‘Tom’ Fish or Some Other Fish..Who Knows!

I am a Bengali, genetically engineered to like fish. Many of you may not know this but fish is not merely another food item in a Bengali household…it is symbolic of the Bengali culture, an almost compelling, if somewhat misleading, part of their identity. It is an intrinsic part of our festivals and celebrations and a traditional Bengali Hindu wedding is incomplete without a plump and decorated fish, that typically signifies prosperity and good luck (more on this can be found here).

I digress.

As I was saying…I love to eat fish. Most Bengalis that I have met till now, and trust me that is a big number, love fish while outliers are also to be found (I have some in my family). Growing up fish was an everyday food item and while the Rui/Katla (belonging to the Carp family) were/are the most common for daily consumption, the variety that a good Bengali fish market offers is impressive, to say the least. And those also find their way into a Bengali household easily. The younger generation today has a tricky relationship with fish, I am beginning to think. While they love to eat it, they have neither the time to go to the fish market to buy fresh fish nor the time to cook. The necessary skill is also lacking. The passionate love affair is probably losing a bit of the steam.

In this land far away from the fresh Rui, Koi, Topshey, Pabda (the list can go on), we have to settle for the frozen few that make the trip to this other side of the world. So we alter our taste buds and develop a liking for the salmons, cods and tilapias (that is so different from its namesake found in India). And we also apply our recipes that involve mustard and chili paste, cumin and turmeric, ginger and tomato to these and try to get a taste of home. It’s a ‘far fetched’ taste. So we mostly stick to the grilled and baked versions. But we are often tempted to take out our mothers’ recipe note copy to find a recipe that could be altered to fit the fish in the freezer or try to make a recipe from memory, those that have stayed with us even after a good ten- fifteen years.

One such recipe is what I wanted to share with you today. I somehow remember many tiny details about the day I first had this, which was a good nineteen years ago, at my aunt’s place on the occasion of Bhaiphonta (a Bengali festival that celebrates the bond and love between brothers and sisters). I was twenty years old at that time and was just discovering my love for the saree. It was a special day, a day that we always celebrated with cousins and aunts on my Ma’s side and that day too, many moons ago we spent the day exactly like that, eating and being silly and making memories. Someone had gifted me a beautiful sea green saree that was hand painted and had Jamini Roy ( a celebrated Indian painter) prints all over. Of course I was wearing that.

My Ma’s elder sister had made something she called ‘Tom Fish” (a short for Tomato Fish which probably meant fish in tomato gravy). It was simple and yet so delicious that I still fondly remember it and cook it from time to time. Her sister-in-law had shared the recipe with her, having learnt it from a neighbor. And I share that with you today. Isn’t it somewhat fascinating how food from around the world, even the ones that are cooked by our mothers and aunts and grandmothers, that do not find place in the recipe books and websites, find a way to reach our kitchens…we have to be willing to look.

‘Tom Fish’ (As my aunt calls it. I wonder what other names this simple recipe may have garnered for itself !)

I usually use tilapia fillets for this…any white fish pieces would do probably.

I cut the fillets (about 4 in total) in about 2-3 inches (you can make cubes or rectangular pieces…doesn’t really matter). Pat them with some salt and turmeric and a gentle drizzle of mustard oil (or vegetable oil) and let rest for about 10-15 mins. Back home, most recipes call for the fish pieces to be sort of deep fried in oil and I do so here as well when in the mood. But I also shallow fry them and have even put them in the oven for baking while I have gotten started with the gravy. The latter also saves the apartment from smelling of fish…a big thing to think about when you are renting!

Heat a wok or a pan with a round-ish bottom and pour in about a teaspoon of mustard oil or vegetable oil. Once heated, temper the oil with some black mustard seeds (quarter teaspoon), one dried red chili and give it a quick stir. Add a handful of curry leaves… I am a huge fan of these and I always add about 8-10 at least. You can always take them out before serving…these are not eaten usually. Add some grated or very finely chopped ginger and once the kitchen is filled with the aroma of the curry leaves and that ginger, add about 2 tablespoons of crushed tomatoes (from the jar or use fresh ones, whichever you have handy!) Give the whole thing a good but gentle stir and once the tomato is cooked, add turmeric, salt and a bit of sugar. Cook for a few more minutes, adding little water to prevent the gravy from becoming too thick. Once the desired consistency is achieved, which should be neither too runny nor too thick, I add the baked /fried fish pieces to that and let it simmer for a couple of more minutes till the gravy seeps into the fish. If you want some more heat, slice a couple of green chilies (I do this) and add to the gravy, when it is simmering, towards the end. Steaming hot rice is what we gobble this up with.

That red color comes from the tomato, and hence the name!

An amazing tool that helps us reconnect with our roots, with forgotten tales, with people who have gradually disappeared from our focus, food is powerful as is our association with it. Culture speaks through food. It evokes memories and transports us in time while helping us bring a sliver of that culture to our future generation.

We cook food from around the world in our home and we also keep rediscovering food from our childhood. Through that my husband and I occasionally stumble upon anecdotes that revive our memories from growing up in India and it is leaves us with a bittersweet taste. Sometimes it also happens that we cannot put those memories into words, but we know that there is a ‘something’ that connects the dots. We visit places in our minds that we have not been in a while now and rediscover moments that have shaped not only us but the city that we still fondly love, from its iconic buildings to the narrow alleys, each with its own story to share and hear.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Something Good

Sandy has a wonderful prompt for us this week at Friendly Friday Photo Challenge . We could all definitely seek out moments of happiness, of gratitude,  of beauty, of humanity, of the good in the middle of these not only scary times but time where our collective consciousness will need to win over vested interests and bigotry that shamelessly continues its parade.

