Tuesday, October 7, 2014


The best  and worst part of time is that it changes. So while we sulk over a bad day or a bad hour, it passes over to bring in sunnier days. But this transition is not magic. What comes to the rescue are memories of happier times, memories of craziness. And its a happy memory of an amazing trip, which saved my baking disaster.

I was a bit disturbed over certain matters, I had been blaming myself for things I had not done over the past few years and all that jazz. Kind of a philosophical low down with oneself. I decided to divert my mind, and get to baking. But as 'WillieWonka once said, that his Candies did not taste good, when he did not feel good. I am no Willie Wonka,but its the same case for me. The disturbed mind, resulted in a slightly over baked Cheese Cake. We had just shifted to our new home. And I was so used to slow baking power of the oven in our old apartment,that I did not pay heed to the fact that the new oven in the new home should be more powerful . I might need to adjust baking times or how much I was pre-heating. Big Mistake !!

This was a Cheese Cake I had been planning for days. Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. It just spells decadence all the way. And Cream Cheese. and Graham Crackers. You cannot go wrong with that, can you ?! It seemed I had.

 I wanted to trash the entire Cheese Cake, once I came face to face with the cracks. I was so disgusted with myself. But then better sense prevailed. I decided to let the Cheese Cake cool over night, after I had taken it out of the Spring form pan. Maybe sleeping over it, would help me think better. 

That's exactly what happened. I woke up with memories of a trip to New Mexico. We had visited a small Chocolate Shop in Santa Fe. Kakawa Chocolate House. The lady who owned it, was surely 'Willie Wonka,' in Flesh and Blood for me. The flavors she had  paired with chocolate were just divine. It should be on the must visit list for every Chocolate lover. While we had been on a tasting spree, what really had stayed with us, were the Ancho Chili Chocolates. I had never tasted Chili and Chocolate together, and it was just divine.

So why not whip up a batch of Chocolate Chili Butter cream , to frost the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. A southwestern touch which would not clash with the south of the border Dulce de Leche taste. The morning did not seem bad at all. What an inspiration !! The benefits of taking a crazy number of holidays a year !!

Mindy, my Cake Decorating Teacher would probably frown at the fact, that I had decided to give Shortening a complete Miss. I was playing to the heart, so butter it was all the way. Since it was not an elaborate decoration, but simple swirls, I was assuring myself that probably we could sail through. A hint of Cinnamon. A pinch of Salt. A smidgen of Cayenne Pepper. Yes, you heard that right. Cayenne has this extra warmth,which I prefer, among chilies. And loads of confectioner's sugar. Whizz went the hand mixer and in no time, I had frosted the center of the cake. Not a bad camouflage to the cracks below it. In my mind, I was breathing a sigh of relief, that I had not trashed the Cheese Cake and given another chance. 

The best part, was how well it all tasted together. I had been sure that Cheese Cake would be completely dry as I had over baked it. But it was surprisingly moist. The frosting just nailed it big time. One bite and I knew I had to make it again very soon. This time, I would surely adjust the baking time.


Cake recipe courtesy:  Huffington Post

Ingredients : 
Graham Cracker Crumbs: 1 1/4 cup
Brown Sugar: 1/4 cup
Dulce de Leche: 1/4 to 1/2  can

Cream Cheese: Softened: 2 pkgs
Dulce de Leche: 1 can
Eggs: 4
Flour: 1/3 cup
Vanilla extract: 1 tbsp
Salt : A pinch

Butter: 2 sticks: room temperature
Powdered sugar: 2 1/2 cups
Semi sweet Chocolate chips: 3 oz
Cayenne Pepper: 1 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Salt: A pinch

Springform pan: 9 inch
Wilton Tip number 16
Piping Bags


Pre-heat oven to 300 F .

Crush the Graham Crackers by putting them in a zip lock bag, and sealing them. Then run a rolling pin over the sealed bag, till all the crackers are crushed. Mix Graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and molten butter in a large bowl.

Grease a 9 inch spring form pan, and lay out the graham cracker mixture. Ensure that its a uniform flat layer by pressing it all down.

Open your can of Dulce de Leche.

Pour out a quarter of a cup of the Dulce de Leche over your layer of Graham cracker crumbs. Smooth it out carefully with a spatula.

Whisk the room temperature Cream Cheese till it is fluffy. 

Add in the rest of the Dulce de Lechhe, and mix well.

Add in the eggs one by one, vanilla and the flour.

Do not over mix. Pour it out carefully over the crust.

