Cookbook Review: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles

March 12, 2013 in cookbook, Food Porn, review


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.


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

Making comfort food just that much easier

February 1, 2012 in Food Porn, review


Some of the best and most delicious busy week-night comfort food you can put together for your family may not be the fanciest or prettiest, but it certainly delivers satisfaction.

These recipes often also leave you with baking pans that have a crust of baked-on food that can leave the cook with a, let’s try to say this nicely, lessened enthusiasm for making that recipe again. There isn’t a much†more dispiriting thing in the kitchen than a baking pan that has a death grip on baked-on cheese and pasta.

Be honest – how often do you consider a recipe, think it sounds delicious, but then a vision of the baking pan you will have to clean later puts you off the whole enterprise? I don’t like using throw-away foil pans, so that’s not a short-cut I consider for feeding the family on a daily basis.

I tend to use olive oil to coat my baking pans or, if I run out of that, I use a discount oil spray (because that’s what I have on hand a lot). Whether it’s high quality and tasty olive oil or butter or cheapy spray, food still sticks on the pan.

If I am the one loading the dishwasher I scrub the pan with the steel scrubber I use for my stainless steel pans – sometimes with a lot of elbow grease – and then put it into the dishwasher. If someone ELSE loads the dishwasher, they don’t pre-scrub, and I go to unload the washer to find a pan with very well-washed, baked-on food on the pan. I then have to scrub the pan with the scrubber and put it through AGAIN. Yeah – tell me I am not the only one with this issue?

BlogHer – working with the makers of PAM® – reached out to some blog reviewers to use their new spray formulation. You can learn more about the new PAM at this link and also ìlikeî their Facebook page.

I am going to share my experience with this new product, a recipe, and also a chance to win a $100 gift card giveaway plus coupons for the new and improved PAM Cooking Spray and Hunt’s Tomatoes (details at the bottom of this page)

So you could see from the photos above that I made a baked cheesy sausage rigatoni. I hope you try the recipe. Its not a major innovation in recipe development and won’t win any Nobel Prizes, BUT I think your family will find it irresistibly delicious both on the day you make it fresh and as leftovers at school and work the next day.

I have video farther down of the dish burbling away in the oven-you should have smelled it-knock out. Watching the video is the next best thing, and maybe it will entice you to try it.

In terms of stick-factor, this recipe definitely offered a challenge to the new PAM spray formulation.

And how did that turn out, you may ask? I can tell you that the stuck-on food came off with just my bare fingers-amazing huh? I then poured some hot, soapy water in the pan and grabbed my iPhone and shot the video below-showing you how the food was just barely clinging. After the video I rinsed the pan, ran a soapy sponge across it to remove oils and then rinsed it again, et voila – done with the clean up.

Please dont forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this page!

Herb Kissed Sausage Whole Wheat Rigatoni Bake


  • 1 lb box whole wheat rigatoni
  • 1-2 pounds raw sweet Italian sausage, cooked, diced
  • 4-6 cups pasta sauce (not white cheese sauce type)
  • 32 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 8-10 ounces freshly shredded mozzarella
  • one large ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • bunch of fresh basil, rough chop
  • bunch of fresh oregano, rough chop
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, diced finely
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • salt as needed


Boil whole wheat rigatoni about 3/4 of recommended time, drain, set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Saute sausages on medium heat until 3/4 cooked and nicely browned on the outside.

Remove sausage and cut into small pieces.

In the sausage pan, saute onions in leftover oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Once lightly browned, add garlic and turn off the heat and set aside.

Mix ricotta, eggs, basil, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, until fluffy.

Fold in sautÈed onions and 3/4 of the shredded mozzarella.

Spray your baking pan(s) with PAM lightly. Add boiled pasta. I had to split this recipe across two baking pans. Add 1/2 pasta sauce to each pan, add 1/2 ricotta mix, add 1/2 sausage, mix evenly. Sprinkle tops with last 1/4 of shredded cheese and also add slices of fresh mozzarella. If you like, add a slight glug of olive oil across the fresh mozzarella. Spray some foil with PAM, and then cover the pans.

