Watermelon,Feta ,Mint and Olive Salad with Walnut

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Watermelon,feta,mint and olive salad.This is summer in a bowl!Colorful summer-fresh vegetables ,chunky walnut adding a bite,flavorful herbs tossed in a lemony -vinegar dressing, this salad bursts into great flavors.Simple, everyday ingredients which are easily available ,light and fresh.This is the perfect side with the barbecue lunch.Summer is in it’s fag end here in England.While the shops are buzzing with summer ending sales,kids are preparing to go back to school,the rain is back in action(as if it was away anytime!) and more frequently now,I was mourning silently and  thinking of bringing out  the winter woollies out of the closet,a pleasant surprise happened.

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Summer decided to be nice and warm for one last time  a few days back.I made a zesty grilled chicken for lunch, served it with some crusty garlic butter bread,Mexican style corn on the cob and this cool salad.Tossed with onion,mint,lemon,feta crumbles,fresh olives,spring onion I served the chilled watermelon balls  for lunch in company with my favorite watermelon,strawberry and pomegranate punch.And to end the meal I made the yogurt mousse with strawberry marshmallow and blueberry compote .My perfect summer meal. That’s what I call  having a good day .Going back to the salad, I love chilled watermelon in  my salad.Before making the salad,I refrigerated the watermelon balls,and left them to be chilled till I was ready to make the salad.This salad is best served fresh and on the day it is made.The walnuts add a nice  bite to the salad,giving it a great texture.

 

 

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Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of fresh watermelon
  • 1/2 cup lettuce ,roughly chopped
  • 1 cucumber,finely chopped or sliced
  • 1/2 cup olives
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese,crumbled
  • 1/2 parsley,finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted or roasted walnut
  • 1/2 cup  mint,finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 table spoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup onion,finely chopped or sliced
  •  1/4 cup spring onion,finely chopped
  • salt,to taste
  • black pepper ,to taste

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Instructions :

  • Place watermelon,onion,cucumber,onion,spring onion,cucumber,olives in a large bowl.
  • Add fresh herbs ,feta and walnuts.
  • Prepare the salad dressing by  mixing the lemon juice,balsamic vinegar,olive oil,salt and pepper.
  • Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and mix to incorporate.

Related posts:

Watermelon,Strawberry and Pomegranate Punch

 

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Doi Begun /Eggplant in yogurt gravy …. to beat the summer heat

Memories in May ..

doi begun_bong appetite

 

A squirrel quenching it's thirst (Photo courtesy : Bhashkar Dasgupta)

A squirrel quenching it’s thirst
(Photo courtesy : Bhashkar Dasgupta)

Summer reminds me of this song by Rabindranath Tagore.It perfectly describes the ruthlessness of summer heat and the agony  of  sun fatigued days,while eagerly waiting for the thundershowers to sooth tired souls.

 

Darun  agni-ban e re hriday trishay han-e re .

Rajani nidrahin,dirgho dogdho din..

Aram nahi je jaan-e re.

Shushko kanon shakhey  klanto kapot daake..

Karun kator gaan-e re..

Bhoy nahi,bhoy nahi,gagone rohechey  chahi.

Jani jhanjhar beshe  dibe dekha  tumi eshe..

Ekoda tapito praan-e re.

In this scorching heat of summer

My heart is so thirsty

The nights are sleepless..the days are burnt too long

Doesn’t get little respite

The tired pigeon moans sadly on  a dry brunch of a tree

But,fear not..worry not

Our eyes are roving in the sky

We know,you would show up in the guise of  tempest

And bless our restless souls with the downpour of your kindness..

(Translation courtesy: Abhijit Mazumdar)

 

 

While I write this post  summer has clearly touched base,and  temperature is  rising to a soaring high in most parts of India and many parts of the world ,with  mercury touching 40 degree Celsius with a humidity of 45%   in Kolkata,my home city.There you will  not consider it to be  a very cool idea to stay outdoor during the summer day unless your work  forces you to be,or you decide to get drenched in your own  sweat.  With no rain  to bail you out of the discomforting temperature,the only respite could be sort after in the ice creams,kulfis,daab-er jol(coconut water)shorbot ( Bengali cold drink concoction) etc.A few summers back, on my way to my work place,a college where I used to teach in Baghbazar(in North Kolkata) a common  sight  in the summer days that I vividly remember : the hand drawn rickshaws  plying hurriedly through  the city lanes and by-lanes.While the melting pitch of the streets took better of the poor rickshawallas,the passengers remain seated somewhat comfortably under the narrow perch of the rickshaw,and when that’s not comforting enough they would open  up their umbrellas to shield the raging  sun.

