A few years back I did not know about a "Bhorta" with an "O".
The only kind I knew was "Bharta" with an "A" and that began and ended with "Baingan Bharta".
And then came LS's babysitter from Bangladesh and we kept hearing a lot of "Bhorta". However we didn't get to eat many except "Aloo Bhorta" which is almost like "Alu-Sheddho" and a "Alu-Sheem Bhorta" which again is almost like a sheem bhaate. LS's babysitter is not too interested in cooking and so that is that.
But at least now we were more aware and didn't say "Baingan" when someone said "Bhorta". Bhorta is a dish where veggies, fish or even meat are mashed and spiced. It is the signature of Bangladeshi Cuisine holding a place above any other food in their culinary culture. Amazingly, it has not trickled into mainstream Bengali food in neighboring India and most Bengalis from India are unaware of the myriad of bhortas that Bangladesh boasts of.
Then last year came the husband's sis, the sis-in-law, a very enterprising and good cook. And guess what, she befriended a neighbor who was from Bangladesh and a storehouse of all kind of "Bhorta". My sis-in-law did not waste time and honed her skills on numerous "Bhortas" and when she visited us last year, she brought along a tupperware full of greenish hued "Bean Bhorta".
Now I am not too fond of "String Beans" or "French Beans" and usually avert my eyes and look the other way towards the mint and the coriander when I am confronted by them. But this was different. This was "Whoa" good. Very good in total un-beanly way. I mean if you are a green bean fan you might not like the idea of pulverizing the whole thing into bean debris but believe me even then you are going to like it.
My sis-in-law adds chingri bata or roughly ground shrimp to this. I wanted a veggie version and she suggested grated coconut. So I used the frozen grated coconut of course.
This is a rough recipe with the measures eyeballed. Go with your instinct. LS's babysitter said "Bhorta" should be green chili hot and so we added a good quantity of green chili. Frankly it was too hot for me. But the way you eat it , mixing a small portion of bhorta with white rice attenuates the heat and makes it pleasantly bearable.
In that sense, a little bhorta goes a long way.
Wash and chop French Beans in 2" length.
Heat Mustard Oil in a kadhai and fry 1 small onion thinly sliced.
Follow with 5 clove of garlic chopped and 7-8 hot Indian green chili.
Next add the beans, around 3-4 cups of the chopped ones. Add salt to taste.
Saute the beans till it is soft and cooked.
Once it has cooled down put the contents of the kadhai(beans+everything else) in a blender jar and add about 1/4th cup of grated coconut. With a splash of water make a thick paste.
You need to dry up this paste now. So heat a teeny bit of Mustard Oil and add the west paste. Saute until you have dried up the excess water and the result is a moist bpaste.
Add some finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with fluffed up white rice. To eat with your fingers, mix little dollops of paste with rice and enjoy.
The Non-Veg version
For the non--veg version, you have to get some small to medium sized shrimp. The frozen ones work best as you will be making a paste out of them shrimps.
Wash and clean shrimp(or just defrost). Then toss with little salt and pinch of turmeric powder.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the shrimp until it is soft and golden. When it has cooled down, put the shrimp in the blender along with the beans and make a paste.
To dry out the paste again follow the same step as earlier
Now there are two things I wanted to share with you.A couple of months back I had the privilege to chat with Scott Haas -- an author of several published books, a James Beard award winner and former NPR producer. The whole thing was courtesy a dear blog reader. It was a cozy chat--almost like an adda and it got morphed into an interview at TOI. You can read it here if you wish.
The second is , BS's summer vacation starts today and it goes on for 2 and half months. As a summer project for BS we decided to blog about the books she is going to read over the next two months. Every week she gets to pick 3-4 books of her choice while I pick 1 or 2 for her. Of these the ones that she really likes will be blogged about. Some books that LS likes might find its way there too. It is going to be a simple blog with no heavy review but just a way to list books she will read and hopefully love over summer. Also there will be some kid-friendly snacks that BS can make by herself. For this we have had great suggestions on Facebook and hopefully many of them will be done.
It will be nice to have you over there at Bong Mom's CookBook for Kids, with your suggestions and if your kid is starting summer vacation why don't you start a similar blog for them too ?