Thursday, May 8, 2008

A not-so-Bihari-platter

OK, the title misrepresents the facts; the platter should be referred to as the not-at-all-Bihari platter. So, why am I posting this here? I have two reasons:
  • The platter looked colorful and needed to be posted somewhere.
  • I have only one blog on food.

A few days ago, this is what we ate for dinner.

Click the image for a clearer view.

A's platter looked a bit different with a chicken-leg piece having made its way there. The chicken leg piece was boiled for 10 mins with pepper, salt, and a pinch of chilli powder.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The quintessential matar ghoogni: The simplest version

Biharis are known for cooking a variety of ghoognis. A ghoogni is a spicy preparation of any kind of matar or chana (peas). Biharis love peas! For breakfast, Biharis eat rotis/parathas/puris with a ghoogni of chana/hara chana/matar/chola/kabli chana (chick peas). Ghoogni is a term used in the Bengali cuisine too.

I will discuss the recipe of the simplest matar (peas) ghoogni here.

You will need: a bowlful of fresh or frozen peas (no canned variety), one medium-sized potato, cubed; one medium-sized onion, chopped; half a teaspoon of crushed ginger (adrak); a couple of green chillies, chopped; two pinches of turmeric (haldi); half a teaspoon of cumin seeds; two tablespoons of oil; pepper and salt.

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the cumin seeds to the hot oil.
  3. When the cumin splutters, put the onion, the ginger, and the green chillies in the oil.
  4. Saute the mixture for two minutes.
  5. Add the turmeric.
  6. Saute the mixture on medium heat for five-ten minutes.
  7. Put the peas in the pan.
  8. Add the salt and pepper.
  9. Keep stirring till the potato is cooked.
  10. Serve hot with rotis, puris, or fried chuda (flat rice, chivda, chiwda, poha, avalakki).

This dry ghoogni is served with fried chuda as an evening snack. Let's see how you can make the fried chuda. You will need: a bowlful of flat rice (any variety); one green chilli, finely-chopped; a 1-cm cube of ginger, crushed; a tablespoon of oil, preferably ghee (clarified butter); and salt.

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the chilli and the ginger to the oil.
  3. Saute for a few seconds.
  4. Add the chuda.
  5. Saute the mixture till the chuda starts turning golden.
  6. Take the chuda off the heat and spread on a kitchen napkin.

This can also be preserved for days if kept in an airtight glass jar.

If you are going to eat it immediately, you can spice up the chuda by adding chopped onions to the chilli and ginger while frying.

Personally, I love the ghoogni with plain fulkas or rotis.

Last evening's snack - Vegetable pakodas and pumpkin bachkas

Last evening, hubby and I craved for home-made pakodas, and I made some in a hurry. The qualifier is necessary because the shape and texture of the pakodas weren't very good. (Check the pic!)

Let me give you the recipe of these.
For the batter, I mixed besan (gram flour), mangraila (nigella seeds/onion seeds), haldi (turmeric), finely chopped adrak (ginger), red chilli powder (you may replace this with finely chopped green chilies) , and salt. I cut brinjal, capsicum, onions into medium thin pieces. I also made chilli pakodas; I made a vertical slit in the chillies before dipping them in the batter. I dipped the vegetable pieces in the batter one by one and deep-fried them in hot vegetable oil. Pakodas, however, taste the best when fried in mustard oil, as any Bihari or Bengali will tell you.

I also got hold of some kumrah/kohnra (pumpkin) last night and made konrah bachkas. I cut the pumpkin into thin slices (Thick slices won't cook well and don't taste that good.). I mixed a couple of spoonfuls of rice powder with some salt, red chilli powder, and a spoonful of water. I rubbed both the sides of the pumpkin slices with this mixture and deep-fried them. These bachkas are typically served with a meal, not as a snack. 'Bachka' is a term similar to the term 'pakoda'. Other bachkas are prepared in completely different ways.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Bihari Kadhi

India has a variety of kadhis, from different parts of the country. The Bihari kadhi is a one that uses badi (pakoda) dumplings. It is considered inauspicious in Bihar to prepare plain kadhi without any dumplings.

For the badi, you need: a cup of gram flour (besan), chopped green chillies, asafoetida (hing), baking powder, oil for frying, and salt.
For the kadhi, you need: two tablespoons of besan, a cup of thick curd, a couple of red chillies, black mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida, half a teaspoon of chopped ginger (optional), a tablespoon of oil and salt.

  1. Mix gram flour, chopped green chillies, two pinches of asafoetida, two pinches of baking powder and salt with enough water to make a thick batter.
  2. Let the batter stay for an hour.
  3. Make small pakodas with the batter.

  1. Mix two tablespoons of gram flour with water to form a smooth paste.
  2. Add the curd to the paste.
  3. Add two cups of water to the mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add ginger and salt. The ginger is optional. I like this recipe with ginger.
  5. Put this mixture on heat.
  6. As the mixture starts boiling, add the badis.
  7. Boil the kadhi for another ten minutes or till the badis look soft.

  1. Heat some oil in a pan.
  2. Put the mustard seeds, the red chillies and the curry leaves in the oil.
  3. Add a pinch or two of asafoetida.
  4. Take the pan off the fire and pour the tadka over the cooked kadhi.

