Chole Masala Spice Mix

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Chole or Kabuli chola or Garbanzo beans is a big hit in all Indian homes. Though, its originally a North Indian recipe, but chole bhature is a big hit in my family. The fluffy fried breads, bhature accompanied with spicy garbanzo beans is a big hit all the time.

Whole spices

To make kabuli chola along with the regular blend of ginger garlic paste, coriander and chili powder a spice mix is used. This spice mix is sold by almost all popular Indian spice brands from Everest to MDH, its called chole masala. But, I’m a little apprehensive of using the packaged spice mixes, mainly for two reasons. First, they don’t have the freshness that you get from homemade spice powders and secondly, they come in large packages and for a family of two most of the times the spice mix expires before I can finish the whole package. So, the simple solution to my problem to make my own batch of chole masala spice mix.

chole masala

Definitely, it takes some time and work to make it, but the flavor and aroma of freshly ground spices is worth all the trouble. It takes more than 15 spices to make this masala, so even a tablespoon of each spice will yield quite a good amount of the masala. I grind the spices in a coffee/spice grinder and takes me 2 to 3 batches to grind the whole amount.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon caraway seeds/ shah jeera 

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon dry ginger powder

1 teaspoon peppercorn

1 teaspoon black salt

1 tablespoon dry mango powder/ aamchur

1 nutmeg

3 – 5 dry red chilies

3 – 5 2” cinnamon stick

10 green cardamom

5 black cardamom

8 – 10 cloves

2 bay leaves

 

Directions:

Dry roast the cumin, caraway, coriander, peppercorn, cinnamon, bay leaves, black cardamom, green cardamom and chillies until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer on a bowl to cool

Dry roast the sesame seeds using a lid on the pan, as the sesame seeds splatter. Transfer to the same bowl and wait till it’s cool.

Place in a spice or coffee grinder and grind till it’s transformed into a fine powder. Transfer to the bowl and mix with the already powdered spices. Grate the nutmeg into the bowl

Sieve once to get rid of the larger bits and store in an airtight jar or use immediately.

Ground spice for chole

Chef’s tips – For ease of grinding in the grinder, once all the whole spices are dry roasted you can put them in a zip lock and use a rolling pin to crush the spices and then transfer to the grinder to make into a powder.

How to make Ghee or Clarified Butter

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I am a big fan of ghee. A couple of dollops of ghee poured at the end of any dish give it a royal taste. When I came to US, I was a little worried about how to get good ghee in this butter land. As the saying goes if there is a will there is a way. I figured there is a little Indian store close to my place which sells ghee, but I had a doubt about the purity and whether those will really have that old familiar smell of ghee. So, I took the job in hand and prepared ghee or clarified butter at home.

As a kid I have seen my mom preparing ghee at home. For days she used to take out the skim from the milk and store it. Then she heated those skims over low flame and pure ghee was produced. 

Unlike mom, I’m not that patient type. If something comes to mind, I need that instantly. So, preparing ghee from milk skim was out of question. Plan B was to prepare it from unsalted butter. The keyword here is unsalted. You can prepare it from salted butter, but then there will be more residues and the taste will definitely be different.

While preparing the ghee always take care that the residues are not getting burnt, so as soon as the butter takes a frothy texture lower the flame to low and do not stir it. 

How to make Ghee

Indian, Side, Ghee, Clarified butter
Cooks in   
Ingredients
  • 2 bars of unsalted butter
Directions
  • Heat the unsalted butter over medium heat
  • Gradually turn down the heat to low as the butter starts frothing
  • As the butter turns a darker shade of brown, take out of flame and let cool for 5-7mins. Do not disturb it, and let the sediments get settled at the bottom of the vessel
  • With a muslin cloth strain the ghee and pour in sterilized container

Ghee in the History Book:

Ghee had been used in Indian cuisine as well as in rituals since ages. It is the fifth element of panchamrit, the Sanskrit word for five elixirs. Not only in Indian culture ghee is used in many other cultures including Egytian, Ethiopian and French.

Nutrition Facts:

A spoonful of ghee contains about 8mg of cholesterol, which is much less than that of butter. Being a saturated fat, ghee is easily digestible. It stimulates the stomach acids to help with digestion.

Though not significantly, but ghee reduces the bad lipids (LDL) from blood. Ghee is also a very good antioxidant and helps in absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods, feeding all layers of body tissue and serving to strengthen the immune system.

