An old favourite – reimagined….

I had earlier posted about a Kosha Mangsho pie – a dish we had served at one of our supper club evenings that had gone down very well. There were Aussies at that meal of course, and apparently if an Aussie doesn’t like a meat pie, he or she may have their passport revoked! Jokes aside though, some of our other guests were looking for a lower-carb option, and hence we decided to take the chops route, like we do with our Kolhapuri mutton, for a modern, Western style of the plating.

The Kosha Mangsho (roughly translated, mutton with a thick gravy), done well is a thing of beauty, and while we didn’t grow up having this much at home – my grandmother and mother preferring to cook the healthier, paatla jhol (or the more ‘soupy’ mutton curry). This was clearly a treat when we would eat out. It is dark, almost black, and the proof of its richness for me is that when I overdo it – especially in my recent advancing years – is that I need a Gelusil soon after.

I find the key to a good Kosha Mangsho is to rely on the main stars of the dish – the mutton, the browned onions that form the base (called beresta), the basic masalas, and patient, step-by-step cooking. That’s it. No messing around with too many other spices, tomatoes or any other additions. And when it comes out right, it is a lovely, thick brown-black gravy with all the flavours of the mutton, the heat from the spices and the sweetness from the caramelised onions locked in. It normally gets served with a nice dose of luchis (deep fried bread)/ rice / chapattis to deal with the richness, but we decided to combine it with a fresh beetroot raita (mixed with yoghurt) panna cotta to cut the richness, along with a coriander and mint sauce and a beetroot puree. The flavors and the colors seemed to come together nicely for me and from the reactions from our guests.

Aniruddha

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The recipe :

Kosha mangsho chops

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg mutton (kid) chops – typically 2 racks of ribs with 16 ribs in total for 8 double rib portions in all, cleaned and frenched.

For the marinade:

  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard oil

Whole spices for garam masala:

  • 4-5 green cardamoms
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon (1 inch each)
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 peppercorns

Beresta:

  • 6-7 medium sized onions – sliced and caramelised with a little sugar to a deep brown colour (onions should deep brown – almost black, but soft and not burnt)

Other Spices

  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 green chilies – sliced lengthwise
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp of cumin powder
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil as per requirement

Procedure:

Marinade:

Make a smooth paste of the onions, turmeric, garlic, ginger and green chillies, salt and a little sugar. Marinate the mutton chops with yoghurt, the spice paste, salt and the 2 teaspoons of mustard oil for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator

The cook:

Heat mustard oil in a pressure cooker or thick cast iron vessel, add the bay leaves and the whole garam masala spies till they sputter and release their aroma. Add the 2 additional sliced green chillies. Add the marinated mutton (just the chops, not the marinade) and seal the chops quickly on a high heat (in batches if it crowds the vessel). Add the fried onions, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder, and mix well. Season some more with salt and sugar and taste.

Add about a cup of water to the bowl with the remaining marinade in the bowl, mix it and pour it over the mutton and onions. In a pressure cooker, make sure they cover the mutton (if required, place them flesh side down in the liquid – or they’ll dry up). Pressure cook for 20 minutes / slow cook in a covered heavy vessel for 3-4 hours, adding little liquid from time to time to make sure it doesn’t dry up.

Get ready for plating:

Leave the chops refrigerated in the curry overnight (like a post-cook brine!) and the flavours develop nicely. On the day of the dinner, heat it gently in the microwave to loosen the gravy, take out the chops and then remove the bay leaves and the larger pieces of garam masala. Whizz the gravy in the blender to create a smooth sauce. I have tried to strain it, but I find I loose too much of that wonderful onion and prefer the thicker sauce.

Heat the chops (gently, else they will fall off the rib bones) and plate it with a spoonful of the sauce.