NJ has been one of the hardest hits areas in the US and as of yesterday the number of positive cases stands at a terrifying 92,000+. Grocery shopping is an ordeal and storing  that in a safe manner a bigger one. Our son keeps asking why he does not go to school anymore and why are the parks closed. He knows that we are in lockdown because of something terrible called Coronavirus, the gravity of terms he does not fully comprehend. But he understands and has been enormously patient but being a 5 year old, he does have his little moments from being cooped up in the apartment. The almost incessant rain and freeze warnings do not let us enjoy the ‘ spring’ outside. But we have been learning to be with and work around each other’s quirks and needs and we are definitely spending a lot more ‘together’ time (obviously!).

 

As I was thinking about what to post for this week, I thought about moments that have been pivotal this past month to our family and these are the ones that stood out. Our little girl is a confident ‘walker’ now and while that has made it easier for her to get into a lot more mischief and as a result increase my mini panic attacks, it is an absolute delight to watch her.

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Brother sister duo are also learning to be there with and to be there FOR each other much more and this moment caught my eye the other day where both were in their own little world, seemingly oblivious of everything else. Such moments are what has made sense of the tough times we all are part of. The little boy is growing up fast and takes his role of a big brother and a soon to be Kindergarten-er very seriously and that is hilarious to watch at times. In his conversations with his sister he often brings up how big he has gotten that he will be starting Kindergarten from September and going to school in the big kids’ yellow bus. He is excited for sure. And my heart beats fast thinking about how better the world would be and how safe would it be for kids to be going back to school in a few months. But I choose to keep aside that worry for a later time.

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Conversations about the pandemic and how it is impacting people all over the world and how those on the frontline are doing their very best to keep others safe, is a staple of households everywhere. And kids are smarter and kinder than we give them credit for. The little guy drew these as  a ‘ thank you note’. He also set up his grocery store where he took orders over the phone and then delivered produce to people in need. All a child’s play, but this gives me hope that the next generation maybe will be kinder and smarter and will know better.

 

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We love to cook in our home and that has definitely been a huge stress buster. On some Fridays, we dress up and as our son puts it- ‘pretend -go -out- to- eat’. Little moments of joy have made isolation less tiring. And we love music too. Every evening we make sure to sing and play the guitar and sometimes drums and whatever song we sing, “Life goes on’ by the Beatles remains constant!

 

 

My home country of India is in lockdown and has been so for quite a few weeks now. But it plans to lift the lockdown soon and without adequate testing and infrastructure in place, I shudder to think what might happen if ‘it’ spreads. Our parents and many family members are old, each with underlying conditions and I am scared to think anything beyond ‘what if this spreads’. My parents have been spending time at home more than usual and one of the things they have been doing is going through family albums and as we call each other everyday, I get to hear stories associated with special photos. And I absolutely love it. It has been a lot more this last week and my brother keeps sending me some of the old photos from the albums and this one is a favorite for so many reasons. I will not go into all the personal stories here. This is a picture of my mother with me and I am about 3 weeks old here. She is a first time mom in this picture and when I look at her looking  at me, I see the same love in her eyes today as she sees her grandkids over video calls. She is almost blind now and with whatever little is left, she takes in all that she can of their little faces and big smiles. She hurts inside, I know,  but she does not show it for a moment. She lives life thanking her God for all the blessings showered on her and her family and I know not how she does that. This is a picture that speaks to me of selfless love that a parent showers on her kids at all times, under all circumstances. Age and distance do not hold much power over a mother’s love.

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Spring has sprung ( I really hate this cliche but end up using it more than I am willing to acknowledge!) and while rain has tampered with these fragile blossoms, I was still able to take a few photos, though all with my cell phone.

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Thank you Sandy for your wonderful thought for this week. These have been some of the highlights of the past month and while personal, I am sure many around the world are reveling in such moments big  and small, writing their own stories while also discovering those which have already been written, may be a little forgotten.

 

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe and celebrate the little moments.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Yellow

It has been a while since I participated in Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.

But that changes this week as Amanda splashes a pop of the happy yellow and encourages us to bring that to each other through this week’s prompt! This is a color very dear to my heart – uplifting, vivacious, hopeful…is that why we color the sun yellow?

Here are some from the archive and a couple of new ones!

 

At ‘Robert Is Here’, Florida. Way back in 2013

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Summer Tales

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Fall Memories

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SAMSUNG

 

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Child’s Play

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Of sunsets

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Stories from life

 

 

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Kitchen chronicles

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There is one more picture that I would have liked to share…that of a ten or twelve year old me wearing a dress very similar to the quirky art studio photo shared by Amanda! That image evoked many fond memories not only of the dress, that was a favorite of mine, but reminded me also of the simplicity that is childhood. Growing up is overrated! My mom has been going through albums back in Kolkata, trying to find one of me in that ‘frock’ as we called it back home, and I will add that picture, when and if she finds it:) Moms are the best!