Large quantities of ghee will definitely have an unhealthy outcome. But, as ghee contains conjugated linolenic acid which helps in losing weight, especially belly fat, and has been known to slow the progress of some types of cancer and heart disease.

Everything said and done, a dollop of ghee over warm white rice and alu chokha is the best comfort food one can ever get. Also, check Bongmom’s take on shuddh videshi ghee.

This post goes to Kitchen chronicles – Heirloom Recipes and also to WTML- Festival Special Event.

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Setting Up Your Bengali Kitchen

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Setting up a new house and for that matter a kitchen when you are a newlywed and staying away from your hometown is a pretty tricky job. All those gifts received during the ceremony – the dinner sets, OTGs, induction cookers, crockery are either too fragile or too bulky to be carried along to the new habitat (city). So, this is my recent status – setting up a new kitchen. And, there comes the idea of a new post to help those who are in my state or is going to set up a kitchen soon. Here’s the first of the three post collection of how to set up a Bengali kitchen from scratch.

Saying this, I have a feeling of déjà vu. Some years back when I shifted to Bangalore for my post grad, I started eating at the nearby restaurants. But, eating outside for days together in a city, where even the basic ingredients are so different from your own has its toll on your health, taste buds and of course the pocket. So, I started cooking at my PG. Now, I have an experience on setting up kitchen for bachelor as well as for a family of two.

So, here is how to set up your Kitchen so that you can .

Kitchen Utensils

The saying goes “Maach-e Bhaat-e Bangali”, (fish and rice makes a Bengali). So, to start with the first thing needed to set up a Bengali kitchen is a handi and a kadai/ karahi (wok).

Hadi and Karai:

According to the wiki page of handi, it’s a round bottom Indian cooking vessel with a smaller mouth. Handi is especially used to prepare rice and also rice preparations like payesh (rice pudding) or pulao. Though, I prefer preparing rice in a handle-less saucepan.

The karai is an indispensable item in the Bengali kitchen. Whether it’s a fish curry or dal and even fried, it is used everywhere. So, if you are planning to setup a Bengali kitchen, then better have at least one handy.

Ladles and Whisks:

Khunti or the pancake turner is a must have in a Bengali kitchen. Just like the wok it is used everywhere – from preparing curries to frying veggies. Along with this a ladle for serving gravy items and a tempering ladle will set you rolling in the kitchen.

There are different types of whisks that are available in the market. The most common being the balloon whisk. Though, I still prefer the very Bong dal-er kata (a special type of whisk with fan-like blades attached to the end of a long rod), a balloon whisk for blending lentils and preparing lassi (if you are yet to buy a blender) is good enough.

Knives and Scissors:

I have seen my mom, grand mom, aunts and next door aunty using a bonti to chop vegetables and also cut and scale fish. Bonti is a carved knife, attached to a heavy wooden base. But, it’s just next to impossible to carry a bonti from your hometown, so let’s resort to knifes. When I first started cooking I had just one knife. It was the first time I used one, and the first couple of weeks I had a hard time adjusting. There are sets of 6 or 10 knives available, so if you want you can own one, or else just start with just one. Add a peeler and a grater to your list of cutting items.

Scissor always relates to cutting papers during those craft periods in school. But, to tell you the truth it is really handy in the kitchen also. I have a pair and I use it for opening packets, chopping herbs and also cutting fish fins and tails.

Dinner sets and crockery:

If you are a bachelor or just a newly-wed like me then a couple of plates, glasses and a few spoons and serving bowls and spatula will be good enough for you to start with. But, just to be on the safer side and also if you want to entertain a few guests over the weekend go ahead and buy a nice dinner set.

And the rest:

The above items are pretty much to start a small kitchen. There are some more things that you may like to buy.Many kitchen tools and appliances can be found at a discount online, using a Sears coupon code.

  • A rolling pin and a board, if you are an expert in roti making or want to learn how to prepare a perfect roti/chapatti. Or else, just buy a roti maker.
  • A griddle or tawa for preparing chapattis and even pan cakes or dosas if you want.
  • A colander, if you want to save the pain of holding the handi while straining the extra starch from cooked rice. Colander also comes handy while washing vegetables and especially useful for cleaning the leafy ones.
  • And, to make your work easier there are many electronic items that are readily available – food processor, rice cooker, toaster and how can I forget the oven-toaster-grill (OTG) or better still a convection microwave oven.

Still, not satisfied with what you have in your kitchen? Tell us what more you would like to add to the kitchen.

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