Friday, December 25, 2009

Seasonal Pakoras

This is a particular great time for foodie experimenters. On wandering through the lush vegetable market in our area on my trip home to Kolkata, I came upon items with which I had no familiarity. Both PuiN er Metuli and Maatha Maach are it seems standards in rural Bengal though. My mother who is an adventurous experimenter in the kitchen joined me to make the following dishes. PuiN saakh is one of the staple greens in Bengal. What beckoned me in the market was not the Puin itself but its exuberantly green blossom! Puin er Metuki is its name in Bengal. We made pakoras; the Indian fried snack out of it. Maatha Maach similarly has very humble beginnings. It is basically the leftover small fry (really really minute!) which is left at the very bottom of the fisherman's net. It contains myriad tiny and fishes small krill/shrimp. It must be cleaned thoroughly before use, but once that part is over, it lends itself to wonderful fishballs and fish patties.

250 gm PuiN blossom, stalks, flowers included
1 cup Besan (ground gram flower)
1 level teaspoon salt
1 bunch of coriander, finely chopped, about a cup
1 and half seeded green chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoon ground pepper
Water only if necessary
Oil for frying, about 1 and half cup

Chop and steam the methuli/greens for about 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients. Tip the cooled methuli into the dry mix. Add just enough water to make a thick batter with dropping consistency. Heat oil. Drop a spoonful of the batter mix and fry until brown at medium heat. Drain excess oil. Serve hot with sauce of choice.


250 gm Shrimp-(small prawns, fish)
2 Tbalesppon Oil
1 onion, chopped finely
3 Tablespoon Garlic, chopped finely
2 teaspoon Green chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoon red Chilli powder
1 teaspoon blackPepper, ground
1/2 teaspoonTurmeric powder-
3 medium sized white bread slices, ( soaked in 1/3 cup milk)
Salt, as required.
For coating the balls:
2 Eggs, beaten
5 Tablespoon toasted bread crumbs
Oil for frying, about 1 cup

Clean the shrimps thoroughly. Heat the oil. Sauté the chopped onion,garlicm along with the shrimps/small fish. Stir. Add the chilli powder, chopped green chilli, pepper, turmeric powder. Mix thoroughly. Lower the heat. Mix in the beaten eggs and the mashed bread soaked in milk. Stir again. Cook the mixture on low flame stirring all the time till it is thick enough to hold its shape. Cool and shape into bite size balls (About 40 balls).
Roll them in bread crumbs. Dip them in the beaten egg. Roll them again in bread crumbs.
Deep fry the balls till golden brown.
Remove keep them on paper. Serve hot with sauce of choice.

Sizzling snacks : Elo Jhelo

Like in so many fields, making Elo Jhelo are a dying art. Which is a pity, seeing that they being basically junk food, ought to take the fancy of the younger generations. My mother-in-law who excels in all things related to Bengalee cooking (and European style soups!) makes it as special treats for us whenever we come to visit her. This is her recipe.
They are to me beautiful as pieces of art and worth preserving. Packed in even plactic containers they make lovely gifts too!

2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
3 Tablespoon white oil as shortening
1/2 cup milk

Sugar syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Boil the two until you have sticky syrup

Enough oil for frying. About 2 cups.

In a pan boil the sugar and water to make the syrup. The syrup should coat the back of a spoon. Let it cool.
Add the 2 cups of flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and baking powder and mix them thoroughly. Add the shortening and rub it in. Warm the milk until it is lukewarm. Add the milk until the dough comes together. It should not be sticky. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
Make small balls out of it, about one and half centimtre in radius. Roll out the balls into a pancake shape. The thickness should not be less than 1 mm. Otherwise it will be too fragile. With a knife cut slits into the pancake. Keep a gap of about 1 cm from the edge. From the edge of the pancake with two fingers roll in. Heat the oil until a cube of breadcrumb fries golden immediately. Drop the rolled Elo jhelo and lower the heat to a shimmer. Fry it. Make sure that it remains white and doesn't become brown. Heat the oil up again before dropping in the other elo jhelo rolls.
Drain the oil and drop it into the sugar syrup while it is still warm. It should not remain in the sugar syrup for more than half a minute. Just coat the ele jhelo in the syrup and drain. Let cool before packing.