With the onset of monsoon, India specially in Northern part of India, get to see properly ripened Palm fruit. Because of its heavenly smell, this palm fruit is quite popular among bengalis and bengalis are famous for making sweet delicacies out of anything. This fruit is also associated with a festival which is very dear to bengalis, i.e., Janmastami, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
    This festival is celebrated throughout India in various manners. In my state, West Bengal, devotees celebrate Janmastami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. The next day is called "Nanda Utsav" or the joyous celebration of Krishna's foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. On this day, people break their fast and offer various cooked sweets to Lord Krishna during the early hours, as he was very fond of sweets. It is said that Lord Krishna loves to eat the sweet delicacies made of palm fruit. So at every homes in Bengal, these delicacies are made and offered to Lord Krishna on his birthday and also enjoyed by all in the family.

   The most important sweet without which Janmashtami is not complete in Bengal is "Tal-er bora", where tal is Asian Palm and Bora means fritters. This Asian Palm fritters are made from fresh ripe and juicy palm fruit. I love this fruit and its aroma and obviously the delicacies made with it. Last year I posted Tal'er bora or a fried fritter made with the palm fruit pulp. This year I already made a batch of these taler bora and another sweet made with the pulp, tal kheer or thickened palm fruit pulp. I am going to post the recipe of tal kheer today.

You Need :
Palm fruit pulp : of one whole fruit
Milk : approx. 1 cup or little less than 1 cup
Sugar : 1 cup (add less or more as per your taste)
Grated Coconut : 3/4 cup

How To : 
  • Process of taking out the pulp ::
    At first, you take out the outer skin, then you can see two to three fibrous palm kernels inside it. On a hand grater, rub the kernels until all the pulp has come out. Collect it in a bowl. Follow the pics to better understand the process. For this recipe, the process is same, just add little water while grating it, so the pulp will be thin this time. 
  • Take a deep pan and heat. After removing the pulp, pour the pulp into the pan and in medium heat let it boil for 2 minutes. Then add sugar in it and mix well. Add coconut and let it boil again for 5 minutes. Don't forget to stir the whole thing continuously.
  • Now add milk slowly and mix well into the thickened pulp. Let it boil again for about 5-6 minutes or until you get your desired consistency of pulp. Check the sweetness level and add sugar if needed. 
  • Remove from fire and cool. Serve a room temperature or chilled.

   I love Zebra pattern on cake and my kids love them too. So instead of usual chocolate and white batter, I tried making the pattern with three very unusual color on one of my birthday. It was so colorful that my boys wanted to cut the cake pushing me aside. And they only cut the cake and the whole cake was gone within few hours. This is the magic of color, I think. Color always lift anyone's mood for sure.
   There is a simple two color -chocolate and white zebra cake on my blog. I followed the same pattern just added different set of colors, rasperry pink, lemon yellow and green. Together they made a mind-blowing color-effect and pattern. I'll recommend everyone to try this cake. This time I tried making it eggless. So sharing the eggless version here. Who like to add eggs, try this with egg version and follow the pattern as it is.

 There are many ways we make an eggless cake resulting in soft and fluffy texture. One can use condensed milk, or just adding oil (instead of butter) and yoghurt makes a soft fluffy textured cake. Another way which never goes wrong is using buttermilk in your cake batter. It always gives a soft, moist and fluffy cake/cupcakes. Here is the recipe .................

You Need :
All purpose flour : 1 cup
Whole Wheat Flour : 1 cup
Sugar : about 1 cup (grind to fine powder)
Baking Powder : 1 tsp.
Baking Soda : 1/2 tsp.
Salt : a pinch
Oil (any kind of vegetable oil) : 1/2 cup
Milk : 3/4 cup(or as needed) + vinegar : ~1 tblsp.
OR Substitute  milk and vinegar with 3/4 cup Yogurt(dahi)
Milk(warm) : as needed to make a smooth batter
Vanilla essence : 2 tsp.

