Ghanto/ Lentil with Veggies and Leafy Greens

1:07 PM

If you follow Bengali cooking recipes then you must agree that Bengali cooking terms and methods are a bit quite confusing. We make mixed vegetables in numerous ways and give every type a new name like ghanto, charchari, chyanchra, bati tarkari, labra etc. sometimes even a true Bengali who has grown up solely on the regional cuisine cannot tell the difference at all. And if that numerous ways are not enough we again have made variations in this categories too like pui shaker ghanto (Malabar spinach curry) is a dish where the gravy coats the veggies but in Bandhakopi’r ghanto (dry cabbage dish) is a dry dish. Confused? Then let me warn you am going to confuse you more with today’s recipe. :-)

Ghanto in Bengali means a mixture where the ingredients are mixed with each other, sometimes beyond recognition. And this dish is a perfect example of the literal meaning… which is meant to be cooked in a way where all the vegetables are soft and mushy and entirely mixed with each other and this is known as ‘Ghanto’, which might be unknown to many Bengalis. We mostly are familiar with ghantos where one main vegetable rules the dish like mulo’r Ghanto (dry Raddish dish with potatoes), Lau Ghanto (bottlegourd dish) etc but only ‘GHANTO’? well that’s quite unheard, right? So let me explain, this is a lentil based vegetable dish where leafy greens and veggies are added, sometimes with a handful of prawns.  This is a daily dish in the coastal villagers of West Bengal where I have my roots. It is a common sight in rural Bengal where village women collect varities of leafy greens from the sides of ponds or from fields on their way back after the bath in pond. Sometime its kolmi shaak (water spinach), bothua shaak (lamb’s quarters), gima shaak (Hydroctyle rotundifolia) or the hingche shaak (Enhydra fluctuans) this provides for the veggie dish. For the non veg the man of the house use a standing net, knitted of nylon thread on a triangular cane base. They place it overnight at the narrow openings of the canals or ponds to get small prawns, fishes and crabs in the morning.  And trust me with these meager ingredients they prepare amazing meals. Whenever am there I always make it a point to go to our neighbors to share their meals. Now back to my recipe. Though this is meant to be cooked with Malabar greens but as told, the poor villagers make it with the varieties of greens. With that they throw in whatever veggies they have like ripe parwal or cluster beans, baby potatoes or colocasia roots. Being the fish lover Bengalis are Sometimes they combine it with a handful of small prawns from their net.
Malabar Spinach form my garden

My Sejo jethi (Aunt from paternal side) makes it finger licking good. She passed the recipe to Maa and from her I got…carrying on the good work!!! huh. This is the most versatile dish I ever cook…you can add any vegetable that you cannot use in regular cooking like ripe parwal, hard eggplant, over ripe pumpkin etc but one veggie that you have to use is the colocasia roots as that gives it a thick texture. I personally prefer to cook it with Malabar spinach, pumpkin, colocasia roots, potatoes and any ripe vegetable from the fridge. The Malabar spinach in this dish are from my winter garden which means this recipe was stored in the draft before I went for my lo…ng break. 

Before you get into the recipe here are some pictures from the village I talked about so much.

And here is some picture of fishing in a pond (this is not the net I talked about) with hand net
Getting Ready

Throwing as far as possible

Carefully pulling it together

Coming back to the shore

The Catch
Now the recipe

Yellow lentil (mung dal): 11/2 cup
Malabar Spinach: 11/2 cups; roughly chopped
Pumpkin: 1/3 cup; cubed
Potato: one small; cubed
Colocasia roots: 4-5; peeled and cubed
Beans: 4-5; cut in 1” pieces
Ridge gourd: 5-6 cubed pieces
Prawns: handful (optional)
Onion: 1 small; chopped
Grated ginger: 1” piece
Dry red chilli: 4-5
Panchforon: ¾ tsp
Oil: 1 tbsp
Sugar: ½ tsp

Put the yellow lentil in a heavy bottom pan or kadhai and dry roast on low till a nice roasted aroma comes. During this process keep on stirring as it might burn at the bottom. The roasted lentil would be golden in colour without any black grain.

Wash this and boil with fresh water (4 cups) with turmeric and grated ginger.
When the lentil is half cooked (approx. 10 minutes) add the vegetables and salt. 

Once the veggies are cooked and the lentil is soft take off from heat and keep aside. It should have a moderately thick consistency, not runny. So please adjust the water accordingly.

Now heat the oil in a bigger pan and add panchforon, dry red chillies and onion one by one. When the onions are lightly coloured add the prawns and fry for a minute.

Add the lentil mixture and combine everything together. Check the seasoning.

