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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New Kid in the Block - Jamaica Blue

Ok so finally got a breather after two really busy and long weeks and hence typing up a long intended post, my first review of an eatery.  I had a lunch date with my friend last week, a very rare pleasure in my life, and of course it had to rain! Typical. She doesn't live in Cambridge so we both decided to meet in town as she wanted to do some gym clothes shopping. After shopping we were in a dilemma as to where to go for lunch. We just wanted to have some sandwiches but didn't want to go to either Costa or Starbucks inside Grand Arcade as both the teeny weeny outlets make me feel cornered and hurried. We wanted some warmth and coziness along with a good coffee and a nice toasted sandwich. So the obvious choice was the new outlet of Jamaica Blue as recommended earlier by another friend. 

It is one of the Australian coffee chains and we went in expecting nothing more than any "giant cafe chain food". We were pleasantly surprised when we walked in a spacious cafe with smart lighting and seating where a person can sit comfortably without breathing down their neighbour's neck! We were greeted at the entrance by a smiling waitress and offered two kinds of seating, a general bar stool one and a private corner table with a communal couch, a general practice now in many restaurants. We opted for the later. The table was a bit small for my liking and was a bit unstable, might be an intentional one to give that old cafe feel? Not sure. 

The menu was simple and had the minimalistic look and feel, again probably to give that street cafe feeling and very reasonable. I ordered a "Classic" which is a Sourdough Ham and Cheese toasted sandwich with a side salad and my friend ordered a Tuna Wrap with salad. Food arrived later than expected but the kind waitress did come in between to apologise and offer us water and soft drinks. The sourdough Classic sandwich had a cheesy filling with succulent bites of ham and pepper, though the bread slices were very thick and overly toasted and I ended up with cuts inside my mouth! The Tuna wrap was toasted too and was delicious. Packed with flavours, it was one of the best Tuna fillings I've ever had. Can't say the same about the salads. 

Want to try the chicken stuffed pancakes next time I'm there. Yes there will be a next time as the overall experience was pleasant. The food might not be out of this world and I won't expect it either given the fact that it is only another cafe chain. The coffee was decent and we only landed with a bill of £13.80 which is definitely cheaper than other cafes. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Pabda Shorshe to beat that homesick feeling!

Winter in the UK is terrible. It's horribly cold and damp and depressing all the time and we hardly get snowed in. The Sun chooses to remain hidden behind the clouds most of the time of the day and when he does come out it's either too cold or too late to go out. As soon as the festivities finish, time just drags from January until the first glimpses of Spring appear through clear blue skies and a few daffodils and snowdrops here and there. This is the time when I miss Kolkata most. Winter in Kolkata is like a constant carnival. Waking up to a cup of steaming hot milky Nescafe coffee accompanied by Phulkopir Shingara (Winter special cauliflower samosas), reading the newspaper on the balcony under the sun and that eager anticipation of the winter celebrations. 

What celebrations if you ask me, starting from picnics to the Book fair, from Christmas to New Year in Park Street, from foggy morning trips to Victoria Memorial to having dinner at the clubs, from Poush Parbon to the numerous weddings, the list is endless. And the choice of food is also endless. So all you need is a steady supply of Gelusil, a muffler(Bong version of a scarf - has to be knitted by Mom, Mashi or a similar post holder) and a good pair of trainers(you do not want to depend on the public transport during these months) and you are sorted for the winter in Kolkata. 

Coming back to the UK, winters are torturous. They are slow, dark and ever so depressing. The only way we can drive away the winter blues is by recreating the Barir khabar (made at home, especially by Moms back home), seeing friends and just glancing at the calendar to count how many days are there until Spring arrives. Lucky for us, I think we are almost there! 

Shorshe Pabda (Pabo Catfish in a mustard-coconut gravy)

Ingredients :

Pabda Fish(Pabo Catfish) - Cleaned and packed in 8s
Mustard Paste - I use the Sunrise powder that I get from India
Desiccated coconut - Dried or freshly grated 1 cup 
Salt - 1/2 tsp to rub on the fish and to taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 a tsp to rub on the fish and 1/2 for the sauce
Green chillies - 3-4 slit halfway through
Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Water - 1/2 cup

Method :

Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder. Heat oil and shallow fry them in Mustard Oil. Keep them aside. 

