Tag Archives: Bengali

Subzi Paneer Masala (Vegetable and Paneer in a delicious sauce)

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Subzi Paneer Masala  (Vegetable and Paneer in a delicious sauce)

I’ve had a lot of pale foods lately.  You know what I mean.  Things with creamy, white sauces, pastas, potatoes.  I needed some COLOR and some SPICE!  I can’t go very long without reverting back to my roots.  There are lots of times we eat completely vegetarian meals, not really on purpose but because we never miss the meat.  Especially food from my part of the world.  The flavors, the spices and the textures are so great, you never even think to yourself…”where’s the beef?”  This is one of those dishes.  Paneer is a South Asian cheese. Paneers can be used to make desserts, to put into breads or made into savory dishes.  It’s versatility can take on any flavors, kind of like tofu.  Paneer can also easily be made at home.  I didn’t have time today to make my paneer from scratch (I shall post a paneer making post really soon). I just bought some from the store.  Nowadays you can pick up paneer even at the specialty section of regular grocery stores.  This dish is pretty quick and it’s very, VERY tasty.  I love to serve it with Aloo Naan (savory potato stuffed flat bread) and some Raita (a cucumber, tomato and yogurt side salad).  It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

Ingredients at a glance

Puree the tomatoes, onion, green chili, garlic and ginger together

Shallow fry the Paneer in a skillet (I like my trusty cast iron one)

In the same pan saute the green and red bell peppers until they are tender but not overcooked.

Take out the peppers when done and into the hot pan add cumin seeds and hing powder

Add tomato puree along with coriander, bay leaves, chili and turmeric and cook for a few minutes

Add Greek yogurt (with a little water mixed in) to the sauce mixture

When sauce has cooked nicely add green peas, peppers and paneer

Cook for a few minutes and add garam masala, sugar and cilantro

Serve immediately with Plain or Aloo Naan

Subzi Paneer MasalaHere’s the recipe:

12 ounces of Paneer, cut into strips or cubes

1/8 cup of oil

14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

1/2  inch piece of fresh ginger

1 Serrano Chili

1/2 onion

1/2 tsp Jeera (cumin seeds)

1/4 tsp Hing (Aseofatida powder, it stinks but it’s awesome to cook with)

1 tbsp Coriander powder (Dhania)

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Red chili powder

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1 tsp Garam Masala

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 red bell pepper, cut into little chunks

1 green bell pepper, cut into little chunks

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt (or adjust to your taste)

In a blender or food processor mix the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, onion and green chili into a puree.  Set aside.

In a skillet or pan heat the oil and shallow fry the paneer pieces until they are golden brown.  Take them out and put them in a paper towel lined pan.  In the same oil add the green and red bell peppers and cook for about 3 minutes until tender but not over cooked.  Take out and put in the same pan as the paneer and set aside.

Add to the pan the Cumin seeds and hing and stir fry until the seeds pop (should take only a few seconds).  Add the tomato puree, coriander powder, salt, turmeric, chili and bay leaves.  Cook over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes or until the oil separates a little from the tomato puree and the whole sauce reduces to almost half the quantity.

Mix yogurt and water together and add to the sauce.  Stir and simmer for another 3 minutes or so.  Add the Paneer, bell pepper and green peas to the sauce, cook for about a minute until the peas are tender.  Add the garam masala, sugar and cilantro and stir well.  Cook  another minute or so and remove from heat.  Fish out the two bay leaves. Serve hot with Aloo Naan or plain Naan.

Emergency dinner ~ Canned Chicken Veggie Chops

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Emergency dinner ~ Canned Chicken Veggie Chops

I came home at 5 p.m. last night and decided to make 300 sugar cookies and decorate them for Easter Sunday because I thought everyone at church would be delighted by them.  It was a brilliant idea that quickly lost it’s luster.  First, I’ve not actually decorated sugar cookies before, well at home with the kids but not to pass out to people who are not family.  Secondly, what was I thinking?  I often have these crazy ideas and find myself knee-deep in projects of my own making.  Which means, I completely forgot about dinner. I had a sea of cookies cooling on the kitchen counters and about a gallon of royal icing but NOTHING, absolutely nothing to eat for dinner…..Dang it!  I opened my pantry and gazed at the contents in desperation and inspiration struck.  Bengali people love to smash  food.   We call it “Vortha”. Sometimes, we like to smash stuff and then fry it up in oval shapes, we call those “Chops” (I have no idea why, it could have been another desperate cook at dinner time who came up with the name).

