Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mutton Curry, or the Essential PNathar Mangsher Jhol of my House

Bengali Mutton Curry with Rice and Chopped Cucumber and Onions
 My mother has no patience for fools in the kitchen, and if my father instructs her to cook something which she thinks would not suit the cut of meat, she shoos him out of the kitchen with a single "GO!" and a raised spatula or khunti, whichever is closer to her. Meekly, my father will succumb to her, with a bemused expression on his face, nodding gently, and wondering what was so impossible about it.

Ma is correct of course. The right cut makes all the difference while cooking, especially when it comes to meat. My father is fond of bringing shanks of goat meat back home, so recently when I started off making a simple curry with it, thinking of making it light, my mother came in, took one look at the meat, and told me to make it hot. By hot, I mean hot. She wanted heat, and I decided to deliver.

Goat Meat Curry Bengali Style
So here's how I started off. Take 500 gm. mutton, preferably from the shank region and not with too much fat clinging to it (but loads of intramuscular fat if you have it). The thing is, in Bengal, Mutton is goat meat, and lamb is difficult to find here, unless you really want to go all the way to New Market and get yourself some. Apply salt, a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of Kashmiri Mirch powder, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons of onion paste and a teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste. Leave this alone for an hour.

Soak 3-6 dry red chillies in water for an hour. When the red chillies are fully soaked, make a very fine paste of them. Also chop two onions. Set aside. Take 3 medium potatoes. Wash them, cut them in half, and fry them in mustard oil. You can use this mustard oil later to cook the meat.

Heat 75 ml. mustard oil in a pressure cooker or a heavy kadai or heavy-bottomed vessel with a good bit of surface area to cook the mutton. When the oil smokes nearly, add 3 green cardamom, whole, slightly bruised with the back of your spatula, an inch-long stick of cinnamon, 6 cloves, 6 whole peppercorns, a single bay leaf, and 5 whole dry red chillies. Let this fry for 15 seconds. Add the onions, chopped, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often, till the onions are soft and golden brown.

mutton curry

Raise the heat and add the mutton, stirring briskly to make sure the meat is sealed in with the juices. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the mutton is seared. Add the red chilli paste, stir it in to mix well, lower the temperature to a simmer, cover the meat with a lid, and let cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add 2 cups of hot water, and cover the pressure cooker. Ideally, in my house, I let the pressure cooker come to full steam, let it release a single whistle, and then simmer it and cook for 10-12 minutes.

After that, I turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down naturally. You can do that, or you can simmer the meat till it is soft. Once the meat is soft, but not super-soft, add the potatoes, cover, and cook till the potatoes are done (one more whistle in the pressure cooker, or 15 minutes on stove top). Adjust salt, and if you are like my uncle, sugar, and serve with boiled rice.

In my house, a typical Sunday would contain this meaty curry, rice, and a big batch of chopped cucumber and onions, and a lime wedge. The key is to squeeze the lime into the rice while mixing it with the runny mutton curry, and mix in a potato as well. The result is absolutely, perfectly, satisfying.

 
Mangsher Jhol

Kotak Makes Banking Super Stylish and Easy

http://www.kotakjifi.comI have had a lot of issues with banks and banking. You can say I am not much of a fan of banks, because I have always have had trouble with them. Once, my bank account got locked for no reason whatsoever, and could only be unlocked after a period of nearly twenty days... precious time and energy wasted! Another time, one of my debit cards expired, and the bank did not bother sending a new one, till I went and applied and appealed to their better nature.

Naturally, I am not too happy with most banks.

But when Kotak Mahindra Bank started talking about Social Banking, I got curious. What exactly was it? On closer inspection, I was impressed and stunned.

How about accessing your bank through your Facebook profile?

Kotak Mahindra Bank has always been an innovator, and this time it's a very cool thing they have done. You can easily log in via Facebook or your email address at http://www.kotakjifi.com . At present, the service is available in Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune, but this will be launching in more cities quite soon.

Once you do, you get an email at your email address registered with Facebook, or the mailing address you chose to share. There, you would see a mail waiting for you which would take you through a step-by-step procedure to sign up.


Yes, the entire procedure is THAT simple, and afterwards, your account will be set up. There are several plus points of this account.

1. Minimum balance/Zero Balance account. Which means, you don't have to keep any high amount of money here.
2. Get account balance, transaction history, cheque book request, and other details through a Facebook message or Tweet. Yes, that is how simple this is.
3. Locate an ATM nearby with one Tweet.
4. The mobile app is so simple to use. It literally works magic within seconds. Now all your details can be stored in your phone.
5. You get referral points for every friend you successfully recommend, and on sign up, your Platinum Debit Card is there for a year, free of cost! That's something indeed.

There are loads of other benefits of the new Kotak Social Banking scheme, so check it out in details at http://www.kotakjifi.com, and know more today! Banking has never been this easy and you can be done in a jiffy!

Disclaimer: This Post was written in response to the Kotak Mahindra #JifiIsHere contest powered by Indiblogger. For more details, check this link here.