Make a paste of Mustard powder, turmeric powder and coconut. Add salt to taste. 

Heat oil and add the nigella seeds and green chillies to the hot oil and let them splutter. Add the mustard-coconut paste and cook it on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring the sauce to boil. Add the fish and cook on high until all the liquid has dried up leaving a thick gravy. Be careful to not break the fish as they are very delicate. 

Serve with steamed white rice. 

 ** Note - If you don't have mustard powder grind 2-3 tbsp of mustard in a grinder along with 1/2 cup of water. Then strain the liquid out and discard the skins. This will give a smooth pungent taste without the strong bitterness of the skins. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Why is February so special!

The month of February is very special to me for two reasons, my dad’s birthday and the month when I met my Best Friend Forever. And of course there is Valentine’s Day, although, even being a hopeless romantic all my life, I’ve never felt compelled to celebrate this particular day! I still watch DDLJ at every chance I get and sigh heavily at the chemistry of Raj and Simran, but personally I’ve never wanted a Raj in my life. I mean come on, a Uni drop out, practically living on Dad’s wealth, goes on an extravagant Euro tour with Dad’s money, flirts with a girl on the tour, gets her drunk and into his bed and then stalks her all the way to India. Not my type!

So this BFF happens to be my husband who I met on the fateful day of the 19th of February, 12 years ago! We used to be internet friends and NO we were not out of an online dating site as back in those days we didn’t even know anything like that existed, especially in India. I had to muster up a lot of courage to face a stranger whom I didn’t know at all. So I chose a busy road in the middle of the afternoon, my deo in my bag (we didn’t have pepper sprays back in those days) and my inner Kung-Fu master ready to pounce if needed. He was late and as I was wondering if it was actually a bad idea and whether I should leave, a red car stops right in front of me. Out comes a tall, dark and quite handsome man with glasses and a boyish grin, extends his hand over the car roof and says, ‘’Hi I’m Val. You must be Rhea”! I don’t know why but I remember that first line as if it was yesterday, may be because I was totally floored by that voice and that boyish charm, though I still like to claim that it was never a “love at first sight”! 

Many of my friends have asked me later on that who made the first move, who proposed and whether we were dating or not. To be honest, neither of us proposed, we don’t know when we crossed the line between being just friends to becoming special friends. I just know that we were meant to be, and that on 19th of February I found my best friend, my confidant and my guide. 

I still make special something for Valentine’s Day, as I’m a hopeless romantic. This year I made Rasmalai, not only for my husband, but also for my other best friend who lives in London and who I  found through internet as well. But that’s a story I will tell another day. :)

And for the first love of my life, my Dad. 
Happy Birthday Baba. I love you and miss you a lot. 

Here's the recipe for Rasmalai or Rosho-Malai as we call it in Kolkata. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Guest Post - Alu Borir Jhol by Rani

Sayantan and Rani of The Glamor Factory fame have been very dear friends. They are not only passionate about photography they are very passionate about what they eat too and that gives two common things that we all share! I am a huge fan of Sayantan's photography and he takes me back to Kolkata a bit by bit everyday through his food photography. Sayantan and Rani have been working on a food album called '365 days of Food' which has got the most amazing photos of almost all our beloved foods from every corner of this world. This is where I saw the picture of Rani's Borir Jhol and I wanted to have a plate of that with steaming rice instantly. I made the Borir Jhol for Baba and it was delicious! Bodi or Vadi is one of the most important ingredients of Indian cuisine and Borir Jhol/Jhal being a very quintessential dish in traditional Bong meal. This is a dish that we all have seen our Didu(Grandmom) making for lunch and the smell of the Bodis simmering in the lightly spiced gravy will bring back the most amazing childhood memories one can ever have! I would let you read what Rani has to say now. :)


Sohini, initially was just someone I met in Facebook through a common friend, the usual story. But what attracted me to her was the wonderful photos she posted on her profile of different food items from all over the world, not to say the presentation which was of course, quite beautiful. I was instantly drawn to the colorful album and kept track of it regularly, still do, in fact. I am a ardent fan of her dessert skills nowadays and just love to see the various cakes and the decorations that flows so smoothly off her magical hands.