Rickshaw  ride  in the summer afternoon (Source:The Namesake)

Rickshaw ride in the summer afternoon
(Source:The Namesake)

Another visual that would make me secretly jealous,thinking how fortunate some people are, was on the days when I would have my classes in the second half of the day. I would notice the shutters of some of the small shops in the locality half down or a makeshift curtain arranged to cut down the entry of  heat to the shop,while the shopkeeper doze off to  afternoon siesta after his daily quota of maach-bhaat  morsel.Not a good business proposition to do  in the middle of the day,but I don’t  blame them,specially when you have minimum  customer  traffic  during  the times of sweltering heat.Summer  afternoon,however,did not always spell bad business for all .The ones who sold ice lollies called pepsi(the name that was given by the sellers themselves..remember the pipe shaped flavored and colored ice lollies?that probably you as a kid would buy with a 50

 Colourful Ice-lollies (Photo courtesy: Jishnu Nandy)

Colourful Ice-lollies
(Photo courtesy: Jishnu Nandy)

paisa ,tear the edge of the plastic pack  with your canines and gulp at  a go)dunked in their  ice  thermocol boxes,as they hop on and off the mini bus and private buses stopped in the middle of a traffic jam  being caught up at a traffic signal.While watching the street children kind of jumping,dancing and racing against each other under the public tap,which probably they would consider their private fountain showers, I would be immediately transmitted to my childhood days.Summer in spite of all it’s ghastliness  would bring the  unadulterated joy of summer vacations.The summer vacations were largely spent in my grandparent’s house  in central Kolkata,  with all my cousins united to spend the holidays together.

A bird's eye view of a busy road in Central Kolkata

Bird’s eye view of a busy road in Central Kolkata

A boy having ice candy to beat the heat  (Source:Reuters)

A boy having ice candy to beat the heat
(Source:Reuters)

The joy of watching the  para cricket(oh!if you have not known we have a Sourav Ganguly in every locality,if not a Sachin Tendulkar)round the corner of the street and wait impatiently towards  the end  of the afternoon for the ice cream-wallah(ice cream seller)to come  in  the locality with their ice-cream  carts.Our (me and my cousins’s)balcony  would be  the parapet of the roof terrace,We would cautiously stand on the tip of our toes with  the upper half of the body leaning little dangerously towards the roof  parapet,as we were not tall enough to  see the lane below just by standing on our feet.While the ice cream vendors would make sounds of sort  to signal their grand arrival , I along with my cousins would rush hurriedly to our grandparents to ask for khuchro(small currency change) to buy ourselves our favorite vanilla,choco-bar,orange flavored ice cream cups and sticks.Every season comes with a reason-true! whoever said so .

Summer have it’s  fair share of contribution to the Bengali appetite.Few vegetables which are only available during summer like mocha(banana blossom),potol(pointed gourd),enchor(jackfruit) etc are catapulted to a position of great respect and delicacies would be made out of them.While in summer  there are few vegetarian option available as such,the humble brinjal aka aubergine aka eggplant would come to the rescue of the households as it is one of the most precious summer vegetables( though it ‘s widely grown even in warm tropical winter  as well)we get.The patla maach er jhol shobji diye(light fish curry with vegetables)will inevitably have large chunks of  brinjals or eggplants immersed in the flavorful broth  to sooth the summer heat fatigued souls and if you give it a thought you can carve out a star dish out of the eggplant in the form of Doi Begun or eggplant in yogurt based gravy.Doi begun is one of the easiest mouth watering ‘make ahead dish’  that you can make with the fried eggplants  tipped in a lightly spiced yogurt based gravy,generally served mildly chilled or at room temperature with steaming hot rice to have a cooling effect.

