Spice up your mid-week meal with Kancha Lanka Murgi/ Green-Chilli Chicken!

Vegetable vendors in Delhi are known to be generous with green chillies and coriander leaf. As the vegetables are piled on top of another, they push down a generous bunch of coriander and a handful of green chillies. This practice is unique to Delhi and does not exist in other parts of the country. This practice often results in an abundance of green chillies in my tiny fridge. I discovered two boxes of green chillies in my fridge which I had to put to good use.

chillies

Though green chillies are used in almost all “Bengali” dishes, and we have dishes dedicated to celebrate green chilli, the use of green chilli in Bengali cooking owes to the entry of green chilli to the New world, considering none of single dishes in Ain-i- Akbari mentions the use of green chilly.  K.T. Achaya in his seminal work A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food points out that chilli must have entered India soon after the voyages of Columbus and Vasco da Gama. The non-existent of chillies in Indian gastronomy can be linked to the use of vernacular words for chillies which is an extension of the word–pepper. Hence, he argues that in Hindi, green chilly is called hari-mirch, in Tamil it is referred as milagu, and in Kannada green chilli is harimenasu.1

The Bengali origins of lanka are unknown to me and I would be happy if somebody throws light on this; considering in Bengali one addresses pepper as golmorich. Despite its origins in the New World and its domestication in various regions of America and South Mexico, or in Peru, India too has its various versions of hot chillies available in Guntur, Coimbatore, Bombay (Mumbai), Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland. Each region has their innovative way of using chilly and West Bengal is no exception. One such popular Bengali dish (in restaurants and homes) is kancha lanka murgi – a simple dish which has flavours of green chilli to spice up a mid-week meal.

Armed with 7 pieces chicken (skinless) I decided to settle for kancha lanka murgi.

The ingredients are simple,7-8 pieces of chicken, one medium sized onion, twelve to fifteen garlic cloves, a slice of ginger (use according to your taste buds), and ten green chillies( the chillies that we get in Delhi are not that hot; the number should depend on the heat of the chilli so use it according to your taste), salt, turmeric, pinch of coriander powder ( adding coriander powder is a habit I have picked up from Delhi; my mother uses a combination of coriander and cumin powder) and mustard oil( I cannot think of any substitute; but for health purposes you can switch to your “healthy cooking medium”; in that case finish off the dish with a drizzle of mustard oil).

Marinating the chicken: To marinate use salt (please use your discretion; I use half a tea-spoon to begin with), turmeric (a pinch) and drizzle of mustard oil and coat the chicken pieces. Keep it aside.

Take out the mortar pestle and pound garlic cloves, ginger and finely sliced chillies. Pound them to a coarse mix.  Keep it aside. Use seven chillies and keep aside three.

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Take a kadai (wok) add mustard oil (one and a half table spoon). Once it starts bubbling, add a few (literally ten) cumin seeds, one bay leaf, a pinch of sugar (to caramelise), sliced onions and cook it well. Fry till the onion changes colour and add the ginger-garlic and chilly mix. Fry it till oil starts separating. (Increase the flame at this stage). Finally add the marinated chicken and stir it. Stirring is a very important component. As I write this recipe, I can hear my mother reminding me that the important stage of any cooking is kashano (which means cook the masala mix). Use your discretion to increase and decrease the flame at this stage of cooking. There is no need to add water still if you feel that the mix is sticking to the kadai add a small cup of hot water (one small tip rinse the mortar pestle where you have made your paste and add the water) just enough not to cover the chicken. You can make a runny gravy/ jhol but I love garo garo (which is neither runny gravy nor jhol nor shukno i.e., dry).  Usually I prefer cooking in medium heat, except while heating the oil.  As soon as the water starts separating, in no time your kancha-lanka murgi/ Green- Chilly Chicken would be ready. Season it well with salt (if required). Taste the dish before you pour it into a serving bowl. Finish off with slit chillies which you had kept aside and a drizzle of mustard oil.

Enjoy kancha lanka murgi with rice, or roti in the coming week.

There are various versions of kancha lanka murgi on other blogs.

