Kheer Komola| Bengali Orange Kheer

Kheer Komola is a beautiful sweet dish made using oranges, a specialty from the state of West Bengal. It is typically prepared in the winters, when fresh oranges flood the markets. It is also a common offering to Maa Durga during Durga Pooja in Bengal. Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for this utterly delicious Bengali-style Orange Kheer.

Durga Pooja commemorates the victory of Maa Durga over the demon king Mahishasura, with several sweet and savoury confections being prepared for the occasion. These Bhapa Aloo by Sasmita, Tomato Khejur Amshotter Chaatni, Anarosher Chaatni, Strawberry Bhapa Doi, and these Kheerer Malpua by Sujata ji are a few examples of the foods cooked in Bengali households to celebrate Durga Pooja. I am so grateful to have had a chance to participate in these celebrations at the homes of Bengali friends and also learn how to make this kheer.

Delectable Kheer Komola or Komola Lebur Payesh

What goes into Komola Kheer?

Oranges (called ‘komola lebu‘ in Bengali) and milk are not a combination you would think of normally, but those are the major ingredients of this kheer. Full-cream milk is first thickened and sweetened, then allowed to cool down, after which orange segments and juice (sometimes zest too) is added to it. The end result is this delicate, extremely delectable, rich and creamy dessert called Kheer Komola or Komola Lebur Payesh.

This kheer is usually kept very simple, with just the bare minimum of ingredients going in – oranges, milk and sugar. However, you may flavour it with cardamom powder or garnish it with some nuts if you so prefer. The Kheer Komola recipe I am sharing here is very basic, requiring just the most basic of ingredients.

How to make Kheer Komola

Making this kheer is so ridiculously simple it hardly needs a recipe. However, there are certain techniques you need to follow to get the perfect outcome, which I have discussed at detail in the course of this post.
Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1 litre full-fat milk
  2. 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar or as needed
  3. 2 large ripe, sweet oranges
  4. Zest from 1 large orange, about 2 teaspoons (optional)
  5. About 1/4 cup orange juice

Method:

Top left and right: Step 1, Bottom left: Step 2, Bottom right: Step 3

1. Take the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan, and place it on high flame. Allow it to come to a boil. This takes 5-7 minutes.

2. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Add in the sugar. Mix well.

3. Let the milk cook on medium flame till it reduces to more than half of its original volume. This will take 15-20 minutes, by which time it will start to change colour and thicken. Stir intermittently. Scrape down the cream that forms on the sides of the pan, back down into the milk.

4. When the milk has thickened, switch off gas. Allow to cool down to room temperature.

Top left and right: Step 5, Below top right: Step 6, Bottom left: The Kheer Komola is ready to be chilled, Bottom right: Kheer Komola, chilled and ready to serve

5. When the milk has cooled to room temperature, zest a large orange and keep ready (if using). Peel the oranges and separate the segments. Remove all seeds and fibres, and retain only the orange flesh. Cut the flesh into bite-sized pieces. Also, squeeze about 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice and keep it ready.

6. When the milk mixture has completely cooled down, add the orange flesh to it, along with the zest and juice. Mix well. The Kheer Komola is ready.

7. Let it sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, for the orange to spread its flavour in the milk. Consume chilled or at room temperature, after this.

Tips & Tricks

1. Full-fat milk works best in the making of this Kheer Komola. Here, I have used full-cream milk from Nandini.

2. I have used regular refined sugar here.

3. Use oranges that are in season, for best results, fruits that are neither too sweet nor too sour. Mostly sweet oranges with a tinge of sourness work best in this Kheer Komola.

4. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to reduce the milk. Patiently wait for the milk to reduce well to almost half of its original volume. If the reduction isn’t done well, the kheer will taste more like plain milk and oranges rather than having the rich and creamy texture it should. Moreover, remember that we will be adding some orange juice to the kheer too, which will slightly dilute it. However, the kheer does thicken up more upon cooling.

5. Remember to wait till the reduced milk has completely cooled down, before adding in the orange segments, zest and segments. Otherwise, the milk might curdle.

6. I have used Valencia oranges that I had at home, to make this Komola Lebur Payesh. They were more yellow than orange in colour, but were wonderfully sweet with just a wee bit of sour – just perfect for the kheer.

7. This Kheer Komola tastes best after it has rested for a while. Let the kheer rest undisturbed for at least a couple of hours after the orange juice, zest and segments have been added in. You can do this either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I prefer having this kheer slightly chilled.

