Welcome to Color n’ Spice

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My journey with food, exploring childhood memories and creating new ones from books ,friends and food groups

“Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.”  ― Keith Floyd

 

Kati Bihu at home

Today we celebrate Kati Bihu in Assam and it falls on the first day of the Kati month of the Assamese calendar .This Bihu is very solemn in celebrations unlike Bohag Bihu and Magh Bihu . Our Bihus are very closely associated to agriculture and paddy cultivation . This Bihu falls during that phase of the year when people face glimpse of poverty as granaries are empty from previous crop and paddy fields are getting ready for harvest .

Growing up we would plant a new Tulsi or clean the Tuluxi guri of the exisiting plant . The Tuluxi bheti will be neatly wiped and in the evening we would light saki and offer the xorai with proxaad and fruits .We would light sakis in our veggie garden . These memories from childhood keeps us going and I try to follow whatever little I can living in Tampa.

This year I have been fortunate to have a Tuluxi plant and also two new plants from a friend . Morning itself I cleaned my lanai and evening able to ask for blessings for a good harvest for family and friends .

Dinner tonight is simple vegetarian ; cooked dali and cauliflower with rice/roti.

Zucchini Kofta Curry

Zucchini /Lauki Kofta curry is a simple hearty vegan dish and pairs well with steamed white rice or roti . It is more of summer dish in India as Lauki ( bottle gourd) is readily available . It is also an excellent alternative to paneer kofta curry when you need to be vegan .

Talking of summer it has been long and dragging . Without any doubt we are where we started in march of 2020. That was when we all started hearing more of Covid 19 ;a virus that started in Wuhun in the winter and slowly spreading across the globe . During these past months we have only seen families suffering not only with the virus but job loss , having to work from home ,online education ,no travelling , social distancing and many more! Hope springs eternal in all of us and as summer changes to Autumn I hear a vaccine may be available in Spring . I wait in anticipation to that day …

Going back to the recipe and yes no measurements today as all are eye balled

The gourd is first washed and peeled . I used 3 zucchinis . Grate the flesh .

After grating the bottle gourd, squeeze out the excess water carefully. Zucchini is rich in water and it’s necessary to get rid of this fluid for making the kofta.

Transfer the grated and squeezed lauki to a bowl. Add gram flour (chickpea flour) to this mix, salt to taste , ginger, chopped cilantro before mixing it into a smooth dough and rolling out small roundels.

Heat oil . Fry kofta over low-medium heat so that it is fully cooked from inside and perfectly brown from outside.

Allow the kofta to cool down a bit before adding in the gravy.

For the gravy I used onion ,ginger puree . Fry it nicely in oil and add like half a tomato puree , coriander cumin powder, red chilli powder . Once the oil starts to separate add like 3/4 th cup light coconut milk and water to desired consistency . As the curry starts to simmer grind garam masala spices and add to it .

Add the koftas into the gravy and simmer the curry for next 5 – 7 minutes over low heat. The heat will help kofta to absorb the flavor of the curry and become even more delicious.

Bondha kobi maasor khar

cabbage kharA traditional meal in Assam begins with a ‘khar’ a class of dishes named after the main ingredient. The traditional ingredient is made by filtering water through the ashes of the sun-dried skin of a few varieties of banana which is then called kolkhar. Khar dishes can be prepared with raw papaya , mustard leaves, vegetables ,pulses, fish etc

Khar happens to be one of my most fav dish and also one of the first recipe I learned from Ma. I have often watched aita make kol khar from Bhim kol bakoli .That itself was very intriguing for me as a kid as it is usually done in our yards .  I still remember the first time I tried to make the dish . It was with papaya and I was so confident that I cooked the way I had seen her . I opened the pressure cooker in front of Ma and it was dark brown …a lesson learned that you never add turmeric to khar dishes !Living in Tampa I often do not have kol khar and Ma said I can substitute it with baking soda. So over the years I have cooked khar on the weeknd and today it was with cabbage . I used to love Ma’s khar not only for the taste but the color and texture . The cabbage cannot be ‘kumoliya ‘ as we need mainly the ‘bura’ leaves to get the texture .