My two favourites picks are:-

Pree’s Kancha Lanka Murgi:  http://preeoccupied.blogspot.in/2011/04/kancha-lonka-murgi-green-chili-chicken.html

(I love the idea of cardamom used here and Pree’s description of makho makho… Every post will leave you craving for more!!! Here’s a fan-confession)

Sayak’s Kancha Lanka Murgi :                 http://sayakskitchen.blogspot.in/2012/12/kacha-lanka-murgi.html.

(Sayak whisks a version with potatoes, and a uses a mix of cumin and coriander; for alu/potato fans this is a must try!)

Add your twist to this simple kancha lanka murgi and let me know… till then happy cooking.

Notes

1 Achaya, K.T.1998(2002). A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food.  New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

©itiriti

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Magic Charm of Jharna Ghee…

No Bengali kitchen is complete without a bottle of Jharna Ghee.  I was sharing with S, anecdotes of my encounter with this favourite brand of ghee (clarified butter) that adorns my kitchen and comes of use when you want to make an aromatic and creamy mashed vegetable. One of my summer favourites is to boil potato, parwal, pumpkin, mash it and add finely chopped green chillies and a dash of salt. Drizzle ghee and have it with hot piping rice. Another way of relishing Jharna Ghee is to enjoy it with Gobindobhog Rice (a variety of short grained and aromatic rice found in Bengal) with mashed potatoes and a boiled egg.  Jharna Ghee continues to be my comfort food till date.

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What is Jharna Ghee? Jharna is a popular brand of gawa ghee ( cow milk based ghee).  For an interesting discussion on ghee read the following thread http://www.gourmetindia.com/topic/342-ghee/page-3.  It is an integral component of Bengali cuisine as no Moong Dal would be complete without a drizzle of Jharna Ghee or no Niramish tarkari (vegetable curry) would taste good without a fresh dose of ground garam masala and a dash of Jharna Ghee. Jharna Ghee is also used in restaurants catering Bengali food. For instance, one of the articles on Bengali Restaurants outside Kolkata mentions along with fish even Jharna Ghee is sourced from Kolkata.1

Jharna Ghee is a product from Sundarban Dairy and Farm Works, Kolkata and probably several decades old. Though several articles recollect their associations with this favourite brand, I have not come across any article on the producers of Jharna Ghee or Sundarban Dairy and Farm Works. As I polish the last helping of Khichdi (with a generous helping of Jharna ghee), I feel a cosmic connection with B who braved the Mumbai traffic, pending work schedules to reach home early to enjoy her comfort dinner of piping hot rice, Jharna Ghee, salt and green Chilly or the frantic call of the mother to buy a bottle of Jharna Ghee as a remedial measure to her son’s weight loss. Such is the magic charm of Jharna Ghee  🙂

Notes and References

Notes

1Bagchi, S. “Bengal on the Menu”. The Telegraph. 8 October 2005. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1051008/asp/weekend/story_5315005.asp

©itiriti

Gahana Bori

( Comment: I invited Dr. Utsa Ray to  write about Gahana bori- a speciality of Midnapore District in West Bengal.

Dr Utsa Ray is a historian of modern South Asia with a focus on the histories of class-formation, consumption, and taste. Her broad areas of study include Modern South Asia, Modern World, Globalization, Nationalism, Culinary Cultures, and Gender. Her essays have been published in Modern Asian Studies, Indian Economic and Social History Review (forthcoming), and her book Culinary Culture in Colonial India: A Cosmopolitan Platter and the Middle Class is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

In this piece she traces the history of Gahana Bori, its makers and how it was received. Happy Reading!)

Gahana boris are a decorative and ornamented sundried cones of lentil paste. The chief ingredient for gahana bori is moth bean. Moth bean is primarily used because of its viscosity. Moth bean is soaked in water the night before making bori so that its skin comes off easily next morning. This soaked bean when ground gives out a sticky texture required for making gahana bori. The batter for bori usually has a creamy consistency. It needs to be constantly stirred so that the batter is fluffy and the resultant bori is light and white in texture. At first poppy seeds are spread out on a large plate. Then the batter is tied up in a cloth with holes in the bottom. A cone is then tied to this cloth and moved clockwise on the poppy seeds to create motifs. Gahana bori is then sun dried thoroughly. These are made in winter because moist weather is not conducive to making gahana bori. Mostly gahana bori is designed in the form of paisley or different ornaments like necklace, tiara, earrings or bracelets or lotus. However, animal motifs like elephant, butterfly, deer, peacock, fish or parrot are also not uncommon.

