Aloor Bora (Bengali style crispy potato fritters with chilies)

Recipe no: 4 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

This has to be the easiest recipe among all that I’ve ever shared on my blog.

Maa used to make this quite often during my growing up years and I loved these fritters with some rice and lentils. Best comfort food ever🤍 I still remember coming back home from school, quickly changing and rushing to the kitchen to see what’s for supper. That really was the highlight of my day!

So I knew I had to include this simple dish in my #regionalkitchensofindia series. Most of us have the usual potato chips/ fries/ aloo bhaja at home all the time, but have you tried fritters with the potato skin unpeeled, Bengali style?

Bengal had faced several challenges in its long history which had adverse implications on its economy. As a result, women came up with several innovative ways to utilise everything they had in their kitchen and minimise wastage. No peels, skins, stems or fish head got thrown away 😅

You can enjoy this with either a simple meal like dal-chawal (lentil and rice) or with your evening cuppa. Simple pleasures of life 🙂

Ingredients (for about 10 small fritters):

9-10 small potatoes, boiled (don’t remove the skin)

1 tsp roasted cumin powder

3 finely chopped green chilies

1 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves

Salt to taste

3 tsp rice flour

Mustard oil to deep fry

Method:

Boil the potatoes & mash them without removing the skin. That’s the essence of this dish.

Add salt, roasted cumin powder, lots of chopped green chilies and coriander leaves. Throw in the rice flour for binding and mix everything well.

Make small balls and fry them on medium heat in very hot oil (preferably mustard oil).

Shoukheen Lau (Traditional bengali style bottle gourd/ lauki curry with grated coconut and mustard)

Recipe no: 2 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

A legacy of lost flavours…

Durga pujo (most important festival for Bengalis) at my choto pishi’s (paternal aunt) in the suburbs of Calcutta dates back to the early 1960s. The huge imposing estate in Naihati close to the Ganges has witnessed many a grand celebration over the years when cousins far and near and members across generations would gather to participate in the festivities with much fervour.

Of the many pujo bhog (food offered to goddess Durga) recipes, the one that stayed with me is this bottle gourd dish with shorshe baata (mustard paste) and narkel kora (grated coconut).

The humble lau/ lauki/ bottle gourd with earthy flavours results in a hearty soulful dish reminiscent of glorious days gone by 🙂

Ingredients:

1 medium sized bottle gourd (lau), chopped in thin slices

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 slit green chilli

2 whole green chilies

4 tbsp grated coconut

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

2 tbsp mustard oil

For mustard paste:

1 tsp black mustard seeds

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

Salt to taste

1 small green chilli

1/3 cup warm water

Method:

Take a medium sized bottle gourd/ lau and chop it up in thin slices as shown in the picture below.

Heat a frying pan with mustard oil until it’s smoking hot and then temper it with mustard seeds and a slit green chilli. Once fragrant, add the chopped bottle gourd/ lauki and continue to stir fry on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Now cover the pan and let it cook on low heat. Meanwhile for the mustard paste, throw in the two mustard seeds, green chilli and salt in a blender with some warm water and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Now blend few times to get a fine paste. The longer you soak the mustard seeds, the better.

Remove the cover from the pan and add the mustard paste and mix everything well and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt as per your taste.

Slowly add in the grated coconut and sugar and stir fry on medium heat for another 5-6 minutes. Throw in 2 green chilies and cover and cook for 10-15 more minutes or until the lau/ bottle gourd is well combined. There is no need to add any additional water.

Switch off the flame and give it a standing time for 5 minutes. Best served with some plain white rice 🙂

Did you know that the bottle gourd skin is actually very delicious when fried?!

Next time you prepare this or any other bottle gourd dish, don’t throw away the peels.

Chop them up in very fine slices along with some thinly sliced potatoes and stir fry them in oil (preferably mustard) tempered with nigella (kalonji) seeds and slit green chilies. Add in salt and turmeric powder and finish off with a sprinkling of some poppy (posto) seeds on top before taking it off from the stove.

