Friday, November 23, 2012

Somnath Da's Kimbegunti, Inspired Begun Pora Mashed with Killer Keema

When Somnath RoyChoudhury is not thinking “ads”, he is  the muse for many food lovers all across the world.

Somnath and I were perhaps destined to meet, albeit online. He has immense knowledge about Bengali cuisine, particularly of the northern region of Bengal, and shares not just recipes, but little known facts about ingredients and recipes with a no-holds bar attitude.

Somnath Da, as he is lovingly called by many of his foodie friends stumbled upon this recipe of Bengali Begun Pora with Mince Meat while he was spring cleaning. This recipe was originally published more than 20 years ago by Anandabazar Patrika and belongs to Sujata Gangopadhyay.

IMG_9270The original recipe by Sujata Gangopadhyay asks for the brinjal/eggplant to be roasted by poking holes in it and stuffing the cooked keema (mince meat) in it. Then these inserts in the brinjal were plugged with garlic pods. Both Somnath and I skipped this step. Instead we have stuck with the more popular method of fire roasting our begun/eggplant/brinjal/aubergine/baingan!

Apparently, “Kimbegunti” is a pun derived from the Bengali word “Kingbodonti” which means legend. Also, if you look closely, you will see that the main ingredients of this dish are hidden in its name – Kim-Begun-ti.

Ingredients for Kimbegunti are:

For the roasted eggplant/begun pora

2 mid-size, light dark purple eggplant (about 750 grams) (Read how to choose an eggplant)
2 medium size ripe, red tomatoes
Few green chillies, woven on wooden skewers
2-3 tablespoons raw mustard oil 

IMG_9211Slice the eggplant lengthwise till its stem/head, making sure you do not separate the two halves. Fire roast the eggplant till its mushy.


IMG_9214Fire roast the tomatoes whole till the skin is charred and the tomatoes are mushy.

IMG_9225IMG_9231The green chillies can be fire-roasted while the tomatoes are being done. Just get enough char on the chillies and keep whole.


For the keema/mince meat 

300 grams mince meat (Somnath da used chicken, I used beef, the original recipe has goat mince)
1 medium size red onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped green chillies
1 teaspoon freshly ground garam masala powder (Black and green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves)
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1 heaped tablespoon fresh coriander paste (leaves and stem)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt, whisked with a couple of spoons of water
1 tablespoon fennel/mota mauri powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Kashmiri lal mirch/red chilli powder
Half teaspoon black pepper powder
Juice of one lime
2 bay
2 tablespoons mustard oil
Fresh coriander leaves finely chopped for garnish
Quarter teaspoon sugar

IMG_9220While the eggplant, tomatoes and green chillies are getting fire roasted, marinate the mince meat with the black pepper powder, lime juice and salt. About 30 minutes should suffice.

IMG_9246Heat mustard oil a thick pan. Add the sugar and let it caramelize. Now add the chopped red onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies, bay and freshly powdered garam masala. Cook these ingredients on low-medium heat till they get coated with the garam masala and start releasing oil. Now add the ginger-garlic paste. Cook for some more time till the raw paste gets caramelized and turns light brown.

IMG_9248At this point, add the mince meat. Crank the heat up and brown the meat. Add the coriander powder, turmeric and red chilli powder.

Cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes till you see oil surface on the sides. Turn the heat off and let the mince meat cool down a bit. Now add the coriander paste, whisked yogurt and fennel powder. Mix well and cook covered on very low heat lest the yogurt curdles.

IMG_9254Season with more salt if necessary. Remember that we had already added salt when we were marinating our mince meat. Cook the mince meat till the oil separates. Do a taste test and adjust accordingly.

IMG_9241Remove the charred skin from the eggplant and tomatoes as soon as they are warm enough to handle with your hands. The fire-roasted vegetables will also release a lot of juices as they sit in a bowl, make sure you have saved and used all that goodness.

IMG_9256Mash together the smoked eggplant and tomatoes with mustard oil and salt.

I did not mash the green chillies and kept them whole to be added at the end. Mix the eggplant-tomato mash to the cooked mince meat. Mix well, zing it up with some more raw mustard oil if you like it that way. Sprinkle some chopped coriander and mix that in.


DO NOT cook the eggplant with the mince meat now. The Kimbegunti is now ready to be eaten with fluffy rotis/chapatis. I added some sliced onions as well to my finished Kimbegunti.


Monday, November 19, 2012

My Mum's Fruit and Nut Cake

This is the only cake we knew growing up in Patna. Fancy cakes with icing and frosting were only meant for birthdays. And were mostly pre-ordered from Channa Uncle’s Cake Palace and later his brother’s Polson’s in Dak Bungalow Road.

