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simple home cooking


mongo_jones
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i haven't perused all the threads here but it seems like a lot of readers and posters here are interested in (relatively) more complicated indian dishes, often in things that are cooked more in restaurants or the homes of the rich (where there is time, labor and means to cook these things). as someone who grew up decidedly middle-class, unable to afford to go to 5 star restaurants or to elite clubs (except as rare treats), indian food has largely been defined for me by home-cooking. which, as all indians know, is quite a different beast from what is found in restaurants. sometimes i think people who cook every day prefer dishes that are simply prepared, and those who cook as a hobby go for the more complicated recipes. unfortunately in cookbooks and restaurants and magazine/newspaper articles in the u.s indian food is being identified more with the complicated (and rich, in all senses of the term) than with the mainstays of the average indian kitchen. some of this has to do with narratives of exoticization (often internalized by indian writers themselves) and the place of india in the western imagination, but whatever the cause it paints a very narrow picture of the indian culinary scene.

the basic potato recipe i posted earlier is an example of a simple but tasty bengali home-style dish. i'd love to read and try other such recipes from other people's and regions' repertoires.

Edited by mongo_jones (log)
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SWEET AND SOUR BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH GINGER AND CHILIES

Kaddu Kee Sabzi

Serves 4 to 6

In my grandmother’s home in Delhi, visitors would arrive begging to eat Panditjis preparation of this very simple and humble vegetable. His recipe, reproduced here, was fabled to be deliciously addictive; you will find out. Kaddu is the Hindi word for the oblong shaped, Indian pumpkin. In America, I use butternut squash instead: it comes close enough in flavor and makes it unnecessary to go hunting for the real thing in Asian markets. The end result is a dish that is authentic in taste and just as beautifully orange. Try it with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

2- to 2 1/4- pound butternut squash

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 fresh, hot green chili, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons dried mango powder (amchur)

1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Peel it with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. Cut the two halves lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Then cut the strips crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces.

2. Heat the oil in a large wok, kadai or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. Add the fresh chili, the fenugreek, cayenne and asafetida and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

4. Add the squash and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in the salt and sugar. Turn the heat down to medium. Cover and cook until the squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Uncover and stir the squash every 5 minutes and check on the cooking; if the spices begin to burn, turn the heat down. If the squash doesn’t brown at all, turn the heat up slightly.

5. Stir in the dried mango powder. Mash the squash with a spoon to break up some of the pieces. Taste for salt and serve hot.

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arre suvir, i finished dinner not one hour ago and just the description of this is making my stomach growl again--i think i am going to make an all e-gullet feast this weekend: the bhindi raita, your kaddu dish and i was going to make a bengali "kosha mangsho" with my goat meat but i'm open to suggestions from the rest of you as well.

thanks for the recipe!

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arre suvir, i finished dinner  not one hour ago and just the description of this is making my stomach growl again--i think i am going to make an all e-gullet feast this weekend: the bhindi raita, your kaddu dish and i was going to make a bengali "kosha mangsho" with my goat meat but i'm open to suggestions from the rest of you as well.

thanks for the recipe!

You are most welcome.

Would you mind starting a thread on how you make and what variations you may have for the preparation of Aloo Bharta.

It is my absolute favorite dish using mashed potatoes and actually the only version of mashed potatoes that makes me smile when I think of it.

How I thank my Bengali music teacher for having brought this marvellous dish into my little world. And I thank all my fellow Bengali cooks in NYC who take time and prepare it for me as staff meal when I visit their restaurants.

Do you have a favorite recipe for it? Would you share it with us?

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Would you mind starting a thread on how you make and what variations you may have for the preparation of Aloo Bharta.

i'm not actually familiar with this dish: either we know it by different names, or it isn't bengali or i'm not bengali enough (which my uncles will say is true--until they see me eating ilish/hilsa tails without a single problem). the one mashed potato dish that i've cherished since early childhood is alu-sheddho, which is a very simple preparation of mashed potatoes with a few drops of pure mustard oil, salt, minced onions and sometimes little flecks of green chillies as well. but i doubt that's what you're talking about. can you describe it a little?

alu sheddho with steamed rice and a watery bengali style mushoor dal (with a squeeze of lime) is a meal fit for a king. if you want to get fancy maybe a light fish curry with magoor mach (a kind of catfish i think) as well. when i was growing up magoor and koi (2 classic bengali fishes) were available in abundance (prawns were very affordable then too). we ate those fish and my mother's heavenly prawn malai curry all the time. after my father got transferred away from south bengal magoor and koi became less easy to get, and now i think they are quite expensive in general. prawns, of course, are out of the average middle-class indian's reach now as an everyday food item--they're all being raised for export i guess. but i still remember my father buying live magoor (for some reason this fish is always bought live and killed right before cooking) and the fish swimming in our kitchen sink till the time came.

