Archive for March, 2008

Arusuvai Friendship Chain and RCI:Bengal

mystery from mandira
mystery from mandira

For me, the best part of blogging isn’t the food, it’s the people.

It would be so easy to toss up some recipes for nameless, faceless folks to read — but where is the fun in that? Here across the ether, it’s somehow easy to sense a kindred spirit, and countless friendships spring up as we share snippets of our lives: tales of kids and pets, gardening tips, healthy doses of humor and more. Food is tastier when sauced with friendship, and ‘here’, I like to think I am cooking for my friends 🙂

One special person I am fortunate to call a friend is dear Mandira of Ahaar.
A fellow Michigander with a generous spirit and a way with words, Mandira’s imaginitave writing and cooking inspire me every time I visit her lovely blog.

Thank you Mandira, for including me in the Arusuvai Friendship Chain! 🙂

The Arusuvai Friendship Chain was started by Latha and her family at
The Yum Blog along with Bharathy of Spicy Chilly and Bhags of Crazy Curry.
Thanks to all of you ladies, for this wonderful idea.

I love Latha’s descrption: “Arusuvai means six tastes (aru=six, suvai=taste) in Tamizh and is used to refer for Tasty preparation with six tastes – inippu/ thithippu (sweet), orappu/ karam (hot), kassappu (bitter) , pulippu (sour), uppu(salt), tuvarpu (tastes that one gets in raw leaves)”. I received many of these tastes in my package!

My surprise mystery-melange was a super-fresh and fragrant bag of that beloved spice mixture unique to Bengal — panch phoron! For something different, I dry-roasted some of this and ground it to a powder. Then I used the powder to season a dish of paneer and potatoes, simply cooked with onion, tomato, and very little else. Needless to say the panch phoron turned the simple into the sublime!


I first read about dry roasting panch phoron in Sandeepa’s post,
My Spice ~ Panch Phoron. Because the recipe uses this classic Bengali blend, I will send it off to Bong Mom’s Cookbook for RCI: Bengal. So nice to see you around, Sandeepa!

The gravy is heavily based on Sudha’s Paneer Butter Masala.
Hope all’s well with you Sudha 🙂

panch phoron
fresh and fragrant ~ panch phoron

Paneer and Potatoes with Panch Phoron

12 cubes paneer (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 – 1 cup cubed boiled potato
1 big onion, peeled, blanched, and ground to a paste
1/2 c tomato puree (I used 6 ice cubes of fresh tomato puree from the freezer, thanks coffee!)

1 tsp panch phoron, dry roasted and ground
1/2 -1 tsp kashmiri chile powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

2-3 tsp butter
2 TB half and half cream (optional)
water as needed


Heat half the butter in a small frying pan and brown the paneer. Remove and in the same pan, brown the potatoes. Remove and add the remaining butter. Saute the onion paste until brown. Add ground spices and stir a few minuntes, adding water if the mixture is too thick (I needed about 1/2 cup water in all). Add tomato puree and cream, if using. Cook a few minutes until thickened, then fold in the paneer and potatoes. Add salt to taste. Serve hot with any bread.

potatoes and paneer with panch phoron
spicy paneer and potatoes with panch phoron

For my part, I will be passing the chain along to ISG and Cynthia… what fun! 🙂

Also, my apologies for not replying to those of you who commented on my last post — I have been having an awful time with WordPress and my computer in general. Pages are not loading as they should. Imagine what we all did before the internet! Thank you for all the kind words about my ‘sunrise from home’ 🙂


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A Sunrise at Home

sunrise over sturgeon point
sunrise over lake huron ~ still in winter’s grasp

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Weekend Getaways

What would we do without them! Lucky me, I’m headed off for a short break to the shores of Lake Huron. Next week, I’ll be cooking up something yummy with my surprise from dear Mandira of Ahaar, who kindly sent me a package as part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain!

Have a great weekend!

great lakes boat
sailing out into stormy Lake Huron

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Lightened-Up Lazeez Lauki

lightened-up lazeez lauki
lightened-up lazeez lauki

For a long time now, I have been drooling over this recipe for Lazeez Lauki.

Since I struggle with my weight under the best of circumstances (and lately it’s been worse!), I couldn’t even contemplate the rich filling — paneer, nuts of all description, khoya, fried onions… egads!

