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

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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

Sweeten your festival of colours

(Itiriti: Jyoti Gupta pens down the second post under Guestspeak to guide Itiriti’s readers through a cooking trail of Gujia- a sweetmeat eaten across Northern India on the occasion of Holi- the festival of colours.  Jyoti Gupta is a student of Sociology and loves to paint. Safe Holi! Happy reading!)

Whenever I revisit my childhood, among all other moments, there comes the day of Holi in my mind. The celebration of the festival starts with ‘Holikadahan’ on the night of ‘choti holi’ (the day preceding Holi). The following day is called ‘badi holi’ or ‘Dhulendi’ when people visit each other’s houses carrying ‘gulal’; younger generation would generally have chemical mix or synthetic colours.  Faces and bodies are imbued followed by greeting and hugging each other.It is suggested that on this day we should forgive our enemies and lend a hand of friendship, marking a new beginning. This idea of forgiveness makes the festival spiritually rich. Holi is exclusive because of its special food items- tempting and spicy ‘Panike bare’ and sweet ‘Gujia’.

 As a kid, ‘Gujia’ – the sweet samosa – was cherished by me for two reasons. Firstly, this is the only sweet prepared during a festival which is not offered to God during main ‘puja’ (as in the case of other Hindu festivals); you can have it right then and there. Secondly, Gujia preparation is a collective effort with equal participation from family members, relatives and sometimes even neighbours come together. Though this practice might not be prevalent in cities but I was lucky to come across in the various story telling sessions of my grandmother (grandma).

Like any other middle class family, my grandma also tried to pass each and every skill of cooking that she knew to me. Similarly, as a curious child, I tried to learn everything religiously. Generally women prepare ‘gujia’, but as I have witnessed, men also have petty roles to play.

‘Gujia’ has mainly two sections- cover  and the filling. Cover is universally made of ‘maida’ and filling can be of various sorts depending upon one’s taste. It can vary from the pure ‘khoya’ (hard milk) to ‘suji’ (‘rava’ or semolina) to dry fruits to coconut and so on. The ‘gujia’ that we make is primarily made of ‘khoya’ while having all other mentioned ingredients as part of the filling. 

For cover, ‘maida’ is kneaded with ‘ghee’ and hot water. It is to be taken care that the mixture should be tight enough (tighter than that is used for chapattis). For stuffing, ‘khoya’ is to be mixed with fried ‘suji’, powdered sugar, grated coconut and other dry fruits- cashew nuts, almonds and raisins etc.  A solution of ‘maida’ and water is also made that is to be used as glue.

Solution of Maida and Water

Figure 1: Solution of Maida and Water

Once these three mixtures are ready, small balls of tight ‘maida’ mixture are prepared; these are then uniformly rolled out converting into round sheets. 

 

Figure 2: Maida Balls

Figure 3: Rolled Maida Balls.

Loose ‘maida’ solution is then pasted on half of the round ‘maida’ sheet and then the filling is done. The round sheet is folded in a way making it a half stuffed circle.

Figure 4: Loose Maida Solution during stuffing

Figure 4: Fold neatly the sides

With the help of a side cutting machine, this stuffed circle is then given a design on its corners; that makes it look aesthetically beautiful.

Figure 5: Side cutting tool

Figure 6: Gujias after the design

Rest of the ‘maida’ balls go through the same process. While this process is going on these raw ‘gujia’ are kept on specially constructed neat and clean bedding. These are placed delicately and covered with a thin cloth. Once all ‘gujia’s are stowed, those are deep fried together.

Figure 7: Gujias after frying

Almost always we are left with some extra ‘maida’ mixture that we use to make ‘namakparay’. That is how you get a combination of hot and sweet ‘gujia’ and salty ‘namakparay’.

Figure 8: Namakparay

Try making ‘gujia’ and celebrate Holi with enthusiasm

Happy Holi 🙂

© itiriti

On a bed of greens

My mom loves giving me surprises. One such surprise was a fresh bunch of lettuce leaves. And the test was I had to use this surprise ingredient for my Sunday dinner menu. Like all expert judges she decided to make a decent exit while I was left wondering what kind of salad would go well with Shepherd’s Pie.

I decided not to google because this surprise gift reached me at that time of the day when I felt terribly lazy to go looking up for salad ingredients. I decided to make do with ingredients that was easily available in the kitchen. Saving grace was the chicken mince which I decided to marinate in my newly acquired chilli garlic sauce, some salt and some freshly ground pepper. After that I heated oil in a pan and added two garlic cloves and fried the chicken mince and kept it aside to cool. The only ingredients that seemed available were a range of sauces, vinegar, and a bottle of kasundi (mustard sauce).

So, I decided to experiment a little and grated a cheese cube (amul processed cheese) and added mustard sauce.  I added the cooked chicken mince to this cheesy mustard paste and kept it aside.

