December 22, 2015

#BookReview : Kanhu & Other Stories

Title: Kanhu & Other stories
Translated by Saroj Mishra
Published by: Platinum Press 2015
Price: Rs. 149
Pages: 109
Rate: 4.5/5

Kanhu & Other stories is a compilation of ten short stories written by well-known Odiya writers which are translated by Saroj Mishra.  Many of those writers are the winners of Kendrya Sahitya Akademi awards and different types of renowned literary awards. The main focus of the stories is on the contemporary Odiya culture and society. Each story has a strong plot that will pull the reader to move on the next and each character of the story are skillfully crafted. The stories are actually the irony of the bureaucratic society which are sarcastically portraying the present scenario. Most of the negative aspects of a politically dominated society have been depicted through the stories. Whether it is bribery to dowry, conspiracy to jealousy, or self-respect to honesty, the authors folded it well in the attire of strong plots. 

I really enjoyed the irony of the political world in the story – “Inauguration of the Electric Crematorium.” At one read it will look like a story full of comedy, how a dead body has been arranged for a minister for the inauguration of the Electric Crematorium. Very interestingly the author has portrayed the futility of human lives with full of satire. The battle between truth and lie that is actually the subjective clause of the political world has been sketched comically but the irony is totally visible. Or take the stories like Mystery of the closed iron chest, Kanhu, or Mission Heart, where the human relationships and the thought provoking feelings were sketched well. Loneliness, unemployment, hunger, trust, loyalty, dream, love, negligence, fragility of relationships all are the key tools of the stories. The stories are nothing but ironically replicating the true face of the present society. The the stories are the picture of the present Odiya culture where trust diminishes, truth gets eschewed, love turns in to negligence, and loyalty takes for granted. Each story depicts the survival strategy that the human folks are fighting against the odds, sacrificing the positive attitude to surrender to the autocratic world. Life is a blessing but life is cruel too when it gets dominated by the human made destiny – that is the inner meaning of each story. Overall I literally enjoyed reading each and every story of the book.

December 16, 2015

#EasyRecpe : Baked Chicken Caprese Salad

During the day time I am almost excluded from my kitchen by the cook. She loves to reign over the kitchen and gets disappointed even I peep in. She breezes around the kitechen with a constant jingle sound of her bangles and the utensils. I always try to avoid the musical concord and retreat to not interfere. The only interaction regarding food we have once in a day - my instruction what to cook and if something special then how to cook that. So I can own my kitchen only in the next half of the day when I prefer to cook the dinner. I always try to avoid an elaborate dinner. I prefer to keep it simple and healthy. Even the man after a tiring day loves to have something delicious, tasty but overall healthy and light. He wants to avoid rice so as my daughter. So most of the time it is something baked or grilled. /the other day I made Baked Chicken Caprese Salad and served with some boiled vegetables and baked cheese spinach.  It came out tasty, light and got cooked in few minutes. 
                                                               Once a visit to The Corner Courtyard during a review program Chef Chanchal offers a special dish Grilled Italian Chicken Patties with salad caprese and parsley garlic aioli to us. And I was so impressed and inspired by the dish that I decided to try it at home. Now Caprese Salad is one of the most simple salads in the Italian cuisine. It calls for sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, some seasoning with salt, and olive oil. During the time of the creation of this salad, it was kept in mind to made a resemblance to the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green. (Info from Wiki) Baked or Grilled chicken/ meat can be used to give it an extra volume to the taste.When I made the dish I baked the chicken. If you want you can grill it too. Just keep in mind while grilling, don't forget to braise it with some oil, preferably olive oil.
Ingredients:
(Yields 6 to 8 patties depending on the size)
Minced Chicken -200grm
Blanched chopped spinach - 2 tbspn (All the water must be completely squeezed out)
Chopped parsley: 1 tbspn
Chilli Flakes: 1 tspn (more or less)
Italian seasoning - 1/2 tspn
Lemon juice - 1 tbspn
Salt and Balck pepper as per taste


