Feasts of devotion: Durga Puja at home | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 09, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 09, 2018

puja special recipes

Feasts of devotion: Durga Puja at home

Growing up Durga Puja always felt like a much-dreaded annual feat. I would usually start pacing myself for the last four days that a younger hormonal me would sum in three words, “heat, traffic and gatherings”. I never really understood what all the fuss and excitement was about, but with time those feelings and perceptions changed. The only thing that remained static through out all those years of angst and still does is the excitement of coming back home to the spread on the dining table that still gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to this day.

All my cousins, friends and I around the dining table, ever grateful to finally give those sore feet a break, the cooler temperatures indoors and the sudden realization that we hadn't had a proper meal the entire day. In most Bengali Hindu homes, it is customary to consume mostly vegetarian dishes during Durga Puja, so there usually is a lot of khichuri and an assortment of decadent vegetable curries and a deep-fried golden version of some vegetable. Salivating already?

The last day of Durga Puja, also known as “Bijoya Dashami” is the epitome, marked by the immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga into the river or pond. Dinner that night could easily sum up the gusto with which people partake  in the daytime celebrationsof “Bishorjon” and “ShidurKhela”. This is also the day when homes are filled with the aromas of “pulao, kosha mangsho” and the must-have “ilishbhaja”. Most Bengali Hindus take their “ilish” very seriously on this day because after Durga Puja, Hilsha is not generally consumed until SaraswatiPuja to allow breeding time for the fish. Surely with modern times and better storage facilities that is not necessarily always the case now.

It never felt like an inconvenience to eat only vegetables for the last four straight days, especially when the dishes on its own were just as extravagant and rich like the celebrations themselves, building up to the final act!

Sharodiyo Shubechha to all the readers and Happy Feasting this Durga Puja!

A special thanks to Ratna Sen a.k.a Kiki and her husband Dr. Samanta Lal Sen for opening up her home, the hard work and time she put into preparing all the scrumptious and wonderful dishes and also for sharing her recipes.

VEGETABLE BATTER FRY

Ingredients

2/3 cup maida (refined flour)

1/3 cup corn flour, 1 tsp rice flour

½ tsp turmeric powder

1/3 tsp cooking soda

Salt and sugar, to taste, 1 cup oil

Sliced potato, brinjal and pumpkin or any other combination of vegetables

Method

Wash the sliced vegetables and add salt and sugar to them and keep aside. In a bowl, add maida, corn flour, rice flour, turmeric powder, cooking soda and salt and mix well. Add water to make a batter thick enough to coat the vegetables and set aside. Heat oil in a wok. Drain the vegetables of the salt and sugar water. Dip in batter and deep fry.

LABRA (MIXED VEGETABLES)

Ingredients

½ tsp turmeric powder

1/3 tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin powder (jeera)

1/3 tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp asafoetida (Hing), optional 

¾ tsp panch phoron

4 green chilies, split

½ tsp wheat flour(atta)

1 tsp ghee, 2 tbsp oil

6 daaler bori (optional)

Vegetables such as potato, pumpkin, brinjal, radish, cauliflower, cabbage, bean and whatever else you have available in the refrigerator

Method

Heat oil in wok. If you add daaler bori, fry first and keep aside. Temper oil with two slit green chilies and paanch phoron. Add the cut vegetables and the turmeric, chilli, cumin, asafoetida and coriander powder and salt and sugar. Fry till the raw flavour is gone and a fried smell prevails. Then add water and cook till it is completely absorbed and the vegetables are cooked. When done, add the bori, remaining green chillies, ghee and wheat flour and mix. Cover to allow standing time and serve.

 

CREAM PANEER (COTTAGE CHEESE)

Ingredients

250g paneer, cut into small cubes

1 cup fresh milk or powder milk

3-4 tsp fresh cream or coffee mate (you can also use milk powder)

1 black cardamom, 4 green cardamom

3 cloves, 1 bay leaf

1 medium sized potato, boiled and cubed

1 green capsicum, cubed

1 tbsp ghee, 2 tbsp oil

½ tsp ginger paste

4 green chilies, slightly slit

Salt to taste

Method

Heat oil in wok. Fry the paneer and keep aside. Fry capsicum and keep aside. Add ghee to the oil and temper with the whole spices. Add the ginger paste. Then put the boiled potato cubes and fry them. Add milk, coffee mate and then cover it and let it cook. Add the paneer cubes and green chilies and cook on low flame so that the flavour of milk infuses into the paneer. Add the capsicum, and then allow a 1-minute standing time and remove from flame. 

 

CHOLAR DAAL (BENGAL GRAM)

Ingredients

1 cup Bengal gram

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp cumin powder, 1/3 tsp chili powder

Salt and sugar to taste

For temper

1 tbsp oil, 1bsp ghee, ½ tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies, 1 bay leaf

1½ tsp coconut, freshly grated

Method

Boil daal in sufficient water. Remove all the dirt that floats up. Add powdered turmeric, cumin and chilli and salt and then cook till the daal can be mashed by the finger. Then add sugar and keep aside.

