Shukto

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There is a saying “Bhojon Rashik Bangali” (“food loving Bengali”). I won’t say it’s absolutely a myth. Bengalis are really fond of eating and feeding others. A usual Bengali lunch starts with a shukto, dal, fries or fritters, a vegetarian curry, and then the non-vegetarian item, most likely to be fish if not a egg, chicken or mutton curry, and ending with a chutney. And of course there are a few guests at home, then there is always a chance to feast on some sweets at the end of the meal. So, it is always a heavy meal in a Bengali household whether you like it or don’t like it. Talking about lunches, there has to be a shukto to start with. Shukto is a typical Bengali dish with minimal spices and all the vegetables that you can find in the kitchen, the refrigerator, or for that matter anywhere in and around the house. But, a statutory warning here, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbages are not allowed to be a part of this bitter sweet preparation.

Shukto is of various types, depending on the type of spices used or even at times the absence or presence of some particular vegetables. But, in general it is a bitter in taste because of the bitter gourd, which is the most important ingredient of this preparation. Among all the types of shukto the most popular one is the dudh shukto, here milk is used to temper the taste of the whole preparation.

Shukto

My mom is an avid lover of shukto, first because she can use all the vegetables in her stock and secondly because she gets an alibi to feed us bitter gourd. She prepares shukto in different style, and this one is one of her own creations. There another very interesting part about having shukto, it is never served for dinner, but is only had at lunch time. While writing this post, I called up my mom, my aunts and even my father, but they all had the same statement, “shukto raat e khete nei” (You should not have shukto at night), but nobody actually knew why not to have it at night. Baba (my father) tried to solve the mystery saying that with so many vegetables its quite a heavy preparation and so one should avoid having it at night. He also added that may be its because of that bitter gourd, which may create some digestive trouble if had at night. Truly speaking, I am not satisfied with his solution. I would love to hear from any of you if you have any suggestions or solutions to this.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 15 -20min

Ingredients:

Aubergine (Begun): 1 medium

French Beans (Bean): 5 -6

Bitter gourd (Karola): 2 medium sized

Pumpkin (Kumro): 100gm

Potato (Alu): 2 medium sized

Ridge gourd (Jhinge): 1

Mustard seed (Sarse): 1 tablespoon

Drumsticks (Sajner data): 2, cut into one inch lengths

Raw rice (Atop chal): 2 tablespoon, coarsely made into paste

Turmeric powder (Halud guro): ½ teaspoon

Ginger paste (Ada bata) 1teaspoon

Mustard paste (Sarse bata): 2 tablespoon

Mustard oil (Sarser tel): 4 tablespoon

Preparation:

  • Dice the vegetables into even size pieces.
  • Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in a wok, throw in the mustard seeds and grinded rice
  • Add all the vegetables as the mustard seeds start popping
  • Mix the oil well with the vegetables and let it cook in low flame under cover
  • Take out the cover when the vegetables are half done, pour in little water (about half cup), ginger and mustard paste, turmeric powder; mix well
  • Cook for about 5 min or till the vegetables are well cooked
  • Pour in the rest of the mustard oil and take out of flame
  • Shukto tastes best with warm white rice

Shukto

Hot Tips – You can add squash or green papaya to this, it enhances the taste. Bodi also tastes good with shukto, so you can just fry some and garnish shukto with the bori.

Further Reading – Dudh shukto, Shukto with bori

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Chirps

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I am still in Bangalore and enjoying the pleasant weather here. The weather is cool and breezy and the sun shining with all its glory.Bangalore airport flower

The winter flowers have just started to bloom and they are looking fresh as ever, making the city a colorful patch even in this dry season. kalapoti

The weekend was great, we went here and there and loads of fun. We went to watch a play after a long long time, it was from the theatre group Dramanon, a play named [Sic]. After 2 hours of play we wanted some fresh air and so headed for UB City. I have never been to UB City in the evening even though I stayed here for more than 2 years.

UB-CityReflection

The high tower with its blue and white light looked majestic in the dark background. It was real fun to watch those kids playing with the fountains.

