October 9, 2008
I survived the Saturday wedding. Now it was time to brave lashing rain in full Indian festive gear. The annual reconnect-with-my-Bengali-brethren event has commenced.
I’m talking about Durga Puja. Where London’s entire Bengali community descends to find suitable marriage partners, keep up with the Chatterjee’s, and, of course, pray.
For me and sis, the highlight is the Bhog or food offering. There’s something about standing in the mile-long queue, sizing up the crowds and receiving a miniscule portion of food that makes it two times more special than it tastes.
We arrived in matching deep red salwar suits, the traditional trousers and tops, high heels and overcoats. Waited patiently for the queueing to commence, while catching up with the community. And it never happened. Turns out the Bhog of Khichuri, rice and lentils, and Mishti is reserved for the last day or Dashami.
When someone said said “don’t leave now” and rattled off the names of a dozen other long lost Bengalis who were about to arrive, sis and I exchanged a quick look. Then, we legged it to the nearest Indian vegetarian buffet worth its thali.
We’re about to try our luck again. But I’m not taking any chances. I’ve cooked Durga Puja Recipes: a large pot of Bhoger Khichuri and Beguni, spicy fried aubergines. It’s not quite the same, but it’ll help any disappointment later. Shubho Biojoya everyone!
PS= I have tried to reach a happy compromise with fat in these recipes. Ghee is limited to half a teaspoon per serving and the aubergine is shallow fried instead of deep fried. Come Diwali, I’m done with all this festive fattening…
Wash the dal throughly under a cold tap. Leave it to drain and cut the cauliflower and potato into small bite sized pieces.
In a large pot, dry roast the dal on a high flame for a minute until it lets off a wonderful warm aroma. Then add a cup of hot water and bring to the boil. In the meantime, rince the rice thoroughly. When the dal starts bubbling, mix in the rice and the turmeric.
In another two minutes, stir in the potatoes. Then after another few minutes, the cauliflower and peas. Let the whole mixture keep bubbling until the contents are all cooked. The dal will disintegrate easily in the mouth when ready. Keep adding water so you get a runny consistency.
Take the pot off the flame and make the tadka mix. In a small pot, heat the ghee over a high flame. When it starts sizzling, add the whole dry spices, the sugar and the green chillies. As they start sizzling too, stir the tadka into the dal. Add salt to taste and serve hot with the Beguni.
Cut the aubergine into half lengthwise and then half centimetre slices. Soak it in cold water while the khichuri is cooking.
When the khichuri is done, run the gram flour through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Then add all the other ingredients and water one tablespoon at a time to create a thick batter with the consistency of a thick but runny yogurt.
Bring the oil to heat in a frying pan over a high heat. When the oil starts sizzling, coat each aubergine slice on either side with the batter and shallow fry until crisp and golden brown. Set them to rest on a thick napkin or kitchen towel to drain off any excess oil before you enjoy.