I washed the lettuce leaves and created a bed of lettuce leaves in the serving bowl. I added a bunch of shredded lettuce leaves to the chicken mince and kept it aside.

When I was about to serve the dinner, I added the chicken mince and shredded lettuce mix on the bed of greens.

Time had arrived to prepare a quick dressing. I went for a quick tangy dressing. I added one spoon of vegetable oil (better use olive oil), vinegar and a dash of pepper in the bowl where I had mixed the chicken mince, and mustard-cheese paste. The dressing tasted divine and I poured it confidently over the mix and my bed of greens was ready to serve.  

© itiriti

Photo Courtesy © aritree dey

Spice it up

After writing down the post on spices, I was wondering how to spice up my lunch on a rainy afternoon as I had some left-over chicken breast tucked away in my fridge. Rains in winter make you feel sad and lonely.  After sailing through some toasts and tea on a rainy morning I thought it’s time to spice up my lunch spread before it gets too gloomy in kitchen.

Suddenly I remembered that my good old friend Debalina, a free lance script writer based in Mumbai, a food fanatic had recently posted a recipe – Pepper crusted chicken on an e-magazine. It’s less time consuming and hoping it will spice up my mood. Before I head back to the kitchen to scout for the ingredients I will share with you the link where you will find the details of the recipe-

http://www.timeswellness.com/article/51/2011070820110707142016297bae10a5a/Pepper-crusted-chicken.html

A simple salad of papaya, pomegranates and a simple salad dressing of some lime juice, vegetable oil, salt and pepper would go lovely with this. While I rush to my kitchen if you want to spice up your food crust your food with Pepper.

 Happy Reading!

©itiriti2012

Sweet-tooth

For a long time I have been browsing the bookstores in Kolkata for a recipe book on sweets. On a self –reflexive note I remember with pleasure the sweet delicacies that were prepared post Durga Puja celebrations, i.e., the Bijoya Dashami. Bijoya Dashami marks the last day of Durga Puja when the idols are immersed in the Ganges which is followed by exchange of sweets.

Sitting in the cubicle of library I remember with fondness the smell of molasses and grated coconut which my mother cooked with care for those perfect “nadus” which were to be offered to the Goddess during the Puja which would then be offered to the guests who came to commemorate Bijoya Dashami. The celebrations of Bijoya Dashami has now moved beyond the confines of kitchen and has hit the shopfloor of sweet shops hence the homemade delicacies like Nimki, Elojhelo and Nadu are stacked in piles in various sweetshops to be sold to celebrate Bijoya Dashami.

Having spent a considerable time in an industrial township I had the pleasure of being treated to many Bijoya Dashami delicacies. There was a sheer joy in being invited to the households post play -time and being offered mutton ghugni, and sweets. Nimki, was a common item in the households and often kids preferred wearing frocks/ pants with pockets to stock them for the snack time post supper. And of course there were sweets of all shapes and sizes. To my delight, my mother thought that the best way to pass on some of these sweet treasures by gifting me a book “Mistikatha” a collection of sweet recipes by Jayasree Mukhoadhyay. Though I have not tried any recipes as of now but it will surely help me to put together a Bijoya Dashami get-together and a Poush Parbon platter without any glitches.

Mukhopadhyay, J. 2010. Mishtimukh. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited

The recipe book is divided into three sections. In Section I, Jayasree Mukhopadhyay documents “Dokane Toire Misthi” (Sweets prepared in shops). In this section she moves beyond rosogolla and shares with her readers recipes of Kanchagolla (a round shaped sandesh made of slow cooked chchana), Misti Doi (Sweet Curd) etc. The second section is dedicated to home-made sweets. This section is particularly interesting as it will introduce the novice cooks like us to sweet delicacies which could be prepared for the Bijoya Dashami evening and for a special get together to celebrate Poush Parbon(Harvest Festival) in December. For that perfect Bijoya Dashami evening you could stack up some Misti kucho Gaja, Elojhelo, Jibe gaja and Bhaja Malpua. And for that once in a while sweet cravings post dinner you can quickly prepare some Malpua out of sweet potato or even whisk away some Rasbara. Jayasree Mukhopadhyay successfully introduces to us a variety of Pithe ( stuffed steamed sweet cakes made of rice flour) like Ranga Alur Bhaja Pithe ( Fried Sweet cake made from Sweet Potato), Bhapa Pithe( Steamed Rice Cake), Raspuli( Rice Cake dipped in sugar syrup), etc. For all those who struggle with Palm based sweets usually offered during Janmashtami she guides us through sweet delicacies like Talksheer, Taler Bara, Taler Luchi, Tal Diye Malpua, etc. In the last section of the book she presents sweet recipes from other parts of the country.

So in case you are nervous about the Bijoya Dashami and Poush Parbon celebration get hold of the book to take you through the sweet moments. Happy cooking!