 

Thanks for stopping by and where ever you are, may you always have a pop of the bright yellow in your life!

Cook, Eat, Repeat: Revisiting Japan through Food- Okonomiyaki

When I went to an okonomiyaki restaurant for the first time with a friend of mine, Imroz, it was an interesting experience for sure. It had been a very tiring week where my days at the school began at 7.45 in the morning and I would come home after 8 in the evening. It was a Friday and we were heading into a long weekend and I was able to come home by 6.30. Imroz’s apartment was one stop on the subway and we decided to meet for dinner along with Rika, who I later went to become great friends with! It’s strange how one remembers such details even from years ago while things from yesterday often slip from our minds. The restaurant was a modest one as many Japanese places tend to be and every table had the teppan (metal plate/hot plate) and we were given the option of cooking the okonomiyaki ourselves. Rika was a native and Imroz had been in Japan for a long time and much more attuned to things that often took me by surprise! How was I supposed to cook okonomiyaki? And why would I have to cook it myself when I have come to a restaurant to precisely not wanting to have anything to do with cooking! Little did I know at that time that it was/could be also a part of eating okonomiyaki🙂

Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake where other than flour and eggs, cabbage is the primary ingredient. Dashi (fish stock), eggs, other vegetables, meat are added and a cooked okonomiyaki is usually topped with bonito flakes (shredded dried tuna..like flakes of dried tuna), seaweed, pickled ginger, Japanese mayonnaise. We opted to cook it (and by we I mean Rika and Imroz) and it was fun though a bit scary at first. To begin with, I found sitting at the table a little uncomfortable as one would have to be very cautious with the hands with the hot teppan right in front! But you get used to it soon, to be honest. That was the scary part. But the cooking part was fun and a bit messy but when you are with good friends, making memories you could care less:) And they made delicious okonomiyaki-s and I have been a fan ever since. It did get a bit warm at the table with all the cooking being done but we had some very cold iced tea to help with that and it was a wonderful dinner that we finished off with some matcha ice cream.

The good man has come to love Japanese food and it makes me very happy! And he has taken it a step further by cooking it from time to time and when he made okonomiyaki for the first time, I was on top of the moon:) The recipe he followed was from here and it was oishi, hontoni! (delicious, really). It is not very involved, this recipe, and tastes great. You could surely give this a try and you won’t be disappointed.

 

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Do you have stories that involve your adventures with Japanese food? Have you ever tried okonomiyaki? Did you have it in Japan in an okonomiyaki restaurant? Did you have it in the Kansai area, like Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto or in the Hiroshima area? Those of you who did have it in Japan , how was your experience? Did you get to make one for yourself or was one made for you? How has your experience with Japanese food been where you live? Are you someone who is open to all kinds of food or is there something that you would never even try?

Please share your stories, experiences, photos, recipes, links to recipes you have tried, bloggers who you follow for making special dishes…anything that you wish to! It is always exciting to read about our collective experiences and find out ways in which we are more connected and what makes us unique!

 

Here’s how to participate:

  • Create your own post with your recipe, photos, story anything that you might want to share, representing this month’s theme
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or leave a link in the comment section
  • Join whenever you can!

 

 

Thank you for stopping by!

 

Cook,Eat, Repeat: Revisiting Japan through food- Ramen

A couple of years to turning forty, I often find myself thinking about regrets that I may or may not have. And while there certainly are things that could have gone better or slightly differently, I don’t have much to complain about. But one thing that I really regret is not having a good camera during my stay in Japan (and not buying one as well) and on top of that, losing more than 95% of whatever photos I had to a case of ‘laptop in the bathtub’ 🤦🏾‍♀️ Before you start wondering…I was working on an assignment  that was nearing its deadline, sitting on the edge of this deep bathtub, while soaking my feet  when a moment of carelessness resulted in a soaking laptop. It was near the end of my stay as well and so I lost most of the photos and a few other stored documents in that mishap. I still cannot believe that I was, to put it as frankly as possible, dumb enough to do that. But that’s what happens when you take the laptop to the bathroom and later question your reasoning!

I haven’t visited many countries yet and so I cannot say with absolute certainty but from whatever I have seen  of Japan and the experiences I gathered during the time I lived there, I can say with a good amount of confidence that it is one of the most beautiful places one could ever visit. And it’s beauty does not merely lie in its mountains and seas, the coming and going of the seasons, the traditional homes, the perfectly landscaped gardens, beautiful castles that are spread throughout the country…it transcends this physical part and seeps into the way of life there. There is a feeling of serenity and contentment in the beauty that enraptures one when in Japan -be it through the mesmerizing Sakura, the sight of women clad in kimonos, in the discipline that they exhibit in their daily routine, in the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, in their sense of aesthetics that ranges from how they dress to how their dining table is laid out to the placing of the hashi (chopsticks) to the way they say itadakimasu (I humbly receive – a phrase they say right before eating)…the list can be endless. I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to work there for two years and immerse myself in the culture and cuisine with the help and love of people I was fortunate to have crossed paths with.

