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.

So with a quick peek at the kitchen, mumbling to Dida where I was heading to, I would sprint to the door. quick -as quick a five years old could be, crossing the small front garden, through the narrow cobblestoned path beside the huge pond and then taking a sharp turn after crossing The row of Mud huts that housed the Jana family. All five brothers under one roof with a house full of children. Stopping briefly at Baroma's house to mumble again to let her know where I was heading. and then  Another right turn and I would be at my destination.

The two-story mud house with thatched hay roof in front of me was my maa's Mamabari (Nanihaal or maternal uncle's home). Beautifully maintained by the ladies of the house, neatly mopped floors and walls with beautiful rice paste designs around the windows and niches. They had flowering plants and vegetable patches around the long verandah that surrounded the whole house. I loved sleeping in here in the afternoon. The floors were cold from the mornings mopping with mud, cow dung and water and cool air coming from huge fruit orchard and the pond.

By the time I would reach there neat rows of Hogla (Cats tail) mats would have been placed along the wall for the farmers who would come and have their breakfast. But I will head straight to the end of the verandah to the kitchen. A narrow long room with two woodfire oven built on the floor and a kerosene stove. The kitchen was cool and dark as it was the backside of the house and just in front of the window stood a huge hog plum tree with green lush foliage.

Bawro Dida, maa's Mamima will every day welcome me with a smile on her face and a small wooden piri (very low stool) pushed my way. I will smile back and take the piri to the verandah to sit with everyone for breakfast. They adored me as my nonstop chatter gave them a respite from a day full of hardship.

While they were served their meal of khuder bhat, alu makha, green chillies and chutney,  a small bowl would be placed in front of me. The soupy mass in the bowl might not be very good looking but it never failed to make my mouth water. Amra bhate or boiled Amra mashed with just salt, sugar and green chilies, a simple side to go with the meagre meal in Rural Bengal.
Mama Bari
 I would relish the sweet, sour, salty chutney by dipping my finger and licking it. but the piece de resistance was the stones with thick fibres that looks like expensive filigree work. The inside joke in the family tells that I would sit there for hours to just suck and lick those stones, engrossed in the process with some zen-like concentration that it would be almost time for lunch when Mami (maternal aunt) would come and forcefully carry me home for the bath.

I still love Amra and still can sit and relish it for hours and every time they appear in the market I get them almost every other day. But somehow I never made Amra bhate myself. Rather it has always been the pickle and my Maa's amra chutney with poppy seeds and mustard that everyone loved at home. Amra bhate didn't have many takers and over time it escaped my memory. until recently when I made the congee inspired by the same memory and was flooded by emotions.
so here they are the simple amra bhate and maa's Amrar chutney.

Amra Bhate
(served 2)

This works even better with paka amra or ripe hog plum which turns quite sweet with a substantial tang. But tastes well even with normal amras that are available in the market.

Ingredients:
Amra/hog plum: 4
Sugar: 2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Green chillies: 1-2 (as per your taste)

Method:
Just wash and dry them. Cut a small portion from the stem part and boil while you cook your rice. Here I must mention we cook rice by the water separation method, similar as cooking pasta. If you follow the absorption method or cook rice using a rice cooker then make sure you take them out before all the water is absorbed or the hog plums will get stuck to rice.

Once they are softened take them out and mash as much as possible with salt as per taste and sugar. It should not be very sweet rather there should be a good balance between sweet-sour-salty-and heat from chilies. So mash the chillies next and serve as an accompaniment with rice or khuder bhat (Bengali style broken rice congee).

Maa's Amra posto chutney

Ingredients:
Amra: 12-14 (fresh tender ones)
Sugar: 3/4 cup
Salt: as per taste
Turmeric
Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp
Dry chillies: 2-3
Poppy seeds paste: 3 tbsp
Mustard paste: 1 tbsp
Mustard or white oil: 2 tsp

Method:
Wash and cut off a small part from the stem part. Boil these hog plums with salt and 3/4 cup water or alternatively pressure cook it for one whistle on medium. Once they cool down start cooking the chutney.

Heat the oil in a pan and temper with nigella seeds and dry chillies. Once they start to splutter add the boiled hog plums, save the boiled water for later. Cook these on low heat for 4-5 minutes or till the extra water is absorbed. 

Now add the poppy seeds and mustard paste. Cook on low till the raw smell of the paste is gone. Approximately 2-3 minutes.

Next, add sugar and turmeric. Add the boiled water little at a time. do not add all the water as it will be too tart. Add as much water depending on the balance of taste. If needed add some fresh water to give it the right consistency.

Boil for 10 minutes on medium. Stir from time to time. The consistency should not be runny but thick.

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