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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Baingan / Eggplant Masala

For those who love eggplant/brinjal/baingan – here is a recipe that is quick, easy and tingles your taste buds. BUT, if you are oil conscious this may not be the best one. Eggplant when cooked consumes/absorbs oil like a sponge, in fact that is precisely what makes the eggplant so yummy. When I first started making this dish, though my husband would love the flavors, it would make me feel very guilty. So I attempted to bake the eggplant instead, before preparing it this way. I would not say it did not work, but it surely was not as tasty as frying it in oil would have made. Now whenever I make this preparation I alternate between frying the eggplant and baking it. Also, the way I make it, its little sweet in taste – that is how most bengalis prefer it, but you can also exclude the sugar or adjust it accordingly. So have a go at it and try this as per your taste!

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant/Brinjal/Baingan, cut in round pieces – 1
  • Onion, sliced – 1 medium
  • Tomato – 1 medium
  • Green chillies, slit – 2 or to taste
  • Ginger chopped or paste – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic chopped or paste – 3-4 cloves
  • Red chilli powder – to taste (optional)
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Tomato sauce – 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sugar – to taste (optional)
  • Oil – 2 tbsp

Method:

  • Wash the egg-plant, cut it in round slices and soak in water with little salt and turmeric. Keep aside for few minutes.
  • Heat  oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  • Take few pieces of eggplant, dry them by blotting with kitchen towel. Fry for 2 minutes or until the pieces are light brown in color. Remove and place them on a paper towel.
  • Repeat until all pieces of eggplant are done.
  • In the same pan (remove excess oil from the pan, if any to an amount enough for frying the onions.) fry the onions slices till they are well browned.
  • Add ginger, garlic, green chillies, turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chilli powder. Saute for few minutes and  mix well.
  • Add the fried egg-plant slices and mix well.
  • With the spoon or ladle mash the egg plants very lightly. (Do not mash completely).
  • Add tomato and salt and mix well.
  • If desired add tomato sauce and sugar to taste.

Dahi Baingan

I have never been too much of a veggie till I got started cooking. Both me and my husband love non-veg. So I was completely ignorant of veg recipes. Eggplant/Baingan is something that my husband loves and well if well-cooked even I like it! Moreover it provides variety to our dinner. I was tired of the normal style of cooking eggplant and though I love bharta cannot cook it properly in the oven. So when I heard of a new style of cooking eggplant, I was excited and wanted to try it immediately. It worked magic for me.. and definitely for BBC too. It’s easy to cook with the least possible ingredients and tastes real good.  Why not try it out sometime…

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant – 1 (cut in round pieces)
  • Cumin seeds / Jeera – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Asafoetida- a pinch
  • Ginger paste – 1tsp
  • Yogurt – 1 cup (well beaten)
  • Turmeric – 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 to 1 tsp
  • Salt  – to taste
  • Sugar – to taste (optional)
  • Oil for frying – 2tbsp

Method:

  • Wash the eggplant and marinate them with salt and a little turmeric
  • Heat  oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  • Take few pieces of eggplant, dry them by blotting with kitchen towel. Fry for 2 minutes or until the pieces are light brown in color. Remove and place them on a paper towel.
  • Repeat until all pieces of eggplant are done.
  • Beat the yogurt along with salt till smooth.
  • In the remaining oil on medium level add cumin seeds,mustard seeds and asafoetida.
  • When it changes color add ginger paste and red chili powder.
  • Add the well beaten yogurt quickly and cook, stirring continuously for 3 minutes or until the yogurt breaks down.
  • Add eggplant pieces, adjust salt, mix gently. Cook for another minute, remove from heat.
  • Add sugar if need be.

This tastes great with vegetable pulao or biryani or steamed basmati rice.



Eggplants cut in round pieces

1 tsp jeera / panchforon

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 cup fresh yogurt

turmeric

1/2 to 1 tsp red chili powder

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Oil plus for frying