Ta daa ! Your delicious lau khosha bhaja/ (fried bottle gourd skin) is ready!

Authentic Chhanar Dalna (Bengali Cottage Cheese Kofta Curry)

While cleaning my bookshelf a couple of days back, I stumbled upon this slightly mildewed Bengali cookbook ‘Randhan Shikkha‘ which translates to ‘cooking lesson’. The book is from the 1950s and belonged to my late mother-in-law who had given it to me knowing my love for cooking and vintage recipes 🙂

A treasure trove of earthy Bengali dishes long forgotten…..

That’s when I decided to dedicate this whole month to recreating uncelebrated heritage recipes from the regional kitchens of India that no longer enjoy the privilege of being talked about, written about or included in the menus of a typical Indian restaurant.

These culinary classics from our grandmothers’ times are slowly getting lost in the age of convenience and fusion food.

So what better way to start the new year than to share some of the most authentic regional recipes starting with what else but Bengali cuisine. After all, Indian food has so much more to offer than just butter chicken, chole bhature, masala dosa or mishti doi!

Recipe no: 1 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series.

Chhana/ Chana = cottage cheese; dalna = gravy/ curry.

Soft pillowy fried cottage cheese (chhana) balls simmered in a freshly made ginger-cumin-green chili based gravy, finished with a big dollop of ghee (clarified butter).

Chhana is not to be confused with paneer. Technically they are made in the same way but chhana is much softer and moister and is kneaded like a dough to make soft balls for kofta curries or the iconic rasgullas.

Looking back I recall my thakuma (grandma) cooking her signature cottage cheese and potato curry on special occasions when niramish (vegetarian) meals meant strictly no-onion and no-garlic. My maa still makes it every year during nabobarsho (Bengali new year) if she’s in town.

The dish probably has its origin back in the times when Bengali Hindu widows were prohibited from eating anything non-vegetarian including onion and garlic, so women prepared a lot of recipes with milk in order to get required protein in their food and since then the recipes have passed down several generations.

The quintessential ‘aada-jeere baata‘ (ginger-cumin paste) is the heart of his curry. The gorgeous aroma of this paste made in the mortar-pestle evokes a sense of comfort and transports me straight to my thakuma’s hneshel (grandma’s kitchen).

Bittersweet memories!

Try out this simple recipe the next time you want some protein-rich vegetarian dish. It is guaranteed to make your tastebuds dance!

Ingredients (9-10 medium sized koftas):

The original recipe calls for homemade chhana/ chhena (cottage cheese), but I used Nanak’s fresh paneer which tastes fantastic and is extremely soft, making it the perfect substitute. For those of you unsure of your chhana making skills or are pressed for time, I would highly advise to get very good quality fresh paneer made from full fat milk.

For the chhana/ cottage cheese koftas:

220 g fresh paneer, crumbled

1 tbsp all purpose flour/ maida

1 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

White oil to shallow fry

For the gravy:

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large bay leaf

1 large cinnamon stick

4-5 green cardamom

3 cloves

A paste made of 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 green chili and 2 inch ginger chunk (preferably in a mortar-pestle)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder

2 medium potatoes diced in cubes

1/2 chopped tomato

2 whole green chilies

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

11/2 tbsp white oil

1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp garam masala (preferably Bengali gorom moshla)

1 small cup warm water

Method:

In a bowl add the crumbled paneer, all purpose flour, salt, sugar and knead well like a dough for at least 6-7 minutes. Now divide the dough into slightly flattened balls/ koftas of equal size.

Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the koftas on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. It takes about 2-21/2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep aside.

In the same frying pan (remove the excess oil, only keep about 2 tbsp), temper the oil with cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves. Once the spices are fragrant, turn the heat into medium-low and add the ginger-cumin-green chili paste into the pan carefully as the oil may start spluttering a lot. Stir fry for 2 minutes.

