Home Cooked Everyday Bengali Meal

7:40 AM

I was thinking for quite some time of what to post first in my blog. I have this queer way of thinking that all my first times should be special in some way or other. Be it my first air trip or my first collection of garments at NIFT. So my point was to make my first blog entry memorable. I was still in my search process when I heard my Pishimoni (who was visiting us in Bangalore) telling Hubby ‘A’ about the extra ordinary cooking skills of my Dida. And she fondly remembered the incident how all of them were taken aback when she cooked Piya(n)j er payes (kheer/ custard made with whole onion). Now Hubby ‘A’ belongs to a family where cooking is only an everyday routine affair. Because of their stomach problem they cannot indulge in anything fancy and they like to cook their meals as simple as possible. So this recipe of making payes that too with piya(n)j is like a shock to Hubby ‘A’.

But I dint gave much attention to him as I have found my topic for my first post. What else could be the first entry than some simple yet yum recipe from Dida. She had this extraordinary ability of cooking exotic dishes with items that we generally don’t consider for special affairs. Actually being a forest employee’s wife she with her three kids had to spent a considerable part of their lives in the jungles of West Bengal. Following which she had to cook with items that were locally available. So she experimented a lot to come up with mouth-watering dishes. Like she used to cook a curry using that soft white inner part of Dub (young coconut) or the potato skin fry with poppy seeds.
Once I asked her ‘don’t you ever get bored cooking for all of us everyday? I could still remember her face softened as she replied that its not boring for her coz she cooks for the people who mean the world to her and she gets immense satisfaction in feeding us. Love was her most important ingredient of cooking. She once told us if you cook half-heartedly you would compromise on its taste. You should always think of the person who is going to eat this…that way you will never go wrong. Though she is not with us anymore but we still connect to her through the smell and taste of her recipes. And I know wherever she is today she must be blessing us all for carrying this legacy of cooking and feeding others with love.

So here I am celebrating that beautiful tradition of cooking and feeding with a sumptuous Bengali menu.

Shaaker tarkari (shaag/ leafy vegetable medley)

Note shaak (leafy veggies) these are sold in a bunches (as we call it ‘aanti’.) Am not sure about its weight but guess it would be 150 gms or so.
Jhinge (ridged gourd): 1 small, piece as in picture
Potato: 1 small
Brinjal: 1 small
Bori (wadi): 6 pieces
Onion: 1 small sized
Paanch foron: ½ teaspoon [I have seen many a Bengali argue on what acyually are the five ingredients of Paanch forn. I checked in my paanch foron they are methi (fenugreek), mouri (fennel seeds), jeera (cumin seeds), kalojeere (kalounji or onion seeds) and randhuni(I don’t know its English name sorry.)
Dry red chilly: 1 piece
Oil: 1 teaspoon
Salt: as per taste
Mustard paste: 2 teaspoon Mix in a cup of water and keep aside.
(In Bengal to make our masala paste we mostly use shil nora or shil batta in Hindi (mortar and pestle). but here I use my Mixie for all the dry and wet grinds. Though I have a chutney jar in the set still it’s difficult to make finer paste with less amount. So I just store the excess in an airtight container in the fridge.
When I got married and came to Bangalore for the first time Maa gave me some mustard powder to use in cooking till I get my mixie. Though the taste is not as good as freshly ground mustard paste but still could be a good option if you don’t have any tool for grinding and is very convenient as well. She generally sundry the mustard seeds for a whole day and then makes fine powder in the mixie. Once you have this all you need to do is add water and make a paste.
Pick and wash the shaag thoroughly and then finely chop them as finely as you can. Without peeling cut the potatoes in small pieces lengthwise. Lengthwise cut the jhinge and egg plant in small pieces. Slice the onion. Fry the bori and crumble a lil bit. (bori soaks a lot of oil to avoid that first dry roast the bori and then add lil oil to make it crispy) Heat oil in a pan. (With time I have learnt that when cooking with mustard paste its best to use mustard oil. If you don’t wanna do so just mix a few drops of mustard oil in you regular cooking oil to get the best flavor) Temper with paanch foron and dry chilly. Once crackle add the sliced onions. Sauté till the onions are lightly browned. Add all the vegetables, salt and turmeric. Mix well on a low flame and cover. It will take some time, as a lot of juice will come out from the vegetables. Check from time to time and stir well to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. When the veggies are tender and there is very little or no water in the pan add the mustard mix. Mix well, cover and cook on medium flame. When it starts to boil add the fried wadi. Give it a good stir. When all the veggies are coated with the gravy, mix a few drops of mustard oil and serve with steamed white rice.

