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Monday, April 25, 2016

Bhapa Doi- the steamy love affair with Yogurt

A Sweet taste of Yogurt from Bengal- Bhapa Doi- Steamed Yogurt with Condensed Milk in 2 Flavor Dimensions- Orange Cardamom Clove infused N Sweet Lime Clove infused Bhapa Doi served with Chironji Praline n Salted Caramel Sauce with Lime

If I have to describe ‘Bhapa Doi’ in simple words, they will be Elegant, Deeply Satisfying N Easy, these three words sum up the existence of this amazing desert for me, well almost.

You know there are some recipes which are no fuss, easy to do and deeply satisfying n very impressive- this is one such recipe that you should have in your pocket, you can go complex with it or keep it just very simple like how it is done in Bengal, all you really need is good rich yogurt, condensed milk, milk at times and that’s all, sometimes you can add powdered cardamom to it.

I don’t know why I didn’t make this dish much before in my life, I only made it for the first time a year back n then I realized what a big beautiful thing was missing from my life, I don’t know why most people don’t talk about it, this is absolutely incredible desert, once you try it you are coming back to it again n again.

Sometimes I wonder how was the origin of this beautiful elegant desert, long ago whoever made it first, back then there was no condensed milk, so she/he must have used milk in the recipe, perhaps she/he had thicken it by slowly simmering over fire, added sugar/ michri or may be jaggery for the sweetness, if this recipe has been created before the cardamom, cinnamon, clove enter the kitchens across Bengal then it wasn’t used, perhaps they would have used mango to give it another flavor, and then pour the whole thing in a covered container and set it within boiling water to get steamed and 20 minutes after it was there in the world- a fantastic culinary surprise.

I have made Bhapa Doi with two kinds of milk; Buffalo milk n Cow milk and both give completely different textures, while the one made with buffalo milk gives more creamy smooth feel, the one made with cow milk is more granular, rough in texture, when you bite into a cow milk bhapa doi you feel like biting into a rasogolla.

There are many differences between buffalo milk n cow milk, buffalo milk has more milk protein, more richer in mineral like calcium, iron, phosphorus, more vitamin A and buffalo milk is much lower in cholesterol than cow milk. The fat content in buffalo milk is higher and the water content lower, the whey proteins in the buffalo milk are more resistant to heat denaturation compared to cow milk, may be this is the reason why steamed yogurt made from buffalo milk stays more creamier n smooth. You can try with both the milk and see the results and let me know if this matches mine.

Here in this post I have shared pictures of the 2 versions, the one with the orange on top is the one made from yogurt made from buffalo milk, and if you look closely you can see the texture feels smoother with very few bubbles while the cow milk bhapa doi looks more porous n uneven on the surface.

You must n I repeat you must try this recipe and with both milks if possible and you will only bite into an incredible desert, so now I’ll take you to the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Orange Cardamom Clove version:
Yogurt made from Buffalo Milk -250gm or / 1 ½ cup
Condensed Milk- 150-200gm or / ¾ cup
Buffalo Milk-100gm or / ½ cup
Orange zest- from 1 orange, grated
Green cardamom- 1 slightly roasted n powdered
Clove- 1, slightly roasted n powdered
Salt – a pinch

Note: I don’t add a lot of condensed milk to the yogurt because I don’t want it too sweet, I like it while it still has a tang to it, if you like rich n sweet add more condensed milk.

For the Sweet Lime Version:
Yogurt made from Cow milk- same as above
Condensed milk- same
Cow milk full fat or double toned mixed with cream- same
Sweet Lime zest- from 1 sweet lime/Mousambi
Clove- 1, slightly roasted n powdered
Salt – a pinch

For the Praline:
Sugar- 3 tbsp
Water- 3 tbsp
Chironji Nuts- 3 tbsp slightly roasted in a pan for 2 minutes.

For the Caramel sauce:
Sugar- 2 tbsp
Butter-2 tbsp
Single cream- 4 tbsp
Lime juice- 4/6 drops

1. Whisk the yogurt with a wire whisk until it is just smooth, then add the condensed milk, add less first, mix well, see if the amount of sweetness satisfies you, then add the grated zest of orange and powdered cardamom n clove, then add the milk n mix till smooth, add a tiny pinch of salt, the texture will be not very runny but medium thick but still runny. In the case of sweet lime, add the grated zest n the powdered clove n mix till smooth.