IMG_9091This is one cake which seldom goes wrong. Perhaps your Mum made it too. That trademark treat to have with your glass of milk, or chai for grownups.

When we did not have an oven, my Mum used to make this cake in the gas tandoor. Some Mums from the ‘80s even made it in the pressure cooker.


I have made this cake after years. Just because its the husband’s birthday tomorrow, and I wanted to treat him with something I have learnt from my Mum.


Ingredients for My Mum's Fruit and Nut Cake are:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour/maida
1 cup sugar, powdered in the grinder
1 cup canola/vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
Quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
Raisins, walnuts, cashews, glazed cherries and tutti-frutti mixed together to form about half a cup
1 heaped tablespoon all-purpose flour (to dust the fruits and nuts)
1 tablespoon butter for the cake pan

IMG_9067Start by sieving the all-purpose flour and the baking powder twice. This will remove any lumps, etc.


Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Butter a round cake pan (today I used a Bundt pan). Line bottom with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

IMG_9071Now beat together the flour, powdered sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract till you get a smooth batter. (I use my blender.)

IMG_9072Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the flour-dusted fruit and nuts on the batter. Shake off all the extra flour before you add them.


Bake for 45 minutes. Check by inserting a bamboo skewer in the cake. If the skewer comes out clean, your cake is done!


Slice and serve warm with tea, coffee or a glass of milk.


Between the four of us, a cake this size used to be over within minutes of my Mum baking it. This cake is great to bake during Christmas too. Gives you that old, world charm of eating a rustic, homemade cake and the house smells awesome too! Try it.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Girl with the Phuchka Tattoo

This is the story of a girl who loves phuchka. The girl who thought she’d marry a phuchka wala when she turned 13.

024The girl who wished to have the words “phuchka” carved on her epitaph upon her death. The girl who wanted a tattoo of phuchka on her heart. That girl is writing this post today.

039My love for phuchka is famous. Even my in-laws joked that they’d have phuchka at my wedding reception, much to the shock of my Grandmother! Who still believes I will someday elope with a phuchka wala.

031But why elope now? When I can make the meanest phuchka at home! And as a fringe benefit, I am married to a guy who is equally passionate about phuchka. Our getting-to-know-each-other over phone, emails, instant messenger was somehow always about that four letter word: F-O-O-D. Followed by the mention of the inevitable phuchka. After we got married, many times we’d do pillow-talk about phuchka too. Okay, I made that up.

I am a pretty tough girl when it comes to eating phuchka. I completely forget my hoity-toity convent education and get downright mainstream when it comes down to gulping phuckka after phuchka with élan. My personal best is a whopping 30!

I am also pretty touchy about calling my phuchka by the correct name. Its not pani-puri or gol gappa or gup-chup. Its phuchka. Pure unadulterated phuchka. The kinds you get on the streets of Calcutta.

I make the dipping water or phuchka’r jol by grinding together few sprigs of fresh coriander and a couple of green chillies. I then mix this paste with some tamarind pulp, kala namak, a pinch of red chilli powder, bhaja moshla and lemon juice. And pour enough water to fulfill the needs of dunking each stuffed phuchka in the water and then drinking little shot glasses of it on its own. You can throw in a few cubes of ice too. Just for special effects.


For the potato filling of the phuchka, I swing between using cooked lal chola (red gram) and yellow peas. I personally prefer the version with cooked yellow peas. Begin by pressure cooking the yellow peas (soaked overnight) with just enough water to cover them. One or two whistles should do it.

033Now take ladlefuls of the cooked yellow peas and mix with boiled potatoes, chopped coriander, finely chopped green chillies (or green chilli paste if you can handle it!), bhaja moshla, kala namak, lemon juice and spoonfuls of the “water” we have already prepared. Give it a good mash, but just enough to retain the shape of the yellow peas. And please use your hand to do this.


It may be phuchka blasphemy for some, but I also add some chopped red onion to my potato-yellow peas mixture. I like it this way. You can completely give the onions a miss.

037With all our bombastic, homemade ingredients now ready, its time to set your mouth on a flavourful fire.

Since I am not that enterprising, I choose to use store-bought phuchka. Convenience does have its own charm. Poke each phuchka right at the center with your thumb. You will probably end up crushing at least two or three if you are a first timer. Pretend to be a pro. For phuchka’s sake!

050Stuff a little of that potato mixture, quickly dunk in the spicy tamarind water and directly put the ready-to-eat phuchka in your mouth. This should happen in seconds. No dilly-dallying. Else you will not only make the phuchka soggy with the wet ingredients, you will also deprive yourself from a burst of flavours in your mouth by two nanoseconds.


So go ahead. Pop that phuchka in quickly. For next awaits you is a plateful of alu kabli.

P.S. Did you realize there was no story to tell in this post? I just wanted to way lead you into looking at some phuchka photographs.