Bhaja Posto (Vegetables in fried poppy seed paste)
This is the normal posto but in this we use a very less quantity of water and fry the whole thing to make it dry. Unlike other posto recipe we also add a lil bit of turmeric that gives it lovely golden yellow color. As I cannot cook without tomato so I added a small tomato too.
Potatoes: 3 medium sizes
Onion: 1 big
Green chilies: 2 pieces
Tomato: 1 small
Poppy seed paste: 3-table spoon
Oil: 2-table spoon
Peel and cut the potatoes in small cubes and keep aside. [I generally steam or microwave the potatoes for 5 minutes before hand to lessen the amount of oil in cooking.] Peel and cut the onion in small cubes. Slit the green chilies. Heat oil in a kadai. Put the slited green chilies and onion. Fry till the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes, whole tomato, salt and turmeric. Mix well and cover. Keep the flame on low and let it cook evenly for 4-5 minutes till the potatoes are tender. With your cooking spoon Split the tomato and mix well. Add the poppy seed paste and mix well so that the potatoes are evenly coated. Now comes the difficult part of frying. Just stir, stir and stir so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. In this stage sprinkle some water from time to time to cook the potatoes from inside. Keep frying on low heat till the fried aroma comes in. When this start leaving sides of the vessel increase the flame and fry for some more time till it achieves its gorgeous golden brown color.

Macher jhol (Light Fish Curry)
Though this is prepared as a light everyday dish but you can also make it rich and spicy by using more of the spices and oil. In this recipe I used rohu but can be replaced with cut pieces of rohu, katla or any other small fish. In my in laws place they make it with fresh catches from the pond. They use small whole (chara pona as we call in Bengali) pieces of rohu, katla, silver cup or tilapia.
Fish: 4 pieces
Potato: 1 medium
Onion: 1 small
Ginger paste: ½ teaspoon
Cumin seeds paste: ½ teaspoon
Tomato: 1 small
Green chilly: 1 piece
Oil: 4 tablespoon
Turmeric: 1 teaspoon
Chili powder: ½ teaspoon
Sugar: ¼ teaspoon
Salt: as per taste
Wet grind the onion and green chilly to a fine paste. Wash the fish pieces and lightly rub with ½ teaspoon turmeric and salt. Peel and lengthwise cut the potato (as in picture). Cut the tomato in quarters. Heat oil and lightly fry the fish pieces and keep aside. In the same oil add the potato pieces and lightly fry. When they turn light yellow in colour add the onion paste, chili powder, salt, and sugar, Keep on frying on low flame. When oil separates at the side add the turmeric, ginger and cumin paste. Fry till the aroma rises. Add the tomato pieces and cook till it turns to a fine pulp. Add water (it totally depends upon how much gravy you want. As mine was eaten with rice I added 2 cups of water) When it comes to a boil add the fish pieces. Check the seasoning. Keep the flame on medium till the potatoes are done. At the last stage you can use garam masala powder or fresh coriander leaves. I added coriander, as Hubby loves it this way.

I served the meal with some macher dimmer bora (fish egg fritters).

A home makers Diary: the Coverpage

10:07 AM

When I was young I never thought of doing many a things that I happily do these days i.e. after marriage. Being grown up in Santiniketan (a place founded by Rabindranath Tagore in west Bengal, I always knew I have a creative side in me. I just enjoyed learning different forms of art and craft and cooking being another form of art didn’t take much time to catch my fancy. Though my Dida (maternal grand mother) and Maa (mother) were very well known for their culinary skills but like all other middle class Bengali girls I only entered kitchen to whip up some breakfast items or to cook something fancy. I generally stayed away from Bengali cooking as being a vegetarian I never really enjoyed bong food, which is predominantly non-veg. so whenever any elderly person in the family had asked what would I do if I ever have to cook chachari (Bengali veggie dish cooked with locally grown veggies) or E(n)chor (raw jackfruit curry) and I used to answer that to eat these I will come home to Dida or Maa….

...and then I got married…. And that too to a person who simply craves Bengali home cooked food. So Being a believer of the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” I started experimenting Bengali cooking with the tried and tested recipes of Maa and Masimoni (maternal aunt.) and much to my surprise I started getting loads of appreciation for my Bengali dishes too. So I was a happy homemaker whipping up exotic dishes on weekends….

...and then came my niece R. Seeing whom I suddenly realized how different we are compared to our mothers. I could send SOS to Maa whenever my husband requests me to make Macher kalia (fish cooked in spicy gravy) but whom will she resort to in such occasions? I could ask Maa to make some spicy Mango pickle for me but who will make that for niece R if she ever craved that?

That made me starting this blog where I could jot down the Bengali and other tried and tested recipes the way our Mothers have done them. Cause in India things are neither that commercialized nor that affordable yet that every time I make chingri macher malaikari I could pop a can of coconut milk…. here still we have to follow that tedious process of grating the coconut and then taking out the milk using some hot water. (But I pray to God with all my heart that when R will grow up at least she could have that convenience)

So this is an ode to my Maa, Dida, Mashimoni and Pishimoni who have taught me the art of cooking and feeding with love, and also is a commitment to the generation of my niece R so that they could carry on this legacy of home cooked Bengali food.

Apart from that I am here to share some of my creative ideas on art n craft.

Popular Posts