2. In a ramekin or metal steel bowl pour the whole mixture, if you wish to get them out of the mould grease the mould with clarified butter/ghee, though it’s not necessary to get them out, you can make them in medium moulds and serve them in the moulds themselves, which is only smarter. Cover them tightly with plastic wrap.

3. Get a steamer and pour6 cups of water in it, let it come to fierce boil, when it reaches there place the container or small individual containers or ramekin in the steamer and give them about 20-30 minutes, if the container is small n the thickness of the mixture is about 1-1 ½ inch in thickness it will need about 20-25 minutes, f the thickness is about 2 inch it will take about 30 minutes, the more you steam them the more it will get firmer, so for the first time give it 25 minutes, as you make more you can play with the texture.
After 25 minutes if you shake them you can see they are still wobbling a bit, be careful with your hands, if they are still wobbling slightly take them out, make them come to room temperature, you can submerge them in cold water to quickly make them cool down, then transfer them in refrigerator for 2/4 hours to chill, they taste amazing when chilled.

4. For making the praline, place the sugar in heavy bottom saucepan with equal amount of water but pour the water gently over the sugar, make sure there are no sugar cubes outside the water, then put the heat on first slow for 3 minutes, then medium high n then make it go to dark caramel stage, when you see it is getting dark brown in color add the slightly roasted chironjis over the caramel, then pour the whole thing on a flat marble surface n let it cook for about 5 minutes, then you will be able to pick it up with a knife by light strokes.

5. For the caramel sauce make caramel like before n then add cream to it, it will start to bubble vigorously, whisk with a spoon , then add lumps of butter n whisk until smooth, finish with a pinch of sugar and a dash of lime juice, skip salt if the butter is already salted.

So now your patience is on the verge and the bhapa doi is chilled, so take off the plastic wrap and holding the spoon in your hand look at it closely, smell it and then slowly dip your spoon into it and the rest I won’t say much. Bon Appétit.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nabo-borsho O Chanaar payesh-The Magic of rich Chanar Payesh in the Bengali new year

Chanar Payesh-Naram Paneer ki Kheer-Dumplings of fresh Cow’s milk cheese in a reduced milk sauce with a hint of Cardamom, Orange zest, Bay leaf n Rosewater with Pistachio n Rose-sugar for the Bengali New Year

I love the fact that Bengali new year comes when its spring, just after spring, in fact most of the regional new year across India comes just around spring, when everything comes to life, the trees are filled with fresh baby green leaves, the fields are a sea of green wave-they are filled with new crop of the season n there is hope in the air and the sun is getting to summer…that’s how amazing this time is n so the new year is one with nature.

Sweets are an integral part of Bengali cuisine, it is as important as politics and football; yes the common thing between the three is all of them get you high. Bengalis are famous for their amazing sweets but sometimes it hides the other culinary gems, savory cooking is even more diverse n enriching than the making of sweets, that food history is so deep rooted that studying it is like studying the ocean floor. During the time of ‘Nabo-Barsho’, ‘nabo’ is new n ‘Barsho’ is year, the circle of sweets come into play, this is time for businesses to start a new year full of promises n traditionally all their calculation were done in a big fat red book, vibrant red book known as ‘Hal-Khata’ where the business details are stored, so a new year brings a new red book. Now off course computers n tabs have replaced them but not completely, walking around some streets in Kolkata you will still find  piles of red books waiting for their customer.

Nabo-borsho comes in designed sweet boxes here in the land of Bengal if I say so, boxes are filled with different kinds of sweets, each different and one of them will be savory, mostly a crispy pastry deep fried in oil until golden called ‘Nimki’ and given to the loved ones, to the ones who has been fought with-to begin a new chapter, to the faithful customer n to the potential customer for more business. So when you wanna impress anyone give him a box of these sweets, bursting with terrific calories which surely gives you a high as sugar is so good doing that.

As a kid getting those boxes felt fantastic, along with the box there would be a yearly calendar, illustrated with the gorgeous picture of Hindu gods, such a box will contain 7/10 sweets like Pantua/Gulab Jamun, Laddu, Chamcham, Langcha, Kalakand, Danadar, Gopalbhog, Kheerkadam, Sandesh- yes they are all sweets, see I told you it is box of sweet calories.