8. Adjust the quantity of sugar, orange juice, zest and segments as per personal taste preferences. I have used a regular grater to get the zest. Make sure you grate only the orange skin and do not get any of the underlying white pith, as that might make the kheer bitter.

9. Like I was saying earlier, you don’t really need to use anything other than milk, sugar and oranges in this kheer. However, you may add in toasted and slivered almonds and/or cardamom powder for more flavour.

10. I have seen Bengali families skipping even the orange juice and zest altogether. In that case, only orange segments (with seeds and fibres completely removed) are added to the reduced milk. If you are skeptical of the kheer turning bitter with orange juice or zest, you may follow this method.

11. Do not use over-ripe oranges. Sometimes, they have a wine-y smell that may make the Kheer Komola less than stellar.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Moru Curry| Moru Chaaru Without Coconut

Moru Curry, also called Moru Chaaru or Moru Kachiyathu, is a Kerala specialty. It refers to a simple dish made by tempering curd with a variety of ingredients. It might be humble, but this is one delicious dish. Today, I’m going to share with you all my family recipe for Moru Curry.

What goes into this Moru Curry?

The major ingredient in Moru Curry is curd – thick curd whisked with a little water. The curd is flavoured with a tempering of mustard and cumin, asafoetida and ginger, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves, green chillies and dry red chillies, in coconut oil. Everything is simmered together on gentle heat, and that’s it. It is that simple a dish to prepare.

Some other versions of Moru Curry use shallots and garlic cloves, while some others have a coconut-chilly paste added in. I learnt this recipe from my mother-in-law, who makes it without onion, garlic and coconut. I prefer keeping it basic, her way.

I’m amazed by the sheer variety of curd-based dishes that Kerala cuisine has to offer, including Avial, Pulissery, Inji Thayir, Pachadi and Moru Curry. From what my mother-in-law tells me, Moru Curry is a humbler version of the Pulissery, which requires even fewer ingredients and no vegetables. This is more of an ‘everyday’ kind of dish, which is prepared in Kerala households when there are no vegetables or an excess amount of curd at hand. Moru Curry is sometimes part of the elaborate sadya or plantain-leaf spread that is served on the occasion of Onam, but it might have ground coconut and green chillies so as to make it richer.

How to make Moru Curry or Moru Chaaru

Here is how we go about it.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1-1/2 cups thick curd
  2. 1/2 cup water or as needed
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  6. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  8. 1 sprig curry leaves
  9. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  10. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  11. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
  12. 2 green chillies
  13. 3-4 dry red chillies

Method:

1. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add in the water. Mix well.

2. To the curd mixture, add salt to taste and turmeric powder. Whisk together well. Keep aside.

3. Peel the ginger and chop very finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the curry leaves ready.

4. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard, and let it sputter. Now, add in the asafoetida, curry leaves, slit green chillies, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, chopped ginger and dry red chillies. Let these ingredients stay in the hot oil for a couple of seconds, keeping the flame low.

5. Now, switch off gas and allow the tempering to cool down. Add in the whisked curd at this stage. Set the pan on low heat and allow it to get heated up gently, so as to prevent the curd from splitting. Stir well.

6. Let the curd mixture cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir intermittently. That’s it – your Moru Curry or Moru Chaaru is ready. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with steamed rice.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left and right: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom left and right: Steps 5 and 6

#MilkyWay at Foodie Monday Blog Hop

I’m sharing this recipe in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. The theme this Monday is #MilkyWay, wherein we are showcasing recipes that use milk and its derivatives like curd, cheese, paneer and the likes. With Onam just around the corner, I chose to share this Moru Curry from the state of Kerala, for the theme.

It was Swaty of Food Trails who suggested the theme for this week. She has a wealth of Indian regional delicacies, gems from global cuisine and several wonderful bakes on her blog. I’m in love with her Mango Falooda, and can’t wait to try it out!

A word of caution

As humble as the Moru Curry is, it requires a bit of practice to get it right. There are chances of the curd splitting while cooking, which alters the taste of the dish completely. I have had my fair share of heartache with this dish, after which I finally perfected it.

Please read through the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section of this post before attempting this recipe – I have shared helpful suggestions on how to stop the curd from splitting.

Is this Moru Curry vegan and gluten-free?

Thanks to the use of curd, this is NOT a vegan or plant-based dish. It is completely vegetarian, though.

It can be made gluten-free by simply avoiding the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.

Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, use curd that is nice and sour, but not overly so.

2. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Moru Curry you require. I prefer keeping it slightly thick and not very watery.

3. You can use either store-bought or home-made thick curd. Here, I have used home-made curd.

4. Adjust the number of green chillies you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

5. Make sure you add the whisked curd to the tempering in the pan only after it has cooled down. Also, it is imperative that the curry is cooked on low heat. This will ensure that the curd does not split, the occurrence of which will alter the taste of the Moru Curry.

6. I prefer the ginger to be chopped really fine, in this Moru Chaaru or Moru Curry.

7. Using good-quality coconut oil in the tempering is a must, for an authentic Moru Curry.

8. Like I was saying earlier, there are a few variations to this Moru Curry. Some people add in garlic cloves and shallots (small onions) along with the ginger. Some add in a paste of grated coconut and green chillies. This is my family recipe, which is simple and basic, no-onion and no-garlic.

9. Do not cook the curd mixture for too long. Just 3-4 minutes on gentle heat is good enough. This also helps stop the curd from splitting.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Manga Pachadi| Tamilnadu Style Raw Mango Relish

Manga Pachadi is a thing of real beauty and a source of joy, a big favourite in our family. For the uninitiated, this is a relish made using raw mango, a heritage recipe from Tamilnadu. Similar to but different from the Aam Ki Launji from up North.

Sweet and sour, with just a hint of spice, Manga Pachadi makes for a lovely accompaniment to meals. We don’t miss making this at least once every summer, and I highly recommend you try this too before green mango stocks run out. 🙂

The six flavours (arusuvai) of Manga Pachadi

To balance the sourness of raw mango, jaggery is added to Manga Pachadi. I prefer using unadulterated country jaggery (‘naatu vellam‘), which gives the relish its deep brown colour.

Some people add a bit of red chilli powder to Manga Pachadi, but we don’t. The only heat in the dish we make comes from the tempering of dry red chillies we add in.

This Manga Pachadi falls under the category of ‘Arusuvai‘, or ‘food that includes six flavours’ in Tamil. Experts of Tamil cuisine believe that there are six flavours in all – sweet, salty, spicy, sour, astringent and bitter. It is believed that when you eat foods that contain all six flavours, the brain gets signals of calm and satiety, and that you avoid over-eating and excessive food cravings. We have talked about the ‘sweet’, ‘spicy’ and ‘sour’ aspects of the Manga Pachadi already. The ‘saltiness’ comes from the bit of salt added to the dish, while the ‘astringent’ flavour comes from the turmeric. Wondering where the ‘bitterness’ figures in? It comes from neem flowers, fresh or dried, which are usually fried in ghee and added to the Manga Pachadi!

Manga Pachadi is customarily prepared in Tamilian households on Tamil New Year’s day, which falls in the month of April. The ‘ArusuvaiManga Pachadi reinforces that life is a mix of varied experiences – it is never all sweet or bitter or sour, but that there are several things in between. Just how beautiful is that, right?

In our family, we add in dried neem flowers to the Manga Pachadi only on Tamil New Year’s day, avoiding it at other times.

How to make Manga Pachadi

Here’s our family recipe. Check it out – it’s super easy to make, yet super delicious!

Ingredients (makes about 1-1/2 cup):

1. 1 medium-sized raw mango, a little over 1 cup when chopped

2. 2 pinches of salt

3. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

4. About 3/4 cup jaggery powder

5. 1/2 tablespoon oil

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. 2 pinches of asafoetida

8. 2 dry red chillies

Method:

Top: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

1. Peel the raw mango.

2. Chop the flesh into slices. Scrape off all the flesh from the seed, and slice it up too.

3. Measure out the slices. I had about 1-1/4 cup raw mango slices which weren’t very sour, so I used 3/4 cup jaggery. You need to adjust the amount of jaggery you use as per the quantity and sourness of the raw mango.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Bottom left: Steps 6, Bottom right: The mango pieces have turned soft

4. Take the mango slices in a heavy-bottomed pan, along with about 1/4 cup water, the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep on high flame.

5. When the pan gets heated up, reduce flame to medium.

6. Cook covered on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the mango slices turn soft. Open the lid in between to check on the mango slices, and add in a little more water if it has dried up.

