We Indians love Poha or beaten rice very much, specially for our breakfast. There are many reasons for the love it gets. It can be prepared very easily and is highly nutritious as a lot of veggies can be added to it and make it a healthy breakfast item. In different states of India, poha is made in different ways and is a staple breakfast item in many households.

Poha can be one of the healthiest breakfast option for all ages of people, as......
 1. It is packed with iron....eating poha regularly can prevent iron deficiency or anaemia as it contains 20 mg of iron in every 100g raw rice flakes. Children as well as pregnant and lactating women can benefit greatly by consuming it. 
2. It's a good source of carbohydrate.....Carbohydrates are the major source of energy in a bowl of poha. This makes it a perfect breakfast option. It can be eaten for snack too in the place of unhealthy options such as chips and biscuits.
3. Ideal for diabetics.....Poha is considered to be a great meal option for diabetics as it promotes slow release of sugar into the bloodstream. It also keeps you full for longer time.
4. It can be a complete meal......Mixed vegetables can be added to rice flakes to make it rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Add sprouts, peanuts and even boiled eggs to make a well-balanced and high-protein meal.
   So, I've included enough reason to include Poha at your breakfast menu if you are still not having it in your diet. I prepare them at least 2-3 times a week and I always add lots of veggies in it to make a healthy as well as filling breakfast which helps me to roll my day smoothly.

Here is one way I prepare my poha with lots of veggies, nuts and sometimes I also add soaked lentils like green moong to make it healthier and crunchier. I've used south Indian flavour to my rice flakes pulao. The recipe follows................

You Need : (serves 3-4 persons)
Poha/ beaten rice : 500 gms.
Cashew and Raw peanuts : a handful
Vegetables : broccoli, carrots, Potato, green peas or your choice of vegetables(all chopped in smaller chunks)
Green Moong Dal : 1/2 cup, soaked overnight
Fresh coconut : some chopped and some in slices(for decoration)
Dry Red chilli : 1
Poppy seeds : 1tblsp.
Mustard seeds : 1 tblsp.
Ginger : 1/2 ", chopped finely
Green chilli : 2, chopped finely
Curry leaves : 4-5
Turmeric Powder : 1 tsp.
Red Chilli Powder : 1 tsp.(optional)
Salt to taste
A pinch of sugar
Oil : about 2 tblsp.
Fresh Coriander leaves for garnishing

How To :
  • Firstly, chop all the vegetables in small chunks except green peas.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add raw peanuts first and fry them until they are fried, takes about 2-3 minutes, then add cashews and fry until they are brown. Keep them aside.
  • In the same pan, add vegetables and in low flame saute them until they are just done, remove and keep the veges aside.
  • In the same pan, add just 1 tsp. oil, fry the chopped coconut pieces till they are lightly brown, then temper the oil with  dry red chilli, ginger and green chillies, mustard seeds and lastly with curry leaves and poppy seeds. Clean  rice flakes/poha nicely with water, drain all the water and immediately add into the temper. Add fried vegetables, green peas, green moong dal and nuts, mix well everything. Add salt, turmeric and red chilli powder and mix again. It should not be on heat for long time, otherwise poha will be mushy. Add a pinch of sugar(it balances all the taste of the dish). Stir and mix everything quickly and remove from heat.
  • Sprinkle some fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately. Garnish with some extra coconut slices and you are good to go.

It can be an awesome evening snack or lunch box recipe for kids as well as for office goers. It can stop your hunger pangs for long time and you can concenrate on your work. Isn't it? 