Heat oil in a separate pan. Add ghee, chillies and fry. Temper with red chillies, cumin seeds, bay leaf and the grated coconut and fry till the coconut turns golden brown. Add the tempered oil to daal and heat with split green chilies and serve.

CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO CURRY

Ingredients

1 small cauliflower, cut into small flowerets

2 medium potatoes, cut into wedges

1 green capsicum, cut into half-inch squares (optional)

1½ tsp turmeric powder, ¾ tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin powder, 1 bay leaf

3 tbsp oil, 1 tsp ghee

½ tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp wheat flour(atta)

2 green chillies, split

Method

Heat oil in a pan. If you use capsicum, fry it in some oil until it softens and keep aside. Add the cauliflower to the oil. Add salt and sugar as per taste and fry until all the water is absorbed and the raw smell is gone. Add ½ tsp of turmeric powder and fry till a nice aroma pervades, then remove from oil.

In the same oil, add 1 bayleaf and the potatoes and fry. Make sure to season it with some salt. Add the remaining turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin powder with 2 tbsp of water and cook until all the water evaporates and the oil starts to float on top. Then add ½ cup of water and cover to allow the potatoes to boil. When the potatoes become soft, add the cauliflower, but do not cover the lid, or else the trapped vapour will make the cauliflowers soggy. The curry needs to have a thick consistency so don't be afraid to add more water and wheat flour if needed at this stage.

Finally, add the capsicum, ghee, garam masala powder, green chillies and salt and sugar as per taste before serving.

VEGETARIAN EGG

Ingredients

For the egg

500ml full cream milk made into paneer

Saffron, for food colouring

4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed

1 tsp ginger paste

Salt, to taste 

3 tbsp cornflour, mixed with ½ cup of water

4 tbsp of oil

For gravy

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp ginger paste

1 medium tomato, chopped

1tsp white Vinegar

Salt, to taste

½ tsp garam masala

1tsp ghee

1 bay leaf

Method

Mash the paneer and add a pinch of salt and the saffron colour. If needed, add a little bit more of the saffron colour to resemble the colour of an egg yolk and mould into balls.

Add the ginger paste and salt to mashed potatoes and make oval shaped balls surrounding the paneer balls. Dip into the cornflour batter and then deep fry them.

For gravy

Add 1 bay leaf to the leftover oil from frying the vegetarian eggs. Then one by one, add powdered chilli, cumin, ginger paste, chopped tomatoes and salt. Pour ½ cup of water and fry till it evaporates.

Add the vinegar and 1 cup of water to make the curry. Then place the vegetarian eggs into the curry, garam masala powder, ghee and serve.

DHOKAR DALNA

Ingredients

For dhoka

1 cup gram lentil, washed and immersed in water

1 inch ginger

½ tsp turmeric powder

3 green chillies (or as per taste)

Salt and sugar, for taste

1 tbsp of oil

For curry

1 tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp jeera powder

½ tsp ginger paste

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 bay leaf

2 cinnamon sticks

3 green cardamoms

2 cloves

¼ tsp of asafoetida powder

1 tsp vinegar

1 cup oil

1 tsp ghee

green chillies, as per taste

Method

To make dhoka

Blend the gram lentil with ginger and green chillies and a little bit of water to make a paste. Add the turmeric powder, salt, and sugar to the paste to make a thick batter. In a pan, heat oil, add the batter and keep stirring till the water is absorbed. Spread on a greased plate and allow to cool. Cut into rectangular pieces.

To make the curry

Heat oil in a pan and fry the dhokas and then keep aside. In the remaining pan, add the whole spices. Add the powdered turmeric, cumin, asafoetida and chilli and ginger paste, tomato puree, vinegar, salt, and sugar (as per taste) and some warm water. Cook until there is a layer of oil floating on the top and the raw smell of the spices are gone. Then incorporate the fried dhokas into the sauce and add sufficient water (for the dhokas to boil) as they tend to absorb a lot of the water in general. Add ghee, garam masala and split green chillies and mix well. Remove from flame and serve.  

FRIED HILSA (ILISH BHAJA)

Ingredients

6 pieces Hilsha fish

1 tsp onion paste

½ tsp garlic paste

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp vinegar, Cornflour

Salt, to taste

Method

Marinate the fish with all the ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine water and cornflour to make a thin batter. Heat oil in a pan, there should be enough oil to shallow fry the Hilsa. Dip the pieces of fish in the batter and then the oil and fry till golden brown.

 

TOMATO CHUTNEY

Ingredients

8 tomatoes, cut into thick slices

4 tbsp sugar, ½ tsp salt

2 seeds of tamarind or 6 dried plums (shuknaboroi)

Water, to soften

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp of mustard seeds

1 dried red chilli, 1 tbsp oil

3 mango bars (store bought), cut into squared, or raisins (optional)

Method

For the syrup

In a pan, boil the tomatoes with salt and add 1/3 cup of water till the tomatoes soften. Add the tamarind or dried plums and sugar. You may also add the mango bar pieces and raisins. Remove from flame and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat oil for tempering. Add the red chillies and fry. Add the mustard seeds and after they start cracking, pour only the oil directly into the syrup. Without adding any extra oil, heat the temper until the oil is absorbed and mix into the syrup. Serve in desired bowl.

