Thursday 15 March 2012

Thursday Special: Shukto

Life was going on fine till a rule was passed. Thursdays were going to be vegetarian days. Horror of horrors! In a Bengali household where machcher jhol bhaat is staple diet, vegetarian is like hunger strike. One might as well not eat. Who eats vegetarian, for God's sake! What is wrong with Ma? Must be one of those old cranky colleagues who has given her this  idea. Preposterous! Why can't they just leave us alone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My palpitations would start from Wednesday evening. The next day was vegetarian. I was almost ashamed of belonging to such a family. You eat veg on Thursdays?!! And that sorry face as if they pitied you. Disgusting! What made it more so was that there was no appeal against this law.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ma was the Supreme Court. She was the only parent left to us & the eldest of all her siblings. The only other higher authority was God but even He didn't dare to meddle with The Iron Lady. Mere pass ma hai had left an indelible mark on the cosmic psyche. Why take panga with a Ma, was what He was perhaps thinking! So we children suffered. In silence & noisily. As we liked it.
                                                                                                          It is over a decade and a half. I have been a vegetarian for the last three years. And if you think mum would have had the last laugh, you have missed the point. She wants me to go back to non-veg food. Even on Thursdays if I want. To make up for  the 780 Thursdays I've missed in my life :)                                                                                                                    Shukto, a traditional Bengali curry, made with mixed vegetables, is a favourite with all taste buds. Mention Shukto & you will see the misty, faraway look in a Bong eyes if they are away from home & a I-want-it-now gleam, if they are where they belong...

Main Body:
1. Mixed Veg(see pic for variety & cut)
2. 6-8 Vadi/Bodi(dry lentil dumplings)
1.  1-2 bay leaves(tej patta)
2.  1-2 dry red chillies
1. 1/4 cup milk
2. 1/2 tsp ginger paste
3. 1/2tsp mustard seeds(rai/sarson)
4. 1/2tsp khus khus(posto)
5. 1/2 tsp panch phoron
6. 1/2tsp sugar
7. 1/2tsp ghee for flavor
8. 1 1/2 - 2 cups water
9. Salt to taste
10. Refined oil to fry
1. Apply a coat of salt & turmeric and let karela(bitter gourd) & raw bananas sit for 5-10 mins.
This neutralises the bitterness of the karela & the stickiness of the green banana.
2. Dry roast sarson, posto & panch phoron & grind them together. 
3. Put a pinch of salt & deep fry the vadi & karela(wash off the turmeric marinade before frying) & keep aside.

4. Splutter red chillies & tej patta in hot oil & saute the vegetables. 
Wash the turmeric off the green bananas & fry with the rest of the vegetables.
5. Add water, salt & ginger paste,cover the wok and let vegetables cook. 
6. When the vegetables are almost done, add the fried karela, vadi, milk & sugar and let simmer for 5 mins. 


                                                                                                                                             7. Add the roasted ground masala & ghee, let simmer for 2-3 minutes & remove from flame. 

Drumsticks make Shukto very delicious. Put if you have some.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Serve cold with hot rice. 

                                                                                                  Shukto is an anti-pox. Karela(neem leaves are a substitute for karela. 3-4 neem leaves, not more) has medicinal properties, it is known to purify the blood. We eat it compulsorily this time of the year, when the season changes & germs threaten. Shukto keeps you thanda thanda kool kool.                                                                  

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