Crocuses, early Spring flowers in my yard at last! YAAY!!:))
Yes, Sandeepa did announce the RCI-Bengal finally! :D
This post promptly goes to RCI-Bengal and to RCI event's host this month, Sandeepa of "Bong Mom's cookbook". Thank you for hosting Sandeepa!:)
This is my last post here until May, will be on much needed Spring break. Enjoy, will see you all then! :)
A beautiful Bengali woman doll in her traditional Bengali style saree, you can buy this in any good Indian art store.
According to a scripture called "Pithamala's Nigamatantra", the vast bow shaped land stretching from Dakshineshwer to Bahulapur i.e. Behala (Bengal or Bangla) is the Kalikhetra or realm of Kali, the Goddess. Read more here.
Bengal or "Shonar Bangla"(Golden Bengal), as it is affectionately referred to by Bengalis, who speak Bangla or Bengali, is an Indian state situated in the North-east of India. It's capital city is Kolkata/Calcutta, Bengal is also home for Sundarbans—the world's largest mangrove forest and Bengal tigers. Culturally rich, Bengal is the home of Bengal Renaissance, Baul, a folk music and many revolutionary activities during the Indian independence movement.
The most famous son of Bengal is Rabindranath Tagore, a poet (Gitanjali),a philosopher,visual artist, playwright,novelist,composer and also a winner of Asia's first Nobel laureate in 1913 in Literature. He is also the author of national anthems of Bangladesh and India: "Amar Shonar Bangla" and "Jana Gana Mana". Most acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray hails from Bengal as well.
Bengali cuisine is well-known for the vast range of rice dishes, desserts and various preparations of freshwater fish. Bengali cuisine is rich and with many spices,flavors with varied influences of many cultures like Islam, British and South east Asian. Great lover of sweets, they occupy an important place in the diet of Bengalis and at their social ceremonies. Isn't Bengal sounds beautifully wonderful? Here is my humble contribution to Shonar Bangla, enjoy!:)
Bangla Ranna/Bengali Thali:
I chose a few dishes for RCI-Bengal from a beautiful cookbook called "Bangla Ranna-The Bengal cookbook" by Minakshie DasGupta, with few of my own changes for my convenience. Bangla Ranna means "Bengali cuisine" in Bengali.
Alu-Potoler Dalna (Potato Parwal gravy), Maacher Sorse Jhol (Fish in Mustard gravy), Ghee Bhat (sweetish Bengali rice Pulao), Porota (Flatbread), Lankar Achar (Green chillies pickle)and Patishapta (sweet flour crepe with sweet aromatic coconut filling and topped with Saffron cream).
Potol/Parwal is a kind of vegetable available in India. I had a pack of frozen Parwal which I used in this dalna/gravy. I am sure fresh Parwal tatses lot better than the frozen ones.This dalna is really tasty served with Parathas.
To make Dalna:
1. Heat 1 tbsp ghee, 1 tbsp oil in a deep pan, add 2 bay leaves,1 tsp Cumin seeds, 2 red dry chillies, 1 onion finely chopped until reddish.
2. Add 3 large potatoes, cubed, 2 cups sliced Parwal (a kind of vegetable but you can any other veg too), fry these for 5 mins.
3. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp coriander seeds powder, 1/2 tbsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp Garam masala, 1/2 tsp chilli powder,salt, 1 tsp sugar. Mix well.
4. Add 2 cups or more water, 1 large Tomato, cover and let it cook until potatoes are cooked soft.Add chopped cilantro and adjust the spices to serve with Porota.
Maacher Sorse Jhol:
Sorse is Mustard seeds in Bengali, Maacher is Fish. A typical Bengali blend of Mustard seeds, turmeric and green chillies, you can add chicken, Eggs, round baby potatoes or any white fish to the gravy. Sour cream is also optional. This Cod fish is the last of my fish basket from my freezer!:D
To make Jhol/gravy:
1. Cut 2 fillets of Cod or any kind of white fish into chunky cubes. Keep aside.
2. Roast 4 tbsp Mustard seeds, 2 red chillies, 2 green chillies and grind with 1/2 turneric, 1/4 tsp salt, to a paste. Keep it aside.
