Holiday Gift Guide: For Food Lovers

Happy post-Thanksgiving holiday bliss, everyone! Just like most of you reading this post, I spent an embarrassing amount of time this weekend online, scouring websites for the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday fashion/tech/everything deals. While perusing all the amazing sales (sorry, credit card), I came across a ton of super cute gift ideas that would be so perfect for food lovers, cooks, hosts & hostesses, so I decided to put together a little gift guide for my readers. These gifts range from cookbooks to barware to kitchen items and even Indian-themed foodie gifts, so I hope you enjoy! I own about half these items and certainly wouldn’t mind owning the rest…hint hint, nudge nudge 🙂

All product links below

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SHOP: Date Night In Cookbook, Anthropologie || Cast Iron Fondue Set, Crate and Barrel || Sabyasachi Print Round Tray, Pottery Barn || Atlas Marcato Red Pasta Machine, Sur La Table || Flavors of America Salt Collection, Uncommon Goods || Traditional Indian Copper Dinner Set, Amazon || ‘Cravings’ 5-Piece Cheese Board & Utensil Set, Nordstrom || Handwoven Macrame Runner, Anthropologie || Glencairn Whiskey Glasses, Crate and Barrel || On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Amazon

Coconut Shrimp Curry (Malai Chingri)

My mom’s coconut shrimp curry (or ‘malai chingri’ as the Bengalis call it) is hands down my favorite dish, ever. No joke. Every time I visit my parents, it’s the #1 item on my list of dishes that my mom must cook for me on my first day back. I’m kind of a brat about it, which is why I was so surprised to learn just how easy and quick it is to make! It’s now my go-to recipe whenever I have guests over for Indian food, and it’s always such a crowd favorite. I’ve been asked for this recipe a million times after guests have tried it, so I’m so excited to finally be able to share it with you after verifying all the ingredients and steps with my mom. I sometimes simplify it and skip the cumin and whole garam masala if I’m out, but those spices really make it that much better. Enjoy this creamy, coconut-y, delicious goodness!

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Ingredients (serves 4) 

15-20 shrimp, deveined
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp whole garam masala (cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cardamom)
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tomato, diced
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tsp cumin and coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
Kashmiri chili powder, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar
1 small can of coconut milk
Cilantro, for garnish

Recipe

Heat oil on a medium sized saucepan. Once the oil is heated, add the cumin and whole garam masala. Fry the onions till they begin to brown. Add in the garlic, ginger paste, and tomatoes and stir together till the oil begins to separate. Stir in the shrimp and fry till fully cooked. Add in haldi, cumin and coriander powder, garam masala powder, chili powder, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Stir in the coconut milk and let boil. Add in more garam masala or chili powder, depending on your taste. Once the shrimp is fully cooked and mixed with the coconut milk, remove from heat and garnish with cilantro. Serve with hot rice.

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp Curry

Ugh, is it seriously Sunday already? I can’t believe how quickly the Thanksgiving long weekend flew by! This year we celebrated “Thanksgivmas” with my in-laws, with Christmas presents & jammies on Thursday morning, followed by a more formal turkey dinner in the evening. It was so nice to get into the Christmas spirit a little earlier this year, and even though we felt a bit sad after the family festivities were over, we realized that the official holiday countdown has only just begin! I still have a full week of Christmas celebrates with my side of the family to look forward to in Canada. I seriously cannot wait to gorge on my mom’s amazing food and steal–I mean, learn–more of her delicious recipes :). SO. EXCITED.

Anyways, we’re battling some serious Sunday blues here in the Gupta household, so we decided to whip up some homemade Indian food to cleanse our palate from all the decadent eating we’ve been doing over the long weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, you know what I’m talking about! Also, my husband bought me these amazing kadhai dishes as part of my early Christmas gift, and I was just really excited to test them out.

I’ve been making a lot of fish and chicken lately, and wanted to try out a new shrimp recipe tonight. My go-to recipe for shrimp curry involves heavy coconut milk, and I was in the mood for something lighter. I drew some inspiration from this Prawn Patia dish but added some Bengali spices and simplified a few of the steps. I was shocked by how delicious this dish ended up tasting! I love love love adding some sweetness to my curry (true Bengali) and I couldn’t get enough of the sweet and spicy combination. So good, I just had to share with you guys. Enjoy!

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Full spread from tonight’s dinner – bhindi masala, baingan bharta, and sweet & spicy shrimp curry!

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This might be my new go-to shrimp recipe…

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How cute are my new kadhai dishes?!

Ingredients (serves 2)

1/2 tsp kalo jeere (black cumin)
15-20 shrimp, deveined
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, sliced into long slender pieces
1/2 tomato, diced into small pieces and ketchup, to taste
3 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin and coriander powder
1 sugar cube (or 1 tsp sugar)
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp water
Salt, to taste
Cilantro, for garnishing

Recipe

Heat the oil on a large saucepan. Once heated, drop in the kalo jeere for a few seconds. Then fry the onions until they begin to brown slightly. Add the grated garlic and ginger paste and mix together with the onions and kalo jeere. Add the tomatoes and stir continuously until the oil begins to separate. Add salt and the remaining spices (red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder) and keep mixing for another few minutes.