This is the time to add the potatoes, red chili powder and turmeric. Keep frying for few more minutes until the potatoes are softer. Now throw in the chopped tomatoes and whole green chilies and continue to fry until the oil separates and the spices are well cooked.

Add some warm water (depending on how you want the gravy consistency to be), salt and sugar and let it come to a boil. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Now add the koftas/ channa balls into the gravy, a dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of garam masala. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Switch off the flame and keep it covered (standing time) for 5 more minutes. Serve hot with steaming white rice or ghee bhaat 🙂

Ray classic Mahanagar & Narkel diye aloo posto (fried potatoes with grated coconut & poppy seeds)

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week   -H.W Longfellow

Since childhood, Sundays have always meant celebration. From waking up late to watching television for an extra hour, lazing around, playing with friends in the park even in scorching heat & most importantly that special Sunday lunch. Bongs are very emotional about this one meal of the week when everyone’s at home, no school, no office, no weekday stress & mommy cooking up a storm in the kitchen 🙂

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mahanagar
Image source: http://www.exoticindiaart.com

It was as special as a five course meal at a fine dining restaurant. But it had to be a true blue bengali meal through & through. From shaak bhaja (stir fried greens) to shukto (bong style mix veg curry, slightly sweet), daal (lentils), maacher jhol (fish curry), kosha mangsho (spicy sauteed mutton), chaatni (a sweet relish made with mango/ dry fruits/ tomato) & doi (yogurt) preferably mishti/ sweet. Yes! All these were a part of our sunday meals.

Even to this day, Sunday lunch is a big deal. If I am home, I try to cook something traditional, simple & comforting. Just how home made meals should be 🙂

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Last Saturday for dinner, the husband & I went to a swanky Japanese bbq restaurant. Though the food was nice but it was a little too bland for my liking 😛 Blame it on my love for all things spicy!

So naturally, we were craving for some simple home made food for lunch. I made the following:

  • Bhaja moong’er dal motorshuti diye (yellow lentils with peas)
  • Narkel aloo posto (fried potatoes with grated coconut & poppy seeds)
  • Begun’er jhal (A spicy eggplant curry)
  • Shaada bhaat (Plain white rice)

Bhaaja Moong'er dal motorshuti diye
Bhaaja Moong’er dal motorshuti diye

Begun'er jhaal
Begun’er jhaal

Narkel diye aloo posto
Narkel diye aloo posto

Shaada bhaat
Shaada bhaat

Yeah no longer a five course meal but tasty & filling nonetheless 🙂

We also follow a tradition of watching a movie at home in the afternoon post lunch, some old classic. ‘Mahanagar’ (a Satyajit Ray masterpiece) it was this time. A contemporary movie about a housewife in Calcutta who despite coming from a traditional family gets a saleswoman job & feels economically emancipated. The movie remarkably explored the social dynamics of the 60’s & is widely regarded as one of Ray’s greatest films.

Recipe: Narkel diye aloo posto

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium sized potatoes, diced in cubes
  • 3 tbs oil (I used olive oil)
  • 3 green chillis slit
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs ginger paste
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste

Method:

For the poppy seeds paste, take 3 tbsp of poppy seeds in a bowl. Add 1 green chilli, some salt and a little warm water and keep aside for about 30 mins. Grind them into a smooth paste.

Now heat oil in a wok, add the slit chillis & cumin seeds into it. Keep stirring for 30 seconds and throw in the ginger paste. Once the raw smell is gone, add the grated coconut & stir well. Turn the heat to medium. It will take about 4-5 minutes for the coconut to brown & get that wonderful aroma.

Now add the diced potatoes & fry well. Sprinkle some salt, sugar, turmeric & red chilli powder & keep stirring until the potatoes are almost done. Add the poppy paste & mix everything together. Cook for 5 more minutes & you are done!

Serve hot with rice/ rotis.