The Quintessential Bengali Fare :Vegetable Chop or Bhejitabil Chap or Vegetable Croquette

I belong to the group of people who come from small town and start living in big city to earn a livelihood. Though, big cities have a lot to offer, sometimes it can make you desolate and can get the silly out of you. You yearn to go back down the memory lane but you know you have physically come far far away. You start missing everything and your roots call you back. The city calls you back, the streets call you back, the friends and faces call you back, that typical adda where you used to hang out with friends, that special lane which you cycled through to your school ..that place where you and your friends went for tuitions and those silly games you played which makes no sense today . Oh it makes you so nostalgic and wets your eyes at the same time. Yes we all go through that time when we wish we were a child again, to live that carefree life, the life when you just had to share your pencil and tiffin box to make friends.

And when it comes to a person like me who doesn’t forget where I ate what, it becomes even more difficult to control emotions. A person who didn’t know where the kitchen is to a person what I have become today is partly because of the Food Weakness in me which makes me crave different food at different times of the day.

There were certain dishes which used to be made only for special times or when the lady of the home is in a good mood. Yes I am talking about my Mom who hardly made anything I liked because I liked everything deep friend and she refrained me from having any. I really hated her then but today I feel like a big sucker. And then we had this Vegetable Chop which is also called Bhegitabil Chop in Odisha and it appeared on the dining table like Eid Ka Chand. It had to be a very special occasion or I must have been a good girl so I got rewarded with a couple of them when I returned home from school.  Or she would get one for me when she won the lottery in the Kitty Party she attended with her friends and would order a big batch of Vegetable Chop from a local shop which was very popular then to treat the group of ladies.
Fun were those days. Nevertheless, without  diverting the topic away from Vegetable Chop, It used to be a winter item when Beetroot  and Carrots and Green Peas used to be available in plenty and fresh. Those were not the days when you get all vegetables in all season. People used to eagerly wait for that season when specific fruits and vegetables would appear in the market and stocked it to have it till you are emotionally trupt or satisfied.

This week, It was one of those days when I had a craving of Vegetable Chop and Yes I had beetroot and carrot and frozen peas lying quietly in the fridge. Hence, I decided to prepare it. Today, I still like fried item but I decided to use appe pan  for obvious reason (Do I have to tell you all that I am not a wonder woman but I do wonder how my clothes get tighter even when I see a jar of pickle ..shhh)
I prepared the very famous garam masala which we Oriya people put in almost all dishes to give that much needed boost in flavor and It did came out fairly well. And now before I drag you more and you move out of the page or close it without reading the recipe, I shall give you the recipe forto the one which My Mother made but of course non fried.

What You Need:

2 beetroot boiled, peeled and mashed/ grated
2 carrot boiled, peeled and mashed/grated
2 or 3 big potatoes boiled, peeled and mashed
Few green peas tossed gently in oil
Salt to taste
2 tsp of rice flour or maida for binding everything together
Rava of rolling the croquette
And oil for cooking

Mix beetroot, carrot and potato along with green peas and mix everything well.If your mixture is moist, add rice flour or maida to make it dry. However, not necessary. You can skip this part .

For the Spice mix:

2 cloves + 1 bay leaf + 2 tsp coriander seeds + 1 tsp cumin seeds + 1 cinnamon + 1 or 2 dry red chili (depending on the spice level you prefer) . Dry roast and grind to a very powder.  

Add 2 tbsp of the spice mix to the beetroot mash made above. Add salt and mix everything nicely. Make small balls, roll them over rava and cook in paniyaram pan. If you have air fryer, best would be to fry it and if making for kids, go ahead and fry it.

Relish with simple ketchup.

Assorted Mung Dal Laddu for the Festive Season

With Festive Season around, one has to prepare for next festival the moment you wrap up the past one. As Food and Festival are two sides of the same coin, one has to prepare well in advance in order to enjoy the day well with family, friends and relatives instead of slogging and sweating in the kitchen.

