See if you can follow my leftover transformation process:
From a cook book called The Arabian Nights Cookbook that I checked out from the library, I made baked beef kebabs. My kids and I had a few. Then I packed the remainder and stored them in the fridge.
I knew the children (why do I still call them children? One is 21, the other is 16) would not eat the kebabs any more, they move on to greener pastures (new food, not leftovers) during meal times so I crumbled the kebabs up, cut some potatoes, chopped some onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, threw in some spices along with bright green peas and transformed my kebabs to keema mutter. I ate the keema mutter with rice for 2 meals. There was still a lot left. I really need to learn to cook in smaller amounts.
Yesterday, I made home made paneer for Sean. This time, instead of throwing the whey away, I saved the liquid. After reading up on the nutritional value of whey, I made home made rotis, and used the whey to knead whole wheat instead of water. I made a few rotis for Sean. I left some dough to make mughlai paratha, or a version of it to use up leftover keema mutter.
Mughlai paratha is generally meat stuffed bread and the bread is cooked with egg. I made balls with leftover dough and rolled them out to about 7 inches in diameter. Once the griddle was hot, J placed the roti on the griddle. I had 3 beaten eggs ready and right away put 3 or 4 tbsp of beaten eggs on the roti on the griddle and spread the egg all over. Then I spooned in 2 tbsp of keema and folded the roti on both sides over it. Poured a tsp of vegetable oil around the sides. I was supposed to make a pocket but I failed. I let the folded roti cook till egg had set and flipped to cook the other side. Once done, I had a very poor relation of the delicious moghlai paratha. The poor relation did not taste like the real deal but it was quite good. Both kids approved.
I was so thrilled with myself that I proclaimed myself queen of leftovers yet again.
I reused, recycled, reimagined! There is such joy in transformative creations.
If you have read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, recall how the story starts. Ashima reaches for the tin of Planter’s peanuts to mix with her puffed rice. She is attempting to recreate the popular street food available at every corner, every lane in the streets of Kolkata – jhaal muri. She adds the peanuts, some mustard oil, green chili to her puffed rice but it is not the same as what she remembers. Something is missing. The book stole my heart just by that vignette at the beginning – Ashima trying to recreate a comfort food in a land where she is new, everything is unknown. That is every immigrant at some point in their lives, isn’t it?
Papdi chat, as pictured above, is my absolute favorite street food that I make often at home. Either I have forgotten what the real thing tastes like or I have managed to create perfection or my palate has been compromised to think what I create is the epitome of papdi chat. No matter what the reason, I don’t feel like anything is missing from my concoction of papdi chat. Often I don’t have all the ingredients so I improvise. Today’s version included the following:
Papdis (wheat crisps, available in the snack aisle of Indian stores) – this forms the base. Top these with…
Half a cup of canned chick peas (garbanzo beans)
Half a boiled potato chopped into little cubes
2 tbsp of finely chopped raw onion (optional)
1 green chili finely diced – optional. If you like spicy, make it 2
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup of beaten yogurt poured over the mixture
2 tbsp of Chunky Chat masala
Half a cup or more, if you prefer, of tamarind date chutney
All this is topped with Haldiram’s Alu Bhujia (again available in Indian grocery stores)
I sometimes make it fancy by sprinkling pomegranate seeds on top.
Talk about burst of flavors in the mouth – crunchy, tangy, savory, sweet – perfection!
I say perfection and I am the only one who eats chat in our house. The non Indian and the part Indians do not care for it. I even go as far as to proclaim it as healthy – garbanzo beans, fat free yogurt, potatoes……healthy! At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.
All of you hail the Leftover Queen a.k.a me. I claim the title, the crown and the throne. I claim all of it.
I wrote about my nonstop cooking on the Diwali weekend. If you have not read it yet, you can read it here.
Since I go overboard when I cook, I ended up with a lot of leftovers. Generally, Sean eats leftovers for weeks and he is very happy to do so. As we pack away the food in the fridge on the day I cook, I can see his mind planning his meals for the week ahead. He threatens us not to finish the dal or the paneer because he plans to eat them for another meal. The threat is not serious, only semi serious. But this time, I must have poisoned him somehow because his stomach did not feel great for a couple of days after Diwali and he did not want to exacerbate the situation by eating spicy dal makhni and creamy malai kofta. So I, who is not fond of dal makhni or malai kofta too much, had to eat the leftovers. The children, in general, rarely eat left over Indian food. They are high maintenance but thankfully I am done maintaining them. They maintain themselves quite well when it comes to meals.
After 3 days of eating leftovers to empty the fridge, I had a plan. A beautiful, bold, exquisite, earth shattering, tradition breaking plan. I thought outside the box.
This is what I did. I took out the container of malai kofta from the fridge. I follow Sanjeev Kapoor’s fool proof recipe of malai kofta. It is easy and delicious. You can look at the recipe here.
I poured the malai koftas with the gravy in my food processor and made a puree of the whole thing. Then I added 2 and a 1/2 cups of whole wheat to the puree and hit the dough button of the food processor. The liquid in the puree was not enough for a sticky dough so I added 1/3 cup of plain yogurt to the mix. I took the dough out of the food processor and kneaded by hand for about 5 to 7 minutes. When the dough formed a smooth ball, I covered it with damp cloth and went for my walk.
