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Showing posts from 2012

Doi Maachh

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I love curd. I like it on its own, I like it as a dip, or a raita, I like it on chaat… And I love it when it’s used in cooking. It’s tangy, it’s creamy, and it can turn most anything into food that’s rich and delicious. Meat, fish, veggies, even pulses (dahi vada, kadhi) are rendered finger-lickin' good when they come laced with this magic ingredient.
One of my favourite dishes with dahi (or doi, as we call it in Bengal) is Doi Maachh – fish cooked in curd. There are variations in the recipe and the more commonly used one calls for the addition of onion and ginger paste to the sauce. That can be quite divine too (I promise another post on that), but the one I make more often does away with such additives. Its USP lies in methi phoron (seasoning with fenugreek seeds). Somehow – I know not by what magic -- the methi and the dahi combine to produce a mellow pungency that makes this fish dish pretty hard to resist.
We call this one Chhotoner Doi Maachh at home – as the recipe was ori…

Honeyed crepes

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I rarely get a craving for sweets. But this evening was an exception to the rule. I wanted something for dessert, which I almost never want if I am at home. Good for health, good for figure, don’t you know.
Anyway, I decided to make myself some mishti, as we Bongs call it. Nothing elaborate, of course. Because a) I had virtually nothing in the house with which I could confect a fancy dessert, and b) it was way too hot for a protracted toiling in the kitchen.
I did some fast thinking and hit upon the idea of making sweet crepes. Hadn’t made them in a while, and they seemed like the perfect way to finish off a sultry, listless day -- easy to prepare, light, and seriously delicious with some honey, maple syrup or just a dusting of caster sugar.
So here’s the recipe. You do need some skill in flipping the crepes over and making sure that they come out thin and with lacy edges – the hallmark of crepes with cred. But that’ll come with practice. Or, if you’re a born cook, you’ll get it rig…

Maximum Malai Curry

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I missed cooking something special for Poila Baishakh, or the Bengali New Year, this year. That's because I was out of town. I mean, one does need to mark the first day of a “new year” in some form, right? A day that is supposed to usher in 12 months of good luck and prosperity? Of course, it rarely does, but that, as they say, is another story.
Anyway, since one is not given to wild partying on the night before the Bengali New Year, one always wants to do something else to celebrate the occasion. Such as cooking a nice, festive dish. But this year I was stuck in a disappointing, has-been tourist place called Kathmandu, where the closest I could get to things festive was a “Jhakkas Tequilla Dance Bar” (spelling not mine) in Thamel -- the supposedly happening entertainment district of the city. Bollywood strains wafted from this jhakkas joint and I lost no time in beating a hasty retreat.
Well, back in Calcutta, I finally got down to making the “special occasion” dish that I had b…

Hot and spicy

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The last couple of days have been unseasonably cool in Calcutta, with intermittent rain and lovely, squally weather. This afternoon too the skies darkened, and it rained cool and sharp and felt as though the monsoons were  here already.
Now I tend to get rather hungry in rainy weather.  It’s when I long to eat salty, crispy, fried stuff – hot, and straight off the fire. Today was one of those days. I felt the craving to eat some crackling hot and spicy fried food. Maybe some batter-fried brinjal roundels? Or perhaps some potato or onion pakoras liberally peppered with chilli flakes? I scanned my larder to see what I had that was quick fry-worthy.
Well, there were the onions and potatoes, of course, but they suddenly looked a bit boring. Then I remembered that I had some chicken drumsticks in the freezer. I immediately knew what would sustain me this rainy evening. I’d make some spicy fried chicken, I decided. It was easy as pie, quick (the only time consuming bit was getting the chic…

High on Himachal

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Hi, People! Sorry about the long hiatus between the last post and this one. Truth is, I had gone off on a holiday – to this magical place called Mashobra, about 40 minutes drive from Shimla.
What made it particularly magical was the place where I stayed -- a resort called Wildflower Hall, once the residence of Lord Kitchener, which the Oberoi group has turned into a fine hotel. It’s truly one of those places where, to quote W.B. Yeats, “peace comes dropping slow”. Where the tall pines and the craggy ranges of the Pir Panjal mountains wrap you up in solitude -– the perfect spot for some introspection and quiet contemplation.
However, like any good resort hotel, there’s also a lot of dolce vita to be had at Wildflower Hall. And I had made up my mind to do myself well on that front too. While at it, I intended to get a taste of traditional Himachali cuisine as I always make it a point to try and bone up on local dishes wherever I go.
Things didn’t look too promising initially, though. …

Bohemian rhapsody

I have always believed that outlandish – and modish -- stuff like, say, Yellowfin tuna with aubergine caviar or a raan wrapped in mille feuille, was all very well for them other types of cuisine. As far as Bengali food went, I kinda liked it true blue. Call me square, but that’s been my thinking all along.

