Jhol Bhaat – a vegetable stew served with plain rice

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If there is one thing we Chatterjees are proud of (among the many others) and cherish – Jhol Bhaat would rank the top most. ‘Jhol’, in general, means a thin curry and can be of vegetables, fish, chicken or eggs; but I am, here, referring to a vegetable curry that formerly used to be prepared at my in-laws joint family home in Barhampur, W.B… This dish is like  a family tradition… every Chatterjee man wants his wife to master their skills in it… every mother wants her Daughter in law to make this for his son… and every Chatterjee bou love talking with their co-sisters (-in law) how this family is crazy about it. Everyone will have endless tales woven around it… number of variations considering you can add or skip any number of vegetables / spice.

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Early days of marriage and BBC brandishes his skill at dishing out his favorite ‘Jhol’, chopping off big chunks of cauliflower florets, potatoes and eggplant, stir frying them with cumin seeds, salt, some slit green chillies and turmeric and a thin gravy of tomatoes, ginger and asafoetida (this dominating the flavor) and finally topping it off with fried ‘bori’ (sun-dried lentil paste nuggets). The whole process of cutting and preparing takes 20-30 minutes. My MIL makes different kinds of jhol with the different spices and seasonal vegetables but for the two of us this is how we like it.  In those initial days every Sunday lunch would be the husband’s task to make jhol bhaat. Not to mention… plain steamed white rice is the only way to serve this curry with – or so says the man. I have tried having it with roti / paratha and it works for me as long as I am thick-skinned enough to ignore the nearby gapes and stares.

Those over enthusiastic days of being newlywed and covertly wanting to win approval  made me master this simple dish in no time… Now, I know better! I have taken over this custom of Sunday’s Jhol Bhat, while my husband boasts about it on our weekly Skype chats with my MIL. Though I  have to admit there are still days when he enters into the kitchen and announces his intention of preparing this meal and I gleefully agree to do the clean up.

So while Friday-Saturday nights see me cooking Chicken Kasa (spicy and thick chicken gravy)  or pasta/pizza to celebrate the weekend mood, Sundays are most often ‘being-at-home’ phase with simple comfort foods  like this one. This followed by the afternoon nap gears us up for the upcoming week. With this post I am hoping to achieve a high score as the devoted member of the Chatterjee clan. Is anyone listening???

DSC_0322Here is how it goes:

 Ingredients:

  • Vegetables: Adjust the amounts as you like.
    • Cauliflower – 1/2, cut into big florets
    • Potatoes – 1 big, diced into cubes
    • Egg plant,  – 1/2, If using Chinese egg-plant variety – 1; cut into rounds
    • Any other vegetable of your choice cut into mid size chunks; some suggestions might be carrots, beans or peas  .
  • Bori – a handful; these are sun-dried lentil paste nuggets. You can  prepare this at home and store it for later use, but it is easily available in Indian Grocery stores as “Moong Dal Wadi”
  • Oil – 1-2 tbsp or as required
  • Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1/4th tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp + a pinch
  • Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
  • Ginger, grated or paste – 1 tbsp
  • Green Chillies, slit lengthwise – 4-5 or to taste. Can use red chilli powder (to taste) instead.
  • Tomatoes, chopped or grated – 1 medium
  • Water – as required
  • Coriander Leaves, finely chopped – to garnish

Method:

  • Soak the egg plants in a bowl of water mixed with a pinch of turmeric and salt.
  • Combine the ginger paste, turmeric powder, cumin powder in a bowl.
  • In a thick deep pot or wok or karahi heat up some oil and lightly fry the bori till they turn slight brown in color. Drain and keep aside.
  • In the hot oil add cumin seeds, once they start sizzling add the slit green chillies and all the vegetables except egg plants.  Fry the vegetables on medium flame with 1/4 tsp of turmeric and little salt for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the mix of ginger and spices and fry for a while.
  • Next add the grated/chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes stirring in between.
  • Add substantial amount of water, mix well, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes till the veggies are halfway cooked.
  • Drain the eggplants and add to the brewing stew. Eggplant absorbs a lot of oil on frying so we do not fry them beforehand. Stir for a while and cover and cook till all the veggies are done.
  • Adjust water for the desired consistency and  salt or spice for taste.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with plain steamed white rice.

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