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Spicy crab curry – in a pinch

17 Jul

When it rains, I craaaave crabs. Even when it’s quite dry, I pine for the spicy crab curry we ate at home in Calcutta on rainy afternoons especially during the monsoons. So I couldn’t resist the temptation when I found packs of rock crab claws being sold at Market Basket cheap. Dang it, I would make myself a crab curry. My treat.

It didn’t take long and it wasn’t complicated and despite it being the wrong kind of crabs and wrong kind of weather, it ended up being the right kind of taste. Here’s my vaguely remembered, slightly simplified recipe, step-by-step.

1. Buy crabs. These were the rock hard kind that I cracked in advance but thinner shells work better.

2. Add a spoonful each of salt, red chili powder and turmeric powder and mix well. More chili if you want it to be more spicy – I know I do.

3. Peel and dice a potato or two and toss in with the crabs and masala.

4. Grind up the ingredients you’ll need for the curry — red onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies.

5. Heat some oil in a wok and lightly toss the spice-coated crab and potatoes pieces on high heat for a couple minutes and put aside.

6. Add the ground paste to the oil with some whole garam masala – cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon stick – and toss until the paste is brown.

7. After oil separates, throw in the crabs and potatoes and toss well. Add a sprinkling of salt and sugar.

8. After it is fairly dry and beginning to stick, add a tumbler of hot water and cook on low heat. Throw in some split green chilies and frozen peas for taste and heat. Continue reading


Shaarodiyaa Shubhechha and delicious bhog

20 Oct

Once a year Maa Durga comes down to earth to remind Bengalees of the power of Shakti and the triumph of good over evil.

Myths aside, Durga Puja is a great time to celebrate a new season and share yummy traditional food with family and friends.

Bhog, a tasty mix of rice and lentils cooked together with ghee and spice is offered first to the goddess and then to the devotees. Entire neighborhoods cook and serve giant vats of it at the pujo pandals in Calcutta this time of the year. It is most often paired with a mixed vegetable dish, fried eggplants or begun bhaja, crunchy papar and sweet tomato chutney.

My favorite version is a moist, almost runny, spicy khichuri bhog (the one shown here is what I ate at the Boston pujo this year – a drier version):

•    1 cup Gobindobhog rice ( or any small-grained rice)
•    2 tbsp ghee
•    ½ cup Moong dal (split green gram)
•    ¼ cup green peas (optional)
•    1 tbsp ginger paste
•    1 stick cinnamon
•    1 cardamom pod
•    2-3 cloves
•    1 tsp red chili powder
•    1-2 bay leaves
•    1/2 tsp panch phoron ( a mixed spice found in Indian stores)
•    2 green chilis (sliced if you like it hot)
•    1 tomatoes
•    Salt to taste
•    1 pinch sugar
•    1 tsp turmeric powder

•    Dry roast the moong dal till it emits a roasted aroma. Add rice and wash both thoroughly.
•    Pour some ghee (or vegetable oil) in a wok
•    Add cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, panch-phoron and fry
•    Add green chili, ginger paste, red chili powder, salt, turmeric and stir
•    Add peas, tomatoes and stir
•    Add the washed rice and moong dal to the vegetables, pour sufficient water and let cook till the rice and lentils become soft.
•    It should have a porridge-like consistency so add more water if required.
•    Serve hot with some ghee on top.

A Bengali meal and mishti doi recipe

24 May

A spread at Rekha-di's in Lexington, MA

We Bengalees love our food and our courses. Thank heavens I have relatives here who feed me the kidn of meals that make me homesick. Here is a traditional weekend spread that I recently devoured.

Clockwise from top left there was fried rice, boiled rice, daal – spiced boiled lentils, chicken with peppers, mango chutney, fish curry, vegetable curry and fish chops.

Mishti Doi

But my favorite was the moutwatering mishti doi (homemade sweet yogurt/curds), served in a clay pot just like they do in stores in Kolkata.

Want to make some? Here’s an easy recipe:

– 1 can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
– 1 can (12 oz) Evaporated Milk
– 1 cup plain white yogurt

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a flat oven-safe container (or a clay earten pot if you have one. Bake at 200 degrees F for about 1 hr 15 mins. or till it sets. Cool and refrigerate before serving.
Apparently, even ancient Vedic texts refer to these curds and as “food of the Gods.” Mmmm.

A mound of meat at Redbones

11 May

If you are really hungry and are looking for a good deal, try a Redbones lunch special sandwich. It comes with a mound of meat (worth two sandwiches, really) and plenty of fixin’s at a mere $6.50 – truly gastronomical! Here’s my mouth-watering pulled pork:

If you are in the area, don’t forget their Happy Hour for half-price apps, Mon-Fri, 4-6 p.m. They also have some nifty recipes online.

A tasty, healthy fish snack

9 Mar

This recipe is courtesy of my friend Nandita in New York who says:

Here’s my go to recipe when I am feeling a bit lazy but still want to impress my guests with a delicious and healthy dish.

Tilapia en papillote

Tilapia fillets: Medium sized, one per person
Bell peppers: Green, red, orange & yellow
Tomatoes: Cherry or grape tomatoes

Season the fillets with salt and pepper. I like to use Hawaiian salt. And if I am feeling particularly exciting, I add a bit of cumin and cayenne pepper. Place it on a piece of parchment paper (aluminium foil works too) big enough to fold around the fish with some room to spare.

Slice the bell peppers and lemon into thin rings and arrange them on top of the fish. Use the colors, make it pretty. Top it off with the tomatoes, sliced in half. And finally the scallion, thinly sliced. Add some salt and pepper for the veggies. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top.

Fold the paper/foil around it and seal it, not too tightly. The idea is to create a pocket that traps the steam and cooks in it. Place the pockets on a tray.

Preheat the open to 375 and put the tray in for 10 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of your fillets and the thickness of veggies. Poke the fish with a knife to see if it is white all the way through. Add time in 5 minute increments if necessary.

Serve with rice, couscous or quinoa.

(You can use vegetables of your choice. I have done it with whatever I have at home – Bok Choy, Zucchini, Sugar Snap Peas etc.)