The days are pure mayhem. After the fast flying days of Durga Puja ... the hangover still exists ... come the preparations for Diwali. The rain gods have played spoilsports successfully ... it has been just one day that they have finally ... hopefully ... abated.
The air is crisp and the sky very blue. And finally got the "pujo pujo" smell ... that fragrance in the air that we usually feel just before Durga Puja ( there I go again).
Got to come back down to mother earth. Since cooking is minimal these days .... always a stew with lots of veggies and lentils ... with different temperings or herbs .... and I whip up an egg for myself .... so almost nothing to post.
But I have been getting so many recipe requests that it would be unfair if I did not post them. My readers have been waiting patiently ... and I had promised them that once Puja is over I'll start posting.
So here I am with one such request from Vaishnavi for the Shukto.
This Bengali dish is made of vegetables cooked in a light milk & mustard based gravy. There are different versions of Shukto when I looked up the web. But the one my Jethima makes is my favourite .... for obvious reasons.
As is the story with almost anybody, when growing up nobody is too fond of this dish. For one ... it is full of vegetables. Secondly ... it has Karela or the Bitter Gourd. So even after being served, it is steered clear of and remains in the plate even after the meal is over ... the vegetables lying all lonely and forlon and rejected.
But you grow up ... you move away from home .... you miss home made food .... and then you start to miss Shukto. You call home ... you call long forgotten aunts and relatives ... just to get hold of that recipe that will make your shukto just like your Ma / Mashi / Jethima / Kakima made.
My Jethima says that a Shukto is not one until it has Radhuni in it. I do not know what Radhuni is called in English (can anybody help me out here please ?) ... but it does look like the jeera / cumin seeds.
So here is my recipe for the Shukto.
* The karela / bitter gourd is compulsory. You can add almost any vegetable you want to. I used whatever I had at hand.
* No tomatoes in this dish.
* You can add bori / vadi / bodi too ... if you have them. Check out my two posts on how to make bodi / vadi / bori ... in an oven ... and the traditional way.
* Traditionally, all the vegetables are deep fried seperately ... the karela being the last to be fried.
If you don't want to go into that step ... then just fry the karelas seperately .... that way they lose a little of their bitterness and the whole dish does not get too bitter.
* Always dilute and strain the mustard paste ... that way it won't taste bitter ... especially if you are using the bigger seeds.
If you still unsure, add a little posto / poppy seeds to it when soaking and grind them together. That will take out the sharpness of the mustard.
Need : Vegetables - Raw banana (raw plaintain),
Potato, Drumsticks, Paanch phoron,
Karela / bitter gourd, Lauki / Lau/ bottle gourd,
Turai / Jhinge / Ridge gourd, Brinjal / eggplant, etc. etc. ,
Mustard paste ( soak mustard seeds overnight, grind into a paste, add some water and strain it ),
a little milk, a few pieces of bori / bodi / vadi ( I have used my oven made boris here ),
jeera / cumin paste ( if you have powdered jeera then soak in in some water ... do not use the roasted jeera),
salt and sugar to taste, a little cooking oil and a little ghee.
If you have Radhuni - make a paste and use it instead of the jeera paste
And some Radhuni seeds in the phoron/ tempering
How to : Cut the vegetables into medium sized pieces lengthwise.
Heat a little oil and fry the boris / bodi / vadis (if using) till brown. Remove , half crush them and keep aside.
Add a little more oil to it and fry the karela with a little salt till well done. Remove and keep aside.
In a different kadahi or wok, heat a little oil. Add a little paanch phoron. Add all the cut vegetables and toss well.
Add a little salt ... just enough for the vegetables.
Add the ginger and jeera pastes and fry well for a while. Add a little water if necessary and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove cover and add the diluted mustard paste with enough water to make a gravy. Adjust salt and add sugar .... this dish is not supposed to be too salty.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are well done.
Remove cover and add the fried karela and the boris. The bori / bodi / vadi tends to soak up water ... so add more if necessary. Bring to a boil till gravy reaches desired consistency.
Add a little milk ( for the above amount of veggies I used around a quarter of a medium sized cup ) and remove from flame.
If you keep on boiling after this the milk might curdle.
Add a spoonful of ghee, stir a little and keep it covered for some time before serving.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
( The first photograph has been recently added ... when I finally made the Shukto with Radhuni.
Absolutely loved the authentic, traditional taste. )
There are a few more request recipes lined up. I promise them soon ... very soon. Till then ... take care all. :-)