These days we do groceries mainly once in two weeks .Going to ‘Traders Joe ‘ also means a lot of frozen stuff. I needed to empty the freezer for some space and saw I had fish head . I could not resist making khar with cabbage and fish head .

Every Assamese family makes khar and has their own recipe . The way Ma taught me is very simple . Cut the cabbage leaves coarse and big . Grate few pieces of garlic .

Heat mustard oil . Add dry red chilli and garlic .Saute little bit . Add the cabbage .

let it cook for a minute or two .Add salt and the fried fish head pieces . Add baking soda.

Let it cook on low heat till done

just before you switch the heat off add mashed ginger and keep it covered .

Before serving drizzle little mustard oil .

NB : I do not have measurement as it is very eye ball kind of ingredients .

Chicken Pineapple Quesdilla

 

Grilled pineapple chicken quesadillas are great for lunch and dinner. They are also a perfect combination of savory and sweet .

Recipe inspired from ‘Hello Fresh’

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Ingredients :

Onion 1

Pineapple 8oz

Vine ripe tomato 2

Cilantro  1/4 bunch

lemon

Chicken breast strips 20 oz

tortillas 3

Mozzarella cheese 1 1/2 cup

Sour cream

Method :

Drizzle oil in a medium pan on medium heat. Add sliced onion and cook until softned. Season with salt and pepper. Add pineapple ( cube) and cook till lightly brown. turn off heat .

Make Pico De Gallo : Dice tomato , chop cilantro . In a bowl combine minced onion , tomato ,cilantro and squeeze lemon in it . Add salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a pan. Add chicken pieces and spices and cook for 5 to 6 mins .Season it your choice of spice ,salt and pepper. Return the onion and pineapple to pan and squeeze lemon to taste . Add cilantro.

quesdilla

Rub each tortilla with oil . Place it on baking sheet .Evenly sprinkle the cheese and top it with the filling .Fold tortilla in half . Broil until golden on top.Flip and repeat .

Cut quesdillas into wedges; top with ico de gallo and sour cream on the side .

Add mashed avocado with jalapeno, garlic ,cilantro and lemon juice

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Kadai Paneer

Beautiful weather in Tampa this weekend . The air is crisp and cool . I got up this morning with thoughts of Ma … it has been a little more than four years since my lowest point but I have learned to live and thrive knowing that my yearning to have her back will truly never go away .She was funny and smart and warm and she was beautiful on the inside and out. Her heart was big and her mind was bright. She became paralysed after her stroke many years before to her passing and I partly lost her then . My trips home were always long taking care of her needs . The initial years after her stroke ; we would watch a lot of TV shows together and one of them was Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazana . Ma used to see his shows and in her letters to me she would jot down simple recipes every time . Ma loved to cook and I so enjoyed her cooking . I am no where close to her but I follow her style as close as possible . Her capsicum paneer was my favorite ; served with luci  it is such a quick simple dish .

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Inspired from Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khanna Khazana

Ingredients :

300 grams cottage cheese (paneer), cut into  cubes

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium onion pureed

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

1 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1 teaspoons coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

salt , sugar oil to cook

½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves powder (kasuri methi)

1 medium tomato, deseeded and cut into ½ inch cubes 1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch cubes and layers separated ½ medium green capsicum, cut into ½ inch cubes

Method :

1.Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add cumin seeds and as it sizzles , add onionpuree  and sauté till golden brown.

2. Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato puree  and sauté till soft and pulpy.

3. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder  salt , 1/8 th spoon sugar  and sauté for 1 minute.

4. Cook  on low to  medium heat and add like 1/4 cup water to have a thick gravy .

5.  Adjust salt ,add dried  crushed fenugreek ( Kasuri methi) leaves  and mix well.

6. Add tomato cubes, onion cubes and green capsicum cubes, mix and cook for 2 minutes.

7. Add cottage cheese cubes and mix lightly. Cook on low till desired gravy .

8.Garnish with chopped coriander .

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Thankfully I have found my way out of the darkness and able to cherish the memories . Like my Ma  I love cooking , gardening , little knitting as winter arrives ,not an avid reader like her but on and off I try to read and yeah today tried again  to post a recipe in my blog ! Hope you will enjoy cooking capsicum paneer !!

