Just the word pora or poda brings along with it the whiff of fire, smoke and roasting.
Along with the smell of winter nights.
Crisp, cold air. Smoke from the unoon or the chulha.
Thamma's warm, sooty, smoky kitchen.
Wood fire burning with all its might in the two big sized open unoons ... where two huge handis cook rice during the day.
Thamma would throw in sweet potatoes, potatoes into the mouth of the unoons to roast.
And winter nights would definitely see some big sized brinjals with their skins shining with a coat of mustard oil, getting roasted too.
Thamma had a small sized chulha too ... made from a steel bucket, that had three mounds made from wet earth, to sit a vessel on. On that she made rotis.
We children loved to cross the open kitchen veranda on the courtyard, shivering in the cold, push open the lightly closed door just to soak in the warmth of her kitchen with two roaring fires and watch the sparkling splinters jump and dance around the fires.
Sometimes Thamma would call us in and hand us a piece of very hot roti, just off the chulha and torn into small parts for us.
Chewing on that small piece of roti, we would again barge out and go back into the house, crossing Dadu on the way, who would always be on the swing on the veranda ... for as long as Thamma would be in the kitchen.
Every time we crossed him, he would turn his head and smile at us and the ruckus we made. And then he would go back to gazing at the stars on the bright winter sky again.
On some days, when there would be brinjals roasting in the fire and Begun pora on the menu, if we barged into the kitchen, Thamma would sit us down and ask the help to quickly cut up onions and skin some roasted brinjals.
She would then mash them up with mustard oil, fresh coriander leaves ... a must in every winter dish ... and onions, skipping the green chillies.
And then she would feed us from that one plate of begun pora while the help flipped rotis one by one into the second plate.
There, of course, would be a story to keep us still, too.
Quietly she would send the help to inform our mothers that they are free for the evening.
Their children have had dinner ... a huge task otherwise.
These days, all that I bank on, is memories.
Dadu and Thamma are no longer around.
The house has been demolished recently.
Dad left us three months back.
And what struck me most was Didi's sudden demise last month.
She was the leader of the pack; the head of all plans of our childhood.
All adventures, picnics, plans for movies, gatherings , were started by her.
Not one to hear a no. The eldest child of the family.
My sister, friend, confidante,guide.
This year has taken so much from me that I dread facing the coming year.
I planned to make the Begun pora last weekend for lunch and not for dinner.
I wanted to click some photos and make a post.
As anyone would know, this is an easy, fuss free dish.
All you need is some fresh, big sized brinjals /eggplants, some onions and green chillies and the all important mustard oil.
The smoky flavour of the roasted eggplant mixed with the zing of raw mustard oil give the dish its rustic charm.
This is also known as Bengena pitika in Assamese.
Brinjals / Eggplants
Chopped green chillies
Fresh coriander leaves
How to :
Smear the eggplants with mustard oil and roast slowly on an open fire.
The skin should be completely charred for the insides to be cooked well.
I make sure it becomes flaky ... almost no moisture on the skin.
That not only ensures that the eggplant is well done, it also gives a distinct brown colour to the flesh just below the skin.
(Check out the steam.)
Don't forget to be generous with that drizzle of raw mustard oil all over it.
Serve hot with rotis.
On another note, my hand and shoulders are acting up again.
I have been knitting a little too much recently I guess. And assume that is the culprit.
Neither do I have any idea as to when I will be able to make another post next.
Till then take care dear friends.
Stay well and enjoy your holidays.