Top left and right: Steps 7 and 8, Bottom-most left: Step 9, Above bottom-most left: The mixture has thickened, Right: Step 10

7. Add the jaggery to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup more water. Mix well.

8. Continue to cook on medium flame, uncovered, till the mixture starts to thicken. This can take 2-4 minutes. The mango slices will further soften. Stir intermittently.

9. In the meantime, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow to sputter. Reduce flame, and add in the asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Switch off gas.

10. When the mango mixture has thickened but is still quite runny, switch off gas. It will thicken a bit more upon cooling. Add the tempering we prepared earlier, to the pan. Mix well. Your Manga Pachadi is ready. It can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tips & Tricks

1. If you plan to store the Manga Pachadi, let it cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.

2. Totapuri or Kilimooku Manga, which are a good mix of sweet and sour, work best in the making of this dish.

3. Adjust the quantity of jaggery you use, depending upon the quantity and sourness of the raw mango.

4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Manga Pachadi you require. Ideally it should be a bit runny, but thick and not watery.

5. Whole jaggery can also be used in place of the powder I have used here. In that case, you could make a syrup of the jaggery and water, then add it to the cooked raw mango slices. You should filter the jaggery syrup before adding, in case it has impurities.

6. You can also add a bit of red chilli powder to the Manga Pachadi. Some families do that, but we don’t.

7. Don’t overcook the Manga Pachadi. Stop cooking it when it reaches that thickened, but runny stage. It thickens a little more upon cooling.

8. The colour of the Manga Pachadi will depend upon the type of jaggery you use. I have used organic country jaggery here, hence the deep brown colour.

9. Sometimes, curry leaves are added in the tempering too. We usually don’t use them.

10. On Tamil New Year day, about a teaspoon of dried neem flowers are fried in some ghee, then added to the Manga Pachadi, along with the other tempering. Some families use fresh neem flowers too. Except for Tamil New Year, the adding of neem flowers to Manga Pachadi is not usually followed.

11. Ghee can be used for the tempering, instead of the oil I have used here. Avoid ghee and stick to oil for the tempering, for a vegan version.

12. The above recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suitable for those following a plant-based diet. You can make it gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use that.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Pani Poori Recipe| How To Make Gol Gappa

Best wishes to everyone on the occasion of Holi, the festival of colours, which falls tomorrow! This Holi, how about treating your friends and family to a flavourful platter of Pani Poori?

There aren’t many people I know who can resist a plate of delicious pani poori. Call it paani poori, golgappa, lap chup, poori pakodi or puchka, it is the heart-throb of many. Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Pani Poori, made the way I saw it being made on the streets of Ahmedabad, growing up, the way I still love it.

 

What is Pani Poori?


Pani Poori refers to a popular Indian street food, made with slight variations in different parts of the country. Small, hollow, deep-fried crisp pooris are first filled with a stuffing made using potatoes and black chickpeas (chana). In my version, the pooris are then topped up with two different types of pani or flavoured water – a sweet one made using tamarind and jaggery, the other one spicy, made from fresh mint, coriander, lemon and green chillies. The result is a burst of flavours, an absolute treat to the tastebuds.

The husband and I are huge chaat fans, and Pani Poori is one of our all-time favourites. I can make a meal out of it, any day, any time, while the husband loves it as an evening snack. I often make it at home, making a little extra so it doubles up as evening snack cum dinner.

A bit about Holi


Holi is a Hindu festival signifying the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It also signifies the victory of good over evil, the start of a happy period after a lean one. In most parts of India, Holi is celebrated by the lighting of a bonfire, song and dance, preparing various delicacies, meeting one’s loved ones, and throwing colours or coloured water on each other.

Thandai, gujiya, kanji vada, laddoo, halwa, kheer, dahi vada, mathri, gulab jamun, jalebi, imarti and nimki are some examples of foods traditionally prepared on the occasion of Holi. Modern-day Holi parties see several finger foods being served, along with these traditional delicacies.

This year, Holi celebrations have been dimmed on account of the Corona virus threat. However, I would like to suggest making something special at home to celebrate the day, and not letting fear dim the festival’s sparkle.

Pani Poori for #HoliOnMyPlate


I’m part of this group called Foodie Monday Blog Hop, where the members showcase recipes based on a predetermined theme every Monday. The theme this week is #HoliOnMyPlate, and all of us are sharing exciting dishes for you to make for the occasion!


If I were throwing a Holi bash, this delectable Pani Poori is something I would definitely include in the menu. Let me tell you how to go about making them!