Therefore I thought it might help a few to know that you can prepare a healthy and delicious laddu which can be prepared in a hurry. Since Mung Dal is the healthiest of all lentils and actually helps in reducing weight, I decided to use it instead of Besan or any other lentil.

The Mung Dal/lentils have to be roasted to increase the shelf life of the sweet item and also give that nice aroma and unique taste.

What You Will Need:

1 cup roasted Mung Dal . Roast till you get a nice aroma. Grind to a fine powder in grinder and then sieve through a strainer to remove any big particles present. If going for a big batch, try getting it done outside in a flour mill.
1 cup sugar ground to powder
½ tsp cardamom powder
1/3rd cup ghee or clarified butter
Chopped Dry Fruits like almonds, cashew nuts and raisins

Steps To Make:

Mix mung dal with sugar , cardamom powder and dry fruits.
Heat ghee in a pan and add it little by little to mixture.
Make small round balls of it. The ghee amount can be increased or decreased depending whether your laddus are binding or not binding. You can grease your palm with oil and use a little milk too which helps you to bind them easily.
Simple Isn’t it. Well no. Making laddu is not as simple as it looks. Binding and getting the right shape is the most delicate part and patience is the key to it.

Bom apetite with the Most Authentic Goan Red Prawn Curry

Goan Cuisine is mostly sea-food dominated. And I am on a Seafood diet these days. I see food and I eat it.. I know it is a bad joke but I am in mood of some fun today having had the best prawn recipe with rice.

One of the unbeatable reason to visit Goa is the lovely regional Goan Food. Though, there are plenty other reasons to visit this beautiful and carefree State like the Sun and Sand and Beaches and People and Fun, Food definitely plays an important role in attracting tourists.

I know many people who happen to visit this place multiple times just for the purpose of relaxation and getting away from the hustle-bustle of daily chores of the City.
Also, if you give kids option to choose a travel destination, Goa is always the most preferred one because that is where they can have maximum fun.

Though, the Goa was mostly a vegetarian state earlier, if Portuguese had not entered Goa in the early 16th Century, the Prawn Curry which we love so much today and die for would perhaps have not been invented. Although, there are many versions of Goan Prawn Curry Available, I decided to pick Maria's Goan Prawn Curry recipe to prepare the dish. (Done mild changes to the recipe which you can find below)

Undoubtedly, the fresh prawns available in the town give you the best taste, however, they are quiet expensive.
Influenced heavily with City living style, I had to compromise with the frozen prawns which I had bought few days ago. Nevertheless, it still came out yummy which I served with some plain steam rice and raita and I have to say that the taste was very very close to the prawn curry which I had eaten when I was in the state almost decade ago.

Yes, I do have the memory of an elephant when it comes to food and tasting. Hence, I decided that this recipe was for the keep . That particular redness which you see in the gravy is due to the special Goan Red Chili which Portugese brought to India along with many other things like tomato potato, pineapple, guavas and cashews .

The recipe is worth a try !!!

What You Need for the Authentic Goan Curry Recipe :

500 grams jumbo tiger prawns cleaned properly
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Marinate prawns with lemon juice, salt ,black pepper and turmeric powder

Other Ingredients:

Salt to taste
Kokum Juice (Souring Agent predominantly used in Goa)
Few curry leaves

For the Paste:

6-7 garlic pods
½ cup grated coconut
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 tsp whole black pepper  (Had to add though original recipe does not have)
6 to 7 Bedki Chili (for the color)
2 tomatoes chopped (Had to add though original recipe does not have and can't do without it)

Grind to a smooth paste by adding few drops of water

3 tsp oil
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 cup thin coconut milk

Steps To Prepare :
Heat oil in your cooking vessel . Add chopped onions , curry leaves and cook till brown.
Add the spice paste and cook for 5 to 6  minutes.
Add about 1 cup of water and bring it to boil.
At this point, add marinated prawns and kokum juice.
Add sugar and cook till prawns are nicely cooked. Cooking should be done of medium to slow flame.
Finally add thin extract of cocout  and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more.
And then our Authentic Goan Red Prawn Curry will be ready to serve.

