Prettying Up

Some time ago, I decided to impress Sunanda by cooking for her. So I decided, what better than to lean on my heritage? I dont quite remember why but vegetarian was a requirement so much of my standard repertoire had to be put aside. Not to be deterred, I dug deep and real-Bengali dishes bori dyie kacha posto, kumro bhapa, chhanar dalna and bati chochhori were lined up.

The cooking went well (I’m not telling you how the rest of the evening went) but as a special touch, with a little help from the impressee, I decided to pretty things up before wolfing it down. Square plates, some coriander, a bit of cookie cutter magic (I use it to press the rice into nice shapes) and the deep golden colour of raw mustard oil helped out. Here are the recipes

Bori Diye Kacha Posto

Bori (vadi for all the other Indians) are dried lentil cakes. The most common lentil for vadi is urad, but this recipe uses the moong variety, small hershey-kiss shaped thingies that fry up to a nice crunch. Posto or poppyseed (don’t get excited – the seed doesn’t have any opium) is usually added to gravies or used as a coating on fired food (similar to breadcrumbs) but this uses that raw poppyseed paste. No cooking – kacha is raw in Bengali. Its a starter, usually had with plain rice and has a mild taste that’s addictive for all kinds of legal reasons

Moong bori
Posto (poppyseed)
Raw Mustard oil
Green chillies

This is one of the simple ones – fry the vadis, paste the posto in a wet grinder with a little water to a smooth, flowing paste (this takes a while). Ad a little chopped green chilli, splatter some raw mustard oil and serve it up nice on rice.

Kumro Bhapa

Kumro, or red pumpkin, is a staple vegetable in Bengal. We cook it in many different forms; by far the easiest way is a simple steaming. Combined with green chillies, spiked up with raw mustard oil and generous quantities of fresh-grated coconut, this can be much more of a treat than the healthy-sounding “steaming: suggests. The catch is to get good pumpkin, though – most pumpkin  isn’t very tasty. The ones with dark green skins seem to work best.

Kumro (pumpkin)
Freshly grated coconut
Raw Mustard oil
Green chillies (slit lengthwise)

Steam the pumpkin till just tender, drain of all the water and then mix thoroughly with the coconut and chillies. Thats it, really; just drizzle some raw mustard oil on top. Have plain or with plain rice. This is also a traditional first course.

Bati Chochchori

Bati is bowl, and chochchori is a mixed vegetable dish. This mixed vegetables in a bowl business comes from the traditional-ageold-ancient-timehonoured practice of putting vegetables in a bowl (or wrapped in a banana leaf parcel) and tossed into the pot to be steamed along with the rice. Nowadays, of course, there are things called microwaves and tradition isn’t what it used to be.

Cauliflower florets, small
Green Peas (frozen is good)
Kalo Jeera (Kalonji)
Mustard paste
Freshly grated coconut
Coconut milk (optional)

Raw Mustard oil
Green chillies (slit lengthwise)

Another super-simple dish. Pop the kalonji in a small amount of hot mustard oil, cool it. Mix it with the paste, the florets, the peas, salt, green chillies and some of the grated coconut. Put into a closed microwaveable bowl and zap it for till done (about 3-5 min, though this really depends on your microwave). No water is added, the cauliflower will release enough on its own.

Chhanar Dalna

Dalna is a dryish thick gravy for vegetables, made simple or with gorom moshla for extra special occasions (like this one). Chhana, or paneer, is one of my favourite things in the world, trumping even the odd non-veg. Paneer, when I was growing up, was usually a special treat (since it used to be expensive) and the dalna was my absolute favourite. I used to find it very difficult to make; it took a while to master this seemingly simple dish.

Chhana (paneer) as fresh as you can get it
Ginger, grated fresh into a paste
Jeera (cumin) paste

for the Gorom Moshla
Laung (
clove) whole,
Dalchini (cinnamon) whole,
Elach (green cardamom) whole.

Kishmish (raisins, any kind).
Dried red chillies
Tej Patta (cinnamon leaf)

Cut the paneer into large squares and sear on all sides on a hot pan (or fry, but be careful - it splatters a lot). Put the gorom moshla into hot oil and wait till the aroma is released, then add the ginger and jeera pastes. Saute it till the oil separates, add the paneer and let it simmer till the paneer is cooked through.

3 comments:

  1. I loved this post for two reasons--one, I absolutely adore Bengali food; and two, I love that you gave such deeply traditional recipes a modern makeover--makes it so much more appetizing for the modern eater!

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