Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 6, Issue 12, Tuesday, March 22, 2011



By shawkat osman

Unleavened rice bread (Chaler Ruti)
Chaler ruti aka ruti pitha or ludi phida, is unleavened bread made with rice flour. It is similar in shape to wheat-flour chapatti or ruti. The distinct flavour of Chaler Ruti lies in the use of charred banana leaf. Rich white in colour, and delicate to the touch, the centre of the pitha is soft and moist, and the edges dry and crisp. Chaler ruti is a delectable blend of the flavours of aatop rice and blistered banana leaf.

Serves 10
2kg aatop (husked rice) flour
3 teaspoons salt
1 banana leaf, cut in 16 cm squares

Place the flour on a flat platter, sprinkle all over with 2 tablespoons water, and roughly mix using a fork. Pass the damp flour through a sieve to remove any lumps.

Bring a large deghchi (pot), half-filled with water, to a rolling boil.

Take a fistful of flour on your palm. Squeeze flour between both palms as hard as you can to compress into a ball.

Gently put the rice ball into the bubbling water. Keep an eye on the water, maintain a constant boil. Proceed to make the next ball and repeat the process.

Cook the rice balls for 10 minutes, Switch off the flame.

Set the pot on your kitchen table or work station. Tip out the water, and reserve it.

While the rice balls are still hot, use a potato masher to crush them into an even paste. Add enough reserved water (#6) while breaking up the lumps.

Sprinkle salt and mix well. You will have a shaggy heap once this is done.
Transfer this dough on a work counter coated by a thin layer of flour.
Fold the dough from the middle, push down, and stretch forward again.
Fold the dough from the middle, push down forward again.

Lift the dough, give it a quarter turn, and continue kneading and turning. If the dough sticks to the counter, just scrape it up, dust the counter with flour, and continue. Well-kneaded dough should be smooth and elastic.

To test the dough, pick it up and stretch it backwards. Look at the surface. It should be smooth and even, not granular.
Roll out the dough into a log.
Cut the log into 5cm-long pieces.

Using a grooved rolling pin, roll out each piece into thin round rutis (15cm diameter).

Heat a tawa (griddle), and roast the rutis on both sides until they are dry, and just about starting to form brown patches. Do not allow smouldering, try and keep rutis as white as possible.

Store rutis in a cool place or part of the refrigerator that's not too cold for 24 hours.
Heat a griddle.

Clasp 5 pieces of ruti, dip in water, shake off excess water and stack on a square-shaped banana leaf, place another leaf on top.

Place the stack of rutis on the hot griddle, cover with a shora (earthen lid), and sprinkle some water on it. If you do not have a shora, use one that is handy and place a wet tea-towel on it.

Cook for 2 minutes, take off the lid, flip the stack, cover again with lid, and cook for another 2 minutes, Remove the banana leaves and serve hot.

Spicy poached egg (Mosla poach)
Making poached eggs is more difficult than it appears. It is also one of the most delicate and elegant ways of serving eggs. The best poached eggs are obtained from fresh eggs as the egg whites hold the shape better (so does adding vinegar to the water, which is a standard technique employed in poaching egg).

In 1963 my maternal grandfather took me on my first river cruise on a paddle boat, an overnight trip from Narayangonj to Goalando (the traditional route to Kolkata from Dhaka). When we reached that small river port, a family friend treated us to a similar but simpler dish.

10 eggs
1.5 litres water
10 cl distilled white vinear
3 tablespoons ghee
5 cardamom pods, gently cracked
1 and ½ cup red onions, sliced
1 and ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 and ½ teaspoon salt.

Store the eggs in a cool place, until you are ready to release them in the water. Cold raw albumen contracts in contact with hot water, which helps it to hold its shape better.
In a large saucepan bring water and vinegar to a boil.
Poach one egg at a time. First crack the egg into a small bowl.

Using a spatula or wooden khunti, briskly swirl the water to make a vortex in the centre.

As the water is being swirled at full speed, drop the cracked egg into the vortex, holding the bowl as close as possible to the water.

Continue stirring to retain the vortex until the egg's shape firms up. The vortex will force the egg white to encase the yolk, forming a circular shape.

Cook the egg for about a minute. Monitor the water temperature to ensure that the egg poaches at a bare simmer and adjust the flame accordingly. (Boiling the water will make the egg white tough and rubbery).

Remove the egg with a latticed spoon and gently press with your little finger to test if it is ready. Poached eggs should have set whites and runny yolks.

When the egg is cooked to your liking, gently transfer it into a bowl of ice water. This will rinse off the vinegar and stop the eggs from cooking further.

Once the egg is cold, trim off any excess with a kitchen knife and lay it on a serving bowl.

Once the rest of the eggs are done, heat ghee in a wok, toss in cardamoms, and sauté for a moment, now add onions, sauté until pale golden.

Using a latticed spoon strain out half the baresta (fried onions), and set them aside.

Dissolve red chilli, turmeric, cumin, corianter and salt in ½ cup water. Add this mixture to the onion, fried and left in the wok. Sauté, stirring continuously, until mosla releases its flavour.

Pour this cooked mosla over the eggs and garnish with baresta.

Nutun aalu bhaji (Freshly harvested fried potatoes)
Freshly harvested potatoes are a delight. What is more, this variety, plucked at the onset of winter, is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Moreover, they are a good source of Vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and Vitamin C. This recipe uses the speedy stir-fry method, which helps retain all the nutrients.

Serves 10
500g notun aalu (freshly harvested potatoes)
1 tablespoon mustard oil
1 and ½ teaspoon salt
1 and ½ cup cilantro, chopped finely

Slice potatoes with skin into very thin discs. Slice again into matchstick-size juliennes.