Ate logo with next recipe .. Till then Divirta-se 
"See you soon" with next recipe. Till then " Have Fun" (Tried some Portuguese with you guys :D)

The alluring world of Pench @ Seoni , Madhya Pradesh

The alluring world of Pench in Madhya Pradesh , A Lusturous Green Forest about which I have been longing to write since months. It is the same forest which inspired Rudyard Kipling to sit on its lap and write the very famous “ The Jungle Book” . Yes , you got it right. It is “The Mowgli Forest” who has entertained us during the Sundays of Nineties and even a non-singer like me would keep on humming the song “ Jungle Jungle Pata Chala Hai ..Chaddi pehen ke fool khila hai “ due to the severe fondness I had towards him like many other kids.

If you think of National Park and Tiger Reserve , Jim Corbet and Ranthambore have always come first in the choice. However, it has been lately, that other parks and sanctuaries have also come to the forefront due to the outstanding hard work and aggressive promotion of the Forest Officers, Naturalists , Hospitality Industry and not to undermine the efforts of forthcoming Wildlife Photographers  capturing snapshots of the captivating forest and spreading the same through Social Media like Facebook , Twitter , Instagram and Watsapp.

And Pench National Park is an impeccable example where the park has recently grabbed the top spot in the list of most Imminent Tiger Reserve of India.

With Collarwali , the Magestic Tigress of Pench having given close to 22 cubs by now, she is certainly harnessing lot of wildlife lovers and paparazzi attention. People have gone crazy to get a glimpse of this Royal and Regal Tigress giving her the status of Celebrity.

To say that Pench is a Nature’s Paradise would be an understatement. It is the hope for all the damage we  Humans have already done selfishly to our Only Earth. With the rise in number of Big Cats, it has  been attracting a lot of tourism . The forest is not only beautiful but if you have visited Ranthambore, Kanha & Kabini, you would know how the forest is a mix of all the above forests and reminds you of other parks in bits and pieces. The best part of the forest is the absence of Lantena which has been growing extensively in other South NP and thereby reducing the visibility of Animals.

For me, it’s a Bird Watching paradise and I have never been disappointed , each safari giving a new surprise. To put the icing on the cake, a glimpse of Collarwali and her Cubs (Chota Charger the most popular among them) or other tigers like BaginNala or BMW definitely giving an experience of life time.

The beautiful park which has been named after the river Pench divides the entire forest of 757 km² into 2 areas  giving it an excellent landscape. The vast stretch of lands, the flowing water in between,  the chirpiness of the birds gives you the true experience of Jungle in all sense.

I would like to persuade each and everybody who reads this post to make plans in future to visit the beautiful forest which is situated right in the Center of Country.

The nearest airport is Nagpur and then its hardly 2 hours drive or 70 kms from there .

The best place to stay are plenty. But my favorite would be Tuli Property right in the Buffer Zone of the forest . The major justification would be food which is non-spicy and mild and yet delicious considering the long safari timings which requires you to eat light.The property has both cottages and tents. However, I  like the aesthetics of cottages better. They do have a spa which I have not tried. Hence, I cannot comment on it. Evenings can be spent over the ping-pong table or pool table before you have an early dinner and retire to bed as you have an early morning Safari to catch.

The other reason to stay there would be the Courteous Staff and Mr Dinesh Jaiswal who is the GM of Tuli Properties @ Pench extremely. A smart man with a warm personality.

And last but not the least the well-informed and expert Naturalists Omveer Choudhary popular as Omi and Shiva Sharnagat popular as Doc who make sure your each visit to Pench becomes memorable so you return exhilarated each time and start making plans for the next.

