September 22, 2015

Product Review: Assam 1860 Tea

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” 

To be honest, I am not a tea lover. I love Iced Tea though, that is also very rare. Then you must be wondering why I am reviewing a product which I didn't taste or experience. On a different note, apart from me all my family members are ardent Tea Lovers. Or more or less I can say I have 'Tea-addicted' people all around me. I grow up seeing my Mom and Dad, if they do not get their morning tea on time the whole world will turn topsy-turvy and a bad headache will clumsily off their mood. I have seen my husband spending hours in the isle of the Tea sections of the Hypermarkets choosing the right flavour that could match his taste bud, and keep on trying and tasting them. He is very particular about the tastes and flavours and it is very difficult to satisfy his taste bud. 

So when I got a mail from Team Assam 1860 to sample their tea, I reverted back with a confession that I don't drink tea. I should appreciate their gentle approach for sending me a well packed tea leaves for my family with a congratulations note. What melts down my heart is, the first two lines from the letter they sent me. Thanks for the Lovely lines Assam 1860 tea.

Now let us come to the Tea. I created a tea Tasting session at my home where my parents, my parent-in-laws and my sister-in-law were invited over a tea party. Before I approach what they said and how much they liked the tea, let me say few words about Assam1860 Tea:
The first thing they ensure that will please your senses is the flavour of the CTC black tea. Now, what exactly the CTC means? (I learnt it too)-

“Crush, Tear, and Curl is a method of processing black tea, similar to that of orthodox tea manufacturer. Instead of the leaves being rolled as a final stage, like Oolongs, they are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of small sharp "teeth" that crush, tear, and curl the tea.” 
And this is what Assam 1860 Tea ensures:
“Assam 1860 is a black tea that celebrates tea itself. It is made only from leaves plucked in the picturesque Thowra Estate, a Chai Bagan set up in 1860. We ensure that the phrase ‘garden fresh’ lives up to its every promise.

The leaves are plucked, processed and packed in the estate itself, ensuring quality and freshness that is unparalleled. So wherever you are, you might as well be drinking your cup of Assam 1860 on the verdant verandah of the Thowra Bungalow, overlooking graceful rolling greens on our lush terraces.

We can’t wait for you to try our new offering. The plucking of tea leaves has begun in earnest!”

Now let me share the experiences of Assam 1860 that my family had. 

My parents – in – law and my Husband:
They drink black tea without sugar. So I prefer to experience them the tea bags, came along with the pack. My parents- in – law shared one tea bag and my Husband one full. According to them, the flavour of the tea is a perfect blend of taste and aroma that can brighten up the lazy mornings and the moods.
To my husband who first inhales the aroma. If the aroma touches his heart then he will next go for the colour. The colour of the tea should be faint brown. So when he senses the aroma of Assam 1860 I saw a pleasing smile brushed his face. After tasting it, he nodded his head and just smiled. That means the tea passed the sensory tasting journey. He asked me more detail about the tea. :)
My Parents and my sister-in-law:
They love their tea most of the time with milk, brewing for a longer time with some extra tea leaves than the moderate portion. It should have sugar and served piping hot when sipped. This time, I used the loose tea leaves sent along. To them, the taste gives a flush to gain all the lost energy and one goes back to a time to play with his/her old memories. That was what my dad said.

To my sister-in-law after tasting few she found it a perfect one which she can enjoy sitting on a lazy couch with a book to experience the aromatic flavour. She would love to add some ginger in it or few drops of lemon. A perfect “Kadak ” masala tea could be justified the tea as well.
So what I have learnt from them that when someone is tasting a tea one should know it is a sensory journey where the aroma plays one of the important roles. The aroma gives a peace in your mind and then the taste that should beatify your sensory buds and drove you down to the memory lanes to regain the energy and to lighten up your days. And no need to say Assam 1860 tea passed all these to prove – “Let us try it again”….

