Sunday, 2 September 2012

~ A simple Bengali lunch spread ~


It's been a long time since I have added to this space. Actually so many things have been going on lately that blog was the last thing on my mind. In between had visited hometown (Kolkata), 8 months after my marriage. It had been quite a whirlwind vacation with me running around more than relaxing at home. Why? Well let that story be for another time.

The Kolkata weather really sucks during this monsoon-no monsoon phase. Extreme humid, too hot during the day and equally uncomfortable during the night. Pretty ideal for getting sick, especially if one is used to living in dry climates like that of Pune. And to add to it, sporadic downpour throughout the day. So no wonder I came back to Pune with a bad cough and cold. But that was not the end of it; eventually the germs left me for my hubby and since past one week it's his turn to be in the sickbed.

Previously people used to avoid rice when they got fever or cold but now the doctors don't put any such restrictions. Home made balanced diet is adequate. Usually weekends mean a heavy meal twice a day comprising of non-veg dishes. But considering the health conditions I decided to keep it very simple this saturday. It's something that very commonly you would get to see in a Bengali household.   

My hubby just cannot do without a dal in his meal. So dal is a mandatory dish in our house. Apart from that I decided to make palong saker ghonto (mixed vegetables with palak), kakrol bhaja(crispyTeasel gourd fry) and dim bhaja (egg fry) - the quintessential Bengali recipes. Since the sides were not of very spicy nature so, a simple dal like Masoor would compliment the simple sides very well. 

My hubby is very choosy about his food and really hates any kind of bitter stuff. But somehow he is totally in love with Kakrol, though Kakrol is not exactly bitter but more like bittersweet. I came to know about his fetish recently when one day while walking down a vegetable market in Kolkata he squirmed in joy like a two year old seeing the freshly stacked Teasel gourd pile. I decided to carry some of this to Pune, as I never saw this veggie in my neighborhood. This is a very simple and easy recipe.

Pan Fried Teasel Gourd (Kakrol Bhaja)

Preparation & Cooking Time: 20 mts
Serves: 2
Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:
  • Tender Teasel gourd - 3 medium
  • Sugar - 1/2 tsp 
  • Refined Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

Fresh Teasel Gourd
Procedure:

1. Cut the Teasel gourd in thin round slices
2. Sprinkle salt and sugar on the cut pieces and spread them evenly over all the slices
3.Drizzle oil in a thick bottomed pan and let it heat
4. Add the teasel gourd slices and saute for 9-10 mts till they attain a pink shade. As the slices are thin flip on the sides periodically to avoid burning.
5. Sprinkle minimal  water if it sticks to the pan 
5. Remove from the heat when the edges of the slices have become brown and crispy


The following is one of the most simple and delicious dal's in Bengal. Musurir dal is like a staple food for us - the daily dal that goes with just any side dish.

Bangali Musuri Dal ( Masoor Dal) :
Preparation & Cooking Time: 20 mts
Serves: 2
Cuisine: Bengali
 
Ingredients:
  • Masoor dal (Orange lentil) - 2 cups
  • Turmeric power - 2 tsp 
  • Whole Jeera -  1 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic cloves  - 5 medium (coarsely chopped)
  • Green Chilli - 2 (slitted longitudinally)
  • Ghee (Clarified butter)- 2 tsp (optional for seasoning)
  • Salt to taste

Procedure:
Soaked Masoor Da
1. Soak the Masoor dal for half an hour; this would speed up the cooking time.
2. Take a pressure cooker and add 4 cups of warm water. Add the soaked dal. Cover and cook till the required number of whistles to make the dal creamy and thick. The number of whistles would differ depending on the quality of dal and nature of water (hard/soft water). It usually takes 6 whistles for me
3. Take out the boiled dal in a vessel and beat it into a smooth consistency with an egg beater or any ladle. This helps to make the dal even.
4. Take a thick bottomed vessel and pour the smoothened dal in it. If it feels very thick add 2 cups of water. Let it boil.
5. Take another pan and drizzle oil in it
6. Add Jeera, chopped garlic and green chillies to the oil
7. When the aroma of jeera starts to come take it out and add this entire thing into the boiling dal
8. Add turmeric powder and mix well. Let it boil for some more time (2-3 mins). Cover it so that the smell of the spices can effuse into the dal evenly
9. Add the ghee before removing the vessel from the heat

Palong saker ghonto (mixed vegetables with palak)
Preparation & Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 2
Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:


Seasonal Vegetables
Ghonto is basically a kind of mix of all kinds of vegetables. Here you can use all sorts of seasonal vegetables apart from any vegetable which has its own distinctive smell like cauliflower or drumstick. I had used the following vegetables:
  • Carrot - 2 (diced)
  • Green long Brinjal - 2 (diced)
  • Potato - 2 (diced)
  • Ridge Gourd (Jinge) - 2 medium (diced)
  • Pumpkin - 250 gm (diced)
  • Hyacinth Bean (Shim) - 100 gm (cut in medium pieces )
  • Red Tomato - 2 medium (diced)
  • Spinach (Palak) - 1 medium bundle (wash and cut)
  • Panchforon ( 5 spice mix) - Its a blend of 5 whole spices/seeds. Typically, panch phoran consists of fenugreek seed, nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed in equal parts.In Bengal, panch phoran is sometimes made with .radhuni instead of mustard seed. In the West, where radhuni may be hard to obtain, some cooks substitute the similar-tasting celery seed.
  • Dried Red Chilli (sukno lonka) - 2
  • Fresh Ginger  Paste - 2 tsp (mind the word 'fresh'. That's what gives the vegetable the distinctive taste and zing)
  • Ghee (clarified butter) - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Refined oil - 2 tsp
Procedure:
1. Cut all the vegetables and keep aside
2. Heat oil in a wok and add oil
3. Add panchforon and red chilli to the oil and let it splutter
4. Add the vegetables in the following order (hard vegetables first moving gradually to the softer ones) - potato, carrot, pumpkin, hyacinth bean, ridge gourd, brinjal, tomato. 
5. Cover and cook for nearly 20 minutes so that the vegetables become softer. No need to add extra water as the vegetables will get cooked from their own water content. 
6. Stir the vegetables occasionally to avoid burning. Add slight water if the vegetables start sticking to the wok.
7. When all the other vegetables are cooked well, add the palak. Palak is a very soft leafy vegetable which gets cooked within minutes hence its added in the end.
8. Whn the palak is cooked add the ginger paste and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the smell of ginger is evenly spread.
9. Before turning of the heat add a dash of ghee for flavor

I made rice to go with the dishes. To take care of the non-veg part in the meal, I had boiled eggs, shelled them, mixed turmeric and salt and shallow fried them till they attained the golden glow.

Hubby loved the simple fare and I saw him eating well after an entire week. 



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