Having cruised and bruised through a lot of Durga Pujos in my lifetime, there’s always this tinge of excitement, that flutter in the stomach, that vibe in the air which signifies autumn and Pujo. While there are many, especially in Calcutta, who like to eat out during the Pujo week, my family has mostly concentrated on cooking good food at home and munching on a few snacks while pandal hopping. Come Kali pujo and it’s time to binge on all the non-vegetarian stuff that we can get our hands on. Summer, on the other hand, is a mellow affair. There was rarely eating out as the ’90s didn’t have the option of ordering food at home. Restaurants were expensive and risky during the season. To keep the appetite inflated, various ‘mukhorochok’ (loosely translated to tasty/delicious) food were cured up at home.
Here are a few recipes that you could use this season.
Mete (Goat Liver) is something that is almost a delicacy now, but it was pretty regular a few decades. Regular and inexpensive. Mete tastes best in this chochhori, I think, especially for me as I’m not really a fan of its earthy, iron odour and sandy texture. This chochhori renders a delectable version of the mete that I can at least devour. It is uber spicy, hot and ideal for winters.
Boil water in a pan. Cube the liver into 1 cm pieces and blanche them for five minutes. Drain and keep aside. Heat mustard oil in another wok. Add julienned onion and fry. Add 1 table spoon ginger-garlic paste, diced potatoes and keep frying. After 2-3 minutes, add diced tomatoes and chopped green chillies. Once the mixture is homogeneous, add 1 tea spoon each of turmeric/red chilli/cumin/garam masala powders. Mix well, add a little hot water and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook the liver as it gets rubbery and unsavoury. You can garnish with chopped coriander, though I don’t. Serve with hot parathas.
If you have watched the Bangla movie Golpo Holeo Sotti (1966), you might have noticed the cook (Rabi Ghosh) ascertaining to surprised members of the house that he hadn’t served Mutton Kofta to them but it was Kanchkola (Green Banana). It is an underrated vegetable as I feel we don’t use it enough in our cooking. Very few Bengalis actually like the bland Kanchkolar jhol or Kanchkola diye machher jhol as those are prescribed for the sick or kids. This kofta is sublime and my parents actually make a gravy of it too. I haven’t made these in years as its a bit tedious but I like them just fried. Try once, and who knows, you might like this Bengali vegetarian item.
Peel, cut in quarters and blanche green bananas. When they’re at room temperature, mash them well. Heat a little mustard oil in a wok. Add a pinch of cumin, a handful of chopped onions, half an inch grated ginger and fry. Add the mashed bananas, 1 tea spoon salt, chopped green chillies and 1 tea spoon each of turmeric/cumin/red chilli/garam masala powders. Stir and cook until the mixture dries. Cool to room temperature. Mix a little gram flour if it is still moist. Shape into roundels and deep fry. Ideal for a rainy evening snack.
Dim Thuke Jhaal
It is a quintessential item for Saturday or fridge-cleaning lunches when you are out of fish/meat. I never had this at home, it would always be Dim er Dalna or the Omelette Jhol. M learnt this from his Dida and has been spreading the recipe worldwide. It is the easiest and fastest way to cook eggs curry style when you don’t have much ingredients or time. Trust me, it’s one of the best forms of eggs you’ll have – soft, might be a little runny if you cook lesser, plumped on the curry and spicy as well.
Heat mustard oil in a wok. Add julienned onions (1 for 2 eggs ratio), fry until translucent. Add 1 table spoon ginger-garlic paste/grated. Keep frying. Add diced tomato (1 for 2 eggs ratio), chopped green chillies and 1 tea spoon salt. Keep frying until you get a homogeneous mixture. Add 1 tea spoon each turmeric/red chilli/garam masala powders, fry a little. Add hot water. When the mixture gets boiling, crack two eggs side by side on the gravy with gentle hands. Simmer for ten minutes, lightly turn the eggs upside down. The gravy should be thick and silky; garnish with a pinch of garam masala and freshly chopped coriander. Serve with steamed rice.
Topshe Machher Fry
It’s not something I’ve had regularly in childhood but have grown to crave for it in adulthood. Topshe or Mango Fish has been expensive and less available off late in Bengal. I think the last time we had it was 2 years ago. Searches and queries in the Bangladeshi store here have yielded Topshe which is called Taposhi there. It’s obviously frozen, but kept intact and more bodied than the ones we find back home. Fried in a minimalistic gram flour batter ends up in these golden beauties, crisp on the outside, soft and fishy inside. Topshe has its own aroma that’s unparalleled and can be a little too fishy at times, especially, if the fish is not fresh. Nonetheless, it is one of our favourites and needs minimal dressing up.
Clean and season the Topshe with salt, turmeric powder. Rest for at least 30 minutes and discard the excess water. It will remove any toxin and extra odour from the fish. For the batter, beat together besan (gram flour, you would need 3-4 table spoons for 8-10 fish), a pinch of kalo jeere (Nigella seeds), pinch of turmeric and chilli powders, 1 tea spoon salt and baking powder (optional). Beat the batter well to get crispy, fluffy fries. Heat oil in a pan. I use mustard oil as it gives an extra zing. Dip the fish in batter and fry until golden brown. You can eat these as appetisers or as accompaniments with an entire thaali. I eat these mostly with daal bhaat.
It’s more of a Brain Kebab than Chop, recipe taken from Rowshan Jahan’s blog (of Bangladesh). Brain Chop was derived in Calcutta, I believe, to satiate the Brits. I haven’t had a chance to taste the Brain Chop at Mitra Cafe, Shovabazar, but I’m kinda certain that they would be using breadcrumbs as a coating and deep fry instead of coating with cornflour and soft shallow fry these more like kebabs. If you are intimidated by the idea of devouring Goat brain, don’t be. There’s no foul smell or taste, it rather explodes in the mouth as soft bits of creamy cheese. You can see the cheesy bits in the batter around the spoon. This was delicious, costing Rs 50 for a brain (yielded 8 kebabs). Try these instead of a more fiery Bheja Masala or fry. Oh, and we’ve long chucked tomato ketchup for kashundi to accompany fried snacks.
Lightly wash and clean the brain, it is pretty fragile. Mix chopped onions, garlic, green chillies, coriander and 1 tea spoon each of salt, turmeric/red chilli/cumin/garam masala powders. Mix well and homogeneous. If the batter is a little too wet, add 1 table spoon gram flour to bind it. Make little round patties and shallow fry in white oil/ghee.
Machher Dimer Borar Jhaal
Oh, this one’s my favourite! I love machher dim or Fish Roe. While roe from Hilsa/Ilish is a delicacy and can be fried with a little salt/turmeric, roe from Rohu needs more work. I prefer Rohu roe as I can customise and spice it up. My family makes a gravy with these too and its delicious with steamed rice. There are quite a few steps, but you have to work a little to make your way towards a one-of-a-kind fish roe fritters in gravy.
Lightly wash and clean the fish roe, pat dry with kitchen towel. Add chopped onions, 1 tea spoon of grated ginger-garlic, 1 tea spoon of salt/turmeric/red chilli/cumin powders, chopped green chillies and 2 table spoons of gram flour. Mix everything well and don’t rest, fry into little roundels as soon as possible. You can eat these as well as appetisers or snack. For the gravy, heat oil in a wok, fry onions, add 1 tea spoon ginger-garlic, diced tomatoes, thickly sliced potatoes. Add 1 tea spoon salt/turmeric/red chilli/cumin/garam masala powders, slit green chillies and fry well. Add hot water and cook until the gravy is thick. Dunk the fried roe fritters and rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.