thin papaya slices becomes translucent being cooked in sugar syrup, so they look like tiny plastic chips. The chutney has the flavor of the papaya, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, lime juice, sugar, raisins and it also has the crunch of the almonds in between. Fantastic stuff it is.


                                                                           So in this post I guess there will be 6 recipes, in fact 5 because you can read about plastic chutney in my previous post. So hold on dear reader because simply it’s a lot of cooking.


For The Recipes:


For the Sewai/Vermicelli pudding
Vermicelli- 1 cup thin or thick
Ghee-2 tbsp
Sugar- 3-4 tbsp
Cashew Nuts- 7, chopped
Raisins/Kismis- 2 tbsp        
Milk- 2 cups
Indian Bay leaf- 1
Green cardamom pod-1



1. In a flat pan, melt 1 tbsp of ghee in a medium heat, when the ghee melts add the vermicelli and mix well, in a medium flame toss the vermicelli around for a minute, then lower the heat give it around 5-8 minutes, toss them every 1 minute and you will see they will more reddish in color after 5 minutes, once you have the reddish color developing, take it off the pan to a plate.

2. In the same pan add another tbsp of ghee n add the chopped cashew nuts , the bay leaf, slightly crushed cardamom pod,  once the cashew nuts start to get light brown, add the raisins, then add the milk, and keep the flame to low. Let the milk come a slight simmer,  add the sugar, first add 3 tbsp, taste then add if you need, let the milk simmer in a low flame for about 2 minutes, then add the fried vermicelli and mix well. The vermicelli will absorb all the milk when it will be cooked n it will take about 5-6 minutes, add a tiny pinch of salt to the milk in between, and if you want you can add a little more milk because once it will be cooled it will absorb more milk. So when the vermicelli has got tender and has absorbed most of the milk take it off in a bowl and let it cool.




For the Cholar Dal/Chana Dahl
Bengal Gram dal/cholar dal/chana dahl- 1 cup, wash n soap in water for 30 minutes
Fresh coconut- 3 tbsp, chopped in 1 inch cubes
Fresh strips of coconut- a couple to serve
Green chili-2, slit
Turmeric- ½ tsp
Water- 4 cups
Sugar-1 – 1 ½ tbsp
Salt
Hing/asafetida- ½ tsp
Vegetable oil- 2tbsp




1. First we will put the soaked dal in a pressure cooker, take a green cardamom and crush it slightly, then in a pressure cooker add the soaked dal, 3 ½ cup of water, ½ tsp salt, crushed cardamom, ¼ tsp turmeric powder and put it in high flame, as the water just comes to a simmer close the pressure cooker. On a high flame reach one whistle then lower the flame to low and give it 8 minutes, then increase flame to high until one whistle. After that take it off the heat, let the pressure be normal as it cools down.

2. In a wok take 2 tbsp of vegetable oil like sunflower or soybean, let the oil be moderately hot, then add the chopped fresh coconuts and reduce the flame, toss the coconut pieces now n then, add the slit green chili in between, after about 5 minutes the coconut will start to get some light brown color, once they are light brown in color, add the hing powder, then the rest of the turmeric, then add 1 tsp of water, we are adding the water so that the turmeric powder doesn’t burn , give it all a minute, then open the pressure cooker and the dal should have softened inside, check by pressing with a spoon or in-between your fingers if the dal can be smashed, add the dal to the wok now. Taste and adjust the salt, add the sugar and taste. Simmer the dal for 4 minutes on low heat, then stop the flame and give it 2 minutes of standing time, then pour it in a bowl. Add some fresh strips of coconut with the dal, it’s just lovely.



For the Luchi
Plain flour- 200 gms
Water- around 120 ml
Salt – a pinch
Oil -3 cups for deep frying




1. Mix the flour and the salt and 1 tbsp of oil together until combined, then make a well in the center of the flour and add half of the water, start working from around the water mixing it with the flour, then add the water gradually as you keep doing it, once 100 ml of water has been added, add the water gradually, once the dough comes together comfortably it is there. The dough should not be tight and a little to the soft side only, start kneading the dough for about 2-3 minutes, as the dough just becomes smooth in texture we are done, we don’t want to knead the dough more than that or we will develop the gluten too much which we don’t want, so 2-3minutes of kneading will do. Then roll the dough and give it the shape of a log of 2 inches diameter, then tear off small balls from the log, like about 1 tbsp of dough each ball and roll the balls slightly to make them smooth, then sprinkle some oil over them, lightly coat in that oil and rest it for 30 minutes by covering it.