Now I’m coming to today’s recipe, it is rich, subtle n tastes great when served chilled, it is called ‘Chanar Payesh’- payesh is a generic term in the Bengali palette which suggests something cooked in milk and reduced until the milk thickens a bit n sweet in taste, the sweetness may come from sugar or jaggery or fruit juice, mostly rice is cooked in milk, apart from rice, dumplings made out of rice flour filled with coconut jaggery mixture are cooked in milk.

Chana means soft fresh cheese obtained from cow’s milk by curdling it with some acid like lime juice or water saved from previous batch of cheese making or sometimes simply vinegar, the acid is diluted with water often since adding strong acid results in making the soft cheese hard quickly.

In my recipe the milk is thickened to one third almost in a big wide vessel, I flavored it with Indian bay leaf/tej patta, green cardamom and when it is done I give them another dimension by adding the sliced peel of orange which gives them the aroma of fresh oranges and I also add a hint of rosewater- the two most prominent flavors become cardamom n orange while in the background you get a little hint of rosewater n tej patta.

For making the chana all you have to do is to bring full-fat milk to boil, then add lime juice mixed with same amount of water to it bit by bit, when the milk curdles well and you see all the milk solids have separated from the whey, you pour the mixture over a muslin cloth to separate the milk solids, then the fresh milk solids are washed in fresh cold water so the acidic lime part washes away, then hang that cloth for the water to drip down for half an hour and you have got fresh cheese- once that is obtained, the fresh cheese is massaged to give it a smooth consistency which takes about 3-4 minutes, then a little sugar is added into the fresh cheese and you can give them shape or just add them to the thickened milk sauce you prepared earlier n simmered for 3-5 minutes n that’s all. You need to rest the whole thing for the flavors to develop n exchange after that.

After the whole thing has chilled in the fridge for some hours- it tastes divine, the soft chana dumplings soak that flavored milk and you get a spoonful of them with the milk sauce, the chana dumplings gives away with the slightest touch, literally melting in your mouth and the payesh coats all of that with the flavors of cardamom, orange, rosewater.

When serving I often add pistachio powder along with rose-sugar with some raisins/kismis, the rose-sugar is made by crushing the dried rose petals with sugar n it evokes an aroma, so imagine a spoonful of chanar payesh with a raisin and with pistachio powder n rose sugar in it-gosh it’s so wonderful, you have got to give this a go, so here is the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Chana dumplings:
Full-fat milk- 500 ml
Lime juice-juice of 1 medium lime mixed with same amount of water, strained
Muslin cloth- 1 piece measuring about 2 ft by 2 ft
Sugar- 1 tbsp, powdered

For the Payesh/ thick milk sauce:
Full-fat milk- 1 lit
Sugar- 4-5 tbsp
Green cardamom-2, crushed
Tej patta/Indian bay leaf-3
Orange peel- 1 medium orange, sliced thin without any white part
Rosewater- 1 tsp
Pistachio powder- 3 tbsp, pistachios slightly roasted, then powdered
Rose-sugar- 1 tbsp
Salt – a pinch

1. Begin with making the chana first, place the milk in a saucepan and make it come to a boil, stir in between so nothing catches at the bottom of the saucepan, in the meantime squeeze the lime juice n mix with water and strain, when the milk comes to a boil,  reduce the heat to minimum and begin adding the lime juice tbsp by tbsp and mix well, once you see the milk has started to curdle slightly add little more lime juice and stir well every time you add the acid to distribute it well. After adding a certain amount you will get a hint how much you need to add or not, once the milk curdles really well you will see big soft milk solids separating from the rest watery part and the watery part looks less cloudy than before, at that point don’t add any more acid, stir it slightly and the milk will curdle more prominently in the next few seconds, then pour the whole thing on a container covered with the muslin cloth n lift the cloth up to drain all the water. Don’t throw away this water, it is very nutritious, so use it in cooking or just drink it up. Then you need to place the muslin cloth with the fresh cheese under tap water to rinse with your hands to distribute the water all across the cheese, do it for a minute so that the lime juice washes away, we don’t want a prominent lime flavor in this, after that hang the muslin cloth from somewhere so that the water drips away from it, squeeze the pouch to extract most water by your hands, then hang it for 30 minutes, after 30 minutes, squeeze lightly to remove more water and it is ready.
Place the fresh cheese on a wooden board or chopping board and massage it with your fingers and your palm, after1-2 minutes you will notice it has started to go smooth, don’t do it in a blender, add a little powdered sugar to it and knead slightly, you can skip the sugar if you want, once it is just smooth, take little portions and give them shape either in the form of a ball or conical tiny cylinders or just scramble it, keep aside.