   Kolkata city whose people are known for loving good food and good books, are now pampered more with gourmet restaurants one after another who are serving people of Kolkata the taste of a wide range of foreign cuisines. From Italian, Mexican, continental till our neighbourhood cuisine, Burmese. The people @ The Orient, City Center 2, organized a cooking workshop on Burmese Cuisine along with their Burmese food festival going on right now to let people know the authentic taste of Burmese Cuisine. And the enthusiastic self in me of learning new cuisines, jumped upon the opportunity to watch the cooking demonstration by none other than Chanda Dutt, the master on Burmese Cuisine when The Orient invited Kolkata Food Bloggers to attend the workshop.
       The orient located at the ground floor of City Center 2, Rajarhat who usually serves Chinese and Thai Cuisine, is famous for their Oriental decor in red and black with individual booth system. You can have a fine dining experience with scrumptious food served in a private atmosphere unlike other restaurants of the city.

                                  The Orient @ City Center 2, Rajarhat, New Town, Kolkata
         Chanda Dutt, who hails from Taunggy, Burma, now known as Myanmar, is an expert in Burmese Cuisine and arranges Burmese food festival at her home every year to teach people the authentic taste of Burmese Cuisine. Burmese Cuisine is altogether influenced mainly by Chinese, Indian and Thai Cuisine. Some of the spices they use extensively are shrimp paste, fish sauce, roasted garlic, soy sauce. Chanda Dutt taught us three dishes, One salad/appetizer, One Chicken soup cooked with Coconut milk and one shredded dried Shrimp in onion-tomato based gravy. All three dishes were unique in taste, especially the chicken soup was out of this world, I still can't forget the taste.

        At first she started the cooking workshop with a Tofu salad, named Shan Tofu Salad, where shan tofu is a tofu made from Chickpea Flour and Thoke(pronounced as thohk) means salad. I never heard of a tofu made with chickpea flour. This tofu is originated in Shan states of Burma. When we asked her about the availability of the chickpea tofu in market, she explained us that it is very easy to make at home and told us the detailed procedure too. The main ingredients of this salad is the tofu and all the other ingredients like crushed garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli oil are mixed in and served garnished with coriander leaves. Altogether it makes a scrumptous meal itself. It's a very popular appetizer in Burmese Cuisine. 

                                                Shan Tofu Salad cooked by Chanda Dutt
      Next in the line was Chicken Khaukswey or Burmese Chicken soup, also known as Ohn Hno Khaukswey, where Ohn Hno(pronounced as oh no) means coconut milk and khaukswey(pronounced as kha swey) means a noodle dish. It is a one-pot soup meal made of egg noodles in a curried chicken and coconut milk broth. The dish is often garnished with sliced raw onions, chopped spring onions, crisp fried noodles, shredded cabbage and slices of hard-boiled eggs, and zested with lime or lemon juice, chilli garlic oil and fish sauce. Coconut milk spiced up with curried chicken and other condiments bring out an overwhelmingly divine taste which is unforgettable and  no doubt this is the most popular dish in Burma, even though their national dish is Mohinga.

       Last dish she taught was a dish made with dried shrimp in onion-tomato based gravy, named Tomato Nga Pi Chet(pronounced as tomato na pi che). Nga Pi is a term used for pungent pastes made of either fish or shrimp in Burmese cuisine. It is usually made by fermenting fish or shrimp that is salted and ground then sun dried. And Tomato Nga Pi is typically made from tomatoes and shrimp paste. Chopped green chillies, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp paste are added to increase its spice level. It is always served with rice and cucumber or any fresh vegetable salad by the side. 

       After she made all these, everybody was anxiously waiting to taste all these delicious goodies. after everyone present there tasted all these, we still were craving to taste some more Burmese food. So she quickly made another amazing salad using all the leftover spices and condiments on the table, like rice, noodles, chicken, cabbage and little chilli oil, crushed garlic and sauces. We all were fully satisfied with the myriad hues of taste buds tickling in our tongue.

       After all the cook-up and tasting session was over, I was longing to take a snap with the chef and she happily agreed and posed beside me and my day was made. I want to thank The Orient and Kolkata Food Bloggers for giving me teh opportunity to meet her and also a heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Chanda Dutt for lovely demonstration of a cuisine that was so new to me.

P.S. :: If you want to taste some more delectable dishes of Burma, The Burmese Food festival is still going on @ the Orient, CC2 till 31st Oct. 

