Friday, October 31, 2008

Vegetable Rice Pulao and Raita

I was tagged by Joyeeta long back, but couldn’t fulfill the promise I made to her. Its time now to write about some interesting philosophies of life. I guess it gives suddenly a lot of opportunity to write.All said and done, I feel some questions looks good only on book but when implemented in real life ,it turns out to be ,other way round. I have stick to the basic humane nature while answering about them.

1 -What have you realized recently ?
We have being given just one life by God and it’s up to us how we can make it better for ourselves and for others.
Life is too short; spend it spreading love and laughter .Smile and the world smiles with you.

2-Have you given first kiss?
Ahem! Yes

3-If you are stranded on a deserted island, who are the 11 blog buddies you would take
I think I would like to take with me Joyeeta,Sharmila,Mandira,Sandeepa,Sia,Vani,Pooja,Sra,Swati,Uma,Vijaya and My sis Tanu ,provided they are free from their daily obligations .

4-Where is the place, you want to go to the most
Its difficult to pick just one place, there are many places where I wish to go, one is Kashmir.
Other is Bhutan
Sea Beaches of Bali and the list will go on.

5-If you have one dream, what would it be?
Dreams are just an extension of our real life wishes and desires that needs serious consideration and execution .If one dream gets fulfilled ,start seeing another one, never stop dreaming , Often Big things starts with a small and tiny dream.
One dream is to see my hubby and daughter attain what they have wished to get in life.

6-Do you believe in seeing rainbow after the rain?
Yes, definitely and I have seen couple of them.
Life’s sorrow ,agony and pain is rain ,when it comes down it washes away everything , and the Dreams, happiness and zest is rainbow ,once comes up looks so beautiful and soothing to watch .Life is all about Ups and Downs , To every rain there is a little rainbow hidden ,its just that we have to look and find it .

7-What are you afraid of losing the most now?
My loved ones, they are very precious to me.

8-If you win $1 million, what would you do?
I am not a saint, so I cannot donate the entire sum to charity, will spend the maximum on family,would like to buy a big house,fix a big sum for the education of my little one and if left will donate to Ramkrishna Mission near our home.

9-If you meet someone that you love, would you confess to him/her?
Yes and I have already done it.

10-List out 3 points about the person who tagged you
Sensitive, self-confident and friendly

11-What are the requirements you wish from your other half
This is very difficult to answer honestly.
Requirements are very Human nature, If we bound ourselves with requirements, there would be expectations and if the frequency of expectation is not matched, there is bound to happen disharmony. Before thinking of my requirements, I would place myself in his shoes and ask myself what could be his requirements; I think this can greatly reduce the bar of requirements and expectations and hence the disharmony I was talking about.
I think I would love to spend little more time with him as ours is a very busy life, spending time qualitative rather than quantitative will fulfill all the requirements.

12-What type of people you hate most?
I think people who manage to live life in a dual way, what they pretend to be in public or in group ,usually don’t turn out when interacted on one-to one basis.

13-What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Music, if there is no music there is no melody and if you take melody out of life, life reaches the dead end.
14-If you have faults, would you rather the people around you point out to you or would you rather keep quite?
Realization is more important .If I realize it’s my fault, I will definitely check it otherwise I will leave it to other people to decide.
15-Now people has started stealing questions too?
What?I dont get that.
16-Are you a shopaholic or not
Of course! I am .
17-Find a word that best describes the person who tagged you.
Sensitive and Honest.

18-If you have a chance, which part of your character you would like to change
My short temperedness.

19-What’s the last shocking thing you have heard and seen
Each and every day innocent people are killed on streets in bomb blasts this is most shocking to me.
20-Would you have rather love and no money or money but no love
I will love to have both, can’t help it, I am very Greedy.