Beetroot raita panna cotta:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large beetroots / 3 medium beetroots
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 3 gelatin sheets
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Method:

Peel and cook through the beetroots (in the microwave or I prefer to pressure-cook them), whizz in the blender to create a thick pulp. Season with salt and sugar and save some of this in a squeeze tube for plating as a puree (about 2-3 tablespoons)

In a saucepan, add the remaining seasoned beetroot pulp, the yogurt and cumin powder – taste and adjust the seasoning (go easy on the sugar as the beetroot will bring a fair bit of sweetness). Measure out the mix – should be about 500 ml (add a little more yoghurt to bring it up to the measure if required). Start heating up the beetroot-yogurt mix at a low heat. The ratio is 250 ml of liquid to 1.5 gelatin sheets if you want to divide or multiply.

Cut up the 3 gelatin sheets into strips and add to the cold water to soften them. Once they are soft, squeeze them out and add it to the heated beetroot-yogurt mix. Stir till the gelatin dissolves.

Brush the cups of a silicon mould sheet / aluminum cups (use relatively small moulds – about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid) very lightly with vegetable oil. Pour the mix in the moulds, and refrigerate for about 8 hours for the panna cotta to set.

Mint sauce:

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mint leaves (just the leaves – no stalks)
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves (just the leaves – no stalks)
  • 1-2 green chilies
  • ½ inch piece of ginger
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and Sugar to taste

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in the small blender vessel and blend into a smooth sauce. Decant into a squeeze tube for plating later.

Combine all the three ingredients – the chops, the beetroot raita panna cotta and plate  – with the beetroot and mint sauces – dots / splashes, go crazy!

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When life hands you coconuts….

Priya has been convalescing these past few weeks, and apparently the path to her wellness is flooded with coconut water, and ergo, the sidewalks littered with coconut shells. I hence decided to use a couple of said shells to satisfy a hankering for some seafood and to cook something that used to be a specialty of my grandmother – Daab Chingri (Prawns cooked in tender coconut).

In this recipe, the prawns are mixed with the spices and condiments – paanch phoron (a Bengali five spice mix) and shorshe baata (ground mustard) – and slow cooked with the prawns inside the sealed coconut shell, for a wonderful coastal version of dum biryani or tagine cooking. My grandmother used to tell me stories of how they would seal up the coconut, tuck it inside the embers of the charcoal fire in the kitchen and get on with the rest of their chores – and by the time they were done – voila! Delicious Daab Chingri. I cannot begin to imagine what that would have tasted like, with her knack for cooking, the fresh produce in her village and the charcoal flavours seeping into the coconut, but my version slow cooked in the daab , in our oven wasn’t half bad either….

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My recipe for Daab Chingri:

For the shorshe baata (mustard paste):

Soak 1 tablespoon mustard seeds in 2-3 tablespoons warm water for 30 minutes to an hour (longer is also ok but at least for 30 minutes). Add 1 raw green chili to the now-softened mustard seeds, and grind into a paste in the food processor (you’ll need an Indian processor that does wet grinding here to do the job) or the traditional Indian grinding stone and pestle (shil noda for the Bengalis)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large tender coconut (daab) – get the vendor to cut open a clean opening at the top and give you the lid; take the water out (for a refreshing drink!), and the flesh scooped out and finely chopped to be used in the dish
  • 500 grams medium-sized prawns, cleaned and de-shelled
  • Salt and Sugar to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons mustard paste (see step above)
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 medium onion paste
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp paanch phoron (ready mix you will get in most Indian provision stores, with a Bengali / Bangladeshi clientele)
  • 1.5 tbsps mustard oil
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees, gas mark 3. Cut the prawns into 2-3 small pieces each (depending on the size), mix with the chopped tender coconut flesh, salt, turmeric powder, 2 teaspoons of mustard oil and set aside for 15-20 minutes as you finish the other steps.
  • Cook down the onion, ginger and garlic paste with the vegetable oil (to avoid too much mustard flavor – if you don’t mind, knock yourself out and use mustard oil for this too) till they are soft, mixed together, and have lost the raw smell.
  • Heat the remaining mustard oil and add the paanch phoron once the oil is hot – remove from the flame right away as it will start sputtering immediately. (be careful not to overheat it as the fenugreek seeds in the paanch phoron tends to burn quickly and turn bitter).
  • Slit the fresh green chilies lengthwise, and combine the marinated prawns, shorshe baata (mustard paste), onion, garlic and ginger paste, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and the mustard oil with the tempered paanch phoron in a bowl and stuff this mix into the empty daab (tender coconut) shell.
  • Seal the coconut with the lid and aluminum foil around it and place it in a roasting tray filled with a couple of inches of water (to create steam in the oven and not let the coconut shell burn) and place it in the centre of the oven.
  • Let it cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Take it out and check – depending on the size of the tender coconut and therefore, its thickness, the prawns should either be close to being done or be still par cooked with a strong raw mustard taste. If it needs more time, put it in for another 30 minutes till done. Then switch off the oven and keep the coconut in the still-hot oven for another 30 minutes to an hour – the prawns will keep combining with the flavours in the shell and soak up all the coconutiness of the shell over this time. Serve with steamed rice.