How to make Pani Poori


Ingredients (for about 100 pieces, serves roughly 4-5 people):

1. About 100 store-bought pooris

For the spicy green paani:

  1. A big fistful of fresh mint leaves
  2. A big fistful of fresh coriander
  3. 4 green chillies or as per taste
  4. Juice of 1 lemon or as needed
  5. 3/4 teaspoon black salt
  6. Pani poori masala or chaat masala to taste

For the sweet tamarind paani:

  1. A big lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  2. 6-8 tablespoons of jaggery powder or as per taste
  3. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

For the aloo stuffing:

  1. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 1 cup black chana, soaked overnight
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  5. Pani poori masala or chaat masala to taste
  6. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

We will first make preparations for the aloo stuffing.

1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly, removing any traces of mud from them.
2. Cut each potato into half, and transfer to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover the potatoes fully.
3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles or till the potatoes are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.
4. Drain out all the water from the soaked black chana. Transfer them to a wide vessel, and add about 1/2 cup water.
5. Place the vessel with the black chana in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles or till the chana are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

Next, we will do the prep for the sweet tamarind water.

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for 15-20 minutes, for it to soften.
2. Let the tamarind cool down fully.

In the meantime, we will prepare the spicy green paani.

1. Add the mint leaves to a large mixer jar.
2. Chop the green chillies and coriander roughly. Add to the mixer jar as well.
3. Add a little water to the mixer jar. Grind the mint, chillies and coriander together to a fine paste. Transfer this to a large bowl.
4. To the bowl, add black salt, pani poori masala or chaat masala, lemon juice and 2 cups of water or as needed. Mix well.
5. Your spicy green paani is ready. You can chill it in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve the pani poori, or keep it at room temperature.

Next, we will start cooking the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the soaked tamarind has fully cooled down, extract all the juice from it. You may add a little more water, bit by bit, to help in the process of extraction. Roughly, you should get about 1 cup of tamarind extract.
2. Take the tamarind extract in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame.
3. Cook for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away. Stir intermittently.
4. Add in the jaggery powder. Mix well. Turn the flame down to medium.
5. Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or till the mixture starts to thicken. Switch off gas at this stage.
6. Mix in the roasted cumin powder. Allow the mixture to cool down fully.

Now, we will start preparing the aloo stuffing.

1. Get the pressure-cooked potatoes out. Discard the water they were cooked in. Allow them to cool down fully.
2. Get the black chana out of the cooker. Allow them to cool down fully. Do not discard the water they were cooked in.

We will now add the final touches to the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the potatoes are cool, remove their skins. Take the peeled, cooked potatoes in a large bowl. Mash them roughly.
2. Add the cooked black chana to the bowl, along with the water the chana was cooked in.
3. Add salt to taste, pani poori masala or chaat masala, roasted cumin powder and finely chopped coriander.
4. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl well together, using your hands. Your aloo stuffing is ready. Allow it to rest at room temperature till you are ready to serve the Pani Poori.

Lastly, we will add the finishing touches to the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the sweet tamarind mixture we prepared earlier has fully cooled down, add in 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water to dilute it, or as needed. Mix well.
2. Your sweet tamarind paani is ready. Keep it chilling in the refrigerator or at room temperature till you are ready to serve the pani poori.


How to serve the pani poori:

You can choose to allow your guests to assemble their own pani pooris or make them yourself, handing them over to the guests one by one.


In case of the former,
Give your guests the pooris, some of the aloo stuffing, some spicy green paani and sweet tamarind paani separately. Ask them to make their own pani pooris.


In case of the latter,
To make the pani pooris, make a small hole in one of the pooris and place some of the aloo stuffing inside it. Spoon some of the spicy green paani and sweet tamarind paani into the poori too. Place the prepared poori fully in your mouth, bite, chew and enjoy the explosion of flavours in your mouth! Prepare all the pani pooris the same way.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni| Bengali Tomato, Dates And Mango Leather Chutney

Today, let me introduce you to a long-time favourite condiment of mine – Tomato Khejur Amshotter Chaatni. This is a Bengali chutney – chaatni in the local language – made using tomatoes, dates (khejur) and aam papad or mango leather (aamshotto). Like Bengali chaatnis are, this one too is a riot of flavours, sweet and sour and salty and spicy. Beauty!

