Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Stir fried Macaroni with vegetables and chicken sausage

The only thing that I do not make with macaroni is the very famous mac and cheese.
The reason? Well ... I do not have any reason.
Maybe because I do not like the white sauce.
Maybe because I do not like cheese.
Maybe. I don't know.
But then ... maybe that is not such a solid reason after all because B loves cheese. And I do cook a lot of things that B likes and I do not.
So there.

But what I do make with macaroni is a variety of other things.
Sometimes a cold salad.
Sometimes add some to a soup. And sometimes the stew.
Sometimes with roasted vegetables.
And at other times, this stir fry that can be eaten as a warm salad too.
It is quick to make and makes for a very filling meal.

It was one of those late evenings when I was dead tired and did not want to cook anything for dinner.
B suggested ordering out but I was not interested in that too.
Suggestions and options went to and fro .... from me stuck on the sofa with my knitting for most of the evening and B, stuck in the chair in front of the idiot box.
I was getting hungry and we were reaching nowhere.
And the noise from the juvenile movie on god-knows-what-kind-species-are-these was getting on my nerves already.

So decided to take matters to my hands ... which was exactly what B knew would come to.

 Walked into the kitchen and made this in 10 minutes flat ... because I had boiled macaroni in the fridge.
And sprouts ready on the counter.
Chopped up a few vegetables and stir fried everything together.
Chopped and fried myself some  chicken sausages too.
And dinner was ready even before those godzilla like creatures on the telly could burn a complete city down.

These photographs are from the phone .... again.
Impromptu meals like these are sometimes so good and flavourful that I am tempted to share it here.
So please do bear with the snaps.

Need :

Boiled Macaroni - 1 cup
Carrots - 1 medium, chopped into very small pieces
Cauliflower - 6 to 7 florets, chopped
Green peas - 5 tbsp
Capsicum - 1 medium, chopped
Moong dal sprouts - 8 tbsp
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Garlic - 5 cloves, chopped
Mixed Italian herbs - 1 tsp
Red chilli flakes - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Black pepper powder - to taste
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch
Cooking oil  - 1 tbsp
Chicken sausages - thawed and chopped 

You can use any vegetables of your choice.
You can use scrambles eggs too.
Or chicken cubes.

How to :

 Heat oil in an open kadahi or wok.

Add the garlic + onions.

Raise heat and add all the vegetables.

Stir fry for a while.

Add the sprouts.

Add the salt + lemon juice + sugar + Italian herbs(crushed) + chilli flakes + pepper powder.

Toss well.

In another pan fry the chopped sausages and add to the macaroni.

Remove from heat and serve hot. 

This was perfect for a rainy night dinner.
After the telly was switched off.

I love to douse this with some ketchup sometimes. Just sometimes.
Else it is good as is.
Do eat it hot ... just off the wok. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Karela sabzi / Bitter gourd cooked with spices

This Karele ki sabzi is made very regularly in my kitchen.
Since I cook both types of food, Bengali as well as Rajasthani, almost all vegetables and dals are cooked in two ways or more.
One is the Bengali way that we eat when we have a Bengali menu .... read  bhaat  and dal.
The other is the Rajasthani way that we have with roti and dal.
When it comes to the Karela or the Ucche, as it known as in Bengali, I make the Ucche bhaja when eating with rice.
But make the Bharwa Karela or this dryish dish when eating rotis.
Bengalis eat a little bitter at the begining of every meal. I can eat the Ucche bhaja along with a little rice, but in a very small quantity. And can never eat it with rotis.
But B eats the Karela as a side dish. Along with rotis or parathas / porota.

The Ucche bhaja is slightly bland with no spices at all except a little red chilli powder that I add at the end. But this recipe does have some spices, as Rajasthani food is wont to, and transforms the simple Karela  completely.
And I confess that I love this recipe too. Especially with parathas. 

 A favourite combination at my in-laws' place is the Karela+Paratha+Aamras.
This summer, we were very busy with numerous things and travels, hence I could make this meal just once for B.
And decided to make a post too.
I know it is not the time for Aamras, but then maybe you can enjoy it the next summer.
Which I know will be soon.
Time doesn't stand still after all.

 Mummy ( Ma in law ) has a typical way of making this sabzi.
She grates the skin of the Karela and keeps the peels aside. Later, when cooking, she adds the washed peels too. It does give a body to the dish but I am not too keen on making it this way.
I prefer to keep the skin on and cook as it is.
I love bitterness of the Karela and so does B. Hence no problem there.

Need :

Karela / Ucche / Bitter gourd  - 3 medium sized
Jeera / Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
Dhaniya / Coriander powder - 4 tbsp
Saunf / Fennel powder - 3 tbsp
Amchur / Dried mango powder - 1 tsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Mirch / Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp

How to :

Chop the karela in small sized cubes.
Apply some salt and keep aside for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, squeeze out the water released by the karela and wash it well under running water.

Heat oil in a kadahi / wok.

Add the jeera.
Once it starts to crackle , add the karela.

Raise heat and stir fry well.

Now add all the powder masalas, except the amchur.
Add salt.

Stir well, cover and lower heat.
Cook till done .... do remember to stir in between.

When done, add the amchur powder and give a final stir.

Remove from heat.

Serve hot with Aamras and parathas.
The recipe for Parathas is here.

To make the Aam ras :

Take out the pulp and juice of three medium sized, ripe mangoes and mash well.
Add sugar only if necessary.

Here is a look of our lunch one summer afternoon.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Tetul Dhyarosh / Ladies finger cooked with tamarind
Ma called this morning to give the news.
"The developers have started work. Amader bari ta bhanga shuru holo."
I had just picked the laptop up and settled down to make this post ... one of Thamma's recipes.
But suddenly feel disoriented.

