|Hing er Kochuri and Alur Tarkari. The HaatPakha i,e the Palm Leaf fans that you see in this picture are decorated by my Aunt. Aren't they gorgeous ?|
Durga Pujo is almost here. Mahalaya is this Friday. The gorgeous blue sky, the kaash phool, the lazy cotton clouds and the fragile shiuli with their orange stem and fragrant notes is making it all very real. As if! The only thing missing is the "Sharodiya PujoShonkhya "which my Ma brought along with her way back in August. Now that is what I call "blasphemy". You should not have a "PujoShonkhya" in summer. No, No. NO! In August you can only have trembling hopes for one or two. You have to wait and wait some more and then wait until Mahalaya to get your copy. For what is Pujo without its Pujo Shonkhyas.
|The annual Pujo numbers -- Anandomela|
Many, many years ago when I was a timid kindergartner, still struggling to read fluent Bengali, my Ma had given me the best gift on Durga Pujo. She bought me a shiny, thick, colorful book. It was the Pujoshonkhya Anandomela, the annual number of the popular Bengali children’s magazine published every year during DurgaPujo. I don't know what spurred her in doing this when I could just about manage to read the "juktakhors", the Bengali conjugant, but that single book set me on a path of loving to read and read more. When I try to think of that Pujo, from a long time back, I do not have clear pictures of Durga or the Asur. All I see is snippets of a well lit mandap reverberating with the beat of the Dhaak and a fat book with glossy cover plonked onto my satin frock's lap.
Since that day, Pujo for me has always meant waiting for the PujoShonkhya. While others waited for the squeaky clean blue sky of Sharat, the swaying kaash phool or the latest cut in salwar kamiz that the local tailor would reveal, I waited for my annual Puja number of Anandomela.
The full page advertisement announcing the book would adorn the pages of the biweekly magazine as early as April or May. Gradually the list of writers who would write for the year's number would be revealed. Satyajit Ray, Shirshendu, Sunil Ganguly…the list was rich and endless. Around end of August, my mother would book a copy for me along with a couple of Desh and Bartoman for herself, with the newspaper delivery guy.
From early September, my heart would take a dip and start beating faster every time I heard the ringing bell of the newspaper guy further down the street. "Esheche? Is it here?" I would shout as he skillfully tossed the rolled newspaper on the front porch. As he rode away shaking his head in the crisp Sharat air, I would be dejected only to live in hope and again ask him the same question the next day. You see we lived in a small town far from Kolkata and the magazines usually arrived late there. So the "pujoshonkhya" published in Kolkata would take a while to make its appearance in our mofussil market and even then there was no certainty to that.
And then one school morning, a week or two before Mahalaya, he would announce "Aaj Bikel e. Today afternoon". That day would be the most exciting one and I would rush home in the afternoon, my strides back home faster than others. Tossing my school shoes and book bag aside I would pick up the thick colorful book that sat on the center table. I held it close to my nose taking a deep whiff, I admired the nifty bookmark dangling on a thin lace and I quickly sneaked in to see the cartoon they had this year.
That afternoon I refused the call of my friends for a round of hide and seek or playing tag on the terrace. Instead I went to bed, tucked two pillows under myself and carefully opened the thick Anandomela to be lost in the next adventure of Shontu ar Kakababu or the quirky inventions of Professor Shonku.
Waiting for Anandomela was probably the best part of my pujo and that is the only part I miss these days. I also miss the fact that my daughters will never experience that yearning and eventually the deluge of happiness. For waiting for something is much more exciting than finally getting it.
The thing is, I don't "deep fry" much. I kind of have a mental block which makes me eat "deep-fried" goodness by the kilos as long as someone else is "deep-frying". The moment I see all that oil, something in my brain goes "Twang" and I hyperventilate. I was not always like this. There was a time when I loved deep frying. But at that time, I feared anything that had to do with "dough" unless of course it was "play-doh" which "Duh! is not dough". But lately and specifically after my "small organ where bile is stored" had to be removed, I don't seem to work well after a meal of "deep-fried goodness". Of course it would be okay, if I did so in moderation. But moderation is never the keyword when things are being dunked in hot oil.
So anyway since Ma is here to give expert advice and all, I felt it was the right moment to make Hing er Kochuri because you know my girls need to remember their Mother's kitchen as one where kochuri puffed up and yadda, yadda, yadda. But what is Hing er Kochuri, you ask ? Well it is a deep fried savory snack almost like a luchi or puri but with stuffing made of spiced Urad Dal paste and with a strong and beautiful aroma of hing or asafoetida. It is usually served with a side of Cholar Dal or Alur Dom. But in this recipe I served it with a Aloor Tarkari or a Potato Dish inspired by A Mad Tea Party
Usually I don't write up a recipe unless I have tried it a couple of times. But I figured that would make it 2016 until I put up this recipe. And really the recipe is perfect, it is the expertise which many of us need to gather to make stuff like this, that needs to be worked on. And we can all do that until 2016 strikes. Until then here is the recipe to follow.