UB-City-fountain-kid playUB-City-fountain

Play, UB city and we needed some more air, so the last option was to have a long drive. We hit the road for Cafe Coffee day on the Mysore Highway. We drove for 70Km to have a cup of coffee at the 24 hour open cafe. Reached there, and to our surprise we were not the only people who had the same idea in min. There were more than 50 people sitting there, driving all the way from Bangalore to have a cup of coffee. Though started with just coffee, we didn’t actually stick to our initial plan. The only sup of coffee turned into more coffee, sandwiches, mousse, burgers, and more coffee.

Mysore CCD

Tummy full, and minds fresh, we headed back home. A weekend passed well.

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Jeera Rice/ Cumin flavored Rice

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I hope you all have had a very nice weekend with Diwali and Kali Puja to mark the end of Hindu festivities for this year. I am very sorry for my unannounced break from the blog. I just came down to Bangalore for a couple of days and had been busy since, working and partying.

Diwali pradipDiwali diyaPancha Pradip

The festival season has gone past but still the feel has not passed away. There are still sounds of crackers coming from here and there, and even at odd hours, 6 in the morning or 12 midnight. When it’s the time of festivities, eating out almost all nights, attending parties, visiting friends and relatives, having the oily and spicy food are all synonymous. So the last week ended with spice intake that should have lasted a month. I was almost craving for some non-spicy, less oily food for lunch. Yesterday I was all alone at home in the afternoon, and was very lazy to cook. There was left over rice from the other night and so thought of adding little cumin to it. The jeera rice (my version) was just the thing that I was looking for after a whole week of spices and oils. I had it with a hard-boiled egg.

Tubri

A little search on the web showed that zeera or cumin flavored rice is originally from North India, I am not sure though about the exact period from when it became popular. Any suggestions or information as comments regarding its history is highly welcome. Though I had prepared the jeera rice with left over rice, you can make it with freshly cooked rice also.

Preparation time; 3min
Cooking time: 20 + 5min
Serves: 1

Ingredients:

Cooked rice (Bhaat): 1 cup
Cumin (Jeera/ Zeera): 1 tablespoon
Onion (Peyaj): 1 medium size, diced into small pieces
Sugar (Chini): ½ teaspoon
Curry leaves (Kari pata): 4/5
Green chilies (Kancha Lanka): 2, cut into small rings
Clarified butter (ghee): 1 tablespoon
The ingredients

Preparation:

  • Heat the ghee in a wok, throw in the curry leaves, cumin seeds
  • As the cumin start popping add the diced onions and sauté
  • Let the onions turn soft before adding the rice
  • Add the chilies and sugar
  • Toss for sometime till the ghee is well mixed with the rice
  • Serve hot any side dish of choice or even some raita and green salad.

Jeera Rice

Hot Tips – If you are using fresh rice to prepare this, then you can also do it this way. Do same till the sautéing the onions, put in the soaked rice (uncooked) and add just the double amount of water and let the rice get cooked.

Further Reading – Jeera Rice from Arundhati, Cumin Pilaf

Sending this recipe to a dear friend’s (Radhika) first blog anniversary celebration with the Cook For Yourself event.

cookforyourself

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Chal Diye Alu Dum

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Diwali is just round the corner, and we are counting on the days for the D-day. To me Diwali means a lot of crackers, the smell of burnt fireworks around, new clothes and above all a family get together along with a very heavy dinner. I am sure you all have almost the same feeling about this day. Diwali is more of a North Indian festival, celebrated in most parts of the Northern and Western states of the country. Sourthern parts of the country also celebrate this day to mark the empowering of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. Here in Bengal, Diwali is differently termed and Kali Puja is held during this time of the year. Some people also celebrate this day by worshipping Lakshmi and Ganesh. Durga Puja has gone passed a few weeks back, and Kali Puja marks the end of Hindu festivities for the year.

