Being at the mercy of our own cooking skills for months on end can be rough. While sticking to our tried and tested recipes is safe, now is the perfect opportunity to experiment with new dishes and flavours. We reached out to some experts for their preferred local recipes and compiled a list for you to try. Here are a few favourite easy recipes from their kitchens to yours.
Shanta & Shuli’s Jhaal Muri Salad
Shuli Ghosh is best known as the founder of the city’s beloved Sienna Café. But few remember that Shuli started Sienna with a handful of her mother’s original recipes. The success of the café is a testament to the talent and imagination that these two ladies bring to their table. She shares with us her family recipe for the famous Calcutta snack Jhaal Muri. “My mother’s muri is my favourite early evening snack with cha. We have spent many afternoons making this together over giggles and gossip.”
Recipe for two. Ingredients and method:
Muri (puffed rice) 1.5 cups
Ginger (minced) 1/4tsp
Finely sliced fresh coconut 7gms
Coriander leaves 3gms
Juice of half a lemon (6 gms approx)
A dash of Achaar Oil (I use Banalakshmi Aam Kashundi Achar) 5gms
Mustard Oil as you like
Finely chopped fresh Green Chillies 2gms
A handful of Channa Chur for that delicious crunch (I use Mukharachak Chanachur) 25gms
Roasted Masala powder 1/2tsp (cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom mix)
Black Salt to taste
A little vinegar to soak the onions
Boil the potato and dice into little squares. Rub with chaat masala and black salt. Julienne the onions and soak in vinegar for a few minutes. Dice the tomatoes, green chillies, drain the water. Take out the seeds of the cucumber and dice. Chop the coriander leaves, and coconut and set aside. Make sure all ingredients are laid out to dry. If they are damp they can make the muri soggy.
Pour the muri into a large bowl. Fold in each of the ingredients one by one and keep mixing. At the very end pour in the mustard oil and the mango achaar oil dressing. Sprinkle the roasted masala and give it another mix. Finally, garnish with coriander leaves for that fresh aroma. Sink into a comfy chair and enjoy a bowlful with a cup of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea.
Bunny Gupta’s Aloo Dum
Bunny Gupta is co-author of ‘The Calcutta Cookbook’, one of the first of its kind, with over 200 recipes chronicling the city’s best-kept kitchen secrets. This popular family recipe for the traditional Bengali treat Aloo Dum is as easy to make as it is tasty.
Ingredients and method:
Half kg boiled potatoes, peeled and diced
Half cup milk
Garam Masala (Cinnamon 1 stick, Cloves 2, Green Cardamom 2,1 Small Bay Leaf)
Paste of 1 small onion, half-inch ginger, 1 red chilli, and half teaspoon turmeric ground together
Green Chillis 2 (split lengthwise)
Juice of half a lime (preferably the aromatic Gandharaj )
Heat 1 tablespoon of Ghee or vegetable oil in a Kadhai till it is smoking. Throw in the Garam Masala and sauté till it releases its aroma. Add the paste and stir fry till the raw look and smell goes. Add the potato and mix well till the gravy thickens. Then lower the heat and add milk and sliced green chillies. Mix well. Turn off heat and add lime juice while the dish is still hot.
Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta’s Shorshe Maach (Fish in Mustard Sauce)
Kewpies Kitchen, the restaurant founded and run by chef Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta, is synonymous with authentic home-style Bengali cooking, and a must for any visitor to the city. Here she shares her recipe for the beloved staple Mustard Fish.
Serves 3- 6. Ingredients and method:
1- 1kg 250 g hilsa or any other oily fish steaks (about 6-7 pieces round cut)
2 tbsp white mustard seeds and 2 tbsp black mustard seeds ground to a fine paste with 2 green chillies, 1 tsp salt and some water/ Alternatively use readymade mustard powder (about 3 tbsp mixed with 1/2 cup water) to make a paste.
1 ½ tsp turmeric paste or powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder/cayenne/ paprika
3 tbsp mustard oil or less
8-10 slit green chillies or to taste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 to 1 ½ cups water
salt to taste
In a large bowl place all the ingredients except water, green chillies and fish steaks, and mix well. Add fish and coat well with the mixture and marinate for 20-30 minutes. Remove the fish steaks from the bowl, shaking off the excess marinade and set aside. Add water to remaining marinade, mix well, and pour through a sieve into a kadhai or pan. Add the slit green chillies and bring to a boil. Add the fish steaks in one layer so that they do not break. Cover and cook on low heat for 12-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and oil has risen to the top. Taste to check salt.
Alternatively, place fish in a microwave-proof dish, pour the marinade mixed with water through a sieve over it, cover and cook on high power for 4 minutes. Open carefully, take dish out, turn fish pieces over, pour some more sauce over them, cover and cook for another 4 minutes. Let it sit for up to five minutes before removing fish. Serve with plain boiled rice or pullao.
Doma Wang’s Chicken Shapta
Doma, lovingly referred to as the momo queen of Calcutta, runs The Blue Poppy, the city’s most popular place for typically North Bengal cuisine. Here is her recipe for Chicken Shapta, as simple as it is delicious.
Ingredients and method:
500 grams boneless chicken sliced thin
5 green chillies
1 onion sliced
1 Tomato sliced
Few pods crushed garlic
Dark and light soya sauce (1 tablespoon each)
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped spring onions for garnish
Heat three tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan. Fry the chicken until it becomes translucent. Move to the side of the pan. Add the onions, fry until brown. Add garlic and green chillies. Mix all the ingredients together, add salt and pepper to taste. Add the dark and light soya sauce. Stir fry until the chicken is cooked. Finally, add the tomatoes and give it a good mix. Garnish with spring onions. Your chicken Shapta is ready to eat.
Nadim Amin’s Firni Aminia Style
Nadim Amin’s family-owned restaurant Aminia is synonymous with Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine in the city, with the first outlet dating back to 1929. Growing up in a family of food lovers with the most mouth-watering dishes on the dining table, he soon developed a keen interest in cooking. Here is his recipe for the delicious dessert, Firni.
For 12 servings. Ingredients and method:
Milk (full fat) 1 litre
Rice (basmati/Gulab Swarup) 60 gms
Sugar 200 grams
Mawa/khoya 300 grams (if unavailable, double the quantity of milk)
Rosewater 2 teaspoons
Saffron 1 gram (pre-soak saffron in the rose water)
Wash rice properly and drain all the water, then soak it in 100 mls of water for ½ hour. Separate the water and keep aside. Grind rice coarsely, making a grainy powder. In a pan, put milk, powdered rice, saffron and grated mawa, and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and keep stirring regularly, till rice is cooked, and it gains a thickish consistency. Add sugar, stirring regularly. Add rose water and remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.