2. After 30 minutes take out your rolling pin and a bit of oil for rolling the Luchis. Take a ball of dough and coat it with a little oil, then put it on the board, press it lightly n with a light hand roll it to a circle of 4 inches in diameter, take it off, start with a new ball, coat it in oil and do the same. After all the balls have been rolled it is time to deep-fry them. in a deep wok heat the 2-3 cups of oil, once the oil is quite hot test by submerging a one disc of dough, it should start to bubble, if it does the oil is ready, add one luchi carefully n slowly into the oil, don’t drop it into the oil from a height, the oil will splat, slide it into the oil being close to the oil surface. as it goes into the oil it will sink for some seconds then it will start to float up, as it starts to float up, press that surface lightly with a slotted spoon, give this side 1 minute and turn it over, you will see this side has started to go light brown, other side will take less than a minute, the luchi should be light brown on both sides. Likewise fry all the remaining luchis.



For The Green bean n Potato Sabzi
Green beans-100 gm, chopped in 1 inch diagonal pieces
Potato-2 medium, chopped in 2 inch sticks
Tomato -1 medium chopped
Cumin seeds-1 tsp
Turmeric- 1/4th tsp
Butter – 1 tsp
Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp
Coriander pwder-1 tsp
Chili powder -1/2 tsp
Sugar- a pinch
Ginger- grated ½ tsp



1. In a frying pan on a low heat add the butter, 3 tbsp of water, then add the green beans, cover the pan on a low heat, the water will soon come to a simmer n start to steam the beans and the butter will emulsify with that water, give It about 7 minutes, toss the beans once in between, add a little more water if the water dries out completely. After 7-8 minutes the beans will be quite tender, still green, at this time take them off the heat and keep the beans in a bowl.

2. In the same pan heat 2 tbsp of oil, to the hot oil add the cumin seeds, as the seeds begins to sputter add the potato, increase the heat to high and toss the potatoes for 1 minute. After that reduce the flame and give the potatoes 5-7 minutes, they will go brown on that side, then toss them and give the other side about the same time, as the potato go soft add the grated ginger , mix well. Give them 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and also add the beans, now add a pinch of sugar, then add the turmeric , coriander powder, chili powder and add 1 tsp of water in the pan, mix well, give them 30 seconds then add the salt, taste n adjust. Then take it off the heat.



For The GovindoBhog Rice Pulao
GovindoBhog Rice- 1 cup (Basmati rice or any white rice if you don’t have GovindoBhog)
Water-2 cups
Clove-4
Green cardamom-2
Ghee-1 ½ tbsp
Raisin/Kismis- 2 tbsp
Turmeric – small pinch
Saffron strands- 1 big pinch
Sugar- 1-2 tbsp
Salt




1. Begin by washing the rice in water till the water almost becomes cleans, then soak in water for 30 minutes, after 20 minutes drain the water n leave it aside.

2. After 30 minutes take a deep pan or wok on medium heat, add the ghee, when the ghee is hot, add the crushed cardamom pods, the cloves. Give them 30 seconds on low heat, then add the kismis, toss them around for a minute, then add the rice and sprinkle the turmeric powder over the rice, put the heat to medium and toss the rice in the wok for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and give the rice 5-6 minutes on low heat, toss them at every minute, after 6 minutes add the saffron strands, mix well, then add the water, salt to taste n sugar. Taste to see if the salt is okay, the rice will absorb the salt so add a little more salt than needed, it will balance out. Put the heat to high now, let it come a simmer then cover the pan with a heavy lid, reduce the flame to low and give it around 12-15 minutes. After 12 minutes open the lid and with a fork check if there is any water in the bottom of the rice, if no its just done, if yes cover it again and give it 3 minutes, once the water is absent put the flame off, give it 2 minutes of standing time and then with a fork toss the rice lightly. And that’s it. Pulao is ready to serve.