September 5, 2015

Quick Party Dessert {"Say Cheese to Chocolate"}

“Anything is good if it's made of chocolate.” 
― Jo Brand
 #Quick post- As promised to a reader to give her this recipe ( or rather no recipe just an idea).
If you have a bunch of kids invited in your party then I guess the first thing will strike up in your mind is to make something out of Chocolate. Even I have seen, give the kids anything they dislike - for example some fruits, they will surely gobble it up if you present it with chocolate. Why only the kids, adults turns on to a kid when it comes to Chocolate. Like as Dave Barry said: Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain”, no wonder chocolate drifts with the same penchant without considering any age. So today I am sharing a perfect chocolaty dessert which is not only a party winner or perfectly pairs a satisfying meal,, it is made in  no time and needs a very less time for preperation. Lets move on to the recipe:
Ingredients:
{This is time I have not given any measurement, it is too easy to make and needs just the way like. Please check the Notes #2 for more variations.}
Left over Chocolate Ganache (See Note #1)
Cheese-lings (See Note #3)
Grated Chocolate  
Chocolate syrup/sauce  
Method:
1. It is too easy to make. Take some small serving glass/container (Transparent preferable) and assemble all the ingredients in layers, like put a layer of ganache, then a layer of cheese-lings. You can repeat this twice and on the top just drizzle some Chocolate syrup/sauce and some grated chocolate. Your dish is ready.
Notes:
1. You must be knowing how to make Ganache. If not then check Here and Here. I have mentioned left over Ganache as I made out of it. You can always make fresh one. Just make sure to give it a rest for a couple of hours in the refrigerator before serving it.

2. It can be made under many more variations. 
i] You can use dry fruits or chopped fresh fruits. 
ii] To make it a little boozy, soak some dry fruits in rum overnight and then strain the fruits and add in it. 
iii] Some chunks of chocolate biscuit or Oreo pairs well too. 
iv] You can add layer of Ice cream, fresh fruits and some nuts and top with ganache and chocolate syrup with some choco chips.
There are so many options to make it drool-worthy, just go wild with your creativity and imagination.

3.  If you are giving a layer of cheese- lings, then make sure to arrange it just before serving. Otherwise the cheese-lings will become soggy and the ganache will toss off totally the crispy and crunchiness of the cheese-lings.

September 3, 2015

World Cuisine In a Bengali Kitchen: Mexican Pumpkin Flower Soup (Sopa Mexicana de flor de Calabaza)

"Squash flowers such as pumpkin and courgette are found in many recipes across South America. They are delicious, particularly when lightly cooked, in Spain, France and Italy, they crop up in all sorts of recipes." (P:100)
Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pie, various curries out of Pumpkins so on and so forth - there are endless dishes that can be made out of Pumpkin. We all know, being a very versatile, most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. But I never thought in my dreams (Yes, not exaggerating) that one could make such a piquantly pungent soup out of Pumpkin Flowers. I am always in love introducing the flavours of world cuisine in my little Bengali kitchen. When it comes to Pumpkin Flowers, being a Bengali I was brought up tasting only the batter fried pumpkin flowers, most often plucked from our garden. Even after shifting to Kolkata we bought Pumpkin flowers, fried it, dipping in a batter made out of a proportionate mixture of gram flour, all purpose flour and rice flour, till it was crispy and get a coat of a shiny golden hue. We, Bengalis, always need something to pair perfectly while having rice with dal. Say it a tarkari/chochori/dry curry or some oily fritters, a satisfactory meal will not be completed without this. Likewise our daily vegetable routine shopping, the Man bought a bunch of Pumpkin Flowers the other day. This time the Pumpkin Flowers were cooked with an exception. If we talk about the nutritional values of the Pumpkin Flowers, they do have some important vitamins like vitamin A and C and minerals.
From my recent collection of cook books, I was brought in with this recipe. From last few months I was reading on the flares of street food from all over the world with the meticulous accordance. I got acquainted with so many dishes that not only    astounded me but I loved the way the history and stories enfolded them. This Pumpkin Flower soup is basically a famous street food summer soup that widely gets sold in Mexico and its periphery at the street food counters and little cafes. According to Tom Kime, this is a traditional recipe that is fluxing through generation to generation for over almost hundreds of years without any changes in the recipe. The little cafes or the street food stalls would quickly whip up this saporous spicy soup, spiking up with the flavours of Green chilies and the lemon Juice. While cooking this easy dish I found that the main taste dwelt in the tanginess of the lemon juice with the commixture of the pepperiness of the chilies. I read few more articles stating this recipe and found many variations were made. Potato, zucchini, corn can also be used to make this soup. Even I found that there are many recipes on Pumpkin Flower, like stuffing it with cheese or prawns and then battered fried,  etc. So here is the recipe of Mexican Pumpkin Flower Soup (Sopa Mexicana de flor de Calabaza). Hope you will enjoy it.