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Alur Bharta maybe? It is mashed potatoes with mustard oil, green chiles and cilantro.  Onions chopped finely are also thrown in.

Maybe you know it as something else.

It is had with runny masoor dal and bhaat.

Amazing!

I am not sure about the authenticity of this Bharta but I use to enjoy this when I had a Bengali cook work with me.

I know we are talking about simple home cooking and this was not part of the menu but instead a perfect staff meal.

As much as I can remember he use to take a few Idaho potatoes, cover with aluminium foil and just throw them on hot charcoal (usually in the live Tandoor). Take it out after a couple of hours peel and rough mash with a touch of mustard oil and then temper with toasted crushed red chilies, cilantro and onion... may be some mustard seeds and then season. Yesss !! I use to eat it with just steamed Basmati rice, runny haldiwala (Turmerici) masoor dal. Yes it was amazing for me eat that Bharta, dal and a well roasted leg piece of Tandoori chicken, Was heaven...

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Alur Bharta maybe? It is mashed potatoes with mustard oil, green chiles and cilantro.  Onions chopped finely are also thrown in.

Maybe you know it as something else.

It is had with runny masoor dal and bhaat.

Amazing!

I am not sure about the authenticity of this Bharta but I use to enjoy this when I had a Bengali cook work with me.

I know we are talking about simple home cooking and this was not part of the menu but instead a perfect staff meal.

As much as I can remember he use to take a few Idaho potatoes, cover with aluminium foil and just throw them on hot charcoal (usually in the live Tandoor). Take it out after a couple of hours peel and rough mash with a touch of mustard oil and then temper with toasted crushed red chilies, cilantro and onion... may be some mustard seeds and then season. Yesss !! I use to eat it with just steamed Basmati rice, runny haldiwala (Turmerici) masoor dal. Yes it was amazing for me eat that Bharta, dal and a well roasted leg piece of Tandoori chicken, Was heaven...

Prasad, the Bengali cooks I know and my music teacher make the same thing you and I have mentioned.

And yes they all eat it with the runny dal and rice.

It is superb and one of my favorite ways of eating Mashed Potatoes.

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alu sheddho with steamed rice and a watery bengali style mushoor dal (with a squeeze of lime) is a meal fit for a king.

BYW, this alu-sheddho with rice and watery daal for Bengalis is probably the equivalent of what they call a classic "comfort food" in the US.

Hard to find a dish that is simpler to prepare. Key is to use good quality mustard oil. Which is, sadly, difficult to find here in the US.

In our house, sometimes we would also add a mashed-up hard-boiled egg to the alu-sheddho and eat it that way.

Magoor maacher (or sometimes Shinghi maach; both are a type of catfish) jhhol was the staple at our house too -- I especially remember the watery "jhhol" (a.k.a. stew) my mom would prepare for us anytime we were down ill with a fever.

Here is a picture of some Magoor maach. Enjoy :>

meerval_in_mand.jpg

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Prasad my mouth is watering.. I wish Thali was closer... :sad:

Monica

Thali is not even close as what you think. It's a lot closer, just 35 to 40 minutes from New York. I hope to see you soon.

Thali is very close if anyone in NYC wants to sample some of the best Sea Food preparations made Indian style.

Their new owner turned chef (founding owner Prasad) is making some of the best seafood you could eat anywhere. And it just happens to be the best Indian seafood in this part of the US.

I was there with a friend who is a sea food snob, and the two of us did quite some damage sampling dishes from the dinner menu for lunch. We ate for 6 and left hungry for more. Not food, but more of the sensations that we experienced with each dish. Mussels, crab, sea bass ( :sad: ), halibut, shrimp, prawns and scallops were all prepared in ways familiar and yet new. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, the taste of the seafood was just as present as the marvel of perfectly chosen and cooked spices.