For the cucumber n Tomato Salad
Cucumer-1, washed n thinly sliced
Tomato- 1 medium, thinly sliced
Lime- 1 wedge


1. Simply toss the cucumber n tomato slices in the lime juice, add a pinch of salt. That’s it!



For the recipe of the Plastic chutney it is already in my previous post, here is the linkhttp://thetaleofasaltedsoul.blogspot.in/2014/05/plastic-chutney.html




So there it is-The Fantastic Thali for Durga Puja especially for the 6th day, sasthi. In fact you can cook it on any puja occasion and it will be delight to eat. Serve it to your loved ones and see their faces light up, which is fantastic thing you will agree. So come on in, the Thali is waiting. Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Charm of a Tangy Fresh-Tamarind Chutney

Fresh-Tamarind, Imli Chutney-The Journey of a Tamarind freshly picked from the tree to your plate n how it can make our fries come to life!




A tamarind tree, standing tall, un-ripened tamarinds are hanging from the tree. Have you ever seen that? Some of you might have, some of you might not have recognized it while you passed by a tamarind tree. Fresh tamarind is elongated, a bit flat cylindrical in shape like our fingers; outside the layer is light brown, inside it looks fresh light green with the seeds arranged carefully which are white inside. Years ago while I was walking past a tree I casually looked at it and saw some brown long slender fruits hanging among the light green airy leaves, it took me some moments to realize that I was looking at a full grown tamarind tree bearing fruits! Before this I have never looked at a tamarind tree-consciously, so looking at that site brought a new feeling and that frame from that time got printed in my memory. Years later today when I am writing about this in the blog I realize it stayed with me n I can access it. It is a good feeling.


                               Unlike mature tamarind which is dark brown in color, young tamarind is light green inside and both has almost the same amount of tang, perhaps the fresh one is a bit more tangy but the flavor is where you can taste the difference. I don’t know how will I describe the flavor that comes into being when I made this fresh tamarind chutney, I almost don’t have a reference taste to relate it to, at max it slightly reminds me of lemon lozenges but those lemon lozenges didn't taste like lemon either, so it doesn't take us anywhere I guess. Its fresh, something aromatic about it, acidic in nature, the pulp is pale light green in color and when I simmer it with sugar syrup for some amount of time it turned amber golden, what a beautiful color it is to look at.


The above pic is taken from Wikipedia.
The scientific name of tamarind is Tamarindus Indica, Tamarind is hugely popular across the cultures around the globe, and the tree is probably indigenous to tropical Africa, however it has been cultivated in the Indian sub-continent for such a long time that it is also considered indigenous. We can find the love affair of tamarind in the cuisines of the south-east Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Tropical Africa, Northern Australia, The middle-east Asia, China, Taiwan, South-America particularly Mexico. It is used extensively in both sweet n savory dishes.


This sweet n sour chutney is very simple to make, first I boil the young tamarind fruits to soften n extract the green pulp, then I simmer them in sugar syrup with fennel seeds and dried mango cakes known as “Aam-Satto”or “Aam-papad”. So in the flavorful tang of the tamarind and the sweetness from the sugar we have the background flavors of fennel seeds n dried mango cakes and a touch of dried roasted red chili, for the flavor n not for the heat.


You know what! This is such a versatile chutney, I serve it with samosas, fried dumplings, chicken puffs/vegetable puffs, sometimes I add it when I am making a snacks with puffed rice with vegetable like onion n tomato n spices, sometimes I eat it with a little white rice, they are great with fried papads n flat breads like paranthas n roti. Eat it the way you like it, use it in Bhelpuris or Bombay Mix, and use it in Papdi-chaat or salads. Most importantly have fun eating it.


So once you have found yourself young tree-picked tamarinds in your local market or supermarket, give them a try and you will be delighted. Since they are quite sour we have to balance them with sugar or salt or both and any flavors or spices that go with it.