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Gahana bori was and still is specifically made in eastern Medinipur. Women of mahishya caste in Tamluk, Mahishadal, Sutahata, Nandigram and Mayna are adept in making gahana bori. Gahana bori, which was first specific to three families, soon acquired a wider spread. Of course, its popularity had much to do with its eye-catching designs as well as crisp taste. However, the way gahana bori was praised by Rabindranath Tagore, his nephew Abanindranath Tagore and Abanindranath’s disciple Nandalal Bose, one of the finest artists of Bengal school speaks much about its becoming a fine art. This fine art originated in Medinipur but it became a pride of Bengal.

Once gahana bori earned this title of being a fine art, it could no longer remain confined to the platter of ordinary men and women of eastern Medinipur. The bori was no longer a simple delectable to be devoured. It was a product which yielded ultimate aesthetic pleasure and needed to be preserved. Abanindranath Tagore thus wrote in an undated letter: “These ‘nakashi’ boris from the Lakhsa village of Medinipur are not only a visual delight but also whet one’s appetite. However, grinding this bori with one’s teeth or cooking it in the form of curry is equivalent to fry and eat a fine piece of art.” Rabindranath Tagore too exclaimed that “these were to be seen and not for consumption”.1

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On the one hand we do see this appreciation of gahana bori as part of a larger history of Bengal although the presence of gahana bori before late 19th century is not warranted by any historical evidence. On the other hand gahana bori is still celebrated as the part and parcel of everyday life of a very specific region of Bengal. At that level the making of gahana bori is as much about the nitty-gritty of domesticity as it is about a sense of pride in this local art of Medinipur. To describe this phenomenon of ornamented bori as a form of sub-regional consciousness would be an overstatement. However, there is no doubt that alongside the claim of a universal aesthetic, local appreciations and regional pride never ceased to be associated with gahana bori.

Notes

1 Salilkumar Bandopadhyay, Rabindranath o Loksanskriti (Kolkata: Dey’s Publishing, 1994), p.237, first published in 1983;

Photo @ Shyamal Bera

©itiriti

Beyond Rice, Dal and Phish : Padmaparer Rannaghar

I have been on an eating spree ever since I stepped my foot in Kolkata. Simulataneously I have been struggling with a section of a long overdue chapter which was supposed to be in my supervisor’s mail box quite a while ago. Instead, I have been drowning my sorrow of  loss of words, sentences in tasting and feasting.

My partner in crime DP lured me to try this place tucked away in the bustling streets of Gariahat. Anybody who is familiar with Kolkata neighbourhoods and is well versed with haggling has interned in Gariahat. Though Gariahat streets wear a comparatively deserted look before the (in)famous Operation Sunshine to remove Hawkers from pavements still you will find rows of neatly arranged good starting from crockery to pillow covers in the pavements of Gariahat. There are several tricks to crack your deal in Gariahat and every house in Kolkata can vouch for a “bargaining expert” who got the best deal in Gariahat and a worst buyer who could never managed to reduce a penny. Nevertheless, street shopping continues to remain an integral part of Kolkata like its street food culture. One of the street food culture is pice hotel. Though I am personally unaware of the gensesis of the word “pice” hotel in Bengal’s gastronomic street food culture, pice hotels are integral to eating out cultures in former Calcutta ( now Kolkata).

Usually pice hotels serve rice, dal, fish at a nominal rate and there are several hotels around Sealdah and other pockets of North Kolkata.

Check out the following entry by Nandini Dutta on Pice Hotels

http://nandinidutta.blogspot.in/2012/10/pice-hotels.html

Though visit to pice hotels have become rare I crave for the food served at Pice hotels. There are dedicated Pice hotels to satiate the “East Bengal cuisine”  known as Bangal food and dedicated places for Ghoti food or cuisine from West Bengal. Despite being a MohunBugun fan I have shared a fancy for Bangal food when it came to Pice hotels around Marquis Street.

