Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aikam Baikam Tara Toori...........Alu Dum

The first time I remember hearing about " Alu Dum" in all its glory was when as kids we used to play" hide and seek". We went through a very democratic process of choosing the "seeker". We had rhymes that we repeated till all but one player got eliminated and he/she was declared the den. Our Bong neighbors Mana and Mou came up this one which ended with the lines " Alu dum khabo na, soshur badi jabo naa"( loosely translated that means I am not going to eat potato curry and I shall not get married- sorry the essence seems to be getting a little lost in the translation, as always but you get the point).

Now when it comes to naming their dishes the Bongs can give the Mughals a run for their money. Luchi Alu Dum sounds way more exotic than Puri Tarkari. The same goes for dishes like Prawn malai curry(shrimps in a coconut gravy), Dhokar Dalna (Besan curry), Kadaishutir Kachuri( Stuffed Kachoris with peas) etc. etc.

Puri Alu is or rather used to be a regular breakfast item in many households. Growing up I rember having Puris everytime there was a big puja in the household. Breakfast would be Puri Alu and lunch would be Khichdi with baigan fry and tomato khajur chutney.

However with increasing health awareness Puris are kind of disappearing from breakfast tables. A couple of weeks back when Delhi was still cold and nice we decided to indulge ourselves. So the breakfast spread comprised Luchi, Cholar Daal( Bengal gram daal) and of course Alu Dum. Both Alu Dum and Cholar Daal are very easy to make and need very few ingredients. The Luchi/Puri needs to be served hot, straight from the kadai/pan.

Alu Dum( Serves 4)


Baby Potatoes: 1/2 a kilo

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Garlic paste: 1 tsp

Bay leaves: 1 or 2

Cumin/Jeera powder: 1 tsp

Salt: To taste

Sugar: a pinch

Garam Masala: 1 tsp( freshly ground cinnamon and green cardamom works best for this dish, gives the gravy a nice flavor)

Oil: 1 tbsp


  1. Boil the baby potatoes with their skin in salt water. Remove the skin. You could also leave the skin on, in that case make sure to prick the potatoes with a tooth pick before boiling them) and keep aside

  2. Heat the oil in the pan, add a pinch of sugar and let the sugar caramelize. This gives the gravy a nice rich color

  3. Add the bay leaves, ginger paste, garlic paste, cumin powder and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the salt.

  4. Then add the potatoes and continue to saute for 4/5 minutes.

  5. Add some water( about 1 cup of warm water) and check the seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes. The gravy should coat the potatoes and there should be a little bit more.

  6. Add the garam masala.

  7. Serve hot garnished with some finely chopped corriander

Cholar Daal(serves 4)


Bengal gram daal: About 1 measure/1 cup

Jeera/Cumin paste: 1 tsp ( very integral to a lot of traditional vegetarian cooking which are cooked sans onion and garlic so the flavoring comes from cumin and ginger)

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Cumin seeds: 1 tsp

Bay leaves: 1 or 2

Salt: 1 tsp or to taste

Sugar: 1/2 tsp

Coconut: 1 tbsp, cut into very small pieces

Oil: 1 tsp

Garam Masala: 1/2 tsp

Ghee(optional): 1 tsp


  1. Pressure cook the daal along with the cumin paste. One whistle should do

  2. Heat some oil, add the bay leaves, whole cumin seeds and the ginger paste. Saute for a couple of minutes.

  3. Add the boiled daal, let it cook for a few minutes. Then add salt, sugar and the coconut.

  4. Finally top up with a teaspoon of ghee and serve hot.

Indulge, Make sure you can roll out and fry the puris real quick because you are sure to have everyone asking for more. On an average boys will eat about ten Puris with ease. If they are competing with each other and breaking their fast with this meal, budget for a few extras.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day- O...a beautiful bunch....a ripe BANANA......

"Stack banana till thee morning come
Daylight come and he wanna go home

Its six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and he wanna go home......"

Harry Belafonte, one of Dad's favorite singers. We learnt to hum the songs even before we knew what the lyrics meant. Some of my favorites include Jamican farewell, Come back Liza, Woman is smarter, Angelico...Mamma gonna take you back. Actually almost all of them. These are songs with a soul and tug at your hear strings. Interestingly son seems to love them too. In fact it was he who suggested that since the inspiration for this dish is the "ripe" banana I should title this post after the Harry Belafonte famous number by the same name.

I find myself baking almost every other day. Makes for convenient lunch box and snack options. Store in an airtight container inside the refrigerator and warm for about 30 seconds before serving. So the cake technically can stay for days. That it gets polished off in less than 24 hours is another story.

A friend once told me that ripe bananas lying on the kitchen shelf means it is time to bake a banana cake. In fact most recipes for banana cakes go "medium sized over ripe bananas". And then last week my friend K told me about her to die for " choco banana cake". Sounded interesting, a combination I had not tried before. Managed to get K to part with her recipe. Tasted quite nice. Though I had initially planned on serving it with vanilla ice cream(a dollop of fresh cream would also taste good) the boys seemed to think it tasted quite good on its own. In fact this is one cake they were quite happy to eat straight out of the refrigerator.