 

Frittata

What is a Frittata ? It’s pretty much like a baked omelette or a crustless quiche that’s perfect for breakfast, but can double as brunch, lunch or even dinner!

We have Frittata  mostly as a brunch during the weekends. The veggies added are mainly seasonal or what is at home .Today I made it with spinach ,roasted red bell pepper ,asparagus ,fresh herbs with sprinkle of feta cheese.

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Ingredients :

7/8 asparagus spears

1 cup spinach chopped

1/2 small onion chopped

1 tbsp chives chopped

1/2 bell pepper chopped

3 eggs

3 tbsp milk

1tbsp crumbled feta cheese

olive oil /butter

salt and pepper or chili flakes

 

Method:

Beat the eggs and milk and keep aside.

Blanch the asparagus.  Set aside.

Heat the oven to 375 Degree F.

Heat the oil/butter in an oven proof skillet. Saute the onions till they are soft and translucent. Add the bell peppers,  spinach. Saute all the vegetables at high heat till the water from the spinach evaporates. Add the asparagus and chives.

Spread out the veggies evenly on bottom of skillet. Pour egg mixture over spinach mixture. Use a spatula to lift up the Veggie mixture along the sides of the pan to let egg mixture go underneath. Sprinkle the Black Pepper and cheese on the top. Cook till the eggs are about half set.

Now put the whole pan in the oven & bake for 15 minutes, until Frittata is puffed and lightly golden on the top. Remove from oven with oven mitts and let cool for several minute. Be very careful as the skillet handle is going to be very hot.

Cut into triangles & serve.

NB : add veggies of your choice . I like tomato , broccoli , cauliflower and carrot

 

 

Egg Curry

 

konir jhul will always have potato just like our mangsho jhul . Just writing I feel nostalgic as mind drifts to care free days of  Jorhat .I can smell the aroma of ginger with cardamom from the kitchen .The light jhul is perfect during summer months .Hot steaming rice and fresh squeeze of lemon juice is all you need .

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Every home has a different version. As far as memories go some families  do not  use onion , garlic and spices for a jhul and just have the sauce of a runny consistency. In our home, Ma made it with  slightly thicker sauce and I prefer it too.

Ingredients :

  1. 3 free range eggs
  2. 2-3 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  3. 1 or 2 large – medium tomato, grated – about 1 cup grated
  4. 2-2.5 inch fresh ginger, pounded well or grated/made to a paste
  5. 3 fresh hot chili peppers
  6. turmeric
  7.  red chili powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. oil
  10. fresh cilantro for garnish
  11. 2 cardamom ,2 cloves

Method :

The eggs should be hard boiled and peeled. After peeling them, make two small slits on the top or bottom of each egg or on the sides. This will enable some of the flavors of the sauce to seep inside the eggs.  Sprinkle some salt, little red chilli powder if you want and turmeric powder (about 1/4 teaspoon) on the eggs and rub them in. Set aside.

Peel and quarter or half the potatoes. I usually use 2 small potato halves for every egg, but you can use more or less. Sprinkle some salt and about 1/4 teaspoon turmeric on the potatoes and rub them in so they are coated. Set aside.

Puree the tomato and ginger . You can also grate the tomato as I like when the texture is coarse . Combine the ginger and tomato in a bowl and set aside.

Combine the rest of the red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt with about 1/4 cup water and set aside.

Heat a teaspoon oil in a kadai/wok or pan. Place the  potatoes in the oil and cook at medium to high heat until the sides start to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat another teaspoon oil and now place the eggs in the oil. Cook them while turning them around gently once in a while so all the sides turn golden brown. The cooked sides will seem as if the surface has crisped a little and that is how it is supposed to be.

Heat the rest of the oil. Add the slit green chili peppers if you are using. Be careful for they will pop in the oil. When the sides of the peppers brown, add the tomato ginger mix and cook in medium to high heat for 2-3 minutes. A lot of the liquid will have evaporated. Watch it closely and do not let it dry up. The time is approximate. Now add the mix of turmeric salt and chili powder with water. Give it a good stir and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. The mix would have thickened and oil will start to separate from the sides of the pan.