Padmaparer Rannaghar is a restaurant tucked away in the lanes of Gariahat. Padma- the river that flows across Bangladesh also acts as the symbol of “Bangal” Cuisine. For instance some people prefer Hilsa from Padma over Hilsa from Ganges. Padma is symbolic of Bangal identity and food in particular. Hence Padmaparer Rannaghar is an apt name for a restaurant that mostly serves Bangal food.  DP and I headed towards this restaurant sharp at 1 O’ Clock.

DP and her family have become regular visitors of this restaurant. DP insisted that I should read the rather metaphorical and rhyming menu which can be deciphered by someone who knows how to read and write Bangla. The menu can be lost in translation. So if you are a non- Bengali speaker you have to make do with the translation services of your waiter and will miss out on the food-metaphors and the generous use of adjectives in the Menu.

For people familiar with Bengali, here are some instances from the Menu

Machcher Mukta Kanther Dal ( a Dal prepared with Fish head)

Anarasher Madhyamani Pulao ( a Pulao prepared with Pineapples)

Dugdhadhabal Murir Pulao ( Chicken Pulao)

Manshabandi Dhakar Biryani ( Biryani cooked in Dhaka style)

My morbid translations cannot match the food metaphors and I am afraid I might land with up a rather funny literal translation.  After browsing through the rather long menu what struck me was the balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian items. Infact I would strongly recommend this place to my vegetarian friends who crave for Bengali vegetarian delicacies. They have a wide variety of greens or sag preparation ranging from Pui Shak, Palak , Kachu Sag, Kalmi Sag and Lal sag. You can start off your meal with a sag before heading for Shukto ( a bitter dish ) and then a wide variety of Subzi based Dal.

What surprised me was the Dim Diye Jasorer Daler Stew ( A  Dal-Stew preparation from Jessore). While I am a huge fan of fish head Dal preparation common in Bengali households I had never heard of  Egg based Dal preparation and we decided to take a chance. As I geared up to order some Sag DP warned me against it. Apparently Rice is served with Kachubata( Colocasia or referred to as Arvi in Hindi) and fried Kalmi greens ! Being a die-hard fan of Dal-posto combination,  I had to enjoy my Dal and Rice with some Posto(poppy seeds) preparation; so we ordered Dekhan Hasi Narkel Posto ( a Poppy seed based preparation with potato and grated coconut).  We thoroughly enjoyed the Dal with sliced boiled eggs and sliced carrots adding colour and texture to the dal. A Must try!

DP missed her Fries and ordered Nanan Bhajar Bhojananda ( which is a mix of fried vegetables). You can skip this.

Finally  three nonvegetarian items followed: Chital Pristharakhya Ananda Muitya ( a Chitol Fish Preparation), Kachi Pathar Dildaria Jhol ( Mutton Curry) and Morola Machcher Tak ( A Tangy preparation of Morola Fish). DP recommended the Chitol and Mutton Curry and I insisted on ordering the last preparation. Morola Macher Tak could have been a little more tangy.

We finished our meal with Malpua which was rather chewy. Except the sweet dish and the fries I can go back again to savour the same delicacies particularly the  Dal and the Posto.

In a nutshell, this place translates the pice hotel menu into an AC eating out place for a nominal price. We paid Rs 650 including a tip of Rs 20 for the grand feast. The staff is quite helpful and next time I am settling down for a nice helping of Dab Chingri ( A prawn preparation served in tender coconut). But the star dish of the entire meal was Kachu Bata which was complimentary!!!!!! If you enjoy the luxury of staying in the neighbourhoods of Kolkata head to this place for a lunch break after you are tired with your street shopping @ Gariahat. For all non- Kolkata foodies this place is worth a visit and add to your wish list.

Padmaparer Rannaghar:  26/4, Hindustan Park Ground Floor, Gariahat Junction, Gariahat, Kolkata-29. Phone : 933149590

©itiriti

Bengali by soul and Bohemian by Nature

I have been longing to visit Bohemian ever since I browsed their exciting menu on Zomato, an excellent review from D and D’s family and the post by Ishita Unblogged (http://ishitaunblogged.com/2013/01/06/bohemian-in-kolkata-where-food-really-does-cabaret-on-senses/).