Prasad, I shall be arriving with many a friend to Thali to share your sea food dishes.

A vegetarian for the most part, sea food and beef are two things that can impress me to make a brief switch. It was worth doing so the other day at your restaurant. I was happy I did that. Thanks for sharing with us diners a wonderful plethora of Indian tastes and yet keeping the seafood light and flavorful.

And whilst I mention your menu, I must also again congratulate you for keeping on your menu your mothers chicken and lamb curries. They are wonderful and just the experience of cooking what a mother comes and prepares for customers at her sons restaurant is something wonderful. Both my guest and I left with great appreciation for what Thali is doing for the Indian food scene here in the US. I travel around the US for reasons both culinary and personal, she is a well respected food writer, and has her own travels to reflect upon, and Thali gives Indian food a new meaning and we were both surprised to find it in Connectitcut, even before one had discovered it in greater numbers in cities like NYC.

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  • 3 weeks later...

my mother hated to cook, so our home food was very pared down.

it typically meant a meat dish of some sort, and rasam and rice, dhal (sometimes with either beet, radish, ladyfinger, spinach, or vegall) and rice, or uppuma alongside.

or a biryani.

if she was well rested and in the mood to make it, it would be meatball curry and puris.

my favorites which i find myself making when i crave homecooking is egg or meatball curry, rasam (especially when i am sick) with rice and something that i named "karuppu curry" when i was young (essentially twice cooked meat - once as a curry, then fried to evaporate the liquid off).

also white radish dhal over rice with ghee and mango pickle makes me happy.

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my mother hated to cook, so our home food was very pared down.

it typically meant a meat dish of some sort, and rasam and rice, dhal (sometimes with either beet, radish, ladyfinger, spinach, or vegall) and rice, or uppuma alongside.

or a biryani.

if she was well rested and in the mood to make it, it would be meatball curry and puris.

my favorites which i find myself making when i crave homecooking is egg or meatball curry, rasam (especially when i am sick) with rice and something that i named "karuppu curry" when i was young (essentially twice cooked meat - once as a curry, then fried to evaporate the liquid off).

also white radish dhal over rice with ghee and mango pickle makes me happy.

And reading your post makes me happy and sad. Now I am hungry. Your mothers dishes sound wonderful. :smile:

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i think they are - and i've never tasted anything like them anywhere else, whether indian home cooking or indian restaurant - i have no idea what essential steps she skips, but it turns out alright anyway.

actually i've been craving white radish dhal and rice for several weeks now, unfortunately i can't find the white radishes anywhere. :sad:

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unfortunately i can't find the white radishes anywhere. :sad:

Every so often, I find some in the Indian store or even the farmers market.

Where do you live? Maybe someone who also lives in your area, can give you a source for them.

What else do you use them for?

How about Daikon if you are not able to get Radishes. Though it's not as sharp as the Indian white raddish, but its pretty close. I use it all the time and with a good Tadka (tempering) it tastes great.

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here's the ironic thing - when we lived in Syracuse New York, (very small, not very cosmopolitan) my mom could always get them at the Chinese grocery. I live in Atlanta now, where there is fairly large Indian population, and wonderful grocery stores, where you can find all sorts of stuff, and I can't for the life of me, find them. Granted I have only checked my little corner of cobb county in the farmers marketsd and indian groceries. I may have to see if the big interantional farmers market 50 miles away has them. it's just a matter of finding time for that trip. I've never actually used them myself for anything, since i've never been able to find them since i've been on my own, but I do vaguel remember my mom frying them with spices and mustard seed before. I don't think i liked it very much like that, because they wound up too greasy and soggy.

prasad I have tried the daikon before - i'm not sure how you cook yours, but mine became very mushy. Also you're right it doesn't have the bite that white radish does.

Edited by tryska (log)
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Thali is very close if anyone in NYC wants to sample some of the best Sea Food preparations made Indian style.

Their new owner turned chef (founding owner Prasad) is making some of the best seafood you could eat anywhere. And it just happens to be the best Indian seafood in this part of the US.

Prasad, I shall be arriving with many a friend to Thali to share your sea food dishes.

