Monday, December 07, 2009

Indian Curry Families - Bengal

One Page Cookbooks
Bengal Curry Families – A Primer
All recipes copyrighted. No reproduction / commercial use without permission.

1.: Pora (Grilled and mashed) Sample Recipe : Begun Pora Take a tomato sized eggplant. Smear all over with oil. Hold by the stem and grill over a medium flame on all sides till skin blackens and blisters all over. Let cool and peel off skin. Add a pinch of salt, half a handful of finely chopped onions and a bit of mustard oil. Mash all together.). Can use green mangoes / tomato in place of eggplant.

Building blocks of Bengali Cuisine Rice, Wheat Vegetables, Lentils, Freshwater fish.

Key Starches: Rice, Wheat.

Typical breakfast Luchi or Roti served with potato curry / dal. Pantabhat is preferred in summer. Pressed rice or puffed rice is also eaten raw / soaked in milk / cooked with spices.
Rice served with 5-6 curries in a particular order listed on the left. Khichuri (rice and lentil porridge) served with fries is popular during monsoons.

Key Flavourings: Panch Phoran, turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, leaves Garam masala (a readymade powdered mix of Muglai spices).
Curry Bases: Mustard paste, Poppy seed paste, tomato, lentils

Making Panch Phoran. Mix equal quantities of Mustard, Cumin, Nigella ( Black cumin), Fennel & Fenugreek.seeds together.

Preferred fats: Mustard oil, Ghee, Peanut oil.
Protein Source: Lentils (Masoor dal, Mung dal, Channa Dal), Freshwater fishes (especially Hilsa), Chicken, Mutton & eggs. Beef is consumed in East Bengal (Bangladesh), Pork is eaten by the Anglo Indian & Chinese communities.
Common Vegetables: Eggplant, Potato, Squash, Ridge gourd, Drumstick, Spinach, Sweet potato, String beans, Pumpkin, Radish, Bitter gourd.

Souring agents: Green mangoes, dried mango powder.
Desserts: Bengalis learnt the art of curdling milk to separate milk solids (chena), probably from Portuguese. This is used as a base for a wide variety of sweets – (Rasagolla, Rasamalai etc)

Shopping List
250 gms (Eggplant, Bitter gourd, ridge gourd, potato, banana, onion, raw mango, Masoor dal / Tuvar dal / Mung dal, Spinach, Fresh water fish , Hilsa steaks, coconut, ),
50 gms (Dry red chili, Panch phoran, Turmeric powder, salt, sugar, Chili powder, cumin powder, Garam masala, Mustard seeds, poppy seeds, green chilies)
100 ml ( Mustard oil, Milk, yogurt)

2.: Shukto (Bitter, mixed vegetable curries) Take half a handful each of chopped bitter gourd, ridge gourd, eggplant, raw banana & potato. Heat a spoon of oil. Add two pinches of panch phoran and a dry red chili . Add vegetables and 2 pinches of salt. Add half a cup of water. Mix in a pinch each of chopped ginger, mustard powder & poppy seed powder. (Optionally, add 2 spoons of milk & a pinch of sugar). Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame till most water dries out. Mix in a bit of ghee & serve. (Local veggies like drumstick, radish, string beans, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash can be added).

3.: Dal (Lentil Curries) In a pressure cooker with lid open, heat a spoon of oil. Add two pinches of panch phoran and a torn dry red chili. Add half a handful of lentils ( Masoor dal / Mung dal / Chana dal / Tuvar dal) . Mix in a cup of water, two pinches of salt and a pinch of turmeric powder and sugar. Close and pressure cook for three whistles.

4.: Bhaja (Fries) Sample Recipe : Begun Bhaja :: Cut an eggplant ( or any vegetable) into thin circles to have a handful. Mix in a pinch of turmeric powder, two pinches of salt and a pinch of chili powder. Heat oil. Deep fry slices. Drain oil and serve. (Veggies can also be dipped in a batter of gram flour / rice flour, chili powder, salt & deep fried).

5.: Shaak ( Spinach Curries) Sample Recipe : Muli Shaak Heat a spoon of oil. Add two pinches of panch phoran and a torn red chili / chopped green chili. Add two handfuls of finely chopped radish greens ( or any spinach). Add two pinches of salt. Cover and cook on medium heat for around five minutes till greens are cooked.

6.: Charchari (Mixed vegetable dry curries) Sample Recipe : ( Panchmishali Charchari) Heat a spoon of oil. Add two pinches of panch phoran and a torn red chili / chopped green chili . Add a handful of chopped & boiled vegetables (Eggplant, squash, ridge gourd, saber beans, drumsticks). Add two pinches of salt and a pinch of sugar. Close and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle some water if it gets too dry. Mix in a spoon of mustard oil and serve.

7.: Sheddo (Mashed Curries) Sample Recipe : Aloo Sheddo Take a handful of peeled and boiled potatoes. Add half a handful of chopped onions, a finely chopped green chili, two pinches of salt and a dash of mustard oil. Mash together. ( Use boiled dal ( tuvar dal, Mung dal, Masoor dal) / other tubers / boiled eggs in place of potato

8.:.) Jhol (Thin & spicy Curries) Heat a spoon of mustard oil. Add two pinches of paanch phoron add a dry red chilli. Add half a handful of chopped onions. Stir and cook for a minute. Add a pinch of chopped ginger, a handful of boiled vegetables (potato / green peas/ radish/ cauliflower etc), a pinch of turmeric powder, two pinches each of chili powder, cumin powder and salt. Add a cup of water. (Can also add a handful of fish pieces / chopped, boiled egg along with or instead of veggies). Simmer for 5 mins.

9.: Ambol (Sweet & Sour Curries) Sample Recipe: Kancha Aamer Ambol Heat a spoon of oil. Add 2 pinches of mustard seeds, a handful of skinned and chopped raw mangoes & a pinch of turmeric powder. Stir and cook for a minute. Add 2 pinches of salt & a cup of water. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes till mangoes are soft. Mix in a pinch or two of sugar. ( Use / tomatoes / elephant apple flesh/ a spoon of tamarind paste in place of mango)

10.: Bhapa (Steamed) Sample Recipe : Bhapa Ilish Take 3 fish steaks ( preferably Hilsa). Mix a spoon of mustard- poppy seed paste. Blend a spoon of grated coconut with a green chili to a paste. Mix in a pinch of turmeric powder and a spoon of yogurt. Mix all so that the fish steaks are completely coated. Take a bowl, smear it with mustard oil and arrange the fish steaks. Pour a spoon of mustard oil over the steaks. Place in a pressure cooker. Add a cup of water to the pressure cooker (not in the bowl with the steaks). Close and pressure cook for two whistles.( Steaming : Place steaks in a steamer and steam for around 10 minutes. Microwaving: Place steaks in a microwave safe bowl, cover loosely and microwave till cooked). ( Use Paneer / Prawn / Vegetables in place of fish steaks).

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