And, the 5 days of celebrations come to an end with Dashami. Every year the day marks a bitter sweet farewell to the biggest festival of Bengalis. Dashami marks the end of Durga puja, and bijaya starts. Bijaya is the time to visit your relatives and gore on some delicious sweets and snacks.
To extend the Dusshera festivities I decided to make some sweets. It was a spur of the moment thought and so I had to resort to whatever I had in the pantry. I decided to make peda or milk fudge. While the ones you get in Kalighat are made from milk boiled for hours and stirred continuously, I resorted to the easier way – making peda in microwave. It took a total of 4 minutes cooking time in microwave to get the exact consistency you need to prepare the shapes.
The peda will remain good in the fridge for more than week if kept in an airtight container and for about 6 months in the freezer.
In a microwave safe bowl pour in the milk powder and ghee, give it a good stir to mix, then pour the condensed milk and mix well. Put it in the microwave and cook on high for a minutes.
Take it out and add the saffron and cardamom powder and stir. Put it back in the microwave and cook for another 30 seconds. Take out and stir.
By this time you’ll notice the mixture has taken a dry look on the top, and when you stir it will take a thick soup consistency. Put it back in the microwave for 2 – 3 minutes more in intervals of 30 seconds and stirring in between everytime.
Once done, pour it on a plate or wax paper and let it cool so that you are able to touch it. Grease your palms with ghee and take about a tablespoon of the mixture and roll to make a ball, press in between your palms to flatten it. Garnish with saffron and cardamom
Make sure the bowl is deep, as the mixture will rise while cooking, and in a shallow bowl it will spill.
Instead of flattening the balls, you can also use stone or wooden mold to create shapes of your choice.
Chole or Kabuli chola or Garbanzo beans is a big hit in all Indian homes. Though, its originally a North Indian recipe, but chole bhature is a big hit in my family. The fluffy fried breads, bhature accompanied with spicy garbanzo beans is a big hit all the time.
To make kabuli chola along with the regular blend of ginger garlic paste, coriander and chili powder a spice mix is used. This spice mix is sold by almost all popular Indian spice brands from Everest to MDH, its called chole masala. But, I’m a little apprehensive of using the packaged spice mixes, mainly for two reasons. First, they don’t have the freshness that you get from homemade spice powders and secondly, they come in large packages and for a family of two most of the times the spice mix expires before I can finish the whole package. So, the simple solution to my problem to make my own batch of chole masala spice mix.
Definitely, it takes some time and work to make it, but the flavor and aroma of freshly ground spices is worth all the trouble. It takes more than 15 spices to make this masala, so even a tablespoon of each spice will yield quite a good amount of the masala. I grind the spices in a coffee/spice grinder and takes me 2 to 3 batches to grind the whole amount.
2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds/ shah jeera
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon dry ginger powder
1 teaspoon peppercorn
1 teaspoon black salt
1 tablespoon dry mango powder/ aamchur
3 – 5 dry red chilies
3 – 5 2” cinnamon stick
10 green cardamom
5 black cardamom
8 – 10 cloves
2 bay leaves
Dry roast the cumin, caraway, coriander, peppercorn, cinnamon, bay leaves, black cardamom, green cardamom and chillies until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer on a bowl to cool
Dry roast the sesame seeds using a lid on the pan, as the sesame seeds splatter. Transfer to the same bowl and wait till it’s cool.
Place in a spice or coffee grinder and grind till it’s transformed into a fine powder. Transfer to the bowl and mix with the already powdered spices. Grate the nutmeg into the bowl
Sieve once to get rid of the larger bits and store in an airtight jar or use immediately.
Chef’s tips – For ease of grinding in the grinder, once all the whole spices are dry roasted you can put them in a zip lock and use a rolling pin to crush the spices and then transfer to the grinder to make into a powder.
How long do you think a Bong can be without fish? Not long. With tens of rivers crisscrossing the state and the huge Bay of Bengal in South Bongs have a special knack for fish. Fish is not only a part of the Bengali cuisine, but it’s a part of Bengali rituals, customs; a part of the Bengali life.
Fish is considered as a good omen and so in every Bengali wedding a big whole rui or rohu is sent to the bride’s house from the groom’s as a token of bonding between the two families. Offering ilish (hilsa) to goddess Saraswati has been an age old custom.
There are hundreds of different types of fish that you’ll get in the markets, and more are the varieties of the way these fishes are cooked. To broadly classify the way of cooking fish is a hard task. First, to mention is the daily cooked patla macher jhol. This is the style of cooking preferably the fresh catch, with very little spices and green chilies, garnished with cilantro. Next comes the more rich and spicier version – the jhal jhol and kaliya. Seasoned with onions, garlic and ginger, kaliya are mainly meant for the occasional treats. A slight diversion from the spicy fish preparation is fish cooked in mustard gravy. While preparing hilsa this is the most well known technique, but there are smaller fishes like bata, parshe, fyasha and pabda which taste divine is a thick mustard gravy.
There are numerous other ways of cooking fish that are prevalent among Bongs. And, when talking about fish and its way of preparation the simple fish fry is a class apart. I remember back in my school days, Sunday was my fish fry day. My mom used to save a piece of deep fried fish for me to gorge on to while watching Alice in Wonderland on Doordarshan.
Bata (Labeo bata) fish is one of the most common small fishes growing in ponds and rivers of Bengal, its is of the same genus as the much more famous rohu (Labeo rohita), and so its tastes quite similar. You can prepare it in a non spicy gravy with just nigella and green chilies, seasoned with turmeric, cumin and salt or make this richer version in mustard gravy.
Bata Mach Sarse Diye
Indian, Side, Bengali fish recipe, Authentic bengali recipe, Fish recipe, Fish in mustard sauce
8 whole Bata fish
3 tablespoon mustard paste
1 teaspoon nigella
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon red chili powder
4-5 green chilies, slit lengthwise
Few sprigs of coriander for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoon mustard oil, extra for frying
Salt to taste
Clean the fish very carefully, coat generously with 1½ teaspoon turmeric powder and salt.
Heat about 3-4 tablespoon oil in a wok and fry the fishes in batches till they harden a little, dont over fry the fishes
In a small bowl add turmeric, chili powder and salt; mix and add the mustard paste
Throw away the excess oil from frying, clean the wok and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok. Add the nigella, as they start sputtering pour in the spices paste. As the spices start to dry out add about a cup of water, and the green chilies. Cook for 5-7 minutes till the gravy thickens
Carefully place the fried fishes in the gravy and cook for another 23 minutes, the fish will become tender
Take out of the heat, garnish with coriander if using and serve with warm white rice.
Most of you who are away from Bengal will probably have a hard time preparing mustard paste. The traditional mustard paste in sheel nora has almost become a folk lore now. Here’s how I do it. You can get mustard seeds in Amazon or your nearby Indian grocery store. All you need to have is a coffee grinder, which you’ll get in Amazon or other big retailers for $14-20. Take about 3-4 tablespoon of mustard seeds or till the spice level and grind to fine powder. Mix this mustard powder with water, turmeric and salt and your mustard paste will be ready in less than a minute.
Hot Tips – Heat the oil to smoking hot before frying the fish, low heated oil makes the fish skin to come out. If you are still unsure, then add a little flour to the fish before frying. And, the trick to have a perfect fish fry is not disturb the fish until one side is fully done. Once the fish is fully fried on one side, it will itself leave the bottom of the wok, and you can easily turn it around.
Some people suffer from indigestion after having mustard, the best way to avoid that is avoid the black mustard.