Now it’s time for the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Young Tamarind fruits-200 gms
Granulated sugar-1/2 to 1 cup
Salt –pinch
Turmeric – pinch
Dried Mango cake/Aam-Satto- chopped in 1 cm cubes about 2 tsp
Fennel seeds-I tbsp, keep ½ tbsp seeds apart
Water- 2 cups



1. Let’s begin by boiling the tamarind fruits. So in wok or deep pan add 1 cup of water and then add the tamarind fruits to the water by breaking them into 2 to 3 pieces by your hand. Add the pinch of salt and the turmeric and let the flame be medium as the water comes to simmer, then make the flame low, cover with a lid and give it 5-10 minutes. After that time you will see the firm tamarind fruits have softened in their shells and if you press them with a spoon you can easily smash them now. So take it off the heat and take the fruits off the water with a spoon and let it cool before we can handle them, keep the remaining water.

2. Now take a pan and on low heat add half of the whole fennel seeds and toss them for a minute, then in a mortar n pestle crush them slightly to a coarse powder.

3. Once the tamarind is cold with a spoon or your finger scoop out the green flesh from the brown outer layer, we don’t need the layer to eat so we have to scoop all the flesh from inside like this. Keep the seeds in the pulp. Once you have scooped out all the light green pulp from the outer layer it is time to prepare the sugar syrup. Discard the outer layers.

4. In a wok or deep pan add the sugar and 1 cup of water and the remaining water from boiling the tamarinds, on low heat let the sugar melt completely, once melted increase the heat until the sugar syrup comes to a boil, then reduce the flame, add the tamarind pulp, crushed fennel seeds, dried mango cakes. Cover and give it around 7-10 minutes, after covering take a small dried red chili and keep it near the flame where it will get slightly roasted being in proximity of the flame. After 7-10 minutes the syrup will look more concentrated, taste at this time to see if the sourness is balanced with the sugar, if not add a little more, it depends on the personal choice. So by this time the syrup will have attained golden amber like color and thickened. Take it off the heat and add the rest half of whole fennel seeds into that and take the roasted chili, which will be little more darker in color now, break it into 3 pieces, shake off the seeds and add to the syrup, let them infuse for 5 minutes off the heat. After that pour it in a bowl and let it come to room temperature if you can wait that long. We are done.



Now it is time to lick the chutney. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jalebi khane kaun aa rahen hein?

The spiral way to a sweet bite: Good old Jalebi/Jilipi/Jilawii/Zulbia




There is something about sweet crunchy things and then there is something about sweet sticky crunchy spiral things. That thing is Jalebi. Before the spiral jalebi twist your neurons let me tell you it is easy to make and you can have fun making jalebis! Yes jalebi is easy to make, well almost. A simple batter of plain flour and water fermented over some hours either with yeast or without yeast and then deep fried in oil and finally dipped into flavored sugar syrup-and then the world has jalebis.


              Well  I have fantastic  memories with jalebis, some of them take me back on my school life while some take me back on distant mornings when my dad would brings jalebis on his way back home from the local market and it was such a high moment for me being a kid. Not that jalebis don’t get me high now, they recently did when I made them for the first time in my life, so I was pretty excited that day.


                                                      Back to the time when I was in school, our school used to serve us snacks around the middle of the day, that was one unique thing about our school.  Some days they will serve us something savory while some days they will serve us something sweet like jalebis! Right inside the school premises and adjacent to the big green football field there was the complex where our mid-day snacks used to get prepared; there were series of rooms with men busy preparing food for all the students, which was a huge task. While kids from other school used to envy us for this we felt it was an asset. Even the school bunking kids would show up around the mid-day so they can get their snacks! Food is powerful ;)


                                                                                     Some days the great cooks from our school would surprise us by making jalebis! We used to call them Tiffin-man, in the Tiffin time all the students would queue up along the corridor of the complex, the students walking away collecting 3 jalebis in his hand, he was being watched . And to tell you our beloved Tiffin-man made big fantastic jalebis n not just jalebis they made everything made tasty for us. Thank you our Tiffin-man, for you all did a very good work.