Add the sugar cube and stir until it mixes with the onions and spices. Add water and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes are fully cooked with the spices. Drop in the shrimps and cook for a few minutes with the onions and spice mixture. Stir continuously until the shrimp is fully cooked through (around five minutes). Garnish with cilantro and enjoy with hot rice!

Mastering My Mom’s Classic Chicken Curry

Happy belated Halloween, all! The last few weeks have been so busy, I didn’t even realize it’s been 12 whole days since my last post. Ahem, clearly I need to do a better job of posting regularly, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I want blogging to continue feeling like a hobby rather than a chore.

Anyways, life has been keeping me busy lately with work, amazing fall weather, and the usual fun fall festivities. I just love this time of the year! Two weekends ago, my husband and I celebrated Durga Puja (a Hindu festival honoring the Goddess Durga) by getting decked out in our Indian clothes, attending a Bengali community gathering at UIC, and then cooking up a Bengali feast at home. I feel like I’m finally mastering my mom’s classic chicken curry and wanted to share the recipe with you guys. It’s incredibly simple to make, but always hits the spot when I’m craving homemade Indian food. It really is the best comfort food and I love how Bengalis add a little bit of sugar to their chicken curries. It makes all the difference.

Enjoy the recipe and give me a shout if you have any questions!

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 Ingredients (serves 4-6)

6 chicken drumsticks, 6 chicken thighs
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tbsp milk
1/2 large onion, sliced into long slender pieces
4 garlic gloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
Optional: 3 green chilis, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp peppercorn
1.5 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1/2 tomato, finely diced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Recipe 

In a large bowl, marinate the drumsticks and thighs in the Greek yogurt,  1/2 teaspoon of haldi and a sprinkling of salt. Don’t go overboard with the yogurt, because it can easily curdle while cooking! I’ve learned that the hard way.

While the chicken is marinating, prep the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. Heat the oil on a large pan. Once the oil is hot, drop in the sugar until it becomes to caramelize. Stir the sugar around the pan so it doesn’t stick to the pan – this is what will give the curry a darker color. Fry the onions, garlic, and ginger in the sugar until the mixture becomes a little brown. Throw in the tomatoes, remaining haldi, garam masala, chili powder, optional spices, and stir for a few minutes. Drop in the chicken pieces (get rid of the watery yogurt mixture that’s remaining in the bowl – this will curdle!) and fry on each side for a few minutes till they start browning slightly. Pour the milk over the mixture to help tenderize the chicken. Season the curry generously with salt and continue stirring so that all the chicken is coated in the onion and spice mixture. Add half a cup of water, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Let the curry simmer on low for 20-30 minutes – note that the thighs will cook first (after 15-20 minutes), so remove them into a separate platter to avoid overcooking. The drumsticks will take slightly longer to cook. Once the drumsticks are done, taste the curry to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking (this is there stage where I usually add more garam masala or chili powder!).

Finally, garnish the curry with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with a steaming hot plate of rice and a side of Greek yogurt. Best enjoyed on a rainy, homesick sorta day.

Indian Bridal Inspiration: Sabysachi Mukherjee

I’m not quite sure why we still celebrate Columbus Day here in the US, but I’m not going to complain about having an extra day off to nurse my sinuses back to health, do a little bit of online shopping, and catch up on all my favorite food and Indian fashion blogs.

Today’s post has nothing to do with food, though if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know I have a yummy Burmese noodle recipe to share soon. Instead, I wanted to give you a sneak peek into what’s been inspiring me lately. I’ve been obsessed with Indian fashion for a while now, but especially after I started planning my big fat Bengali/Punjabi wedding two years ago. I would scour Indian fashion blogs, Pinterest, and online shopping sites to find inspiration for my own bridal outfits and would find myself in awe of one particular designer. The one and only Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

I had a chance to experience Sabyasachi’s Spanish-inspired Indian collection in person at the IIFA Awards when they were held in Toronto back in 2011. It was truly love at first sight, and I’ve been following his work closely since. I love his ability to fuse antique textiles and traditional Indian styles with an incredibly modern aesthetic. His style is constantly evolving and very universal in its impact, but he manages to stay true to his Indian and Bengali roots which is really admirable considering how much richness our culture has to offer.

There are two recent Sabyasachi campaigns that I am particularly obsessed with. In the “Revive Banaras” collection, Sabyasachi repurposes traditional Bengali banarasi saris into more modernized lehengas and saris. As someone who proudly wore a banarasi sari for her own wedding, I love the idea of Sabyasachi bringing them back into the limelight and making them more relevant and tangible for a modern audience. The colors are bold and rich, but the styling and details are elegant and understated. I just love the way he’s styled this entire collection and selfishly wish it came out a few years ago before my wedding! Just how gorgeous are these pictures?