Add a bit of... Zest.


It's like one of those Spice Girls Songs. You remember the 1990s? And Sporty Spice and Ginger Spice and Bab Spice? I loved them. Well, it was that age, I guess. Made otherwise sane individual do weird things. Like imitating Kajol's hairstyle in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, or running around making people wear friendship bands.

I am glad that phrase is over.

Anyway, so. Where was I?

That's right. Zest. Well, I love adding that little bit extra to my life. Because that makes life interesting. Whether its a bit of romance, or a slice of good fruit cake, life is all about making it worth living.

What I would really appreciate is going away somewhere fun. But that's not on the cards because I am broke after all that TDS and stuff I paid for the 31st because paying taxes is horrible and should be benned  But I am currently re-scheduling my life and thinking about my priorities, and well, all that saving and investing is making me unhappy.

So, yes. I guess when you don't have money, you will have to make do with other things. In my case, it's simple. In the next few days, I have decided to engage more with people. Interact more, dedicate my time to them. Because, you can't buy that, can you. So, here's the top things I want to do to add some zest to my life.

1. Spend more time with friends. Especially those who I haven't met recently. Go shopping more often with them. Shop everywhere  - from the streets to the top designers, don't leave them alone!
2. Go for long drives. Preferably with best friend. Carry food and beverage and set up a picnic. And maybe a camp somewhere. No, not on the roof. Maybe in a park or something. Or try hiking. No, not hitchhiking. Rather, think sleeping bags and the great outdoors and sturdy walking shoes. Whatever it is, best friend should be there.
3. Eat new food. Explore new cuisines. Travel to other places. Try out new kinds of meat and fish and vegetables and fruits and grains. The world is your apple.
4. Learn something new. Knitting, maybe? Maybe driving? Learn it because that will add something extra. Read a book from an author you don't know anything about.
5. Take some time off to tell your family how awesome they are. Rather, take them out for dinner. Buy them gifts. Give them a hug. Make sure they know they are special... at least in your eyes. And last but not the least, take some time off and tell yourself you're awesome. And you know you will be, too!

I solemnly swear that I will follow a few of these edicts. What about you? Don't hesitate to add some Zest to your life today.

This post is a part of the #ZestUpYourLife activity in association with TATA Zest and BlogAdda.com

Darkness is All.

Without darkness, how would you know the existence of light? For a girl who obsessed about the color half her life, this is one of the toughest challenge - listing only five black things on her list. Because, don't you know that black is beautiful? In Bengali, there is a saying, roughly translated it goes like - "If black is bad, then why do you cry when your hair turns grey?" To me, black is one of the signature colors of youth and life. It can conceal within its folds secrets and you would be stunned when they are revealed.

So, listing five things on my list which are black.

http://www.smartnetzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/black-jaguar-3.jpg
Image Source - http://www.smartnetzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/black-jaguar-3.jpg

1. A Black Panther. I have always wanted a panther as my pet, and a beautiful black panther would be perfect.

2. The 2011 Porsche 911 Black Edition Cabriolet. Its beautiful. Check this picture and you will know.

3. Black Diamond. In fact, if I get married, which is a big IF in my books, I want a black diamond. Yes, its very weird of me. Okay, I can be persuaded to get something else, but well, why not buy me a black diamond to show that you love me? I will love you too. I promise. I would even tolerate your farts.

4. A Dark Room with a skylight so I can observe the night sky in peace. I would prefer the room to have a Black Ceiling. And a comfortable cushy sofa.

5. The fifth thing, which is my absolute favorite, and I am about to get, is Black Coffee. I love it. It is what I have lived on for a while. Black coffee is beautiful and it wakes me up.

That's all! I promise.

Disclaimer: This post was written in response to the Black is Beautiful contest in association with Blogadda. For more information check out the hashtag #WhatTheBlack. 

Three Easy Makeup Tips and Beautyglimpse.com


For those who don't know about this part of my work, I often review makeup and beauty products for a number of blogs, as well as my own. In my line of work, appearances count a lot, and looking good is important. But well, truthfully speaking, you can't keep looking great all the time, right? You are bound to make faux pas, and of course, there are times when you will falter. But, here are three simple makeup tips which can save you, like it saves me, in times of trouble.


1. Good concealer is worth its weight in gold. I have major insomnia related issues, and skin problem, and I break out a lot. So, getting a concealer is a must. I have a couple of shades in my kitty, and I use them considerably. One of my favorite concealers are Laura Mercier Undercover which I use very often because it blends out into nothing within seconds, and it is very easy to set. You would need a bit of powder and you are done. With that, you can actually reduce redness around the nose and angry pimples, dark circles, and I have often used it as a makeup base, especially for eye makeup. I also find MAC concealers to be pretty nice, although they tend to get a bit too yellow for my liking.


