Easy Moong-Masoor Dal

This hearty recipe is all you need to warm up during these cold, grey and drizzly evenings bringing a fuzzy feeling of warmth from the inside out.

Dal (lentil curry) forms an integral part of the staple Bengali diet and is present at most mealtimes in a every traditional household. Surprisingly simple, yet nutritiously satisfying, dal can also be enjoyed, guilt-free, as a protein-rich soup if you prefer a lower carb meal.

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 55 mins

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup split moong dal
  • 1 cup masoor dal
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ ground cumin
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 green chillies, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil

For the tempering

  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spice mix*)
  • 1 tsp crushed red chilli (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Dry roast the moong dal over a gentle flame until the aromas are released, stirring constantly. This will take about 3-4 mins and the lentils will change colour very slightly. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the cooled moong dal with the masoor dal and rinse until the water runs clear.
  3. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add 3 cups water with the salt. Bring to boil, removing any foam which is formed.
  4. Add the onions, garlic and ginger paste, the dry spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin) and the oil. Stir well, cover and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked. This will take no more than 30 mins.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and run a whisk or hand blender through the cooked lentils to create a smooth, rich consistency.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and add the last cup of water. Add the green chilli (if using) and turn up the heat and bring back to boil. Lower the heat and cook on a medium flame for approximately 10 minutes, to achieve a less watery consistency. The dal should still be runny. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
  7. For the tempering, place a small wok or frying pan over a medium flame. Heat the oil, then add the bay leaf and garlic. Cook off for 1-2 mins until the garlic begins to brown.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the five spices and red chilli flakes, if using.
  9. Remove the lid from thevsaucepan of cooked dal and pour in the tempered spices. Scoop a spoonful of the dal into the tempering vessel and then gently scrape the dal back into the saucepan again to capture all the flavours from the tempered spices.
  10. Place the lid back on the dal and allow the flavours to infuse through.

Your dal is now ready!

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Gobi Bhuna

A delicious yet simple semi-dry dish, best enjoyed with traditional roti or in a wrap for a satisfyingly healthy meal!

Prep time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp level curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped

How to prepare

  1. Rinse the cauliflower and leave aside to drain.
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Wait till they change colour; stir in the dried chilli and curry leaves.

3. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook gently for 1 min.

4. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower and salt; turn up the heat and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

5. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

6. Add a splash of water, lower the heat, cover and cook until then cauliflower is tender.

7. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve.

Spicy Aubergine Stew

Last night I was ‘Desperately Seeking Spice’ and discovered a plump aubergine hiding out in my refrigerator 😊 I had 45 minutes to present something palatable and suitably spicy before it was time to break my fast. So I decided to cut out the elaborate prep and just throw it all into one of my dinky little woks and hey presto!

Prep time: 3 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large aubergine, cubed
  • 1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt to taste

How to prepare

  1. Place all the ingredients, except the oil, into the wok and mix well.
  2. Drizzle the oil and stir in.
  3. Cover and allow to cook until the aubergine is tender.

Word of caution: Those normally adverse to aubergine may just be tempted to delve in so keep the dish by your side and only offer to share at the risk of missing out 😜

Achari Chicken

Good to be back here! It’s a long shift in my kitchen tonight as I prep for a private catering event later today. Christmas parties everywhere! The biriyani masala mix is well under way, wafting its aromas at this rather ungodly hour 😳

While I wait, having of course done all my chopping, I thought a bit of blogging wouldn’t go amiss given it has been a while…

Last week I cooked this flavoursome traditional dish which, as the name suggests, does not use archar (pickle) in the recipe at all! No, no no. The achari tanginess is created with my favourite good old Bengali ‘five spice’ mix. I still remember the flavour created by this incredible concoction of five seeds when my grandma made her delectable chicken curry during our rare visits to see her in Bangladesh.

So this is how it goes:

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • img_27091 medium chicken or 2 chicken breasts cut into curry pieces
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon panch phoron (five spice mix)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger purée
  • 1 tbsp garlic purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 200g chopped tinned tomato
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 hot cup water
  • 2 green chillies (optional)
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional)

How to cook

  1. Wash and drain the chicken well (although it’s best not to wash the chicken to prevent campylobacter cells from spreading – the most common cause of food poisoning; cooking the chicken thoroughly will remove this as well as other bacteria – read NHS article here).
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the five spice mix. Wait until the seeds sizzle.
  3. Add the onions and cook over a medium flame until golden brown (up to 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until soft and pulpy.
  6. Mash down the tomato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, salt and garam masala. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir well and allow to ‘bhuna’ (i.e. the oil should separate from the spices and float to the top).
  7. Stir in the the chicken pieces ensuring they are well coated with the spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium-high flame, ensuring the spices do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the water and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 mins, then drop in the green chillies, if using.
  9. Cover and  cook on a low flame until the chicken is thoroughly done.
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves, if using, just before serving.

Enjoy 😊

 

Mackerel with Spinach (Macher Chorchori)

mackerel_with_spinach.jpg-pwrt3Based on the traditional Bengali dish known as ‘chorchori’ (medley) this is variation which I learnt to cook from my father, a master of culinary creativity. An easy to cook recipe bursting with flavour and goodness.

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tin mackerel fillets in brine, drained
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic paste, or 1 fresh clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste or 1” piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6-7 blocks of frozen spinach
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
  • handful of fried fenugreek leaves (optional)

Method:

1. Heat the oil and add the bay leaf.

2. Add the onions and cook on medium heat until transparent.

3. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1-2 mins.