How To :
  • Prepare your baking pan by greasing with little butter and dust it with little flour. Dust off excess flour. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree C or 375 degree F.
  • In a bowl, mix vinegar in room temperature milk and give it a stir, keep aside for 2-3 minutes. The milk will curdle. Remember to mix it thoroughly before adding it to the batter. 
  • Prepare your dry ingredients by mixing two types of flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together very well and keep aside. This is your dry ingredients.
  • Now in another big mixing bowl, take oil and sugar, mix a little, add vanilla essence and mix well. Now pour buttermilk and flour mixture one after another starting and ending with buttermilk.
  • You can add warm milk as much needed to make a smooth and creamy batter. 
  • Divide the batter in three equal portions, add three different food colors in three portions as per your choice, I added raspberry red, lemon Yellow and green.
  • Preparing the pattern: Grease a round baking tin with butter and dust with flour allover the pan. Now take a tblsp. full of 1st batter and pour in the center. Wait a little, then pour 2nd color on top of 1st color in the center, next pour the 3rd color on top of 2nd color. This way complete the all 3 batter and your patter will be ready. 
  • Preheat your oven to 180 degree C, then put the baking pan inside on a lower rack. Bake for 45-50 minutes or a toothpick inserted comes our clean. Tip : for a crack-free and flat-top cake, wrap a wet piece of towel on the outside of the baking pan and secure with a safety pin. This does not let the cake crack from the middle. 

ENJOY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a colorful piece of cake !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sending it to Kolkata Food Bloggers' ongoing event, "Bake Mania",
event is the brainchild of fellow KFBian Urmi who blogs at Ume's Kitchen, an awesome baker, beautiful person inside and outside.

     Today I am sharing something different other than recipes. In my weight loss journey, I have found this below information very helpful, so thought it would be helpful for my readers. So sharing with you all but inquire or do a research before you implement all these in your life. I always do so.
   Most women struggle with weight loss at some point of their life compared to men. Obesity is becoming a fast growing problem in India and Indian women are more likely to be obese than their male counterparts. There are some who follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, do not have any other health issues but are still unable to lose weight. If you identify yourself as belonging to this category of women, then it’s time you watch your water intake. Your body requires water to burn fat and if there is an insufficient intake of water then the body metabolism is slowed down, making it impossible to lose weight. Obesity leads to reduced life expectancy and increased health problems. However, losing weight does not have to be a herculean task anymore; simply drinking water half an hour before each meal can help.
    Water regulates the body temperature, transports nutrients to cells and helps the body get rid of toxins. Apart from this, water helps you lose weight, according to the latest study made by the University of Birmingham. A group of 84 obese adults divided into 2 groups participated in a study that proved the effectiveness of water as a weight loss aid. One group was required to drink 500 ml water half an hour before breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for 12 weeks. The other group was required to avoid drinking water before each meal. All participants received advice on diet and exercise plans. Participants that drank water before each meal lost an average of 4.3 kg over a 12-week period, while the other group lost only an average of 0.8 kg. This could be because water makes you feel fuller thereby making you eat less or it may mean that water increases metabolic rate temporarily.
      Now that you realize how important water is for weight loss, your first thought would be how to chug a jug full of water down your throat. Here’s the next advice. Do not gulp a large quantity of water, instead take frequent sips throughout the day. Gulping a bottle of water in one shot is only going to dilute your digestive acids and cause a problem with digestion. Also take care not to drink iced water. Take sips of warm water or at least water that’s maintained at room temperature. Aim to drink a glass of warm water on an empty stomach as soon as you wake up in the morning. This can increase your body’s metabolic rate by at least 24% and jumpstart your weight loss journey. Apart from weight loss, adequate intake of water gives you blemish free skin. If the cells in your body are not hydrated, your skin appears dull and wrinkles are more prominent. Remember that your body can only absorb a certain amount of water each hour, the rest is eliminated. So it makes sense to drink water in sips and not gulps.
     Apart from that there are many ways to lose weight. Many supplements are available in teh market to lose weight. You can buy this supplement from leading website Healthkart, Shopclues, Amazon and more. Avail these supplement upto 40% discount by using discount coupons.