For all those who are planning a trip to Kolkata and love to experiment with the staple Bengali fare please head to Bohemian. The food is experimental and Bohemian in spirit, the decor complements the fusion-food. Postcards of Beatles, Baez hanging all along the Bohemian long glass windows with glass jars of  sealed spices neatly arranged in a row.  We had booked in advance for our Saturday Lunch here.

There are few places which leave you chirpy with a bright decor and Bohemian manages to crack that. Located in a lane of  Ballygunge Phari and at a walking distance from Ballygunge Phari  it enjoys the advantage of a rather silent neighbourhood and yet easily accessible. So, if you are a fan of quite lunch and dinner away from the cacophony of Kolkata hotspots please head to Bohemian. If you are a foodie, head to Bohemian to see how creative one can get with ginger and fennel, Panchphoron ( Bengali five wholesome spices) and even nigella seeds ( Kaloojeere as we call in Bengali). The Menu Card is quite interesting as it begins with a prelude to Rancho and the journey of Bohemian spirit followed by a list of what Bohemian has to offer. The long list of starters is well balanced and even if your friends are vegetarian they have quite an interesting list of choices.  The menu has a balance of vegetarian and non – vegetarian dishes. Besides that, for any non- Bengali speaking person the Menu is self –explanatory. Despite retaining the Bengali food metaphors not everything gets lost in translation!

Three of us (S, M and I) settled for the following

Starters : For starters we ordered Paanchphoron Flavoured Chicken Escallops and  Chilli Pickle and Cheese Baked Prawns with Kalmi Greens. Since they did not have crabs they gave us prawns.  Though we were hesitant about the combination of Kalmi greens with cheese it was the best fusion inspired starter.  Itiriti recommends this dish for the starter.

must

Three of us decided to settle down for Oranga Aamada Sorbet. A must try !  I wish they cut down on the orange flavour and add more of Aaamada

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Main Course : While S headed for Joy’s special steak which was too sweet M and I settled for Bhetki fish preparation with Bengal berries ( Kul) and Bacon Wrapped Tilapia with Ginger and Fennel. Though the Bhetki preparation with Bengal Berries was innovative I wish it was a little spicy. The tangy texture of the Kul would have stood out if there was little more spice. The Bhetki fish was soft and melted in the mouth. It was served with plain rice but when I tried it with the coriander rice served with bacon wrapped tilapia it was much better. My bacon wrapped tilapia was the star dish of the table.  This dish is definitely worth a try.

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Desserts : Though we settled for Malpua Cheese Cake , SpicedMango Souffle the star dessert was Gangharaj Souffle.

I am definitely heading back to try out more fusion dishes and for all those who wants to have a twist to the usual Bengali ingredients settle down for a relaxed meal @ Bohemian. Please make a table reservation.

For menu,  visit http://www.zomato.com/kolkata/bohemian-ballygunge/menu#menutop.

Address: 32/4 Old Ballygunge 1st Lane, Ballygunge, Kolkata

©itiriti

Photos : Sarmistha

Chop, Cutlet and More…

Today I met a friend briefly in the corridors of University. Commenting on my interests in life she wished me good bye with an exclamation Bhalo theko (Stay well) with Machh, Mishti and More (Fish, Sweets and More). She was recollecting about her latest trek to Chittaranjan Park Market from where she picked up Lal Shak ( a type of greens which we chop and cook with a tempering of garlic, ajwain and finish it off with a drizzle of poppy seeds. Please add garlic after you hear the crackling sound of dry red chilly!!!), Morola Machch/ Mola Carplet ( a finger –sized shape fish found in rivers, some varieties are also know as Gang- Morola and the explanation is its origins in the Ganges…) and much more. For Morola Recipes visit the following link

http://eso-bosho-ahare.blogspot.in/2012/06/morola-macher-jhal.html

Despite our mutual allergy of people calling us “Bongs”, the affection for all things seemingly Bengali gets more attractive when you move out of the comforts of home. After I shifted to Delhi I missed the chotomachch ( small sized fish) that I  hated as a kid.  As I long to go back home in a week’s time I look forward to a generous sized portions of all sorts of dishes that could be prepared with Morola Machch ( from fries, to mustard curry to chutney with tamarind pulp). Slurrrpp!!!

