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November 23, 2012

Luchi - A fried Bengali bread

Now a food blog by a Bengali without Luchi is incomplete. These deep fried puffed little breads are weakness for all us Bengalese. A related cousin of puri, it differs from the same in only the type of flour used. While puri is made from whole-wheat flour (atta), luchi is made from refined all-purpose flour (maida). Every Sunday morning, these puffed ‘breadlets’ adorn the breakfast plates in any Bengali household hand in hand with alu-r torkari (mild potato curry) or any other side dish of choice. Sometimes it is a special treat along with the glorious kasha mangsho ( a spicy dry mutton preparation). Traditionally they are deep-fried in ghee. However, many houses these days use refined oil to fry them. As the air puffs the flat dough discs into perfect balls and an enticing smell fills the air, the simple dough transforms into its light whitish-golden avatar. Luchi has been such a part of my everyday life that I had taken it for somewhat granted. It was only when I moved away from home during my college years, looking at the luchi-less breakfast plates on Sunday mornings, that I realized how much a place it held in my food world. Making luchis on my own went through a couple of trials until I could make them all perfectly round. The right amount of oil for making the dough, the ideal temperature of the heated oil for deep-frying, the gentle pressure and whirling motion to let them puff in perfect rounds, it took some practice to master those. And therefore, when I recently took pictures of the luchis for the blog and decided to finally write down the recipe, I realized the description to be inadequate. Anf hence, there was this bit more wait until I made luchis again and requested Blaž to take a video while I fry them. Read carefully the instructions and watch the short video. Don’t be disheartened if the first try doesn’t give the perfect results, one just needs a little bit of practice to have these delicate Bengali breads on the table.

You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
(Makes 10 [or 12 small])

1cup refined flour
1pinch salt
1tbsp oil
Warm water
Oil for deep-frying

INSTRUCTIONS:
1.      Put the flour in a big bowl. Add a pinch of salt and 1tbsp of oil to the flour. Rub the flour and oil between fingers to mix well and make the flour lighter and fluffier. Rub for a minute or so. This is a crucial step as over-rubbing or adding too much oil will make the luchi crispier and difficult to puff.
2.      Make a hole in middle. Slowly add warm water and knead into a smooth tight dough. Divide the dough into 10 (or 12 for smaller luchis) balls.
3.      In a small deep wok heat oil for deep-frying. The oil should be hot (not smoking) but fry the luchi on medium heat so that they do not brown too much before puffing and cooking well. (Test the oil with a tiny pinch of dough pressed flat between fingers. It should fry and float immediately but not turn brown.)
4.      Roll each dough ball into a thin circle of around 5 inch. Use a bit of oil while rolling to prevent sticking.
5.      Gently add the rolled luchi into the hot oil. With a round-slotted spoon keep the luchi under hot oil and keep on pressing gently in a whirling motion until the luchi puffs into a circle. [Check the video below.]
6.      Flip and let the other side fry for a few more seconds. This time, do not press down the luchi inside the oil but instead let it float. Each luchi will take about 20-30 seconds to fry.
7.      Repeat the steps 4-6 for the other dough balls. Roll and fry the luchis simultaneously. (Do not keep them waiting for long after rolling as it will make the rolled luchi dry.)

NOTE:
Do not make the dough long before frying the luchis. If you need to keep the dough standing, keep it covered under a moist cloth.

How to fry Luchi:

video

November 18, 2012

No-bake Mango cheesecake

I had my first piece of cheesecake at Cheesecake factory; and with the first piece, it stole my heart. Never having a sweet tooth for creamy cakes, the instant liking and craving for the creamy cheesecakes came as a surprise. My favorite is the classic vanilla cheesecake, with a strawberry coulis. However, I like tasting different cheesecake flavors. Therefore, this time I ventured to combine the flavor of my favorite fruit mango with the creamy goodness of cheesecake. The best thing is when I can enjoy a homemade cheesecake in the flavor of my choice and yet do not have to go through all the hassle of baking etc. This chilled no-bake mango cheesecake was delicious in its creaminess, and the drizzle of mango pulp on the top took the yumminess of the cake a notch higher!