I sit down for a while. Everything stops still. The cold wind that has been blowing all morning, the noises from the road, even the TV playing downstairs somewhere ... everything stops.
A huge silence engulfs me. 

I knew this was coming.
Ever since we cousins gathered together at Dadu's house a few months back, we knew we would get this news one day.
We knew we were getting the whole family together for the one last time.
Dadu's house was being sold.
And we had wanted to be together to relieve and hold on to old memories.
Of this house where we had grown up.
The house where Thamma ruled.
Where the whole family of five brothers and their brood stayed together for years ... long after Dadu or Thamma were no longer around.
The house that held huge orchards of mango trees, betel trees, banana and coconut and chikoo trees together ... cushioning us from the outside world. 
The house that has two huge ponds still ... one on the south and the on the east.
The house that had a khidki duaar / side door, on the pond on the east ... where Thamma would sit on quiet afternoons, letting the cool breeze from the jamun and jamrul trees dry her thick, long hair.
To build this palatial house of his dreams, Dadu had set up a brick kiln in the premises. The bricks held his initials.
I can still see him, very fair with shiny white hair,  sitting with his friends in the cane chairs, outdoors on the portico, every evening.
The breeze from the ponds ruffled his dhuti and kurta of cream silk,  as well as his hair, lightly. 
The shine from the golden buttons on his kurta would reflect in his open hearted laughs.

The mango orchards have seen us in our childhood ... playing hide and seek, climbing the low ones and hold picnics and choduibhaatis under the big ones. Ma and Jethimas would cook khichuri and mangsho in makeshift chulhas or stoves. Dadu would sit us down and make us sing by turns.
In the end, the mali / gardener would instruct his assistant to climb up the coconut trees and bring down tender coconuts for us.
While the elders drank the water, we children were more interested in the tender flesh inside.
What days they used to be!

Thamma was a lady.
All of four feet or a little less, she was the quiet strength that held the family together.
Head held high, thick black hair tied into a severe bun, crisp white sari with one single chain with a guinea as pendant and blue opal studs in her ears, Thamma looked a lady in every way.

Never have we heard her worry or think of anything negative.
Never have we seen her raise her voice as she commanded over a huge family and numerous househelps as well as the people working for the zamindari.
Huge amounts of food used to be cooked everyday for numerous people. There used to be an unending stream of relatives too. But everything ran like clockwork.
From the daily morning green grocery shopping to the dinner menu.
From entertaining Dadu's friends at tea to looking after the childrens' meals.
From keeping track of the helps and their families to keeping count of exactly how many mangoes or bananas or coconuts each tree of each variety produces every season.

But my favourite vision of Thamma was in the evenings.
Fresh starched white sari with a red border, hair just tied up, face clean and shining, she lit the evening lamp at the Tulsi plant in the uthon.
And then, in a big sized dhunuchi in which the helps would keep a few smouldering coals and some coconut husk, she would add the dhuno ( a resin like sap that creates fragrant smoke when burnt ).
Then she would walk all around the huge house with the fragrant smoke billowing out from the dhunuchi.
She would start from the Thakur ghor / puja room , upstairs, in the center of the house.
Then would complete the whole of the upstairs that included Jethu, Ranga kaku and Sejokaku's rooms and anterooms. Then the terrace.
Lastly downstairs ... the drawing rooms, the maajher ghor / ante rooms, Choto kaku's rooms, Dadu's room, the dining room.
Then the two kitchens, the bharar ghor and the goaal ghor / cow shed.
Moving lightly from room to another , she was a vision.
I loved to follow her and would often take the bowl of dhuno from the help and walk with Thamma.

The memories flow freely and wildly.
As do my tears. 
The house of my childhood is gone. Is this how things come to an end in this life?
Starting with your dearest ones? 
Does it always hurt this much when you lose things, memories or people close to your heart and life? 
Chokingly, I ask about the ponds. 
"They are still here. Since they are too deep, nobody is interested in them." 
I sigh in relief. 
They are safe. They are a part of my life too. I shall share their stories another day. 

Before coming back, Bapi had asked me if there was something I would like to keep from the house. 

"Just keep a couple of those bricks with Dadu's name on them, if possible."

Since I had started to make a post on Thamma's recipe, I will do so.
Thamma made two kinds of tauk or ambol. One with tamarind and the other with whole amchur or dried mango pieces. 
To the ones with amchur, she always used a little mustard paste too. 
With the tamarind, it was just mustard seeds and whole red chillies and jaggery. 
I did not have jaggery, so used sugar instead.


Bhindi / Dharosh / Ladies finger - around 10 pieces, washed and dried well
Tamarind pulp - 3 tbsp 
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp 
Whole red chillies - 1, broken 
Haldi / Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp 
Red chilli powder - ½ tsp 
Salt - to taste 
Sugar - 1 tbsp ( this is a slightly sweetish dish, so use the amount of sugar to balance with the tartness of your tamarind pulp )
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )
Water - around 2 cups

How to

Cut the dharosh / bhindi into medium sized pieces ( refer pictures ). 

Heat oil in a kadahi / wok. 

Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to crackle, add the red chilli and the bhindi. 

Give a good stir on high heat. 

Add the haldi powder + salt. Cover and lower heat. 

Cook till the bhindi is done. 

Remove cover, raise heat and add water + tamarind pulp + red chilli powder + sugar. 

Cover, lower heat and let it simmer till the water thickens slightly.

Serve cool or at room temperature.

This was lunch thala with the Bhaja Muger dal, Aloo dharosh bhaja, Potol bhaja and this Tetul dharosh or Bhindir tauk.