begun

Doi begun to me does not look like something very authentic to Bengali tradition.I believe,this dish mostly  grew in popularity in Bengal  by being influenced by various Muslim invasion and influences from milk and cream based cuisine of Afghanistan.The dish which has huge similarity to our own doi begun is quite popular in Afganistan and is known as Baigan ki Boorani.Similar dishes can be traced to Tripoli in Lebabnon with a meat topping of choice(optional) as Batenjane be-laban or Fattet-al-Makdoos as  eggplant in yogurt based sauce in Beirut.Brinjal or eggplant with yogurt is also a  delicacy representative of the Turkish meze.Thick yogurt is a common ingredient in the  Turkish cuisine ,and is often served  flavored with herbs and spices with grilled vegetables like eggplant.

How I make Doi Begun..

 

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Ingredients

 

  • Aubergine/Eggplant/Brinjal : 1 cut into thick round slices
  • Hung curd /Greek yogurt/thick yogurt : 500 gm
  • Red chilli powder :1 tsp
  • Turmeric: 1tsp
  • Dry roasted cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar  to taste
  • Ginger: 1 tbsp(finely chopped)
  • Curry leaves: a handful
  • Dry red chilli :1-2
  • Asfoetida/Hing : a pinch
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp
  • White oil  to fry

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Recipe

  • Cut the eggplant into thick slices,and dry marinate them with salt,turmeric ,red chilli powder and cumin powder.
  • Let the eggplant sit in the dry marination for half and hour
  • Fry the eggplant slices in batches,making sure they are not over fried . Place them in the serving bowl.
  • Beat the chilled yogurt with sugar and salt.The yogurt mix should ideally have a sweet-salty-tangy taste to it.
  • Spread the yogurt mix on top of the eggplant making sure the eggplant slices soak well into the yogurt sauce.
  • In the wok heat 2 tablespoon white oil.When the oil is smoking hot ,lower the gas and add the dry red chillies (broken into halves) and the mustard seeds.Let them splutter.At this point add the chopped ginger pieces and fry them till they change their color to golden brown but not burnt.Add the curry leaves and give the mix a good stir.As soon as the curry leaves change their color add a pinch of asfoetida and take the wok off  the flame.
  • Pour the oil-spice mix on the yogurt dressing .
  • Serve it chilled or at room temperature,but do not reheat the dish as the yogurt might curdle.
  • You  can prepare the dish 4-5 hours before serving,but don’t keep it  overnight  in the fridge.

Note: Cut the eggplant slices little thick to avoid them getting soggy in the yogurt mixture.

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P.S. Can you think of any other Bengali  vegetarian dish which is influenced by Muslim invasions in India?

Enchor-er Biriyani (Jackfruit Biriyani/Kathal Biriyani)

 

It’s time to do some material food talk in the culinary début of the blog. A biriyani recipe which is not quite biriyani like! Well that was the confession part.Honestly whenever I have thought(read dreamt ) of Biriyani it is always a big chunk  of soft and juicy mutton/lamb or may be a chicken drumstick immersed in the bed of saffron-white flavourful  basmati rice has emerged in my mind.But then as I grew up  little with my mundane experience in the kitchen I came to know more about biriyani,it’s wide scope and how the dish got it’s name. Biriyani is derived from the Persian word  ‘beryan’ meaning fried or roasted.It is believed that  Timur the Lame  introduced biriyani in India.Later on, it spread in different parts of India,along with the Muslim invasion,but changed according to local custom,eating habits and of course availability of ingredients.

 

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Soon I realised there can be odd number of variation of Biriyani. You name it ,you have it! Illish Biriyani,Fish Biryani,Shrimp Biryani,Tahari(vegetarian version of Biriyani,specially for those who avoid non -vegetarian food).But then there’s another  version of Tehari  popular in Bangladesh which includes beef as one it’s main ingredient.You will be pleasantly surprized to know Bengali’s own Muri-ghonto(made with fried fish head and rice) is a sort of Biriyani.That is like a small hint of the endless possibilities in the mind boggling world of Biriyani !

