Month: November 2019

Chicken Malaikari for a flavourful meal

Nothing like good old chicken curry to bring warmth to your soul and add flavour to your table on a winter afternoon. Sharing the recipe of my very talented friend Heema Roy Choudhury. Though she sounds humble, she’s a great cook and a painter too. You can check out her paintings at Hearts Work on Facebook. And try this yummy chicken curry with coconut milk for Sunday lunch.

I’m not a foodie and I always want to spend very less time in kitchen but cook delicious meals at the same time using many tips to cook fast. I eat to live but my family lives to eat, let’s put it that way. Even though I can eat almost anything (avoiding few without complaints but if I’m a judge at a cooking contest it will be really difficult to pass my taste bud with a good score.

I love using coconut milk in my recipes and would love to share my favourite Chicken Malaikari.

Ingredients

1. Chicken: 1 kg

2. Onions:2 medium cut into small slices

3. Garlic and ginger paste: 2 tsp each

4. Green chilly paste: 2 nos, can be more or less according to tolerance level. You can also add 1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder for colour.

5. Garam masala (Green cardamom pods -2/3 crushed, cinnamon powder-1 tsp, cloves-2/3 nos, bay leaves -2)

6. Turmeric powder: 2tsp

7. Lemon juice:2 tsp

8. Mixture of mustard oil and refined oil: 4tbs

9. Coconut milk: 1 can (2 cups)

10.Coriander powder-2tsp

11.Cumin powder-2tsp

12.Salt according to taste

13.Sugar-2tsp

METHOD

1.Add turmeric, cumin, coriander, lemon juice, garlic & ginger paste and salt into chicken pieces and mix them well.

2.Now heat oil in a pan. Add garam masala in it and let the aroma come out of it.

3.Next add onions and sugar and fry in low flame for few minutes.

4. Add the chicken. Mix well . Cook for 10- 15 minutes. Then you can cover the pan with a lid and stir occasionally. Cook till checked pieces get softened.

5.After that open the lid and pour the coconut milk and mix well. If required water can be added. Salt is added to taste.

You can serve it with rice, roti, chapati or paratha.

The early winter nip and the choking pollution

There’s little nip in the air. Feel like hugging the blanket little longer in the morning, soaking in the sweet sunshine (whenever there’s sun that is)!

Early winters, I remember the dip in temperature and soft morning dew used to make me so happy once. There was something special about winters, especially the pleasant and gentle early winter. As a girl in Agartala, it was all about feeling the touch of morning dew on the leaves and green grass, clear blue sky, golden sunlight touching my face and melting the morning dew, sitting on the sunlit terrace after school, enjoying the winter veggies, hot milk and other delicacies. Mom would take the woolens out, repair the old sweaters, knit new ones. Dad would get jhola gur (runny jaggery) and fresh oranges from the nearby farms. Often after school we would sit on the terrace and have peanuts and oranges.

After Agartala, I spent two years in Hyderabad. Winters were just pleasant there. Nights would get cold, but days were warm, I somehow missed the chill. Moving to Delhi soon after Hyderabad in early 2000, exposed me to different kind of winter all together. I was completely engulfed in the Delhi fog. Since Hyderabad was not that cold, I didn’t have enough woolens. My cousin took to me shopping to Sarojini Nagar and Dilli Haat for warm clothes and shoes. That was the time when my fashion sense was at its peak though the budget was very limited. I had just started my first job with a meagre salary of Rs. 5000/- and I wanted to buy the whole world with it. I soon realized there were many other expenses besides fashionable clothes, shoes and purses, yet fashion could not be comprised. Hence, being fashionably turned out in winters took many hours of pushing through the crowd in Sarojini Nagar. Finally, I was very happy with the result. I would walk through the dense fog every mornings in my fashionable Sarojini Nagar jackets and boots and then take a DTC bus to work.

