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Friday, 11 May 2018

Bengali Platter


          A traditional Bengali platter is an elaborate affair with a very large spread. But here is a medium size menu with some traditional homemade delicacies. To start with we have Aloo Uchche Bhaja (Potato Bitter Gourd Fry), Begun Bhaja (Eggplant Fry), Panch Mishali (Mixed Vegetable Curry), Aam diye Tok Dal (Raw Mango Lentil Curry), Bhapa Shorshe Chingri (Steamed Mustard Prawns), Ilish Macher Jhaal - (Bengali Hilsa Fish Curry), Sweet Tomato Chutney and Chaler Payesh (Rice Kheer / Pudding).



 


1.   Aloo Uchche Bhaja (Potato Bitter Gourd Fry)

  This bitter preparation is a delicacy on a Bengali platter and served at the beginning of any meal as it is considered to cleanse the system. Add kasundi (mustard) paste for a more pungent flavour. 


  • 2 medium size Karela (Bitter Gourd), chopped finely
  • 1 potato, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp. panch phoron (equal quantity of fennel, cumin, mustard, fenugreek and nigella (kalonji) seeds)
  • 1-2 whole dry red chilies, broken into two
  • -32 tbsp. mustard oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. ghee or 1 tsp. kasundi / mustard paste (opt)


          Heat oil in a pan and temper with whole dry red chilies and panch phoron. After it stops spluttering, add the chopped karela, salt and turmeric powder. Stir fry on a low flame till done. 

          When done, add the kasundi, if using, and stir well to combine. Serve with hot steamed rice. If not using kasundi, then treat yourself to some ghee.



2.  Begun Bhaja (Eggplant Fry)


          Begun Bhaja is very commonly had as a side dish. It goes extremely well with Khichdi, Veg. Pulao, Poori, Paratha or Chapati. I generally like having it mixed with plain steamed rice along with ghee and 1-2 fried whole red chilies. It simply tastes awesome.

          It is a very simple recipe where you need to choose larger variety eggplants. The thick slices of Eggplants are marinated with salt and turmeric powder and then shallow fried in mustard oil to perfection.



  • 1 large Eggplant 
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • mustard oil to shallow fry


          Cut the eggplants into 1/2" thick slices. Wash well and drain. Apply salt and turmeric powder and marinate for 10 minutes.

          Heat oil in a pan and fry them in batches on both sides till golden brown. Drain and serve as a side dish with khichdi / plain rice / veg. pulao / poori / paratha or chapatti.



3Panch Mishali (Mixed Vegetable Curry)

           This is a traditional mish mash curry of 5 veggies. So you can choose any 5 types of vegetables to cook up this simple delicacy. I have also added fried vadi (dried lentil dumplings), but for a non-veg. version, it is generally cooked either with prawns or fish head.This dish is a very common menu on a Bengali platter It is relished with rice, khichdi (Rice porridge), chapati, poori or paratha.

  • 1 cup each of eggplants, pumpkin, green papaya, radish & parwal (pointed gourd), cubed
  • 8-10 vadi (dried lentil dumplings)
  • 2-3 tbsp, mustard oil
  • 1 tsp. panch phoron (equal quantity of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, mustard & nigella seeds)
  • 1" cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1-2 green chilies, broken into half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. ginger paste
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander-cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. ghee
  • coriander leaves to garnish


          Heat oil in a pan and fry the vadi till golden brown. Drain and keep aside. Temper the same oil with panch phoron, bay leaf, dry red chili, cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves.

          Saute for a few seconds. Then add the ginger paste and all the dry spices mixed with a little water. Saute till oil separates.

          Add all the chopped veggies and the fried vadis. Cover and cook on a low flame till the moisture evaporates.

          At this point if the veggies are not soft enough, add 1/2 - 1 cup water and continue to simmer, covered, till done. Add ghee and serve, garnished with coriander leaves.






  
4.  Aam diye Tok Dal (Raw Mango Lentil Curry)

           A simple Bengali dal, it is mostly prepared during summer. Few Kaffir lime leaves can be added while boiling the dal for some refreshing flavour. It is best had with plain steamed rice and some aloo bhaja (deep fried potato strips) as a side dish. I do sometimes add some ghee to enhance the taste and flavour. 