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 Biryani -as the scope of the dish is huge and generous I decided to use enchor(jack fruit) to give it a new form.  Enchor or jack fruit – the  succulent fleshy vegetable can work as a great substitute of the non vegetarian options.This version of biriyani is purely vegetarian and do not use onion or garlic,just like  the traditional vegetarian dishes prepared in Bengali households. The recipe won yours truly the 1st position of a small competition organised by a Bengali food magazine in Kolkata called- Hangla Henshel and got published in their November  2013 issue.

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RECIPE

Ingredients

  • Basmati Rice:  400 gm/2 cups
  • Whole garam masala:Bayleaves :2-3/Cinnamon-stick:1inch/Green Cardamom:3-4/Clove:2/Black Cardamom : 2/Shah Jeera : 1 tsp/Mace(Javitri) :1 floret /Nutmeg(Jaiphal):1/4
  • Enchor(Jackfruit) :10-12 pieces
  • Fried Potato (medium) : 4-5
  • Greek Yogurt or Hung Curd : 1/4 cup
  • Khoya kheer/Milk Solids:100gm
  • Kewra Essence-5-6 drops
  • Saffron Strands:  1/2 tsp
  • Ginger paste: 2tbsp
  • Green chilli paste: 1 tbsp
  • Dry  roasted  Biriyani masala (cumin/coriander/green cardamom/cinnamon/star anise/black peppercorn/fennel) :  3-4 tbsp
  • Red Chilli powder : 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric : 1tsp
  • Raisins: 10 gm
  • Lukewarm milk :1/4th cup
  • Cashew nut(roasted) : 10-12
  • Cornflour  : 2-3 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Ghee/Clarified butter
  • Sunflower Oil

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Steps of making the Biriyani

1.Making of the Biriyani Masala

Dry roast all the ingredients mentioned for ”Dry roasted Biriyani masala” taking 1 tsp of each and 1/2 inch cinnamon stick.Use only 2-3 tbsp of the masala for the biriyani, rest you can store in an air tight container for later  use for any other Biriyani preparation.

2.Marinating the enchor(jackfruit)

Wash and cut the jackfruit pieces and dry them with a kitchen towel and remove all the moisture.In a bowl mix the  ginger paste,green chilli paste,greek yogurt or hung curd,salt,turmeric(1tsp),khoya,red chilli powder,cornflour,2 tbsp dry roasted biriyani masala. Marinate  the jackfruit pieces in the mix for 1 hour.

 3. Preparing the potatoes

Take 4-5 medium sized potatoes  or cut large potato into halves.Peel the potatoes and wash them.Fry the potatoes in hot oil  till golden brown by sprinkling 1 tsp each of turmeric and salt .

4.Cooking the Enchor/Jackfruit

Take a frying pan .Put 2 tbsp oil to it rotating over low heat so that the bottom of the pan is well coated with oil.Add the enchor/jackfruit with the marination.Cook the enchor/jackfruit  at low flame turning every now and then to avoid burning .Cook the mix till it changes colour but only 2/4 th  cooked.

5. Preparing the saffron milk

Take 1/2 tsp of saffron strands ,crush them to powder in a pestle and mortar. Take 1/4th cup of lukewarm milk and dissolve the saffron powder in it.Add the kewra essence in the milk.Mix well,cover and keep aside.

6.Preparing the rice

Use good quality long grain basmati rice.Soak 2 cups of rice in water for 30 mins.Wash thoroughly till water runs clear.Drain the water and dry the rice.


7. Cooking the Biriyani

 Take a deep vessel or a heavy bottomed pan with a tight  fitting lid.Add 2-3 tbsp ghee to the pan.Melt the ghee over slow flame and rotate the pan so that the ghee is spread evenly coating the bottom and sides of the pan.Add the whole garam masala.Add 1cup of the rice,then add the cooked enchor/jackfruit,potatoes,sprinkle 2 tbsp of biriyani masala.Add sugar and salt according to taste.Add another layer of rice(1 cup) and sprinkle the saffron milk.

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Give a try to this Enchor-er(Jackfruit)Biriyani! Bon Appetit…Bong Appetite way !