Bengali

Amra Chutney two ways (hog plum recipe)

7:55 AM


“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” 
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Every day when the huge Grandfather clock over the dining table will strike 9 and will make the ringing sound exactly 18 times I knew it was time. The time that I was waiting since morning. Ready with my hair combed and a belly full of Breakfast made by Dida. Which was funny because the thing that I waited for was food.

Congee with Chinekamini rice with a quick chili-scallion sauce

6:58 PM



Most of us associate the food congee to China but if you look closely then you would find that similar food is available all through the world, albeit in different names.  The basic dish is called gruel where some kind of cereal is cooked with water or milk and depending on the thickness and grains used in the dish, it changes it's name.

Going back in history reveals that Gruel came into existance as a baby food once human learnt farming. Before that in the time of hunting and gathering when the group were mobile the mother had to breastfeed the infants till he or she was able enough to eat foraged food or meat. but the process made the mother stay away from conceiving again and hence the tribe wasn't growing much. After farming came into existence, the mush cooked with grains and cereals were easier to feed the babies and made the mother to conceive again and increasing the size of the tribe much faster.

But hardly anybody knew of it rather it had always been considered as the food of the have not. It was much easier to imagine hungry peasants or as Charles dickens vividly portrayed in his Classic -Oliver Twist, famished orphans eating this very basic mush of grains and water. More so because even broken damaged grains worked better in such concoctions, cooked in the most simplest of form for sustenance and keep one full for long.

This made Gruel popular all over the world.  Depending on the region and its climate the grain changed from pinhead or ground Scottish oats to cheap variety of rice, maize meals, broken corn kernels, millets and even broken wheat, wheat flour and stale bread.  Literally everything that the riches would turn their nose down on were fit to be cooked down with water to a big bowlful of gruel for sustenance. It's that part of the history that no one ever wanted to take notice as not until recently we ever wanted to explore what was on table for the under privileged.

Breakfast

Kalabhat-yogurt-mango breakfast parfait

8:08 PM


Though as a grown up I dread summer but when I look back, Summer evokes such fond memories of childhood vacations spent at grandma's. Those were the simplest times with pure joy found in everything.
My Mama bari or maternal home is in a very remote village of Midnapore near the Coast did not even have electricity back then but we never missed it. we had friends and cousins to play with, pure unadulterated nature to explore and loving family and home to come back to. Everything was pure in what they offered. We had the most basic food foraged, caught and collected from our own farms, cooked by Dida. Even the breakfasts were simple affairs.

Bengali food has always been based on the principles of Ayurveda following which we not only include each of the six tastes to our meals for a more nourishing and fulfilling experience we also base our diet on easily digestible rice based products. Apart from various types of rice that contributes as the main carbohydrate to a Bengali diet there are numerous other rice based products like Muri (puffed rice), Chire (beaten rice), Khoi (puffed rice in it's husk), Chalbhaja (Another type of puffed rice but not as puffed and little spicy), khud (broken rice)  etc that makes our breakfast and snacks wholesome and filling.

You will hardly find a Bengali who have grew up in the 80's or before not have had Doi-chire-Aam as summer breakfast. Doi here refers to homemade yogurt and mostly chinipata doi where sugar is added to the milk before adding the culture. This Chinipata Doi often were our desserts during summer days even in our family this was served as a part of wedding meal. 

This Kalabhat parfait is born from that memory of my summer vacations and Doi-chire-aam. IF you know me then you know I do not suggest or recommend anything unless am very sure of it. And this Kalabhat parfait is a delicious thing to start your day. Kalabhat or black rice is naturally high in anti oxidant and contains anthocyanin that fights cancer and helps in reducing inflammations. Naturally gluten free, full of fiber and rich in protein content and so very versatile too. You can use them as steamed rice to pair with your curries, add in stir fries or salads, make desserts and even add them in your soup. Trust me this chewy slightly glutinous grain is a delight to have.

Mixed grain rice and pan seared Gandhoraj chicken Buddha Bowl

8:24 PM


Buddha Bowl is a wonderful concept where you pile up a bowl with your choice of grain, veggies and other accompaniments resembling the tummy of a laughing Buddha. The idea definitely is to include more ingredients from each food group with minimal processing to make it quick, balanced and nutritious. If you are someone  who wants her weekday meal sorted under 30 minutes then Buddha bowls are definitely for you. Depending on your choices you can change it to suit your requirements, like if you have more time or you want a fancy bowl of goodness then add more items to your bowl, if you are on specific kind of diet then you can make it grain free by adding cauliflower rice/ spiralised zuchhini or carrots or sweet potato, you can make it vegan by replacing the protein with tofu or lentils etc.

Review

Amar Khamar and some lost varieties of Bengal's own rice variety.

10:33 PM

I found Amar Khamar through Insta and could not help but appreciate the way they are trying to celebrate one of Bengal's most important crop- The Rice. Which obviously for us Bengalis is not only a crop but a whole range of products that had sustained us from time immemorial.
So when a few weeks back Sarah from the organisation reached out to me I was keen to know more. Over a cup of coffee we discussed how they are trying to revive the Bengali indigenous rice varieties by working closely with farmers, Self help groups and the specific weather and present soil condition of 24 parganas. which took a worng turn when in 2009 the cyclone Aila hit the area and the inflow of saline water made the land unfit for agriculture . Add to that the growing need of polished high yielding quick cooking variety that made the indigenous rice grains vanishing from the Bengali map.
Though they try to connect the world to some unheard of rice varieties through the help of world wide web and social media but their faith in food and food security goes beyond that. They try to educate the farmers to grow sustainably and using environment-friendly methods of organic farming. As a result indigenous local seasonal food lovers like me are over joyous to see products that we have heard only in story books or in fables.
If you think am exaggerating then hear the name of the varieties they are brinigning to the market right now. Khejur chori, Kalo Nunia, Chinakamini, Talmugur, rani akanda, Chamormoni, Kalabhat-some of the most fascinating names and each grain is different in taste, texture and mouthfeel.
Apart from Rice they also are offering Mung or yellow lentil and turmeric powder.
I would be posting a few recipes with their rice varieties in my next posts. Recipes with which I tried to do justice to these unique grains and recipes that are easy and nutritious.
In the mean time why dont you go and meet the amazing farmers at Amarkhamar page and their youtube link in the below links
Website where you can order: https://amarkhamar.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSWb7UPEMop4b43n7zx7QNw
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amarkhamar/?hl=en

Disclimer: This is not a sponsored post. 



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