Saturday, December 31, 2016

A long pending post: 2016 – by far the best year of my life

Today on New Year’s Eve, I had to write this piece as the curtains draw on the most rewarding year of my life. Mid 2015, I was touched by life, a tiny soul started taking its first breaths in its first home, its mother’s womb, my womb. After the initial jitters and excitement, I broke the news to ‘A’, he was thrilled. We did not break the news to our families right away as a trip back home was around the corner and we wanted to see the expression on the to-be-grandparents faces when we broke the news to them. A month passed after the other and the little soul kept growing, making its presence felt slowly and steadily. 2016 arrived and we accepted it with our arms wide open knowing we were to become parents this year. The never ending assumptions continued about the gender; some said you look exhausted, you have a little boy in there where as the others said it is going to be a little girl. ‘A’ and I cruised through open ended emotions and started shortlisting names. On some days the little wonder will not be in the right position for the scans and we would spend the entire day in the hospital waiting for it to flip. Once a Radiologist actually told us, “You have one stubborn brat in there” after his 5th attempt to get my baby’s nasal bone on his monitor!  As I entered the last trimester, we started shopping for the little bundle’s arrival and the baby showers followed. During my final checkup the Doctor said, ‘You are almost there’ but I was exhausted; I told her, ‘I have been better’. She understood I was getting impatient and was the only person to tell me the truth, ‘trust me, you are doing fine now, once the baby arrives it will be way more difficult, when you will not be able to figure out why it is crying’. ‘Huh’ I smirked in my mind, got help from the nurse and got up from the examination table and waddled like a seal out of her Cabin. The almighty must have smirked louder that day!

The extensive wait was finally over and the month of May arrived, the Sis-in-law arrived too to welcome the little one. I finally set OOO on my office emails and mentioned I will be on maternity leave and thought really? In spite of getting kicked over a hundred times a day, I still thought, really? Uncertain about what was to happen next.  By now all the apprehension was gone and I was exhilarated beyond imagination, I wanted to see the little me, period. From the time my Sis-in-law set foot in the house, it felt like we had all gathered for some wedding, a couple of friends (more of family than friends) arrived too to help us out. The final baby shower happened and we were all ready for the D Day. The night before I was restless and could not sleep at all, not knowing this was just the first of the countless sleepless nights to come.

And here was May 8th, a delightful Sunday, the day of the little bundle’s arrival. We left for the hospital early in the morning. The hospital authorities provided a special access pass to park our car for the next 3 days after which hopefully we all go home, hale and hearty. One thing followed the other and in no time I was in the hospital gown with the IV in place and a nurse was already there with a wheelchair to take me inside, close to an hour before the time given! With a final call to my Mum and a look at the door to my room, I was wheeled into the recovery area of the OT. 



