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Tastes of Bengal – Because life is so endlessly delicious!

Many people don’t realise the huge variety of Indian cuisine. Each state has its own distinct cooking style. After a week of deliciously spicy food in Andhra Pradesh, on returning to Kolkata I set myself the task of getting a better understanding of Bengali cuisine.  That brought me to Koshe Kosha, James Long Sarani, Behala, Kolkata, a restaurant that serves typical Bengali food.  It’s a basic restaurant, so don’t expect posh table cloths and the like, but it has amazing food.
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My education started with the first page of the menu, which explains the Bengali cooking styles to the uninitiated.  This gave a good insight into the types of ‘curries’ that are found in this part of the sub-continent and the different preparations.

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The menu was extensive, far too large to sample in one sitting – all the more reason to go back! Although we did try our best to taste as many dishes as we could!

We started with the Mochar Chop, a round soft pattie made of banana flower mixed with potatoes, onions, cashews and mild spices, served with mustard and tomato sauces.  Perfect for vegetarians and tasty for meat eaters too, but don’t overpower the subtle flavours with too much mustard. Rs.55

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This was followed by a feast of flavours. Let’s start with some vegetarian options:

Lau Bori – This was one of my favourite dishes of the night, bottled gourd (squash) cooked with dried lentil paste nuggets. Wow!! Rs. 75
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Potoler Dorma – parwal (pointed gourd/squash) stuffed with potatoes, ginger, garlic and spices in a sumptuous gravy with cashews! Delicious! Rs. 90
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Narkel Chholar Dal – channa dal, with coconut chips and raisins giving it its slightly sweet flavour and interesting texture. Yum Rs.105
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Sona Muger Dal – a simple mung dal perfect with plain rice Rs. 105

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Pur Diye Begun Bhaja – aubergine (eggplant) slices stuffed with mustard paste and deep fried with a gram flour batter.  Although I love aubergine, the mustard overpowered this for me, so my least favourite dish of the night, but great for those who like mustard! Rs. 75

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Then for the non-vegetarian (meat lover’s) options:
Chingrir Malaikari – Wow!!! My favourite dish of the night! Enormous prawns in a wonderfully tasty gravy.  If you are a seafood lover, don’t miss this!! Treat yourself  Rs. 395

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Dab Chingri – This was something I had heard about and was keen to try it, even though a mild, sweet gravy is not usually my preference. It is prawns cooked with Panch Phoron (a mixture of equal quantities of five spices: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and onion seeds) and the juice and soft flesh of a green coconut.  It’s cooked in the coconut and is definitely something to taste, especially if you like something mild.  It was a rather costly Rs.415 but worth it for the experience!

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Katla Kalia – This was also good. Katla fish is quite a meaty fish popular in Kolkata and is cooked in an onion gravy. Rs. 165
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Kosha Murgi was the chicken curry of the night, served in a wonderfully thick yummy gravy  (sorry, I forgot to snap this one) Rs. 195

Kosha mungsho is mutton (goat) dish slow cooked in a very rich dark gravy.  Nice but quite heavy so you don’t need much of it. Rs. 250

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Accompanied by Luchi – otherwise known as poori, a deep fried flat bread Rs. 65 for 4.
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Basanti Pilao (Rs. 120) and Plain Rice (Rs.80)
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If you are in Kolkata (or even Bangalore as they have a branch there too) and want to taste delicious Bengali food then head to Koshe Kosha, you won’t be disappointed!  Great food and great value.  Although don’t go expecting a beer as only soft drinks are served – try the sweet lime soda!  This feast above, with mineral water and soft drinks came to just            Rs. 3,000.
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Koshe Kosha have numerous branches in Kolkata, we went to the one at:
12, Mondal Para 1st Lane, -700034, Near M.P. Birla High School, Behala, Kolkata (James Long Sarani)

Open 11am -11pm

Tel: 03364606401 (free home delivery – but unfortunately not to the UK!)