Such cravings for Bengali food and food items have led to niche markets in every city across India and particularly Delhi. Chittaranjan Park credits with selling food items, fish, vegetables, sauces, oils, spices and everything “authentic” that should make its way for a “Bengali” kitchen at an above average price. But we don’t seem to mind. After all phish, phood and phoodball are our passion(s) and we live by it…  Market No. 1 and Market No. 2 claims to house some of the popular eating joints serving Bengali food. I will dedicate a separate post on sweets and will list of must have/s of sn(e)cks in Market No. 1, 2 and 3. Spare me if I forget to add your list of favourite/s from these three Markets.

My five top picks

1. Maa Tara … (Market No.2)

Anybody who wanted their simple fare of veg and non veg thali or exotic vegetable dishes would brave waiting in the queue for a generous helping of Mochar Tarkari,  Fish Curry with a generous layer of oil staring at you and some runny alu posto. Despite its flaws I continue to adore and love the food of Maa Tara.  Every time you have surprise guests and you want to take a break from cooking chores “Dial Maa Tara” and they won’t disappoint you.

USP:  Simple, delicious and moderately priced.

2. Kolkata Biryani House (Market No.1)

Kolkata Biryani House: For all those who love meat, potato and egg in their Biryani, please try out their Biryani. Their Chicken and Mutton Rolls are good as well. Though they have started serving south Indian breakfast I have not tried it.

USP: Best Chicken/ Mutton Biryani. Warning : Do not order via Just eat. Last time they messed up an order at a friend’s place.

3. Ashirbad Caterers and Snack Corners( Market No.3)

Are you a fan of Fish Fry and Mochar Chop? Head to this shop where both these items are sold at Rs 10 each. This shop is open from 10am -11pm and sells rolls, cutlets and fries. My favourite picks are Fish Fry, Fish Chop, and Mochar chop. A party at my house is incomplete without Fish Fry and Mochar Chop. Manipuri Friend of mine treks down at least thrice a month to savour their delicacies. Need I say more!!!!! I am quite a fan of their simple egg rolls.

USP: Tasty and moderately priced.

4. Phuchka

Time and again I have wondered about how semolina is used to prepare this item in Northern India and  how atta ( wheat based flour) is used in West Bengal and Eastern parts of India to prepare this savoury dish. You will like Phucka across any C.R. Park stall if you like water prepared from tamarind pulp, green chillies, kagchi lebu ( a special variety of lemon). Best kick is the phucka with mashed potato stuffing with lots of tamarind pulp, green chillies and a squeeze of lime …. Yummmmm…

5. Tea

If you miss you Lemon Tea served in tiniest possible plastic cups back in West Bengal, head to a tea stall in Market No. 2 who makes the most amazing lemon tea with rocksalt and lime.

If you want all of these, you have to hit the den of Bengali food in New Delhi- Chittaranjan Park.

Nearest Metro Station : Hauz Khas  and Nehru Place.

Please memorise the market no.s you have to head before stepping into your vehicle as people use Market No./s for local navigation…

©itiriti

Feasting during Durga Puja IV

Today is Dashami- the last day of Durga Puja. Time to say adieu to Goddess Durga. As we gear up to say adieu to Goddess Durga, it is time to exchange Bijoya Dashami greetings. This is the time when friends and relatives visit households and of course there are foods specially associated with Bijoya Dashami- particularly sweets. In this entry I will share with you the Dashami lunch my mother and I cooked before heading off to the pandal to watch sindoorkhela and one of the evening snacks associated with Bijoya Dashami.

Sindoor Khela

Sindoor is the red powder worn by married Hindu women in India, in Bengal it is red in colour. In some other parts of India they also use orange coloured powder. Usually Sindoor is applied at the parting of the hair or as a dot on the forehead. Today, the women dressed in off white sarees with red border start queuing up in pandals to apply Sindoor and feed Goddess Durga some sweets- followed by Sindoor Khela. After offering Sindoor to Goddess Durga they also exchange Sindoor among themselves and paint their faces with Sindoor.