It was cold inside and I felt a little fuzzy. This was the area where Mums and their babies are placed post the delivery to recover and then moved into their rooms if all the vitals were okay, this was also the area where pre-OT tasks took place. As I waited with bated breath for something to happen, I noticed this woman in the opposite bed, telling the nurse she could not feel her legs still, it was already close to 2 hours for her in recovery. Beside her on an elevated table was a bundled up little baby, a bright glowing light over her head. At the first sight, I thought it was an adorable miniature model when I noticed its lips quiver and gasped! It was a live baby, a couple of hours old, that Woman’s baby! WOW! This must feel tremendous I thought. I struck up a conversation with the woman and found out it was a little girl born just a couple of hours back, that woman realised I was next and wished me luck. I was taken inside in the next few minutes and told not to get nervous looking at the surgical equipment’s placed on a table nearby. In front was a big white board which had all my particulars itemised, the nurses confirmed everything that was mentioned on the board, I nodded. It was time for the spinal anaesthesia, the nurses explained they will push a local anaesthesia first which will numb the spinal area and then the actual epidural will be pushed. In the next few seconds, countless thoughts overlapped in my mind, all that I had read on the internet about the epidural, all that my experienced friends and family members had told me about it, but I could not feel the chill which these thoughts should have triggered down my spine, it was done and I did not feel a thing besides a tiny prick. My brilliant doctor and her team kept chatting with me trying to break my anxiety every now and then, all I kept checking with them was, if ‘A’ was ready outside, I wanted him by my side, I did not want him to miss the first moments, after asking the nurses a few times, the Doctor finally told me that he is waiting right outside and they exchanged pleasantries when she came in, she also said he will be in as soon as the baby is out. Amidst all this tête-à-tête I vaguely heard someone asking for a suction pump and within moments heard a loud cry, I was numb. I can still recall the precise intonation in which my Doctor said ‘It’s a baby boy, Ananya’ and I saw the first glimpse of my Son. How am I supposed to feel and react I thought in my mind, but could not comprehend. Before I could react, the Doctor informed again, your husband is here. I saw ‘A’, his face covered in a mask, I could tell from the look in his eyes, he was more scared than ever. He went with the nurses and clipped the umbilical cord. I asked him if everything looked okay with the baby, he assured our little boy was perfect. ‘A’ still looked dazed but definitely a little relaxed now as he left the OT to break the news to everyone. We had become parents to a handsome baby boy!




Back in the recovery room, I could not take my eyes off my little champ, who was now placed on the same elevated table under the bright light like that little girl was a little while back. I was ecstatic, I could not rest no matter how hard I tried. We returned home a couple of days later and our lives had changed forever.


We, lovingly named him Aarush - meaning the first ray of the Sun, our son-shine, the sunshine of our life! The first flutters and kicks still feels like yesterday but as I write this my baby is 7 months and 23 days old already and life has been a roller coaster ride. 



The day he was born, was a rebirth for us, as parents. We are not perfect, not even close to it, but I do hope we can learn and become the parents our little boy deserves. The most difficult yet the most gratifying year of our life is coming to a close. 2016 - You were amazing, thank you for giving us a new meaning to our life!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coconut and Milk Barfi - Indian Sweet


It is absolutely overwhelming when anyone requests for a recipe, I want to post it right away. However, with a 9-5 job, family, friends, books, my plants, and my craziness for cooking, I sometimes wish days were longer than 24 hours. This one is for one of the nicest and prettiest woman I have known, 'T' Di, thank you for those kind words, they indeed mean a lot to me.

So it was sometime last week when I wanted to make a simple, ‘on the burner’ dessert at home, ‘on the burner’ as my Microwave Oven is down for close to a week now and I have not yet managed to open a ticket with the vendor to fix it. Spoke to Mum and she mentioned a Barfi she knew of made with Milk Powder and desiccated Coconut, I was instantaneously interested. I ordered the required ingredients from BigBasket and waited for them to arrive. Once they arrives, I made them for the weekend.  Initially, I told ‘A’ they were store-bought, he believed me and I was elated! (They were seriously that good).


Ingredients:

Desiccated Coconut – 100 gms
Milk Powder – 140 gms
Milk – 3/4th Cup
Powdered Sugar – ½ Cup
Cardamom Powder – ½ tsp (I pounded 6-7 whole Green Cardamoms for this)
Any dry fruit of your choice – chopped – I had Raisins, so I cut them in half and used them, you can use broken cashews, sliced almonds, sliced pistachios or none – to your taste.
Unsalted Butter – 60 gms
Clarified Butter / Ghee – ½ tsp


Method:

Heat a Pan and drop the butter in and let it melt, bring down the heat to low

Add the Milk and mix well

Add the Milk Powder, little at a time and keep mixing, make sure no lumps remain

Add the desiccated coconut and mix in with a spatula

Add the powdered Sugar and mix it in, add the cardamom powder as well (be careful while adding sugar, don’t add all of it at once, you might like it a little less or more sweet than me, mix little at a time and do a taste test to check if the sweetness is right for you. Many a times I have added all the sugar at once, as recommended by the recipe and it has been way sweeter than my taste).