So I went to this restaurant called Bohemian in south Calcutta’s Ballygunge Place with some amount of trepidation. I had heard from friends that they did a “contemporary” take on Bengali cuisine. Meaning what, I wondered. Lau Chingri encased in shortcrust pastry? Or maybe a doi maachh with mint reduction? Anyway, I decided that whatever it was, it needed checking out.

Well, I have to say that Bohemian knocked the suspicion and scepticism right out of my mind. Chef Joy Banerjee, who made his bones in Oh! Calcutta – the restaurant chain that’s put Bengali cuisine firmly on the country’s culinary map – has come up with a menu that’s as interesting to read – and salivate over -- as it…

Risotto repast

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I have this friend who is passionately fond of prawns. I thought I’d do a prawn recipe for her and settled on a prawn risotto that I rather like making. Well, it really ought to be a seafood risotto, with some lobster, clams and mussels thrown in as well. But risotto with prawns – whether scampi or even some biggish shrimps – is just as yummy. In fact, to some it may taste even better, for clams and mussels are a bit of an acquired taste.

My first brush with risotto was tragic, though. It was years ago, in Rome. I was an impecunious young journo, travelling on a shoestring and staying in a grotty little bed and breakfast off the magnificent Via Nazionale. When dinner time approached, I headed into one of those roadside trattorias jam-packed with tourists. I waited patiently for a table. The prospect of sitting al fresco and digging into Italian cuisine while being attended by dishy looking Italian waiters seemed wildly appealing. I had read about the risotto, but had never sa…

Boil and bubble

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It was Saraswati Puja last Saturday. Now I always heave a sigh of relief when this particular puja rolls up in Bengal around the end of January or the beginning of February. That’s because it marks the conclusion of the stream of pujas (read raucous merrymaking) in these parts that begins with venerating Vishwakarma – the god of artisans -- in the middle of September and continues for nearly four months with spectacular obeisance being paid in turn to goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Jagaddhatri and perhaps a few more I’ve missed out. However, to me Saraswati Puja is not just about the temporary close of Bengal’s puja calendar. Since I have a somewhat one-track mind, I never fail to think of it without dwelling pleasurably on the hearty eating that takes place on this day. Like most religious festivals, this too is celebrated with the cooking – and eating -- of certain signature local dishes. What’s interesting is that there are two distinct culinary traditions at work here – Saraswati…
Pizza power
The other night I went out with friends to Fire and Ice, the Italian eatery on Calcutta’s Middleton Street. By the way, you’ll have to get used to me calling the city by its old name. I belong to the recalcitrant, change-resistant old order, which is perfectly happy with ‘Kolkata’ when speaking in Bengali, but finds it downright weird to call it anything other than ‘Calcutta’ while communicating in English. Besides, I can’t bear the mauling that ‘Kolkata’ receives from the non-natives. More often than not, the sound that emanates from these bemused tongues is either Kaul-kat-ta, or at best, Kaul-kata. It’s an assault, no less, and completely destroys any illusion one might have had about being able to assert the city’s Bengali character through the name change. So I continue to use the far more democratic ‘Calcutta’. It may sound colonial to the Bong nationalist, but it’s what I call home in the English language.  Anyway, this place I was talking about -- Fire and Ice – it…
In Praise of Pulao
If you’ve stopped by to have a dekko at my blog, you’ve probably gathered that I am rather partial to pulao. Hence the name of the blog -- Hoi Pulao. It’s also my attempt at cleverness, you understand -- hoi polloi, hoi pulao – well, you get the picture. Admittedly, fragrant, ghee-soaked pulao is not something that one tends to associate with the so-called “masses”. But I firmly believe that pulao – in its infinite, glorious variety – ought to be claimed by all.  
Of course, I am what is called a bheto Bangali. I love my bhaat (rice) to go with dal, veggies or machher jhole (spicy fish stew). But I have always felt that nothing lifts rice to quite the level of sublimeness as it does when it’s mixed with some aromatic ghee. Tucking into a plate of steaming hot rice sprinkled with some golden, home-made ghee and a pinch of salt was probably the nearest thing to ecstasy that I experienced as a child. The ghee used to be stored in small ceramic jars, their mouths covere…

Overture: On A Sweet Note

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Hello there! Welcome to my mad, glad, food fetishist world! Oh, no, not another food blog, did you say? Well, er, yes, I have taken my courage in both hands and am about to venture into a space that’s thick with foodies, foodo-intellectuals, food lovers and food fanatics of every hue. Can I add anything significant to this teeming broth of culinary wisdom and wit? Jump into the jaw-dropping mix and hope to stand out? Maybe. Or Maybe not. But here I am, for whatever it’s worth. For I feel that love of food is like blood: it’s meant to circulate. And what better platform to circulate it than here?

And so to the thought that finally made me shed my natural laziness and step into blogosphere. It’s really got to do with the time of the year. January is a month when I get horribly nostalgic. In Bengal, where I live -- and was born and bred -- Poush Sankranti (the last day of the month of Poush which falls around the middle of January) is considered an auspicious occasion. It is tradition…