Sindoor Khela, Kalibari , C.R. Park Delhi

 

It rained heavily in Delhi last evening but it has been a bright day with a slight chill in the air. The winter is approaching and we decided to cook ourselves a Dashami lunch spread of Shukto,  Lotus Stem Subzi and Phulkopir Dalna with Chingrir Machher Bati Chochori ( which we cooked with a slight twist of Pianjkoli for today’s lunch compared to Saptami)

Shukto

Shukto is the Bengali dish slightly bitter in taste and the appetiser of Bengali meal. Needless to say, and as you might a Bengali meal is a five to six course affair. We start off our meal with shukto ( a lightly spiced curry with a mix of vegetables and the key ingredient is karola/ bitter gourd). There are various versions of the Shukto recipe. We use bitter gourd, raw banana, drumsticks and potato. My mother deep fried the vegetables and kept them aside. She added a spoonful of oil and then added paanchphoron and dry red chilly. Once it crackles, you add the fried vegetables add salt, turmeric and a pinch of sugar and lightly fry and add water. Once you see the bubbles, finish it off with a das of the secret ingredient. The secret ingredient my mother taught me is to dry roast some paanchphoron and wholesome yellow mustard seeds and pound them.

Shukto

Lotus Stem Subzi

Lotus Stem Subzi was a recreation of a Tarla Dalal recipe. Please visit the link for further details

http://www.tarladalal.com/Kamal-Kakdi-ki-Subzi-22803r

We kicked off the Bijoya Dashami celebrations with Ghugni, and various sweets. Bijoya Dashami to all itiriti readers and followers with a plateful of Ghugni 🙂

Ghugni

©itiriti

Feasting during Durga Puja III

Today is Navami- practically the last day of the Puja. As a child I dreaded this day and to compensate for the end to the four days of fun and frolic I used to keep aside the best of the five dresses for the pandal hopping. Cut to 2012. One had heard that Chittaranjan Park (popularly known as C.R. Park) the Bengali neighbourhood puts on its festive colours during Durga Puja and I thought it would not be like Kolkata in terms of the crowd,the endless queues. Well, I was wrong.

If you are wondering that pandal hopping is an easy exercise in CR Park let me give you a word of caution. If you hate traffic, avoid travelling near 5km radius of C.R. Park. You might have to walk down. Its as simple as that. All the entry points to C.R. Park are barred and only vehicles with passes are allowed to enter and exit. Basically, you need to brave the traffic regulations around Chittaranjan Park (C.R.Park) – the Bengali neighbourhood of Delhi to see how festivities grip this otherwise quite neighbourhood in Delhi. The strings of bulbs hang from the trees welcoming the devotees and leading the way to the theme based pandal. As you enter, each of the pandals you will be led to three distinct spaces- first, designated to Goddess Durga, second to the food court and third to the cultural programmes that are held from Saptami to Navami.

The food courts of the pandals have all the known names in the business giving food stalls to make most of the business. B-Block Puja Pandal Food court had food stalls by Karims to Yo China. Beyond that the famous egg rolls, chicken rolls and Fish Fry were all there. The Puja Pandal adjacent to GK II Gurudwara also had an interesting mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian affair in their food court. Shiv Mandir Puja ground saw some interesting stalls of Phuchka, Ghugni and Biryani. The most interesting part about the food and festivities during Durga Puja is also how people occupy the streets and pavements for food stalls. For instance, the otherwise busy Kalibari Mandir Marg near Connaught Place which wears a busy traffic during weekdays has made way for a string of food stalls selling Ghugni, Jhal Muri ( infact one of the stalls claimed famous Jhal Muri from Burdwan), Mughlai Parantha, Rolls with various fillings like egg, chicken and mutton, Fried Rice and Chilli Chicken, tandoor items and of course Biryani.