Kadhi tastes great with plain rice. I enjoy it with rotis too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow-cooked mutton stew

The preparation of this stew requires no water. And no ground spices. You will need: mutton pieces (300 grams or so), one teaspoon (tsp) cumin seeds (jeera), a couple of dried red chillies (lal mirch), a couple of bay leaves (tej patta), two brown cardamoms (badi ilaychi), three-four green cardamoms (chhoti ilaychi), a couple of one-inch sticks of cinnamon (dalchini), five-six cloves (laung), one tsp coriander seeds (dhania), two medium sized onions (pyaaz), a square inch piece of ginger (adrak), two-three cloves of garlic (lahsun), two tablespoons (tbsp) clarified butter (ghee), two tbsp oil (tel), turmeric powder (haldi) and salt (namak). Use a non-stick pan/kadhai.

  1. Chop pyaaz, crush adrak and lahsun. Let the mixer/blender rest. Use a heavy glass bottle to crush the ginger and garlic. You may also use the rolling pin (belan).
  2. Wash the mutton thoroughly and keep it in water for an hour or so. You may need to keep it longer if you are using frozen mutton.
  3. Put the oil in the pan. Put the bay leaves, red chillies and cumin seeds when the oil is hot. [Did I mention the stove and the fire?]
  4. When the seeds splutter, add the brown and green cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Sauté this a little and add the coriander seeds.
  6. Add the chopped onions, crushed ginger and garlic.
  7. Put turmeric and salt into the pan.
  8. Sauté the spices for a couple of minutes before adding the mutton pieces.
  9. Fold the mutton into the spices and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  10. Mix a tbsp clarified butter.
  11. Cover the pan with a lid and let the mutton cook. Keep checking the mutton every five-ten minutes and mix with a ladle.
    It will take an hour or so for the mutton to cook. However, it may take less time depending on the quality of the mutton. Biharis add some chopped raw papaya for the mutton to cook faster. Try it. It works.
    You don’t need water as the onion and the juices from the meat are enough for this stew.
  12. After taking the pan off the fire, add a tsbp of clarified butter.

Serve this stew hot with rice, rotis or puris. You may try this with the unstuffed kachauri, the recipe for which was posted earlier.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The dilemma

Thanks for your e-mails and comments. They will keep this blog going.
When a friend heard of this blog, he asked, "What are you going to put in this blog? What can you put as special and exclusively Bihari?" This friend of mine is a Bihari. I laughed and said, "There are a dozen of things that we take for granted as normal 'ghar ka khana', least realizing that these comprise the Bihari cuisine." As I spoke to him, I thought of adding recipes for pedakias, thekuas, bachkas, kachrees, khaja, shakkarpara, littis, murabbas, and a countless other Bihari delicacies whose names I cannot recall now. However, as promised, I am going to add a recipe as and when I cook something. Needless to say, I will not be posting as often as I would like to, given the lack of availability of desi ingredients in pardes. I cook Indian food almost everyday, but I need to cook Bihari food, that too, authentic, to be able to post it. Hope you will bear with me. Keep writing in to tell me if I should continue with this endeavour.
Let me know if you tried the recipe for the unstuffed kachauri posted earlier.

The unstuffed kachauri

Folks, this one will be called a puri in other places, but Biharis call it kachauri. A namkeen puri is usually referred to as kachauri here. Kachauri-sabji or kachauri-ghoogni is staple Bihari breakfast or supper. I relish this combination, provided someone else makes it for me. It is four times more difficult to make rotis, chappatis, parathas, puris, kachauris than it is to make rice, any kind.

I am surprised I made kachauris for my readership. Well, I was actually craving for them. So, here’s how you make the simplest Bihari kachauri – the unstuffed variety.

Before you begin reading the rest of this piece, I need to acquaint you with two important ingredients of this recipe – ajwain (carom seeds) and mangraila (kala jeera, onion seeds, nigella or kalaunji). The know-all, Wiki tells me that ajwain is also called 'owa' in Marathi, 'vaamu' in Telugu, 'omam' in Tamil, 'ajwana' in Kannada and 'ajmo' in Gujarati. I know it is called ‘jowan’ in Bengali. Get more information on these from here: Ajwain and Mangraila

Mix a spoonful of each with the atta. Add salt to the mixture. Add a couple of spoonfuls of oil. Add water and make a hard dough, like you make for puris. Simple, isn’t it? Use your hands for the right measurements. Less or more does not matter as long as you have all the ingredients in place. However, make sure the amount of salt is appropriate. Next, use the dough to make puris the normal way. You may wonder as to what’s special in these. Taste them and you will know. Enjoy them with any curry you like or with some pickle.

You can use the same dough to make parathas. The parathas are tasteful and less oily. Enjoy the paratha with dahi and achaar.

Monday, January 14, 2008

There is something called the Bihari cuisine too

Hi everyone who has landed here,

I start this blog with the sole purpose of making foodies aware that there exists a cuisine called the Bihari cuisine, which, unfortunately, has not been made popular but deserves to be tasted and appreciated.

In this blog, I will not preach about the Bihari culture or the cuisine. I will not post recipes randomly. What I intend to do is to eat or cook a Bihari specialty and write about it here. With pictures! So you will have honestly written posts on Bihari food. Does it sound interesting? If you do want me to continue with this blog, drop in a comment. If I do not receive a 'yes' from half of the people I will be sending this link to, I will close this blog. Guess that's what happens to the idea of opening a Bihari resturant in any place in the world.

P.S. I guess I will also mention a deadline lest people don't take it seriously!