2. For the Payesh place the milk in a wide kadai/wok along with the bay leaf n cardamom pods,  a wider surface area makes the thing to go quick, so bring the milk to boil then reduce heat n simmer in medium low flame, stir n scratch the bottom n sides of the pan with a metal spatula every 2 minutes almost, whatever is gathering on the sides n bottom mix it with the milk, we need to reduce the milk to almost 1/3 rd and the milk will thicken n it will develop a new flavor which will take about 25-30 minutes, always scratch what’s gathering in the sides n mix it with the rest of the milk, when a film forms on the surface, gently move it to the side n mix back when the milk has thickened, when you can’t scratch what is on the side hydrate that part with some milk, so when the milk has reduced to 1/3 rd, add the sugar to the extent of sweetness you like and a pinch of salt,  remember once chilled it will taste slightly less sweet.

3. Add the chana dumplings into the thick sauce at this stage and simmer it for 3-4 minutes on low heat, then off the flame, add the orange peel and the rosewater. Pour the whole thing in a bowl and once it comes to room temp. Chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

4. For the pistachio powder place a frying pan on low heat and place the pistachio nuts in them, give them 3 minutes on low heat, shake n toss them in between, then put the flame off and transfer the pistachios into a mortar n pestle, let it cool slightly, in the meantime take the dry rose petals n place them in the hot pan you just roasted the pistachio, but on no flame, as the pan cools down it will crisp up the petals gently, that’s what we want, no flame here.
Crush the pistachios until you get a coarse powder, then remove and place the rose petals into that, add a little sugar over them and pound lightly to obtain rose-sugar.

Now it is time to take the chanar payesh out of the fridge, so before you add anything to it take spoonful n place it in your mouth, experience the flavors, take another spoon, feel what are the prominent flavors, what are the background flavors, as you keep it in the fridge for one day the flavor will develop even more. When you serve them sprinkle some pistachio powder n rose sugar over them, with some hydrated raisins and see how people fall in love with it and you have already fallen in love with it, isn’t it? Bon appétit.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Burst of a Pomegranate on Yogurt in a Salad Story

Pomegranate, Baby Gherkin, Roasted Potato, Croutons, Rocket salad with Pistachio nuts in a Yogurt dressing…a nutritious Healthy Salad you can carry to your workplace

I feel salads are one of the most interesting playground of fresh flavors n it is full of surprises, every bite can be a little different, every flavor mixing with each other- a kick from this, a citrus note from that, a burst of sweetness all of a sudden, a gentle heat from somewhere, a touch of tanginess…it is a celebration of flavors. A well made salad is also a success story of the creator and a sign of how well the person understands the play of flavors, their chemistry and their combination. 

The reason why I adore salads is because I can be creative with them; it’s a great playground for me, trying n testing with new ingredients, sometimes humble ingredients and sometimes rare ones. For a lot of people salad means compromising on taste, the truth is far from it, a great salad is not only nutritious in leaps n bounds but it is a great carrier of flavors, unlike cooking where every ingredient exchange flavors under heat, mostly in a salad they are the freshest flavors n when you are making a salad you are letting the exchange happen for a short time in the bowl and mostly when you bite into it.

The more I play with salads the more excited I become, often I create salads which are total disasters and no one else can eat that but me, so I have to eat them anyways, but  I have found so much joy in them that those failures don’t dampen my spirit at all. Once in a while I also come up with recipes that win everybody n those recipes spread from friend to friend- the important thing is to have fun, to enjoy the process.

Now from a nutritional point of view salads come in all shades, some are not so healthy while some are very healthy and everything in between. A well balanced salad can replace your main course in the lunchtime or at the time of dinner, a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat. The salad recipe I give you today is healthy, nutritious and bursting with flavors.