So, I found a can of chicken.  I didn’t even know I had such a thing in the pantry.  It wasn’t expired (yay). So I decided to make Chicken and whatever veggie  was in the refrigerator chops.  It was good.  Really good.  I think I’ll actually make them again…..on purpose.

Save me, canned chicken!

Into the drained canned chicken add onion, cilantro, grated Zucchini, chili...

Throw in an egg to bind everything together

Shape into little patties and shallow fry them in a little vegetable oil

Throw in a little garnish and make it look all pretty

I served mine with some quick and easy rice (and a salad)

Here’s the recipe.

1  12.5 ounce can of unexpired chicken breast

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 Serrano Chile, seeded and chopped

Cilantro – chopped, about a handful

1 tsp cumin powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1/2 Zucchini, grated

1/4 cup bread crumbs (helps absorb moisture)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

little vegetable oil for shallow pan frying

Mix everything together and shape into little patties.  Heat a skillet with about a 1/4 cup or less of oil.  Add the patties in the oil and fry until golden brown.  Serve with some rice or in some pita with lettuce, cabbage and fresh tomatoes. Makes 10 patties.

Yellow Split Pea and Egg Curry

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Yellow Split Pea and Egg Curry

If you are short on funds but want something super tasty and pretty easy to make, it’s this dish.  South Asians refer to any kind of split peas, legumes and lentils as “Daal”.  We cook them in a variety of ways and in Bengali we even refer to “Daal” as the “poor man’s meat”.  When I went home to Bangladesh earlier this year, I visited a lot of Child Development Centers where kids get an awesome education and one meal per day. That one meal per day literally saves lives. Egg curries are included twice a week as a cheap source of protein  along with “Daal” of course, and the kids always love it.  I loved eating egg curries as a child as well.  I used to save the yolk until the very end, like a reward.  So I decided to combine “Daal” with a more traditional Egg Curry.  The result is twice the nutritional value and a very tasty dish.  This is delicious served with plain white rice or a vegetable rice palao or lemon rice.

This mixture is what Bengalis call "Gorom Mosla" meaning "hot spices" It lays the foundation of most savory curry dishes

Cumin, Turmeric and Chili powder. The trifecta of any good curry dish

Boil the yellow split peas with half a chopped onion, turmeric, cumin and salt

Cooked yellow split peas

Hard boil a dozen eggs

Saute onions in vegetable oil with crushed Cardamom pods, bay leaves, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks

Add Turmeric, Chili and Cumin along with the garlic and ginger paste and stir fry (make sure to add the salt)

Add the peeled boiled eggs to the sauce mixture

Stir fry gently for a few minutes

Add cooked yellow split peas and water and simmer for 4-5 minutes

Add coconut milk to the mixture and simmer for another couple minutes

Serve with plain white rice or with a vegetable rice Palao

Here’s the recipe:

Yellow Split Pea and Egg Curry

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs

1 1/2 cups of dried yellow split peas

1 large onion, chopped and divided

1/4 cup oil

5 Cardamom pods

2 Cinnamon Sticks

5 whole Cloves

3 bay leaves

2 1/2 tsp Turmeric

1 1/2 tsp Red Chili powder

2 1/2 tsp Cumin

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

4-5 whole garlic

1 inch piece of fresh ginger (combine the garlic and ginger together in a paste)

1 can of Coconut Milk

5 cups of water

Place the eggs in a large pan with cool water to boil.  In the meantime, in a medium sauce pan wash the yellow split peas and put 4 cups of water, half chopped onion, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp turmeric and bring to a boil.  After mixture is boiling, lower temperature to simmer and cover to cook in a back burner until tender and water is dried up (about 20 minutes or so).  Take the hard-boiled eggs, cool, peel the shells and set aside.

In a large 5-6 quart dutch oven style pan, heat oil.  Add the rest of the chopped onion, crushed cardamom pods, whole cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.  Stir fry for a few minutes until fragrance is released.  Add in Cumin, Turmeric, Chili powder and garlic/ginger paste stir fry another minute or so.  Add the remaining salt and the hard-boiled eggs, gently stir to coat the eggs in the sauce.  Add the cooked split yellow peas and a cup of water.  Cover and simmer for about 5-7 minutes until all the flavors are incorporated.  Add the can of coconut milk and stir.  Simmer an additional 2 minutes.  Serve hot with  vegetable rice palao or plain white rice.

