Monday, August 26, 2013

Dal er Borar Jhol -- Lentil fritters in a light gravy

If you follow my blog on FB, you will know that my Mother arrived a couple of weeks back. With her of course came packets of Mukhorochak chanachur-- tauk--jhaal-mishti -- sour--spicy-sweet. And loads of books. Tons of Enid Blytons for the 9 yr old, Bengali story books by Sukumar Roy from my childhood for the little one and fat Lila Majumdar Rachanabolis for me.

A natural fallout of all these books is that I have been engrossed in reading and have had little time to do anything else during free time. And there in an FB status, I heard that people these days don't like free time, as they have no idea what to do when there is nothing to do. Anyway, I have no such problems.

I am an ardent Lila Majumdar fan and have been one for the last 30 years. I can read her stories and essays over and over and yet find new joy every time in the tales of uncomplicated times of simple livings. The downside of reading such great authors is that I myself feel very incompetent and my writing feels bleah ! So, I take the easy way out and read more, hoping to learn something but eventually only get engrossed in the tales.

When I get time away from reading, I make Dal er Bora. And also take showers.

Now, the Dal er Bora or Lentil fritters is a very typical Bengali dish. There are lentil fritters made  throughout the length and breadth of India for sure but these particular ones are  typical to Bengal. They are also deep fried and very different from the sun dried lentil fritters-- the bori.

I had written a detailed post on the Dal er Bora some years back. That one was made with Matol + Musur Dal. This time I did not have any Mator dal and so used only Red Masoor. Also different from the jhaal-jhol last time which needed mustard paste, I made a Borar Jhol this time, which was more in the lines of a dalna like this Alu Potol er Dalna. I also added few of the boras to a thin jhol with vegetables and spiced with mustard paste, like this Alu Begun er Jhol. Both the dishes tasted very good.

Bengali vegetarian dishes are vast and varied but very few non-Bengalis know that. One of the oft heard comments I have received from non-Bengali readers of my book, is the surprise on the Vegetable chapters. As this particular reader says about my book  "But it has to be said, the book has opened my eyes to the breadth and depth of Bengali cuisine, which in my severely myopic view did not go beyond macher jhol, mangsher jhol, and the indiscriminate use of badly chopped (sometimes whole) potatoes and of course mustard oil." Now honestly, the variety is too much for me to even know, forget putting in the book, but I hope as we dig out these simple gems, more people will be able to enjoy Bengali food beyond maacher jhol and kosha mangsho.

Dal er Borar Jhol or Lentil Fritters in a Gravy

To Make Dal er Bora

Soak 1/2 cup of Matar Dal(split peas) & 1/2 cup of red Masoor Dal in water for half an hour.For only Musur Dal er Bora use 1 cup of Red Lentils/Red Masoor dal
In the blender add 
the soaked lentils
1" piece of peeled and chopped ginger
3-4 green chili
1/2 cup of water
and make a smooth paste.

To the paste
add 1 tsp of roasted cumin powder
add salt to taste
some finely chopped onion
finely chopped green chilli
finely chopped coriander leaves(optional)

Beat the lentil paste with a fork till everything is well mixed up.

In a kadahi, heat Oil for deep frying.

When oil is hot, scoop the paste with a tablespoon and drop it in the bubbling hot oil. Fry till the lentil fritters are brown and crunchy.

Instead of deep frying, I made the fritters in an ebelskiver pan aka appe pan. You can follow the instructions in this post for making them using the appe pan.

This measure makes about 15 Dal er bora. Of which about 10 were used in the Jhol

Make the Borar Jhol

Heat some more Oil in the same wok

Temper the Oil with
1&1/2" thin stick of cinnamon
1 small Bay Leaf
4 small green cardamom
1/4th tsp of Whole cumin seeds

When the spices sizzle add 1 medium potato peeled and chopped in quarters. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of Turmeric Powder and saute the potatoes until they start taking on a pale golden color

Take 2-3 peeled whole tomatoes from a can or 1 big juicy tomato and blend to make tomato puree. Add the tomato puree to the pan.

Add 1 tbsp of grated Ginger + 3-4 green chilli coarsely pounded

Add a little salt and fry the tomato till the raw smell is gone. If you are not the smelling type, check to see if the oil is separating from the masala. This will take about 6-8 minutes at medium heat

Time for the masala.
1/2-1 tsp of Bhaja Moshla(Recipe here)
1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch or Red Chili Powder
Note: usually Jeera powder is used but I added Bhaja Masla.

Sprinkle a little of the tomato juice or a little water and fry the spices for about 5 minutes. This is called "kashano" in Bengali or "bhuno" in Hindi and a lot depends on this step. You need to fry the masala till the oil surfaces and the masala takkes a deep red color. Don't try to hurry it. I have done that and there has been a difference in taste.

Add 1 cup of warm water. Add salt and sugar to taste. Cover and cook till potatoes are done.

Now add the fried dal er bora/lentil fritters. Let them simmer in the gravy at low heat for a few minutes. The bora soaks up the gravy fast so add more water to the gravy if necessary. Taste the thin gravy to see if it tastes right and adjust for spices.