You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
(Makes 6 slices)

Crust:
1.5cup sweet biscuit crumbs
4tbsp butter (cold)
1tbsp water
Filling:
200g cream cheese
250g ricotta cheese
1.5cup mango pulp
4tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1pack powdered gelatin (or gelatin for 250ml liquid)

Mango pulp for garnish

METHOD:

1.      Mix the biscuit crumbs with the butter. The butter should melt while rubbing to form a uniform mixture. Add 1tbsp water. Mix a couple of minutes more.
2.      Line an 8-inch springform baking pan with baking paper. Press the crust onto the pan base in a uniform layer and 2cm up the sides
3.      Add the cream cheese and ricotta cheese in a mixing jar and whisk into a creamy uniform mixture.
4.      Soak the gelatin in 4tbsp warm water for 10 minutes (or prepare the gelatin according to the direction on the packet). Slightly warm the mango pulp and mix the soaked gelatin with it.
5.      Slowly pour the mango pulp in the cream and whisk well into a creamy blend.
6.      Pour the filling over the crust. Keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours until the cheesecake is set and chilled.
7.      De-mold the cheesecake. Cut into pieces. Serve garnished with mango pulp.

November 11, 2012

Amrakhand

Shrikhand is a simple dessert popular in Maharashtra (Western India). Yogurt is hung overnight to turn it into this thick creamy consistency. The sweet essence and flavor of freshly ground cardamom and generous scatter of nuts and raisins completes it. A popular variation, Amrakhand, has mango pulp added to it. And this is what I made the other day for my ‘mango pulp dessert’ series. A delicious refreshing bowl of mango-yogurt goodness.


You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
(Serves 2)

500g yogurt
1cup mango pulp
4tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1sp freshly ground cardamom
1tbsp golden raisins
1tbsp broken cashews

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.      Prepare a clean muslin cloth and fold in half to get 2 layers. Put the yogurt in it and tie tightly. Let it hang over night to drain out all the water. This gives a thick creamy ball of hung yogurt.
2.      Mix the yogurt with the mango pulp and sugar. Whisk to a smooth creamy consistency.
3.      Put in serving bowls and keep in a the fridge for a couple of hours or more allowing enough time for the sugar to dissolve and amrakhand to cool down.
4.      Serve chilled, garnished with ground cardamom, cashews and raisins. 

November 8, 2012

Cholar dal

Cholar dal or Bengal grams is not cooked in Bengali household for everyday lunches. Neither does it make among the delicacies served when guests come. However, to accompany the luchi or kachori, one cannot think of anything else other than cholar dal. With a subtle hint of sweetness, this lentil preparation makes a heavenly combination with the perfectly rounded luchis. Cholar dal is a bit hard to boil and therefore soaking it overnight or for long hours is necessary. Then it is a celebrating the perfect harmony of heat from the dried red chili and sweetness from sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. The fragrant aroma of the ghee mingling with the ‘just enough boiled’ cholar dal is a treat for the soul.


You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
(Serves 2)

1cup colar dal (split Bengal gram or chana dal)
2 bay leaves
1 dried chili
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch asafetida powder
2tbsp golden raisins
2tbsp broken cashews
1sp ginger paste
1 pinch turmeric powder
1/2sp cumin powder
1/2sp sugar
1/2sp garam masala
Salt
Ghee

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.      Soak the cholar dal in hot water overnight (7-8 hours). Drain the lentils.
2.      Heat ghee in a wok. Temper the ghee with bay leaves, dried red chili, cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of asafetida powder.
3.      When the nice aroma comes out, add the soaked lentils. Add the ginger paste, cashews, raisins, turmeric powder, cumin powder, and salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Take care not to over sauté the lentils or it will be difficult to boil.
4.      Add 2 cups hot water. Simmer covered for 25 minutes until the lentils are cooked but not soft and mushy (the lentils should remain whole).
5.      Add the sugar and garam masala powder. Garnish with 1sp of ghee.

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