Book Club: Books & Biscuits, Co.

Ah, I’ve been secretly wishing for a group of gals to start a book club for the longest! Kind of like a personal Oprah’s Book Club version. I think my prayers were answered miraculously through Books & Biscuits, Co. November, the first month of our book club’s selection was an older text, Sawāniḥ:The Oldest Persian Sufi Treatise on Love by Ahmad Ghazzali. It deals with the basic understanding of the notions of love and what true love is between the lover (man) and the beloved (higher entity=Divine) with religious implications set forth metaphorically and majestically. I don’t think mere simple words can do any justice to the text.

For our first discussion session, we met at Prince Tea House in Flushing, NY and had dinner at Kabul Kabab, which isn’t too far from the tea house either. The tea house had such a classy and elegant setting. Forget any ordinary chained cafes or whatever! I mean, I can’t believe that I actually had my first tea party. Yeah, kind of late, I know! But nonetheless, I wanted to share some photos from the meet.

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Shepherd’s Pie

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Every year for Thanksgiving, my family and I always go to Mama’s house for dinner (maternal uncle). Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday and obviously isn’t recognized in Bengali customs, being able to have a family get-together and having turkey during this time of the year is always fun! It has become more so of a family event that I always look forward to every year…because of the turkey of course! I had been thinking about what to cook and didn’t want to bring in any sweet dishes as I had already baked white chocolate brownies for last year’s dinner. Earlier this summer when I was in England, I watched my sister-in-law bake a chicken-mushroom pie and she told me that she sometimes bakes shepherd’s pie for the family as well and how everyone loves it. So I thought, hmm, it has meat, vegetables, and mashed potatoes. Why not, eh?! Eat it with some gravy and it’ll be a great side dish to accompany the turkey. Also, in England, lamb is more preferable to beef. I did not want to spend too much time worrying about getting rid of the “meaty” smell off the ground lamb so I thought I’d just opt for our good ‘ol American choice of beef and try ground lamb some other day.

Ingredients:

For the Meat:

  • 2lbs of ground beef
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tspn ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tspn cayenne pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 tbsp of tomato paste
  1. In a pan, add the butter and chicken bouillon cubes until melted. Then add the meat, salt, pepper, cayenne flakes, tomato paste, ginger paste and garlic paste. Constantly stir to separate the ground meat. Cook until brown. About 15-minutes.
  2. Using a straining spoon, remove the meat to a separate dish for later.

For the Vegetables:

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tspn of salt
  • 1 tspn of black pepper
  • 1 cup of thawed corn kernels
  • 1 cup of thawed green peas
  • 1.5 cup diced oniones
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1 cup diced carrots

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  1. In the same pot, remove if there is excess water from the meat. But ensure to keep enough to cook the vegetables in the meat juice. Add all the ingredients and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until carrots are tender on medium heat.
  2. Add the meat and cook together. (If any additional salt is needed then you may add it; however, I did not add any extra salt because of the salt from the chicken bouillon cubes.)
  3. Cook mixture for 10-minutes. Brush 1 tbsp of olive oil onto a baking dish (big enough to feed 15+ people!). Separate mixture into the dish.

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For the Mashed Potatoes:

  • 5 cups of water
  • 10 russet potatoes
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1.5 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 1/2 tspn oregano
  • 1/2 tspn garlic powder
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Add 5 cups of water to a pot, add 1 tbsp salt and bring the water to boil before adding potatoes.
  3. Once potatoes are boiled and peeled, set aside in blender.
  4. In a sauce pan, add the heavy cream, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Cook in low heat and stir. Cook for 5-minutes.
  5. Start mashing the potatoes in the blender and add the heavy cream mixture gradually. Blender until your preferred texture.
  6. Spread the mashed potatoes onto baking dish with cooked meat and vegetables. Use a fork to make crossed lines.
  7. Bake for 25-minutes. Broil for the last 5-minutes for a dark golden brownish color.

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Tonight’s Express Dinner: Arroz con Frijoles

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On one hot and summer day in 1995, my aunt brought me some Spanish rice and beans from a local Hispanic grocery in Astoria, NY. I was never able to forget that taste. Arroz con frijoles is an ordinary dish in every Hispanic household but for the rest of us, it’s something else; curry and masala is my daily sort of thing! I’m not sure if there are any halal Spanish restaurants in New York City because I honestly would love some rice and beans from time to time. Anyway, after a busy week with work and school, today was a lazy Sunday. I wanted to end my weekend evening with a super quick dinner and something different than the usual curry that I have. So I thought I’d treat my siblings and myself to some rice and beans!

For the Rice:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Yellow Rice
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 1.5 tbsp Goya Sazón
  • 2 tbsp of sofrito
  • 3/4 cup of diced white onions
  • 3/4 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of diced green capsicum
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 0.74g Halal Maggi chicken bouillon cubes
  1. Add the cups of water in a pot on medium heat and bring to boil.
  2. In a frypan, add the oil, butter, onions, tomatoes, capsicum, and seasoning. Sauté for 5-minutes.
  3. Add the rice into the frypan and mix with all ingredients.
  4. Add the mixture into the boiling water. Cover pot and let the rice cook for at least 25-minutes stirring from time to time.

For the Beans:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can of Goya Red Beans – rinsed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of sofrito
  • 1 tbsp of Goya Sazón
  • 1 tspn oregano
  • 1 tspn cumin powder
  • 1 tspn black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/4 tspn of sugar
  1. In a frypan, add all the ingredients, stir well, and cook on medium-low heat for 30-minutes. Stir occasionally.

Note: I did not use any salt on the rice or beans because of the other seasonings, which already consist of the sodium component.

For the Corn-Bean Salad:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Goya Garbanzo Beans – rinsed
  • 2 cups of sweet corn kernel
  • 3/4 cup of diced red onions
  • 3/4 cup of diced green capsicum
  • 3/4 cup of pitted and diced olives
  • 1/2 tspn of salt
  • 1 tspn of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tspn of everything seasoning
  1. Mix all the ingredients together!