Bake them about 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and put the pans back in the oven with it on the broil setting to crisp up the surface cheese. Allow to cool 15 – 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy! Leftovers only get better :-)


Prize: $100 gift card giveaway plus coupons for the new and improved PAM Cooking Spray and Hunt’s Tomatoes, courtesy of BlogHer and PAM.

To be entered for a chance to win, let me know your favorite recipe that uses PAM.

No duplicate comments.You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  • Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  • Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  • Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  • For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/1 – 3/31.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e- mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here.†

Be sure to visit the PAM round-up page on where you can read other bloggersí reviews and find more chances to win!

Simply Yum – My Indian Kitchen by Hari Nayak

October 12, 2011 in Food Porn, review

Food can be non-intuitive if you eat mindlessly. When you fall into a rut with your daily cooking or if you never venture out of box or frozen food from the store or are always eating out in restaurants sort of like they are your dorm cafeteria, you miss an opportunity to hear what food has to say to you.

When you are bored with cooking or what you have been eating, its your body’s way of telling you that its well past time to wake up and pay attention.

What better way to wake up the mind and mouth than with the deep mind-awakening transformation that can happen when you eat a cuisine that has spent 1,000s of years intensely focused on the information within food and how our bodies respond to that information.

Indian cuisine is not just something you buy off an all-you-can-eat buffet line in an indian food restaurant, in a building which had once been a Supercuts or a pet store or a shoe or eyeglass store in a forlorn strip mall somewhere near your work.

Its food that can be made at home and it can bring you great satisfaction, not only on the palate but also a sense of accomplishment as you broaden your food knowledge and choices.

When you cook from the Indian Cuisine universe you get to enjoy the perfume and alchemy that happens as you cook with spices and then you get to sit down to food that will not only fill your belly but enliven the rest of your being from your toes, to your chest, to your sinuses, to your imagination.

A good place to start is with a resource that will guide you to the irridescent pools of Indian spice magic at home; start with Hari Nayak’s new cookbook “My Indian Kitchen: Preparing Delicious Indian Meals without Fear or Fuss“.

My Indian Kitchen by Hari Nayak

Chef Nayak’s books are always visually mouth-watering and the recipes are approachable, authentic, and delicious. I reviewed another of his books previously – “Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna“.

He has worked at famed New York restaurants like Aquavit and Daniel, has just opened the Soul & Spice Restaurant in Kuwait, and owns the Orissa restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, NY. These are just a FEW of the many things he has going on, very busy guy.

You can see a video trailer for the book here.

I decided to give a couple of more mainstream recipes a try in this book to help gauge how well it enables the average non-Indian cook to prepare favorite treats.

My Indian Kitchen: samosa recipe

I made the most delicious potato and pea samosas (page 58) and found it to be very simple. Nayak provides plenty of guidance on how to make the samosa dough from scratch and then how to form these pockets of goodness.

My Indian Kitchen: samosa recipe

My photos show a samosa made by a shortcut – using wonton wrappers. You can use either method with great success. My family completely enjoyed these, they were gone as soon as they cooled.

My Indian Kitchen: homemade samosas

I also made another favorite, roti, chapati, or parathas (these all vary a bit but are similar in shape and all can be made with an infinite variety of additions/secret touches).

This recipe could NOT have been any easier and the result was simply delicious. Again Nayak provides a lovely illustrated guide to making these griddle cakes.

My Indian Kitchen: roti recipe

These too were eaten by my little kids as soon as they had cooled enough.

My Indian Kitchen: homemade roti

My Indian Kitchen: homemade roti

My Indian Kitchen: homemade roti

Some particular aspects of this book include:

  • Indian cooking for the spice sensitive
  • Which wines to pair with Indian cuisine
  • How to jazz up your summer grilling ideas by using Indian ingredients and flavors
  • How to create an Indian/Bollywood-themed cocktail party with his bruschetta recipes using Indian flavors for a twist.
  • Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated from Wednesday, October 26 through Sunday, October 30 this year. Hari can explain why it is an important holiday in the Indian culture, how it is celebrated and what food traditions are associated with it.

I have really enjoyed this cookbook and I look forward to more of Hari Nayak’s books in the future! Its my hope that you will get an opportunity to give this book a try, I highly recommend it.