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

My tryst with Bengali cuisine

I was introduced to proper Bengali food, including some amazing chutneys, on a holiday in Calcutta, a few years ago. Life hasn’t been the same ever since. The trip expanded my knowledge of Bengali cuisine, much beyond what I had tasted in Durga Pooja pandals in Bangalore. It was in the course of this holiday that I started loving the versatile spicy-sweet-tangy chutneys that the Bengalis prepare, and even learnt how to make some of them myself. It was my initiation into Bengali vegetarian cooking. Now, Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, Anarosher Chaatni, Bhoger Khichuri, Aloor Dom and Bhapa Doi are as much a part of our meals at home as sambar, rasam, dosa, idli, phulkas, undhiyu, Gujarati dal and kadhi are. 🙂

West Bengal cuisine for Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers, who cook dishes from a particular region of India, every month. All the participanting members are paired up, and every pair exchanges two ingredients which they will go on to use to cook a dish belonging to that month’s region. Interesting, right?

This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are showcasing dishes from the state of West Bengal, a state known for delectable things like Rosogulla, Sondesh, Chhanar Dalna, Shukto, Dhokar Dalna, Puchka, Mochar Ghonto and Chorchori. I was paired with the talented blogger Seema of Mildly Indian this month, who assigned me the two ingredients of ‘tomatoes’ and ‘salt’. The ingredients were just right to prepare my favourite Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, and so that’s what I decided to put up.

Seema’s blog, BTW, is a treasure trove of beautiful recipes from around the world, including some really unique dishes. Her Nadru Palak Sabzi, Bhindi Pulao and Jackfruit Rind Curry have been playing on my mind – can’t wait to try them out! Her blog is something you must definitely check out. While you are at it, do visit the lovely West Bengal dish that she prepared using the two ingredients I assigned her.

How to make Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

Here’s how I prepare the chaatni, based on what I learnt from the kind staff at the hotel we stayed at in Kolkata, all those years ago.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those on a plant-based diet. It is a gluten-free dish too.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

  1. 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
  2. 10-12 dates
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 2 big pieces of dried mango (aam papad or mango leather)
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. 1/2 tablespoon mustard oil
  7. 1 teaspoon panch phoron
  8. 2 small bay leaves
  9. 4-5 dry red chillies
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  13. 6-7 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
  14. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  15. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder or to taste

Method:

Top left: The ingredients needed for the chaatni, Top right: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

1. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.

2. Remove seeds from the dates and chop them into large pieces. Also, chop the mango leather into large pieces too. Keep aside.

3. Peel the ginger. Grate finely or cut into thin slivers. Keep aside.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Centre: Step 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

4. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the panch phoron, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the bay leaves and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a bit of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes or till the tomatoes start turning mushy. Stir intermittently.

6. Now, add in the chopped dates and mango leather, the grated/slivered ginger, raisins, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.

7. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium flame, or till the chutney starts thickening and getting glossy. Switch off gas when it is thick, but still a bit on the runny side.

8. Mix in the lemon juice and roasted cumin powder. Your Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni is ready.

9. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Use as needed, and keep it refrigerated otherwise. The chaatni can be served with khichuri or as part of a complete Bengali meal. We love having it as an accompaniment with rotis or plain parathas too.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use the more flavourful and tart country or ‘Nati‘ tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety to make this chutney.

2. If the tomatoes are too tart, you can skip using the lemon juice.

3. Sugar can be used instead of jaggery powder. I prefer using jaggery powder.

4. Adjust the quantity of red chilli powder and jaggery as per personal taste preferences. Remember that you are also using raisins, dates and mango leather in the chutney, all of which have sweetness in them already.

5. In a traditional Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni, mustard oil is used, so I went ahead and used it too. You may use any other variety of oil if you so prefer.

6. Switch off the gas when the chutney is still runny. It gets thicker as it cools.

7. Slivers of cashewnuts can be used in the Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni too. Here, I haven’t.

8. Transfer the chutney to a clean, dry, air-tight container only after it has cooled down fully. This chutney is best refrigerated when not in use. Stored in a refrigerator and used hygienically, it stays well for 7-10 days.

9. To make roasted cumin powder – Take a couple of tablespoons of cumin and dry roast them in a heavy-bottomed pan till fragrant, taking care to ensure that it does not burn. Allow it to cool down fully and then coarsely crush in a small mixer jar. Store in a dry, air-tight bottle and use as needed.

10. ‘Panch phoron‘ – a mix of the five spices of mustard, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin and fennel seeds – is used for tempering in this chaatni. I buy the panch phoron ready to use, but you can mix the five ingredients yourself too, if you so prefer.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!