                                                                                                 Do you know that jalebi is popular not just in India but equally in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran- in fact Jalebis are popular across the middle-east Asia, Northern and Eastern part of Africa. So if you haven’t tried it yet you know just what to do. In India Diwali is coming, just around the corner, on 23 rd October this year and Diwali and Jalebi are very good friends together. So I am thinking that on this Diwali if we want to give it a sweet personal touch and make it extra special you know what we should all do? Yes!!! Make jalebis at home, there is nothing quite like it huh!


The origin of the jalebis in India perhaps can be traced to the medieval time, during the time of the Persian invaders. In Iran jalebi is known as Zulbia, in fact a 10th century cookbook over there gives several zulbia recipes, in the 15th century India jalebi has names like ‘Kundlika’, ‘Jalavallika’.


                            So this makes me think the hands of the jalebi is pretty long, it has won hearts in so many countries , in Iran it is ‘Zulbia’, in India it is ‘Jalebi’/’Jilipi’/’jilapi’, in Egypt, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon it is ‘Zalabia’ /’Zalabiya’, in Bangladesh it is ‘Jilipi’, in Maldives it is ‘Zilebi’, in Nepal it is ‘Jeri’, in Algeria and Tunisia it is ‘Zlebia’ /’Zlabia’.


                                           Now since the shape of the jalebi is like spiral and overlapping and complicated it is even in metaphor like if someone who has a complicated heart or brain we sometimes that ‘Oh! Your heart is like a jalebi!’, and at times since our intestine is also twisted n a bit spiral so when someone is having a wicked idea secretly and sensing that we say ‘ummm... there are spirals in your stomach like the jalebis’.

Now I will simply give you the recipe. Fry on.

For The Recipe: You will need
For the Jalebi mixture
Plain flour/Maida- 1 cup
Water –around 3/4th cup
A pinch of baking soda
A pinch of salt
½-1 tsp of sugar

For the Sugar Syrup
Sugar – 1 cup
Water- 3/4th or 1 cup

For Deep-frying the jalebis
Vegetable oil or ghee- Around 3 -4 cups



Note:
1.When the fried jalebis are dipped in the sugar syrup make sure the syrup is slightly warm and not all cold.
           2. About the consistency of the batter, lift the batter in a spoon and it should fall slightly thickly off the spoon, not very easily and not like it has some difficulty falling off the spoon; it should fall freely but with some resistance.




1. Let’s begin by making the batter which will need 24 hours to ferment, so simply in big vessel take one cup of plain flour and add the sugar and then start adding the water little by little. Add a little water at first and whisk to make sure that there are no lumps; once you have done that add more water and whisk. The consistency will be not thin but not too dense, so if you take up the batter on a spoon and let it fall it should fall just freely and if you try to make some shape like 8 with the batter on the batter itself you should be able to do it and the figure should be visible for about 10 seconds. If you add more water nothing to worry, it can be adjusted by adding some more flour or if you have made a thicker one add a little more water. Once the batter is ready, cover it with a cling film and leave it for 24 hours and it will ferment and develop an unique flavor. Keep in mind after the fermentation the batter will go little lighter because of the air bubbles so we might have to add some more flour in case it has gone a bit more light than what we need, which happened in my case. So I simply added some more flour and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2.  So now after 24 hours our batter is ready, add the salt and a tiny pinch of baking soda or baking powder. Now we will make the sugar syrup, simple in a wok add the sugar and the water, turn on the heat to low and let the sugar melt completely, after that up the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer and it will need about 5-8 minutes to get to the stage when we drop some mixture in a plate and when slightly cooled we pick the drop between our 2 fingers it feels a bit sticky like honey, we are not looking for 1 or 2 string consistency, just when it gets like honey and not too watery, it’s ready. Take it off the heat.

3. Now we will fry the jalebis, in a wok or semi-flat deep pan add the oil and heat it up until the oil is moderately hot, we don’t want the oil to be very hot when frying or the jalebis will color immediately, so first heat the oil moderately and drop a little of the mixture with a spoon to the oil and look for they begin to bubble immediately but not gets colored or burnt immediately, it is happens the oil is too hot so remove it from the heat for a minute or in case the oil is too cold, and the little drops of batter in the oil take a bit of time to bubble heat the oil a little more.