Book Details

The Blue Jean chef: Comfortable in the Kitchen By Meredith Laurence

October 11, 2010 in Ad free, cookbook, Food Porn, giveaway, review


(Chicken Fried pork medallions, fried green tomatoes, sautéed garden spinach, white pan gravy)

This is a both a cookbook review and a giveaway. Five copies of this cookbook will be given away, the winners being selected on October 31, 2010 when there will be a simultaneous live event by Meredith Laurence, the author, on QVC on In the Kitchen with David at 12pm EDT. She will also be introducing her line of cookware along with her book on that day. The details on the giveaway are found later in this post.


Table of Contents

  • Soups and Salads
  • Snacks and Sandwiches
  • Pasta
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Breakfast
  • Desserts and Treats

As with any cookbook author, Laurence seeks to present a select group of recipes to the reader in a certain way to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Laurence crafts her book around core or basic recipes that introduce basic techniques. She shares some of her experience in these basic recipe sections to help the reader feel more comfortable with these techniques and suggests cookware and tools that makes the job easier. She then shares related recipes that helps novice cooks spread their wings with confidence and creativity.

Examples of basic recipes include:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Mac n Cheese
  • Roast Chicken
  • Meatloaf
  • Hamburger
  • Mussels
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Pancakes
  • Cheesecake
  • Pie Dough
  • Dessert Souffle

For this review I chose the “Chicken Fried Steak” recipe which is listed under the basic recipe “Pan Fried Chicken”. In my version I used pork because thats what I had on hand!

I cut thin medallions from the loin to use in place of the tenderized beef steaks.

I found that we got a delightful and moist result from this simple recipe, I recommend it! As a side, I made fried green tomatoes because its the end of our gardening season and I have an abundance of green tomatoes! That recipe is not one I found in this cookbook.

Chicken Fried Steak (Page 118, modified here to pork vs beef)


  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 C + 2 tablespoons flour, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 tenderized round steaks (~5-6 oz each, 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 pound shortening (2 C oil)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 C milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 170 F. Pour buttermilk into shallow bowl. Combine 1 C flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and divide mixture between two separate bowls or plates.

Heat shortening/oil (I used olive oil) in a 12 inch heavy bottomed saute pan, about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat to ~ 350 F. When hot, dip tenderized steaks, one at a time, in the flour, then the buttermilk, then the flour and then put into the pan. Fry about 2 – 3 minutes per side (until golden) and then remove to the oven to keep warm.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

When done cooking all meat, drain all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the pan along with the fresh thyme. Cook about 2 minutes or until flour is cooked. Add the room temperature milk to the pan and scrub up all bits of fried meat from bottom of the pan. Whisk this sauce and cook until it comes to a boil and then thickens. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour this gravy into a gravy boat ad serve with the steaks as well as your desired sides.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 4 large green tomatoes
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C bread crumbs
  • 1/2 C corn meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • enough oil for about 1/4 to 1/2 inch oil in bottom of pan

Preheat oven to about 200 F. Heat oil to about 350 F. Slice green tomatoes about 1/2 inch in thickness. Dip tomato slices in eggs/milk and then dredge in the flour mixture. Place dredged slices into hot oil and cook until golden on each side. Remove slices to a baking pan in the 200 F oven to hold until time to serve. Sprinkle with some salt before serving.

Giveaway Details
To enter for a chance to win one of five copies of this cookbook you must do at least one of the following and may do all three to enter up to three times:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about your most important basic go-to recipe
  • Tweet about this giveaway with this specific tweet ” I entered 2 win @bluejeanchef ‘s cookbook Comfortable in the Kitchen @ Nikas Culinaria visit 2 enter! #recipes #foodies ” MAKE CERTAIN to comment below to let me know about the tweet
  • Blog about this giveaway and then let me know that you blogged it (with valid link) in the comments below

At the end of the contest, I will use a random number generator to select the winner.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Product Details

  • BLUE JEAN CHEF: Comfortable in the Kitchen
  • By Meredith Laurence
  • Walah!, LLC Publishing
  • October 2010
  • $24.95/Softcover
  • 96 full-color photos
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9827540-3-0