The Indian subcontinent in the past has been subject to many invasions and with every invasion came the culture and cuisines of its invaders. The Turks, Arabs, Persians and Afghans in particular left behind the culture of great feasts. However, the reign of the Mughals from 15th to 19th century left the deepest impact on the culinary habits of the subcontinents residents. Being artistic as that they were, the Mughals looked upon cooking as a form of art. They enjoyed the finest of foods and enhanced their flavors with the use of exotic spices. It is largely concluded that the Mughals introduced to the region specialties such as Biryani and Kebabs.

While it is largely believed Biryani originated in Persia and came this way through the Mughals, other possibilities and theories about the arrival of Biryani in Indian also exist. It could have come from Persia via Afghanistan to North India and it could have also been brought by the Arab traders via the Arabian Sea to Calicut, Kerala. Some believe that the Muslim ruler Taimor brought the dish to India from Persia in 1394. Another interesting Biryani story from the Mughal era is when Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Shah Jahan once made a surprise visit to the army barracks and discovered that the armymen were undernourished. She asked her chef to cook a dish with rice, meat and spices which would be a complete meal providing balanced nutrition to the warriors. While there are many legends as to how Biryani made its way into India, there is no doubt that Islamic Persians are responsible for popularizing the dish amongst the locals of the subcontinent.
There is an interesting story about the birth of Kolkata biryani. When Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh was exiled in 1856 to the Kolkata suburb of Metiaburj, he did not forget to bring his personal Chef with him as he was very particular about his food. They arrived here with their biryani recipes which then evolved with time to create its own distinct identity. In addition, Calcutta biryani is much lighter on spices (Masala) than compared to other Biryanis and distinguishes itself by its use of whole potatoes which absorbs the stock and spices during the cooking process.

Now let's move on to the recipe...................................

Ingredients for assembling the briyani:

Basmati Rice : 2 cups
Onions : 2 , thinly sliced(***for making beresta)
Potato : 2-3(cut into half/quarter)
Ghee/clarified butter : 2 tblsp.
Ginger Julienne : 2 tblsp.(ginger cut into thin long strips)

Saffron : few strands soaked in 3-4 tblsp. warm milk

Bay leaves : 2
Cardamoms : 3-4 nos.
Cinnamons : 2(1" stick)
Kewra water : 2-3 tsp.
Salt to taste
Biryani Masala(store bought) : 1 tblsp.

Meetha Attar(flavouring used in Biryani and same kind of dishes) : 1 tsp. (it's optional, but it gives the special flavour to Biryani-available in Indian grocery stores)

Ingredients for making chicken :::::::
Chicken : 500 Gm.
Oil : 2 tblsp.
Onion : 3, finely chopped
Ginger(grated) : 2 tblsp.
Garlic(grated) : 2tblsp.
Green chillies : 2(finely chopped)
Tomatoes(chopped) : 3(medium)
Curd/yogurt : 1/2 cup
Lemon juice : 1 tsp.
Black Pepper powder : 1 tsp.
Bay leaf : 1
Black cardamom: 1
Green Cardamom : 3-4
Cloves : 3-4
Cinnamon : 2(1" pieces)
Turmeric powder : 2 tsp.
Red Chilli powder : 2-3 tsp.(as per your taste)
Coriander Powder : 2 tsp.
Garam masala Powder : 2 tsp.
Biryani masala(store bought) : 2 tsp.
Salt to taste

How To ::::::