And whilst I mention your menu, I must also again congratulate you for keeping on your menu your mothers chicken and lamb curries. They are wonderful and just the experience of cooking what a mother comes and prepares for customers at her sons restaurant is something wonderful. Both my guest and I left with great appreciation for what Thali is doing for the Indian food scene here in the US. I travel around the US for reasons both culinary and personal, she is a well respected food writer, and has her own travels to reflect upon, and Thali gives Indian food a new meaning and we were both surprised to find it in Connectitcut, even before one had discovered it in greater numbers in cities like NYC.

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Did you know all or most of my spices are all roasted by mom and blended in Indian blenders like sumeet and National blenders? All the coconut I use is freshly grated by her?

Sometimes the best of restaurants can't match mothers on this, which is why the smart chefs co-opt them. If you go to the President Hotel in Bombay where Chef Ananda Solomon presides over one of the few five star hotels with really excellent food, in the middle of the kitchen for his Konkan Cafe restaurant you'll see this old Konkani granny, dressed up in whites like the rest of his staff, and grinding away the masalas.

Chef Solomon told me that he first met this lady when he was cooking in Goa and was simply never able to duplicate her skill with masala pastes. So when he got round to starting Konkan Cafe, which highlights the cooking of the West Coast, he went back to Goa and persuaded her to come and join his team. She was a widow, which helped, and he promised her family that he'd get special quarters from the hotel for her, and now everyday she's there, in her usual nine yard sari with the whites on top, hard at work on the grinding stone.

BTW, that reminds me, I've finally decided I need my own granite grinding stone. The electric ginder that I have is certainly convenient, but it grinds things too fine and I think, sometimes, with chutneys and some spice pastes, a slight graininess is needed. In particular I want to try make the SUPERLATIVE prawn pickle our cook in Madras makes and my sister tells me that for that, stone ground masala is a must. How do cooks and restaurants abroad manage? Does anyone do their grinding on stone and where do they get the stones from?

Vikram

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Did you know all or most of my spices are all roasted by mom and blended in Indian blenders like sumeet and National blenders? All the coconut I use is freshly grated by her?

How do cooks and restaurants abroad manage? Does anyone do their grinding on stone and where do they get the stones from?

Vikram

Vikram:

In my earlier psot I mentioned Sumeet and National. Similarly we have an electric stone grinder where most of my coarse pasted and powders are derived from and again you do need a lot of patience, since commercially when you so much. This is where I can't thank my mom enough with patience she grinds all the powders and blends coarse masala pastes and so on.......

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i use a manual granite mortar and pestle--not exactly the stone grinders used in indian homes but close. i use it both for wet and dry stuff. due to my lack of patience i usually end up with more of a smashing than a grinding motion but it still results in better ginger-garlic pastes than in a blender and also grainier dry masalas than in a dry-grinder.

Edited by mongo_jones (log)
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Vikram, for my birthday last year, a friend of mine gifted me one of these stone grinders (sil batta). How amazing they are. Nothing works as well as them for texture. I do not use it often at home.. but when I do... I am taken back into memory lane and good tastes from childhood in India. :smile:

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for a most amazing site, especially comforting to one sundered from a home and homeland. This is a first post, and should you so permit, once in a while one would like to weigh in with a few words on the evolving cuisines of Kolkata, some threads of which are in danger of being lost amidst the rapid modernization of the last three decades or so. Things do evolve and chang, food and language foremost among them; still, it is sometimes interesting to record a few things so that delicious ideas do not get lost for all time. All too aware of one's pedantic, pompous, long-winded style, one hesitates, not wishing to offend. At any rate, thanks so much to suvirji, and prasadji, as well as so many others for their warm and generous posts.

With respect to souring agents, in rural Bengal, fresh young tamarind leaves were much used. Also, the tips of chickpea plants have a dlicious sour tang, and as with tips of peas (not sour), have been used in rural bengal. Several types of slightly fermented tamarind paste (shora tetool), bright orange to brown in color, are an important agent found even in city markets.

If one might be forgiven a request, would anyone be able to providea recipe for two Marwari dishes: one is an okra prepared with ajwain and mustard paste, very tangy with a yogurt (?) base; the other is a Marwari dahi vada made with moth dal, dense flat disks redolent of cumin and hing . Thank you so very much.

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