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Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals

Narkel Chingri

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Narkel Chingri

2 tbsp black mustard seeds
500 g / 1 lb tiger prawns
Juice of 1 lemon
60 ml / 2 fl oz + 2 tsp mustard oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
large coconut, ground
5-6 slit green chillies
Salt

To make Narkel chingri it is essential to have the pungent black mustard seeds we use in Bengal, not the white or brown variety. Grind them on a stone or in a blender with a touch of salt and green chilli. The finer the paste, the better. Rinse the prawns carefully in water after shelling and deveining them, discarding the heads if you so wish. Squeeze the lemon juice over the prawns, leave for ten minutes and rinse again in cold water. Heat the mustard oil in your pot and throw in the prawns dusted with turmeric. After a minute or so add the ground coconut, the slit green chillies, ground mustard and salt to taste. Stir briskly and keep covered over a low flame, until the prawns are tender and all the flavours have mingled. Uncover, stir over a high heat until any excess moisture has evaporated and remove from the flame. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh mustard oil and keep covered until it is time to serve. This is best with plain boiled rice.

Copyright © Chitrita Banerji, 2007

 
Cauliflower Bhaji

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Cauliflower Bhaji

1 medium cauliflower
120 g / 4 oz green peas
2-3 medium potatoes or 7-8 new potatoes
1 finely chopped medium onion
3-4 finely chopped spring onions
2 tbsp mustard oil
3-4 dry red chillies
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
Salt

Take a medium-sized cauliflower and chop it into very small florets; the hard stem at the bottom should be cut into tiny pieces. Cook the green peas and drain them, then peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Heat some mustard oil (start with 2 tablespoons, and add more later if need) and fry the potatoes golden brown. Remove and set aside. Throw the dry red chillies, whole cumin seeds and bay leaves into the same oil and, after a couple of minutes, add the onions, fry till golden brown and throw in the cauliflower. Stir once or twice, add a little salt and reduce to a medium heat. Sauté gently for three to four minutes, add the peas and fried potatoes and simmer covered over a low heat until the florets are tender. Uncover, check for salt, turn the heat to high and stir until the vegetables are browned. Just before removing, add the spring onions. Despite being dry, it tastes good with both rice and luchi.

Copyright © Chitrita Banerji, 2007

 
Duck Bhuna

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Duck Bhuna

A duck weighing approx 1 kg / 3 lb
120 g / 4 oz onion paste
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp each ground garlic, chilli, turmeric, cumin, coriander
tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 pieces of cinnamon, 2.5 cm / 1 inch long
120 ml / 4 fl oz mustard oil
120 ml / 4 fl oz water
2 finely chopped small onions
6-7 large cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp
ghee
10-12 whole peppercorns
Salt

For duck bhuna you need a nice plump bird, skinned, cleaned and cut into a dozen or so portions 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 4 breast pieces and 3-4 assorted pieces from the rest of the bird. Make sure you discard the giblets, including the stomach and liver. Combine the duck with the pasted onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ground black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, mustard oil, water and some salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Mix thoroughly and leave tightly covered on a low heat until the meat is absolutely tender. Stirring is not required, but you should shake the covered pot gently from time to time. Remove from the fire and set aside. Heat the ghee in another pan, add the whole peppercorns and the chopped onion and garlic. Fry until golden brown, add the duck, stir for 4 to 5 minutes until no moisture is left and the sheen of oil is visible. Check for salt and remove. Since this is a dry preparation without much gravy, it is best to serve it with khichuri or parotas, together with a tomato, spring onion and chopped coriander salad.

Copyright © Chitrita Banerji, 2007

 
Malpo

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Malpo

250 g (8 oz) sugar
5 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
250 g (8 oz) flour
2 tbsp peanut oil
250 ml (8 fl oz) whole milk
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
120 ml (4 fl oz) oil for frying

First the syrup has to be prepared. The consistency is important, for if it is too thin the malpos tend to fall apart. Boil 5 tablespoons of water with the sugar and lemon juice. Once the syrup has boiled, my mother sets it aside. Then she mixes flour with the peanut oil, and when they are blended smoothly, adds the milk and the fennel seeds. These give the malpos their distinctive taste. Then she heats oil in her karai, lowers the flame to medium and, taking large spoonfuls of the flour mixture, drops them in, one at a time.

Each round malpo is fried carefully until both sides are brown and the edges curl up crisply. Nothing can be worse than half-done malpos. Once all of them are fried, she dips them in the syrup, turns them over and lays them out on a flat serving dish. Then the rest of the syrup is poured over them. These keep well without losing their taste - there is nothing like the surreptitious pleasure of quickly eating a malpo in the middle of your day's work when you are sure nobody is looking.

Copyright © Chitrita Banerji, 2007

 
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