DiyaDiya

Goddess Kali is another incarnation of the goddess Durga. According to Hindu mythology, she is the goddess of war. Kali is associated with corpses and war. The most primitive mention of the goddess dates back to the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas. She is called as Goddess Ratri (night in Bengali), and the Veda regards Ratri as the supreme force in the universe. The goddess is considered to have been born from the brow of Devi Durga during one of the wars with the demons. As the legend goes, in the battle, Kali was so much involved in the killing spree that she got carried away and began destroying everything in sight. To stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage. Hence the common image of Kali shows her in her mêlée mood, standing with one foot on Shiva’s chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.

Diya

The darkness of the new moon night brings about a different spell to the worshipping of the goddess. Kali Puja is generally held at night and continues till dawn. Above all these worship, to me the home coming of all the family members and enjoying themselves together is what matters most. It is the time of celebration. I had been busy all weekend making diyas to gift to my friends and relatives. Here are some of the samples, more of diya making in the following posts.

Diya

Diya

Today I prepared this alu dum and thought it would just be right choice to put up in our blog for the upcoming festivals. I used baby potatoes for this, you are unable to get those, don’t worry use the large sized potatoes cut into quarters.

Preparation time: 1hr 10min
Cooking time: 20min
Serves: 4
Alu Dum with rice

Ingredients:

Baby Potato (Choto alu): ½ kg
Small grain rice (Gonbindhobhog Chal): 2 tablespoon, soaked for an hour
Cumin powder (Jeera guro): 1 ½ teaspoon
Cumin seeds (Gota jeera): 1 teaspoon
Bay leaf (Tej pata): 1 /2
Sugar (Chini): 1 teaspoon
Red chili powder (Lanka guro): 1 teaspoon
Clarified butter (Ghee): 1 tablespoon
Sunflower or vegetable oil (Sada tel): 3 tablespoon
Cinnamon (Daar chini): 1 one inch size
Cardamom (Elaichi): 2-3
Cloves (Labango): 2-3
Ginger paste (Ada bata): 1 teaspoon
Garam masala: ½ teaspoon

Preparation:

  • Peel off the potatoes and half boil them
  • Grind the soaked rice to a rough paste
  • Heat oil in a wok and fry the boiled potatoes till the upper layer changes color
  • Take the potatoes out of flame and keep aside
  • In the left out oil put in the whole cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, bay leaf, sugar and sauté
  • Put in the potatoes and mix well with the whole spices
  • In a small bowl assemble cumin powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, ginger paste and add 3-4 tablespoons of water to make a runny paste, add this to the potatoes  along with the grinded rice and stir well to mix the spices well with the potatoes
  • Sprinkle salt and add 11/2 -2 cups of water and cook covered for 8-10 mins, or till the potatoes are cooked entirely
  • Pour the clarified butter and garam masala and take out of flame
  • Serve hot with paratha or roti

Alu Dum

Further Reading – Baby Potato Curry, Bong Mom’s Dum Alu

Hot Tips –  Dum aloo goes best with luchi in a fine Sunday morning.

Sending the recipe To Priya’s event Diwali 2009 Contest and Diwali Dhamaka hosted by Purva in her blog.

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Patla Ilisher Jhol (Hilsa with Nigella)

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“Aum Mahalakshmi Vidmahe

Vishnu PriyaYe Dhi Mahi

Tanno Lakshmi Prachodayat”

-Lakshmi Slokam

Lakshmi salelakshmi sale

I had prepared this patka Ilish (hilsa) jhol (curry) quite sometime back, and the images had been in my folder since then. I was searching for the right time to publish this recipe, and nothing can be better than today. According, to Bengali customs it is said that no one should have hilsa between Lakshmi Puja and Saraswati Puja. Ilish is one of my most favorite fishes and I never liked this customJ. Sometime back, while searching for hilsa recipes on the web I came across an article named “The Last Hilsa Curry” in the Outlook India. Along with a dinner menu for the Chief Minister of West Bengal at the Prime Minister’s home there was the answer to my long lost question. Why we should not have hilsa between Lakshmi and Sarawati Puja? The scientific reason behind this custom is very simple. The little hilsa fishes swam back from river to the sea and then again came back in the next monsoon to lay eggs. With globalization everywhere, we are almost forgetting our own cultures, as a result of not following this simple custom the world renowned Padmar Ilish is on the verge of extinction. These days you can find hilsa all throughout the year and some weighing even less than 500gms.