Monsoon and Hilsa(known as "Ilish" in bengali) fish are synonymous to Bengalis. 
 This is the only time (2 months of monsoon) when we can devour this fish. Bengalis become crazy over Ilish these two months. It gets cooked in every household almost daily but nowadays because of the scarcity of the fish it becomes awfully expensive and most of the people can't afford to devour it frequently.
However, how much this fish gets expensive, the fascination for this fish will never die for Bengalis. These days, City's famous restaurants are also having some special weeks dedicated to the delicacy of this fish, Ilish. There are very few restaurants in Kolkata who specializes in Traditional Bengali Cuisine. Aaheli, the restaurant in the 5 star hotel chain The Peerless Inn is one such restaurant who are catering traditional Bengali cuisine to the people of Kolkata for years now. So, this year throughout this August month they have organised a festival dedicated to the delicacy of Hilsa Fish, "Ilish-e Guri".
Our group, Kolkata Food Bloggers were invited to preview their delicacies and me along with another blogger friend, Devpurna represented our group and reached Aaheli, in their new branch, in the 4th floor of Axis mall, Rajarhat, Kolkata on a rainy afternoon. The decor of this place is very soothing and has a touch of Bengal in its every corner. The table setting, the brass plates and glasses, brass diyas and the stewards dressed in traditional punjabi-dhuti, all these will take you to the older days of Kolkata. I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance and the people there were very polite and friendly just like we bengalis behave with our guests.

The table where they displayed all their delicacies was looked like this and I was awestuck seeing so many varieties of traditional Ilish dishes in one table. Some of the dishes were quite common in every Bengali household in this Hilsa season and some were very traditional which has almost became obsolete nowadays - all were on the table. Each dish has been curated with utmost care and a loving touch by the Chef personally. The festival will go on till 31st of August for lunch and dinner. They have One Thali and 13 side dishes for this festival. There is no buffet, only a-la-carte. Each dish contains 2 fish pieces.

Decor and table setting in AAHELI

Here are the dishes Aaheli has to offer for this Ilish festival :

1. Ilish Dim-er Bora ( Roe of hilsa fish deep fried with onion) : For bengalis, each part of hilsa fish is a delicacy and hilsa fish roe is one of them, a must try for a non-bengali or a first-time hilsa fish eater.

2. Bhaja Ilish-er Moja(a big chunk of fish deep fried and served with the aromatic fish-fried oil)
If you're one of them who are trying Hilsa fish for first time, you must try Fried hilsa fish as one can get the real taste of this fish from the fried fish. And the oil the fish is fried is another thing you should not avoid.

3. Ilish Patishapta (A savory pancake stuffed with mashed boneless Hilsa fish cooked with spices)
This is not a traditional dish. Its a very innovative and delicious way of using Hilsa fish, I must say. It tasted really yummy and a must try.

4. Pui Saag-e Ilish Matha (Fish head added to malabar spinach) : A very simple dish of Pui Saag or Malabar Spinach and few other vegetables mixed to make a mish-mash and hilsa fish head is added to take this simple dish to a new level. A must try.

5. Ilish matha diye dal (Yellow lentil cooked with fish head) : Again a delicacy and a traditional dish, fried fish head is added into a simple lentil dish to enhance the taste. A must try.

6. Kancha Ilisher Jhal (Poached Hilsa fish cooked with black cumin seasoning) : A regular in bengali household, non-fried but poached fish cooked with almost no spices and just a single seasoning.

7. Ilish-er Ullash (Hilsa fish cooked in onion gravy) : Hilsa fish cooked in onion-tomato gravy, not so traditional but nicely balanced curry to enjoy with hot rice.

8. Ilish Macher Tenga (Hilsa fish cooked in tamarind gravy) : A very traditional dish which is simply lip-smacking to taste.

9. Aanarasi Ilish (Hilsa fish cooked with pineapple) : A delicately cooked dish with a touch of pineapple, a must try.

10. Ilish Begun-er Talmil (Hilsa cooked with brinjal and black cumin) : A common in every bengali household in Hilsa season which is very simple to cook but taste like heaven. Hilsa fish cooked in a simple curry adding brinjal pieces and black cumin seasoning with very very little spice added. Again a must try.

11. Doodhe Ilish (Hilsa fish cooked in milk and yogurt gravy) : Another traditional but not-so-common Hilsa delicacy cooked with milk and yogurt in a creamy consistency.

12. Narkeli Ilish (Hilsa cooked in coconut gravy) : Coconut and Hilsa fish always go well together, an awesome combo and a must try delicacy of Hilsa.

13. Aam Tel Ilish (Hilsa fish cooked with the pickle oil) : A traditional delicacy of Ilish but now almost an obsolete delicacy of Bengal which Aaheli has revived through their creations, a must try dish of this festival.

14. Ilish Khichurir Talmil (Fried Hilsa served with Bengali Khichuri) : Khichuri is a rice and lentil mishmash and enjoyed by every Bengali with a generous servings of ghee(clarified butter) and fried hilsa fish by the side. Aaheli has this too in their menu.