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in cooking, food, India, Life, Uncategorized

 

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Day 5 – Final day of Live Below the Line -97p

What a week!

It has been humbling to see how many people have offered to feed me.  Thank you all for your kind thoughts and willingness to be generous.  I’m sure if I had taken up their offers I would have eaten better this week than normal.  However, the rules of the ‘Live Below the Line’ challenge say you can’t accept donated food so I struggled on.  However, I’d like to encourage all those who offered me food to use the money that they would have spent on that to sponsor me, so that those who are really hungry benefit (see link below).

I’m starting to get better at knowing what I can cook at a small cost now and am making the most of my reduced vegetables.

Today I started off with a filling bowl of porridge (see Day 1’s recipe) costing 16p. This has been by far the best breakfast in terms of both cost and filling me up.

porridge

Lunch was a repeat of yesterday’s dinner of Vegetable Fried Rice.  However, I went round to a friends and we shared the portion (although I’m sure I had more than she did) so I guess I ate 20p worth.

That gave me 64p for dinner wow!! Just shows how when you share you are blessed! I felt almost rich….

I decided to make the most of the cheap veg I had bought yesterday, reduced in Coop, and make an adaptation of mashed swede (9p).

  • Half a swede, chopped (4p)
  • Half an onion, sliced (1p)
  • 2/3 tbs of oil (2p)
  • Pinch of cumin seeds,1/2 tsp of coriander powder, 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder and salt to taste. (2p)

Method

Boil the swede until soft, drain and mash.

Heat the oil, add the cumin seeds, when they crackle add the onion and fry for a minute.

Add the coriander powder and then stir in the mashed swede, mixing it with the onions.

Add a pinch of garam masala and salt to taste.

This was served with a portion of rice (11p) and some Channa Dal (14p).

  • 70 grams of Channa Dal (7p)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water of water with a pinch of turmeric (1p)
  • 1/2 a small onion (1p)
  • 1tsp of cumin seeds (1p)
  • 1 clove of garlic, squashed and sliced (2p)
  • 2/3 tbsp of oil (2p)
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Put the channa dal, water, salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker and boil for for 20 mins or until soft. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker then soak the dal overnight and then boil in a saucepan until soft.)

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the cumin seeds; when they crackle add the onion and garlic, fry until crisp then add to the dal and mix well.

 

dal

That gave me a huge plate of food for just 34p!  I’m getting the hang of this now 😉 and still had an amazing 30p left!!  At last, I could have the can of coke that I had been longing for all week out of the multipack I bought last Saturday, it worked out at 27p per can and tasted great.  You certainly appreciate things when you have not had them for a while.  And still 3p left!!

This week has made me think a lot about diet, how expensive it is to eat healthily and how essential it is to be able to cook with basic ingredients.  When I think of the obesity problem in the UK among the poor its often because the cheap food in our supermarkets is not the food that is good for us.  After all, I could have spent my pound on a large pack of doughnuts or a pack of 4 mars bars.  But eating healthily on a budget took lots of forethought and planning, as well as cooking skill.  Fruit and veg are expensive!

If the government want to really focus on the health of the poor then my recommendation would be that all children are taught in school not just how to cook, but how to cook healthy meals and a balanced diet on a budget.  ‘Living on a budget’ cookery lessons could be provided free of charge to all those who are on benefits or on a low income to help them maximise the use of their meager funds.

Next year I’m going to challenge all my colleagues at The Leprosy Mission to join me on this challenge (so gang, beware!).  In the meantime, I’d like to finish this series of blogs by saying a big thank you to all of you who have sponsored me.

thanks2If you have not got round to it yet then don’t forget to log on to http://www.justgiving.com/Sian-Arulanantham1 to support the lifesaving work of ChildHope or donate to another charity that works with the poorest of the poor, such as All We Can www.allwecan.org.uk or The Leprosy Mission www.leprosymission.org.uk

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2014 in cooking

 

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Day 4 – Live Below the Line 95p

Well I made it to Day 4 living on less than £1 a day, but I’m really tired and have been desperate all day for a sugar boost – but not allowed as it would risk my levels of nutritious food consumption!  I was going to start the day with porridge (that would have been cheap and sensible) but I gave in to a flight of fancy and went with beans on toast with a poached egg.

beansAt what cost?