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I fell in love with Japanese food pretty easily and have never  not liked anything that I had except for Ikura (salmon roe) and natto (fermented soybeans), with the latter being a bit too out of my comfort zone! I have made meals with and shared those with my colleagues, my students, amazing neighbors and every time the experience has been rewarding, to say the least. A name that stands out from all the wonderful people who I made memories with is Chikako Yasunaga- a woman who embraced me with open arms and heart and showered me with her kindness and love and called me her fourth child (she has three kids)! I never know how to describe her as I feel any words I use would not do justice to capturing her true essence and the wonderful human being she is. The day before I left Kobe, she came to meet me and obviously brought me food! When we said goodbye, she hugged me tightly and said ‘Chatterjee, daisuki desu‘ (I like/love ‘Chatterjee’- my last name), I suddenly realized I was leaving family there who I probably would not be able to see again and that thought was heart wrenching. I also remember crying a lot after she left. I have watched her cook and cooked with her, shared innumerable meals with her family and I owe a lot of my love for Japanese food to her and so not mentioning her here would be dishonoring her.

Arigatou Sensei.

 

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Yasunaga sensei with her husband (another wonderful person, a professor of law by profession) in Naples! We still send each other little life updates and it is just as easy talking to her over the phone with her broken English and my very rusty Japanese (that she had made me conversational in during my stay in Kobe!) as it was 12 years back!

 

 

So, for this month’s first recipe I am sharing a pretty simple recipe of Ramen that both my husband and I love and is a staple in our home during the winter months! It reminds me not only of Yasunaga sensei’s kitchen but also of my amazing neighbor Tom, who was a ramen enthusiast and we often explored various ramen places in our neighborhood! Those made for some great conversations, long walks and some wonderful food!

This is a version that we make at home and is not an absolute authentic Japanese one, in terms of the way some ingredients have been modified. It is a version that suits us best and also does not deviate a lot from traditional methods of making it. It tastes pretty good too!

HOW TO MAKE

Ingredients

  • Ramen noodles – 2 packages (store bought) Only the noodles will be used
  • Ginger- Thinly sliced , about 3-4 tsps
  • Garlic- Grated, 2 tsps
  • Onion- Thinly Sliced, 1 medium
  • Lemongrass- 1 stalk
  • Shitake Mushrooms- Sliced, 1 cup (I prefer to cut but you may want to keep them whole)
  • Carrots- Cut into matchsticks , 1 cup
  • Scallions- Chopped, 1/2cup
  • Eggs- Hard Boiled 1 or 2 (Typically the egg should not be hard boiled but should have a runny yolk. However, this time I boiled the eggs till they were absolutely well done. The runny yolk does taste delicious though;)
  • Chicken Tenders -6 or Thinly sliced chicken breasts – 3 (Again, typically Pork Belly is used for Ramen or any other cut of pork but I never have that when I feel like making Ramen and so we always have made it with chicken!)
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth- About 4 cups
  • Water- 2 cups (or as needed)
  • Miso soup powder- 2 packets (store bought) [ Miso paste is traditionally used in making ramen but I have never tried that simply because I have not been able to buy it and so I buy miso soup powder packets. But I do intend to use miso paste in my next attempt and for that I am hoping I will remember to buy it before hand;)]
  • Mirin- About 1/4 cup
  • Soy Sauce- 2 tsps
  • Sesame Oil- 1-2 tsps
  • Salt- as needed
  • Sugar- 2-3 tsps
  • Sriracha- Optional ( I do not use it but my husband does and it adds a slight zing to the ramen)

 

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Method

  • In a cooking pot that is deep enough, heat the oil on medium low flame.
  • Add the ginger and onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic. Keep stirring. Add the mushrooms and stir for a couple of more minutes. Add salt and stir again.
  • Add the soy sauce and mirin and about 1 tsp of sugar.Stir.
  • Add the broth and the stalk of the lemon grass and let the whole thing boil for about 10-15 minutes on low flame. The broth will be infused with all the flavors in your pot and letting a ramen broth simmer for long is key to making it savory. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or sugar as you prefer.
  • In a separate bowl, add the miso powder and make miso soup according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add that to the pot.

 

 

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  • Meanwhile, in a separate pan, prepare the ramen noodles according to package instructions…do not use any powdered stuff that may be inside. We just need the noodles. Once softened, add it to the boiling broth and let the whole thing simmer for an additional 2-3minutes.
  • While your broth is simmering, put the chicken in a 350F oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes or till the internal temperature reaches 165F. (You can bake the chicken either right before starting the broth or simultaneously or after the broth is ready…your choice! ) I marinate the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a bit of lemon pepper powder, chilli flakes and 1/2 tsp of mayonnaise…it keeps the chicken wonderfully moist. Once done, slice it and keep it aside.

I was in a hurry and I cut the chicken really sloppy…please excuse that!

 

  • Check for seasonings in the broth. I like my ramen broth to be ginger heavy, so if needed I often add some extra ginger (just smash it with the back of the knife and let the broth absorb the flavor for a couple of minutes. Be careful to take that chunk out before serving just like the lemongrass stalk!).
  • If you are using Sriracha, stir that in now.
  • In your ramen bowl, pour the desired quantity of broth and add the chicken, carrots, eggs and scallions (I forgot to add in my bowl!).
  • Slurp! (Did you know that in Japan slurping on the ramen and broth is actually not frowned upon even when eating in a restaurant? It is, in fact, taken as a sign of compliment to the chef! I found this out when I had ramen for the first time, back in 2006!)

 

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Gochisosama deshita!