Add a touch of ghee at the end to up the taste. Serve with rice.

Similar Recipes:

My Dal er Borar Jhaal version 1.0

KichuKhonn's Dal er Borar Jhol 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aloo-Begun-Bori-BokChoy er Jhol -- Bengali soupy vegetables

Broccoli, Eggplant,Bok Choy,Potatoes

"Kolkata te ajkal BokChoy paoa jaay", said my Mother. "Ar oi beguni bandhakopi, the purple cabbage". (You get Bok Choy in Calcutta these days. Also that purple cabbage)

"Where do you get all these weird things ?" I asked

"Reliance Fresh," said my Mother with an air of someone who is not astounded by a BokChoy or surprised by a purple cabbage.

"But why would you buy it? You get enough Bangali shaak as it is," I said.

"Arre, your Baba bought purple cabbage the other day. It had absolutely no taste. But Namita buys it all the time. She also buys basil, broccoli and zucchini," continued my Ma, her voice brimming with pride for her neighbor, Namita, who undoubtedly was a global food connoisseur.

Then my Mother went onto further elaborate about her very Bengali neighbor Namita, who makes pasta with sausage and fresh basil for dinner, sautes bok choy in olive oil and has no idea how to make a patishapta or kochuri.

Musur Dal er Bori

It was my turn to be surprised. Not by Namita. I care less if she cooks pasta and outsources patishapta.

But by BokChoy's entry in India. Bok-Choy had come into my life only 7 years back via Asian Farmers Market in the US and had started featuring regularly in the menu only in the last two years. The foremost reason I buy a bunch of baby BokChoy these days is because it hardly needs any chopping like other greens and also tastes pretty decent. Even then, I am not sure if it has enough merits to take over a culture rich with greens like Palong, Pui, Note, Methi etc. etc. I knew about the Broccoli taking over Indian market but even Bok-choy ? Really? I hope they grow them locally and don't fly it in from China like they do the garlic these days.

Fried Bori

But then again why not ? I think. If I can eat potol by the Atlantic why not BokChoy by the delta of the river Ganges.

After all the world is getting flatter and everyone is eating everything.

The only difference is unlike Namita, I make a jhol, a light soupy gravy with my BokChoy, just like the Alu-Begun-Bori'r jhol that my Ma makes. That Alu-Begun-Bori'r jhol is awesomeness by itself, or awesomeness with a squeeze of lime. And it is not at all necessary to add Bok Choy to it.

Many summer afternoons, some potol and fish would be added to this very staple jhol in our home. Come winter, it was sweet peas in their pods and cauliflower's turn  to grace the soupy gravy. The Dal Vadi or Bori would make it extra special. There were these larger sized bori called jholer bori which tasted fabulous when soaked up in the soupy vegetable gravy. The jhol had minimal spices and just a dash of mustard paste towards the end to add some zing. Since Bok Choy and also broccoli  is easily available and I like it for the reasons stated above, I tend to add them to this jhol. The jhol tastes as good.

Do try this, very quintessential Bengali dish. Healthy, flavorful and simple, it is the perfect example of how simple home cooked dishes can hold their own against rich curries and enevelop you in that warm fuzzy feel of home.

Alu-Begun-Bori-BokChoy er Jhol

What You Need

Baby Bokchoy -- about 2-3 bunch. Washed and chopped roughly, including the softer part of the stem. I discarded the tougher part of the stem
Broccoli -- 1 small head cut into large florets
Potatoes -- 2 medium cut in thick slices along the length
Eggplant -- 1 Japanese eggplant cut in 2" lenghts

Vadi or Bori(optional) - few, say about 8-10 small ones and 5 of larger ones

PaanchPhoron -- 1 tsp
Green Chilli -- 4-5 broken
Jerra or Cumin Powder --- 1 tsp
Mustard paste --  approx. 1 tbsp Mustard Powder mixed with 1 tbsp water to make a paste or 1 tbsp of fresh mustard paste

Mustard Oil -- 3-4 tsp

How I Did It

Heat 3 tsp of Mustard Oil in a kadhai

When oil is hot, add the bori and fry them brown and crisp. Remove and keep aside.

Add a tsp more oil if needed to the kadhai and temper the oil with
1 tsp of PaanchPhoron
4-5 green chilli broken or slit

When the spices sputter add the potatoes. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of Turmeric powder and saute the potatoes for a minute

Next add the eggplant and toss with potatoes. Fry for couple of minutes until skin of eggplant starts softening. Now add about 1/4th cup of water, cover the saucier/kadhai and let the potatoes cook a little.

Now goes in the broccoli which you saute along with potatoes and eggplant. Follow with chopped bokchoy. Toss everything together gently and keep sauteing until you see the bokchoy wilt.

Now add
1 tsp cumin powder
1" ginger grated
salt to taste
and about 2 cups of water.

Mix everything well and add
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
 the Mustard paste

Cover the saucier/kadhai and let it cook. In between, remove cover and check the water. You need a soupy gravy so add little more water if necessary. Once the vegetables are cooked, taste and adjust for salt.

Add the fried vadi or bori and let the gravy simmer for a minute

Serve with steaming rice and a quarter of lime