After the walk, I kneaded for another 3 to 4 minutes and made little balls to roll out.
The next part was easy. I rolled the dough out into rotis and cooked them on the skillet with oil spray.
The malai kofta parathas were ready.
I told myself I just transformed a leftover into a healthy meal. Whole wheat, paneer, potatoes, ok fine, a little cream in the gravy made it a tad unhealthy but it tasted good. Everything tastes good with cream and butter, sigh! As I finished cooking the last paratha, my family casually gathered around, “Whatcha making?”
Ryan was stressed about a math test so he walked around to calm his nerves and ate at least 3 parathas in the process if not more, Sahana and Sean ate a few with left over dal makhni. I ate 3 of them. They were soft and oh-so-flavorful. I decided right then that I will claim the title of Leftover Queen in my blog post. And I just did!
I was about 8 or 9 years old when I was allowed to tag along with some neighborhood girls. They were teenagers then, and very interested in boys and marriage. This was late 70’s India, where girls stole glances at young men and vice versa but very few openly had a relationship. Arranged marriages were prevalent, love marriages were rare. One of the girls in that group was from a big family. She was the youngest of 10 siblings. Her older sisters were regularly sitting in front of families of prospective grooms to be ‘shown’ for marriage. She had a lot of ‘insiders’ information on how the process went and we were her adoring audience. She told us one of prospective groom’s father asked a sister in one such ‘viewing’ that if the family had only rice and masoor dal (red lentil) in the house what food can the girl make out of those ingredients. She was being judged for her resourcefulness in a mid to low income level Bengali family. The girl responded she would make rice, daal, dal bora (lentil fritters), daal bora r jhol (fritters in a curry), daal borar chutney……. and I forget what else.
Although I have eaten daal er bora occasionally in Indian restaurant near me, I have never ventured to make any from scratch. Just a few days ago, in a conversation with my college buddies on wsapp the topic of daal er bora came up. I eagerly asked for the recipe and when my friend gave it to me, I thought “This is easy. Even I can do it.” And I did.
The fritters are simple, delicious and yes, a tad unhealthy. I thought of frying them in my airfryer but instead I went old school and fried them in oil.
You need to soak 1 cup of red lentils overnight or at least for couple of hours. This is what masoor dal or red lentil looks like:
2. Drain the water in a sieve and put the wet lentils in a food processor to pulse it to a paste with a few tsps of water.
3. Add 1 tsp of kalounji seeds (nigella seeds) with the paste – optional
4. Add 2 tbsp of finely chopped onion – optional
3. Add 2 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves. I love coriander leaves but if you don’t like them, you can leave them out.
4. Add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and if you like spicy, 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder
5. Add 2 tbsp of corn starch to make the fritters crispy
6. I like to dice one of two green chilies in the mix. If you like them, throw them in. Who is going to stop ya?
7. Add salt to taste and yes, a tiny bit of sugar. We Bengalis like a little sugar in our food.
8. Mix all the ingredients together. Heat oil in a pan or wok, put tbsp full of the lentil mixture in the hot oil and fry till they turn golden brown.
These crispy fritters taste delicious as a snack with your evening tea or as an accompaniment to rice and daal.
So I ate them for dinner with my rice and dal. Sean ate a few with his sandwich. Ryan bit into one and gave the rest to me. Sahana ate a few dipped in her daal.
Since I made many in my excitement, we still had quite a few leftover. I remembered the resourcefulness of the ‘would be’ bride of my childhood and made red lentil fritters curry the next day when the crispiness of the fritters was gone.
For the curry:
Cut a potato into small cubes.
Make a tsp of fresh ginger paste or finely grated.
Heat a little oil in a wok.
When the oil is hot, add a tsp of cumin seed. It splutters, be careful.
When cumin splutters, add the grated/paste of ginger and let is cook for 20 seconds till the raw smell of ginger is gone.
Now add a small can of tomato paste. Lower the heat and let the tomato mixture cook till the oil separates. Add 1 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of red chili powder. Add a little water from time to time so masala does not burn.
When the tomato mixture thickens, looks rich red and oil separates, add a tbsp of tomato ketchup. Mix together. Add a cup of water to the mixture and add the potato cubes.
Let the potatoes cook in the gravy. Add more water if needed.
When the potatoes become tender, add the fritters. Add more water since the fritters soak in water and the gravy dries.
Add salt and let the gravy simmer for 10 minutes or so.
Before turning the stove off, add a tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of ghee (clarified butter). The ghee is completely optional.
The widows in Bengal were expected to live a life of austerity after their husband died. The measure of austerity involved giving up not only meat, fish and eggs but also onions and garlic. The ladies became creative and derived delicious meals with the ingredients that they were allowed to consume. Daal er bora is supposedly one such dish that the widows of Bengal invented. Tasty and versatile that can enrich your taste buds even without the use of garlic and onions.
Resourcefulness has been the means of survival for women for centuries in every aspect of life including food.