Mozzarella Cheese - Cut in thin slice in a shape of square (Depends on how many patties are there)
Tomato slices (Depends on how many patties are there)
Method:
1. Mix all the ingredients nicely.
2. Grease your hand with oil and take a small portion and give the portion a shape of a patty.
3. Take an ovenproof tray. Cover it with aluminum foil (See note #1) and grease the surface.
4. Place the patties on the tray and bake for 15 + 10 minutes turning each side at 200 degree Centigrade.
5. Take a serving plate. Place a slice of tomato, top it with mozzarella cheese and then on the top place the Chicken Patty. Relish it with boiled or stir fried vegetables and bread. I had with some baked spinach topped with cheese, boiled vegetables, salads and Bread. (See note how to eat it #3)

Note:
1. Whenever I bake some savoury dishes on a tray I always cover it with an aluminium foil. It helps to save a lot of time in behind of cleaning the burning stains.
2. If you want to avoid the cheese then simply have it with boiled vegetables and bread. 
3. To enjoy the taste, you must have a bite of  the Tomato, the cheese and the chicken patty altogether. That will give you the exact taste of the dish and to enjoy the every bit of it.

December 12, 2015

#EasyRecipe - Healthy Hassle- Free Chicken Curry

I get many requests from my readers to provide them some easy and healthy recipes which will be hassle free and don't require to spend hour after hour in the kitchen. Even my sister always asks for easy and tasty recipes who resides in abroad and can't get much time to spend in the kitchen as her overactive son keeps her dancing around him all the time. So I decided to start a series of  #EasyRecipes that will be healthy, tasty and will be hassle-free. Now this chicken curry is my all-time favourite. It goes perfectly as an accompaniment of a light meal or as a party dish. Only it depends on the cooking timing and a bit changes in the Ingredients. Like if you are making it for a party the recipe will ask for some extra oil to make it a bit rich. The portion of the powdered Masalas can be increased too. The cooking time will be a bit longer until the juice gets reduced and turns the dish to a thick gravy when the chicken gets completely cooked. The preparation time is very less. I cooked mutton in the same manner. Will post the recipe soon. So let us move to the recipe and enjoy it:
#EasyRecipe - Healthy Hassle- Free Chicken Curry
Ingredients:
Chicken cut into pieces -  700 - 800grm
Potato - (Optional - as much you want)
Chopped Onion - 2 big
Whole Garlic  cloves - 4 -5 + handful
Ginger paste: 1 & 1/2 tspn
Tomato - 1 small
Yogurt - 2 tbspn
Turmeric Powder - 1 tspn
Cumin Powder - 1 tspn
Coriander Powder - 1spn
Red chili Powder - 1 tsn (more or less as per your taste)
Whole Garam Masala - 2 each
Oil - 1 tspn (See note #1)
Ghee - 1/2 tspn (optional)
Salt as per taste
Method:
1. Wash the chicken thoroughly. Drain out all the excess water and keep aside.
2. In a grinder paste all the ingredients except the handful of garlic cloves, whole garam masala, and oil.
3. Marinade the chicken with the mixture for half an hour or so.
4. Heat oil and ghee in a deep dense pan or a Kodai. Add the whole Garam Masala and a handful of whole garlic gloves. Stir it till the garlic cloves are semi brown.
5.  Add the chicken and Saute on high flame for 5 mnts.
6. Then Cover a lid and let it be cooked in a low flame unless it is done. If you want to add potato (See note #2) then add it. Don't forget to give a stir in between. 
7. It will take approximately 30 to 40 minutes (more or less) to cook depending on which type of chicken (Boiler or frozen ) 
8. You can have it as a light chicken curry that goes perfectly with rice or with a thick gravy that perfectly accompanies with roti. Whatever consistency you like to have, cook the chicken in that way.  For thick gravy when the chicken is almost done please cook on high flame until the juice evaporates. 
9. There is no need to add water. The enough juice gets released from the chicken that helps to cook the chicken completely. But if you feel water is needed then please add warm water not cold water directly.
Note:
1. Any oil (Mustard, Sunflower or Olive oil) can be used. Now if you want to make this dish for a party then I would suggest you, to add a little oil extra (1 or 2 tbspn). You can increase the portions of the Powdered masalas too..
2. If you are adding potato then please keep on an eye that the potato should not be over cooked. If the potatoes are done but the chicken needs to cook for few more minutes then please take out the potatoes and add it again when the chicken is completely done.