By profession I am a graphic designer but food is the true passion in my life, especially when it comes to eating. My partner in crime is my husband, Sayantan and all yummiest things edible occupy a large part of our lives. Apart from eating, he is a specialized food photographer which is just an added bonus, I must say!

Alu Borir Jhol

Ingredients :
10-12 Bodi (or moong wadi if available)
3tbsp vegetable oil (preferable mustard)
2 potatoes, cut lengthwise in thin segments
1/4sp onion seeds (kalonji or kalo jeera) for tempering
1sp ginger paste
1sp cumin
1/2sp coriander
1/3sp turmeric
1sp chilli / paprika powder
1 whole tomato diced or pureed
2/3 cup water
1-2 green chillies for garnishing
Salt as per taste

Method :

Fry the boris in 1 tbsp oil until brown and keep aside.

Heat the remaining oil, put in the onion seeds and then the sliced potatoes. Fry the potatoes for a few seconds and then put in the tomato dice/puree. 

After about 2 min throw in all the other masalas and saute for further 2-3 min on low flame until you see oil on the sides. 

Then pour water on it, season it according to your taste and simmer it covered over a low flame until the potatoes are almost cooked through. 

Then put in the fried bodis and simmer for another 3 min. Take off the heat, garnish with slit green chillis and serve hot with rice.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Guest Post - Dark Rosy Kisses by Ananda of A Pinch of Love

What can I say about Ananda of the ‘A Pinch of Love’ fame? She is an amazing lady with outstanding skills. Her blog is one of the few blogs that I regularly follow and love. She is based in beautiful Finland and she shows us around that gorgeous place and it's food through her amazing space. She used to take time out for a perfect blog post even when she was doing her PhD and trust me when I say that it’s not easy. Not only I admire her enthusiasm for blogging, I simply love the way she uses her props and clicks those gorgeous photos. Whenever I am in the middle of a baking or a blogging disaster (and that happens a lot of times!) I send Ananda a SOS message and she is always there to help me out! Reading this post will make you realise how much time and effort she puts in each post of hers!

I bugged her a lot for this guest post as I have been tied down with the holidays and the little one at home and my dad's visit and like always Ananda didn't take a second to agree to do this post even when she's busy herself as she's taking a break in India with her family. Thank you girl for this post and everything else.

I have known Sohini’s blog from our initial days of blogging; her sweet and encouraging comments drove me to her blog where I felt warmth through her words. Very soon we befriended each other through facebook and now there is no looking back. I’m a great admirer of her sugar art for cakes and cupcakes, different versions of the princess cake and her eastern Indian food makes me drool. Not forgetting to mention the pictures of her little edible princess, which makes me want  big bite of her :), but I go aww! Thank you dear girl for having me over to your lovely space, it’s an honor to be here.

Rare are those recipes when an unexpected combination turns out surprising well. This dark rosy kisses is an outcome after spending hours in flea markets and organic shops looting alluring brown tableware and some organic rose buds. After a series of imagination all I dreamt was the combination of brown and pink. Cherry on top was when my colleague gave me this organic honey, creative instincts worked magic thus these dark rosy kisses were created.

The recipe is the combination of dark chocolate, honey, rosewater and dry rose buds. Honey gives these kisses a dense and moist feel. Rosewater in the desserts and sweets are more of an acquired taste for those tasting it for the first time; let me warn you for you might feel them to be like a scented dessert! Give it an elegant touch by serving the individual pieces on rose petals with a little ribbon tied, an eye appealing treat.

Dark Rosy Kisses

 Ingredients :

125 gram Butter
130 gram Dark Chocolate (70%)
200 - 225 ml Honey (Organic)
2 Eggs
30 gram Cocoa powder (Organic)
50 gram All purpose flour
3 tbsp Rosewater (Reduce if you find the flavor too strong)
7 – 8 Organic dry rose buds crushed
¼ tsp baking power


Preheat the oven to 175 C. Grease the cake pan with butter and dust with dry flour.

In a double boiler melt the dark chocolate and butter. Let it aside to cool.

Sieve and mix the dry powder (all purpose flour, cocoa powder and baking powder)

In another bowl beat the egg until light and frothy. Mix the dry flour to beaten eggs.

Gradually fold in honey and melted chocolate to the egg mixture. Add rose water and
crushed rose petals to the batter and gently fold in. 