Heat oil in korai (wok), and fry potato julienne. Season with salt, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Add cilantro, mix and stir for another minute or two until potatoes are cooked.

For The Love Of Food

Breakfast bonanza

Aunty De Saram told me that there would be string hoppers for breakfast. I was excited. Love string hoppers, also called idiappams in India. Noodly stuff, made in small bundles, to be eaten with curries.

Let me clarify that curry in Sri Lanka has a wider scope than in India. While there are various kinds of curry in India, the butter masala, the jhol, the tenga, the Chettinad style, to name a few, in Sri Lanka all food cooked with spices and sauces are curries. No differentiation. Widely varied in taste, curry surprisingly has no subdivisions here.

It was Sunday morning. I got up late. Despite sleeping through most of Saturday, sleep somehow favoured me through the night. Slept like a log. Some years back, I might have said slept like a baby. These days, I dare not compare my anything with a baby. Middle age and all…

I came downstairs to a welcoming cup of tea. It was strong with milk and sugar. Whatever little sleepiness I had was chased away.

Aunty De Saram was busy in the kitchen. The night before I heard her grinding rice. I went to sleep to the sweet sound of the food processor efficiently producing what is needed to create string hopper magic.

If you think that string hoppers could be had with any old curry, you will not be too wrong. But not in the De Saram household.

When the table was laid, I found a light yellow curry, a darker prawn curry and a pol sambol (coconut chutney).

And the platter full of pristine white string hoppers. Sitting seductively, invitingly. If they were Bollywood starlets, I'm sure their look would have been described as “come hither”.

I helped myself to four of those. And poured the light yellow curry. I have had this in the past. The lightness of the curry almost perfectly compliments the airiness of the hoppers. No one overshadows anyone.

Four string hoppers later, I reached for my next three. It was time for the prawn curry. It looked intensely spiced, almost dark. I was a little apprehensive as I mixed my hoppers with it.

I could not have been more off the mark. The prawn curry was a benchmark of balance. The sweetness of the prawns and the shallots, the salt, the heat from green chilies and to cap it all, the acid from, wait for it, kaffir lime leaves.

I was not expecting kaffir lime leaves in Colombo. As you would not expect guava in Sweden. I mistook the taste as lemongrass, a more commonly used aromatic. I learned that Aunty De Saram had gone through considerable trouble to get this very expensive and exclusive thing, as she wanted the curry to taste just so.

My last three string hoppers were eaten with pol sambol. A taste I have learned to like. The nuttiness of coconut, the hit of chillies and the high note of lime. All coming together in a palate cleansing symphony.

But you know what? I ended the breakfast with just one more hopper and a spoon of the prawn curry. After all, revelations do not happen every day.

Check it out

Naksha celebrates independence

For the month of March, boutique Naksha has arranged a special exhibition for red and green dresses between 20 and 30 March, 2011. The attires have been further embellished with machine embroidery, appliqué, brush works and others. Emphasis has been given on novel cuts and patters on panjabis, fatuas, saris and three pieces.

Check it out

'Jago Bangladesh' by Kay Kraft

Kay Kraft has arranged a month-long celebration titled 'Jago Bangladesh' to mark the month of independence. Products are available from 1 March at all outlets of Kay Kraft.

The fabric chosen has been cotton and the colours selected are green and red. With their customised weaving, they present green and red saris, tie and dye saris, salwar-kameez sets, fatuas and tops, panjabis, t-shirts, shawls, bandanas, and scarves. There is also a wide array of children's attires.

Check it out

Nitya Upahar

To mark our Independence Day on 26 March, Nitya Upahar and Nitya Upahar Shankhobar have arranged a unique assortment of attires in red and green. They have presented a wide range of dresses designed by artists Quaiyum Chowdhury, Sabyasachi Hazra, Mahabubur Rahman, Anahid Jaffri and members of the Nitya Upahar design studio.

For t-shirts, you have the option to choose from five popular designs of the past with five new designs done by Sabyasachi Hazra. The price ranges from Tk150 to Tk380.

Artist Quaiyum Chowdhury designed the saris for the special day, made on Tangail handloom in red and green hues. In addition, tie and dye and screen prints are also available. The price range of sari is from Tk1150 to Tk1200.

There are also fatuas for men and women, panjabis for men and tops, all on Narsingdi cotton fabrics, highlighted with screen print and handwork. The price range of tops is between Tk.350 and 550, fatuas Tk.450 and 600 and panjabi Tk.600 and 800.

-- LS Desk

Check it out

Yoga Workshop at Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre

Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre of the High Commission of India in Dhaka is organising a 3-hour Yoga Workshop at 7:00 AM on March 25, 2011 on the lawns of the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre, H.No. 24, Road No. 2, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre in Dhaka regularly organises Yoga classes at its Dhanmondi and Gulshan premises on all days except Fridays under the able tutelage of Dr. R. Prasanna Kumar from India.

There have been many others who have expressed their desire to participate in the regular Yoga sessions of the Centre. However, we have been unable to accommodate them on account of paucity of space and time.

The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre in Dhaka will, therefore, organise a Yoga Workshop at its Dhanmondi premises at 7 AM on March 25, 2011, for all those individuals who have not got an opportunity to attend our regular Yoga classes at the Centre.

The Centre would admit 50 individuals to participate in the aforesaid Yoga Workshop. Registrations will be on the spot on a first-come-first-serve basis commencing at 6:30 AM. The duration of the Workshop will be for 3 hours from 7 AM on March 25, 2011.

Entry is open for the first 50 participating individuals on a first-come-first-serve basis.

-- LS Desk



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