December 11, 2015

Oven Roasted Plum Cake inspired by Baking with Julia

"Who is Julia Child?" asked the Man.
With a puckered eyebrows I innocently answered I don't know.
It happened one night almost 6 years back after watching the movie, Julie & Julia. I never realised that Julie Powel and Julia Child would become the significant parts of my life.
I was then struggling with my baby steps into  blogging food blogging, with a very knowledge about Food and the who's who. I had already completed my stay in USA for 3 three years and gave birth to an adorable daughter. Though I had started blogging a long time back, the pregnancy and the postpartum blues somehow restricted to divulge the blog to continue.When I was able to grapple with all the odds I started blogging again. And that time as a full-time Food Blogger after almost 2 years.  Julie & Julia, the movie influenced and inspired me like a rain shower after a decade in a desert. I tied up my apron, infused the character of Julie Powel in me and reign over the kitchen copying each and every move of Julie and vigorously concentrated on blogging. I sat with my Laptop like Julie, I cooked like Julie, I talked like Julie. It might sound very childish and funny but yes it is Julie and Julie. Julia Child was then never in my thought or in my mind.
I had never thought then that almost after six years I would fall in love with Julia Child. My experiences and knowledge regarding the culinary world helped me to grow each day more matured. Now the scene at my home is a bit different. To my surprise, my eight year old daughter is all head over heel in love with the movie Julie & Julia. Her main love is for Julie Powel, where I focus my concentration on Julia Child. When I asked my daughter: 
"Why do you like this movie?
She answered back: "Because I love blogging and Cooking."
 I guess when you have a food blogger mum at home the influence may sound like this. :)

As a surprise gift, I received the book Baking with Julia  and the DVD of Julie & Julia from my husband a year ago. He is much aware of my fascination to imitate Julie Powel, how she blogs and Cooks and a springing up respect and likeness towards Julia Child. At the same time my weakness towards baking that I am nurturing from a long time. In the meantime, I have already finished reading Julia Child 's  My life in France and possessed the Mastering the art of French Cooking Volume 1 & 2. So the gift from him was like winning some treasure all of a sudden. While browsing through the book, I almost bookmarked all the recipes to give them a try. The book is a compilation of sweet and savoury baked recipes where many reputed bakers have contributed too. They are pretty easy, very well explained and perfect for the beginner. I found some fresh plums from our local market. So decided to try this recipe first. We were about to spend few days in our other house in Newtown when I thought of baking something over there. So I took all the ingredients with me and the book  but forgotten to take the measuring cups and spoons. Immediately my heart sank down when I was about tart it. I felt like I saw some nightmare suddenly. But since I was baking for a long time, I made myself calm down, eyeballed the measurement and made it. And yes it came out perfect. As a baker, it was a great achievement for me that experience did help one to resolve the odd situation. But yes this is also true that if the measurements are not proportionate, the outcome of a baking goodie fails most of the times. So here is the recipe. Give it try, as I am sure your kids and family members will love it.
{Recipe adapted from Baking with Julia. Contributing Baker: Marcel Desaulniers}
Ingredients:
(I follow the measurement as per the given recipe)
All purpose Flour - 1 cup
Butter - 100gm + little more for greasing (Room temperature. The recipe asked for unsalted but I used Amul butter)
Brown Sugar: 2/3 cup
Granulated sugar 1/2 cup
Eggs - 2
Vanilla essence - 1/2 tspn
Baking Soda: 3/4 tspn
Buttermilk 1/4 cup
Ripe plums, pitted and halved - 3-4
Method:
1. Mix nicely the Flour and the baking soda and keep aside.
2. In another bowl mix the butter with the two types of sugar at a time until blended properly.
3. Add  one egg at a time and blend.
4. Add the vanilla essence and butter milk. Blend.
5. Now slowly fold the flour in the egg and mix nicely.
6 Pre-heat the oven at 180-degree centigrade for 8 to 10 minutes.
7. Take 6 to 8 ramekins or cupcake molds. Grease them nicely with butter.
8. Pour the batter filling half of the each cups.
9 Take one of the half plums and slightly push it down on the top of the batter. Make sure to keep the skin side down and the cut side up of the plum. Do the same with the other cups.
10. Sprinkle some brown sugar on the top of the plum and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick prick inside comes out clean.
11. Let it get cooled completely then slowly with the help of a sharp knife running on the side of the cake slowly demould it.

