Want to partake in the upcoming Durga Puja festivities, but at home? This special Bengali menu, curated by Kolkata-based home chef and culinary consultant Iti Misra, will you give you an experience of the many flavours that this much-awaited occasion brings with it. From batter fried brinjal fritters or beguni, to a wholesome khichuri for a main, and of course, sweet payesh, or kheer, to round off the menu—the selection will make for an exquisite culinary spread.
This crispy eggplant fritter or Bengali beguni recipe is the only way to upgrade your dal-rice meal
If you’re looking for batter-fried goodness that goes beyond the usual onion and potato bhajiyas, this is it. A snack in itself but also the perfect side to khichdi, dal rice, or even steaming hot chai, beguni, or batter-fried eggplant fritters, are as versatile as it gets. Using a minimal number of ingredients, these crispy treats are super easy to whip up, taking all of 20 minutes to prepare. For maximum satisfaction, try this recipe on a rainy or a winter day.
1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices. Sprinkle a bit of salt and set aside.
2. In the meantime, mix gram flour, oil, salt, chili powder and poppy seeds in a bowl. Add very cold water to make a batter with the consistency of thick cream.
3. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a kadhai. Pat the eggplant slices dry on a kitchen towel. Dip each slice of eggplant into the batter and deep fry, a few pieces at a time. The eggplant should turn a lovely golden brown in colour. This takes approximately two to two and a half minutes. Drain the excess oil on paper towels.
4. Sprinkle with black salt or chaat masala and serve hot.
This traditional bhetki paturi recipe will soon become a family favourite
Bengali cooking is known for its heavy use of mustard, especially when preparing fish that is not of sweet water origin, to counteract the ‘fishy’ smell of saltwater fish. Fun fact: since chillies were not indigenous to India, kitchens in Bengal used mustard paste to provide the hit of sharpness in the flavour profile of the meal. This traditional fish dish tastes best when paired with a side of plain steamed rice.
1. Soak poppy seeds in one cup of hot water for four to five hours. Strain and wet grind to a fine paste and keep aside. Cut the fish into four equal pieces. Try to get the pieces to be about 3×2 inches and 1 inch thickness. (The fish becomes dry if the pieces are too thin). Wash and pat dry with paper towel.
2. Mix the haldi powder and salt and coat the fish pieces with the salt and haldi on both sides. Mix all the other ingredients, except the sliced green chillies, together.
3. Coat all the fish pieces with the mustard and poppy seed mixture. Leave aside for 30 minutes. Before wrapping the fish, dip the banana leaf in hot water for one minute to soften it.
4. Place the leaf on a table, shiny side out. Place a piece of the fish along with some of the mustard paste. Place one slice of green chilli and then fold the banana leaf on all sides to cover the fish completely into a parcel. Secure each parcel with a toothpick and place it in the steamer. Steam for 10 minutes.
5. Switch off heat and leave packets in the steamer for the juices to settle. Serve in the banana leaf parcel. In case fresh banana leaves are not readily available, the fish can be wrapped and steamed in kitchen foil.
The classic dum aloo recipe you need for your next Bengali spread
The popular dum aloo has different regional preparations throughout India. Ideally served with a side of luchis or fried refined flour puris, this spicy Bengali variant features an aromatic blend of flavours. There are different versions within the Bengali communities too—some feature peas alongside the potatoes, some need the potatoes to be fried before they’re cooked in the gravy, and there a version that’s served during the Durga puja that doesn’t use onion and garlic. This is a simple dum aloo recipe that needs only 30 minutes from start to finish and can be served for breakfast, or with the main course.
1. Boil the potatoes with the skin on along with a bit of salt. Peel and keep aside.
2. Heat three tablespoons of oil. Remove from heat and add the panchforan. Heat through till you can smell the aroma.
3. Add tomato puree and place back on fire. Fry the tomato puree for two minutes till the raw smell is gone.
4. Add the cumin and coriander powders and fry well on medium heat for four to five minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, if required, to combine the spices.