Bengali Cookbooks-I

Debi Chaudhurani, Renuka. (Sep 2007 2nd ed). Rakamari Niramish Ranna. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited.

When I had started to pen down this blog almost a month back my first post was an ode to  Julia Childe and I had said that its time to salute women who turned the tables around. I had also blogged about Beladi, and the prized possession of her cookbooks that are stacked neatly in my mother’s book shelf. Today I picked up another stalwart of the cookbook genre Renuka Debi Chaudhurani from whom many novices like me can cook without batting an eyelid. 

Renuka Debi Chaudhurani’s book “Rakamari Niramish Ranna” was first published by Surbarnarekha in 1988 and later it was taken over by Ananda Publishers Private Limited. Till date it remains one of my personal favourite reads and guidebook as far as Bengali vegetarian cooking is concerned.

About Renuka Debi Chaudhurani : From what we know from this second edition is that she was born on 31 July 1909 in Baghber, Maymansingh ( present day Bangladesh ). She was married in 1921 and moved to her in-laws house in Muktagachcha. Her husband was Dhirendranath Lahiri Chaudhuri who was the elected representative of undivided Bengal at the Central Legislative Assembly.

The introduction to the volume of Rakamari Niramish Ranna is a social history of Bengal, and it moves between home and the world. She gives us a glimpse of her life under “purdah”, she gives us a glimpse of the political scenario and her wit is explicit in the way she narrates an incident about the famous cook Rudrada from whom our legendary author has learnt many a recipes. On one occasion when Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited her husband’s house in Delhi, Rudrada was the head cook of the Delhi household. Overwhelmed by the presence of two political leaders Rudrada made his way and told Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “Apnar Leg e Sir Amake Dibo. Desher Kaaje Amake Nen”. (If we literally translate, I am willing to work under your feet. I want to work for the country). Such anecdotes are a refreshing to the book. The richness of the book lies in the simplicity of the recipes and elegance of the cooking in itself.  

The book is divided into 35 sections and  each section has almost close to minimum twenty recipes. The range of choices it offers to new generation cooks like me is as varied from “Poda” ( Roasts) to Poush – Parbone Pithe puli (Sweet dishes cooked during harvest festival in December ) to Jalkhabar ( Snacks). My all time favourite sections of this book remain Ghanta- Sukta- Jhol, Ghanta and Jhol.  These three sections are dedicated to all of those who stare at the vegetable basket and rake their brains for hours to come up with an authentic Bengali vegetable dish. Cooking vegetarian food in Bengali through Renuka Debi Chaudhani’s senses seems like an easy task. Moment one hears Ghanta, one feels like running away from kitchen to hide as it reminds one of the dollops of ghee, garam masala that might go onto people’s palates but it is not quite so as the recipes indicate.

 What we learn from here is that “Ghanta” ( a should be pronounced as o) can be both spicy and non-spicy. And this is what makes it simple, easy to cook and something you can reproduce without venturing out into the market.In my house there is a close affinity towards raw papaya. Whenever I see that green vegetable popping from the vegetable basket in the refrigerator I try to keep it aside and wait for my stack of prawns.

 Today Renuka Debi Chaudhurani came to my rescue to produce a simple dish by the name Peper Ghanta ( Papaya Ghanta). For this recipe you would need:Grated Raw Green Papaya (500gms), grated coconut (about half-cup),Soaked Moon Dal (50gms)2 table spoon mustard oil, 2 bay leaf, 1 dry red –chilli, a pinch of Kalo jeera (three names for this black caraway seed/ black sesame/ onion seed)*, 2 green chilli,1/2 cup milk, 1 tea spoon flour. Salt and sugar ( as per your taste).

Take a kadai( wok) and add mustard oil. Let it bubble for some time and add dry red chilli, Kalo jeera*, and bay leaf .  Once the aroma these ingredients hits your nose add the grated  papaya and stir well. After that add salt and sugar and keep stirring nicely till it is semi-cooked.  After that add soaked moong dal , add water and let it cook till the dal and papaya are cooked.  There should be no excess water. To this add the mixture of half cup milk and flour and finish it off with grated coconut, 2-3 slit green chillies and ghee for that aroma. Serve piping hot with roti / parantha/ rice.

*According to Chitrita Banerjee “the seed referred to as kalojeera in Bengal has produced endless confusion in translation. It neither resembles cumin (jeera) in taste nor are thetwo botanically related. Some people also translate it as black caraway or black sesame. Native to the countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean, black cumin is small wedge shaped and naturally black. But when added to oil it releases a pungent odour very similar to that of onion. Hence another misnomer- onion seed! ( Source : Banerjee, Chitrita. 2001. The Hour of the Goddess. Memories of Women, Food and Ritual in Bengal. Calcutta: Seagull Books.)

 
 Tempering the oil

Peper Ghanta (Papaya Ghanta)

©itiriti