Note:
1. When we use fresh fruits in a cake to bake, the cake becomes a bit soggy and will look under cooked from inside. So don't worry, enjoy eating the cake.
2. I have used peach and strawberry with the same recipe and it came out perfect.

It is not a plum season know. But it is in my draft since a long time. So found it right time to post to celebrate the season of baking.

This recipe is off to the Baking event hosted by Kolkata Food Bloggers:
https://www.facebook.com/kolkatafoodbloggers/?ref=bookmarks

December 10, 2015

#BookReview: The curse of Damini by Debjjani Mohanty

"Damini is not a name, and the curse is no supernatural power. Damini symbolizes the vulnerability of women in our society. Damini exists within our minds. She lives in me and in you." 
(The curse of Damini, Chapter: 34, page: 179)


Title: The Curse of Damini
Author: Debjani Mohanty
Published by: Partridge India 2015
Price: Rs. 399
Pages: 185
Rate: 4/5

The Curse of Damini is the debut novel by Debjani Mohanty. First a glimpse on the summary of the book as the blurb reads:
"The world seemed not enough for free spirited Renuka, when she married the highly educated Shashank hailing from the mightiest Zamindars of Bengal. However, soon her life turned upside down when a neighbor revealed her of their sinister past.
It is a mysterious supernatural curse cast on their family almost a century back. Generation by generation, Damini's enraged curse had passed on, declining their family clan from hundreds to a handful few. Who would be Damini's next victim? And why innocent lives are at a stake for a crime committed by an ancestor a hundred years back? Renuka would not settle until she finds an answer and in her quest she struggles to eradicate all the evils that come in her way. Would she ever win a battle against an unseen enemy? Would the wrong done to Damini be ever avenged?
Set against the nostalgic era of 1940s, the story narrates the arduous journey of Renuka Pal, the protagonist, from a rash teenage freedom fighter to the seasoned writer of the 21st century India. In this thrilling saga of death, betrayal and power play the narrative would cover a large chunk of twentieth century history. The passing of time, historical events and the changing country is so well-woven to the story that one would hardly differentiate between fact and fiction."

I was quite pulled in after reading the plot and decided to review the book - The Curse of Damini. . After reading the prologue, I thought it was a kind of haunted stories and found the dialogues pretty cinematic. But as I dug deep in more, the book took me no time to finish it. After a long time, I read a novel with such a free flowing grip that can't be left in-between. Each chapter entices to move on to the next to find out what surprise is waiting for us. Debutante Debjani Mohanty skilfully delineated the focus on the struggle of the women, their fight for existence and the search for Identity which was warmly wrapped up with a fervid romance in between the two main leads. The main protagonist Renuka is the epitome of existence with whom the womanhood has been empowered to fight against the odds. The whole story evolves around her with her encounter with different incidents that a patriarchal society exemplifies as the oppressed ruler where women are the subjects to suffer. Damini turns out to be the silent protagonist who throughout the novel haunted the women of the Roy Choudhury family as a curse but at the end, Renuka elucidates the truth of Damini who is none but the prototype of female subjugation.
                                                   The fiction started from the very backdrop of pre-independence and early independent India  when Renuka’s journey for existence started right as a freedom fighter at the age of fifteen. Slowly the story built up with a confrontation of teenage love at first sight in between Shashank (the son of Roy Choudhury family) and Renuka. Then after few years, incidentally, they got conjugally knotted against some odds where the dreams of two hearts elated with joy. The curse that haunted the Roy Choudhury family started haunting Renuka too. But Renuka with her education and rationality spiflicated the curse and established her own institution. Renuka proved herself that financial independence not only gives an identity to a lady but the power to fight back against the male dominated society. Though the half of the credit goes to her success to her husband whose constant support and understanding helped her to surmount the success. Papiya, Ichamayi, Catherine, Mandira who all are the victim of the patriarchal society, became the strength of Renuka to fight back and stood against the norms and ordinances that a patriarchal society tabooed for women. The book floated with a great acquisition denoting the women struggle in terms of rape, prostitution, several childbirth and miscarriages leading to a depression, fate of a girl child etc. The fiction covered an era starting from the pre-independence India till 21st century remonstrating that the female struggle for existence remained more or less same. The book even ended up with the Nirbhaya rape case and Renuka’s cogitation how rape could be demolished from this society.