15. Ilish Thalir Sanjog (A complete thali with different hilsa preperation) : The thali contains a dal, a sabji, a fried fish, a fish vada and a fish curry preperation.

The spread is quite impressive, right? So what are you waiting for? Visit Aaheli at Rajarhat, Axis Mall on 4 floor with your family or friends and enjoy a lavish Bengali spread which you'll never ever forget in your life, I guarantee.

P.N. : you can also order other dishes from their regular menu along with this Hilsa Festival menu.

   My city, Kolkata is heaven for streetfood. Where bengali Kachori, Pakora, Phuchka(pani puri), egg or chicken roll were people's favorite lists of street food for ages, there nowadays a Tibetan delicacy, Known as MOMO has entered into Kolkatas streetfood scenario and made its place in people's heart. Not only because, it's quite tasty but also quite healthy as it steamed. So lot of health conscious people are choosing it over fried stuffs like pakora(in bengali, we call chop) and rolls.
   Momo, a South Asian delicacy native to Tibet, Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan is also known as Dim Sum or Wonton is nothing but a steamed savoury dumplings. It has now become popular in almost whole World now, especially in USA, UK and allover India. Momo is nothing but a steamed savoury dumpling with a filing which varies from mixed veg, noodles, meat, tofu and shrimps. Another variety of momo is fried where stuffed dumplings are deep fried in oil.

    The outer layer or wrapper is made out of flour just like we make a chapati dough. The filling can be made of any filling based on your choice and taste. Making of momo at home could be time consuming. But if you have a helping hand, then it can be made within 30-45 minutes. The wrapping of the outer cover is the main tricky part of momo making. But you don't have to be pro to try it at home. The wrapping style doesn't effect the taste of momo any way. It just to give the momo a good look.
   At my home, my daughter is a die hard fan of these cute looking savoury snackies. She forced me to buy a steamer at home so that I can make momos for her at least 3-4 times a week. Because of her, we all have fan of these cuties. The bast thing about momo is it is totally a gulit-free and healthy snack. Instead of frying if you make it by steaming then its quite nutritive and healthy. It can be a good snack or a meal itself as they are quite filling.

You Need :
For making the wrapper or outer layer
All purpose Flour :  1 cup
Oil : 1/2 tsp.
Salt : a pinch
water as needed to make a soft pliable dough

For the filling of Chicken Momo
Chicken : 100 gms., boiled and minced
Onion : 1, small, finely chopped
Spring onion(green part) : a little, finely chopped(optional)
Garlic : 1 clove, finely chopped
Ginger : 1 tsp., finely chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
Soy sauce : 1/2 tsp.
Oil : 1 tsp.

For the filling of Veg Momo
Mix Veg(cabbage, carrot, green beans and capsicum) : 1 cup, finely chopped
Onion : 1, small, finely chopped
Garlic : 1 clove, finely chopped
Ginger : 1 tsp., finely chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
Spring onion(green part) : a little, finely chopped(optional)
Soy sauce : 1/2 tsp.
Oil : 1 tsp.

How To :
  • Firstly, to make the dough for wrapper, in a bowl, mix flour, oil and salt together. Add water little at a time to make a soft pilable dough. Cover with a damp cloth and keep aside. 
  • Meantime, prepare the filling. To make the filling of chicken momo, heat oil in a pan, add onion, saute for a minute, then add spring onions if using, chopped ginger and garlic and finely minced chicken. Add soy sauce, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well everything and stir fry  in high heat for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. Keep aside to cool for sometime.
  • Similarly, make the filling for Veg momo. Heat oil in a pan, add onion, saute for a minute, then add spring onions if using, chopped ginger and garlic and finely chopped vegetables. Add soy sauce, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well everything and stir fry in high heat for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. Keep aside to cool for sometime.
  • To make the outer layer or wrapper, make small size dough balls from the dough. On a lightly floured or oiled surface, place each dough ball and roll it outwards as thin as possible. But do not make too thin, then it may break when you put the filling and close the wrap. After you rolled it out, put 1 tblsp. or as much filling it can hold in the center of the roll. Then bring the outer part together and secure in the center. Make other moms similar ways.
  • Prepare the Steamer : Always grease your steamer before you place the prepared momos. Place them one after another and steam for around 10-12 minutes. I do it in my Tupperware steamer which I use on stove-top
  •  Chicken Momos are ready to indulge. Have them with a spicy chutney.