Now to the recipes we cooked last week.
Here is the recipe for Vegetable Rice Pulao and Raita

Vegetable Rice Pulao
Serves-4-5 people
4 cups of cooked rice ( I used seddu Chaal (Boiled rice or Parboiled Rice ) a great substitution for a normal Rice ,for this purpose )
2 onion chopped finely
4 tsp of ginger paste
4 cloves garlic minced
3-4 cloves
2-3 pods cardamom
Half inch stick cinnamon
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2-3 bay leaf or tej Patta
½ tsp of red Pepper powder
1tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
3-4 tbs of ghee

In a hot Kadhai/heavy bottom pan ,add ghee/canola oil.add cumin seeds, tej patta let it splutter.
Add ginger paste,minced garlic,fry for 2-3 mints at high,add onions fry till they turn little brown.
Add cloves,cinnamon,cardamom and fry for 1-2 mints.
Add red pepper powder and salt-sugar, add the cooked rice and gently mix the fried spices with rice evenly so that rice is coated well with spices.
Transfer the entire content to a hot pot, take out before you serve.
Optional-If you wish you can add chopped beans,tomato,capsicum shredded carrots or some dry fruits like cashews ,raisins or dates.This Taste Great with bondi raita.
2-3 cup of fresh home-made yogurt
1 tsp of cumin powder
Salt as per taste
Dry Bondi (available at any sweet shop)
Whisk in yogurt, cumin powder and salt ,add dry bondi and enjoythe yummy raita. This is very healthy as it has no oil or any other tempering.
It just feels heaven , enjoy.
I am sending this rice dish to Sri's Place for Rice Mela ,visit her wonderful blog for more details. Cooking For All Season
Happy Cooking Friends

Friday, October 24, 2008

Celebrating Festival with JFI

I would like to carry on my report from the Previous Post, In this Post I have written about Ashtami,Navami and the D-day Vijayadashmi.Before you read further ,please visit this previous post for details about shashti and saptami.

Narkel naru and dal tadka
Ashtami is a special day , pushpanjali is the most important thing for every Bengali on this auspicious day ,people would get up very early , I would recall from my childhood days, my Grandmother would woke up all, early 4 o Clock in the morning to have the morning shower , get ready and go to a Kali temple near our home where we would wait for our turn to offer Pushpanjali .My Grandmother and Mom would have gone earlier than us to offer Phol Prasad to God with a small piece of paper on which the Gotra name and the name of the head of the family written. Puja would be performed and God would bless the family.
Trust me there would be thousand others to offer the same Puja.I sometimes really wonder How God would remember so many names and their Gotra’s name or weather is it important for him to know if the person is from shandilya gotra or alamyan gotra.This still is somewhat puzzling to me.
Over the period of time I have accepted the fact as I have realized, God is omnipresent, he knows everything in and out, things start from him and end on him.

Here is some great creative work on one of the pandals that we visited.

Sandhi Puja –this Puja is the most elaborate ceremony where the priest and people would gather around Mayer protima(Idol),amidst Dhaak(drums) Playing and priest would worship the goddess. Aaroti would be performed , a brass metal based joined 5 diya is lit up, cotton threads called Polte is dipped in oil and its placed on the prodeep (Brass Diya) then its lit up, making the Brass Diya glow bright amidst chanting.
Priest would rotate the diya in one hand in front of mayer protima and her Children Karthik Saraswati ,Lakshmi and Ganesh ,and in other hand a small brass bell is being shaken like a pendulum ,all happening in synchronization with the Dhaak playing in the back grounds .Dhaakis would often raise their bar of drum beats, roaring at high note and then suddenly striking on a lower note ,people would also fold their hands and some even closed their eyes ,shoulders little bowed down in respect of Goddess.
With the smell of Dhuno whole atmosphere is just like a trans and in twilight, It becomes somehow so magnificent and mesmerizing, Kind of a magic spell and people all hooked to such magic, the magic is the Maya of Mayer Puja .
A piece of kapoor (Camphor) is lit on another brass diya and this aroti is performed after the main aroti , people would run close to get a whiff of the aroti by smearing hands over the flame ,to get mayer ashirbaad (Blessings of Goddess Durga).Priest would also shower Shanti Jol(Holy water) over everybody to bless for the well being and peace.
Around 108 earthen Diyas are lighted at the same time.
This time the Lagna of sandhi Puja was late in midnight .Well,its said that sandhi puja is the bridge between ashtami and Navami .
Below is a handicraft made by village girls for a decorations in one of the pandals that we hoped in.

Navami- The main Puja on navami ends with a hom (holy Fire) –aroti in morning , a fire is lit up with wooden logs in front of the Protima .Where many offerings like ghee, honey,dahi or yogurt etc is offered to Hom amidst chanting of sholokas , priest generally perform this ritual with a cotton cloth called” Gamcha “ wrapped around his head. After the Hom , “hom Tika” (some thick paste made from the burnt ashes of hom and ghee) and charnamitra is offered to people as Mayer Blessings .
In the evening aroti is performed and the famous Dhunuchi dance is a great crowd puller, where people would gather and dance in front of the idol with dhunuchi in both the hands with dhaak beats.