(For the unnitiated, the Japanese end every meal by saying this – it is a way of showing their appreciation for the food they just had and also for the person who cooked…it means “thank you for the meal or that was delicious”)

What is your take on Japanese food?Are you a fan or do you stick to sushi only when it comes to this cuisine? Do you cook Japanese food at home? Which ones?  Is there a favorite restaurant you go to? What is your favorite Japanese food? What about sake? Have you visited Japan? Do you have stories to share? I am eager to hear your association with this country and its food, both of which I have come to love dearly! Please share anything that you want to in the comment section or write your own post and share your story, photos, recipes….anything that you can think of! It will be wonderful to read:)

Here’s how to participate:

  • Create your own post with your recipe, photos, story anything that you might want to share, representing this month’s theme
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or leave a link in the comment section
  • Join whenever you can!

 

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cook, Eat, Repeat: “Aam Panna”

Here I am with my third and final post for this month – the ‘Aam Panna‘ (Aam- Mango in Hindi language  and Panna – a concoction of sorts).

As Google will tell you, it is drink made from raw mangoes that helps one cool down during the intense heat of the summer months in India and supposedly has heat-resistant properties. While I can’t comment with a 100% guarantee on the latter, I can certainly say that it is something that is just perfect for the hot and sultry days of the summer in my home country. And if you gave it a try, I am sure you too would love this wonderful  concoction of raw mangoes, mint, a bit of sugar, a pinch of black salt and a pinch of roasted cumin!

Living in a land that is far away from the sights and smells I grew up with has been an adjustment and even after all these years, it still is. I wonder if it is the same for others  who are away from their motherland as well. I have heard some people say, who have been here much longer, that they still feel that something is missing, something no amount of opulence and comfort can make up for. A pull that does not let go, a love so deep and poignant that it is hard to put into words.

This drink is humble and accommodating and reminds me of growing up in India. It reminds me of quiet afternoons and the fiery Gul Mohor (flame of the forest); of the exhilarating champa (plumeria) and bushes of hibiscus; of that sole peddler whose voice could be heard over the whirring of the fan blades, trying to make the last sale of the day; the occasional tired barks of stray dogs lying in the shade of the trees, coiled and too tired, from the heat, to move; of my Ma’s beautiful voice humming a tune while going about the daily chores; of that heavily fragrant smell of ‘Keo Karpin hair oil that Baba could not, and still cannot, do without; of the repetitive thud of a ‘cambis‘ ball hitting the wall as my brother tried to get the ‘spin’ perfect; of that small black and white ‘Oscar’ television that stood in the corner of the room, hidden by an embroidered TV ‘cover’; of special summer programs that we watched on that same TV with cousins who often visited when school was closed; of secret crushes and stolen innocent glances; of undiluted love from warm embraces of my Rangadadu (my mom’s uncle..my favorite grandpa among all). It’s a drink that reminds me of the matters of the heart.

 

HOW TO MAKE!

There are many ways by which you can dress up or dress down this simple drink, all of which you will find online, in plenty. Here’s how I like mine!

Serves :  Happy souls! Time : about 20 minutes (that includes 15 minutes of boiling mangoes)

Ingredients : Raw mangoes (either 2-3 fresh whole ones or about 2 cups of frozen pieces)// Water- about 2 cups for boiling and more(about 1 cup per person) for making the actual drink// Sugar- 3-4 Tbsp// Mint Leaves- a handful// Black salt- 2 tbsp// Roasted and ground cumin powder- 2 Tbsp// Ice Cubes

Method : If using fresh raw mangoes, cut the mango in small pieces and boil in water for about 15 minutes. If using the frozen ones (which are already usually cut into pieces) you may have to increase the boiling time by 5-7 more minutes. Once done, strain.

[Note: Sometimes the frozen mango is cut in slices and not chunks- in that case the boiling time will be about 7-8 mins total only. ]

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In a blender, add ice cubes, the mangoes, and the other ingredients mentioned above and puree . (Note that you will not be needing the entire batch of this purée  for a glass of aam panna. You can store the rest in the fridge for 3-4 days easily).

 

In a glass, add a couple of ice cubes  and fill about a little more than 1/4 of the glass with the mango purée . If you want a slightly fuller taste, and this is better tasting for sure, fill 1/2 of the glass with the purée. Then  fill up the glass with water. Add a couple of mint leaves and give the concoction a good stir! I sometimes also add just a pinch of the roasted cumin at the end, on the top.

 

 

[  You could grab cumin powder from your spice shelf or if you happen to have whole cumin, spend a couple of extra minutes and roast about 2-3 tbsp on a pan in low heat till their color turns darker and you get that wonderful smell. Grind it using a mortar and pestle and store in an air tight container. Using this will enhance the flavor much more].

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Aam Panna is indeed a very refreshing drink and you can easily adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar!  Go ahead and make one yourself one and be sure to pour out another for your loved one!

Thanks for stopping by. And I will see you next month, which is just next week, with something totally different! Till then, cook- eat- repeat!

 

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Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish – Mango Lassi

Hello!

I am a bit behind my intended schedule but here I am with the second and soon to follow third drinks of the month. Today’s post is about the famous Mango Lassi which will be followed by the less famous (only in the Western World though!) distant cousin of its- Aam Panna. (aam-Mango in Hindi language while “panna” could be called a concoction.)

