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

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

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

Bengali Cookbooks-II

Debi Chaudhurani, Renuka. (March 2007 3rd ed). Rakamari Amish Ranna. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited (Ed. Sheela Lahiri Chaudhuri).

Sheela Lahiri Chaudhuri’s brilliant attempt to bring to the forefront the non-vegetarian culinary delights of Renuka Debi Chaudhurani must have been exhausting and she does a commendable job by introducing the readers to the book in the introduction she pens down about her mother-in-law. In the introduction Sheela mentions that Renuka Debi Chaudhurani could not complete the manuscript before her demise in 1985. The editor also apologises for the missing gaps in the cooking methods and procedure in some recipes. Well, the book has been divided across 60 sections. Each section has a minimum of 5 recipes. The book will help you sail through 365 days of cooking non-vegetarian meals. The recipes collected from Renuka Debi Chaudhurani’s cookbooks reveal the galaxy of cooks from whom she had learned to cook. There are three sections which mention that the recipes are inspired and cooked the way Bawarchis usually do. In fact the most interesting section to my mind is the section on Meat Stews. While Stews on one hand had entered the Bengali palette during colonial times, and it was being cooked in Bengali households also indicate that the everyday cooking in Bengali upper middle class households might have colonial influence. This is particularly evident in the variety of non-Bengali Chicken/ Mutton recipes that Renuka Debi Chaudhuri pens down for us.

Her East-Bengali lineage is evident in the Hilsa preparations and other fish preparations particularly the section on Fish Shukto. Infact the editor also draws attention to the culinary delicacies that Renuka Debi Chaudharni must have been drawn to considering she spent a considerable time in the then East Bengal. This collection moves beyond Bengal and actually gives us a glimpse of the recipes from North to South India which makes this an interesting read. Though I did try out some recipes from the section on prawns I am yet to enter my kitchen with this book. What I seriously miss are the cooking tips or the list of tips in kitchen which is there in the former book. Nevertheless the personalised introduction of Sheela Ray Chaudhury makes up for the missing anecdotes,  and wit of our author Renuka Debi Chaudhurani.

As I browse through the pages, and make a list of things to buy for a recipe I will cook for our Sunday meal, you take a pause and dawn on your chef’s act to get your act together.

 Choose from Fish to Mutton to Chicken to anything that catches your fancy and plan for that Sunday meal. Till then a glimpse from the cover page….

Straight from the book

Like many people; I am a flipkart addict.  I have to browse flipkart at least thrice a day and the list of books to purchase have increased over the time.  I have a friend of mine who has travelled a long way from making the most innovative cheesy Maggie and scrambled eggs to all that tickles her taste buds. She and I have always bonded over our love for food and recipe books. Since our school days our taste buds have rarely failed to betray us till a recent glitch when I complemented a friend that she had made delicious chutney with the dosa and she politely reminded me on a social networking site that she had forgotten to add the salt.  Keeping aside this embarrassment and barring a few such dramatic encounters with my failed senses I have fared pretty well in what a microbiologist would call “sensory evaluation”.  

Early reminiscences of my sensory evaluation days began with my maa( Bengali word for mother)’s weekend experiments with Bengali food. Her all time favourite was Beladi’s cookbooks. She used to follow Beladi’s tips for preparing exciting tiffins for me, she used them to make interesting Sunday lunches and to top it all she used them to bake cakes.  My mother closely followed the recipes of Bela Dey’s book Jol Khabar ( Bengali word for snacks and tiffin) and her columns in a Bengali Newspaper Bartaman. While she tried most of the recipes to her satisfaction she regrets that she never tried Mushroom Pakora as she did not know how to clean mushrooms and prepare them.  We stayed in an industrial township where even paneer was a luxury in my childhood. When she came to visit my small pad and discovered a packet of mushrooms stacked away in the refrigerator she told me that she will pass on a simple, easy to make recipe when I visit her. The recipe is easy and quick to make. Despite her insistence to photocopy the section on snacks from her prized possession of Jal Khabar I forgot to get a photocopy.

One fine day when I bought a packet of mushrooms and was fiddling with it and wondering what to prepare for some friends  I googled  Bela Dey and realised that a website has some of her recipes from the book Jal Khabar. I was elated that I could whisk away some of the snacks from my childhood evenings during tea breaks. And even my mother’s favourite mushroom pakora. The link is as follows

http://kolkata.streetprint.org/items/11362?authors=Bela+Dey

For all non- Bengali readers you can leave a personal message and I can translate some of the mouth-watering snacks that Bela Dey pens here. The list of snacks available on the above link are  Kucho Nimki (Small Namkeens), Shaker Bara ( Pakora made from Saag/ Greens), Egg-Bread Pakora, Chicken Pakora, Egg Pakora, Egg-Tomato Pakora, Paneer Pakora and Mushroom Pakora.

The genesis of cookbooks is varied and specific to each culture. Cookbooks represent our and their time. In fact coming to Bengali cook books some of the oldest cook books in Bengal and the way food was coded with nationalist identity, the authentic and creation of a “Bengali” middle class is evident in a fascinating essay by Utsa Ray titled “Aestheticising labour: an affective discourse of cooking in colonial Bengal” South Asian History and Culture,1:1:60-70. In this essay Utsa Ray discusses the genesis of Bengali cook books and how the aesthetics were cooking was seen as an integral component of creation of modern Bengali woman. While the “domestic” hearth in colonial times remained in the hands of women who needed to be trained in the aesthetics of cooking “Bengali” and other cuisines; the public/ commercial kitchens were manned by professional cooks/ men popularly known as thakurs (preferably Brahmins from Orissa) who were specially invited to cook a meal during special occasions. Initially it was the male culturalogues who dictated how women should have spacious kitche, and observe kitchen hygiene. Latter the print capitalism aided women to voice their concerns relating food in the public domain through recipe books. One of the important landmarks in the history of documentation of Bengali recipes date back to Bamabodhini, (from 1884) a periodical meant for women. Similarly Mahila another woman’s journal also published recipes from 1895. But what defined the journey of woman’s cookbook was PragyaSundari Debi’s two volumes of Amish and Niramish Ahar( Two Volumes on Vegetarian and Non-  Vegetarian cooking). She was the editor of the  journal Punya.

While Pragya Sundari Debi’s cook books describe the art of Bengali cooking it is significant to see how the cookbooks represent the changing times. The changing times of measurement scales, the changing times of taste and culinary skills, and most importantly the changing class. Every time I have to recommend a friend to try some “old”/”traditional” Bengali dishes I take out my PragyaSundari Debi volumes and go through the pages and reinvent the dishes using my quick fix options I wonder the effect and appeal these cookbooks must have had when it was published. In this context, Utsa Ray points out the way aesthetics of recipes was coded with “authentic” taste/ “authentic”. While the search for the authentic and reproduction of authentic goes hand in hand in public and private hearths it is important to understand the ways in which cookbooks capture the times of a by-gone era, the present and the future.

©itiriti