12p for half a tin of Tesco’s value beans

4p per slice of toast (8p)

And 1 egg (6p)

I skipped the butter so a Brekkie grand total of 26p!

Lunch followed the same pattern as yesterday with Egg Bhujia and 2 chapatti, although today I use just 1/4 of a tomato, since I had had such an extravagant breakfast, and just one egg.

1 eggs, beaten (6p)

1/4 a tomato, chopped (3p)

1/2 an onion, chopped (3p)

1 chilli, chopped (1p)

Mustard oil (3p)

Salt to taste

Method:

Head the oil, add the chopped chilli and onion, fry for two minutes then add the tomato and salt, then cook until soft.

Add the beaten egg and cook (as you would scrambled eggs) until egg is firm.

Serve with 2 warm chapatti (2p each) (See Day 1 blog for recipe)

Lunch total 20p.  A saving on yesterday but an unsubstantial lunch!!  I felt very hungry all afternoon and was longing to get home for dinner and also longing for some vegetables.  I went to the Coop on the way home to buy some rice and just happened to find some vegetables reduced – 7 carrots, 2 onions, a parsnip and a swede for just 37p.  That approximately 3p per carrot, 2p per onion, 4p for a parsnip and 8p for the swede!  So my plan for egg fried rice became Vegetable and Egg Fried Rice, costing just 36p!.

Large serving of rice (15p)

1 egg (6p)

1 carrot, diced in small pieces (3p)

1/2 an onion, chopped (1p)

2 green beans, sliced into small pieces (3p)

1 chilli (1p)

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (3p)

1 tbsp soy seasoning sauce and salt to taste (4p)

Method:

Boil the rice and leave to cool.

Heat the oil; fry the chilli, onion, beans and carrot until soft (cover with a lid if necessary), add salt to taste.

Add the egg and scramble with the vegetables.

Add the rice and stir.

Finally, add the soy seasoning sauce and stir until all the rice is coated.

Rice

Wow delicious and just 82p so far today! But I had a strong desire for something sweet…. what could I have for 18p???

I rummaged through the cupboards. There was a can of coke, but that worked out at 27p from the multipack – too much! Then I spotted it, well hidden at the back of the cupboard, the last of the four kitkat chunky’s that I bought last week (4 for £1). I settled on half a kitkat – 13p!  Stopping at half was a challenge… so I decided to step away from the kitchen and food supplies and take an early night.

Day 4 total – 95p!

So if you are feeling sympathy with the cause, what can you do to help?

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in cooking

 

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Making a Gingerbread House in Gingerbread Land

Staying for Christmas hols in Nana’s in Bargoed, South Wales; the festive season started today with a nativity play at church and then the three generations planned how to carry on their festive activities.  Ice skating, going to see The Hobbit, making paper chains and baking gingerbread were all on offer, but it was the excitement of making a Gingerbread House in Gingerbread Land that won the day.  Since no one had ever made gingerbread before it was going to be a challenge.

First stop… Google….. to search a recipe….It was the BBC good food recipe that was decided upon for the gingerbread and then the design would be adapted to decorate the house…. out with the almonds on the roof and in with chocolate buttons, etc.

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For the gingerbread

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 600g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger

To decorate (adapted from…)

  • 200g bag flaked almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 500g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
  • 125g pack mini chocolate fingers
  • generous selection sweets of your choice, choose your own colour theme
  • 1 mini chocolate roll or a dipped chocolate flake (or Twirl)
  • Cake board

Plus a rolling pin, baking trays, foil, greaseproof paper, wooden spoon, tablespoon, teaspoon and mixing bowl.