But before I proceed to the ridiculously easy recipe (not sure if we can use the word recipe even!), I wanted to give you a slice of what’s been happening at this end, though I must warn you it is nothing exciting! Rather something so mundane that all of you have probably experienced it or are going through this in some form or the other:)

Our son turned five this weekend and boy was he excited for his big day! And so was his biggest cheerleader- yours truly;) We were going with a Superhero ‘theme’ this year and big bright balloons and banner and other celebratory decorative items had been slowly piling in the guest room that looks more like a storeroom, if I were to be honest. Everything was going according to plans till 9pm the night before. Our baby girl started crying and soon we figured out that it was not a normal cry but more of a severe distress that had totally thrown her off.  She would cry for 2-3hours at a stretch with intervals of 10-15 minutes, fall asleep for a bit and the cycle would repeat itself.  We figured that the grand day was going to have major setbacks. We contemplated of taking the baby girl to the ER around 2am but the awful weather outside and us finally figuring out what was really bothering her (premolars were on their way through those delicate gums) let us deal with the issue indoors for that night.

A good part of the birthday morning was spent at the doctor’s office and then on our way back, snow squall hit us and it snowed like crazy afterwards. Family, who was supposed to come over for birthday lunch, got delayed naturally and the little guy who was doing a great job of keeping it all together till then, broke down a little bit and asked if no one was going to celebrate his big day. It was heartbreaking to say the least and I looked around to see that a little birthday banner and two balloons brought from the store was all that was there. I hugged him as tightly as possible. Baby girl was still going through that cycle and we as parents were clearly not been able to step up to the game as fatigue was slowly catching up. We remembered at that point that a few months back when our baby girl had turned 1, the big brother was down with asthma and a fever of 103F.  A pattern of sorts?

Anyways, the good man cooked good food as I cradled a very distraught baby and a little upset birthday boy. Family arrived and there was a good amount of jumping up and down from all possible surfaces for the kid and his cousin, lots of car races and other things that a five year old’s heart desires. Which brings me to part two of the eventful day! By the time it came down to cake cutting, the birthday boy was so exhausted that he decided he did not want to cut the cake and started crying. After what seemed like forever, he stopped and we cut the cake and took pictures. And right after, he started complaining of ear ache (which apparently had been bothering him since afternoon but he did not want to stop having the fun he was having!). After another round of crying in which the baby girl joined in as well, family left and just like that, the day was over.

So much for a grand birthday!

The kids suffering so much took all the fun out of everything and made me actually forget that it was also our anniversary! But the red roses on the table jolted my memory back to that and while nothing went according to the plans, I was still grateful that we had each other to fall back on and as long as the four of us are together, nothing else mattered.The next morning was spent visiting the doctor’s office again, this time for the boy, picking up medicine from the pharmacy and getting stuff from the store that would help with the general crankiness of little humans.

 

You probably should not have to read this when you are looking for Mango Lassi. But I guess what I am trying to say is that things always don’t work according to plans and we all know that. It can be disappointing, saddening and many other unhappy emotions.  But we can in many cases, still steal moments from days that unfold in a less grand and ideal manner.

In this case, while we may not remember the day for all the grand celebrations that should have taken place, we will certainly remember it for the little ones’ discomfort and my big boy’s wise words. He was having a conversation with his father while having his lunch all by himself…sitting quietly. His dad mentioned that he was sorry for not being able to have a big celebration and that things did not go as planned,  and without thinking for a second, the little guy had said : “It’s okay Baba (dad)…bonu (his name for his sister) is so small and she needs Ma now and you have to make food as we have people coming over. We are all busy. That’s okay. Also, I was sick on Bonu’s birthday…do you remember?!” There is so much that we can learn from kids. As he is  “singing” at the moment…has picked up these lines from his dad –“Take it Easy….We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again”.

After the absolute madness dwindled down a bit, I was trying to think of my birthdays when I was growing up and could not really remember my 5th birthday. I guess my son will be okay too! But it was very nice to remember something that is uncannily related to the drink of this week…as my birthday falls in the hot summer month of May, mangoes (my favorite fruit in the whole wide world) were always a part of the day…be it as aam panna, or lassi or custard or just slices of that golden/yellow lip smacking fruit! There’s something  wonderfully satisfying about this drink specially in the sweltering heat of the summer and that tantalizing smell of fresh cut mangoes (typically Himsagar or the Alphonso variety) is a matter of million memories.

And so, here goes Mango Lassi…an absolute easy drink to make and cherish.

Serving size: 2, Time- 5-10 minutes

Ingredients-

Mango (Fresh, cut into pieces) 1 large or canned/frozen mango pulp : 2 cups—-Yogurt: 1 cup—-Milk: 1/4 cup—-Ice cubes: as needed—–Sugar: 1/2 tbsp (you may need less or more depending on the sweetness of the mangoes and your own preference)—-Ground Cardamom Seeds: 1/2 tsp

How to make

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and puree! Check for sweetness. You may add a little cold water or a couple of ice cubes to adjust the consistency and make it to your liking.

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Do you have a drink that reminds you of your childhood days?Or is there something that you associate with specific celebration/s in your culture? Whatever it is, I would love to hear from you! You can join in with a recipe or a story or even just a photo:)

Here’s how to participate!

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photos- anything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month.
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some other posts shared.