Keep cooking this on low - medium flame, stir continuously to make sure it does not get burnt from the bottom, cook until the consistency is dense and the mixture starts to leave the sides of the Pan. Once the right consistency is reached, turn off the gas and set aside

Take a plate where you want this mixture to set, I used a simple stainless steel plate with about .5 cm sides as I did not want my Barfis to be very thick.

Take ½ a tsp of clarified butter and butter the surface of the plate so that the Barfis come off easily after they are set, pour the mixture in. Using a spoon spread the mixture on the plate, make sure the thickness is the same throughout, else you will get Barfis with uneven thickness, this process takes a little while, be patient.

Once done sprinkle the chopped dry fruit on the mixture, use the spoon and press them in lightly.
Keep it in the refrigerator and let it set. I kept it for 1.5 hours. Take it out, run a knife and cut slices as per your wish.

Light the burner again, and heat the plate a little (30 seconds should do it), so that the clarified butter melts at the bottom and it is much easier to separate the pieces from the plate. Using the same knife to separate the pieces and enjoy!



Coconut and Milk Barfi can be refrigerated for up to a week, though this batch only 48 hours at my home :D



Monday, June 22, 2015

Balsamic Roasted whole Chicken legs - in the Grill Pan


I bought this wonderchef granite grill pan sometime back and never used it. Over the weekend, I had whole Chicken legs sitting in my freezer and decided to use the grill pan. This is an extremely easy recipe, all I did was marinated the Chicken legs for an hour and roasted them on my grill pan and not in the Oven. It procedure is extremely simple and the end result tastes awesome. The Onion and Bell Pepper rings, I added run time, they got a little cooked in the marinade and tasted great too.

Balsamic Vinegar is the base of this marinade; it looks like red wine, adds an amazingly rich taste and texture to the dish.

Ingredients:

Whole Chicken Legs – 2
Balsamic Vinegar - ½ cup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsps
Dried Rosemary – 1 tsp
Dried Mixed Herbs – 1 tsp
Garlic – 2 medium cloves – crushed
Ginger Powder – 1/4th tsp
Lime Juice – ¼ the juice of a Lime
Chili Paprika – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Sliced Onion and Bell Pepper rings - optional

Marination:

Wash the Chicken Legs thoroughly and pat dry. I used frozen one’s, let them completely defrost, pat dry.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients and marinate the Chicken legs in the marinade in the Refrigerator for an hour or more (I did for an hour).

Method:

Heat the Grill Pan and place the Chicken Legs in them over medium heat, I cooked them for about 7-8 minutes on each side.


Add more EVOO if needed.

Once one side is cooked, turn and cook the other side.

Add the Onion and Bell Pepper rings, sprinkle some more salt and pepper.


Run the knife through the thigh of the Chicken, if the juice runs clear, the meat is done.

Give it standing time for 5-7 minutes before you serve, if cut immediately, the juices will run out and the meat will become extremely dry.



Friday, June 19, 2015

Basanti Pulao - a traditional Bengali Sweet Pulao


I have been intending to post the recipe of my Basanti Pulao for close to 2 years now. Sometime back, I actually took pictures of the step by step process and was still not able to post it for reasons unknown. Basanti Pulao and Kosha Mangsho (slow cooked spicy Mutton curry) is a match made in heaven and is an absolute regular at my home. We celebrate the craziest of occasions with this menu, even occasions like both of us working from home on a given day! The sweetness of the pulao compliments the hot and spicy mutton curry and they just have to be tried together.

The Rice traditionally used for this recipe is Gobindobhog and one should never deviate from this tradition. If you do, you will still make a pulao, but not the Godly Basanti Pulao! I have lived in Maharashtra for 8 years and always carried my share of Gobindobhog from back home; however, I did find a variant of this which I used when I ran out of Gobindobhog, Ambemohar! A dear friend from work once introduced me to Ambemohar, and I agree it is a lost sibling of the Bengali Gobindobhog!