Smoggy Gurgaon sky, caputured by my colleague Arjun

I loved the Delhi fogs. There was something mysterious and romantic about them. The feeling on numbness, the low visibility, wondering what lay ahead. On weekends I would spend hours staring dreamily at the foggy landscape, watching the feeble lazy sun finally rise and melt the fog. I so loved hanging out in Dilli Haat and Sarojini Nagar, enjoying steaming momos and hot pakodas and chai. Then, before I knew it, the romantic fog suddenly turned into dirty and polluted smog. The cold air that we once enjoyed and breathed in freely started choking us. We started dreading the dull grey sky. And the saddest part is, we all know what’s causing the deadly pollution, technologies are available but there is absolutely no political will or bureaucratic will to act. We common plebeians’ crib and cry on social media and continue to suffer. There isn’t much we can do any way except voice our opinions, but unfortunately no one’s listening. A friend of mine has developed respiratory problems because of the pollution and has been advised by his doctor to leave the millennium city Gurgaon. “I can’t just leave for three months. My company’s not going to pay me,” he exclaims and continues to suffer.

And what worst tragedy or irony or SHAME is we kept our children locked up at home on Children’s Day. Talking about her 9 nine-year-old daughter’s reaction when she learnt school was shut on Children’s Day, a friend of mine said, “My daughter was all excited last evening. They go to school in colorful outfits of Children’s Day. She was so upset when I told her there will be no school today. ‘Why can’t you control AQI?’, she asked. I didn’t know what to tell her.” Air that you can’t breathe in, is that the gift we are giving our kids on Children’s Day? Is this the legacy we are leaving behind?

The desi lingering sweetness of Gur

While appreciating everything and  everybody in his poem Bhalo Re Bhalo (loosely translated ‘All is Good’), Sukumar Ray, one of the greatest poets and humour writers of our time concludes: “Kintu shobar chaite bhalo, pauruti aar jhola gur” (But the best bet/ Is runny jaggery and bread).

Jhola Gur
Image courtesy Pinterest

The pleasure of dipping bread or roti in jhola gur (runny jaggery or jaggery syrup) and enjoying the sweet, sticky flavour on a winter morning. And once the bread gets over, dipping the finger in jhola gur and licking it, relishing it to the last dribble. As a child jhola gur was one of my most sought-after desserts or sweet sauce. As the days would get colder, we would wait for dad to get a tin (container) of jhola gur from one of the near by farms. We would sit on the dining table expectantly with a bowl waiting for mom to serve a spoonful of jhola gur. It would be followed by hours of licking the bowl clean, with eyes often shut and a satisfied chuckle. The happiness and satisfaction that simple jhola gur brought into our little lives!

Khejur gur or nolen gur

Then there is round kejhur gur or nolen gur and chunks of aakher gur. We would wait for Masi to visit from Kolkata with patali gur, very popular in West Bengal. In Agartala, dominated by East Bengalis, jhola gur and khejur gur were more popular. While jhola gur and khejur gur are from made date palm (khejur) sap, tal patali is made from palm (tal) sap and aakher gur comes from sugarcane (aakh) juice. As kids we would love to suck little cubes of tal patali and khejur gur. The heavenly taste and the heady flavour of this crude desi sweetener can’t be matched by candies that kids crave for nowadays.

Nolen gurer patishapta
Image courtesy YouTube

Khejur gur or nolen gurer payesh (kheer made with nalen gur), nolen gurer pathishapta, nariyel naru made of gur are the sweet delicacies mom makes every winter. I still wait in the kitchen to taste the sweet, warm patishapta as my mom takes it off the tawa. Unfortunately, not many people make patishapta at home anymore and those available in sweet shops just don’t taste the same. But I do love nolen gurer sandesh and roshogolla and other sweets made of nolen gur that sweet shops across Bengal are flooded with. In Delhi you can visit the Bengali sweet shops in CR Park for nolen gur delicacies.