Lakshmir potLakshmir nauka

Coming to a lighter note, today is Lakshmi Puja eve and the markets are flooded with people doing their last minute marketing for welcoming the goddess of wealth. Lakshmi Puja is carried out in almost all families, mainly the Bangals (families who came as refugees from East Pakistan). Ghotis households (the actual inhabitants of Bengal) worship the goddess on Kali Puja (Diwali) and they call it as Mahalakshmi Puja. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and the daughter of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Lakshmi is also depicted as the mother goddess, sitting or sanding on a lotus, holding a lotus on one hand and a vessel filled with grains on the other. The lotus in her hand symbolizes beauty and purity of woman. Her four hands depicts the four ends of human life – dharma (righteousness), kama (desires), artha (wealth) and mokhsha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

chand mala

Tomorrow is Kojagori Purnima and all households are getting ready for the day. Some families worship the goddess not as an idol but as a painting on terracotta discs (Paut in Bengali). The banana stem is modified to a small boat and filled with paddy and lentils signifying gold and silver. A pair of hilsa is offered to the goddess in some households.

Here is a quick and easy recipe with hilsa. I have used raw banana for the preparation, you can also use thin and long egg plants in place of it. Potato doesn’t go along with hilsa, so its better to leave potato out of this curry.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 10min

Cooking time: 15min

Patla Ilish Jhol

Ingredients:

Hilsa (Ilish): 4 pieces

Raw Banana (Kancha Kala): 1

Mustard oil (Sarser tel): 4 tablespoons

Nigella (Kalo jeera): ½ teaspoon

Green chili (Kancha lanka): 2

Turmeric powder (Halud guro): 1½ teaspoon

Salt to taste

Preparation:

  • Wash the fishes well, put in a bowl and mix well with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and salt
  • Cut the raw banana longitudinally into half and then into 2 inch long pieces
  • Heat the oil in a wok and half fry the fishes, take out and keep aside
  • Throw in the bananas and toss for a minute, add the nigella seeds
  • Mix turmeric powder in 2 tablespoons of water and keep ready
  • As the nigella seeds start popping pour in the turmeric paste
  • Add the chilies (slit them if you like the curry to be hot), and pour in 1 ½ cup of water
  • Let the water boil and reduce to half
  • Gently add the fried hilsa pieces and cook for 2 minutes
  • Take out of flame and serve with warm rice

Patla Ilish Jhol

Further Reading – Bong Mom’s Hilsa Curry, Hilsa story

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September Monthly Roundup at Bengali Cuisine

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Wishing you all a very happy festive season. I hope you all had a very nice Durga Puja and Dusshera week. It’s the first day of the month and as you all know this is the monthly round up time.

September had in all 7 posts among which 4 were authentic Bengali recipes. Here’s a summary of activities last month at the blog.

September Monthly Roundup at Cook Like a Bong

4 Authentic Bengali recipes –

  1. Narkel Nadu
  2. Chicken Keema Curry
  3. Luchi
  4. Kasha Mangsho

We also held the Durga Puja Food Festival event and had a number of recipes from many food bloggers all over the world. We’ll soon be publishing the roundup along with the eBook for the Food Festival.

September had a rise in the number of visitors coming to Cook Like a Bong, and the visitor count has this time touched 17,000.

Durga Puja being shifted to September this year we took almost a week break from blogging to celebrate the greatest festival of the Bengalis. There are very few Bengali households where the Durga Puja rituals are carried out at home; Durga Puja is mainly a neighborhood Puja these days with more than 1500 pujas in Kolkata itself. I am proud to say that Durga Puja is carried out at my own home.

Here are some of the snapshots from my family Durga Puja festival.

AlpanaDaabBaron DalaSarba Bhadra Mandal108 PadmaBoli

YajnaPacha Pradip

See the previous roundups here:

August Monthly Roundup

July Monthly Roundup

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