At the last supper club, we added the Bengali tomato chutney to the plating which complemented the pungency of the mustard very well, as was evidenced by the enthusiastic feedback and speed at which the contents of the coconut was emptied! 🙂

Aniruddha

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The supper club pilots

Over the course of last year, we have done many trials of our supper club to check if the concept, the menu, the food, the courses, the quantities and the overall experience worked for our guests as much as it seemed to work out in our head!

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive giving us the confidence to finally launch the Bombay Howrah Dining Car 🙂

Here’s a look at the many dishes and fun evenings we’ve had so far…and here’s to many more to come.

Priya & Aniruddha

 

 

 

 

Eat sesame, say sweet things!

Today is Makar Sankranti, a festival celebrated across India to mark the beginning of spring and the harvest season. In Maharashtra we celebrate the festival by making sweets from sesame and when we offer the sweets to family or friends, we say ‘til gul ghyaa, goad goad bola’ which means enjoy the sesame and jaggery and say sweet things.

At home my grandmother and mother would make tilachi wadi or sesame and sugar syrup sweets. They would roast the sesame over a low heat till it released a fragrant smell and then grind it. Then make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water and once it reached the needed consistency they would add the ground sesame into it, mixing it well to make a soft paste. My job was to then take the old wooden moulds we had and press the still warm sesame mixture out into little blocks and then top them with grated dry coconut. Such a simple recipe yet so delicious. Back then I could easily eat a couple of these sweets in a day but of course now I could manage only 1-2.

While the occasion of Makar Sankranti deserves a more worthy food post, not having made any tilachi wadi or til gul (sesame sweets or sesame & jaggery brittle) the only thing I could write about are these Sesame lavosh that I serve with our mezze platter. Made from a simple mix of flour, canola and sesame oil, black and white sesame and salt, they are super easy to make and taste absolutely amazing.

Perhaps later today I might make my semolina and sesame cake at home 🙂

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Sesame lavosh

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Sesame lavosh cut into slices

A solo hosted dinner party

After a hiatus of a month, due to family visits and a holiday, it was back to having a dinner party at home. As Aniruddha was traveling, I decided to host an all women evening and had to cook everything on my own! It was a challenge worth taking, since it really gave me a good understanding of how to prepare each dish, what to prep before hand, how much time each dish was taking right down to plating and serving. Lots of little lessons learnt that need to be applied for the next dinner in a week’s time.

The menu had a couple of new additions – to start people off with the flavours of Marathi and Bengali food, I decided to introduce a mezze platter featuring some classic dishes. And instead of doing a combination of things for the main dish, I decided to plate up two different mains. The Prawn Malai curry followed by the Kombdi cha rassa.

The evening went off very well and I was really happy at having being able to manage everything on my own, right down to having printed menus to little tomato raisin chutney bottles with the Bombay Howrah stickers, as keepsakes.

The Masala chai pannacotta was again the highlight of the evening. Amongst the new dishes, the spiced pumpkin and yoghurt was well received as was the savoury cucumber pudding – my little reinvention of a simple cucumber raita.