  • 1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentil), soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1/2 small raw mango, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1-2 whole dry red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder


          Pressure cook the dal in 1 cup water for 3-4 whistles. When cool, blend well with salt and turmeric powder.

          Heat oil and temper with red chilies and mustard seeds. After it stops spluttering, add the chopped mango pieces and saute till light brown.

          Add the boiled dal and simmer on low flame for 2-3 minutes. Add more water if you want a soup like consistency. Serve hot with steamed rice accompanied by fried potatoes strips.


5.  Bhapa Shorshe Chingri (Steamed Mustard Prawns)

          This is a traditional Bengali delicacy where prawns are steam cooked in a mustard-coconut gravy.  Mustard oil is used for an authentic taste and flavour. It is best relished with only plain steamed rice. 


  • 200 gms. prawns, cleaned
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. fresh grated coconut
  • 1-2 tbsp. kasundi / mustard paste
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • 1-2 tbsp. coriander leaves, chopped


          In a bowl, combine all the above mentioned ingredients and transfer to a steel container with a lid. 

          Steam for 15 minutes. (If using pressure cooker do not put the went and steam for 5 minutes on high and then the remaining on a medium flame). Serve with plain steamed rice.


Note:
1. If using mustard paste - soak it for 30 minutes and then grind along with a pinch of turmeric powder and one green chili. This will prevent it from turning bitter.


6.  Ilish Maacher Jhaal - (Bengali Hilsa Fish Curry)

           This is a very simple and a yummy Hilsa fish curry prepared with minimum of spices. So less effort but the end result extremely delicious and simply divine. It is best relished with plain steamed rice.         

  • 3 pieces of Hilsa fish, cleaned
  • 2 tbsp. mustard oil to fry the fish
  • 1/2 tsp. kalonji (nigella seeds)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 2-3 green chilies, slit
  • 1 tsp. raw mustard oil
  • 1 tsp. coriander leaves, chopped


          Marinate the fish pieces with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder for 10 minutes. Make a paste with the turmeric powder, red chili powder and 1/2 cup water. Keep aside.

          Heat 2 tbsp. oil and fry the fish pieces slightly on both sides. Drain and keep aside. Temper the same oil with kalonji. Saute for a few seconds. Add the paste and salt. Bring it to a boil.

          Add the fried fish pieces and green chilies. Simmer on a medium flame for 2 minutes. Add the raw mustard oil and switch off the flame. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with plain steamed rice.


7. Sweet Tomato Chutney - 

           This tomato chutney is a must-have on a Bengali platter. It is served at the end of a meal and just before the dessert.


  • 3-4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp. panch phoron
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 dry red chilies
  • 1 tsp. ginger, grated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • sugar to taste
  • few chopped dry fruits (opt)
  • 1/2 tsp. panch phoron powder



           Heat oil in a pan. Temper with panch phoron, dry red chilies and bay leaves. Add the ginger and saute for a few seconds.

           Add the tomatoes and continue to stir fry on a low flame till it is mashed. Add the salt, sugar and the dry fruits. 

           Mix well and cook, covered till it turns thick. Add the panch phoron powder and switch off the flame. Give it a stir and serve.


8.  Chaler Payesh (Rice Kheer / Pudding) - 

          This is a traditional Bengali Rice Kheer / Pudding / Payasam that is served at the end of a meal. it is also prepared on many important festive occasions and ceremonies. A special variety of aromatic rice called Gobindo Bhog is generally used in this recipe. But you can also substitute it with Basmati Rice. Relish it at room temperature or chilled. 

   
  • 1/4 cup small grained aromatic rice, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 1 litre milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. ghee
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 green cardamoms, bruised
  • 1/2 cup sugar or to taste
  • 1-2 tsp. chopped nuts
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp. rose water


          Heat ghee in a pan. Add the bay leaves and cardamoms. Pour in the milk. Bring it to a boil and add the rice. Continue to simmer on a low flame till it becomes soft. 

          Add the salt, chopped nuts and sugar and give it a stir. Continue to simmer till it turns slightly thick and you get the right consistency. 

          Switch off the flame and add the cardamom powder and rose water. Mix well and serve at room temperature or chilled.
















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