Cookbook Review: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles

March 12, 2013 in cookbook, Food Porn, review

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When I was given an opportunity to review this delightful cookbook “The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles” by Rinku Bhattacharya I happily accepted.

I simply adore all types of Indian food. It is all a wonderland of new and old favorite flavors.

My introduction to Indian food was through Bengali home cooking – my boyfriend in graduate school was from Bangladesh, via Hyderabad.

My ethnic food background is Colombian food (which doesnt go heavy on spice although it is nicely infused by cumin and cilantro) and American Midwestern Farm home cooking.

When I sat down to the first curry I had ever eaten, made by my then new boyfriend, it had boiled eggs in it! And it was served with rice and shiny red chili pods. I loved it, I can actually remember as I type this just how it tasted.

I then promptly lost the ability to taste anything when I chomped on one of the “garnish chilis” and the boyfriend laughed and laughed at my silly American ways. I was less amused and learned not to consider them edible.

This cookbook echos the techniques I saw him use and expands them hugely into a Big Bang of edible deliciousness.

Bengali cuisine is not vegetarian and does feature fish – makes sense considering that Bangladesh is composed in large part of the Ganges Delta at the confluence of two major rivers – The Bramaputra and The Ganges as they empty into the Bay of Bengal.

The book begins by introducing the core Bengali five spice blend also called Panch Phoron (all whole seeds):

  • Fennel seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Nigella seeds
  • Black Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds

The author shares a large pantry of spices at the beginning of the book. I suggest not going out and simply using it like a shopping list but rather get spices/items as needed for each recipe you try anew. Please take the time to store these items properly so that they do not lose their flavor in between your Bengali experiments.

She goes on to discuss spice pastes and blends. One can usually find these in local Indian stores. Be sure not to get old imported jars of it – get freshly prepared pastes/blends made by the Indian store proprietors or someone near by. You can also make your own!

The remainder of the book is filled with delicious recipes that will work you through the major broad fundamental categories of Bengali cuisine.

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In the center of the book is a grouping of color photographs for some of the recipes in the book. They will entice you to jump right in and start learning about Bengali cuisine.

Chapters cover topics such as:

  • Rice and Breads
  • Dal (lentils)
  • Bhaja (fried items)
  • Vegetarian 1st courses
  • Vegetarian Entrees
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Meat dishes
  • Chutneys, Relishes, Bhortas
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Desserts

I highly recommend this cookbook and suggest that – if you are interested in expanding your cooking repertoire – you should dive into this well written, personal, and very usable book!

Book Information:

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hippocrene Books
  • Title: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles”
  • Author: Rinku Bhattacharya
  • Publication Date: Nov 15 2012
  • ISBN-10: 0781813050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0781813051

Fogponics project

March 5, 2013 in Food Porn

Watermelon, runner beans, peas, peppers, cucumbers growing in fogponic bucket

Watermelon, runner beans, peas, peppers, cucumbers growing in fogponic bucket

First an apology for being gone so long. Microblogging sucked me down a deep sorta isolated hole. Its too easy for that to happen!

As you may remember, we raise chickens for meat and eggs. We raise dairy goats for milk, cheese, yogurt etc. We also garden but, as we live in a northern state, our growing season is very very short.

For this reason we have to start seeds indoors to be transplanted out when the weather becomes reliable (May). I have been doing just this for years now.

You can see a lot of that at our homesteading blog Humble Garden.

Sometimes I cross post to here because its all about food!

Beyond seed starting I have been teaching myself about hydroponics, aeroponics (growing without soil), and fogponics.

Fogponics is growing without soil and with only a fog of nutrient solution, a hyper-oxygenated fog.

I am going to share a few videos about what that is.

The fog is created using an ultrasonic nebulizer sitting in the nutrient solution.

Here is an example.

The fogger can be put into a plastic box and plants in a soil-less medium suspended above it.

I have also been devising a way to grow a bunch of microgreens with this method.