I usually assemble the dish and put it in the Microwave Oven for the final cooking bit. Though the last time I made it in the Pressure and it came out just perfect!

Ingredients:
Gobindobhog / Ambemohar Rice – 1 cup
Cashews – a handful
Raisins – a handful
Green Cardamom – 2-3
Cinnamon – 1” stick
Cloves – 2-3
Bay Leaf – 2
Grated Ginger - 1 tsp
Nutmeg Powder – ¼ th tsp
Frozen Green Peas – ½ cup (optional)
Sugar – depending on how sweet you want the Pulao to be – I add about 7 tsps, as this is essentially a sweet pulao with a little bit of salt to balance out the taste.
Salt– to balance
Turmeric Powder – ½ tsp (traditionally soaked Saffron is used for the color, I use Turmeric Powder for the yellow hue as Saffron is not always handy in my Kitchen)
A small slice of Lime (if cooking in the Microwave Oven)
Ghee / Clarified Butter – 2 tbsp
Method:
Wash the Rice till the water runs clear, drain and set aside.
Heat Clarified Butter / Ghee in a Pan, drop the whole garam masalas (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves) in it, let them sizzle for a while. Add the cashews and raisins and roast them till golden, do not roast too much and burn them.


Now add the Rice to the Pan and keep stirring so that every grain gets coated in Ghee.
Add the grated ginger and keep stirring till the raw ginger smell is gone.
Stir in the frozen Peas.


Add the Sugar, Salt, Turmeric Powder and Nutmeg Powder and mix well.
Do a taste test to see if the sugar and salt are okay, add more if needed, remember this is mishit pulao so it will be a LOT sweeter than other Rice dishes and Salt will only balance out the taste.


Now for the final bit there are two methods:

Pressure Cooker: Transfer the contents of the Pan into a Pressure Cooker, Add 2 cups of Water (double the quantity of Rice) and cook for one whistle, let the pressure completely go down on its own, and then open the lid.

Microwave Oven: Transfer the contents into a Microwave safe bowl, add 2 cups of water, add a few drops of lime juice, cover with a cling film, and Microwave on high for 20 minutes. Unwrap the cling film, and serve the Basanti Pulao with the Kosha Mangsho – slow cooked spicy Mutton Curry!



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chire Bhaja - ‘Crispy Flattened Rice with Sweet Peas and Peanuts'

So I made the simple Bengali Chire Bhaja - ‘Crispy flattened rice with sweet peas and peanuts’ as a snack last evening and we both loved it. As a kid I never enjoyed this dish, I guess that is because, wherever I ate, they either added peanuts like misers or the Chire was not as kurmure (crispy) as I like. There are different variants of this snack in different households, some add peas, some don’t, some add sugar, and some don’t. This recipe requires quite a bit of cooking oil as the flattened rice absorbs all the oil you can pour and very fast at that, hence keep the Oil to minimum. The ingredients listed will make the snack for three people, I wanted to make for two, but it was more than enough for the two of us.



Ingredients to make Chire Bhaja:

Chire Bhaja/Flattened Rice – 2 cups
Cooking Oil – 2 tbsps
Raw Peanuts – ½ cup
Shelled Green Peas – ½ cup – I used the frozen kind
Whole Dry Red Chilli – 2
Red Chilli Powder – ½ tsp (to your taste)
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Sugar to balance


Method:

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a Kadhai and fry the raw peanuts in the oil, add a pinch of salt, keep stirring, fry them till the peanuts are done. The skin of the peanuts will turn a dark color indicating that they are done. Once done scoop them out and drain them on a paper towel.

To the same oil, add the green peas and fry them for a while with a pinch of salt. The frozen green peas take very less time to get done compared to the Peanuts. Scoop them out and drain them on a paper towel too.,

Add the rest of the Oil to the Kadhai. Once the Oil is hot, tear the two whole dried red chillies and add to this oil, let it sizzle. This process flavors the oil.