Nana, the Generation 1 non-chef, was asked which of the above she had in her kitchen.  Her response? A rolling pin, a baking tray, spoons and a bit of foil….. time to go shopping…. not even a mixing bowl in sight!

It took three shops to find an appropriate mixing bowl, but outside the last one I caught a glimpse of the angel of Bargoed, quite apt this Christmas season…

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The trip to Bargoed’s new attraction…. Morrison’s supermarket…… yielded thousands and thousands of calorie-filled sugar and fat!!!  And the box was kindly donated by a shelf stacker after he had unloaded his trays of frozen raspberries.

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Ingredients in place, it was time to start baking. But the one thing that had been forgotten in the rush was a weighing scales; yet another piece of essential baking equipment missing from the Generation 1 kitchen.  It was time to ring the neighbours!

A lady kindly popped round with a red contraption that looked like it had come from a museum.

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Then came the history lesson….. we were asked how much we wanted to weigh. The answer of 600g was looked upon in despair. Awch!!! It only measures in pounds and ounces!! Back to Google to find out conversion rates, and after some debate over how many ounces in a pound and 1.3lb not being equal to 1lb 3oz, it was time to start weighing the ingredients.

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The 250g of butter and 200g of brown sugar were put in the saucepan (pronounced sospan in Wales!!) and then a tablespoon found to measure out the 7tbsps of syrup. Generation number 2 dipped it into the syrup tin to be greeted by Generation 3 saying “If you were a chef you would have put the spoon in boiling water first and then it comes off easily”. 2 seconds 2 late!! Now two spoons were covered in syrup as one was used to scrape the syrup off the other spoon.  Generation 2 was sacked and Generation 3 took over!  Good to know she was taught something useful in school!

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This was then heated over the stove until everything melted.

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After which time the dry ingredients of 600g of plain flour, 2 tsp of Bicarbonate of Soda and 4 tsp of Ginger were placed in a bowl and a dip made in the centre; into this the melted mixture was poured.

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This was then gently mixed together…..

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Then rolled out on some greaseproof paper to about the thickness of 2 £1 coins.

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The three Generations did not have access to a printer to print out the Gingerbread House plan from the BBC Food Guide website, so it was time to quickly design a template and use it to measure the gingerbread walls and roof.  Care (although in hindsight perhaps not enough!!) was taken as a fatal flaw here could mean construction problems.

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The leftovers were used to make trees for the gingerbread forest, Hansel and Gretel, and stands to help them all remain upright.

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Then, with just one baking tray lined with foil, the first walls were placed in the oven at 180 degrees C for 12 minutes.

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And while they were baking, a piece of cardboard was covered in foil to make Gingerbread land…

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While each tray was baked and cooled the ‘cement’ for putting the house together was made, with two egg whites mixed with 500g of icing sugar.

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Then the trees were decorated using an icing bag made from greaseproof paper, and Hansel and Gretel put on their coats with three dolly mixture buttons….

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They were then stood up on their bases.  But next came the big challenge; the walls had expanded on cooking, some were larger than the others, and because they were cooked one after the other rather than together (due to lack of baking trays and lack of oven space) this was not realised until they were cool.  Oh dear, sticking them together was a challenge.

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This was left to cool for a few hours while the Christmas tree cookies were decorated to give to friends. The door was added made from sour strings and the path with fizzy tiles. There was a cut made in the roof top for the chimney and an attempt was made (and failed) to put it on the roof.

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The roof fitting ended in disaster, with walls about to collapse and roof panels sliding off as the icing seals had not set. Just as Generation 2 thought all was well, the chimney fell in and one panel fell off…..

It was decided to leave one panel on for it to set overnight and to try the other again tomorrow… so watch this space and see if we manage to get a half decent gingerbread house and garden constructed.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Church, cooking, History, Seasons

 

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