The fortitude to face Black Friday!

November 20, 2012 in Food Porn

Obviously SOMEONE (lots and lots of someones) have to work on Black Friday to make it happen! Lets face it, its not like a normal shopping day – its more like “feeding time at the zoo” time.

I am thankful that I do not have to face those crazy hordes of shoppers but I can appreciate the patience and energy it takes those of you all that do.

When I got an email about the Seattle’s Best coffee promotion for people who have to work on this day – getting them free coffee – I thought I could definitely support that!

Here are the details in English and then in Spanish:

Click the image below or click here to go to their facebook page to avail yourself of this free coffee!

¿Trabaja el viernes negro? Seattle’s Best Coffee quiere animarle el día con café gratis

Las personas que trabajan pueden reclamar su café gratuito en la página de Facebook de Seattle’s Best Coffee (Seattle’s Best Coffee Facebook Page) y en tiendas selectas

Their rules of engagement:

Terms and Conditions

  • Eligibility: Must be at least 18 years old to participate and provide a valid delivery address in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee will not be responsible for inaccurate or invalid addresses, or misdelivered or undeliverable samples or coupons.
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee® Samples: While supplies last. Limited time offer. Sample size is 1.75 oz of Level 3 ground coffee. Limit one per household.
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee reserves the right to substitute coffee sample type. Please allow 6–10 weeks for the sample to arrive. If you have not received your sample within such time, please contact 1-800-611-7793.
  • Coupons: While supplies last. Coupon expires 12/09/12. Limit 1 per household. See coupon for additional limitations.
  • In store offer: Free 12 oz cup of brewed coffee on Friday, November 23rd, 2012. Valid at participating Seattle’s Best Coffee stores only.
  • Limit one per customer.
  • Privacy Policy: http://www.seattlesbest.com/privacy-policy.aspx
  • Click here for a full list of rules

For extra special holiday noms – check out these coffees – I have never tried them but I think I am definitely going to go buy some and see what they are like.

Cream scones with dried cherries

October 18, 2012 in Food Porn

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Continuing with the tea party obsession and as I teased in the last post, I am sharing a recipe here for cream scones. In England, there are several sorts of “tea” meals including what is called a “cream tea“. My sense of it is that a cream tea is a simple unassuming although very high calorie affair usually enjoyed at a tea house or farm stand in Devonshire. In addition to tea, plain or berry scones are served with cultured clotted cream (Devonshire clotted cream is iconic) and perhaps a berry jam of some sort (strawberry, raspberry, you name it). The ritual of taking tea in this way seems to date back as far as the 11th century in Tavistock Abbey, Devonshire.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to this delicious sort of cream other than in the preserved form of shelf stable jars. I think that it would be an insult to consider that product the same as actual clotted cream.

In an attempt to capture some of the decadence of a cream tea I settled for a Joy of Cooking recipe for cream scones. There are a huge variety of recipes for this simple unyeasted delight. Some recipes include eggs and butter. The cream scone recipe omits these ingredients and uses heavy cream. I used dried cherries because thats what I had on hand. You can use raisins (soak in rum first?), dried currants, other berries, chocolate chips, toffee, anything that strikes your fancy.

It all comes together very quickly and before you know it you will be sitting down to nibble on some warm comforting cream scones and sipping your favorite hot drink.

Dried Cherry Cream Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk for brushing on top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder add the dried cherries. Coat the cherries well. Add the cream and mix until JUST incorporated.

Dump dough out onto greased baking sheet and form into a loaf 3/4 inches thick.

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I did mine in a round. Cut the dough into desired shapes. I just do pie cuts to make triangles so that I do not have any waste to reknead into shape – that rekneading can make the dough tough. Brush with some milk and bake for about 12 – 15 minutes or until a golden color of your choosing. You will need to be certain that the interior is cooked. If not, put back in the oven, cover with foil and continue until interior is no longer wet dough.

Remove and serve warm with tea!

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