Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bengali Cuisine



West Bengal is a beautiful state in eastern India. It is bordered by the countries Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Together with the neighboring nation of Bangladesh, it makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. Besides having a great cultural heritage, it has an amazing cuisine. Rice and fish are the traditional favorite foods. A Bengali meal is incomplete without these two items. Also, sweets constitute a very important place in a Bengali meal. Bengali sweets like Rosogulla, Sandesh, payesh to name a few are very popular not in Bengal but worldwide. Most of these sweet delicacies are milk based and totally divine.Today's post is dedicated to this rich Bengali cuisine. Although, its difficult to capture the essence of such a rich and delicious cuisine in one post, I have tried my best to include a few dishes that I personally love so much:) 




I have always loved Bengali food. I grew up in a BARC colony which had a very diverse community. All the festivals were celebrated grandly. One such festival was Durga Pooja organised by Bengali Mandal. The whole atmosphere was so colorful and vibrant. People so beautifully dressed and yes.. the amazing food we got to eat... YUM YUM YUM:) Another thing about Bengalis is that they are so talented ..not only in academics but also in fine arts. Growing up, most of music teachers in school were Bengalis and their voice is as sweet as their desserts:) I still remember singing "Aami Chini Go Chini Tomare" and "Bharata Ratri Probhatilo Jatri"..Such beautiful and sweet songs...


The Culinary Hoppers team's event for this month is "Bengali cuisine". Though I had tasted Bengali dishes but I had never cooked them in my kitchen. After researching a few recipes, I decided to make a dry curry "Bandhakopir Torkari" , Lentil based curry "Cholar dal", A flat bread "Luchi", a stuffed puri "Peas stuffed Kochuri / Kachori" and a yogurt based sweet dish "Bhapa Doi".



So lets begin this flavorful journey with a dry cabbage curry....

BANDHAKOPIR / TARKARI 


This is an easy to prepare dry curry /sabzi prepared from cabbage. Wonderfully flavored, this dish tastes great with steamed rice or any flatbread of choice.
Recipe link here










CHOLAR DAL


Cholar dal is a mildly spiced creamy lentil curry prepared from split chickpea. This dal can be served with rice or as an accompaniment with luchi or kochuri.




INGREDIENTS:
Note: All measurements are based on the US measuring cup and spoon sizes where 1 cup = 235 ml

  • Chana dal/Split chickpeas: 1.5 cups 
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter :2 tbsp
  • Green cardamom : 3
  • Cloves : 3
  • Cinnamon : 2 inch (broken)
  • Cloves : 3
  • Cumin seeds : 1 /2 tsp
  • Hing / Asafoetida : 1/4 tsp
  • Dry red chili pepper : 3
  • Bay leaf / Tej patta : 2
  • Fresh ginger : 1.5 inch (finely grated)
  • Freshly grated coconut : 2 tbsp
  • Fresh coconut slices (a few )
  • Oil : 1.5 tsp
  • Sugar : 3 tsp (or as per taste)
  • salt to taste
  • Raisins : 2 tbsp
  • Cashews : 2 tbsp
  • Ghee : 2 tbsp
  • Green chillies :2 (slit length wise)
PROCEDURE:
  • Wash the chana dal 2-3 times and soak in water for about an hour. If you are in a hurry, you can soak for half an hour in some hot water.
  • Drain the water from the dal, add 3 cups of fresh water, turmeric powder and pressure cook the dals for about 4-5 whistles. Turn off the heat and let it stand for about 15 minutes for the pressure in the cooker to ease. Note : You can cook the dal directly on a pot/ pan but it will take longer to cook.
  • Take  oil in a pan. Fry the coconut slices and set aside. In the same oil, fry the raisins and cashew nuts.Set it aside.
  • Heat ghee in a deep bottomed pan. When hot, add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom. Fry for a couple of minutes. 
  • Now, add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, dry red chillies. Once the seeds start to splutter, add the grated ginger and freshly grated coconut and fry for a minute or two.
  • Now, add the cooked lentils. Adjust the consistency by adding some extra water if needed (Note: This dal is not soupy and has a thick consistency but you can adjust it according to your preferance) Add the slit green chillies. Bring the mixture to a boil. 
  • Add salt and sugar to taste.
  • Lastly add the fried coconut slices, raisins and cashewnuts. Serve warm with steamed rice or luchi or kochuri. (I sprinkled some red chilli powder as garnish before serving)

LUCHI


Luchi is similar to poori except that poori is made with wheat flour while luchi is made with all purpose flour. Another difference is the some ghee or oil is added during the kneading process.Traditionally luchi is deep fried in ghee but I have fried them in oil.They are much softer and tastier than pooris:)


INGREDIENTS:
Note: All measurements are based on the US measuring cup and spoon sizes where 1 cup = 235 ml
  • All purpose flour / Maida : 1 cup
  • Ghee / Oil : 1 tbsp
  • Salt as per taste
  • Oil for deep frying .

