Nov 3, 2009

Over the weather--with Shukto. Never be under it :) A veggie dish to die for

It is unusually warm here. Being from the east coast, such temperatures in the early November are difficult to fathom. Simply difficult. Back in Cambridge it would start to snow by now! And here I am roaming around in short skirts and flip flops! It is difficult to bring home the reality. But back in India, however,  November and February used to be the two of the best months of the year. Cozy and cool-- not too cold and not too warm. Just like today.
So everything said, I am loving it thoroughly :)
Seasons do a lot to you. They affect the mood, the behavior, the food..the food cravings...and you name have it. One thing it also does, at least to me, is make me reminiscent of the dishes that I enjoyed when weather was like this.
For example on cold, fall like day..I crave hearty soups that I my friend Maria used to make in Cambridge. Rainy days make me think about a light risotto like dish and fried fish that my grandmother used to make on rainy days in India. And so such days I can visualize these dishes and amazingly enough just that vision alone is often my recipe.
I don't have to call up my grandmother or my friend in Cambridge for that recipe. It is as if I can instinctively tell what will go in that dish and I come up with the recipe-- mostly for the first time-- and it smells and tastes exactly as I remember it. Memory tied to weather has a strong hold. We often underestimate them. But it makes least the right things even without knowing the exact ingredients.

And that brings me to this dish that I made over this unusually warm weekend-- reminiscent of the November weather in India. My grandmother makes this one on cool autumn days. Its full of good veggies and so simple and flavorful. Veggies have their best flavor in temperate weather which is mostly nowish in India. There is more variety and more flavor. And this dish makes me think of the lovely veggie stalls and earthy aroma..that reminds of sweet Novembers of my school days :)

So here its...the most authentic you can get in terms of bengali food-- yet the easiest and the most flavorful-- and my own personal favorite. All for you !


Any number of hearty veggies-- I use the following

1 medium eggplant- chopped up
1 potato-  coarsely sliced up
1 Plantain- peeled and coarsely chopped
A handful of green beans- coarsely chopped
1 carrot- coarsely chopped
1/2 papaya
1 stalk of kale. Take the leaves off the stalk and run your knife through it
A handful of dried coconut powder.
1.5 tbsf mustard powder
1 tsp of ginger
2-3 tsp sugar
half a tsp of whole allspice
4-6 tbsf regular oil
4-5 cups of tepid water.
Salt to season
half a pack of bori (lentil triangles from Indian store)

Take a big pot and start!!

Take a deep and big skillet. You will need one which will hold all the veggies. Batch fry each type of veggies. About 1-1.5 tbsf for each type and 5-6 minutes for each. Once done, clean the skillet with a dry paper towel. Heat 2 oil in it and pop the allspice, ginger and sugar in it. Once it releases aroma ( ~ 5-10 secs), add all the veggies back , lower heat, sautee for about a  minute.  Add the mustard powder, mix and then add water/ stock. Give things one big stir and let cook through on low heat for ~ 10- 15 minutes. When things look cooked, add the kale and the coconut. The kale will give a slightly bitter taste to the veggies and that is what will make it excellent as a starter dish. Season with salt. Wait a beat. Take it off the fire... the is healthy to the point of being intoxicating. Really!!

Serve it over warm rice or even good to be had by itself, in place of a soup. A bit of lime would just be the best garnish you can think of :) How neat and cool is that! And it is one of the most original Bengali dishes. This is what you find served to you in regular Bengali household on fall/ autumn days.

A little story to go along with the munching

 BTW, it is called 'shukto..I did not tell you that yet..did I? Oh and one test everyone who claims to be a good cook has to go through is ...' what spices do you use in shukto ?'. The test for the last 400 years or so.   And the reason is you cannot tell the spices, especially the mustard, from the dish. No way :) Only the most adept would know :)

Enjoy....As I do :) :)..Notice my orange bowl :)


The Japanese Redneck said...

Sunday nights Next Iron Chef was on Indian Cusine. We found it very interesting.

Your recipe and orange bowl look great.

Since, I still fairly new to reading your blog - where are you now?


Jhonny walker said...

Hey Ramona...Oh ..I am in San diego now.. and I am pretty much new to food blogging any ways :)

Fairy Footprints said...

Oh another wonderful dish indeed. You are always full of wonderful food.

Hope this day is finding you well.

Have a wonderful week.


Nat said...

Hi J !!! How's it going today ? I checked your post out earlier in the evening, but wanted to have a moment of quiet to read it through...NICE ONE i must say!

...Firstly...I so agree with you on how the climate can affect your temperament. Infact, I've been thinking about it a LOT lately... there's a lot of pro's and cons I suppose. The Pro's of that warm San Diego weather is the Short skirts and flip flops...and the Pro's of the chilly fall air on the east is its sooo nice to snuggle up to ! :)....

As for the dish... I love the simplicity of it the MOST. I dont like to over process vege's either...and I like how you brown/ steam them in their own moisture and then deglaze with the stock. Brilliance...and NICE pic ...both the Vege' and the Platter captured beautifully ! : )

Murasaki Shikibu said...

By mustard powder, do you mean ground mustard seeds? You see, although I love mustard seeds I have a horror of 'mustard', i.e. dijon mustard and the stuff people squeeze on sausages. :S

Palidor said...

What a lovely dish! Both the food and the actual dish. ;-) This would be nice right now, as the weather has turned COLD this week.

Jhonny walker said...

Murasaki...dijon is crazy...I am in sheer horror whenever I look at them... However, you can find ground mustard powder. Mostly unflavored. Also good quality brown mustard will totally work

Erica said...

I would definitely have this!I love the ingredients you used in your recipes.

the ungourmet said...

This is such a nice recipe and I can imagine just how delicious it smells while cooking!

tithi said...

try adding a tablespoon of milk in the end. or even a little posto-bata, if you can lay your hands on some...