Dashmi or VijayadashmiVijaya means Victory dashami means on tenth day , It’s the victory celebration of Mahishashurmardini over Buffalo headed demon Mahishashur , and also it’s the Victory of Shri Ram over evil Ravana .In present context it’s the victory of Goodness over evil,Brightness over darkness.
Sindhur Khela is the most attractive part of this day , when married ladies would offer sweets to Ma Durga and apply Sindoor (Vermillion) on her forehead and seek blessings by touching her sacred feet also. This way they seek blessings form Goddess for their and their family’s well being ,Later they would smear vermilion on each others face and forehead.They would first apply to the forehead and then smear it on Shanka and Pola ( a must for married ladies, shanka is a white bangle made from cutting rounds from high quality conch shells and Pola is generally a red bangle ).This way they exchange the goodness and warmth of togetherness and blessings.
Young ones then seek blessings form older ladies generally their mothers and mother-in-Laws (that includes all the Pishis, Mashis,Jethimaa and kakimaa) by touching the feet and the same age group ladies would hug each other.
In the evening ma Durga and her children would be given a warm hearted farewell amidst tears in eyes and somber looking faces in River Ganges. As Ma Durga is going back to Kailash where her husband Shiva resides.

It is said that “Mayer Gomon Hoye na, Tini sada amader Mone prosthito thaken “.
Goddess Durga always resides in our heart, her farewell is just a ritual.

Here is a small festival goodies we tried making on Durga Puja.
Luchi Begun Bhaja , Cholar Dal and Aloor Jhaal
Begun Bhaja
Cut Brinjals lengthwise, clean in water, marinate in turmeric and salt.
Heat up a Kadai , add 3 tbs of Mustard Oil , fry the marinated brinjals slowly at low , flipping sides in between .Take out in a vessel and drain in paper towels .

Cholar Dal
1 cup Cholar Dal
1tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of salt
2 tbs of ghee
1 tsp of cumin seeds /mustard seeds also can be used
1 Tej Pata
Soak the dal in water for 5mints and then wash it thoroughly.
Now transfer the dal in Pressure cooker , add 2 -3 cups of water, cook for 4 mints at high, discard the white froth with spatula, low the flame .
Add turmeric powder and salt, sugar.
Cover and cook at high, one whistle and lower the flame, cook for 7-8mints at low.
Let the Pressure subside and then open the cover.
Heat up a kadai , add ghee , add cumin seeds ,tej patta and fry for 1-2 mints at high , now carefully temper the cooked Dal with it , stir and cook for 2-3mints .
Take out in a vessel.
Aloor Jhaal (spicy Potato)
3-4 Potato
1 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tsp of red pepper powder
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2-3 tbs of mustard oil
Cut potatoes in small cubes (Cutting in small helps in quick cooking and the spices also gets evenly coated), wash in water
Heat up kadai , add oil,temper it with cumin seeds , add potatoes ,fry at high for 2mints,
Add salt,turmeric powder,red pepper powder ,splash some water droplets with hands .
Cover and cook at low for 7-8mints or till potatoes are soft.
Take out in vessel.
3 cups of Maida or all purpose flour
3 heaped tbs of ghee
1 tsp of salt
Water as required
Knead all the above into a semi solid dough and cover the dough with any cloth.
Let it sit there for half an hour .
Now divide the dough into poertions , make small balls out of the portions ,
Roll each small balls into flat rounds of 3-4 inch diameters.
Heat up a kadai with refined oil upto half, check the oil if its ready for deep frying .
TIP- can add some cumin seeds , if it floats at top ,simmering the oil is heated enough for the deep frying .
Fry the luchis one by one .Once the oil is heated enough, fry the luchis at high ,and sometimes on med high .
Now assemble the Serving Plate .It all depends on the way you place the dishes known as courses.
It’s said that you start eating from your right to left,
So place some Begun Bhaja first ,as Bhaja(fry) is the first course ,
Then scoop some Cholar dal on the plate , Dal being the second course
Take out some Aloor Jhaal and place it as third course.
I had made some Payesh and Chatni also , which concluded the last course as sweets , but its not in picture. Recipes I have already posted here Payesh and Chutney
Luchis should be placed at left to all the courses.
We enjoyed our home Made meals thoroughly during this Puja .