PROCEDURE:
  • Add salt and oil / ghee to flour. Mix it gently with your finger tips until the flour gets coated with fat (oil/ghee).
  • Add water little by little until you arrive at a smooth dough (Note : The dough should be too lose). Cover the dough and let it rest for a good 20 minutes.
  • Once well rested, divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Make balls.
  • Roll the balls in to a circle. (If the dough is sticky, dip the dough ball in oil and then roll. Do not use flour for dusting)
  • Heat oil for deep frying. When hot, add the rolled circle. The luchi will start to puff up. With the help of the back of the spoon, press the luchi so that it puffs up properly.
  • When one side has attained a nice creamy color and the oil had stopped sizzling, flip it to the other side and fry the other side.
  • Take the luchi out from the oil and place it on a plate lined with paper towel to drain off the excess oil. Repeat the same process with the other dough balls.
  • Serve hot luchi with Cholar dal and any vegetable curry.


Koraishutir kochuri / Green peas stuffed Kachori Bengali style



These kachoris or Kochuris as the bengalis say is very different than the traditional kachori. Usually kachoris have a crispy, flaky shell while this bengali style kochuri is soft . You can easily call them stuffed pooris where the pooris have been made from maida (APF) and not wheat flour. When I started looking for a good recipe to try, I remembered my dear friend Piyali had shared a recipe a while back in her blog. So I decided to use her recipe as a base and start. I have stuck to her superb recipe for the most part and was really happy with the result. Traditionally kochuris are served with Cholar dal but believe me, they are so good that you can just munch them with tea:)

INGREDIENTS:
Note: All measurements are based on the US measuring cup and spoon sizes where 1 cup = 235 ml

For the stuffing, you will need:
  • Green peas (fresh or frozen. If you using frozen , thaw first) : 1 cup
  • Green chillies (small variety) : 2
  • Ginger (grated) : 1 tbsp
  • Oil : 2 tsp
  • Fennel seeds / saunf : 1/2 tsp
  • Hing / asafoetida : 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin powder : 1/2 tsp
  • Garam Masala : 1/2 tsp
  • Salt as per taste
  • Rice flour : 1 tsp
For the outer cover (dough), you will need:
  • Maida / All purpose flour : 1 cup
  • Oil/ ghee : 1 tbsp
  • Salt as per taste
  • Water as needed
Other items:
Oil for deep frying.

PROCEDURE:


Step wise picture showing how to make the filling
Step wise pictures showing how to prepare the dough and then assembling the kochuri

  • To prepare the outer cover for the kochuris, take the flour, 1 tbsp oil/ghee and salt.Mix it gently with your finger tips until the flour gets coated with fat (oil/ghee).
  • Add water little by little until you arrive at a smooth dough (Note : the dough should be too hard nor too lose). Cover the dough and let it rest for a good 20 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, lets prepare the filling. Grind together, the green peas, green chillies and ginger in to a smooth paste.
  • Now take 2 tsp oil in a pan. When hot, add the fennel seeds . When the seeds splutter, add the asafoetida.
  • Add the ground peas mixture. Add the cumin powder, garam masala and salt. 
  • Cook the mixture on low-medium heat until the moisture from the mixture evaporates. Sprinkle some rice flour (you can use chickpea flour/ besan instead) to help to remove the moisture.Once the mixture is ready, set it aside to cool. Once cooled, divide the mixture in to 8 small balls.
  • After the dough has rested, take it on a working surface. Knead it again and roll into a long log. Divide it into 8 equal parts and form them in to balls.
  • Now take one ball and roll it into a small circle. Keep the peas mixture in the center. Bring all the sides of the dough closer together so that it covers the filling properly. Seal it well and set it aside. Repeat the same process for the rest of the dough balls and the green pea mixture ball.Keep them covered.
  • Heat oil for deep frying. Now take one of the stuffed balls and with sealed surface on top, roll it carefully into a 3-4 inch circle. 
  • Once the oil is hot, carefully put the rolled circle in to the oil.It will start puffing up. Press with the back side of the spoon to help it puff properly. Once it is nice golden, flip it to the other side and fry the other side.
  • Once done, take the kochuris out into a plate lined with paper towels to drain off the excess oil.
  • Roll the other stuffed dough balls in the same way and fry.
  • Serve kochuris with Cholar Dal.
And lastly, we come to the dessert..a perfect end to a wonderful Bengali Style meal...