Chocolate Banana Cake

Don't let the looong list of ingredients bother you. The cake gets done in two quick steps. Mix all the dry ingredients, keep aside. Separately mix all the wet ingredients and slowly fold in the dry ingredients into it. That simple. But psst! play along when the accolades begin.

Banana: 1 cup mashed banana pulp, so two to three medium sized over ripe bananas.
Eggs: 2
Oil: 1/2 cup
Milk:1/2 cup
Warm water:1 cup(K used buttermilk instead of water, this makes the cake softer)
Maida/Refined wheat flour: 1 3/4th cup
Cocoa powder:3/4 th cup
Sugar: 2 cups( If the banana is sweet you could adjust the quantity of sugar but do remember that this is a really large cake almost twice the size of other cakes)
Salt:1/2 tsp( to balance out the taste)
Baking soda: 1 1/2 tsp
Baking powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Vanilla essence: 1 1/2 tsp


  1. Sieve together all the dry ingredients which includes the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.
  2. Next whip the eggs with the bananas, add water, milk and oil. Mix well.
  3. Fold in the flour mix little by little, stirring continuously ensuring that there are no lumps. The batter is really thin and the cake takes a little longer to cook. But definitely worth the wait.
  4. Bake at 200 degree centigrades for about an hour. For the first 40 minutes keep only the lower coil turned on and for the last 20 minutes bake with both the upper and lower coils turned on. This gives the cake a nice thin crust on the top and along the sides.
  5. Check if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean.
  6. Serve hot
  7. If serving as dessert serve it along with some fresh cream or vanilla ice cream.
  8. Given the rich, dark color of this cake you could also frost the cake with some powdered sugar- creates an interesting contrast.
Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Mama....

My memory has served me well so far( sis will vouch for it, she says " I may forgive but I never forget"). And if it is got to do with food then you can be sure I will carry the memory to my grave.
My blog posts as you would notice are full of some of my favorite food memories. Each time I start writing a post they come flooding back. I just have to think of a similar dish and I am transported back in time. Let me tell you about the 'wafer coated triangle shaped' chocolate that somebody had gifted us( this was way before Kit Kat and Perk became household names- perks 0f growing up in a "port city")- sis and me were completely taken in by the novelty of form and taste. For once we rationed the portions and ate little by little each day. The other one that I comes immediately to mind( varied from the earlier reference but probably sampled both around the same time) is aunty I's cauliflower dish. Basis the snatches of conversation between her and my Mom on the recipe, I remember it being made with grated cauliflower, ginger, onion and tons of butter. It was her specialty. At her dinner parties I always helped myself to generous portions and studiously avoided Momma's glares.

And then there were my mother's cutlets. She made them with all types of fish. In fact very often with Tuna, a fish that most others we knew turned up their noses to( it is only much later that I learnt that Tuna is from the " shark" family). Mom would first get our household help to fillet the Tuna, then she would saute them with some garlic to get rid of the fishy smell and several complicated steps later they would appear on our dinner table as the most delicious cutlets garnished with some onion rings and lime wedges. She also made cutlets with Bhekti, Rohu and even prawns. On winter evenings we would have them with soup and bread.

Mom was here a couple of weeks back and taught me to make fish cutlets. I was amazed at how simple the steps were. That did not take away from the taste. Mom also made them with very little oil which I guess makes them healthy.

We now have cutlets as regulars in our menu. They are convenient as starters, go well as meal accompaniments, are often eaten as evening snacks by the boys, leftover get converted into sandwich/burger filling.

Fish Cutlets

Ingredients( This dish needs very few ingredients and all of it very easily available at home)

Fish: 3/4 pieces( Choose the stomach portions as these would have fewer bones, if buying a fillet about 200 grams should do. If you are planning to make cutlets I would suggest you keep a few " stomach/peti" pieces aside when sorting and freezing the fish)
Onions: 2 medium sizes ones, chopped really fine.
Ginger: 1", finely chopped
Potatoes: 2/3 boiled
Bread crumbs: 2/3 tbsps, enough to coat the cutlets
Mint/Pudina leaves: a handful, finely chopped
Green corriander: 2 tbsps, finely chopped
Oil: About 2 tbsps for a batch of about 20 cutlets
Turmeric: 1tsp
Salt: To taste


  1. Smear salt and turmeric on the fish pieces and shallow fry them.

  2. Debone the fish.

  3. Heat about 2 tsps of oil. Fry the onion till glassy, add the ginger and saute for a few more minutes. Next add the fish and cook together for about 5 minutes.

  4. Remove from fire, add boiled potatoes, 2/3 tbsps of bread crumbs, some finely chopped green chillies( optional), the mint and corriander leaves and mix well.

  5. Make small round balls with the mixture and flatten lightly between your palms.

  6. Spread the remaining bread crumbs on a plate and place the cutlets over them. Turn the cutlets around so that the crumbs coat them evenly.

  7. Heat a tsp of oil in a non-stick, shallow pan. Once the oil heats up, add the cutlets one by one. Arrange them on the pan and fry on both sides.

  8. Serve hot garnished with some onion rings, lemon wedges and a chutney/dip.

Thank you Mama for this wonderful recipe, helps me relive a part of my childhood with each bite.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!