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Menu

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The Marathi and Bengali mezze platter – chargrilled eggplant, spiced pumpkin and yoghurt, beetroot chop with mustard sauce, Sago patties with coriander-yoghurt sauce and sesame crackers

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Tomato saar – tomato and coconut milk soup

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Prawn Malai curry with rice and tomato-raisin chutney

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Kombdi cha rassa (chicken curry) with polenta and savoury cucumber pudding

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Mango shrikhand tart with chocolate ganache and pistachios

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Masala chai pannacotta with ginger syrup and ginger molasses biscuit

takeaway bottles

Tomato Raisin chutney bottles as a keepsake

Galouti Kebab with Sheermal

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When a kebab’s name literally translates as ‘melting’, the expectations are set pretty high. Add to it the fact that this particular kebab is among the top stars of an already star-studded Lucknow culinary tradition, and those expectations get multiplied manifold. So I have always attempted the Galouti kebab with the respect and nervousness it deserves. And while it isn’t even within waving distance of anything you’d taste from a half-decent cook in India, I quite like what I manage to whip up. It is made with spiced mutton mince with the protein broken down to the point that it should almost melt in your mouth. I have had some back home that I think I could have sucked down with a straw!

I chop the mince again to make it even finer and tenderise the meat with a bit of raw papaya (only a little, so it doesn’t taste of papaya), add fat to the mince with the spices, and finally infuse some smoke in it by letting the mince sit in a sealed bowl with a piece of smouldering charcoal. And then you’re ready to pan fry the soft, smoky, spicy kebabs.

This time, I attempted a Sheermal to go with the kebabs, a flat bread prepared with milk and saffron, that is soft, a little sweet and complements the spices of the kebabs very well. A dollop of sour cream and coriander on top rounded off the dish nicely. ‘Indian burritos!’ as one of our friends, called it, as she tucked into it with a fair bit of enthusiasm. A rose by another name, and all that…doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you like it.

Aniruddha

A dinner party at home!

A week ago we had work colleagues over for dinner, who were a mix of vegetarians and non vegetarians. We combined some classic Marathi and Bengali dishes with a couple of twists to cater to everyone’s dietary preferences and decided to do a plated, sit-down dinner!

It was a great success! Many of the regional dishes were new for them and the twists we put on some of the classics went down really well. And the winning dish of the night? The masala chai pannacotta served in a classic Mumbai-style tea glass complete with the tea stall owner’s metal and plastic carrier. The idea of having something as ubiquitous as masala tea and biscuit converted into this whimsical dessert was a wonderful surprise.

Our menu that night:

  • Sabudana vada: Fried sago patties with coriander & yoghurt dressing
  • Thalipeeth: Savoury flatbread served with sour cream and gol keri (aged sweet mango chutney)
  • Chingri cutlet: Crumbed and butterflied tiger prawns with kashundi (Bengali mustard sauce)
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Non vegetarian appetizer – Fried sago patties with coriander and yoghurt sauce and Prawn cutlets with mustard sauce

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Vegetarian appetizer – fried sago patties with coriander and yoghurt sauce and savoury flat bread with sour cream and aged mango sauce

Tomato saar (v): Tomato and coconut milk flavoured with curry leaves and cumin

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Tomato and coconut milk flavoured with curry leaves and cumin

  • Kombdi cha rassa: Roast chicken in a fragrant gravy defined by toasted kashmiri red chillies, whole spices and curry leaves
  • Prawn Malai curry: prawns cooked with coconut milk, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon
  • Dudhi ani kaju: Bottle gourd cubes in coconut milk and cashews
  • Parsi-style Vangi bhareet: Chargrilled aubergine with yoghurt, cashews and sesame
  • Chenar Dalna: Cottage cheese dumplings in a tangy tomato sauce
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Non vegetarian main – Rice with prawn malai curry, chicken in fragrant gravy and bottle gourd with cashews


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Vegetarian main – rice with bottle gourd & cashews, chargrilled aubergine and cottage cheese dumplings in a tangy tomato sauce

  • Masala chai pannacotta: Cooked cream flavoured with spiced tea and served with a ginger syrup and ginger molasses crumble
  • Patishapta: Indian pancakes with jaggery and coconut filling served with a raspberry, pink peppercorn and rose water sauce and pistachios
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Masala chai pannacotta

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Pancakes with jaggery and coconut filling with raspberry, pink peppercorns and rose water sauce