Add the potatoes and toss well for the mix to coat the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes in medium to low heat. Now add about 2.5 – 3 cups of warm water to the pan/wok and once it comes to a boil, partially cover and cook until the potatoes are very much near done. Add the eggs ,ground cardamom ,cloves and cook for another two minutes and remove from heat. Adjust salt and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with hot steamed rice.

NB :In winter I often cook the same recipe and I add onion to the tomato ,ginger puree.

yes ,in all my cooking where base is onion and tomato there has to be tiny sugar to balance !

Dahi Vada

Dahi vada  is the refreshing combination of deep fried lentil dumplings topped with creamy yogurt, a chutney and spices.

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A vada is deep fried piece of lentil dumpling. It is fluffy and spongy like a doughnut, only not sweet.

Ingredients

white split gram /urad dal 1 cup

cumin seeds 1/2 tsp

yogurt 3 cups or more

roasted cumin powder

red chili powder

salt /sugar

pinch of asafoetida/heeng

chopped coriander leaves

method

Soak the dal in water few hours or overnight

Drain and grind to a fine paste .Add cumin seeds, salt and asafoetida and whisk the mixture to incorporate air into it .

Heat oil in a kadai. Make vadas in wet palm and lower them in oil . I prefer to use a tbsp and drop in oil to cook till golden brown.

Drain in paper towel. Soak in warm water.

Beat yogurt and add salt,sugar to your taste.

Squeeze water out of vadas lightly and add to yogurt .let them soak for an hour or so .

Garnish with roasted cumin powder, red chili powder and chopped coriander .Serve cold .61132030_10213036199332037_5324484498883084288_n

I like to drizzle tamarind chutney on top of the vadas .On top of the yogurt goes the sweet chutney. This would be the part where the Dahi vadas differ from one region to another. While the north Indians will spoon out a generous amount of the chutney, the Dahi vadas in the southern parts of India are served with a different kind of seasoning.

Note :To get the perfect vada, you must beat the batter till it gets light and fluffy.This is very important step. This helps to make the soft and porous vada. They should be fried immediately after beating the batter.

 

Pudina Pulao

Light , refreshing , intensely aromatic and prefect for summer !

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Hot summer days are here and I like to spend as little time in kitchen in the afternoons . I like this pulao as it is a quick fix ;served with a side or salad and raita  it makes a complete meal .

Ingredients :

Joha or basmati rice 1  to 1 1/2 cup

ginger 2  inch piece minced

yogurt  1/2 cup whipped

pudina /mint leaves 1 cup

dhaniya /cilantro 1/2 cup (  optional )

cardamom 3 or 4

cloves 3 or 4

black peppercorn 5 or 6

cashew pieces 6 or 7

salt /sugar /oil or ghee

lemon juice

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Method :

wash and soak the rice for 30 mins to an hour

mince ginger,whisk yogurt ,chop pudina ,dhaniya very fine

Heat oil /ghee. add the cardamom, cloves,peppercorn ,cashew.

As they start to crackle add the ginger and greens .Add yogurt and rice.

Add water ,salt ,sugar and cook covered till rice is done. sprinkle lemon juice to taste .

serve garnished with mint n cilantro if needed.

This is the basic pulao recipe …today I added boneless chicken breast to make it more special .After adding the whole spices , I sauted the chicken till nicely brown . Then followed the recipe .

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Rajma

colournspice

Rajma Curry has become a favorite almost in all the parts of India. Like many other Indian dishes, each house has its own recipe to make it and with a slight variation here and there, it becomes a family owned recipe which passes from generation to generation.

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‘Rajma chawal’ is an absolute favorite in our house, and it’s my comfort food on vegetarian days and Sundays. It might sound a little odd coming from an Assamese, but when I was growing up, we had tenants from Delhi and Sahranpur for many years in our house. Suman Aunty would often send us a bowl of rajma or lauki kofta and halwa. Ma learned a few choice dishes from them like rajma, kofta, alu / gobi paratha, and chole bhatura. They went on to become staples in my family’s diet. Today, even my children love to have rajma with steaming white rice…

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