{Recipe adapted from the book: Street Food by Tom Kime }
Ingredients:
(Yields 2 soup bowls)
Pumpkin Flowers or Courgette (Zucchini) Flowers - 12-14 (small)
Chicken/vegetable Stock - 3 cups (Less or more - See Notes)
Onion - 1 medium
Garlic - 1 tspn (finely Chopped)
Green Chilies - 2-3 (More or less)
Tomato - 2 small
Olive oil - 1 tspn + 1/2 tspn
Lemon Juice - out of 1 lemon
Salt & Balck Pepper as per taste
Method:
1. Discard the stems and the pistils of the Pumpkin Flowers finely chop, except 2-3 flower. Reserve.
2. Finely chop the onion. Grate the Tomato using a grater to get a nice pulp. Reserve.
3. Finely chop the green chilies.
4. Heat 1 tspn oil in a pan. Add the garlic and the chopped green chilies, keeping some for garnishing later.
5. Wait till the garlic turns brown, add the onion and fry till the onions are pale and golden brown. 
6. Add the tomato pulp and cook till it is well cooked.
7. Add the chopped pumpkin flowers and cook for 2 minutes. Cool it and then make puree of it in mixer grinder.
8. Now heat the remaining oil and fry the remaining whole pumpkin flowers till they are wilted and the parts are golden brown. Reserve.
9. Now Bring in to boil the chicken stock. Add the pumpkin flower puree, lemon juice and stir well. Add salt and Black pepper powder as per taste. Pour it in the soup bowls and garnish them with the whole pumpkin flowers and chopped green chilies.

Notes:
1. Make sure the soup tastes better when is semi-thick. Therefore add the chicken stock as per consistency. If it has become too runny then add some corn starch.

I have started this series of "World Cuisine in a Bengali Kitchen". Where I will share different recipes from the different part of the world, tried and tasted in my kitchen. The main goal will be keeping it healthy as much as possible.


September 1, 2015

Minced Chicken with Mixed Daal

"I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; 
What a wonderful feeling, I'm happy again."
 It was raining heavily outside, splashing and pelting down the window panes. I was vacuously staring through it. Trying hard to feel and be loved with the rain. But I failed. 
Rain doesn't entice me anymore. 
Why? 
I don't know. 
I flashed back to my student life…..
Then.............
The rainwater streaming down through the grit and grime Lal matir rasta (the red muddy lanes) aimlessly making its way to unite with the inundated paddy fields by the road. Ignoring the alarming overcast sky a group of 5 to 6 jubilant children of 8 to 12 years, were splashing and jumping in the water and catching fish with some strainers collected from their houses. Some empty glass jars were arrayed safely with some alive fish. In celebration of an off day from school that declared a rainy day from a sudden down pour we were coddling the free spirit of childhood.
                                        Being an incurably romantic rain lover, I had never missed a single rain. Even if it was in the midnight, you would find me by the window trying to hold the rain drops. The charm of the rain at night was spellbound for me. The reflection of the street lamps on the closed window glass, I could see melting down with the slushing rain. The darkness of the room and the pitter-patter music from the pour used to create an enchanting and mystic atmosphere. Stealthy, I used to elude from my bed so that my parents should not object my date with the rain at the oddest hour of the dark night. I used to open the window with an expert hand making sure not to make any noise and sneaked my hand to touch the rain. In no time the rain drops were dancing on my palm and a shiver flowing down through my body. I used to try hard to hold the rain drops and store it forever. The joy of the tiny little enthralled soul was different and beyond explanation. 
                                                         We used to have a wide view of a vacant land, yards after yards. And that view became like a blessing for us during the Monsoon. At night I loved to watch the drama of the lightning in interval, sparking and cracking the whole sky and tearing down the silence of the pitch-dark night with its roaring mighty rage. Moreover a nagging croaking sound of the frogs would bewitch an eerie sensation. In the day time the entrance of the dark cloud sprang us to rush and sit in the covered balcony to watch the bleary rain racing to us from the distance. The thrumming sound and the brumous view, the wild wind happily swaying the trees, were so enchanting that the feet used to tap with the rhythm and I hypnotically used to go out to drench myself ignoring my parents. My Parents kept on shouting behind me, but their voices never reached to my ear or I was then the most arrogant girl who didn't pay attention to her parents’ commands. I dared not to think what would happen next and how much scold was waiting for me. I just had the moment which I wanted to enliven it forever and ever. I slopped and dirt myself. Or sometimes I would take a ride on my cycle and speed behind the floating cloud and the pouring rain, singing aloud one of Kabiguru's (Rabindranath Tagore) Monsoon songs. I would hear my parents' voices slowly fainting, calling my name to return back home. But I was then totally in a different world. Yes for me the life was like this, basking in the free spirit of childhood with the nature. 
                                                                                  Rain then was for me everything, my love, my passion, my play-mate, my soul-mate et al. My tears poured down and coalesced in the rain so many times. I danced in the rain, I laughed aloud in the rain. It was only the rain who had witnessed my joy and my sometimes the sad spirit of mine. My mother had locked me so many times to shun the rain. But every time I took out a chance to touch the rain at least for a second. RAIN WAS FOR ME NOTHING BUT LOVE FOR WHOM I WAS THE CRAZIEST GIRL OF THE WORLD.