3. Heat 3 tbsp mustard oil in a pan, add fish pieces and fry for a minute. Add masala paste, 2 cups of water.Bring it to boil, turn the heat down.
4. Add 2 tbsp beaten sour cream to the pan, mix and simmer for 10 mins.(Adding sour cream is not in the book but I thought it's good idea since it didn't have any sourness in it, you can skip sour cream if you like)
5. When fish is cooked, Jhol is ready! Tastes great with Pulao.
Paratha or Bengali Porota are a kind of flatbread, made of plain flour, rolled out into layers and baked on griddle smeared with ghee, tastes wonderful with any side dish. Making layers for this Porota is little hard to explain without photos. Click on the collage to see the bigger photos. If using just plain flour making you work a little harder to do the layers, you could add 1/2 cup of wheat flour to make it easier to roll. But plain flour parathas are tastier!
To make Porota:
1. Mix 2 cups plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda,mix well.
2. Add in 2 tbsp plain yogurt, 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter), 1 cup or enough hot water to the flour, knead to a stiff dough.Brush some oil on top of the dough. Let it rest for 1/2 an hour, covered.
3. Divide into slightly bigger than golf ball sized rounds, roll out each into 4"circles, brush some oil, sprinkle some flour.
4. Roll them like cigars from the wider end and stretch the ends to elongate it.
5. Now curl both ends in opposite direction as shown in the collage in the shape of "S". Place one curl on the other to make a round ball.
6. Press them down, roll out again to 5-6" circles gently, bake on a griddle or tawa brushing some oil on both sides until crisp and golden.
7. Store in an airtight container like Tortilla warmer.Reheat when needed.
Hope you got all that. Although it sounds complicated, once you get it, it's easy to make the layered Porota. Using just plain flour makes them very tasty, just make sure dough is firm like you do for pooris, not soft, which makes it harder to roll..
Ghee Bhat and Lankar Achar:
Bengali pulao is sweetish rice seasoned with ghee (clarified butter), nut and raisins. I made this ghee bhat my way by cooking the rice separately (rather than cooking with everything in one pot) and then adding the ghee seasoning.
Ghee Bhat: 1. Cook 1 1/2 cups of rice with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ghee, 1/2 cup of milk and enough water as you cook usually until done and spread on a wide mouthed plate, cover to let it dry a little. Slice 1 onion thinly.
2. Heat a pan, add 3 tbsp ghee, 2 tsp oil. Fry onion slices, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of sugar until reddish. Take out the onion onto a plate keeping as much ghee as you can in the pan.
3. To the remaining ghee, 2 bay leaves, add 3 cloves, 1" cinnamon, 2 green whole slightly crushed Cardamom pods, 2 tbsp red and golden raisins, few Almonds, few Pistachios. When the raisins are plump, pour this and onions to rice. Mix well. It's ready to serve with any gravy dishes.
Green chillies pickle in the above photo is store bought, it's Priya brand which is my favorite.
Here is the recipe as it is in the book to make green chillies pickle. I haven't tried this pickle, so I am just giving you the recipe. I will post the photo when I do try. I have lessened the proportions to make just 2 cups of chopped green chillies pickle since the book has the recipe for 1kg of green chillies! Add more sugar if you like sweet and hot pickle.
To make it:
1. Add 2 tbsp salt to 2 cups green chillies, cut into 1/4 " rounds, 2 tbsp fresh ginger strips, mix leave it overnight.
2. Grind 2 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp garlic, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 3 tbsp mustard seeds, 1 cup vinegar,1 tbsp sugar, salt to taste and keep aside.
3. Heat 1/2 cup mustard oil, fry the green chillies for 10 mins, take them out of the oil. Add 1 cup more mustard oil to the pan, add 1 tsp mustard seeds and all the vinegar masala paste.