In this exciting salad I have got pomegranate, that’s what makes it very exciting for me, the little ruby jewels that burst under your teeth n the explosion of juices, sweet n sour. Unlike a traditional vinaigrette with oil n vinegar, this salad has a yogurt dressing and yogurt is my soul food and so healthy. And then we have the baby gherkins in brine, they are so tasty on their own- little sweet, little sour with a hint of pungency, and they combine so well with the roasted crispy chunky potatoes. The potatoes are the only ingredient here that is pre-cooked and they provide an amazing flavor and a sense of fullness to the dish. The pistachios are another jewel and it works in a subtle way, it gives a mouth feel that is unique and delicious. The rocket leaves gives a strong edge to this salad, the leaves are peppery and pungent, and so they tend to come out stronger in taste, so I used them moderately here. We have crouton in this dish, the bread is pan friend in a little oil and it improved the flavor of the bread n provides a crunchy texture. When you finish assembling the salad spread a thread of honey over it and it gets that slight sweet honey flavor mixed with the yogurt, it’s mouth-watering.

What I give to you is a great base, many things can be added to it, poached chicken, shredded meat or a boiled egg or a fried fish, lettuce can be added to increase the green, a bit of sprouts will be exciting in this salad, so it is up to you what you feel like adding, experiment with it, in the meantime I will take you to the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Serves - 2
For the Salad:
Pomegranate- ½ medium, cut into chunks n seeded
Yogurt- 3 heaped tbsp, whisked till smooth
Honey- 1 tbsp
Potato chunks- made from 2 medium potatoes
Baby Gherkins- 4/5, sliced lengthwise or in rounds
The brine in which the gherkins are stored- ½ tbsp
Rocket leaves- 2 medium bunches, washed n trimmed
Cucumber- ½ medium, peeled or unpeeled n cut into rounds of 1 cm thickness
Pistachio- 12/14, slightly roasted n crushed
White bread/ sourdough bread- 1 slice, roasted or pan fried to make crouton
Black pepper- to taste
Salt- to taste
Pink rock salt – 2 pinches

For the Crispy Potato Chunks:
Potato- 2 medium, washed well
Rosemary- ¼ tbsp, dry
Nigella/kalonji seeds-1/4 tsp
Red chili powder- ¼ tbsp
Garlic- 1 medium clove, made into a paste
Sugar- a pinch
salt-to taste
Soy sauce- ½ tsp
Red onion- sliced lengthwise into thick strips
Vegetable oil- 1 tbsp

Pre-heat your oven to 180 Celsius /356 Fahrenheit

1. Put the potatoes on a board and with a small knife put incisions all over them, then place them in water in a deep bowl with their skin on and place it on medium heat, in about 10-12 minutes the potatoes will be half done, soft but rigid, it will take 10/12/ 14 minutes for that,  given that you begin with cold water, so keep an eye, when they are half done, remove from heat and drain the water and place them in cold water, when you can handle them cut them in ¼ inch chunks.
In the roasting pan place the minced garlic with all the other ingredients except the onion and mix well, then coat the potato chunks with this mixture well, place them in the oven for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes turn the potato chunks on the other side with a fork and add the onions, then give another 20 /25 minutes until the chunks becomes crispy. Take them off the oven and let it cool.

2. Take the white bread and coat it a little oil lightly on both sides, then place on a frying pan and keep on a low heat for 8/10 min, flip it over through half the time, you want it to be medium brown n crispy on the outside. When done cut it into rectangles with a sharp knife. Alternatively you can crisp up the bread in the oven at 180 with a tbsp of oil to coat them or skip the oil completely, they will take about 10 minutes, keep an eye on them.

3. In a mixing bowl place the rocket leaves, cucumber slices, the gherkins, half of the chunky potatoes with the onion slices, the pomegranate seeds, then whisk the yogurt with honey and the brine until smooth, add to the ingredients in the bowl and coat with the yogurt, then add salt, rock salt n black pepper, after that scatter the roasted n crushed pistachios all over and then the croutons and rest half of the potatoes and serve immediately, if you are serving it later, don’t add the croutons n rest half of the potatoes n the pistachios, they will get soggy, add when you are ready to eat.

You are done and now it is time to taste, n it is going to be an explosion of flavors in your mouth, its bold n its addictive, I love the moment when the pomegranate jewels burst in each bite, so very delicious, share it with your loved ones, pack yourself this as lunch for work or afternoon snacks and modify as you wish. Bon Appétit.