4. Now take polythene cone or a piping bag with simple ½ cm hole nozzle or a squeeze bottle with a nozzle or a traditional Jalebi cloth with a stitched hole in it or just like what I did, I took a empty thin milk packet, open it up and put some of the batter in it and cut a little hole in one corner! So now the oil is hot, let’s start. Before you do your first jalebi spiral on the hot oil itself, do it several times on the batter, practice it. simply move your hand in a round shape as the batter falls and it will create a spiral and make 2 zigzag movements so the batter creates a straight line on the spiral itself, it will hold the spiral in shape, if we only do the spiral without the zigzag straight lines it won’t be able to hold its shape when we turn them over, so to hold it we need to connect the spiral with overlapping straight lines to hold their shape. So one jalebi is down in the oil, quickly move to a new surface in the oil to make another one and then another. Make 3-4 at a time. Now depending on the temperature of the oil the jalebis will take about 2 minutes on each side to get brown, don’t get them dark brown, once they get light brown turn them over and give 2 more minutes, take them out on a plate and them dip them in the sugar syrup for a about 2 minutes on each side, while they are in the sugar syrup start the new batch of jalebis in the oil.

5. You can make the jalebis light brown or dark brown both and they both have a different taste because they have been fried to a different level. Both are enjoyed so I suggest you to make both kinds, brown some of the jalebis a little to the dark brown stage on one side , then turn them over and do the same, while in next batch fry the jalebis as they just begin to color and turn them over and do the same to the other side. Keep the jalebis in the sugar syrup for total about 5 minutes, not more than that, about 2 minutes in each side and take them off. And when all of them are done, serve them.




Come on now! Crunch on, Happy Jalebis to you. Bon app├ętit. J


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Banana Leaf Pan Fried Topse /Mango Fish

Topse Fish Pan-Fried n Steamed on a Banana leaf served with cucumber salsa



Welcome to the next level of pan-frying! Instead of simple pan-frying vegetables, fish n chicken we can fry them on a fresh sheet of banana leaf placed on the pan-and the result? The vegetables, fish or chicken embedded in the earthy beautiful flavor of the banana leaf, sometimes acquiring a charred surface depending on the heat and reflecting a taste of barbecue with the banana leaf flavor. Sounds complex enough? It is indeed, the flavors n textures developed in layers but amazingly simple technique of cooking things, just like the way I pan-fried the Topse fish on the banana leaf.


                               This technique right now may sound like a new way of cooking to you but the truth is far from it, in fact it comes right from history-the past. Across many civilizations around the globe similar technique of cooking has been discovered where the food ingredients are wrapped in leaves and then smoked, steamed, fried, poached. The cooked ingredients inside the leaf stay moist because the leaf protects them from direct exposure to heat, at times they get cooked in their own steam resulting well developed flavors plus the flavor of the leaf gets intimately coated with the inside things.


                                              The Topse Fish is small fish, they have a certain orange or saffron hue to them and they look beautiful. In English I think they are called Mango Fish and I’m not sure why they have such name, I would rather call them saffron fish. Perhaps the orange-ish hue reminds of the color of ripe mangoes. While some people say that on the web, some say the word ‘Topse’ derives from the Hindi/Bengali word ‘Tapaswi’ –meaning a wise man who meditates, they often wear clothing in orange shades, so again in the similarity of the color the fish perhaps acquired its name. Even though the fish is small, it is popular fish and well priced. Being a soft fish it takes literally minutes to cook and quite often they are marinated and then dipped in a batter and then deep fried, producing the crispy outside and soft fleshy inside. Another popular Bengali preparation involves partly frying the fish and then simmered in light gravy with aubergine/egg-plant slices.


                                                                                                       Today however we are gonna pan-fry them on banana leaves and they are gonna be just very good. Before frying the fish is coated in 2 basic spices, turmeric and red chili powder. When the leaf fried fish is prepared to be eaten with white rice, the amount of spices are increased more than needed because when combined with white rice the excess spice coating on the fish provided flavor for the neutral white rice, the white rice is mixed with the extra spice coating on the fish and served with the fish, thus the neutral rice gets balanced by the intense flavors from the spices.




