Durga Puja is an autumnal festival celebrated mostly among Bengalis for over five days. “The first recorded Durga Puja seems to have taken place in Nadia district in or around 1606. In those days it was more of a family festival for the rich or landlords. The oldest Puja in Calcutta, as some believes, was used to be the family Puja of Sabarna Chaudhury of Barisha which dates back to 1610. The first publicly organized puja happened in Guptipara of Hoogli district when twelve men were stopped from taking part in a household puja. They formed a twelve man committee and held a puja. Since then these kind of puja arrangement is known as barowari (baro-twelve, yar-friend). Later the term ‘barowari‘ was replaced by ‘sarbojonin‘ (for all men and women).The first community puja in Calcutta was held at Balaram Bose Ghat Road in 1910”1. Durga Puja is a five day affair beginning with MahaShashti (the first day of the Puja ), followed by Saptami ( the most significant being the bathing of Kalabau(banana plant dressed as a bride and Pranpratistha), the third day is called Ashtami, fourth day Nabami and finally Dashami. Each of the households has their own rules regarding the foods that they can cook. For instance in my house, we do not take any non- vegetarian food during Shasti and Ashtami. Though we do not cook any non vegetarian food on these days, we can eat at the various food stalls in the pandals.
Though I miss the grandeur and aesthetics of the pandals in Kolkata, the festival in Delhi has acquired its own charm. Each Puja Committee in Delhi organises a Anandamela in the Puja grounds where groups of men and women sell different food items ranging from Peas Kachori, to Pasta, to Pineapple Chicken. Yesterday we visited the famous Puja at Bengali Senior Secondary School and everybody was waiting in line for the inauguration of Anandamela. As soon as the event was inaugurated people poured in to savour the veg and non- vegetarian delicacies on offer which included delicacies like Peas Kachori, Chicken Korma, Alu Phulkoir Singara (Samosa stuffed with Potato and Cauliflower) etc.
Today is Mahasaptami- the day when cooking and eating non vegetarian food is allowed. We decided to feast on the following : Bhaat (Rice), Bhaaja Moonger Dal, Niramish Bandhakopir Tarkari, Chingri Machher Batichochori, Katla Machher Kalia and Chutney.
Bhaja Moong er Dal.
Dry roast the Moong Dal and wash and clean with water. Pressure cook the moong dal with salt and turmeric powder and keep is aside. For tempering the Moong Dal first add a spoonful of oil to the kadai. Add Cumin Seeds, Dry Red Chilli, 1 Bay leaf, wait for these to crackle and add tomatoes. Cook for ½ a minute and add the boiled Dal. Finish off with a pinch of sugar and generous helping of peas and some freshly chopped Coriander.
Niramish Bandhakopir Tarkari
Finely chop the cabbage. One trick my mother insists I follow is to parboil the cabbage. Take a spoonful of oil and add panchphoron and wait for it to crackle. Following with add crushed/ grated ginger, salt, sugar and turmeric to the oil. Add tomatoes and slit green chillies and cook till the oil starts separating. Add the parboiled cabbage to the masala and cook it. (My mother says its important that the masala should blend well and the Bengali trick is kashano… which means constantly keep on tossing and turning the vegetables till your hands give in J)Add salt and sugar to finish it off. Once its cooked add freshly grounded garam masala (preferable cinnamon and cardamom) to the vegetable and serve it hot.
Chingri Machher Bati Chochori
Take 300 gms of prawns (medium size) and marinate it for half an hour with salt and turmeric. Add a spoonful of mustard oil to the kadai and lightly fry the prawns. To which add a pinch of finely chopped garlic, onions, tomato, green chillies and tomato and let is cook. Give it a nice toss and close the kadai/ pan with a lid. Take a break for 10 min and you will find the aromatic hues of bati chochori find its way into your drawing room. Finish it off with a nice helping of coriander.
Katla Machher Kalia
Take 400gms of Katla Machch which means approximately 6 nice pieces. Marinate the fish in salt and turmeric and keep it aside. Add a spoonful of oil . Fry the fish. You may need to add another generous helping of oil after you are done with frying of the fish. Add onion paste to the oil, 1 Bay leaf and wholesome garam masala. Fry the onion paste till it turns brown. Add tomatoes, cumin powder, coriander powder, sugar and salt and cook the masala till the oil separates. Add water to the cooked paste and cook it till you see the bubbles appear. Add the fried fishes and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. Finish it off with coriander.
Finally Plastid Chutney
1 nice raw papaya. Thinely slice it. Take a pan and add oil. Add some Saunf and 1 Bay leaf. Saute the papayas, and add a pinch of turmeric and Salt. Add water and now comes the sweetening ingredient- sugar . Mix it nicely and let it cook on low heat. Your Plastid Chutney is ready.
Watch for Ashtami Special tomorrow. Time to serve the lunch.
1 Visit this website for more details http://www.calcuttaweb.com/puja/