While you can do your safari bookings here, make sure you plan it well in advance as it is a hot spot for many wildlife and jungle enthusiasts. Also, keep in mind that the forest remains closed between July to September every year due to the rains.

You can always contact me for further information ...


Drag Your Fork Through The Classic & Decadent Pineapple Upside Down Cake

It is a joyful jumble of Classy as well Classic Cake which serves any occasion like baby shower, birthday, and anniversary, Easter or New Year. The pineapple and bright red maraschino cherries positioned on a bed of melted butter and brown sugar ornaments the cake so nicely that it hardly needs to be dressed with any kind of cream or frosting. Arrangement of Pineapple and Cherries does play a crucial role to increase the beauty quotient of the cake.

Though baking comes naturally to me, this one proved to be one monster. I had to try and try till I got it finally right. But , with every failure I learnt some very important lessons which one must follow if thinking of baking a cake. There  is no short cut to baking a cake . The basics have to be followed and followed precisely.  (these basics I will talk about later in the post)

And I must say, it one of the best tasting cake and also good looking I have baked ttill date. The colors are vibrating enough, the texture is moist enough and the taste is delicious enough  and the recipe is deserving enough to be tried and tested and tasted at-least once for all bakers.

You need to use canned pineapple and cherries for this instead of fresh ones. Brown Sugar is also must. Do not try to use white sugar. However, if you don’t have brown sugar, try caramelizing or browning sugar before you can use it.

And finally, when this baby came out of the oven, it smelled divine. Who does not like the smell of freshly baked cake .I had to be patient to let it cool down completely  closed my eyes and called my favorite God to bless the cake and then turned it upside down. Oh no…the cake was not coming out.. I tried tapping it.. Still no luck.. I was almost in tears and decided I would quit baking if this fails …I have lost it.. ..

Then I took a deep breath and decided to use a knife and tried to remove it from the sides..placed the plate on the mould and turned the cake mould upside down again..tried to tap the mould…and all of a sudden , I felt it light, the cake had come out…whole and in one piece..and this suddenly turned out to be one of the best  Mornings in my kitchen.

Yes, I have finally baked it and it looked so beautiful, I was almost jumping up and down virtually in my thoughts. And now that I know the loopholes I want to share the secret with you all for baking this amazing cake .

What You Will Need:

2 and ½ cup flour , Sieve it through a strainer. It is necessary to aerate the flour

2 tsp baking powder . Sieve it through strainer. Again essential to allow it to breath

1 and 1/2 cup brown sugar  + extra brown sugar for dusting

2 eggs

½ cup oil ..Used olive oil to reduce my guilt factor

1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 can of tinned pineapple

Some cherries

1 tbsp butter

Steps to Proceed with Baking:

Start with preheating oven at 180 degree centigrade. (Very Very Essential. Without it the cake would be a disaster)

Take a baking tray and melt butter in it. Sprinkle Brown Sugar and Layer Pineapple Slices and cherries. Keep it aside.

Now take a big bowl for mixing.

Break eggs into the bowl. Whisk with an electric beater or with a manual egg whisker. Its tough but will definitely help you tone some arm muscles.

Add sugar and oil to it. Beat further till light and fluffy.

Pour in milk and vanilla essence.

Next is the turn of flour and baking powder. This should be done in small quantities because if you turn all the flour into the bowl at one go and turn on your electric beater, it is surely going to fly on your face and make your kitchen dirty.

The batter needs to be whisked for at least 8 to 10 minutes through electric beater and if using hands, for about 25 minutes.

Pour the batter into the tray and bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. The cooking time is more than normal cakes as the pineapple , cherries and brown sugar melt and try to release juices which increases the baking time.

Do a toothpick test to check your cake is baked.

Once done, let it remain in the oven till temperature is back to normal.

Enjoy this delectable cake.

Additional Tip: If you got some extra pineapple slices, chop it finely and add it to the batter. before baking