Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna 

Chanar Dalna is a typical niramish (vegetarian) Bengali dish where homemade paneer balls or koftas are fried and cooked in a lightly spiced, subtly sweet gravy with potatoes. I have shared my Mother's recipe of Chanar Dalna in this post which is cooked with a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger.

Every Friday, as far along as I can remember, my Mother kept a fast and therefore did not cook any meat or fish on that day. She herself ate a single one-pot meal of rice and vegetables cooked together with some ghee and salt. But for some reason unknown to me, she felt that one day of not having any protein would render us weak and feeble. Trust me, there was not a sign in my health to make her believe such. But she steadfastly did. And according to Bengalis that protein can never ever come from a "dal" or lentils. It has to be meat, eggs or if those failed then dairy!

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Fresh chana simmering in gravy

So, my Mother made Chana or as we say Chhana aka cottage cheese. Diligently. Week after week. She boiled whole milk and squeezed lime juice in it until the milk had a rent and tore apart to form blobs of white cotton like milk solids suspended in a greenish whey. She then drained the whey out on a piece of starched white cloth, usually cut from one of one of her old saris and washed and dried to act as a cheesecloth. That paneer or chhana then rested under the weight of our black stone nora until all the water was squeezed out. She sometimes tried to feed me that raw chana with sugar sprinkled on it, saying it was good for me, but I hated it so very much that she soon gave up that idea.

Instead, she made flat disc shapes from that chhana, shallow fried them golden brown in oil and dunked them in a lightly spices sweetish gravy with potatoes and spice blend.The gravy would always be a thin one, spiced with freshly made paste of cumin and ginger. That niramish chanar dalna with those pillowy soft balls of cottage cheese was a much loved dish from my childhood. If that was how I was supposed to get my protein fix, I was all for it!

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Niramish Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

And so Chanar Dalna stayed on as a staple in our home on most Fridays. It would also pop up twice or sometimes thrice in the course of the week but if it was Friday then it was almost sure that Chanar Dalna was on the menu.

I usually make a chanar dalna with store bought paneer as that is easier and quicker. Also, my kids like that paneer a lot, we get really a very good Nanak paneer which is soft and delicious. However I have to agree that they are not the same thing. The Chanar Dalna that my Mother made, with homemade chana or homemade cottage cheese is definitely a dish that Bengalis will find more superiors.

Cumin-Ginger-Green Chilli paste
Today, I re-created the same dish with chana or paneer made at home. I wanted to get the exact flavor of my childhood dish and so instead of using cumin powder, I made a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger  in my mortar, the quintessential jeere-ada baata, and used that paste as the masala for this dish. I must say that the fresh ground paste played an important role to enhance the flavor of this light curry. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtly sweet Chanar Dalna with rice for dinner today.

The kids thought that there was no need to go the extra mile of making chhana at home!! But sometimes you do things, for your own happiness, and that's fine.

It wasn't a difficult dish to cook, maybe takes bit more time to make. If you are running short of time, you can make the chhana a day ahead and then do the gravy the next, that might make the process easier. Also for an easier version of the dish with store bough Paneer follow my other Chhanar Dalna Recipe.

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Make Chhana|Chana|Homemade Paneer


Whole Milk - 1/2 Gallon(1.89 litre)
Vinegar or Lime juice - 3-4 Tbsp

Step 1-- Curdle Milk

Mix 4 Tbsp of Lime juice or 4 Tbsp Vinegar in 1/4th cup of hot water

Bring 1/2 gallon(8 cups or 1.89 lt) of Whole/Full Fat Milk to a rolling boil. Don't go on a diet and use anything less that Full fat Whole Milk.
When the milk is boiling add the diluted lemon juice/vinegar. Lower the heat. Almost in seconds you will see the milk curdle and clumps of white milk solids forming.When you see the greenish water separating take it off from heat. Add some ice to stop the cooking. Let it sit for 30 secs or so.

Step 2 -- Drain chhana

Now line a colander with cheesecloth and drain the chhana/chenna/paneer. The greenish hued whey is great for making roti dough says my Ma. Next lightly rinse the chhana with water to remove the lemony taste and let it drain.

After few minutes gather the ends of the cheesecloth to form a purse like shape and squeeze out the remaining water from the chhana. Next put it on a flat plate and weigh it with a slightly heavier object and let it remain like that for the next hour.I used my mortar for weighing down, I remember my mother using her nora. You can also weigh it down with a pot filled with water.

Shape and Fry the Chana balls or Chanar bora

Take the drained chana/chhana/paneer in a bowl.
Add 2 tsp of Sugar, a pinch of salt
Add 1-2 tsp of Maida
Mix the chana with your fingers and then fashion them into flat discs as show in the photo.

Heat vegetable oil in a pan for shallow frying.

Gently slide the flat discs of chana/paneer into the hot oil and shallow fry until both sides are golden-brown.

Remove and keep aside

For the Gravy


Potatoes - 1 large, peeled and cubed
Tomato - 1 medium chopped
Green Chilli - 2 slit through the center

Spices for Tempering

Bay Leaf - 1
Cloves - 2
Green cardamom - 2
Cumin seeds - 1/4th tsp
Dry Red Chili - 1

Wet Masala Paste

Cumin seeds - 1.5 tsp Cumin seeds
Ginger - 1" ginger chopped ~ 1 Tbsp
Green Chilli - 2

Dry masala powder

Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 tsp

Sugar - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Vegetable Oil

Make the wet ground paste or Jeere-Ada Baata

First make the fresh ground jeere-ada baata (cumin-ginger paste) in a mortar and pestle. Put cumin seeds, ginger pieces in the mortal. Sprinkle little water and grind the spices. Next add green chilies and pound with your pestle to get a paste. Keep this ready.

Cook the Gravy

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a saucier or kadhai

Temper the hot oil with
1 Tej patta/Bay leaf
2 Cloves
2 Green cardamom
1/4th tsp whole cumin seeds
1 Dry Red chilli

When the spices starts sputtering, lower the heat and add the
Cumin-Ginger-Green chilli paste
Careful as this will make the oil hiss and sputter
Follow soon with
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chili 
Saute the masala for 2-3 minutes with little sprinkles of water as necessary.

Add the potatoes and saute them until they get a nice golden color.

Now add the chopped tomatoes and green chili. Saute until tomato is all pulpy and no longer smells raw. You should get a nice smell by now reminding you of all good things.

Add 1.5 Cup of water, salt to taste, and cover and cook the potatoes until done.

Once the potatoes are cooked, add sugar and garama masla to the gravy.  Add a little more water if necessary. My mother made this curry on the sweeter side but you stick to your choice.

Now add the fried discs of chana and let the gravy simmer at low heat for 3-4 minutes. The chhana will soak the spices in the gravy and grow plump. Finish off with a drizzle of ghee.

Serve with steamed white rice

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Reminded me of lovely childhood days and also the recipe is en pointe. Urmi


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