The by lanes of CR Park have been taken over by people selling Ghugni, Kachori Alur Dam and even Masala Papad and various fries. The neighbourhood is buzzing with people making their way out from the pandals and the faint screeching noise of the traffic signalling how the life changes during festivities. As I struggle my way through the by lanes to reach Market No 1 to take my friends on a guided tour of the pandals I receive a call, “ We are stuck in traffic. It does not seem to move”. I wait patiently hanging around the magazine stall, flipping through all the Puja Barshiki (special editions that are published during Puja), make a wish list of all the new songs that I must try to listen to on youtube ( songs/ music albums are also released during this time) and of course collect a menu from all the food stalls. I begin my evening food trail with a plate of Phuchka popularly known as Panipuri in Delhi. In Bengal we use tamarind water flavoured with Gandhoraaj Lebu and the potato is mashed and mixed with chana, masala and tamarind pulp. The phucka prepared from Atta is peculiar to Bengal as well. As I wait for my friends to arrive I also head towards Kamala Sweets to help myself with a sweet dish- Chhanar Jilipi. Around 8pm my friends arrive and we head straight to Annapurna Hotel which has closed its air conditioned outlets (Shop no 142 and 143) and laid out chairs and tables in the open space of Market No 1. We decide to head straight for “fish” y meal thalis of Pabda, Hilsa and Rui. The Hilsa Curry was the perfect way to end a Navami Dinner- a day when we are allowed to have non vegetarian food and most households cook Panthar Jhol ( Mutton). The Hilsa Curry was spot on. As one my uncles would say, “ Maa Annapurna ( also the Goddess of Rice in other words, provider of food has blessed this place… there is magic and it is because of Annapurna’s blessing..”. I left the place and might go back again to have a Hilsa thali all for Rs 180/-

Ilish…

Time to get some rest and get ready for Bijoya Dashami…

© itiriti

Feasting during Durga Puja II

The much promised Ashtami meal could not make its way to the blog. Well Ashtami,  is the day when women dress up in white sarees with red border and men in their crisp Punjabi and Dhoti for the Pushpanjali. Usually, we are expected to fast and offer our prayers in the form of Anjali to Goddess Durga and this day is primarily significant because of another ritual SandhiPuja where 1001 Lotus flowers and 108 diyas are offered. Anyways coming to feasting during Ashtami in our family its Luchi for post Anjali breakfast, Luchi for Lunch and Luchi for Dinner.

I am a self proclaimed Luchi fanatic but I do not claim to make Luchis. Nobody can make Luchis like my mother. They are soft, fluffly, to the extent you can see the lightly crisp base from the fluffy top layer. They are “perfect”. After offering our Anjali we headed back to our home and I quickly chopped the Pumpkin ( Kumro) for Kumror Chhakka.

Kumror Chokka

It is a small dish made with one of the wholesome spice used generously in most of the vegetarian Bengali dishes, i.e., Kalojeere or Onion Seeds. The pungent smell of the nigella seeds adds the requisite kick to any vegetable. Dice the pumpkins and soak some Chana overnight. Add a spoonful of oil to the wok. Once the bubbles disappear add kalojeere or onion seeds and dry red chillies/ slit green chillies. Add the diced pumpkins, salt, turmeric and soaked chana and stir fry it. Once the pumpkins softens finish it off with bhaja guro masala ( basically it is a spice mixture prepared from dry red chillies and cumin seeds. Dry roast the dry red chillies and cumin seeds and grind it into a mixture). Finish it off with a little pinch of sugar.

Then it was over to Mother dear who prepared Cholar Dal, Alur Dom, Phulkopir Tarakari and Lamba Begun Bhaja. We were too hungry before we could take photos. Just one shot brilliant relish of Luchi and Begun Bhaja …

Luchi aar Begun Bhaja

Have to rush now to take care of some friends who are coming down to take them on a Puja tour.

Watch out this space for my Navami Dinner and more …

Happy Pujo.

©itiriti

Feasting during Durga Puja-I

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.

Bhaja Moonger Dal

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.

Niramish Bandhakopir Tarkari

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.

Chingri Machher Batichochori

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.

Katla Machher Kalia

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.

Plastid Chutney

Watch for Ashtami Special tomorrow. Time to serve the lunch.

1 Visit this website for more details http://www.calcuttaweb.com/puja/

©itiriti