Pour the batter to cake pan and bake them for 35 minutes till the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Jam Centre

Finally she's here in the UK. Yes I'm talking about Lady Summer. Though there are still a few down pours here and there and some heavy floods up North but the temperature is soaring, the gardens are blooming and people are having an amazing time under the hot sun. My garden is a cornucopia of colour this year. Even though I did not manage to do much in the garden this year, the little ones that I did manage to plant yielded blooms that I never thought was possible in such a short span of time.And my little strawberry plant has given about a hundred of fruits already and I'm hoping to get a few more. 


My little girl is excited to see her Dadu (my dad) who is coming to stay with us for 3 whole months! We are so looking forward to all the small vacations and outings and family meals we're going to have and we are busy planning for them everyday!So hopefully this space will have all the ''authentic'' bong dishes that I tend to avoid cooking because we don't really eat them much at home. Also because I don't really know how to make them and will probably go over to Sandeepa's or Sudeshna's for most of the recipes! Yes I am hopeless when it comes to recipes like Khosha bhaja or Sheem bata or Shukto etc etc.

Little T has had all her settling in sessions at the ''Big'' school and she is all set to start a new chapter of her life this September. She is very happy and excited to meet new friends and new teachers but her Mamma is very sad already. The very thought that my precious little one is going to stay away from me for so long everyday makes me feel like weeping. Must be one of those crazy-mother-only things. But I will cross that bridge when it comes. Before that it's almost time for the summer vacations and we are too excited to bring the spirit down.

We had a charity gala night the other day in the memory of a very special girl called Supatra.Supatra bravely fought cancer for the past 1 1/2 years till early this month when her body finally couldn't take the pain anymore and she took her last breath in her daddy's arms on 5th of June. It was my honour to make a few cupcakes for the gala dinner which was held in the memory of this amazing little fighter. May she rest in peace and her family get the strength to cope with this unimaginable loss. I pray to Almighty that no parent has to suffer this kind of loss ever in their lives. Supatra loved fairies and anything pink and purple so I decided to make some dainty Vanilla cupcakes with strawberry jam centres and pink buttercream icing. 

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes -12
Prep time - 5 mins
Baking time - 20-25 mins

I have adapted the recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery Book just for the reason that they are superbly delicious, moist and virtually butter less...well almost!


For the cakes :

Plain Flour - 120 gm
Caster Sugar - 140 gm
Butter - 40 gm unsalted 
Baking Powder - 1 1/2 tsp 
Whole Milk - 120 ml
Eggs - 1
Vanilla Extract - 1/2 tsp
Strawberry Jam - 1/2 tsp for each cupcake 
Cupcake Cases - 12
12 hole cupcake tray

For the Icing : 

Icing Sugar - 250 gm sifted
Unsalted Butter at room temperature - 100 gm
Whole Milk - 25 ml
Vanilla Extract - 1/4 tsp
Red Food Colour - a few drops ( can use any other colour)


For the cakes :

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and like the cupcake tray with the cases.
Put all the ingredients in the freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and whisk for 2 minutes or until all the ingredients are nicely incorporated.  Or blend the egg, milk and vanilla extract together with a hand held whisk and add it to the dry ingredients and mix well till it forms a smooth batter.

Spoon a tablespoon of batter in the cases. Add 1/2 a tsp of jam in each of the case and top it up with another tbsp of batter. Place the tray in the middle of the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. It should be quite soft and springy to touch.

Place the cupcakes on a wire rack and let them cool completely.

For the Icing : 

Beat the sugar and butter in the freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment or use a handheld electric mixer on slow-medium speed until everything is nicely mixed. 

Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and add it to the butter mix one tsp at a time  on slow speed. Once everything has been added increase the speed and continue beating for 5-6 minutes or until light and fluffy. 

Add the food colour at the end and beat for another few seconds till the icing is nicely coloured. 