Bake in a pre-heated oven upto 40 mins(or upto 1 hour). Cake will be a bit soft and jiggly in the middle. Over baking might lead to cracks. Adjust the baking time, according to the power of your oven. While the recipe had called for baking the cake for 1 hour, it had led to cracks in my cake. So I lowered the baking time, the next time around.

Let the cake cool down overnight or for a couple of hours.

Run a spatula around to loosen the cake from the sides of the spring form pan,

While the cake cools down, prepare the Frosting.

Mix in the Frosting ingredients, and mix well till fluffy and smooth. ensure that its Medium Consistency.

Attach Wilton Tip 16 with a  coupler to a disposable piping bag.

Fill it in with the prepared Buttercream Frosting

Hold the bag at 90 degree angle.

Form a star, and without releasing pressure, raise tip slightly as you form a tight circle over the star in a tight complete rotation. Pull tip away, continuing the circular motion of the rosette.  

Bon Appetit !!! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Happy new Year People !!! Its a bit late, I know, but we are still in the first quarter of the year. So do accept my super late wishes. Hopefully the year started with a bang for everyone. It almost did for me. I am planning a trip to india, and what can be a bigger high than that !!

 Its been ages since I wrote. So today I said to myself, lets write. Even though I am still in the middle of cooking, I convinced myself that I can type away.

I have been cooking almost every alternate day. Also diligently taking photographs. But when it comes to putting it all together, I have been a tad lazy. So I am not going to bring on the new Mom cribbing anymore, as its more than 10 months. So I thought, why not begin this year's writing quota with a very popular Bengali delicacy: Potoler Dolma . Don't confuse it with the Greek Dolma. It something totally different. Cored pointed gourd, are stuffed and then they are simmered in a rich gravy.Its one of those dishes, which you cannot make everyday, as it involves some prep work and time. But surely something, which every Bengali worth her/his salt, loves without a doubt.

We do not get Potol at our neighborhood grocery store, so we have to wait for it, till we drive down to the desi/Indian stores. Whenever we do manage to go there on Fridays, we pick it up. Why only Friday, you might ask?! Well, the fresh stock of vegetables comes in on Friday afternoons, with treats like Potol or baby Okra. And if you are late, or act lazy, then they just fly off the shelves, in no time. So sometimes picking up mere veggies you grew up with, needs almost a Game-Day like prep. After all this trouble(read: Co-orodinating Baby's schedule with all this madness), if we can lay our hands on some Potol, we try and make something special. So that at least its worth the trouble. While Potol can be cooked numerous ways, the more tedious recipe, is my favorite: Potoler Dolma.

When it comes to the choice of stuffing,sky is the limit. You can customize it, while keeping with the basic Bengali flavors. You can either keep it vegetarian, or do otherwise. While the obvious choice is cooking the cored out insides of the Potol with some shredded coconut, mustard paste, chili powder and then grinding it all together. That makes for a pretty decadent stuffing or sure. But if you are like, you will surely up the ante a bit more. How does Chopped Shrimp sound? It just spells magic in this particular preparation. So lets not waste any more time, and let the pictures do the talking.


Potol/Pointed gourd: 10-12
Prawns: A handful
Mustard paste: 1 to 2  tbsp(according to how hot you want it to be)
Red chili Powder: According to Heat preferences. If you still want the color but not as much heat, then use Paprika.
Shredded Coconut: Frozen/Fresh: 1/4 cup
Coriander Powder
Mustard Oil
Cumin seeds: 2 tsp
Tomato Paste: 2 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Onion-Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2 tbsp


Scrape the pointed gourd in alternate stripes. Be careful not to remove the whole skin.Scrape out the shiny green bit of skin. With a knife, cut at one end, and use a spoon to core out the vegetable. Keep the seeds and the innards in a separate plate.

Heat Mustard oil in a large non stick pan, and lightly fry the cored out Potol. Remove and keep aside. Ensure that the potol is still soft and pliable. Let it cool down.

In the same oil, add in the cored out seeds and flesh, coriander powder, red chili powder, shredded coconut(if using), prawns and onion ginger garlic paste. Fry these on a medium heat, stirring frequently, Season it well.

After a few minutes, add in the mustard paste and mix everything well. Cook this mixture through.

Remove the mixture from the stove top and let it cool down. Blend it all together to form a smooth paste. And then fry it once more for a couple of minutes if you feel it has not been cooked through.

The puree and the fried potol should have both cooled by now. Stuff the potol carefully.