Spicy Chilli Garlic Chutney ::::::::

I got this recipe from the aunty who sells Momos in my neighbourhood. Originally she is from Sikkim but staying in Kolkata for years and makes perfect momos. She was quite reluctant at first to share her recipe, then as I am quite frequent in her shop, she agreed to share her recipe. Usually, this spicy chutney is made with red chilli and garlic, but to mild the spiciness, I always add a medium size tomato in the chutney. It was a tip from that shop aunty, when I said I want to make a mild chutney. Tomato, red chilli and garlic make a great chutney together, when I don't get time to make chutney, I use Maggi hot & sweet chutney to go with hot momos.

Red chilli : 2-3 nos.
Garlic cloves : 6-7 big cloves
Tomato : 1, medium
Soy Sauce : 1/2 tsp.
Vinegar : 1 tsp.
Salt to taste
Sugar : 1 tblsp.
Oil : 1 tblsp.

How To :
  • Heat a bowl of water, bring it to boil, add the whole tomato and the red chillies. Boil for 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and cool down tomato and red chillies. 
  • In a blender, add red chillies, garlic cloves and other ingredients along with tomato after peeling off the skin from tomato. Add about 1/3 cup water to make a smooth consistency sauce. If the consistency is too thin, then heat the sauce on pan and cook in medium heat for 3-4 minutes, take care not to burn the sauce. 

Sending this to Kolkata Food Bloggers' Ongoing event, "StreetFood Expedition" where we are showcasing streetfood made in healthy way. Check Kolkata Food Bloggers' Facebook page for more such recipes. This event is a brainchild of Moumita who blogs at Peek n Cook. 

 Today I'll share a cake decoration tutorial first time on my blog...

      I love baking and I love to do decorative cakes as and when I get a chance to make one. I do birthday cakes for all in my family. I am an amateur and still learning. But I know practice makes all perfect. So I never miss a chance to practice.

 This train cake I made on my twin sons' birthday this year who love trains. This year it was just family function and I was in short of time to make a elaborate birthday cake. But I had to fulfill their demand too. So, I made a train cake which needs very less time to make and assemble.

   I made an eggless and butterless lemon sponge cake. You'll get the recipe here. You can also make an eggless Vaanilla flavoured sponge cake too, get the recipe here. You can also opt for a Chocolate cake too. Here is the recipe for Chocolate cake(eggless) and chocolate cake(with egg). For making this cake, you need 2 8-9" loaf cake.

Now for the decoration and assemble part :

1. First I made two cakes in loaf form. Then cut in small rectangular portions to make the compartments of the train.
2. I made a buttercream frosting and coloured with different colour and then assemble them in a shape of a train.
3. Then I decorated them with colored Gems and other colored goodies. For wheels I used Oreo cookies.

How to make buttercream frosting :
  • 21/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened in room temperature
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tblsp. milk or as needed 
  • food color for coloring the frosting
 How To :
  • In a bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.
  • Gradually add just enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar. 

How To Assemble :
  • Make the cake beforehand and cool. It should be in room temperature. Now cut the cake into small pieces for train compartments. 4 to 5 is enough or you can add more if you want. I made For the engine, I took a big piece and cut a small triangular piece diagonally from the front. 
  • Divide the frosting into 3 to 4 parts and add few drops of different food color to color each frosting. Now apply different color frosting to train compartments.
  • Now assemble all pieces on a serving tray. First put the engine pieces at the front. Then put one train compartments (rectangular pieces) on top of the engine at the back side. Then arrange other compartments(rectangular pieces) one after other in a row. Now your structure is ready and it's time to decorate the train with some goodies kids love.
  • I pasted two Oreo cookies on both sides of each compartments as wheels. Then arranged some colored Gems candies on to of each compartments as train is carrying some goods. You can decorate the train any way you want with other stuffs kids like. I put two yellow Gems as a headlight of the train. And we are done. 
  • It was not very good looking train but I tried my best to decorate the train within 30 mins. time. 
My kids and everyone present in the party enjoyed the cake and that matters the most. If you like the cake or have made this cake using my tutorial, then let me know.

Happy baking and creating wonderful food !!!!!!


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