Now.............
I woke up in the morning and went to the Balcony. I saw the narrow lane by my house was half merged in water. A glance of the clogged water made me giddy in no time and a shiver with the thought how I would go out to do my daily chores!! Storming my brain with the morning blues I tried to remember when did it rain so heavily? A sarcastic smile brushed my face. Ah, I was then snuggled peacefully in my bed with the full on AC. How come the sound of rain would reach my ears? And if it was then it would not make me happy any more. My daughter has to go to school where Rainy Day is an obsolete word, My Husband has his office. Where would I hang the piled up clothes resting in the washing machine. I wondered - Am I not in love with rain any more? The other day I was travelling on my car to my daughter’s school. It was raining heavily and splashing down on the car. I tried to feel it from the core of my heart. I tried to avoid all the honking, the rustling bustling of the busy city life. But I failed. I just found a worried mother's heart who was desperate and tensed to reach to her daughter’s school on time. I wondered - Am I not in love with rain any more? The other day the sudden rain made me race and climb the three storied house to the roof top to fetch the wet clothes lined up for drying. My maid was out for some work. I tried to rescue the almost dry clothes from the rain. I achieved to a certain extend. At the same time I found myself totally drenched. I didn't find myself happy. An utter disappointment started to hover my mind. Where I would hang the wet clothes now!! I wondered - Am I not in love with rain any more? The other day my daughter wanted to experience the rain and drench herself. The worried mother inside me burst out and restricted her instantly. I dared what if she would catch cold and fall sick and would miss the school (missing a day means every day a shout out for low attendance). At the same time the city pollution has given my daughter a gift of suffering from a nagging cold and cough what makes the Mamma's heart always overprotective. That day I found my eyes welled up. I was failed to bring back my childhood to her. The free spirit to grow up embracing the nature. I found I was not in love with rain any more. Or maybe I am, my love for rain now floats through the stories of my childhood to my daughters that my parents tell them. Because the city life has caged my heart, petrified the soul and buried them under the mechanical city life that I am leading now.

Now let us move on to the recipe that today I am going to share. Its very tasty and healthy. You can have it with rice but it matches perfectly with roti. So here is the recipe:
Ingredients
Mixed Dal - 1 cup 
(Black lentil, Chana Daal/ Bengal Gram split, Arhar Daal/ Split Pigeon Pea, See Notes)

Minced Chicken - 200grm
Onion - 1 large
 Tomato - 1 large
Garlic - 6-7 cloves (Whole)
Ginger Paste - 1 tspn + 1/2 tspn

Turmeric Powder - 1/ 4 tspn + 1/2 tspn
Cumin Powder - 1 tspn
Coriander Powder - 1 tspn
Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tspn

Cumin seed - 1/2 tspn
Whole red chili - 1 -2
Bay leaves - 1- 2
White Oil - 2 tbspn (or less)

Garam Masala Powder - 1/4 tspn
Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup (Chopped)

Cream - 2 tspn (optional)

Salt and Sugar as per taste
Method
1. Put the Pulses/ Daal in a pressure cooker. Add 2 cups water, 1/4 tspn turmeric powder, 1/2 tspn ginger paste, 1/4 tspn red chili powder and salt to taste. Cook till 4 - 5 whistles blow. Reserve.
2. Finely chop the onion and tomato separately. Reserve.
3. Take a small bowl. Add all the powdered spices except the garam masala powder. Add sufficient water to make a semi - thick paste.
4. Now take a deep dense pan or a Kadai. Heat the oil. 
5. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves and whole red chili. Add the whole garlic cloves when the cumin seeds start to splutter.
6. Wait till the garlic turns light brown. Then add the chopped onion. Cook till the onion turns brown and looks perfectly caramelised.
7. Add the tomato and cook till the it starts to loose oil. Then add the minced chicken and the masala paste.
8. Mix all together nicely by giving good stir. Cook on high flame for 3 - 4 minutes. Now add the Cooked Daal to it and cook till the juice evaporates and gives a dry texture to the dish. Check if Salt or sugar is needed to be added.
9. Add the Garam Masala Powder and the Coriander Leaves. Fold nicely and cook for a minute. Add the cream (Otional) and then serve hot with roti or rice.
Notes:
1. You can more varieties of pulses in it to make it more healthy.
2. It tastes great with with-bone chicken too. But then the recipe is a bit different, which I share soon.