This is going to Sri's Place at Cooking For All Season , who is hosting JFI this month.Visit here for more details JFI-Festival Treats .Originally started by Indira at Mahanandi

Enjoy festival Of Light -Diwali with loved ones and make it eco-friendly.
Happy Diwali

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Narkel Naru and Dal Tadka

Its great to be back again .
We had a great time during Durga Puja .Here is my five day report I tried writing for you all.
We hopped many Pandals and saw many mesmerizing Protima(Idol).

Picture below is taken on Navami , This puja pandal was very near to our home .

Durga Puja is known as Sharodo Utsav here .The season is Sharad or Autumn ,so sharodo utsav or is also called as Autumn Festival. Akalbhodhon is the another name associated with Sharad kalin Durga Puja .Akal means untimely, Bodhon means invoking or invoking goddess Durga Untimely).
This is basically based on the mythology, when Shri Rama invoked Goddess Shakti to get her blessings prior in a battle to defeat mighty Ravana.
Goddess Shakti also takes the form of divine Mahishashurmardini according to Bengali belief, who beheaded the buffalo headed Demon Mahishashur after a long and violent battle. This victory is also victory of goodness over Evil, and Brightness over dark ness .

In Present day Context, there are many Mahishahsurs in our souls in the form of hatred, jealousy, evil and ill-will, by invoking Goddess Durga, we pray to her,to kill these pity issues that crop within us and purify our body and souls.

Navaratri- a Nine Day festival of rituals and custom.
Shashti – Durga Puja Starts with sixth Day or shashti. According to Bengali belief ,On shashti eyo ra(married and blessed with children) observe fast .There are other shashti Fast also like the Neel shashti on the Chaitra masher(April) and Ashok Shashti during Basanti Puja , which has the similar significance .After offering pushpanjali ( flowers and leaves of bel tree generally triplets of leaf, considered very sacred is offered to God, Pushp means flower and Anjali means offering to God through a folded hand).
This is the ritual which is performed under Bel Tolay (Bel Tree) break their fast with sweets and fruits. Priest who recites sholokas for the Pushpanjali, gives them Charnamitra( a yogurt ghee based liquid)and fhol Prasad (sweets and fruits).This was a wonderful experience for me.
In the evening Protima is unveiled amidst Dhaak(drums) playing in the back –ground called bhodhon and amontron to Goddess Durga and her Children.
Dhaakis from this day to the last day of Navaratri , would generally take rounds of our complex every morning and every evening with drum beats , calling all residents and letting us know that its time now for celebration. I would generally wake up early in morning with Drum beats.
That was a very wonderful, sweet experience, and a memory that still lingers on my mind.

On saptami - a ritual consisting of placing a small banana plant, wrapped in a yellow color saree ,this is called Kola Bou , and it is placed just besides God Ganesha is observed. It is considered that this plant has Mayer pran or Shakti ,but on a popular belief this plant is known as Kola Bou ,wife of Lord Ganesha.
Pushpanjali lagna was at around 11.30 a.m. and after offering pushpanjali we went to hop many more pandals and Protima.
Here are some of the Picture.

This Puja Pandal was a huge Pandal and crowd was always pouring in to watch and feel it .

here is a pattern carved on Puja Pandal ,made entirely by Plastic Pipes.

When we returned from Pandal Hopping , we were all tired and down , we got the opportunity of having Bhog(Prasadam) which included khichuri ,beguni(Brinjal slices coated with besan and deep fried),alu cabbage curry ,labra(medley of vegetables) ,chatni papad and bonde .It felt absolutely heavenly with that plate of bhog .
Sandhya aroti was a delight to watch with friends and family, and we all then bee lined to the Phuchka counter outside our Puja Pandal .
We also watched the magnificent cultural Program, that was so meticulously prepared by little children’s of our housing society over the last few days .After the cultural Program was over ,then it was the turn of Dandiya ,Dandiya is a raas dance where people would form circles and do the dancing with two wooden sticks in synchronization with the Orchestra playing music in back –ground. Often the best dancers and well dressed traditionally with Ghagra and Choli for Ladies and Cholis and churidaars for Gents , is picked form groups and awarded on the spot.
My Little one also enjoyed the Raas Nritya of Dandiya.
I will conclude the rest about the ashtami ,navami and Vijayadashmi in my next post , stay tuned.

Here are some recipes ,we cooked during one of those days .