 

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

A Photo A Day: December ’19-Jan

In the frenzy of bidding 2019 goodbye and all the hoopla that is usually a part of that, I put a hold on my ‘a photo a day’. And now that all that craziness has subsided and we are again back into the usual humdrum, I wanted to share photos from December through today as part of my a photo a day project!. Many of these photos I have already shared as part of various challenges and some on my other posts, but here they are as a collage.

 

 

 

 

Moments big and small make up for this tapestry that we weave everyday. Etched across the pocketbook of our memories, some are soft, some hurt and some make us roll on the floor with laughter. They help us look back into the vignette of the time gone by and remember a particular afternoon. These were my moments. Hope you are sketching in your pocketbook of memories too.

Thanks for stopping by and I wish you all a weekend that lets you do whatever you want to!

Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish

                                                   Tea/Chai/Cha:  Call what you will

Thin frozen puddles crackle under my boots and as I have, once again, forgotten to wear the gloves, my hands almost freeze the moment my fingers touch the icy steering. It had rained last night and the below zero temperatures turned the tiny droplets of water into a beautiful work of art, resembling a fern. I quickly get out of the car to take a photo and turn on the wiper to give it a couple of quick swishes and my boy and I are off to school. Winter has made itself comfortable here in New Jersey and while snow days have been few and far in between, the early morning frost has been a regular visitor.

As I drive back home after dropping the kiddo off at school, I suddenly have this urge to make myself a cup of tea the moment I get home..but not the simple one I am used to drinking. I want to sip on a more aromatic version, one that is steeped in milk and sugar and has a hint of ginger and cardamom, giving it that heady smell that easily transports me to some cold evenings in my hometown of Calcutta, railway stations, the joy of stopping at one of the many tea stalls scattered throughout this grand old city for a refreshing sip of the city’s famous ‘bhaar cha(bhaar– Bengali for handmade tea cups that are typically made of clay and have been used for serving ‘cha’ -Bengali for tea, that is sold on the streets throughout India and definitely Calcutta, where Bengali is the native language).

e2fe0202-10e4-447f-b157-a5d19ae2c195This is what bhaars look like in a typical tea stall in Calcutta. Notice some plastic jars to the right of the photo- these usually hold biscuits and other tidbits to accompany the cha that keeps boiling (see the big pan) for as long as the stall remains open to never return a customer. These are rustic road side tea stalls and cater to people from all walks of life. The tea is then poured into kettles like the ones seen here and it goes around filling up these tiny bhaars.

 

I hear from friends and family that bhaars are rapidly disappearing from the streets, railway stations, train cars and even street corners and getting replaced by the awful plastic everywhere in India. My city is no exception but I hear she still perseveres; probably an example of its unshakable love for the quintessential past that gets reflected in the contemporary lifestyle of the youth and creates a unique juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.

Calcutta has been called ‘a city with soul’ (Vir Sangvi) and I couldn’t agree more. Not because it is my city, my birthplace, a place that has seen me through my best and worst and embraced me with a warm hug every time I have visited it in the last 13 years but because it is true. As true as the sun that rises everyday. There is a warmth of emotions that reigns supreme and lets you drown in the genuineness of passion. And the clay cups, the bhaar’s are a testament to that. The often rickety benches at these tea stalls have been a seat of powerful discussions about art and culture, about sports ranging from the gully cricket to that played by the likes of Gavaskar and Viv Richards, about political ideologies that have had people miss their last bus for home. When you walk along the side walks of Calcutta, you might find, in some, such bhaars crunching under your foot. You see, it is said and believed that after slurping on that aromatic concoction, people smash it on the ground to return the clay to the earth from which it was made. I have never done that myself as every tea stall has a bin meant for throwing the bhaars there, but I have surely stepped on broken clay pieces a great number of times. While it does not speak to the ‘keep your city clean’ banners and posters that are seen splashed all over the city, it certainly speaks to the emotional side of bhaar cha lovers.

If you ever visit my beautiful city or any other lovely city in India, you should try sipping on this tea, that aside from being intoxicating, also has an earthy flavor distinctive of its holder that may or may not transport you to the bygone days but which would definitely make you pause a bit. And if you are lucky, you might get to experience that on a rainy day when that earthy smell of the rain will act as the perfect setting for your bhaar cha experience.

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The sweet concoction that is far superior to any chai tea/ masala chai that is sold in the supermarkets and cafes in the Western World and I say this not just out of my love for this! These photos were taken by my brother yesterday of the local tea stall near my parents’ flat in Calcutta. Thank you, my dear brother:)

 

I digress.

The well heated kitchen of our apartment about 8000 miles away from the streets of Calcutta is not a place for that experience. Nor are the cups. But I still made that tea and while it lacked the heady smell of the rain, or that of the kettle that is usually black from being on the stove all day long, as boiling milk and tea pour down the sides, it was satisfying nonetheless. The western world has a version of this tea “the masala chai”or the “chai tea”, but the bhaar cha of Calcutta differs.

So, as I was pondering about what to share with you on my first post at Cook, Eat, Repeat and what to hear from you about, I could not think of anything better than drinks that comfort you, that transport you to a different place maybe, that bring joy to you, that you cherish occasionally. It maybe something that you sip on everyday or something that is reserved for special days. Or something that you stir up with memories from days gone by. It could be anything. Anything that makes you smile.