What I liked most, is the way the author described with minute detailing the era of Zaminder, their culture and the rituals, the riot after the partition. Being a Bengali, I very much float with the memory line that many of us may have heard the stories from our grandmothers. The author has delimitated romance as the main drive that made the readers to get hooked till the end. The character of Mandira, I found too bold and plain spoken considering the time when she was born.  Renuka’s mentation on how to stop rape broke the rhythm how the novel was flowing freely. I also wished if the Title of the book would be more theme-centric as the title is not justifying the theme of the novel. But I would really like to appreciate the way being an engineering graduate and working as a senior IT professional with one of the biggest MNCs of India, Debjani Mohanty presented her debut novel. I will be surely looking forward to her next fiction.





December 7, 2015

Macher Dimer Bora or Fish Roe Fritter

I have never thought that I will document the pure Bengali dishes in my blog. Yes, it must sound weird, as being a Bengali how come one can utter those words so easily! But to be honest, I was never a Bengali food lover. Mainly fish was not in my favourite list except Hilsa and Prawns. My taste bud always forced me to love the continental style of cooking. But once you become a mother you become aware of all the tiny little things. I became more aware to teach my daughters the root of our culture and found food is one of the most interesting contributions of it. I wanted my children to know their culture well and loved the way our each Bengali dish interweaves the memories and the stories trailing to us from our great great grandmothers. I love the way the authentic traditional recipes float to us without any change and give us the identity of who we are by birth, by food, and by culture. What was my outlook or my food habit that got lessened because maturity makes us to understand, that unless you know your root well you will be standing in a no man's land. I understood why my Father relocated back in India with us, leaving behind a promising job and a comfortable life. My father is a strong puritan when it comes to his culture and motherland. He wanted his daughters to grow as an educated lady bearing their Bengali culture as their ornaments. I am not sure how much I was able to bear it through to fulfil his dreams, but now the same dream I have woven for my daughters too. I keep on documenting the traditional household Bengali recipes for my daughters, so that when they will grow up they will not miss them out. I also realised that there are so many traditional recipes got lost with the people whom I missed so much to stay in this world alive and help me out in documenting those with the stories related to it. I miss the memories of my grandmother how she used to make each dishes so skillfully, tasty that was also using the less ingredients that a recipe calls for. I missed my Elder Mashi (Maternal Aunty, whom I used call Mamoni). She was a brilliant cook and till her death I saw her using homemade masalas made by her own. I never thought of documenting those when she was alive. But now I realised what treasure she has taken with her and what I missed.
Macher Dimer Bora or Fish roe fritter is something that is one of the most common dishes of any Bengali household cooking. My MIL makes a sumptuous curry out of it. Please check the note for the recipe. I thought of documenting this recipe for the fiture reference for my kids.
Ingredients:
Machher Dim or Fish roe: 100gm (Rohu /Katla)
Onion finely chopped - 1 small
Ginger finely chopped / paste - 1/2 tspn
Coriander Leaves finely chopped - 2 tspn
Turmeric powder- a pinch
Flour - 1 - 2 tbspn (More or less - As per requirement)
Green Chili finely chopped - 1 (More or less - as per your taste)
Salt and pepper as per taste.
Mustard Oil - As much needed for deep frying
Method:
1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients except the flour and mix nicely. 
2. Heat enough oil for deep frying in a Kodai. Make sure the oil should be piping hot.
3. Slowly mix the flour in small amount unless it is ready to hold for frying. To test it, take a tiny portion from it and put it in the hot oil. If it is floating then it is ready.
4. Now take small portions from the dough giving a roll in shapes of a ball by your one hand only and then put it in the piping hot oil. In the medium flame keep on frying unless the fritters turn brown. Serve hot with Rice and Dal.
Note:
1. You can add chopped spring onion, a pinch of cumin and coriander powder to make it more tasty.
2. My MIL often makes a curry out of it. Just adding ginger paste and chopped tomato in little oil. When the tomato is well blended she adds a paste of cumin, turmeric, coriander and red chili powder. If one wants potato cane be added too. Then she adds water and it comes to boil the fritters are added. She adds salt to taste and a some whole chilies. That's all.