Now, if you know me or even if you don't, you should know that I am not your regular everyday shukto making kinda gal. Heck, I am not even a gal any more, but that is besides the matter. I do not get up at 5 in the morning and make shukto, dal, maacher jhol and bhaat. Ok, so nobody does that anymore. No one gets up at 5 apparently. I do at 5:30, tap the snooze button and drag myself out at 6. But even that is besides the matter.
The crux of the matter is I am not the kind who can make shukto without a thought and with a song on their lips. I cannot cook shukto for 20 people coming home for dinner. I have to weigh the decision in my head for several days, shrug off a near reached decision several times, make long lists about six different vegetables, tear them off and then eat a sandwich from Panera. After all this the shukto gets cooked probably twice or maybe four times in a year, once in each season, not bad.
This does not mean that the husband, who loves shukto more than anything does not get his fill. I have enterprising friends who cook shukto and more for 20 people. I do not have to bow down to any sentimental pressures.
When I last posted my Shukto recipe in 2006, in the beginning days of my blogging, my Ma was here and she was the one who barked out the instructions. That post had several comments, some said the standard "great recipe", a couple made it and liked it, someone protested about not using "radhuni". Now radhuni is an elusive ingredient in my pantry. Honestly, I have never used it. My Ma, her mother my dida all being probashi bangalis(bengalis settled outside of West bengal) adjusted and substituted in absence of this spice which you rarely find outside Bengal. I have friends who bring radhuni by the pound from Kolkata. Maybe because I have not grown up with it, I have never felt the need.
Now radhuni is also referred to as "wild celery seeds" by wiki.I did not find "wild celery" and got regular "celery seeds" for my shukto this time. Everything else was exactly same as I have always done. The "celery seeds" did not do any magic. The Shukto tasted just like before. If you have the real "radhuni" seeds it sure will add a whole lot of flavor.
Having said this, let me make it clear that if you do not like my shukto, pick up the phone, dial 011-91-33 and any number after that and get the detailed recipe from your Mom, your Ma-in-law, your aunt, your uncle or anyone who is the shukto master in your family. You can even skype. It is easy now days. It does not cost a bomb to outsource a recipe from overseas.Tell me what they said and we can chat.
Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.
Make a list and buy the following vegetables on you next errand
1 Alu or Potato
1 Mulo or White Radish or a bunch of small red ones,
1 Jhinge or ridge Gourd,
1 KanchaKola or Green Plantain
1 Begun or Eggplant(the slender one),
1 Uchche or Bitter Gourd,
a bunch(about 6-8) of long green beans or string beans
You can also add drumsticks, zucchini etc.
Wash and chop the vegetables along the length. See pic here.
Soak and grind
1 tbsp mustard seeds + 1 tsp poppy seeds + little salt,
to a paste with little water
Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying pan
Saute the vegetables in batches, bitter gourd being the last, lightly.Remove and keep aside
Fry the vadi(10-15 small ones) till they are brown and crispy. I did not have any this time and skipped.
Heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a Kadai/Frying Pan
1/4tsp Radhuni(optional. In it absence use Paanchphoron),
1/4 tsp Methi(fenugreek) seeds(approx. 10),
2 bay leaves,
a pinch of Hing(asafoetida)
When they start sputtering and you get the smell of hing rising add the mustard & poppy seeds paste
Add 1 tbsp of grated Ginger
Add the sauted veggies and mix well
Add 1/2 cup whole Milk + 1 Cup water. Add salt to taste. Cover and cook till veggies are cooked well. If you want gravy, add little more milk + water and cook.
Once the vegetables are almost done add a little sugar, about 1/4-1/2 tsp
Add the fried vadis at the end
Serve shukto with white rice