4. Add the dry spices and sauté for 2 mins with 2 tbsp water.

5. Add the mackerel and stir well to cover with spices, using a wooden spoon to break up the fillets.

6. Add the spinach and green chilli (if using), stir a little and cover; leave to cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

7. Stir the spinach well to blend in with the fish mixture. Cover and cook again, if necessary, until the spinach is cooked through.

8. Remove the lid and turn up heat to evaporate any excess liquid.

9. Continue stirring and remove from heat when the dish is completely dry and begins to come away from the sides of the pan as you stir.

10. Stir in the dried fenugreek leaves, if using, and remove from heat.

As published in the Wimbledon Guardian, 12 December 2013

Aloo Bharta

Aloo (ka) Bharta (spicy mashed potato) is a timeless comfort food which can be enjoyed equally with rice or rotis. As a Bengali, my staple meal growing up consisted of boiled rice and my mum often prepared this bharta in traditional Bengali style, either using mustard oil as a base or ghee; the latter treating one’s sensory palette to the ultimate taste experience which I dare not replicate for obvious health reasons!

Aloo Bharta, a dish of Bihari origin, has many variations. My recipe is based on a Pakistani version which I have adapted from my mother-in-law and is very different to the Bengali method of preparation and personally, best enjoyed with handmade rotis 😀

Feel free to replace the tomato purée with fresh tomatoes. I only used the purée as I was out of tomatoes 😱

Ingredients

  • 750 g potatoes, boiled and mashed with a tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 11/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Green and red chillies, chopped
  • Coriander leaves

How to cook

1. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin seeds. Allow seeds to sizzle.

2. Add the onions and chillies. Cover and cook until softened.

3. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute over a medium flame.

4. Add the tomato purée and mix well. Cook until the oil separates from spices. Stir in the salt.

5. Turn down the heat and add the mashed potato. Mix well until the spices is evenly distributed throughout the potato.

6. Stir in the chopped coriander and transfer to a serving dish.

Shobji Bhaji (Vegetable Stir Fry)

Sometimes there really is nothing like good old Bengali cooking.

This is a very simple, yet beautifully presentable recipe, representative of the staple ‘dry’ vegetable dish served with every Bangladeshi meal. The panch phoron seeds lend a wonderfully aromatic flavour that is so typical of Bengali cooking.

The key here is to stir fry the vegetables over a high heat, using little or no water. This will ensure that the vegetables do not stick together and become and mushy.

Cooking Time: 20 mins

Serves: 3-4  

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp panch phoron (bengali five spice mix)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1″ piece root ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp ground, roasted cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 250g mixed veg (fresh or frozen)
  • 2-3 small new potatoes, diced
  • salt to taste
  • fresh, chopped coriander to garnish each piece

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil in a large wok or karahi over a medium flame.
  2. Add the panch phoron and bay leaf. Wait for seeds to sizzle.
  3. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2-3 mins.
  5. Add the dry spices and cook for another minute (adding a splash of water if the spices begin to stick to the pan).
  6. Add the vegetables with the salt. If using frozen vegetables use a wooden spoon to break any chunks.
  7. Stir fry for 10 mins on high heat ensuring they are evenly covered with the spices.
  8. Add a splash of water, stir, then turn down to heat and cover.
  9. Cook for another 5 mins or until the vegetables are just tender. DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  10. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped coriander before serving.

My Chicken Curry

I used to love my Mum’s simple chicken curry with its distinctive flavour of green peppers and whole spices. Ironically though, when visiting my parents’ home, Mum would often ask me to make ‘my’ chicken curry to give her respite from her own cooking.

Now let’s get this right, my version of chicken curry is based on a combination of ingredients from two different cultures. As with many of my recipes, my Bengali roots call for the use of  ‘panch phoron’ (five spice mix), which (to me) lends the curry a nostalgic flavour, vaguely reminiscent of my grandma’s cooking. However, the use of fried onions and yoghurt is more akin to a Pakistani-style Korma, very much influenced by my mother-in-law’s cookery which I was introduced to more than some 20 years ago…

I have replaced the whole spices used in my Mum’s original recipe with my home ground garam masala (owing to the somewhat fussy eating habits in my household) and substituted the green peppers with red ones to lend the curry a subtle, yet natural sweetness. It is a simple recipe, surprisingly bursting with flavour, blog-worthy for it classic simplicity.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast, cut into chunky piecesMy Chicken Curry
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1/3 cup fried onions (store bought or home made)
  • 1 tsp panch phoron
  • 1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp -3/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 tbsp natural low fat Greek style yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup hot water

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil gently then add the panch phoron.
  2. Wait for the seeds to sizzle, then add the chicken.
  3. Stir the chicken over a medium heat until the pieces are all sealed.
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for 5 mins.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli and saute for another 5 minutes or until the oil separates from the spices (add a little water during this stage if the mixture becomes too dry).
  6. Add the tomatoes and peppers and turn up the heat a little. Allow to cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the yoghurt into a small bowl, add the fried onions, salt and garam masala and whisk the yoghurt until smooth.
  8. Lower the heat and slowly stir in the yoghurt and onion mixture into the pan.
  9. Turn the heat up again and cook for another 2-3 mins.
  10. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a minute.
  11. Add the water and bring to boil.
  12. Stir and cover and leave to cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Serve with steamed rice or a fragrant Zeera Rice like I have here.