BHAPA DOI

This delicious yogurt based dessert is very unique. I felt the consistency similar to that of cheese cake. Traditionally, a steamer is used for this recipe(I have used a double boiler) but this dish can be baked too. I personally have not yet tried the baking method. When I do try the baking option, I will update the recipe:)

INGREDIENTS:

Note: All measurements are based on the US measuring cup and spoon sizes where 1 cup = 235 ml
  • Condensed milk : 14 oz can (approx. 400 grams)
  • Greek Yogurt (strained yogurt) : 1 cup (if greek yogurt is unavailable then use hung yogurt)
  • Full fat Milk : 3/4 cup
  • Almonds (blanched and chopped) : 2 tbsp 
  • Pistachios (blanched and chopped) : 2 tbsp 
  • Saffron : 1 pinch 
  • Cardamom powder (Elaichi powder) : 1 pinch

PROCEDURE:
  • Take condensed milk in a mixing bowl. Add the whisked yogurt and milk .Mix .
  • Add the chopped  nuts. Also add the cardamom powder and saffron.
  • Transfer the contents into a individual ramekins or bowls. Cover with an aluminium foil and place it on the steamer.Steam for about 20 minutes. 
  • Once done, remove the ramekins/bowls from the steamer and bring it to room temperature.Later, cool it in a refrigerator until completely chilled.
  • Serve cold.
Few links referred:
Homemaker's Diary
Ecurry
My Tryst with Food and Travel
Sanjeev Kapoor


Do check out many more delicious recipes from the other members of the Culinary Hoppers team.
Piyali (Bengali Thaali), Padma (Luchi, Spicy Cauliflower Curry & Misti Doi) , Jayashree (Ghughni chaat), Vani (Nimki), Parvathy (Sweet potato Posto), Poornima  (Dhokar Dalna), Shobana (Aloo kumro).

HAPPY COOKING!!!

14 comments:

  1. What a stunner of a post this is Shubha. Believe me I had goose bumps of nostalgia reading through it. My eyes were swelling with emotion and my heart felt warm at your words which had so much of love for this cuisine. I honestly don't know where to start. Am in a frenzy of sorts as I look at all the dishes. You have put a lot of passion coupled with your inherent creative skills to dish out such a delectable and visually gorgeous array of dishes. Okay let me start from the Kochuri. Honestly it looks absolutely brilliant. You have nailed it to the T and I am happy beyond words and so grateful that you chose to refer to my recipe. Thank you sweetheart. It means a lot to me which I am failing to express in words right now. Such acts of love leave me speechless and teary eyed. I truly don't understand what way my words should go after this. I have always maintained, you, being a huge blessing in my life and trust me this month is one where I am down in the dumps emotionally every year. You brought in so much of comfort and happiness to me with your generous act again endorsing my words of me being extremely lucky to have you as a friend.

    The rest of the dishes be it the Bhapa Doi, luchi, Bandhakopir Torkari, Cholar Dal oh dear dear has teleported me to food heaven. I am not the least bit exaggerating when I say each dish looks being made by someone who has a mastery over them. Perfect and supremely delicious what I can say to summarise them. You have brought utter brilliance with this spectacular post of yours. Hats off and thank you.

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    1. Thanks so much dear:)U are a true blessing to me too..:)xx

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  2. Mouthwatering and if possible, I want to taste all of it.

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  3. a great array of dishes presented and explained perfectly...great share dear

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  4. Superbly executed and what a splendid post!! All the dishes are so delicious and I'm already drooling over here. You have perfectly captured the essence of bengali cuisine!!

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  5. Wow! It looks like you have mastered all the dishes and perfected..Such a beautiful platter and delicious looking pictures.. Beautiful!

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  6. What an excellent platter subha. Love reading through your post and it is really unbelievable to see all of the stepwise picture.Being a blogger i know how difficult is to take step wise picture.Wonderful effort subha. Every dish look excellent and delicious. I am conducting a giveaway at my blog. I would be very happy if you can participate. Thanks

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  7. Awesomely Awesome Shubha! All delicious Bengali recipes and such a beautiful clicks! I must say you have done such a hard work in compiling this post..Kudos!!!

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  8. Lovely post Shubha and I am drooling ! Thankyou for all the efforts and enthusias. Well executed , I want to try that cabbage dish

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  9. Its really amazing to watch those lovely dishes.I am too drooling with Jaya.Will surely bookmark and try soon.

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