Monday, October 7, 2013

Kumror Chakka (Pumpkin Curry from Bengal)

Kumror Chakka

 (Pumpkin Curry from Bengal)

I am blessed to be born in a country with as many varieties of cuisines as India. Go North and you have the robust creamy taste, go South and there is a tangy ,light taste , the northeast holds forth a variety of delicious dishes but very few cuisines offer as many items on a daily basis as Bengal does.

Having married someone from outside Bengal and having eaten numerous times at kitchens of other states I know one thing for certainty and that is we Bengalis love a six course meal on a daily basis. So we always start with something bitter, go on to green leafy vegetables, move on to pulse and something fried to accompany it , then comes the vegetable curry and  on some days it actually goes on to be multiple  vegetables curries, then comes your fish and lastly the curd. (P.S. These days we do not have the sweet curd that most people relate Bengal with. These days we are health conscious and have delicious homemade unsweetened yogurt )

Nevertheless, coming to today's recipe I had to visit the market. We have municipal markets in most localities of Calcutta which is neatly organized with a section for vegetables, a section for fish , a section for red meat, a section for chicken, a section for dairy products, a section for baked items and packaged items etc. I had this particular hankering for 'Kumror Chakka' ( A delicious preparation of Potatoes, Pumpkins with boiled black gram {chana - Hindi word, chola - Bengali word} )

We Bengalis have this love affair with potatoes and in case you are from the Western half of Bengal then sugar added to vegetables is a must.

I have to mention the source of this recipe. Here in the City of Joy  Erstwhile Calcutta lives this graceful lady. Someone who has always whipped up perfect dishes from her kitchen. I have met many a good cooks but never have I met anyone else who will be as perfect to me when it comes to Bengali dishes as my mimi. She is not my mother. My mother  hardly cooks . This lady doles out  the same perfect 'phulko luchis' (A fried bread which must have this paper thin layer on top and most people don't achieve that paper thin top) Her presentation of food lures children into eating fruits , vegetables and even bitter gourds. Anyways she learnt her cooking from her own mother some 40 to 50 years ago and I am blessed enough to have written down her recipes.

This is my darling Mimi's 'Kumro Chakka'

What goes in : We Bengalis call it pronali

500gm Pumpkin chopped in chunks
2 small sized potatoes
Boiled black chickpeas
5 Spice from Bengal (We call it panch phoron) It basically has methi seeds, kalonji, jeera/cumin, mustard and saunf.
Aesetifoda also called hing
1 bay leaf
Ginger cumin green chili paste
1 dried red chili
Ghee also known as Clarified butter
pinch of garam masala or cumin powder
1 tsp tsp 2 tsp sugar
turmeric - So that its colourful :)
Mustard oil. It brings out the best flavours for Bengali cuisine.

So what what one does is boil chana from before and then chop pumpkins in larger chunks than potatoes. Mimi's essential tip is that since potatoes take a long time to get cooked it is best chopped in small sizes so that it cooks faster than the large chunks and it looks good.

Make a paste with ginger, cumin and 1 green chili. Heat mustard oil.  Saute the vegatbles and keep aside. Heat about 1 tsp of mustard oil  in the same wok and add hing aka asafoetida, 'panch phoron' (Bengali five spice) , 1 dried red chili, tej patta and then add the ginger cumin chili paste and fry it but please don't burn it . Add the potatoes and a wee bit of salt and mix it well with the spices. Add water and cover and relax for 2 minutes. The flame must always be on medium. Then add your Pumpkin and mix a bit and bring it all to a boil and add salt , sugar and turmeric and then lower the flames and relax with a puzzle or a book or music or work .

We want this dish to be a bit on the dry side One must cover and cook till the vegetables are cooked inside out and then take the cover off to dry the vegetable.

Once your vegetable dish is dried up but is still moist add ghee and cumin powder or garam masala and take it off the gas stove. Enjoy the subtle flavour of spices and sweetness with hot rice. I have heard of people having this with chapatis but believe me the best accompaniment with this is the fluffy white rice. After all we Bengalis never ask people if they have had their meals , we ask them if they have had rice which denotes the entire meal . Ah my health tip is that one can have salads, chapatis etc on other days and keep 1 or 2 days aside for rice and the tasty accompaniments.

This is how  Bengalis have their meals on any regular day. earlier it was bras utensils which were used but those are weighty and big so we moved on to steel plates because a standard sized dinner plate is never enough for all of this or well because of other reasons.

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