Preperation :
  1. Cut the chicken into medium size pieces and wash them. In a bowl, take curd, little salt, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, black pepper powder, 1 tblsp. each of ginger and garlic paste and lemon juice. Mix all the spices well and marinate the chicken pieces in this spice mix for at least 1 hour. More the merrier.
  2. Clean and soak the rice in water for 1/2 an hour. 
  3. Cut potatoes in big chunks and boil them just until done, do not overcook them. Set aside.
  4. Take 4 tblsp. warm milk and soak saffron strands in it for 1/2 an hour.
Cooking :
  • To make the riceTake a big bowl, boil water and add rice in it. Flavour the water with 1 bay leaf, 2-3 cardamoms, 2-3 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until rice is 1/2 done. This is very important. Otherwise, rice will look messy, not separated. Drain and keep the whole spices with rice.
  • For biryani, we need to prepare brown and crispy fried onions. For that, take a frying pan, add the whole oil in it. Deep fry the sliced onions until brown and crispy. Take out, soak the excess oil in kitchen tissue and set aside.
  • Smear some salt and turmeric powder on boiled potatoes and fry in the same oil until brown from all sides. Set aside.
  • To prepare the chicken : Take out 2-3 tblsp. oil from the pan, keep about 3-4 tblsp. oil in there. Add 1 bay leaf, 1 black cardamom, 2-3 nos. of each cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves. When they turn slightly brown and start to crackle, add chopped onions. Saute till they change their color. Add rest of the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. Stir for a minute or two. 
  • Then add chopped tomatoes and all the powdered spices. Mix well and when oil starts to come on the top, add marinated chicken and mix well with spice paste. Cook in medium flame for about 7-8 minutes. When oil separates, add 1 cup hot water in it, season with salt and with closed lid in medium flame let it cook.
  • When water dries up completely and chicken is cooked, remove from heat. Water have to dry up completely and the gravy will coat nicely with the chicken pieces. 
  •  Finally, to assemble rice and chicken
  •  Divide the cooked rice in 3 portions and cooked chicken in 2 portions.Take a wide and big pan. Add 1 tblsp. Ghee/clarified butter, spread evenly a portion of cooked rice, pour a little of saffron soaked milk with saffron allover the rice, sprinkle little salt, 1/2 of ginger juliennes, 1 tsp. garam masala powder/biriyani masala, 1/2 tsp. of meetha attar and 1/2 tsp. of kewra water. Then spread one portion of the cooked chicken evenly allover the rice. 
First layer of rice and chicken
  • Again spread a layer of rice. Repeat with salt, saffron milk, 1 tsp. of garam masala/biriyani masala, Meetha attar, kewra water and ginger juliennes. Again spread the last portions of cooked chicken and a final layer of cooked rice. Repeat with salt, saffron milk, 1 tsp. of garam masala/biriyani masala, Meetha attar, kewra water, ginger juliennes and finally spread an even layer of the fried onions/beresta.
Final layer of rice with fried onions and other spices
  • Making the biryani in Dum:: Cover with aluminium foil or a tightly closed lid. You can seal the edges of the pan or just put some weight over the lid, so that the steam can't escape and the biryani gets cooked in Dum, i.e., in very slow fire and all the spices and herbs can incorporate well in rice and chicken. For that, keep the pan on a griddle plate/tawa and heat the tawa in low flame, Keep the pan for about 20 minutes. When done, keep the lid closed until serving.

  • All the goodness of spices and herbs will intermingle and you will get a delicious, flavourful Chicken Biriyani. When serving, just give the whole thing a quick stir and serve. Biriyani should accompany a raita and salad. 
Cucumber Raita :
Raita is a Spicy Indian condiment, based on yogurt/dahi, used as a sauce or dip. Raita is a neccesary accompaniment with Biryani/Pulao.

 Preperation : Take 1 cup of yogurt in a bowl, beat a little with a spoon. Add salt to taste, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. red chilli powder(or to taste), 1 tsp. roasted cumin seed powder. Mix well. Add chopped cucumber in it and mix well again. Serve.

Garnish : garnish with onions rings and sliced boiled eggs on top
Serving Suggestion : Biryani is always served with fresh salad made with tomato, cucumber and onions and with a bowl of raita(recipe is above).