                                                                                                       However when the fish is not intended to be served with rice, the spices are reduced almost by half but just to compliment the fish. Another source of flavor comes from the mustard oil; the deep golden mustard oil has slight pungency to it. the fish can be fried on the leaf to 2 different stages, one is just when the fish is done on both sides, soft, succulent  and the other stage is when the fish starts to get charred on the sides, being blackish in color, at this stage it is developing a charcoal like flavor because the leaf underneath has burned. So both the stages have their own flavors to be enjoyed.




       This technique of cooking vegetables, fish on banana leaves comes from the neighboring country of Bangladesh, perhaps. In many of the recipes fish, prawns, other sea food, hard boiled eggs and vegetables are cooked wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed or fried.



     
                        In this process two things are happening simultaneously, while the fish is being pan-friend on the leaves, they are covered with a lead, so the fish starts to get partly steamed in the water that comes out of it, so the process of pan-frying and steaming both at work.

Banana leaves are one of the many options, if you love the flavor of a certain leaf, go for it, you may surprise yourself!

So right now I will tell you about this unique recipe. In this recipe we are intending to serve fish with white rice, if you want to serve the fish on their own reduce the spices by almost half or even three quarters according to your taste.






For The Recipe:  You will need
For the Fish
250 gm Topse fish, scaled n washed
2 tbsp of red chili powder
2 tsp of turmeric powder
3-4 tbsp of mustard oil
Salt
3 rectangular slices of fresh banana leaf, about 12 inches in length and 9 inches in width
A heavy bottomed fry pan




For the Salsa
1 medium cucumber, chopped into 1 cm square slices
1 medium red tomato chopped similarly
1 medium red onion chopped finely
½ lime
1 tbsp of freshly chopped coriander leaves
1 green chili seeded and sliced length-ways
Salt to taste





1. For the salsa mix everything together, sprinkle the lime juice on them and add salt, give a mix and let it rest while we prepare the fish.

2. Let’s begin by washing the leaves carefully with soft hands or we will pierce them, even if they get pierced slightly nothing to worry, they can be overlapped with a piece of leaf underneath them so that the juices don’t leak into the pan. Wipe the leaves dry, we are gonna fry the fish on the opposite side of the surface that faces the sunlight.

3. Score the fish 1 time at each side, in a bowl sprinkle the spices n the salt on the fish, coat the fishes on both sides with the spices mixture, then add 1 tbsp of mustard oil and coat the fishes well in the oil. Take another tbsp of oil and smear the oil on the surface of the leaf where the fish is going to be fried. Then arrange the fish on the leaf side by side and add the rest of the spices that remains in the bowl, add 1 tbsp of water in the bowl and mix the remaining spices and pour the water on the fish.

4. Place the heavy bottomed pan on high heat initially, place one banana leaf on the pan and then on top of that place the leaf with fishes carefully, we will let the pan to get to a higher temperature initially. Cover the fish with a lead and Give about 4 minutes on high heat and soon we will begin to hear the sound of the leaf making sounds being heated, when the pan is well heated reduce the flame to low. Being covered give them another 5 minutes, lift the lead in between and you will see water has come out of the fishes. After about 8 minutes remove the lid and the water in the pan will soon dry out and the fishes will approach a fried stage. Rotate the top leaf on which the fish is getting fried so that all the fish is getting equally fried, rotate by holding their corners. After 10 minutes with spoon or spatula lift a fish to see if they have started to brown, if they have browned slightly give them 2 more minutes or if we are not aiming to brown them too much we can turn them over now.

5. So now it is time to turn the fishes over, for that take a fresh leaf and keep aside. Now holding one corner of the leaf in the pan drag it off the pan onto a plate carefully, put a fresh leaf on top of the fishes on the plate and turn the plate over by placing your hand on the back of the fresh leaf. So now the fish has been turned over like this all at the same time, place the fresh leaf back into the pan, sprinkle 1 tbsp of mustard oil across the pan and cover them for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes remove the lead and give them 4-5 more minutes, check to see by lifting the fish slightly if they have browned. Once there drag the leaf by its corner onto a plate. And we are done.



Serve the fried fish with the salsa and some white rice and experience the new taste! Bon Appetit!