Please share your own memory, an anecdote or just the recipe of your favorite drink or drinks and let’s all toast to a wonderful New Year!

Here’s the recipe for two cups of Calcutta style ‘bhaar cha’. I must note that there are quite a few versions of this and so to claim that this is THE ‘bhaar cha’ will be incorrect. Many also add cloves and cinnamon.  Tea that is typically sold as “Chai Tea or Masala Tea” here in the Western World  is similar to the more aromatic version with cloves and cinnamon. But this recipe is a much lighter, yet fragrant enough version. I, for one, do not like the smell of clove or cinnamon in my tea and hence always omit those when making myself a cuppa! So, if you are like me too, go ahead and give this a try and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s how you make it

Serving size – 2 cups
Total Time  –  About 10-12 mins

Ingredients–   Lipton Tea bags: 4

                Water: 1 cup

                 Milk: 1 cup

                 Cardamom: 2 pieces

                 Ginger: a quarter inch, smush it a little with the back of a spoon.

                Sugar: 3 tsps (less or more depending on your sweet tooth)

Method  –  Add water in a saucepan and to it, add the cardamom and ginger. Let it boil on the stove top for 3-4 mins on a low flame so that the flavors from the spices are released. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil.  This may take another minute or so. Then, add the milk and carefully let it bubble. Add the tea bags (I cut open the tea bags and pour out the tea into the saucepan) and sugar and boil on high for a quick minute till the liquid is almost about to pour out of the pan. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 3-4 mins. You have to watch it carefully so as not to let the tea spill over and leave you with a very sticky saucepan and stove top. You will notice that the tea might change color from a brown to a darker brown (almost orange-ish). Strain it. Let it cool a bit and taste for sweetness.

You might have to make it a couple of times to get the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and the flavor from the spices. Neither should be overpowering!

As I had mentioned previously, this is a version of the Calcutta “bhaar cha” that I prefer…a bit subtle yet flavorful enough to be enjoyed on a cold day:)

I remembered to take a photo only after I had taken quite a few sips!

 

This is a monthly challenge so you will have the whole of January to share anything you like on your favorite drink/s. You are more than welcome to share more than just one drink recipe! I will be posting through the month about drinks that are my favorite and I am looking forward to hearing from you. What’s your favorite cocktail? What do you like to drink after a stressful day? Is there a special drink that is reserved for your most important people? What’s your favorite beverage from your childhood days? What’s your favorite holiday drink? Are you a tea or a coffee person? It can be anything! The recipes don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you share them with due permission from whose the original recipe is/ share the link to the blog/website you are sharing the recipe from.

Here’s how to participate…pretty much standard stuff!

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month.
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

Of untold tales

Every house has a story or two. And stories often remain untold.

Stories about…

“…empty cane chairs on the balcony of the family house that no longer sees people. The paint on the walls outside have started to chip in places while spider webs are the only artwork inside. The reading glasses of its inhabitants remain on the table, next to the open book that was just being read…or so it would seem. The sarees remain folded neatly in the almirah and the dishes in the kitchen neatly kept away. Legal complications have left this house in limbo, unloved un-lived and un-cared. This house does not care if a year ends or another begins. Time has stood still here from a couple of winters ago when, cocooned in her blanket, the old lady peacefully passed away in her sleep.”

 

“…summers that have always been awful in that part of the country. Sweat trickled down the face in rivulets and the heat almost suffocated you. The glare of the mid morning sun sliced through the bamboo shades and water from the earthen pitchers provided the only respite from the sweltering days. The courtyard in the center of the house cracked from the heat and one would have to sprint across it if the bathroom, at the other end, had to be used. But in another corner the mango, papaya, and guava trees provided a shade that would easily calm down the uneasiness and the sweet smelling bel phool (bel flower: a type of the jasmine flower that is native to tropical Asia) would make one linger around the shade for several minutes. The querulous call of the crows would occasionally break the eerie silence that prevailed on such afternoons, both inside and outside the walls. As ceiling fans whirled overhead and circulated the heady aroma of the paan (betel leaves), people enjoyed their siesta, almost oblivious of the stifling heat. From its bare bones today, it it would be hard to tell that in its prime, it nurtured life with love that was rare. It has stories that if told would surely embrace the listener in a warm and exhilarating hug.”

 

“…a small well that stood at the entrance of the two story house and one would have to maneuver with care when passing it or the chances of getting one’s shoes wet were high in the puddles that were to be found at all times of the day. The long verandah with the wooden chair at one corner had seen many a special moments like people bursting out in cheer (and some in anger) as they watched the soccer World Cup back in 1986 when Argentina won a crucial match by the ‘Hand of God’. It had been witness, not once but a couple of times, to a lone langur that would often seat himself on that chair, and hold up the newspaper that would usually be found on the table right next to it and spend sometime ‘reading’ that. Where the langur came from and where it disappears to, was another story the house could tell. It could also share one of its favorite memories which was that of the owners’ nine grandchildren posing for a photograph on the steps of the attic. That old house with the well has been taken down and a grand flat stands in its place where there is no well to be maneuvered.”

 

Another year ends in a day and with that we add, or at least hope to add, another year to our lives. We live another year to tell stories that have remained untold. We live to cherish the past more and weave memories from the present for the future. Let’s make sure we keep telling stories that matter, that make people heard and that remember those who no longer are there to share their stories.

Thanks for stopping by.