  To pack, small children's school lunchbox is a daily challenge for every mom. To pack a lunchbox, which is healthy as well as eye-catchy for them that too every morning, is a daunting task for me. Over that, their taste buds change very frequently. One thing they won't like for long time. To overcome this problem, every mom has to be a recipe inventing or collecting machine.
         To all such moms, here is a healthy as well as delicious lunchbox recipe from me....Garlic flavoured Hot Dog Pasta. Hot Dogs are chicken sausages, available in various flavours in supermarkets. They are nothing but smoked minced chicken in cylindrical shape. They are already cooked. But hot-dogs and their packaging fluid are sometimes contaminated. So I always wash and put them in boiled water for 5 minutes. Then deep-fry them in oil until it gets brown from all sides. My kids love them. 

You Need ::
Pasta : 1/2 pack of any kind
Vegetables : Carrot, red/green bell pepper, corn etc.
you can add any vegetables of your choice(cut in small pieces)
Onion : 1, sliced

Garlic : 4-5 pods(crushed)
Tomato Puree : 1/2 cup, puree of 2 big tomatoes
Chilli sauce : 1 tblsp. (optional)
Black Pepper : 1 tsp.

Italian dried herbs(Basil, Rosemary) : 2 tsp.
Salt to taste
Oil : 3 tblsp.

How To ::
  • Cook any pasta in a pan with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt until done. Drain and keep aside. Make puree of 2 big tomatoes in a blender and set aside.
  • Hot-dogs are always cooked before packaging. But hot-dogs and their packaging fluid are sometimes contaminated. So I always wash and put them in boiled water for 5 minutes. Then I cut them into pieces and fry them in oil until all of them get brown from all sides. Keep aside.
  • In a pan, pour oil, fry all the vegetables until done and keep aside. In the same oil, fry onions for some time, then add crushed garlic and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • Then add tomato puree and chilli sauce, if you child can't tolerate chilli sauce, avoid it. Mix finely, then add cooked pasta, vegetables and hot-dogs. Give it a good stir, add salt and black pepper to taste. Lastly add basil and rosemary. Mix everything together and you are done.
       After quite long time, I'm sharing a fish recipe here. This is an authentic Bengali recipe which is simply delicious. "Sorshe(mustard in english) Jhal" means fish cooked with mustard paste in a thick gravy(jhal). Mustard seed and mustard oil both are an integral part of Bengali cuisine and almost all kinds of fish are cooked in mustard paste gravy. Any fish like Rohu, Pabda, Pomfret, Hilsa(Ilish maach) can be prepared following this recipe. This is not so spicy, but mustard paste along with mustard oil for cooking makes this dish just so heavenly delicious. Pabda is also known as Pabo Cat fish in english. And if you can get hold of some fresh Pabda, then think no more, just go ahead with this recipe.
        I used some potato slices in the gravy, but it's totally up to you, you want to add them or not. Generally, we don't add potatoes in fish curry with mustard paste. But nobody is going to kill you, if you do so. Just joking, actually my hubby doesn't like any fish curry without a few slices of potato in it(He is a Potato freak you know). so let's move on to the recipe.......

A note :: Pabda is a very delicate fish to handle and has no scales. So, for this kind of scaleless fish , while marinating the fish pieces with turmeric powder and salt, we add few drops of oil, otherwise, while frying, oil will splutter more and your skin can get burnt. So during the whole process of cooking this fish, you have to be very careful. 

You need ::

Pabda Fish : 2-3 pieces
Potato(if using) : 1, small, cut lengthwise
Black Cumin seed : 1 tsp.
Ginger : 1/2"
Yellow Mustard seed : 2 tsp.
Black Mustard seed : 1/2 tsp.
Turmeric powder : 2 tsp.
Green chilli : 1-2 (use as per your tolerance level)
Tomato : 1(big), chopped
Salt to taste

Mustard Oil : 2 tblsp.(for frying the fish)+1 tblsp.(for cooking)
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing

How To :
  • Preperation : (a) Clean the fish, marinate them with few pinches of salt and turmeric powder and few drops of oil for about 20-30 minutes. (b) Make a paste of ginger and 1 green chilli. (c) Soak yellow and black mustard seeds for 10-15 mins. in little water, then make a fine paste of mustard seeds with a pinch of salt(salt is added to lessen the bitterness of mustard seed), using very less water. Keep aside.
  • Frying the fish :: Heat 2 tblsp. oil in a pan, when hot, slowly add the fish pieces one by one into the pan, in medium high heat, fry them very carefully from both sides till they are golden brown. When done, remove from heat and keep aside. In the same pan, fry the potato slices for few minutes and then keep aside.
  • Cooking :: Heat 1 tblsp.oil in another pan, when hot add black cumin seed/kalonji to the oil, wait till they sizzle, then lower the heat a little, add ginger-green chilli paste along with turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder. Add 2 -3 tblsp. of water in the pan and mix well with the spices. Cook the spices well till oil separates. Add chopped tomatoes at this moment. Mix well with the spice paste. when tomatoes become soft, add mustard paste and mix in the spice paste. Cook for few more minutes, then add fried potatoes and 1/2- 1 cup of hot water to the pan. Add salt to taste. [Add 1/2 cup water if you are not adding potato and 1 cup if adding potato to the gravy.]

When potatoes are cooked and you have your desired consistency of gravy left, remove from heat. Finally garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Enjoy with some freshly made hot white rice................

        If you are a chocolate lover you'll love this cake and there are many healthy ingredients hidden which kids don't love to eat alone, like slightly overripe bananas, dates and walnuts. At least my kids run out seeing them, so when I saw few over ripe bananas on the self, I jumped on to making this cake. I used 80% date syrup and 20% sugar to sweeten the cake. I added walnut because walnut goes exceptionally well with chocolate banana cake/loaf. The taste was distinguishably extraordinary. Everyone liked the cake and the nice thing about this cake is kids won't get the taste of banana or dates and will enjoy the chocolatty flavour in it. The cake stays soft and moist for days, it has at least 3-4 days self-life(outside the refrigerator) and can keep for 7-10 days in refrigerator. But I assure you, you won't be able to resist for that long. Pair a slice of this loaf with a hot cup of coffee this monsoon and enjoy the monsoon something differently. Any way, let's see what all you need.....
You Need ::
Ripe banana : 2 
APF/All Purpose Flour(maida) : 1/2 cup
White Flour(atta) : 1/2 cup
Butter : 1/2 cup, in room temperature Egg : 2
Date Syrup : 1/2 cup
Sugar : 2 tblsp.
Vanilla essence : 1 tsp.
Cocoa Powder : 1/2 cup

Baking Powder : 1 tsp.
Baking Soda : 1/2 tsp.
Salt : a pinch
Milk : 1/2 cup or as needed

Walnuts : 1/2 cup, chopped

How To :
  • Mash the bananas with the back of a fork, keep aside. In a deep bowl, cream butter and sugar together, in there add dates syrup and mashed banana. Mix well together. Add vanilla essence and just give a good stir. This is your wet mixture.
  • In another bowl, take APF, wheat flour and cocoa powder. Add in baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix these dry ingredients very well. This is a very crucial and important step for making a soft textured cake/loaf. Now add these flour mixture into the wetmixture bowl little at a time and mix well. Add the milk as needed to make a creamy batter. Do not overmix. Just when all your dry ingredients are well mied wih the wet ingredients and you have a creamy batter, you are done. Add half of the chopped walnuts into the batter and keep the half to sprinkle on top of the cake. 
  • Pre heat your oven to 180 degreeC. Grease a loaf pan or any baking pan with butter/oil and dust with flour all over the pan, dust off the excess flour. then pour the prepared batter into the pan. Sprinkle rest of the chopped walnuts on the top of the cake. Decprate as you wish. Place in middle rack of your oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean. Keep in the oven until cake cools down itself.
  • Then remove from the pan when cake cools down completely. Enjoy the chocolatty goodness with the flavour of dates and heavenly roasted walnuts.

I'm sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers' "Monsoon Celebration" event...........


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