Narkoler Naru


Fresh coconut meat grated 2 cups
½ cup of sugar or add less as per taste
4-5 tbs of ghee
MethodTake out the coconut from the shell and make small pieces, Grind it in Mixer with the half cup of sugar, make a smooth mixture, taste it, if needed add little more sugar.
Heat up ghee, now add coconut and sugar mixture and cook at med-high for 10 -15 mints stirring continuously .Make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to base to the base of pan.
Since the sugar and coconut meat is mixed evenly the cooking time is saved here.
When it starts to collect and comes out smoothly from the sides of Kadai or there is a slight change of color, this is ready.
Now grease a plate with ghee, and take out the mixture and gently flatten it .Let it cools.
Now make small portions and roll them into small rounds
Store it in air tight plastic or steel container, make sure the containers are not moist, it’s better to sun-dry them for sometimes before storing narkel naru in them.
This remains fresh for 1-2 weeks, provided it lasts.
Narkel naru is our childhood favorite sweet and we still find it so delectable and flavorful.
My Mom would make them in bunch and store it before the Puja Starts up.
Making them reminds me of my childhood memories of Durga Puja.Its kind of a connection I share with my mom; hope my little one picks it form here to carry on…

These Narus are made with sugar so white in color ,there is also more popular variety made with Jaggerey or Gur which imparts a little dark color .Narus made with Gur is more popular than the sugar based narus and the flavor also differs.

Dal Tadka

Lentils belongs to fabaceae which is included in Legume family , and is grown all over India. Pigeon pea is a split lentil known as Arhar or toor dal,is a good source of protein and iron .Dals are an integral part of a vegetarian cooking .
Here is the simple recipe for our home-made dal tadka.
Arhar and Moong dal ½ cup each

1 tsp of sugar
2 dry red pepper
1 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2-3 tbs of mustard oil
2 tej pata
2 tbs of ghee
MethodSoak the dal in water for 5mints and then wash it thoroughly.
Now transfer the dal in Pressure cooker , add 2 -3 cups of water, cook for 4 mints at high, discard the white froth with spatula, low the flame . Add more water ,if required .
Add turmeric powder and salt.
Cover and cook at high, one whistle and lower the flame, cook for 4 mints at low.
Let the Pressure subside and then open the cover. Add sugar now .
Heat up a kadai , add ghee , add cumin seeds ,tej patta ,dry red pepper split in between and fry for 1-2 mints at high , now carefully temper the cooked Dal with it , stir and cook for 2-3mints .This is tadka or in simple flavoring the dal , smoked and fried cumin seeds and Tej Patta gives a very earthy flavor .
Cooking Dal often depends on how you give a simple tadka to cooked dal.A simple Dal can have very flavorful taste with the correct flavoring and tempering or tadka .
Take out in a vessel and serve with Rice.

This recipe is going to Sra's Place When My Soup Came Alive who is hosting this month's My Legume-Love Affair .Originally started By Gracious Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook .Hope to see many more interesting Love Affairs .

Happy cooking Friends.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Durga Puja

This is the best time of the year, Festivals, socializing and holidays.
Durga Puja , Bengalis one and only festival is just gearing up .
The last minute finishing touch has been given to the Idol and the pandal (worshipping venue) are all well decorated.
Today is Panchmi and people have gone to get the idols from Kumar Tuli , many who are more eager have already got it on Tritiya , well they are playing safe here , avoiding the last minute rush .
Carrying their Idols in trucks and small metadoors , blowing conchshells ,chanting, shouting “Durga Mai Ki Jai “and blowing whistle ,clapping and singing the songs that life has suddenly bestowed on them. These 5 days, they will be relieved with the burden of their livelihood and problems that they face in everyday life.
Their faces ,all lit up bright , and as we waved to them , they also responded with more chanting and shouting “Durga mai Ki jai “we also joined them in chanting !
Such is the magic of Maa Durga .

They are bringing maa Durga and her children(Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati , God Ganesha and God Karthikeyan) to home and in their parar pujo pandal.
These 5 days,worshipping the idol, going out late till night for pandal hopping, getting together , catching on some forgotten things ,little joys of life or even some friends and relatives is the only criteria .

With these festive mood, I will be taking a short break from blogging , Hope you all my well wishers , readers and friends ,have a good time during festival.
Cook some delicious food and enjoy the festival.

Sharodiya Shubecha
Puja Greetings
Happy Durga Puja and Dushehera