Vegetable Rice Palao

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Vegetable Rice Palao

Palao, Polao, Pilaf….whatever way you want to pronounce it, it basically means “yummy rice” (that’s my translation).  I’m Asian, which means I make a lot of rice, eat a variety of rice and think of ways to incorporate rice into stuff that probably shouldn’t have rice.  We love rice so much, we even make pasta out of it!  That’s good news for all those trying to eat Gluten-free.  This is a simple go-to vegetable rice dish.  It can stand alone as a main dish or is great eaten with any Egg Curry dish or even a Chicken Korma.

Ingredients at a glance

Wash the rice until the water runs clear

Saute onions with Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves before adding the turmeric, cumin, chili and the garlic/ginger paste

After adding vegetables and golden raisins to the sauce mixture ~ add the cashews last

Add in the washed rice and stir gently to mix

Add water, cover and set the heat to low until all the water is absorbed and rice is cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

Vegetable Rice Palao

So yummy with Egg Curry

Here’s the recipe:

Vegetable Rice Palao

3 cups uncooked Basmati Rice

6 cups water

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 pound frozen mixed vegetables

5-6 Cardamom pods

5 whole cloves

2 Bay leaves

2 Cinnamon sticks

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tsp Turmeric

1 1/2 tsp Red Chili powder

2 tsp Cumin

5 whole garlic cloves and 1 1/2 inch ginger – grate together into a paste (I usually make a large quantity and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Wash Basmati Rice until the water runs clear, this gets rid of the excess starch and makes a better end product.  Set aside.  Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart heavy bottom pan, add chopped onions and cardamom, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves.  Stir fry until fragrance is released.  Add salt, cumin, turmeric and chili and stir fry a few more minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger paste last so that the garlic doesn’t burn.  Add frozen vegetables, golden raisins and then the  cashews (keeps the cashews from breaking into little pieces) and saute an additional 2-3 minutes to incorporate the flavors.  Add in washed Basmati rice and gently stir to incorporate all the spices without breaking any of the rice grains.  Add the water and bring to a gentle boil, turn down the burners on low and cover.  Let rice cook on low until all the water is incorporated and rice is tender, should be about 10-12  minutes.  Turn off heat and fluff gently with a serving spoon to incorporate all the vegetables evenly.  Serve warm.

Pati Shapta Pitha (Bengali Style Crepes)

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Pati Shapta Pitha (Bengali Style Crepes)

Every year during the months of January through March the first crops of rice are harvested and readied in Bangladesh.  The first fresh rice harvest is used in making many different kinds of desserts called “Pitha”.  The tastes are delightful and the season is especially nice and cool.  I loved this time of year growing up, not only because the weather was great but because we got to eat all kinds of Pithas that we never got to enjoy at any other time of year.   Even though we have access to rice flour all year long, it’s especially nostalgic for me to make Pithas in the early part of the year, just because it reminds me of my childhood when things were simple, uncomplicated and filled with simple joys of being with family and friends.

This particular Pitha is called “Pati Shapta” which loosely translated means to make flat and roll.   Which is exactly what this is;  a Bengali crepe!

Pitha (Crepe part):

6 cups All Purpose flour

2 cups Rice Flour

½ cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

10 cups water

Sift together all- purpose flour, rice flour, salt and baking powder together.  Add sugar to the mixture and mix well.  Add beaten eggs then slowly add the water whisking to prevent any lumps.  The mixture should be a rather thin batter.

Filling:

8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick)

2 Large Cinnamon sticks

5-6 Cardamom pods, crushed

1 ½ cup Sooji (Farina)

1 Cup Desiccated Coconut (just look for smaller flakes instead of long stringy flakes)

¾ cup brown sugar (or date palm sugar otherwise known as Jaggery, if you have that handy)

1 quart half and half

Let’s start with the filling.  In a heavy bottom 5-6 quart dutch oven heat butter until melted.  Add Cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks and stir fry until fragrant.  Add the Shooji (farina) and cook over medium high heat stirring constantly.

When the color reaches a light  toasty brown color and begins to smell nice and toasty (about 6-8 minutes), add the desiccated coconut flakes and stir fry another 3 minutes.  Slowly add in the half and half to the mixture and continue stirring.  Mixture should start thickening very quickly.

