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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Golda Chingri Bhape or Steamed King Prawns in a mustard, poppy seed and coconut paste

This dish is a must for each and every blog created by a true Bong. If you search for 'Chingri Bhape' on Google you will get at least 20 links with similar recipes. I have never given Chingri Bhape much thought earlier as I havn't eaten a decent Chingri Bhape for a long time, almost since I was a kid.  To be honest Chingri Malaicurry is the king of all bengali prawn curries, who doesn't know that! And if you really want to eat steamed curries then Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa) rules our palate on any given day. I used to think the same until I ate Bhapa Chingri at my friend M's house. She is a versatile lady, a doctor by profession and an amazing cook. She cooked 11 dishes for 40 people and each dish was perfect. But the dish that stole the show was her Chingri Bhape. Shelled succulent juicy prawns in a subtly pungent and creamy paste took me straight back to my mum's kitchen (you'll understand what I mean if you've watched Ratatouille movie, if you havn't, go watch it NOW!). 

So when I saw these really nice looking King prawns in the local grocery store I bought them straight away. Another thing that my hands were itching to use for some time is the special Bengali grinding stone that I got called  Sheel Noda from my mum-in-law on last visit to India. She passed me her legacy and  I sacrificed 5 kilos of luggage allowance to bring that legacy to this side of the world, so I had to put it to good use or I'd have to face wrath of a certain man in the house! So lots of grinding and getting-to-the-verge-of-neck-spasm later I achieved the most smooth creamy mustard, poppy seed paste that no grinder in the world could ever give me. This dish is the most orgasmic dish I've created so far and at the end the pain was all worth it. 

I used the grinding stones to make my mustard-poppy seed paste. You can use a chutney attachment in your food pro or dry roast and then grind in a coffee grinder. The trick is to try and grind as hard as you can so that you don't have to repeat many times which can result in the mustard turning bitter. 

Chingri Bhape 


King Prawns - I used headless with shells on about 10
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp

Toss the prawns with the salt and turmeric and keep aside for some time. 

Ingredients for grinding 

Mustard Seeds - 3 tbsp
Poppy Seeds - 2 tbsp
Green Chillies - 2/3
Salt - 1/2 tsp

Grind all the above to the smoothest paste possible. 

Ingredients for the final marinade

Grated coconut - 1/2 cup (you can use dry desiccated coconut, soaked in water for 1 hour)
Greek Yogurt - 1/4 cup (my friend's recipe asked for coconut milk but I didn't have any at home so turned to my saviour in kitchen mishaps, Sandeepa's blog
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - a pinch
Green chillies - 5/6

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade along with the mustard-poppy seed paste. Toss the prawns in this mixture so that each prawn is coated evenly. 

Put the prawns in an airtight container and steam. I steamed them in a steamer for 20 minutes and the prawns were cooked just right. If you like them thoroughly cooked then steam them for 4-5 more minutes. You can also steam in a pressure cooker by adding water and keeping the steaming vessel on a stand inside the cooker. It should be done in 1-2 minutes before the whistle. It will take a couple of attempts to get the right timing. 

Take out of the container and serve with hot rice. 

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.