Assembling :

Make sure the cakes have completely cooled down before you start icing them. Scoop the icing into a piping bag and with a star nozzle pipe the icing in spiral motion covering each cupcake. Add a few sprinkles or stars. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Alu Jhinge Posto - A Gourdious Dish

 We have changed supermarket and switched to Morrisons. Tesco might sulk but we couldn't help it. Whoever has seen the recent make-over on Morrisons will understand my decision. The are A-M-A-zing! Especially the array and display of vegetables and fruits has completely blown us off. I have never seen so many different kinds of lettuces under the same roof. The herbs are so fresh that you have to resist yourself from pouncing on them. Everything is vibrant and fresh. And wait..the best part is yet to come. They keep our beloved Indian vegetables in bulk and don't ask for a hand and foot for them. I behaved like a girl in Disney store when I went there. You can't blame me for that. First time in this country I've seen whole, fresh and green Lau/Lauki (Bottle Gourds), Jhinge (Ridge Gourds), Uchchey (Bitter Gourd), Ol Kopi (Kholrabi) and Pepe (Raw Green Papaya). For the past 7 years we are so used to seeing the same in horrible forms, mutated shapes and scratches and scars all over them that seeing these beauties almost brought tears into my eyes. Yes that was going too far but trust me when I say that my heart started dancing in joy and I looked at the husband to see the same pleasure in his eyes.

I remember my Shejo Mama (Maternal Uncle) used to be in charge of doing vegetable and fish/meat shopping on Sundays or whenever there was any get together or occasion at my Mamarbari (Uncle's House). He used to take it upon himself to wake up early in the morning and take the 'Mashkabari Parar Rickshaw(local rental pulled cart) to Kali Babur Bajar in Howrah, West Bengal. He was a man of military discipline and we kids were all very scared of him though now when I think back I don't see him like that anymore.He was very particular about Sunday lunches, probably because that was the only meal he could have with his family. He was a connoisseur in Bengali food and made sure that we eat each and every course of a four or five course meal. So Sunday lunches at Mamarbari wasn't a very pleasurable experience, especially when you cannot jump to Mangsho Bhat (Meat & Rice - The main course) instead of having Uchchey or Dal Torkari (Lentil soup and Vegetable curry) first. He didn't understand that we were kids and we were not supposed to love Jhinge Posto or Uchchey Bhaate, just like we didn't understand the sweetness and emotion involved in a traditional Bengali family meal. 

Coming back to the recipe, Alu-Jheenge Posto (Potatoes and Ridge Gourd cooked in Poppy Paste) accompanied by any kind of Dal (Lentil soup) is one of the ultimate Bong comfort foods. Served with steaming hot boiled rice and a dash of mustard oil or Ghee, it can make any Bong sing Dhinka Chika at any given time of the day!

Alu Jhinge Posto

Prep time - 10 minutes
Cooking time - 20 minutes
Makes enough for 4

Ingredients : 

Potatoes - 2 large, peeled, washed and cubed
Ridge Gourd/Jhinge - 2 large, peeled, washed and cubed
Green Chillies - 2-3 split
Salt  - 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Nigella Seeds/Kalo Jeere/Kalonji - 1/2 tsp
Posto/KhasKhas/Poppy Seed Paste - 4-5 tbsp *
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp (you can use Sunflower oil if you want)

Method : 

Heat oil in a pan/wok and add the Nigella seeds. Let them splutter.  Add 1 chilli and the vegetables and fry on high heat for a few minutes. Add the salt and turmeric and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done. 

Remove the cover and add the poppy paste. Mix well and cook on high heat till all the water has been absorbed. Add the rest of the chillies and a dash of mustard oil(optional). Serve hot with rice and a dal of your choice. 

(*Note - Poppy paste is normally made using a Sheel Noda/speciality stone Mortar and Pestle. It can also be made using the small Chutney attachment of your food processor)

Musurir Dal/Masoor Dal

Prep Time - 2 minutes
Cooking time - 10 minutes
Makes for 4

Ingredients : For the Dal

Musurir Dal/Masoor Dal/Red Lentils - 1 cup
Water - 3-4 cups
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - A Pinch

For tempering

Nigella Seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 small, chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped(optional)
Tomato - 1 small, chopped 
Green Chillies - 2-3
Corriander Leaves - a few stalks, chopped
Sunflower Oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)

Method : 

Pressure cook the Dal alond with all the ingredients listed under 'For the Dal'. Bengali style Masoor Dal shouldn't be too mushy so cook accordingly (I wait till 1 whistle and then take the pressure out). 

Heat oil in a wok and add the nigella seeds, garlic and chillies and temper for 2 minutes. Add the onions and fry till they start changing colour. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the dal and incorporate everything nicely. Add the corriander leaves and the Ghee if using.