Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Quintessential Shukto - Mixed Vegetables Bengali style


I have been avoiding sharing the Shukto recipe -a quintessential Bengali delicacy as long as I could, mostly for various fears. The fear of organization skill it requires, fear of labor that goes behind having all the vegetables in exact proportions and chopped to the precise guidelines and lastly the fear of shaking off my lazy hibernation mode.

Now if you have never heard of Shukto – don’t be put off by my Hyperboles. It’s just the bitter Bengali cousin of the southern Avial or the Indian version of the French Ratatouille. You got the drift – it’s a medley of all vegetables with a hint of bitterness.

Long long time ago when my,mama (maternal uncle ) got married and they were coming home for their post wedding reception, my mother happened to be sitting next to the bride and heard her mumble and memorize the Shukto spices. 30 years have passed since then, and my mami has proven to be a good cook, the story still goes around in my family. So you know, the importance of Shukto does not stop at  it being a classic lunch menu, its much beyond that. A well-made Shukto is considered by many to be the hallmark of a good cook—If you can spice the Shukto correctly, you have made the culinary grade and of course welcomed as a perfect bride, in this case. 

Although in every bong house, the Shukto has its own version. You can certainly adapt the spices and the quantities based on your family’s liking.

Shukto

Ingredients
1 white Radish
1 green Banana (plantains)
4-5 broad Beans
1 small bitter Gourd
2 long thin Brinjal, unpeeled
1 sweet Potato
½+ ½  cup water, 2 tbsp milk
Spices, condiments and Oil


To paste
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Mustard paste
1 tsp Poppy seed

Dry spices
1 tsp roasted and coarsely ground Panch Phoron (fenugreek, kalonji, cumin seed, radhuni or celery seed and fennel seed in equal parts)
2 bay leaves

Oils
3 tbsp Mustard oil
1/2 tsp ghee (optional)

For garnish
Salt to taste
A handful fried dal bori (dried lentils nuggets)

Method:
Peel and cut all the vegetables lengthwise around 2 inch long ( sweet potatoes, white radish, plantains, broad beans, small bitter gourd and brinjal)

Heat the mustard oil to smoke in a deep dish. Temper with the bay leaf and panch phoron. Now add the vegetables and sauté in low heat. Take care to add the brinjals in the end. Add salt to taste and add ½ cup water, and then cover and cook until the vegetables are done.

Once done and the vegetables are cooked, add the ginger paste, black mustard paste and poppy seed paste mixed in the 1/2 cup water. Finally top it with the fried boris and the ghee, cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the milk, cover and remove from heat.

Serve at room temperature. Sprinkle a pinch of , roasted panch phoron powder on it just before serving.


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