MUTTON CURRY

Ingredients

500g mutton, washed and drained

2 tbsp yoghurt

3 desi onions, finely sliced for 'beresta'

1/3 tsp nutmeg powder

1 tsp ginger paste

½ tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp onion paste

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp almond and raisin paste

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into halves and washed (optional)

1 bay leaf

2 inch pieces of cinnamon stick

1 black cardamom

4 cloves, 4 tbsp butter oil

3 green chillies, Salt, to taste

Method

Marinate mutton with yoghurt, salt and nutmeg for about 30 minutes. Heat the butter oil and fry the onion slices with a little bit of salt till the onions become golden brown, and place in a bowl draining the oil as much as you can from it. In the same pan, without adding any extra oil, fry the potatoes with a pinch of salt and keep aside as well.

In a separate pan, temper oil with the whole spices and add the ginger, garlic and onion paste.

Add powdered chilli and coriander, salt and ¾ cups of water and cook until the water completely evaporates and the raw smell of masalas disappear. Add the marinated mutton and half of the fried onions and cover. Cook on medium flame. The mutton will cook in its own juices.

Add the fried potatoes, green chillies and ½ cup of water and cover for 5-10 minutes to allow the mutton and potatoes to absorb the flavours in the curry. Add the remaining fried onions as garnishing and serve.

 

BHUNA KHICHURI

Ingredients

1 cup pulao rice

1 cup dry roasted mung daal

1½ tsp freshly grated coconut

1 bay leaf

1 black cardamom

4 green cardamoms

2 cinnamon sticks, roughly 1½ inches thick

6 peppercorns

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

4 tbsp ghee

6 green chillies

½ tsp garam masala powder

Hot water

Method

Wash and soak the pulao and mung daal before starting. Drain water from rice and daal. Heat ghee in a pot and temper with the whole spices. Add the coconut and fry until golden brown. Add the rice, 2-3 split green chillies and ginger paste, salt and fry till a rich aroma pervades. Add sugar and stir well so that it coats the rice.

Add the daal and further fry so that the daal absorbs the ghee and spices. Add all the other dry masalas (except for the garam masala powder) and fry well till the raw smell of the masalas is gone. Add 5 cups of water, and cover and cook on high flame.

When almost done, add the garam masala powder, the remaining green chillies and ghee (optional)

Over a low flame, let the khichuri cook for 5 more minutes before serving. 

 

LUCHI

Ingredients

1½ cup maida flour

1/3 tsp salt

1 tbsp ghee or oil

3 cups oil, for deep frying

Method

Add the salt and ghee to the flour and mix it in well. Then start mixing in the water, little at a time to make a stiff dough. The end result should be a dough with a rubber like texture. Cover and allow to rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Then make small round balls from the dough. For this amount of flour, you should get 10-12 balls. Heat oil in a pan.  Roll out the balls into flat disc-like shapes with a diameter of 4-4” and deep fry the oil.

PLAIN ALU BHAJA

Ingredients

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small squares

2 tbsp ghee

½ tsp panch phoron

4 green chillies

Salt, to taste

Method

Heat ghee in a pan. Temper with 2 green chillies and panch phoron. Add the potatoes, salt and lightly fry. Add warm water (sufficient to allow potatoes to boil) and cover. Allow the potatoes to cook and the water to be completely absorbed. Add the remaining green chillies and cover for one minute.  Mash a few of the cooked potatoes for desired texture and then serve.

 

SUJI (WITH LUCHI)

Ingredients

1 cup semolina (suji)

1 cup sugar, 3 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp raisins

6 green cardamoms, crushed

Warm water

Method

Heat ghee in a pan and temper it with the crushed cardamoms. Add the semolina and lightly fry it till it turns golden brown and then mix in the sugar, raisins, and enough water to cook the semolina. When the water is absorbed and semolina is cooked, remove from the flame and serve.

Note: This semolina is fried lightly and more ghee and sugar are added to get a runny texture so that it complements the luchi. When adding the sugar, you can start of by adding ¾ of a cup of sugar and check before adding more to adjust how sweet you want it to.

PATISHAPTA

Ingredients

For filling

½ coconut, grated

1/3 piece of jaggery (khejur gur)

For batter

2/3 cup of flour (maida)

1 tsp semolina (suji)

Method

To make the filling

In a pan, heat coconut and ghee and cook over low flame until it turns into a sticky consistency and then remove aside.

For batter

Mix the flour with ½ cup of water. The consistency of the batter should be runny, so if needed, add a little bit more of water. Lightly grease a non-stick pan with oil. Pour a large spoon of the batter and allow it to spread out, covering the pan. Take a dollop of the filling and place it at the centre and spread it out a little. Start folding the batter in the same way you would while making an omelette. Slightly tap the two ends with a spoon so that the filling stays in place and then place in plate. Repeat this process for the remaining batter and filling.

 

Food prepared by Ratna Sen

Food Styling RBR

Photo Credits: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

 

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