Slowly add brown sugar ¼ cup at a time and tasting as you go along to make sure the sweetness is not too much.  You can add more sugar to make it sweeter or less depending on taste.  Continue stirring until all the liquid is absorbed and the filling  becomes a soft paste like consistency.  Kind of like smooth peanut butter.  Take out the Cinnamon sticks, remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Heat a  5 inch non-stick frying pan over medium high heat, brush the bottom of the pan with a little bit of vegetable oil and pour ¼ cup of batter in the middle and quickly tilt the pan in a circular motion to coat the bottom of the pan and place on back on the heat.  Little bubbles should start appearing all over the batter.  Within  35 seconds or so, the crepe should be ready (do not flip it over).

Take off the heat and place about 2 tablespoons of filling on one edge of the crepe and roll it into a tube.

Lightly flatten.  You can enjoy it warm or at room temperature. Makes about 50 Pithas.  Since each person will at least eat two, it will serve about 20-25 people.

Kitchuri

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Kitchuri is a very Bengali dish.  Made with rice, lentils, vegetables and sometimes even some meat thrown in.  It’s  the South Asian version of a casserole.  The variety of “kitchuri” is as limitless as each cook’s imagination but two things remain a constant, rice and lentils.  Growing up in Bangladesh, eating Kitchuri was a delight because we usually ate it at picnics or outings, sometimes cooked over an open fire.  Often the kitchuri would have seasonal vegetables, or leftovers from the day before added to it.  I knew whenever I smelled Kitchuri cooking that good things were going to happen that day.

On a recent trip back to Bangladesh, Kitchuri took on a new meaning.  We visited Child Sponsorship Programs and villages where lives were literally being saved.  Children ate one meal a day during school, often it was their only meal.  The meal always consist of Kitchuri because of the high nutrient content and an additional source of protein such as eggs or chicken or fish.  Cooked in a giant pot, the humble Kitchuri had taken on a super hero role!

2 cups Basmati Rice

1 cup red lentils

1 whole spanish onion, chopped

3-4 serrano chillis, chopped

2 whole cinnamon sticks

3 bay leaves

4 cardamom pods, crushed

3 whole cloves

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp red chili peppers

4 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

1/4 cup oil

salt to taste

4 cups water

1 1/2 cup Assorted chopped vegetables , such as zucchini, shredded carrots, English peas, yellow squash

Wash rice and lentils thoroughly until water runs clear and set aside.  Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart pan and add onions and Serrano chilis.  Saute 2-3 minutes.  Add cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and stir fry another 3 minutes or so until all the flavors are released.  Add 1 tsp of salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder along with garlic and stir fry another 2 minutes.  Add all vegetables and 1/2 cup of water and stir fry for a minute or two before adding the rice and lentils and the rest of the water.  Bring mixture to boil, stir then turn down temperature to low and cover pan.  Let simmer and cook until all water is absorbed about 10-13 minutes.  When all water is absorbed, rice and lentils should be nice and tender if additional water is needed, add it at this point and cover pot for another 5-6 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Take out cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before serving.

Chicken Korma

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1 whole chicken or 8- 10 chicken thighs

3 bay leaves

4-5 whole cardamom pods, crushed

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

1 medium onion chopped

1   8 oz can of tomato sauce

1/3 cup of vegetable oil

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp paprika

2 tablespoon Fresh garlic and ginger paste

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

2 whole Serrano chilis

4 dried plums (prunes) cut into halves

Cut whole chicken into smaller serving pieces and take all skin and visible fat off, wash thoroughly or if using chicken thighs, take skin off the thighs and cut the thighs in half.  This helps with getting spices more evenly incorporated into the meat.  Using chicken with bone in will always give greater flavor than boneless/skinless chicken.  If you are using boneless chicken, please use boneless chicken thighs and not chicken breast (again for better flavor)

Wash chicken thoroughly, place in a large heavy bottom pan.  Put all ingredients into pan and mix together well.  It will be a pinkish/ reddish color.  Put on medium heat keep stirring every 5-8 minutes and when mixture comes to a boil, cover and lower temperature to medium low and check every 10- 15 minutes and stir gently.  The chicken will naturally release water as it cooks, when the overall liquid goes down and the chicken is tender and the gravy looks fairly thick, add about 1 ½ cups of water and continue to simmer for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Turn off heat and keep covered until ready to serve hot with either plain rice or a rice pilau.