4. Cook this mixture until it changes color, then add fried chillies, fry for 10 more mins. Adjust the seasoning. Cool and store.
This recipe is not exactly as in the above book although basic idea is came for this dessert from that book, here my version of Patishapta. A pancake made of flour and rice flour, stuffed with nuts and sweetened coconut,garnished with saffron cream! What's not to like, eh?!:D
To make Patishapta:
1. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup plain flour, 3 tbsps of rice flour,1/8 tsp Baking soda, 2 tbsp powdered sugar,1/2 tsp Cardamom pd, 1/4 cup milk and enough water to make a thinnish dosa/crepe/pancake like batter.Cover and let it rest for 15mins.
2. In a pan, add few Almonds, raisins, 1 cup fresh grated coconut, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/8 cup cream, heat and mix until thickish mass. Add 1 tsp Cardamom powder, mix and let it cool.(I just mixed ready made sweetened coconut and cardamom pd)
3. Heat 1/4 cup of cream, pinch of Saffron, 1 tbsp of powdered sugar until hot and cool the mixture.
4. Heat a non-stick pan, add 1 tsp ghee. Pour in a small ladle of batter,swirl it to make a circle, cook, flip and cook the other until golden on both sides.
5. Add few tbsps of coconut mix in the center, fold over the pancake and place it on the plate. Drizzle the saffron cream on top and serve immediately.
One more look:
Done! LOVED the Bengali thali!! :D
Book I read:
Two plays written by our own famous son of Karnataka, a Rhode scholar at Oxford U Girish Karnad. He is an acclaimed director, actor, dramatist and a playwriter in Kannada and English, Chairman of Sangeeta nataka academy, a visiting professor in the U of Chicago, also honored by Padma Bhushana and Jnanapitha awards by India.
The dreams of Tipu Sultan, which was first played in YMCA, Chennai and then commissioned by BBC and broadcasted in Britain on the 50th anniversary of Indian independence.
Play is about "Tiger of Mysore" Tipu Sultan, about his last days of fighting with the British army and his tragic end, as one of his ministers remembers Tipu's dreams and records his memories of those last traumatic days. Tipu Sultan's two young sons were said to have taken by the British to Calcutta, which was the capital then and they were left to live in utter poverty in Calcutta slums as the British refused to give them any princely compensation after their father Tipu Sultan died and as a punishment for Tipu's decision to fight against the British instead of accepting defeat,making deals and giving up Mysore to them like other kings and sultans did with their provinces!
I read that Tipu Sultan's blood relatives are still living in Kolkata in poverty, not being helped in anyway to this day, I sincerely hope it isn't so but sad isn't it, if it's true?
Bali-The sacrifice. (Bali means sacrifice in Kannada, but both plays are in English)
This play was commissioned and played in Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, UK. It's a bizzare tragic and comedic story of a supposedly pregnant young queen who has an affair with a Mahout or Elephant keeper(played by Naseeruddin Shah) one night! Play unfurls as the king and the Queen mother's strange understanding of the grave situation and trying to find a solution by thinking of sacrificing an image of Cockerel made of dough to God to right the wrong! It's made of dough because they are Jains ie against any violence to "live" animals. Story ends up in a surprising twist and tragedy, which makes Queen mother a very happy woman , who plots and gets exactly what she wanted out of that situation without saying so much in words!
Clever MIL, huh? ;D
Beautiful read. Wish I had watched both of these plays!
Another book of Girish Karnad which I am going to read on my break is;
Three plays; Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tughlaq , which you can buy here.
That's it for this post at FH. I have got two more posts to go at Aroma next week. After that I will be off blogging from March 20th to end of April or so, to enjoy the Spring break keeping with one my New year's resolution of taking frequent breaks. I will catch up with you all with a post on RCI-Rajasthan when I come back. Take care of yourselves until then!:))
March 12, 2008
Crocuses, early Spring flowers in my yard at last! YAAY!!:))