Experiment with these traditional Bengali dishes and add some variety to your puja menu.
Like most Indian festivals, Durga puja is accompanied by good spirits, good cheer and, above all, good food! Symbolising a time of prosperity and plenty, cuisine in this period is varied and stretches from the unconventional to the traditional.
While devotees unfailingly stand in queues for the delicious afternoon bhog (traditionally consisting of a runny khichdi served with a mixed vegetable, brinjal fritters, tomato chutney and payas) served at the puja venues, evenings herald a time for experimentation and adventure.
Grandmother’s traditional festival recipes, however, continue to retain their timeless appeal as they are handed down from one generation to the next.
Traditional Benagli pulao (sweet)
2 big onions chopped fine
3 bay leaves
2 tbsps of ginger paste
2-3 pods of green cardamom
1 big stick of cinnamon
2 tbsps of ghee
2 cups long grained basmati rice
4 cups of hot water
3 tbsps of sugar
Handful of currants and fried cashew nuts
Wash and drain rice and keep aside. Heat oil in a pan. Add bay leaves and whole spices. When an aroma rises, add chopped onions and sauté till golden brown. Add ginger paste and sauté some more.
Now add washed rice and fry over a high flame for a few minutes, adding a spoonful of sugar. When the rice is well browned and sizzling with heat, add double the quantity of hot water. Add salt to taste, the remaining sugar, currants and half the cashew nuts.
Cook on high flame till the contents of the pan starts smoking. Then cover pan, lower flame and cook till rice is well cooked (but grains should be separate). Sprinkle ghee all over, garnish with remaining cashew nuts and serve hot.
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped French beans
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup chopped beetroot
1 cup boiled peas
2 tbsps ginger paste
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
Half tsp turmeric
1 tbsp chopped green chillies
1 tbsp fresh coriander chopped fine
Half cup fried groundnuts
4 medium potatoes boiled and mashed coarsely
2 tsps of sugar (optional)
Oil for frying
Heat oil in a pan. Add all the chopped vegetables and fry for a few minutes. Now add the ginger paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, chopped chillies, salt to taste, sugar and stir well. Lastly, add the fresh coriander, groundnuts and fry well. Allow mixture to cool. Add it to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Form egg-sized balls and pat into flat oval-shaped chops.
In a separate bowl, make a smooth batter by mixing corn flour with a little water. Spread breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Then quickly dip each chop into the corn flour batter and roll in breadcrumbs till evenly covered all over.
Refrigerate the chops till they are firm and cool. Heat oil in a pan till smoking hot and fry the chops till they are deep brown all over. Serve hot with lemon wedges, onion rings and mint chutney. Goes well with sweet Bengali pulao.
2 litres full fat milk
6 tbsps sugar (could be adjusted to individual taste)
10 ready-to-eat rasagullas
A few drops of rose essence
half tpoon semolina/rawa (optional)
Pour the entire quantity of milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Lower flame and let milk simmer till the volume condenses to a little more than half. (A handy tip: put a small stainless steel bowl into the milk to prevent burning and spilling over). Rawa could be added for extra texture.
Add sugar and thicken a little more (stirring constantly) till milk turns a nice pink colour. Allow milk to cool to room temperature. Squeeze each rasagulla dry of its syrup and drop into the thickened milk. Heat milk (with the rasagullas) till it boils and the rasagullas turn soft and soggy (about 2-3 minutes should be enough).
Let the rasmalai cool a bit and then add the rose essence. Refrigerate it. Pour into a clear glass bowl and serve topped with pink/ red rose petals. Alternatively, the rasmalai could be chilled in individual ice-cream bowls.