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The second campaign I’m obsessed with is an editorial/ad campaign for Conde Naste Traveller India, styled by Sabyasachi and featuring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looking more stunning than ever. I’ll let the pictures speak for itself, because it’s not hard to tell why I’m in love with everything about this campaign. I mean, just look at that floral white sari with those impeccable pearls. Flawless.

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Leave a comment if these campaigns inspire you as much as they inspired me! I’d love to hear about what other Indian designers you’ve been following and why you love them. xo.

 

Bengali Salmon Curry (Macher Jhol)

Every family has that one meal that reminds them of home. It’s usually simple and uncomplicated, the meal that you remember eating on a weeknight after a long day of school and homework. For me, that dish is bhaat, daal, and macher jhol. Rice, lentils, and fish curry.

My family hails from West Bengal in India and we’re obsessed with fish. Growing up, we moved from the United Arab Emirates, to France, to Indonesia, to Texas and Bombay, but fish was always a staple with our dinner. The best part about living in different countries is that we would get to try different types of local fish (pomphret, carp, Indonesian gurami, Bengali hilsa), but always cooked as a simple macher jhol with Bengali spices. The ultimate comfort food that made our home feel like home, no matter where in the world we were.

I miss my mom’s fish curry every day. My recipe will never be as good as hers, but at least it satisfies my cravings for a little taste of home on cold Chicago nights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Pieces of salmon, cut in squares, marinaded in turmeric and salt 

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Kalo jeere (black cumin) – the most important spice for Bengali cuisine! 

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Salmon simmering in the light curry of onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and turmeric

Ingredients (serves 2) 

1 salmon fillet, cut in 4-5 squares
1/4 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp ginger paste
Salt, to taste
2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp kalo jeere (black cumin)
1/2 tomato, diced (can be substituted with 1/2 tsp tomato ketchup or paste)
Oil

Recipe 

Marinade the salmon pieces in 1 and a half tsp of haldi and season generously with salt.

Heat oil on a non-stick pan – use your best judgment, but I usually add a little extra than I normally would. A little bit of extra oil makes curries more delicious! Once the oil is heated, pour the kalo jeere and let fry for 15 seconds. Add in the onions, garlic, and ginger and fry this mixture together for a minute or till the onions are slightly brown. Add in salt, tomatoes (or ketchup) and the remaining haldi. Stir for a minute on low to medium heat.

Increase the heat to high and gently drop in the salmon pieces. Fry the salmon on each side for a minute. Pour half a cup of water into the mixture and let the salmon simmer in this mixture for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the mixture to let the salmon continue cooking until ready to serve. Do not overcook! The salmon will cook very quickly, especially if they’re cut into small squares, so just keep an eye on the fish and remove from heat so that they’re as soft and succulent as possible.

Serve with a plate of hot rice and make sure to mix it with the curry to enjoy the true flavor of ‘macher jhol’.

 

 

Indian Comfort Food: Paneer Makhani

Fall is officially here in Chicago, which means it’s time to take out those pea coats, woollen scarves, and boots out of their summer slumber. This is also that time of the year when my body begs for carb-loaded, hearty meals to make it through those miserable Midwestern winter months.

So when I had Columbus Day off last week, I decided to get all my spices out and prepare my favorite Indian comfort food – chicken biryani, a delicious rice pilaf, and paneer makhani, a creamy cottage cheese curry. I had never made paneer makhani before and always assumed it was too complicated to try at home. After searching recipes online (there are so many to choose from, it’s overwhelming!), I finally found one on Show Me The Curry that seemed pretty simple and easy to follow.

The results – oh. my. GOD. I only have this one Instagram picture unfortunately (this was before I decided to start a blog), but I wish you could see the curry close up! The paneer was scrumptious – completely hit the spot, and so easy to make.

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Here’s my slightly revised version of the Show Me The Curry Recipe:

Recipe for Paneer Makhani 

Cut a 14 oz block of paneer (I got mine from Costco – surprisingly delicious!) into small-ish squares. Then, chop up one tomato and crush the pieces so that you have one cup of crushed tomatoes. If you’re seriously low on supplies, you can substitute with ketchup.

Heat up some oil and add four tablespoons (a little less than half a stick) of butter. Once the pan is hot, add 1.5 teaspoons of garlic paste and ginger paste and saute for a minute or so. Add in the crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, garam masala, a pinch of red chilli powder and salt to taste. Cook for a minute or until the oil separates. Add in the paneer squares and mix until they’re coated by the spices and tomatoes. Then, add half a glass of water and simmer for five minutes. Lower the heat, add 1/3 a cup of heavy whipping cream (the recipe calls for 1/2 but it’s a little too rich and heavy) and mix gently. Allow it to come to a boil, then add a pinch of sugar.

As the recipe says, garnish with cilantro and serve hot! Best with brown or white rice.

UPDATE: I tried this recipe one year later subbing the heavy whipping cream with 1 tablespoon of greek yogurt and it was just as delicious! Healthier alternative with the same great taste.