Nolen gurer sandesh
Image courtersy A Homemaker’s Diary

When I visited my Uncle in Chandigarh as a child, my aunt gave me small piece of gur after lunch. Gur helps with digestion so Punjabis have gur after meal, I was told. Later I sampled delicious gur ke parantha. Not just in Bengal and Punjab, gur is popular across India. Maharashtra is the largest producer and consumer of gur, I recently read in Wiki. In Maharashtra, during Makar Sankranti, a dessert called tilgul (sesame seed candy) is prepared with gur. In Gujarat, gur is known as gôḷ and is used during Makar Sankranti for similar preparation called tal na ladu or tal sankli. In rural Maharashtra and Karnataka, water and a piece of gur are given to a person coming home after working under hot sun. Gujratis also make laddus with wheat flour and gur and famous Marathi Puran Poli uses gur. Of course, we are all familiar with gur ki patti, gur ke gajak, moya made with gur and other desi healthy and tasty sweet snacks.

And gur is not just tasty, it has many health benefits. It prevents constipation, boosts immunity, detoxes liver, purifies blood, helps in digestion to list a few. However, like most desi delicacies, gur is not glamourous enough to appeal to the younger lot. A kid today will probably not even look at gur, let alone relish it. We Indians somehow pick western dessert and dishes over traditional Indian cuisine. Perhaps, gur is waiting to be discovered by a western chef to make it a happening sweetener.

The Diwali Hangover

Delhi and most of North India is still hung over from the Diwali revelries. The end of four-day partying, drinking and other festivities does leave a vacuum, on top of it the trauma of returning to work. The depressing fog caused by post Diwali pollution and crop burning doesn’t make things any easier.

Diwali in Jaipur
Photo courtesy Riti Chakraborty

Diwali or Deepavali or the Festival of Light is the most important festival in India, celebrated across the country with much pomp and show. According to Hindu mythology, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after vanquishing Ravana. To celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana and welcome their king back home along with Lakshmana and Sita, people of Ayodhya lit up the city with earthen lamps, diyas

As per another popular belief, Lord Krishna killed the Demon Narakasura, the evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam and released 16000 girls captivated by Narakasura. In Karnataka Diwali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi, triumph of good over evil, observing Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura. Interestingly, both Rama and Krishna are incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Across north India, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped on the night of Diwali. Houses are cleaned and lit up. Though artificial lights are more popular nowadays, people still light diyas. New clothes, feasts, card parties, rangoli, flower decoration, crackers are important part of Diwali celebrations. However, there are lot of variations even here. For Marwaris it’s not just Lakshmi and Ganesha, they worship gold and silver coins on the night of Diwali. “Every Dhanteras we buy coins and add to our existing collection that are kept in the puja room or asana along with the deities. We worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, and these coins on Diwali night,” says my Marwari friend Poonam. Largely a trader community, Marwari’s observe Bahi Khata Visarjan on Diwali (closing the old ledger and opening a new one). Thus, Diwali marks the beginning of a new financial year for this community. Marwaris also light up diyas with different oils on each day. “On Dhanteras we light up diyas with ghee, on Choti Diwali sarso ke tel ke diya and on the day of Diwali we light up diyas with teel tel.” says Poonam.

For us Bengalis, Diwali is about Kali Pujo. We worship the fearsome incarnation of Durga on the dark Diwali night. We do follow the tradition of decorating the house with diyas and lighting crackers. After moving to Delhi, I started buying clay idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh and decorating the house with flowers on Diwali. Assimilating whatever appeals to us, brings about a feeling of positivity, that’s the beauty of our traditions!

Jaisalmer

In Rajasthan, Diwali is a five day affair that starts with Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj. Diwali in the cities of Rajasthan is an unforgettable experience. I was in Jaisalmer this Diwali, the golden city lit up with diyas was a sight to see. Diwali in Jaipur is a grand affair.

City Palace Jaipur
Photo courtesy Riti Chakraborty

The appeal of Diwali goes beyond religion. It’s a festival which has different cultural connotations, yet the spirit of festivity and optimism is something that is celebrated across the country, amongst different communities, a festival that is eagerly awaited each year!!