Stir in the 2 cups of flattened rice, keep the heat to medium while frying the flattened rice. Keep stirring otherwise it will burn the rice at the bottom and it will not taste good. The flattened rice will absorb all the oil, keep stirring.

Add the Salt, Sugar, Red Chili Powder and Black Pepper Powder and keep stirring. Once desired crispiness is reached, add the Peanuts and Peas to it and mix thoroughly. Be very careful while doing a taste test as all the ingredients tend to get extremely hot and can burn your tongue like never before.



Serve with Chai - Tea of your choice..heaven!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roasting a whole Chicken for Thanksgiving

I have watched the F.R.I.E.N.D.S series rather late in life. Exactly a month before my wedding, I was diagnosed with Chicken Pox and was confined at home, I started recovering after the initial lethal attack of the disgusting virus and was still covered in extremely itchy, always-exploding blisters and did not have much to do. I was getting dead-fed up of scratching the blisters and dreading the mark would never go away, at least not in a month’s time; that is when I looked up my hard drives and discovered I had the entire series of F.R.I.E.N.D.S copied from some friend at work. I started watching them and got immensely addicted, so much so that I extended my sick leave by a few days to finish it off. I have not watched any other sitcom which spanned 10 seamless years and had millions crying when it finally ended. Even today, there are so many speculations out there, there is going to be a F.R.I.E.N.D.S movie, there should be a bonus episode and what not but alas, I think it really has ended.


I was always in awe of the thanksgiving episodes; there was one for almost all seasons. I loved how Monica would be in competition with her own self, to make another fabulous meal, better than the year before, how Joey wore giant pants to eat the entire Turkey, how Chandler ended up blabbering out that he loved Mon while she had her head inside the Turkey, Phoebe’s famous wish ‘Oh, yeah, happy needless-turkey-murder day’, how Ross and Monica would scream out each other’s secrets to their Parents, how Rachel ended up adding Beef to her Trifle, in no particular order; I love them all, equally. Above all I loved the fact that they chose to spend time with each other, at home, the elaborate meals, the silly bouts and the crazy tête-à-têtes, I loved them all.

Since then I have wished to prepare a Turkey myself, but neither is Turkey easily available here nor do I have an Oven which can fit-in a Turkey, not to forget, it is just the two of us and with no Joey, it will impossible to finish! On Nov 27th, I was working from home and did not realize till late that it was Thanksgiving; when I did; I ran out and got a whole Chicken with skin which weighed about 1.2 Kgs (2.65 lbs.) and roasted it with some vegetables, just the way I wanted. A and I thoroughly enjoyed the me
al. I made a side of Sautéed Mushrooms as well, which I will post in a later post.




Here is what you will need to roast the whole Chicken:

Chicken – whole with skin – weighing about 1-1.2 kgs – washed and patted absolutely dry. Make sure the Chicken is well thawed; take it out from the freezer at least an hour before you start to prep it
Garlic:
-        4 cloves – minced (to go into the butter)
-        an entire head of Garlic, cut through the center (to go inside the Chicken)
-        an entire pod of Garlic, unpeeled and separated, to go with the vegetables
Unsalted Butter – 50 gms – at room temperature (not melted)
Mixed Herbs – 2 tsps (I used the dry variety, if you can fresh herbs, even better)
Lemon – 1 – halved
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Baby Potatoes – 5-6, scrubbed and cut into halves (unpeeled)
Onions – 2 – halved
Carrot – 1 – scrubbed and cut into chunks
Sweet Potato – 1 – scrubbed and cut into chunks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp
Some Kitchen twine (I did not have any, I used regular thread)




Process:

Pre-heat the Oven to 200C

Drizzle some EVOO in a large roasting dish and add the baby potatoes, carrots, onions, carrots, garlic cloves and sweet potatoes, season them with salt and pepper, add a dash of mixed herbs, mix well and keep