Now in the same pan, start making the gravy or the sauce for the Potol. Add in some mustard oil, and let the cumin seeds splutter. Add in the tomatoes paste, salt, Coriander Powder, Ginger paste and fry the masala well for a couple of minutes.  You can add in a few spritzes of water if you feel your masala might get burnt.

Add in water for a gravy and let it all come to a boil. Carefully introduce the Potol and reduce to a simmer.

Check or seasonings. Let the gravy reduce to a thick consistency and should ideally stick to the potol. Turn off the heat, and serve with hot steamed Basmati rice.

Bon Appetit !!! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I haven't written in what seems like ages. Yet everyday I wake up with an idea or two in my head. But by the time, slumber takes over again for the day, I realize that I haven't yet completed a post.So here I start scribbling again, with a will to complete it.

Keema Pulao anyone?? !!!

Anyone who reads my blog, or knows about my cooking, will be aware of the fact, that Rice Dishes are my biggest nemesis. Pulaos and Biriyanis make me sweat like no other. I am always on the look out for recipes which provide a simple take on complicated Pulaos, but do not compromise on the taste.

So when recently PreeOccupied made her signature Keema Pulav, I knew I had to re-create it yet again. I had first come across this lovely Pulao, when I was heavily pregnant and forever hungry. The fact that it was a one pot meal lured me. I had overcome the initial fear, and given it a try. It was just superb. The rice was not mushy. The meat was perfectly cooked. And the whole kitchen and dinning room weighed heavily with the aroma of decadence on a plate. Thank you so muchPreeOccupied !! You are an absolute darling.

So here we were again. The Makings of Keema Pulao, just when Baby finished her apple sauce dinner. The best part of this recipe is how quick you can whip it up. If You have already de-frosted the Keema(ground goat or ground beef) earlier, which I did this time. While running chores around the house, I had de-frosted a bag of Ground Goat, in some cold water. Voila, all it needed was some tender love and care to make its way to our plates.

It was a couple of days before my daughter's Annaprashan , and I was running cold sweats in the sub zero temps of the Midwest. Planning and Planning. Making sure everything fell into place on the D-Day. In all these Mega sized plans, dinner made me groan a bit louder than usual. So it had to be one of the easiest and tastiest one pot meals. Finally dinner turned out to be quite a breeze. While Pree's recipe is perfect in very way, every one adapts a recipe to their own taste. So I did too.

As Rice dishes are a scare for me, I decided to go with one of my Mom's age old tips while making Pulao. After washing and  straining the rice, I added some ghee to it, and mixed into the rice with my hands. So that all the rice grains were coated pretty well, with all the ghee. It prevents the rice from sticking to each other, while its getting cooked. Mom swears by it. Secondly, I had heard from a brother in law of mine, that he cooks his Pilafs(as he calls his Pulaos) in Chicken Stock. I had wanted to try that for a long time. So rather than cooking the Pulao in plain water,I decided to opt for Chicken Stock. Thirdly, I was in a hurry as usual, so while adding fried onions would have been better, I added the onions, when the Keema was getting caramelised. Finally, I also added a dash of Cayenne Pepper. Can't help it, I just love me some Cayenne Pepper. Must have some Southern Connection from some previous life. Oh forgot to add, I had run out of mint too. So my version of Keema Pulao only had Cilantro/Coriander Leaves to boast of. I know there are Cilantro Haters in this world, as Ina Garten had pointed out, but I love Cilantro.

So go ahead and give it a try. For cold nights like these, its an awesome dinner.


Recipe Adapated from PreeOccupied

Basmati Rice: 2 cups: Washed and strained
Keema(Ground Goat or Beef): 1 lb
Nutmeg Powder : 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala Powder: 1/2 tsp
Chicken Stock: 3 3/4 cups
Garlic and Ginger Paste: 2 tbsp
Lemon Juice
Cumin seeds
Green Cardamom: 3 -4
Cloves: 3-4
Mace: A little bit
Peppercorns: 10-12
Bay Leaves
Cinnamon Stick: 1/2 inch
Cayenne Pepper: 1/2 tsp( adjust according to heat preferences)
Green Chilies: 2-3 : chopped
Onion: 1 large : Sliced thinly
Cilantro/Corainder Leaves: 1 bunch: Chopped finely


Wash and drain the rice and take a tbsp of ghee and mix it to the rice. Keep it aside

In a non stick pan, add in some more ghee, cumin seeds, whole garam masala, pepper corns, green chilies, bay leaves and let them crackle.

