Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dim-Pauruti Chepe

When I was young, my mum had two quick-fixes for jolkhabar -- the evening version of the elevenses for a culture that dines late, really late.

Since there's only so much of the evening, and such cartloads of work to do in it, jolkhabar is always tricky. Especially for families like mine, where tastebuds have been coddled such that the ubiquituous Bengali snacks -- like tel-muri, chirabhaja, badambhaja and so on -- had no place on our shelves. To keep rumbling tummies happy, my mother had two fall-back ops. One was a spicy pancake, made by whisking together red onions, chilies, little bits of tomatoes, eggs and milk. We ate it without sweet syrups or honey -- indeed, sweetening this lovely savoury delight never crossed my mind -- but it was delicious.

The other is this, a dish without a real name, referred to always in terms of its methods of preparation. Dim, pauruti chepe. Eggs, with bread pressed on it. And it's so impossibly simple, that I'll let the pictures do the talking.

 1. Whisk an egg with a little salt, and chopped green chilies if you like 'em. Pour it in a small circle on a hot, greased tawa/griddle/frying pan. 

 2. Press a slice of bread on it. My slices of bread always have their crusts cut off, because they hurt my mouth. I'm delicate like that.

3. Now flip the concoction, and let the bread toast on the greasy griddle for a bit.

 Transfer onto a warm plate. Sprinkle pepper on top, if you like. I do :-)


Good old dim-pauruti chepe. Always comes through in moments of culinary crisis. Like, for instance, at 4AM at the end of the week, when the fridge and larder are both depressingly empty. Or if there are perennially hungry children in the house.

Don't mock it's simplicity, and it will serve your tastebuds and tummy well. Happy emergency eating :-)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Roshopuli II

 Puli :-)

After phulkopir shingara, roshopuli! This is the second -- and last, if the weather doesn't hold -- winter special on Sauce! this year, and a desser I make absolutely no effort to resist if I'm in Calcutta during winter. All my life, I've slurped down hearty, warm bowlfuls of it made by my mother and great aunt, but ever since I mastered this dish last year, I'm the family's Reigning Roshopuli Queen.

And this is my special recipe. Finally, I have a Special Rimi Recipe. Oh, the joy.

First, take five tablespoons of shuji/sooji/semolina. Soak in enough water to just submerge the shuji.

After ten or fifteen, you'll find the indiv. grains of shuji are slightly larger, having absorbed the water.
This is narkel-kora. What would be suitably expressive English for it? Shaved coconut? Excavated coconut?

 Anyway, scoop the shuji on it. It'll hold the shape of the bowl, which you can have fun mahsing up.

 And then! The star of the show -- khejur guRer patali! Jaggery lumps made from the sap of the date-palm.

 Mix it all up! By hand. By freshly-cleaned hands.

 Now, pour it all into a wok, on a simmering flame.At first, it'll stick frighteningly to the sides. Let your spatula divorce them, but don't worry too much -- it'll crumble on its own when it's done.


 Spread it thin on a plate and let it cool for a while. Then, take a tiny bit in your palm, and roll between both palms till it's a little ball.

 Keep at it till you have a platful. Like this. It's utterly yummy. But DON'T eat it right away! We have Plans.

NOTE: If you fancy extra work, you can put little bits of this mixture into rice-flour casings, like dumplings or momos.

 Now, take four or five small cardamoms.

 Smash 'em open.

 Boil about 500 gms of full-cream milk, with the cardamoms AND about four tablespoons of crushed guRer patali. Trust me, don't go overboard with the guR. You can always add some later if you want.

After about twenty minutes, scoop out the green shells and throw them away.

 Wait till the milk almost boils over, then simmer the pot. Scrap up the cream-leavings on the side of the pan.

Now, gently add the naru-like little guR-narkel puli. They'll sink straight away. Relax. They're supposed to.

After about ten minutes, they'll slowly rise to the surface. By this time, the milk will have reduced to a lovely, thick, creamy texture.

This is what the pulis look like after that good, long soak.

And this is what it looks like in a warm bow, all ready for your discerning tastebuds. And if you DO have discerning tastebuds, you'll be grateful. Very grateful :-)

Friday, 10 February 2012

Phulkopir Shingara

Apparently, this weekend is when winter will bid us a final adieu, and we won't miss it one little bit... till March slowly melts into April and we start dissolving into our own little puddles of sweat.

The shape of things to come.

On a more immediate level, winter marching also means lovely fresh yummalicious veggies marching out of the markets, leaving the same old aloo-potol rubbish till next winter. So! I created a little alternate reality where I am NOT simultaneously working on five different projects, and I haven't a care in the world except to keep my tastebuds and tumtum happy. Day 1 of this produced phulkopir shingara -- that lovely, lovely piping-hot golden pastry, stuffed with a lightly, yet piquantly, flavoured cauliflower and potato.

This version of the shingara -- which is the Bangali version of a fried/baked ravioli, momo, dimsum or similar -- is completely 'niramish'. Absolutely vegetarian. There is no onion, no garlic, no hint of scandalous things forbidden in the Hindu household a century back. Prep time's an amazing forty minutes, especially if you're a deft hand at making the little triangles. If you're not, three batches and you will be. So then! Plunge in :-)

First, cauliflowers. Washed and cut into little florets. And I mean little.

 Then, two small potatoes. Or one large one. Whatever you've got at hand. Plus, those chilies? If you can handle 'em, chop 'em up.

 A teaspoon of oil. Half a teaspoon of jeera, because I like a strong flavour.

 Toss in the diced potatoes and cauliflowers, lightly rubbed with turmeric. Then, when it smells fried, toss further with salt and two pinches of sugar. Then, sprinkle a tablespoon of water all over it, simmer, and cover till tender.

When the vegetables are tender and there's no gravy of any description left in the work/pan, take it off the flame. Sprinkle bhaja guro moshla* over it, and mix well.

 Now, the shingara! Roll out your average flatbread dough into a circle, then cut it into half.

 Fold the semi-circle into half, keeping the top fold slightly larger than the bottom (look at the pic carefully to see how this works). Now, wet the tip of your finger, run it along the longer flap, and carefully make a cone of the semi-circle.
 See? Cone.

Which you stuff with stuff. Like, say, that awesome cauliflower filling.

 And then, you wet your fingertip again, and seal the bottom of the cone, such that they have a flat(ish) bottom to stand on.

 Then, contrary to all laws of flatbread-frying, slowly sink your shingaras into oil you've just put on a medium flame.

Incidentally, if you think the sticky dough is sticky enough to hold shape, and skip the wet-fingertip act, this is what will happen to your shingara: Eet weel kaam aaapaaart.

However, if you've been good, and done as you're told, you will have a platful of crisp, steaming, utterly scrumptious shingaras, with the lovely vegetarian filling.

Happy Bengali snacking, people!

*'Bhaja guro moshla' is an assortment of dry-roasted spices ground to a fine powder in a mortar-and-pestle. In this case, it is jowan (ajwain, carom seeds) and whole jeera (cumin), toasted together on a skillet or tawa till fragrant, then ground in a mixie.