Take the unsalted butter, add the mixed herbs, minced garlic, and season with salt and pepper, use a fork to mix it well and keep

Place the Chicken on a clean surface or on Kitchen towels, using a butter knife (I just used my hand), separate (do not cut through) the skin and the breast to have a hollow area and stuff 3/4th of the herbed Butter inside, using the fingers over the skin stuff it in and smear it around, smear the rest of the Butter on top of the Chicken

Stuff the halved whole garlic and lemon into the big cavity of the Chicken

Use a Kitchen twine to tie the legs close to each other so that the stuffing in the cavity does not fall apart while roasting

Place the Chicken on the roasting dish over the vegetables and tuck the wings under the Chicken



Bake the Chicken for about an hour at 200C (if you have a meat thermometer, you can insert it in the thigh and checked if it has reached a temperature of about 75C, poultry should be cooked through if it has)



Let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes, before you carve it as if you try to slice it right then, all the juices will fall off and meat will dry out



I did not carve it beforehand, as it was just the two of us for dinner, I served it with some hard boiled eggs, a sautéed mushrooms side, some sweet red cherries and some Breezers – it was our best thanksgiving ever!







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Paneer Butter Masala

With the landmark Birthday and all the hullabaloo just gone by, I was contemplating which recipe to post next from the stockpile and then came across a rather overwhelming comment from a friend (which I had missed earlier) and I knew what to post. The urge to eat vegetarian food is relatively new for me, though A is completely in awe with good Paneer preparations; I was never very fond of them. I am rather choosy about the Paneer I eat; totally love the ones they serve at The Great Kabab Factory, Radisson, when eating at home, I only prefer getting fresh Paneer from a Dairy. On those rare occasions when I got them, A was the one who prepared the dish. After we moved to this part of the Country, I was told that Milky Mist Paneer (from Nandini Dairy – the most famous Dairy in Bangalore) was the best available here.



The other day when I was out grocery shopping, I found the same Paneer and got a pack, quite reluctantly. I thought I will ask my Cook to make something, then changed my mind and thought of making some Paneer Butter Masala, a very comforting Indian dish wish Cottage Cheese.

Here is what you will need to make Paneer Butter Masala:
Serves – 4

·        Paneer/Cottage Cheese : 200 gms
·        Cooking Oil – 1 tbsp
·        Whole Dry Red Chilis – 2
·        Cinnamon – 1” stick
·        Green Cardamom – 2
·        Cloves – 2 to 3
·        Unsalted Butter 1 tbsp - (If using the salted version, go low on the loose salt added to the dish)
·        Onion – chopped – 1 large
·        Ginger and Garlic paste – 1tsp
·        Milk – 1 cup
·        Tomatoes – chopped – 2 medium
·        Chili Powder – 1 tsp
·        Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
·        Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
·        Garam Masala Powder – 1 tsp
·        Kasuri Methi – 1 tbsp
·        Green Peas – ½ cup - optional
·        Salt to taste
·        Sugar to balance



How to prepare Paneer Butter Masala:

·        Cut the Paneer out into small cubes and set aside
·        Pour cooking oil into a large skillet and add the butter, let the butter slowly melt as the oil heats up
·        Add the whole dry red chilies, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and let them sizzle
·        Add the chopped onions and add a pinch of sugar (for the onions to caramelize faster), sauté till the onions get some color
·        Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a few minutes
·        Add the dry masalas and keep stirring
·        Add the tomatoes and keep stirring till the tomatoes are all mashed up, I used my masher at this point to mash it all up


·        Add the kasuri methi and mix well (looking at the pic, I feel I added kasuri methi before I used the masher, do it the way you want!)
·        Pour the milk in and bring the gravy to a boil
·        Add the cubed paneer pieces and the green peas and give it a stir, let it simmer away for 5-7 minutes
·        Adjust salt and sugar
·        Once desired consistency is reached, turn off the stove and serve hot with Phulkas