Graduated in Comparative Literature, sold computers and software education, transformed…
Make this Dol Jatra, special with the delectable combination of ‘Lau Shukto’ and ‘Mangsho-Bhaat’ which culinary expert Sumita Ganguli/Mou shares in this story
In Bengal and Orissa, Dol Purnima or Dol Jatra Utsab is significant. This festival is dedicated to Sri Krishna. Dol is celebrated in many ways in India. In Bengal we celebrate with abeer, and of course good food is an integral part of the celebration.
Noble Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, the great visionary that he was, introduced season-based festivals, shorn of any religious association to Viswa Bharati, the school and university he founded in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. So on the day of Doljatra, Shantiniketan observes Basanta Utsav or the Spring Festival.
My childhood was dotted with vivid memories of offering respect to our elders with abeer by touching their feet. After that what followed is free for all Dol Khela, with abeer, various colors, and water cannons. Most of this revelry would last till noon, over vast amounts of traditional mishti like Goja, Khaja, Sandesh, Dorbesh, Son Papri etc. My Thakuma (Grandmother) used to make Kheer er Malpua – they were a delight! The first bite of the juicy softness was a sheer bliss. The tradition still continues in my family.
I imbibed the real love and principles of cooking early on and enjoyed dishing out simple, “easy to make‟ delicacies for my family. The results were terrific. The constant encouragement helped me discover the myriad flavors across several kitchens. I design and prepare the lunch and spread love and brotherhood through the heart, via the stomach.
The mid-day meal would comprise the traditional Lau Shukto and Mangsho Bhaat with Aamer Chutney. An easy recipe of Lau Shukto with Chaal Bata (rice paste) by my Baromashi (Auntie) was a delight for all. Let me write about the Lau Shukto as Bengalis usually eat in a pattern and Shukto is the first thing that they eat during lunch.
To make the Lau Shukto (bottle gourd) with Chaal bata (Gobindo Bhog rice pasted). Fry Uchhe (bitter gourd) in Ghee and keep aside. Paste rice (1 table spoon), ginger and Randhuni (1/2 teaspoon) to a smooth paste using milk. Please don’t add any water use only milk so that it becomes a smooth paste and.
Add the leftover Ghee from Uchhe bhaja in the kadai. Add 1 spoon randhuni, dry chili and bay leaf. Fry and then discard the chili from the oil as we do not want our suktani to be spicy. But the flavor of the dry chili in the oil percolates through the dish.
Add Lau and fry a little. Add the rice paste and saute. Lau releases water, so keep stirring the chaal bata in that water for some time in low heat till it is cooked. You can add a little water too. When the Lau is cooked, add uchhe and milk for the gravy. Check the texture of the gravy. Remove from heat before it gets Mushy. Adjust seasoning. Add a spoon full of ghee and Enjoy with steamed rice.
As Dol is a festival which starts in the morning, I marinate the mutton the night before, with chopped onion, garlic and ginger paste salt and chili powder. Put a generous amount of mustard oil and mix it well. Cover and refrigerate.
To cook this easy simple recipe of mutton – Heat an aluminum kadai or handi. Add the marinated mutton and cover it with a lid. Cut tomatoes 3-4 for a kilo of meat and add it. The trick is reduced heat with low flame. Open the lid to add the salt and chili powder. I use very little turmeric powder. So what I added during marination is all that remains. You are free to add some more if you want. When the mutton releases oil and we see an excellent thick gravy, add a little hot water and cook for 5 more minutes. Fry potatoes (cut into halves) separately in a pan till golden brown and add it to the mutton. Now add a generous amount of hot water and salt and sugar to taste. Cook till mutton is soft. Putting it in a pressure cooker is your choice. Once done, add garam masala and keep the lid closed for 10 minutes standing time.
I was born in a family of foodies, and got married to one. While everyone gets ready for the Mangsho Bhaat around the table, I open the lid of the handi and serve it in a bowl. Walla!! Gondhoraj Lebu and raw mango Chutney along with the Maangsho Bhaat gives a heavenly feeling. The Bengali bhaat ghum awaits us and we all disperse to welcome that.
Have a joyful and safe Holi!
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Graduated in Comparative Literature, sold computers and software education, transformed into a hobby chef and evolved into a restaurateur-entrepreneur. Loves to research the culinary influences on the huge repertoire from the Bengal peninsula. Sumita lives in Kolkata with business connections across the world.