Add in the Keema ,ginger garlic paste, sliced onions and cayenne pepper, and let it all caramelise. Mix well.

Once the meat has been browned, and the onion has turned soft, add in the rice, some more dry garam masala, nutmeg powder and fold everything carefully. Season with salt.

In a microwaveable bowl, add in the rice mixture, chopped cilantro,chicken stock and lemon juice and cover with a cling film. Microwave for 15 to 18 minutes. Check in at 15 minute mark, as rice varieties and microwave brands differ.

Let it rest for a few minutes, before you  remove the cling film and start serving, as the starch congeals a bit.

Dig in !!

Bon Appetit !!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Pujo is here.And with it magic in the air. Even the grey Midwestern sky is all golden and bright for the past few days.As I type away, Saptami Pujo begins in my homeland. I sip my black coffeee, with  my baby babbling in her crib to the  heady dose of Dhak playing on the music system, my city, Kolkata, engulfs itself in the biggest party of the year. Its sheer frenzy which spreads across the state of West Bengal, and to everywhere Durga Puja is celebrated. Its not surprising that every major country in the world, will have some sort of Durga Puja celebrations. As its said, you can take a Bengali out of Bengal, but you cannot take Bengal out of the Bengali.

For the uninitiated, Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the Hindu Bengalis. A five day long affair, which marks the arrival of Goddess Durga along with her four children, to her maternal home on Earth, from her abode in the Himalayas. A celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Pandals housing idols of Ma Durga are created all across. Milling crowds, with sleepless eyes, and unmatched energy levels take to the streets,visiting pandal after pandal. 

If you are one, who is not much of a crowd person, then fear not. The food fest is sure to floor you. The five days of the Pujas have their iconic menus, which are made in most homes.What sets the drool factor, are the make-shift street food stalls which come up. Phuchka tops the list for me always. 

Faraway from my homeland, I get ready to celebrate Durga Puja over the weekend. Here in the US, we do not have the luxury of a 5 day affair. A weekend closest to the actual Pujas is selected, and Bengalis immerse themselves in a similar frenzy. The Dhunuchi Naach is replaced by a dance with incense sticks. But its the same spirit which prevails. Offering Anjali in the morning, to queueing up for Bhog, and indulging good ole Adda,as Ma Durga watches over all of us. Did I mention the new clothes !! Deciding what we will wear on each of the days, is a celebration in itself. Planning goes on months in advance. The right clothes, the right accessories and striking a somewhat co-ordination with your partner. Now with baby in tow, this Puja is extra special for us. Cannot Thank Maa Durga enough for the wonderful gift she has given us. 

While we wait for the weekend, we decided to indulge in some Pujo special delicacies: LUCHI-Shada Alur Torkari -Chholar Daal. Pillowy soft deep fried bread served with a somewhat runny-somewhat dry potato dish flavored with nigella seeds and Chana Daal with shredded coconut. This is a combo which is the usual fare for the first couple of days of the Pujo. Dunking the luchi in the thick Chholar daal, is a decadent experience which defies verbal expression. 

So if you want to have a taste of Pujo special food on your plate, lets get cooking. 

serves: 4


Chana daal: 1 cup
Whole Garam Masala: Cloves, Cinnamon, Green Cardamom
Bay Leaves
Shredded Coconut: 1/4 cup( I use dthe frozen variety, but feel free to use fresh)
Ginger Paste: 1 tbsp
Shukno Lanka: Dried Red Chilies: A few

Boil the Chana Daal, with one and half cup water in the pressure cooker, till it gives off two whistles. 

In a deep pan, add in ghee. Once it melts, throw in the whole garam masala ,shukno lanka and bay leaves and let it splutter.

Add in the boiled daal , season with salt and sugar and add in the ginger paste.

Add some water, if all the water has dried up.Mix well and let it all come to a boil.

Lower heat and add in the shredded coconut and let it thicken. 

Serve with Luchi or white steamed rice.


Potatoes: 2 medium sized
Nigella seeds: 1/2 tsp
Green Chilies
Mustard oil

Dice the potatoes to 1/2 inch cubes. Wash them well. Par boil them,drain and keep aside.

In a pan, add in the mustard oil, and once its hot, add in the green chilies and nigella seeds.

Once they splutter, add in the half boiled potatoes. Season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Add in  1/4 cup of water, and cover and cook. Keep stirring infrequently.

With the back of the cooking spoon, break a few of the potatoes. Check for seasonings. Dry out the cooking liquid.

Serve with Luchi, chapati or parathas.

Bon Appetit !!!