Hing er Kochuri
Make the Stuffing
Soak 1 cup of Urad Dal/Kalai er Dal/Biulir Dal overnight in water. Yep. Shuddh nirmal paani aka H2O aka water.
Next morning forget that you have soaked urad dal
Then in the afternoon when other folks in the house ask you why is there some dal soaking in a container, it all comes back. **Ting**. You have to grind the Dal. To make Hing er Kochuri.
All enthu, you put the dal in a blender along with
3 green chillies
1" ginger chopped
With aid of very little water, make a coarse paste. Not very coarse but not smooth like a Vada batter either.
Now you heat some mustard oil in a kadhai. I would suggest to use non-stick.
To the hot oil add
1/4 tsp of Hing/Asafoetida
1 tbsp of grated ginger
1/4 tsp of ground fennel seeds
Add the dal/lentil paste that you made. Add salt to taste and a pinch of sugar. Mix well.
Now comes the part where you have to keep stirring like a maniac. Okay, maybe not maniac but still considerable stirring as the st***d paste tries to stick to the kadhai. You might also have to add some more oil in the process.
Eventually your hard work will show some result. The paste will slowly start coming off from the sides and will get drier. It will also no longer taste or smell raw and will actually taste pretty good on eating. If it does not taste right, adjust the spices and keep stirring. Add little more Hing/Asafoetida if you feel the aroma is missing.
But take heart, this whole process takes a mere 20-30 minutes of your lifetime and life gets better after this.
Once you have the stuffing, keep it aside and make the dough for the kochuri. You could also have made the dough earlier, while the dal was soaking and all but then such foresight is not my plus point.
Make the Dough
In a wide mouthed bowl add
1 cup of AP Flour/Maida
1 cup of Whole Wheat
pinch of salt
1.5 tbsp of Vegetable Oil
With your fingers rub the oil in the flour. Then gradually add warm water to knead the dough until the dough is soft. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest.
Note: My Mother later said that she also adds a sprinkle of hing to the dough for a more Hing-y flavor, so try that.
Make the Kochuri
Take a small ball of the dough. It might take 2-3 tries until you settle at the right size. The size should be like a gooseberry/amla. Roughly make about 20 dough balls out of this dough.
Dip the tip of the ball in oil and then flatten it between your palm.
Now roll it out to a 2" circle. Take a little of the stuffing and put it in the center. bunch up the sides of the dough disc now to form a purse like formation. With your fingers, close the top of the purse so that the stuffing does not come out. Flatten it between your palm and you are ready to roll.
Note: You can also stuff it the traditional way by making small dent in the flat disc, putting the stuffing in and then sealing the dough disc
Roll out the stuffed ball into small discs about 3" in diameter, same size and thickness as that of a luchi or poori. Well maybe a wee bit thicker than luchi
Heat enough oil for frying in a Kadhai. When the oil is hot, dip the rolled out disc to see if the oil bubbles. If it does, slowly release the disc in oil and press with a slotted spoon coaxing the kochuri to puff. Once the kochuri puffs up and takes a shad of pale brown, take it out and get ready for the next.
Note: Now honestly, I might write all the theory but this step takes some practice and mine fails to puff up 40% of the time. So it is okay. Even if it does not puff up, it tastes really delicious.
Kochuri needs some Alu Torkari and different homes make it different way. Another favorite to go with Kochuri is the Cholar dal, a hot favorite to be precise. However, having made Anita's station aloo a couple of times, I have fallen in love with it and so that is what I made to go with these Kochuri.
Alur Torkari inspired by A Mad Tea Party
Chop 4-5 large potatoes in quarters and put to boil in the pressure cooker. We will peel them later.
Once the potatoes are done and have cooled down, peel the jackets and crumble the potatoes by hand. Don't mash them, just gently crumble.
Now heat some mustard oil in a Kadhai.
Temper the Oil with
1/4th tsp Hing
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
Follow with a tbsp of grated ginger.
Once the ginger sizzles, add 1 small chopped tomatoe and 5-6 broken green chillies.
Fry till the tomatoes are all mushed up.
Add 1 tbsp of Coriander powder, Turmeric powder, salt to taste and saute for a minute.
Add the potatoes and then add about 2 cups of water. Stir around and let it come to a boil.
Let it simmer for about say, 10 -12 minutes. In between break up some of the potatoes to give a thick texture to the gravy. Taste and adjust the spices.
Both my daughters enjoyed the Hing er Kochuri and Torakri a lot and I think I have to make it soon, if only for then.