Boil for 5 minutes and serve with hot steamed rice.

We had a great meal with this, okra fry and Fish Curry.

i am sending this Ghanto to few events

MLLA 23, this time hosted by the Inventor herself, our inspiration Susan of The well seasoned cook.

Cooking with seeds; Cumin. A lovely event started by Priya and this month hosted at Sara's corner.


Macher Kalia/ A Rich and Spicy Fish Curry

12:25 AM

Ok. So here is another fish curry from one more Bengali blogger. So what if every Bengali in the blogging block have posted similar or different version of this dish, no way that will deter me from posting mine. Jokes apart but this is our second most favorite fish recipe after Ilish Macher Jhal and a must for any gathering or special occasion. This ubiquitous fish dish will greet you on a birthday bash, wedding ceremony, house warming feast, Family gathering or even on Sunday special luncheons. This also is my first fish preparation that I cooked for my friends. Those days I hardly cooked non veg but friends asked for a party after I landed my first job and settled in my rented flat. One weekend evening a bunch of them attacked my place in demand of a party at a popular restaurant. Over a lot of argument I served them my favorite one dish dinner, Mushroom Pasta. They ate in silence and then decided on having a party at my place with food cooked by me. They decided the menu all by themselves which included some fish preparation. I called up Dida for Macher Kalia recipe and cooked this…till date whenever those friends visit me they make it a point that I cook this.

This is a rich and spicy dish which in no means is to be eaten every day. Kalia actually is a cooking process where the fish or meat is cooked in rich gravy with onion-ginger-garlic and garam masala. Most popularly is cooked with big fishes like Paka Rui (Carp/ Rohu) or Katla, which are big sweet water fishes weighing more than 2 kgs, as The fat from the fish adds more richness to the gravy. Like any other Bengali preparation this one also is very aromatic with bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. My Maa also adds some cashews and raisins to it which I absolutely adore. Love the crunch of the cashew mingles with the creaminess of the hot and spicy gravy or those occasional sweet explode of raisins on the tongue.

Today it was raining heavily here and the baby is having equally running nose following which Hubby had to take a day off. I wanted to cook something fancy to wrap up our dinner with one or two preparations. This fitted the bill perfectly and we had a superb dinner with steamed white rice, macher kalia and alu bhaja
(fried potato).

Here is the recipe:

Macher Kalia

Fish: 4 pieces
Potato: 1 medium (optional)
Onion paste: 3 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Garlic paste: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Coriander powder: ½ tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp 
Chilli powder: 1 tsp (use kashmiri red chili or tikhalal for better colour)
Tomato: 1 medium
Curd: 1 tbsp
Bay leaf: 1
Cinnamon, clove: 2 pcs each
Garam masala powder:  1/3 tsp
Oil: 4 tbsp (more if you are not cooking in non stick kadhai)
Sugar: 1/3 tsp
Cashews: handful
Raisins: handful

Wash the fish pieces and smear with salt and turmeric. Keep aside.

Wash, peel and cut the potato in long wedges. Keep aside.

Soak the raisin in water. Mix the cumin-coriander powder with 2 tbsp water and keep aside.

Heat half of the oil and fry the fish pieces till lightly browned on both sides. Drain and reserve.

Now add the rest of the oil and temper with whole cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. Tip in the potatoes. Fry lightly with salt.

Add the onion paste and fry on low flame. Once the juice of the onion dries add the ginger and garlic paste, turmeric, chilli powder, cashews and salt. Keep frying till oil separates at the sides. This process is called kashano or frying the spices on low flame which is very important for this dish.

Now add the cumin-coriander paste and fry till the raw smell of the spices are gone (approx. 3 mins)

Add in the beaten curd and again fry till everything mixes well. Put the tomato pieces and cook till they are soft and mushy.

Once you see the oils are separating at the sides add 11/2 cups of warm water. Once it comes to boil add the fish pieces, raisins and adjust the seasoning.

Let it cook on medium flame till the gravy thickens and coat the fish pieces nicely.

Sprinkle with garam masala powder and serve hot with white steamed rice.

Vegetarian Version: use chhana or homemade Paneer (how to make chhana HERE) for this. Drain the water and mash with boiled potato, chopped onion, grated ginger, green chillies, salt and bhaja masala. Make small patties, shallow fry till golden brown on both sides. Use these for fish but don't simmer them for long as that might cause breaking of the patties. Will try to post this recipe later.

Same way you can also cook Chicken Kalia.

you can find variation sof this dish at Sandeepa's, Indrani's and Sutapa's amzing blogs.

