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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Mini Bengali Platter

          A traditional Bengali platter is an elaborate affair with a very large spread. But this is a no-frills mini platter with some comforting Khichuri / Khichdi (Porridge), Tok Dal (Sour Red Lentils), Aloo Sheddo (Mashed Potatoes) and Puishaag-Chingri Chorchori (Malabar Spinach Curry with Prawns). 

         As I wanted something simple for my lunch today, I decided on this combination which gave me a very satisfying feel to it. Then I went on my brain racking session of how to present it so that it looks appetizing. So here's my creation.        

1.  Khichuri (Khichdi) - 

         A simple and a hearty comfort food that tastes so delicious any time and every time I prepare. It is a wholesome and a balanced meal in itself with just the rice and lentils. Veggies can be added if preferred. Just a tsp. of ghee brings out the actual essence of this yummy dish. Nothing can beat having this humble khichuri along with some side dishes.

          Bengalis usually offer the vegetarian version of this khichuri (please note - there is no onion or garlic) to Goddess Duga during the Dashera / Durga Puja festival. Khichuri in general is usually had during rainy season. There is a certain bond between khichuri and the monsoon. No sooner it starts raining, the only one thing that comes to our mind is "KHICHURI".

          Today I bring to you my version of Khichuri, which is not runny or soft as is usually prepared. It is a bit on the dry side called (Jhor jhore in the Bengali lingo) just like pilaf.

  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup moong dal (split green gram)
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. ghee

         Dry roast the dal till light brown. Soak along with rice for 30 minutes. Pressure cook with 1 1/2 cups water, salt and turmeric powder for 1-2 whistles. When done, add the ghee and mix well.

2.  Tok Dal (Sour Lentil) - 

          One of my favourite dish, it is also called Tok Er Dal, meaning a tangy, sour red lentil prepared with green mango. A traditional Bengali dal, it is prepared during summer. But I can have this almost everyday without getting bored. 

          You can call it a sort of comfort food. This is absolutely a very refreshing dal had with rice and some aloo bhaja (deep fried potato strips) as a side dish. There is nothing like it. I do sometimes add few drops of ghee. It enhances the taste and flavour.

  • 1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentil), soaked for 30 minutes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1-2 dry red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds

          Pressure cook the dal in 1 cup water for 4-5 whistles. Add salt, tamarind paste and turmeric powder and give it a whisk.

          Heat oil in a pan and temper with the red chilies (broken into half) and mustard seeds. After it stops spluttering, add the dal and simmer for 2-3 minutes on low flame. 

3.  Mashed Potatoes - 

          This is a best comfort food that any Bengali will vouch for. When time is a constraint or laziness overpowers us, this quick and simple meal is so heavenly and satisfying. Having it with either mustard oil or ghee, both tastes simply delicious.

          It can be relished with plain steamed rice or as a side dish with dal-chawal (lentil & rice). For more variations, it can also serve as a spread on toasted bread or parathas. In the case of the latter, it can simply be rolled and had as a lunch box meal. (Boiled eggs or boiled lentils can also be substituted).

  • 2 med, size potatoes, boiled
  • salt to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped (opt)
  • 1-2 tbsp. coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1-2 green chilies, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. mustard oil

          Mash the boiled potatoes and mix with the rest of the ingredients. It is ready to be served.

 4.  Pui Shaag-Chingri Chorchori (Malabar Spinach Curry with Prawns)

          This is a mish mash of veggies & Pui Shaag (Malabar Spinach) cooked with prawns in a Bengali style. For a veg. version, omit the prawns and add fried bodi / mangodi / vadiyal. As greens generally contains a lot of iron, vitamins and calcium, it is good to add in our daily menu. A little bit of mustard paste gives this dish an authentic Bengali touch.

  • 2-3 long stems of Pui Shaag / Malabar spinach
  • 1/2 cup prawns
  • 2-3 eggplants, cubed
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 250 gms. red pumpkin, cubed
  • 3 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1 tsp. panch phoron (equal quantities of fennel, mustard, cumin, fenugreek & nigella (kalonji) seeds
  • 2-3 green chilies, slit
  • 1" ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. mustard paste (kasundi)

           Chop the leaves and the tender stems from the Pui shaag. Wash and keep aside. Heat 1 tbsp. oil and fry the prawns for a minute. Keep aside.

          Heat rest of the oil and temper with the panch phoron, ginger and green chilies. After it stops spluttering, add the potato, pumpkin and eggplant.

          Saute till light brown. Now add the chopped greens, salt, turmeric powder and cumin powder and saute, covered on low flame.

          Halfway through, add the fried prawns and continue to simmer till the veggies are cooked. When done, add the mustard paste. Give it a stir and serve with hot steamed rice.

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