Friday, November 29, 2013

Bhate bhat

True Blue Bengali affair "Bhate-Bhat" 

- Comfort food from all Bengali homes 

No generation is better or worse than the other

A true blue simple Bengali affair, tasty , healthy and so easy. This one meal evokes so many emotions in me that I do not even know how to begin. It evokes childhood memories when I refused any food items with any spice even cumin and so stuck to this simple yet delicious affair. Boiled "atop chal" (the short grained rice used for kheer) with mashed potatoes , mashed with "gaoya ghee" (Ghee from cow's milk) an array of vegetables all boiled and mashed either with butter , clarified butter or mustard oil and chilies and some might even have a hint of lemon. In Bengal we literally can boil and mash any vegetable perhaps other than brinjal , tomatoes and a few other vegetables. It is of course one of the greenest states of India.  This is my happy emotion but along with growing up you learn too many unwanted details such as how this was the preferred meal for widows of Bengal whose lives were  devoid of any pleasures and some mind you were not above the age of 10 years. I wonder how generations of men and women could bear to sit down for meals with extravagantly cooked pulses, fish etc while little girls or older girls or mature women who were part of the family were forbidden from all pleasures. No,  the excuse of "times were different" is not good enough. I am just glad times have changed. Anyways while a rage fills my heart thinking of uncounted number of suppressed little girls and women this meal does give me the assurance that in their own little worlds they found a way to make meals so delicious with the simplest of items. perhaps this was the way they revolted, I can imagine a widow saying, "You deny me all spices here I make something which will be so tasty that generations after generations will love the taste be they poor or rich , with ample time for cooking or not" My way of remembering all those fantastic queens. The taste is pure comfort . Of course the boiled egg was an addition from a long time ago and this was a preferred breakfast food for many a household before school or after it etc.

Anyways so travel through India and you shall be fascinated , live in the country even a metropolitan one such as Calcutta and it will leave you short of screaming around pulling at your hair. There is this monthly problem of the refill of gas being delivered late and so everything goes up in flames. with no real gas-stove and a small little stove handy I gave into temptation and decided on the great Bengali meal.

I cooked for 1 person and so this is the amount that I required

Half a cup (250ml) of "atop chal" (short grained rice used for making rice pudding "kheer/ payesh" in India)
1 potato
100gm of pumpkin
Spinach leaves which renders a bowl of spinach
Less than half an onion sliced finely
2 to 3 tablespoonful of clarified butter made form cows (We Bengalis are very cautious and organized about our clarified butters, while the one made from Buffalo milk is used as a medium for cooking the one form cows goes straight on chapatis , rice etc)
1 to 2 tsp mustard oil
Salt as per taste
Chilies as per taste (I used 3 chilies)
1 wedge of lemon
1 egg

Pressure cook the boiled potato and pumpkin together. Boil the spinach. Boil your rice. Use twice the amount of water, bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 7 minutes checking from time to time. When simmering the rice add the egg and let it get cooked along with the rice.

Make mashed potatoes with clarified butter say about 2 tsp, salt and 1 green chili and make a ball. Mash your pumpkin with 1 tsp mustard oil, 1 green chili and salt with 2 to 3 drops of lemon and make a ball. use salt and sliced onion with half a tsp of mustard oil. De-shell the egg and mash a  bit and eat your rice with veggies. When serving add 2 tsp clarified butter  with the hot rice. Remember this meal must be taken piping hot.

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