BongMom’s Cookbook : A Review, A Dim Kosha (Bengali Spicy Egg Curry) & A Giveaway!
I have to confess right here, that I know very little about Bengali food. I am from Kerala, which has something in common with Bengal including Communist/ Marxist governments from time to time, a love for fish curry, plain white saris with a red border in Bengal and gold in Kerala, and an obsession for football that goes beyond the believable.
It is also not unusual to find people in Kerala bearing Bengali names like Ghosh and Das. However, Bengali food has had little or no impact there, though rice is the carbohydrate of choice in both states, and Malayalees who eat fish love it as much as their Bengali counterparts.
I know that Bengalis love sweets, especially those made with “chenna” (a softer and moist version of paneer) like “Rôshogolla” (I was told off by a reader who was offended that I called them Rasgulla!), Cham Cham and Sandesh (I should have said “Shôndesh”?) and their Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt). I know that what the rest of us in India call “Gol Gappe” is “Puchka” for Bengalis and that they also love Aloo Poshto (a potato curry cooked with poppy seeds). And I know they like to use mustard oil in their cooking which I find a very acquired taste (and aroma) that I haven’t been able to manage to acquire so far! I also know that in Bengal, fish is considered vegetarian fare!
As you can see, what I do know about Bengali food is not very much. So what am I doing reviewing a cookbook about Bengali food? In the first place this book is written by a fellow food blogger who is also a virtual friend of sorts. I say, of sorts, because I really do not her very well, but I have read her blog on and off (she writes very well) and we keep crossing each other’s paths frequently on Facebook while commenting on each other’s pages and those of mutual friends. I also firmly believe that good food, whatever its style of cuisine, will transcend all man-made borders/ divides.
She also tells us, “Bengalis don’t eat breakfast: they eat a complete meal in the morning, or else they eat luchi (deep fried bread)”. It’s obvious that the Bengalis like their counterparts in the other states of India have a great love for their food!
The book started on that note and just went on getting more enjoyable to read as I turned page after page. And if you’re thinking of asking, “Why would you read a cookbook?” here’s the answer. Sandeepa’s book is more than just a cookbook. S.
Every chapter is redolent with the aromas of spices used in a Bengali kitchen interwoven with her memories of life in Bengal as a child, from her grandmother’s Calcutta kitchen, all the way to through her life to her kitchen in the US where she now lives. Married and a mother of two young girls, she also shares her attempts to keep India alive and real for her daughters and her trials to connect them to their Indian roots through the Bengali food she cooks.
I can relate to large parts of her book. I have grown up seeing grandmothers, aunts and other elderly ladies in the house spend a large part of their lives cooking up a storm almost every day, and belong to a community where food is so important that there are even prescribed dishes, ingredients, combinations and menus for each occasion (small or big). So I’m not surprised that her mother would be appalled to think that milk and cereal or something similar could be considered any sort of a meal, let alone breakfast!
The chapters in this book have quaint titled and some examples are The Great Bong Breakfast, The long Lost Lunch, By God! Bongs Also Eat Veggies, Every Bong Girl Needs Her Tiffin and Love In The Time Of Dessert! Each recipe in preceded by a short narrative about the dish and its place in her family saga and the book is interspersed with further factual details either about Bengali meal-time or food traditions and the masalas (spice mixes) used in their cooking.
One masala/ spice mix that I always associate with Bengali cooking is the Paanch-phoron which is frequently used in their recipes.
Good photography is always a bonus in a cookbook, but this is one cookbook that really doesn’t need the photographs.
However, I would have been happy to see some more sketches illustrating the book beyond those that adorn the first page of every chapter.
I would have definitely liked to see a recipe index in the book, as it took me time to trace down the recipes I wanted to cook from the book since there was no way to do that except search.
While there is a list of spices used in the book, translated to English, I also feel a glossary of some of the Bengali terms used throughout the book would be helpful as a ready reference for the non-Bengali reading public.
Beyond this, I have only good to say about the book and it will have a happy resting place on my cookbook shelf even though most of the recipes in the book are of no use to a vegetarian like me.
I did over salt my Egg Curry a wee bit (my fault, not the recipe’s) but otherwise we liked the curry very much. Be warned this is a bit on the richer side as it involves frying boiled eggs and the potatoes, but that’s what adds a lot of flavour.
- Boil and peel the eggs. Score a small “X” on the top of each egg with a knife. Smear a bit of turmeric powder, salt and a little chilli powder on this and keep aside. Fry the chopped onion in a tsp of oil till it turns brown at the edges. Let ithis cool and grind to a smooth paste. Heat the oil.
- Put the 4 tbsp of oil in a wok and fry the eggs till they turn reddish orange and the skin starts crinkling. Remove and keep aside. Fry the potatoes in the same oil till they take on a light golden colour. Remove and keep aside.
- Put the paanch-phoron masala into the remaining oil in the wok, and when it gives off an aroma (in a few seconds), add the onion paste and fry for a minute. Add the tomato purée, grated ginger, garlic paste, and slit green chillies and a little salt and fry this masala on medium heat, till you see the oil separating from it.
- Now add the cumin powder, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powders. Sprinkle a little water and keep frying the masala on low to medium heat until the raw smell of the spices disappears and the masala turns a deep red in colour. While it is cooking, if the masala seems to be drying out (it will then burn), sprinkle some more water as needed and cook.
- Add the potatoes and stir to coat them well with the masala. Add a cup of warm water, increase the heat and let it come to a boil. Add more salt as needed and then turn down the heat so the gravy simmers. Once the potatoes are done, add the eggs, sugar and garam masala. Let the gravy simmer and the oil will float on the top.
- Take the curry off the heat and serve with rice or rotis.
All you have to do is leave a comment at this post telling me if you have ever cooked or eaten Bengali food, and if so, what your favourite dish is.
This giveaway is open only to readers residing in India or those who have Indian shipping addresses.
Please also leave a link to your blog or an e-mail id for me to contact you, in case you win the book. **This giveaway is open till the 30th of this month.
This event is now closed!