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Recreating Memories: Green Mango Chutney

The smell of shredded green mangoes and grated ginger enveloped my 7 ft x 10 ft kitchen, as it cooked down to a crystalized concoction stimulated by the addition of heaping tablespoons of cane sugar. My right eye was burning, the fingers that touched the dry red chillies had also touched my eye, but the little spark of heat was indispensable to the chutney.

I added a handful of golden raisins to the mix and as I watched them slowly plump up, I thought about the time that this chutney traversed the Atlantic with me. Of all the memories weaved during my last visit to Kolkata, a plastic PearlPet jar filled with this sunset yellow chutney, cooked by ma, is closest to my heart.

Green Mango Chutney

Green Mango Chutney

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Summer Vibes: Watermelon Popsicles

What’s summer without admiring the hue of your tongue after sucking on a fluorescent popsicle, or licking the juice, dribbling down your forearm, after biting into a succulent slice of watermelon?

Watermelon popsicles with a hint of lime and mint.

Watermelon popsicles with a hint of lime and mint.

Add a splash of white rum to the mix, before freezing, for watermelon mojitos on a stick!


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Chop the Top: Beet Greens

I am still working with the beets that I bought from the farmers’ market last Saturday. My focus this time was on the beet greens, which I have always thrown away until yesterday. I read online that beet greens are packed with vitamins A, B6, C and K along with antioxidants and fibre.

So I chopped the greens, stem and all, and sautéed it in olive oil that was flavored with a grated garlic clove and hot green chili. I added salt along with two teaspoons of ground poppy seeds and a teaspoon of ground mustard seeds. My husband’s discarded Krups coffee grinder always comes in handy when I need to grind spices. 

I cooked this for a while and added about half a cup of water during the process. Once the water evaporated I turned the stove off and let it cool. Then I blended the concoction in my mini food chopper. I served this with basmati rice; this experimental recipe is a keeper.

The use of shorshe (mustard)-posto (poppy) combo in a recipe is unique to Bengali cooking, I think .The addition of mustard introduced a distinctive pungent taste –– highly desirable to a Bengali palate –– to the greens. The use of poppy seeds gave the dish a creamy texture and of course it had that gorgeous ruby color from the stems.

Beet greens with ground poppy and mustard seeds

Beet greens with ground poppy and mustard seeds


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Pretty Pumpkin Blossoms: Flowers to Fritters

Look what I found at the Davis Square farmers’ market, in Somerville, yesterday!

Pretty pumpkin blossoms

Pumpkin blossom bouquet

I was super excited to chance upon this pretty bunch. They were fresh, had a sweet smell, and were selling for 4$ a bunch. Back home, in Kolkata, we coat the blossoms in a batter made of a mixture of chickpea flour and rice flour before deep frying them. Tastes great with some dal and rice.

A Japanese lady was buying some fresh green beans from the same stall and she wanted to know what I would do with the blossoms. After I told her the recipe that we usually abide by, she said she prepares tempura batter for the blossoms and deep fries them. She suggested I could stuff the blossoms first, with stuffing of my choice, and then fry them.

“The vegetables you get here are good and fresh,” she said.

Then she whispered into my ears, “And cheap too, you know.”

See, this is one of the reasons I love visiting a farmers’ market. You not only get to interact with the farmers and know where your produce comes from but also get a chance to interact with your fellow buyers.

Before I left, I got a big glass of freshly squeezed lemonade with raspberry and mint at another stall and a maple bacon donut from the Union Square Donuts’ stall.

I got back home feeling happy.

I knew what we would be having for dinner: moong dal with vegetables, basmati rice and pumpkin blossom fritters. I decided on making fritters because that would give me the option to shallow fry them, instead of deep frying. I picked ten flowers from the bunch and washed them and let them dry. I followed this recipe, but used only two tablespoons of chickpea flour, half an onion and added one tablespoon of rice flour. Didn’t add the baking powder as well. They came out crisp on the outside and soft but perfectly cooked on the inside.

Pumpkin blossom fritters

Pumpkin blossom fritters

Another reason I love visiting  farmers’ markets is that they remind me so much of the sabzi (vegetable) bazaars back home.

A stall at a vegetable bazaar in Kolkata.

A stall at a vegetable bazaar in Kolkata. Spotted the pumpkin?


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Invincible Cabbage: Potato, Peas and Cabbage Fry

A cabbage will continue to survive, even after being in the refrigerator for a week, while its peers have begun to show explicit signs of decay. I had half a head of cabbage, the other half was used in a noodle preparation, for almost two weeks now. I let it be, hoping that it will eventually lose its battle against time. I would then silently lay it to rest in the trash can.

Yesterday I realized that I was the one who was fighting a losing battle. The cabbage hardly showed any signs of withering, apart from a few black specks. So I chopped an oversized potato, which was on the verge of sprouting, defrosted some supposedly sweet green peas and stir fried them with the now shredded cabbage — an often cooked dish in Bengali households.

I added green chilies and cumin seeds to the smoky mustard oil, along with freshly grated ginger. When they began to crackle and splatter, I added the cubed potato pieces and fried them till they took on a faded brown shade. I introduced the crunchy cabbage shreds at this point along with the emerald stud-like green peas. The addition of cumin powder imparts a surprisingly mellow flavor to the dish and turmeric bestows it with the yellow hue. And as a final touch — a generous sprinkling of aromatic ghee and garam masala.