Then I happened upon this yummy version of stuffed bottlegourd by our own
dear Richa, and she referenced yet another version by Tarla Dalal.

Armed with inspiration, I set out to make a lightened-up Lazeez Lauki.

To begin, I used mashed potato in place of the khoya. I wasn’t sure what it would taste like, but mixed with the rest of the stuffing goodies, you could hardly tell it was potato. I did, of course, use a few nuts and sweet little sultanas!
To make the potato creamy, I added a small amount of lowfat yogurt.

I used this delicious store-bought lowfat paneer. Rather than grating it to disappear in the potato, I cut it into small cubes and browned those with the nuts and raisins. Leaving the paneer in chunks also allowed me to use much less;
since you actually see and bite into it, you really know it’s there.

In the whole recipe I used only one teaspoon of ghee. I suppose I could have made it even healthier with canola oil. I find when using only a small amount of fat in a dish, the taste of pure ghee really makes it shine and you don’t feel like you’ve deprived yourself of something yummy 🙂

A simple sweet-spicy tomato sauce contrasted perfectly with the bland bottlegourd and its smooth filling studded with nuts, fruit and cheese.

All in all a successful experiment!


Lightened-up Lazeez Lauki

1 medium lauki/doodhi/sorakaya/bottlegourd

For the filling:

1 large potato
2 TB lowfat yogurt
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
optional: a few chopped cilantro leaves

1 tsp ghee
1/4 c chopped onion
3 oz lowfat paneer
1 TB nuts of your choice (I used cashew pieces and charoli nuts)
1 TB sultanas

For the sauce:

2 c fresh tomato puree (from about 3-4 big tomatoes)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 stick cinnamon
few cloves
1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (or to taste)
1-2 lumps jaggery
pinch salt


Prepare the lauki by washing, peeling, and cooking in pressure cooker, kettle of boiling water, or microwave just until fork tender. Don’t overcook it like I did the first time as it’s already full of water! They don’t call this the water gourd for nothing 😉

Set aside to drain and cool. Once cool enough to handle, slice off the large end and then using a knife with a long, thin blade, cut out the seeds and surrounding flesh, leaving a shell about 1/4″ thick. You can use a spoon to get the last of the seeds. Let this shell drain while preparing the filling and sauce.

Wash, peel, and cook the potato in boiling water or the microwave.
While hot, mash the potato with yogurt, garam masala, cilantro leaves if using, and salt to taste. Set aside. ** (see note below)

Cut the paneer into small cubes.

In a small frying pan, heat the ghee and add the chopped onion. Cook slowly over med-low heat until translucent. Raise the heat to medium and add paneer cubes, nuts and sultanas. Fry this mixture, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes or until everything is toasty golden brown. Remove the mixture to the potato bowl and mix gently to combine. Reserve the ghee in the pan.

When the filling is cool enough to handle, gently stuff the lauki full as it will hold. Any leftover filling is the cook’s treat 😉

Heat the pan with reserved ghee, adding a spray or two of Pam if there isn’t enough ghee left. Gently brown the stuffed lauki on all sides. Take out onto a plate and let it rest while you make the sauce.

In the same pan over med-low, fry the ginger with the cinnamon and cloves for a few minutes, then add the tomato puree and chili powder. Let this simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes thicken a little. Taste and add jaggery — 1 or 2 lumps depending on how sour the tomatoes are. Add a pinch of salt and cook a further 15 minutes. Stir well and correct the seasoning.

To serve, slice the stuffed lauki about 1/2 inch thick. Ladle some sauce onto a warm plate and place the lauki slices on top.

lazeez lauki in sweet-spicy tomato sauce
lazeez lauki ~ light version in sweet-spicy tomato sauce

**Note: I don’t know what possessed me to put chopped cilantro into this filling. It didn’t belong and you could hardly even taste it. That’s what I get for reading 37 recipes before trying to cook something myself…

Now this last photo is a suggestion for those creative kids over at Jugalbandi — a “Click” theme idea for somewhere down the road: dishes that match your dishes. I’m ready when you are. How about it guys?? 😉

matching dishes!

matching dishes

And oh, look! I’ve been missing my blog-hopping — I just discovered I can send this to darling Sia for her Ode To Potatoes! Whew! I have missed a few events, but it’s nice to make this one. Can’t wait to see all your potato delicacies, Sia! 🙂

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