2. Pick a neutral eyeshadow which can be used as a highlighter as well. I generally have a few, but Sand from Revlon's Colorstay Shadow Links is my current favorite, and I have reviewed it here. You can pack this one as much or as little as you want... the best part is, you can easily blend this in, use it as a highlighter, mix it with body lotion to give your skin a lovely shimmer, but not overwhelmingly so. This looks great for virtually any makeup, and you can use it at the corner of the eye to make your eyes look brighter and more opened up.


3. Get that perfect red lips with a good lipstick which would stay on you. As a food blogger, I constantly worry about my makeup not staying in place after I have had a meal. So, long wear makeup is a big "yes" in my books. I love MAC's matte shades for this, especially Ruby Woo and Relentlessly Red, and you can also find that perfect red for your skin tone. Just make sure you try a few on before you buy and do not go by the hype. A friend of mine wanted to get Ruby Woo for a very long time, so we got it for her. However, after the initial try, she realized it totally did not suit her. So, get the right shade of red which suits you. Remember, there's something for everyone out there.


You can check out Beauty Glimpse for tips as cool as these, and more. I love that portal because it offers something for everyone, and helps you to become more stylish without spending a ton of cash. There are so many things to look for - tips, reviews, articles about wellness and beauty. They have amazing articles, and great tips for making you look great day in, day out.

I have noted that I have a slightly different notion of beauty than most. For me, real beauty is all about the attitude and how you can pull something off effortlessly. The most beautiful person I have met radiates beauty effortlessly, and it is not physical, at least. It is more about the spirit.

Disclaimer: This post is written in response to The Real Beauty Bloggers contest hosted by beautyglimpse.com.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nyonya Food Festival at The Wall

Nyonya Food Festival at The Wall
The Nyonya food festival is starting off from 18th of July at The Wall, and it will continue till the 3rd of August, 2014. As I am a major fan of Nyonya, or Nonya food (literally translating to "auntie cuisine"), I ambled over to The Wall, and checked out for myself the things they have on offer.

The Wall, Kolkata
I was greeted by Chef Sushanta Sengupta, who was patiently explaining things for my benefit. He had devised a short, but succinct special menu which would be featured throughout, and he told me, while I sipped on my drink, the menu selection.

"We had to consider two things - taste and availability. While all the dishes here are authentic, they were selected on the basis of the availability of fresh ingredients. Typically, Nyonya food is very spicy, and we have toned down the level of heat slightly, but otherwise, the dishes are mostly kept the way they are, so that, those who have visited South East Asia and would love a taste of the food here in Kolkata, can find it at The Wall."

Chef Sushanta Sengupta
I asked him what he thought would be instant hits here. "Definitely the Butter Fried Prawns, which is really striking with the use of curry leaves and butter, while tossing the crisp prawns. Also, the Nyonya fried chicken. But then, in the main course, we have Ayam Pengteh, which is a lovely chicken dish with fermented beans, that has really unusual flavors."


So we progressed to the meal and started off with the Mee Siam - roughly translated to Siamese Noodles. This was a beautiful, tangy broth scented with cilantro and tamarind, with pieces of mushrooms, bean sprouts, chicken and battered and deep fried tofu. The soup was comforting on a rainy day.

Rojak
The Rojak was spicy, sweet and sour. I am not much of a Rojak lover, but this was good.

Nyonya Cabbage in Coconut Milk
The cabbage in coconut milk was very delicate, where you could feel the presence of the coconut milk, but it was not overwhelming. There was a hit of heat here, which was welcome. 

Butter Fried Prawns

Okay. Crispy prawns. Scratch that. Crunchy prawns. Smelling of butter, coconut, and curry leaves. Need I say more?


Whole Steamed Fish, Nyonya Style
The fish used here was a fillet of red snapper. It was very similar to a Mandarin Fish, but then again, it had the presence of heat from some Thai Chillies, and some mushrooms, which had soaked up some of the light, soy based broth. The fish was delicate and perfect with some rice.

Nyonya Fried Chicken with Kecup Manis


I sort of zoned into the Nyonya fried chicken, simply because I wanted more of the dark, sweet Kecup Manis on it, and the crunchy, juicy chicken pieces, smelling of turmeric and curry. I would happily eat a few plates of these. And well, I did.

Jellied Mango Pudding
I decided on the Jellied Mango Pudding. I have always felt that Malaysian menus tend to flop in India because of the lack of desserts which would be truly appreciated. Chef Sushanta explained the general boost of coconut-heavy desserts in South East Asia to me. "You see, most people of South East Asia is lactose-intolerant, hence their prevalent love for coconut milk and sugar. Except Philippines of course! They are Portuguese-inspired, and makes amazing cakes." I agreed solemnly and dove into the mango pudding. It was mild, sweet but not overwhelmingly so, with a dab of whipped cream and fresh coconut on top. It sort of made me change my opinion about Malay desserts with its creamy, yet mild flavors.



The menu at The Wall contains all this and more. I checked out the Prawn Curry with Pineapple, the Otak Otak (fish cake), and a few other very interesting things on their menu. Check it out while the festival is on!

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited by The Wall to dine at the Nyonya Food Festival.
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