5. Once you can see the oil separating, add the ginger paste. Fry for another minute or two. Add the potatoes. Stir well to combine all the flavours and then add just enough water to cover the potatoes. Season to taste.
6. Add one teaspoon of chilli powder. Cook on medium heat till the gravy is almost dry, but not completely. Leave some water as the potatoes will absorb the excess liquid.
7. Garnish with chopped dhania before serving. You can also garnish with thinly sliced green chilis to add colour.
Here’s how to make Bengali khichuri, an essential Durga Puja dish, at home
While this one-pot meal is popular among Bengalis on other days too, the khichuri forms an an important part of the Durga Puja rituals, and is a crucial element of the bhog on Mahanavami. No matter where you are in the country, you would be able to find khichuri and some of the usual fixings—payesh (rice kheer), chutney, labra (a mixed vegetable dish)—at the community meals at puja pandals, along with a long queue of people lining up to partake in the festive meal. This year, if you’re looking to recreate the same meal at home, start with this khichuri recipe.
1. Dry roast the moong dal in a pan over the gas till it becomes light brown in colour. Cool quickly and wash together with the rice. Keep aside.
2. Heat ghee or oil in a large non-stick pan or dekchi. Add the bay leaves, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds. Heat for half a minute till the aromatic oils are released.
3. Sdd the onions and sauté till slightly golden. Add the tomato and sugar and cook till the tomato softens. Now add the ginger paste and turmeric and sauté for another 1 minute.
4. Finally, add the washed rice and dal mixture to the pan and mix thoroughly with the masala to blend the flavours. Add the green chilis (cut into two to three pieces).
5. Pour six cups of hot water into the dekchi and bring to the boil. Season with salt. Once the khichuri is bubbling, reduce the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for another 40 minutes. Stir regularly to ensure that the mix does not catch at the bottom of the pan.
6. Once the khichuri has been cooking for 40 minutes, wash the potatoes—about six pieces—and add to the khichuri along with the peas. Cook for another 10 minutes.
7. The rice and dal should be soft and mushy. If you like a thinner khichuri, add one cup of hot water at this stage. Check that the potatoes are cooked but not broken.
8. Now add the cauliflower pieces. Stir well and cover and cook on low flame for another five minutes. Do not stir after the florets are cooked, as this will break them up. Remove from the heat. Pour one tablespoon of ghee over it, sprinkle with coriander, cover and leave till ready to serve.
This easy Bengali payesh recipe features less than 10 ingredients
Payesh, also known as kheer, is common to all of India, and is usually cooked on special and auspicious occasions as it combines two symbols of abundance in the country—rice and milk. The Bengali variant of this delicacy stands out for its use of the regional Gobindobhog rice, which has a special aroma and buttery flavour. During Durga Puja, payesh is usually offered to Goddess Durga as part of the ritual offering or “bhog”.
1. Wash the rice well and add to a thick-bottomed saucepan with the milk, cinnamon and green cardamom. Cook on medium heat till the rice is done. Stir the pan constantly or the kheer will burn at the bottom.
2. Once the rice is soft and well-cooked and the mixture is thickening, add the raisins and the sugar. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes more, making sure that the milk does not catch at the base of the pan.
4. An alternative, easier way to cook the payesh is to use a pressure cooker. Combine three quarters of the milk with the rice and spices and cook under pressure for three minutes. Let the pressure subside and the cooker cool.
5. When cool, open the cooker and add the remaining milk, raisins and the sugar. Stir well for a minute or two to combine the cooked rice with the added milk. Cook for another four or five minutes without the lid, remembering to stir constantly. The kheer or payesh will now thicken quickly.
6. In both methods, finish by removing the pot from the heat and cool by stirring—this will prevent a skin from forming over the payesh and also help to activate the starch and thicken it. Decant into a bowl and garnish with chopped almonds and pistachios.