Noodle and Pasta

Penne in Tomato Sauce with Grilled Veggies and Prawns

10:19 PM

Finally am back from home after a lo… vacation of almost 2 months. The important works were done with satisfying results so I boarded the flight with relief…but with a heavy jeart, felt sad leaving parents behind. More this time, as now they miss their grandson and his all day long activities a lot. Though this time my younger brother accompanied me for a short vacation here but still am missing Maa, Baba, Niece, Elder brother, cousins and everything about HOME.

Our house was in a big MESS, two months clutter and dust invited me with open hands and I was not sure where to start my cleaning from. Everything in the house was bathed in dust and grime and for the past three days I had to run the washing machine twice daily to get rid of the unwashed clothes. Even that was not enough the garden resembled a mini jungle and my cub wanted to play hide and seek there. But the thing that almost brought tears in my eyes was the sight of my plants. 90% of the plants have dried as when Hubby was abroad the maid didn’t appear to water them. All my rose plants, chrysanthemums, hibiscus, mogra, crotons are dead. Can’t help as life needs to move on and that too on a fast pace if you have a toddler to deal with. So I put my hair in a bun, deposited the baby to brother, ordered home delivery and equipped with some cleaning equipments started cleaning the house. The next morning the same suit happened but then in the afternoon stomach started grumbling and we were in dire need of some food. None of us wanted another home delivery so thought of some quick one pot meal. A plateful of Penne with frilled vegetables and prawns stirred in a spicy tangy tomato sauce. These prawns I have brought from home (like every time) and Maa lightly fried them with salt and turmeric. With the help of the OTG the meal was very quick to prepare. And that was absolute yum and satisfying, after which we were in no mood to get into cleaning spree and finally decided to have some afternoon nap.

The house in now in better shape but still another week’s work is left. I also have brought some plants from my Maa’s beautiful garden which I already have planted. Hope they will thrive and flower soon. As in the blogosphere, I am extremely sorry for being irregular for a long time. I have missed so many of your great posts, a lot to catch in the dashboard. Hope to get back to action as soon as possible.

Here is the quick recipe of the pasta that we all cherished.

Penne in Tomato Sauce with Grilled Veggies and Prawns
(Serves 3)

Whole wheat Penne: 1 packet
Assorted vegetables cut in thick stripes: 2 cups (I used Carrot, beans, Capsicum, corn, black olives)
Prawns: ½ cup; lightly sautéed with salt
Tomato: 5 medium sized
Garlic: 10 fat cloves
Onion: 1 medium; sliced
Olive oil: 3 tbsp
Cheese: ¼ cup; grated
Chilli flakes:

Cut the veggies and mix with salt and few drops of oil. Place them on a baking tray and grill for 5 minutes at 300 C. keep aside.

In the mean time prepare the pasta according to the package instruction. Boil them in plenty of water with salt and 1 tsp of oil. It should be al dente or firm to bite.

Also at the same time boil the tomatoes with salt for 7-8 minutes, peel and grind them to a smooth paste.

Chop the garlic and olives, keep aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil and put half of the garlic. Once they turn light brown add the tomato puree. Taste the seasoning and let it boil on medium heat till it turns to gravy like consistency. Mix in some oregano, chilli flakes and Keep aside.

Now heat the rest of the oil and add the remaining garlic. Fry till light brown and add the sliced onion. Sauté on medium flame.

Once they are translucent mix in the veggies (except olives), prawns, salt and chilli flakes. Fry for a couple of minutes and add in the tomato sauce.

Let it coat all the veggies and prawns and then tip in the boiled penne. Mix with light hand as you don’t need broken pasta on your plate.

Mix chilli flakes, oregano, olives and adjust the salt.

Give it a good mix. Finally sprinkle the grated cheese and serve hot with some drink of your choice.

We had ours with Sprite.


150 years of Tagore: The Magic Still Endures

10:21 PM

Portrait by Satyajit Ray
Today is Nobel laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. The whole world is celebrating this day with his poem, song and drama. on this special eve here is an ode to the man who is still alive in our soul even 150 years after he was born

Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet, writer, philosopher was the ambassador of Indian culture to the rest of the world. He is probably the most prominent figure in the cultural world of Indian subcontinent and the first Asian person to be awarded with the Nobel prize. Even though he is mainly known as a poet, his multifaceted talent showered upon different branches of art, such as, novels, short stories, dramas, articles, essays, painting etc. And his songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet, have an eternal appeal and is permanently placed in the heart of the Bengalis. He was a social reformer, patriot and above all, a great humanitarian and philosopher. India and Bangladesh - the national anthems of these two countries are taken from his composition. (

you can read more about him Here and Here.

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