Unlike most other communities, the Bengali doesn't believe in abstinence during the pujas. We do have ritual fasting but it's for just a few hours of the day. Some observe the fast strictly and don't even have a sip of water, but as this lasts from the time you wake up till noon at the most, it's not too hard to do. Even youngsters do it with enthusiasm - after all it's for just a few days every year. A bit of fasting to kick off each day followed by serious feasting to make up for the morning's penance!
Whether you're feasting at home or are pigging out at the pandals, good food and lots of it is always on the menu. One thing I always look forward to are fish fry - a microfilm thin slice of fish that's crumb fried to perfection, served with a tangy and potent kasundi and sliced onions.
Another favourite is the mangshe'r chop. My grandmother would make this at least once whenever we visited her in Kolkata when we were little. I have strong memories of her scolding my aunt or the maid (whoever happened to be helping her) to mash the potatoes properly, not to be stingy while pouring oil into the kadai, or to leave the chops alone as they fried.
There she would be perched on her tall wooden stool hunching over the low table on which the gas burner was kept, supervising to ensure that each chop was perfectly shaped, was uniformly covered with the potato, that they didn't break while frying, that the burned crumbs were not left behind in the oil or the next chop would invariably have ugly black flecks on it. She would fry one or at the most two at a time, nudging them gently, giving them the time to fry properly till that perfect even golden colour was achieved. Of course we would be waiting impatiently so we could gobble those beauties in a matter of minutes!
Someone asked me for a recipe for mutton chops and I thought it would be nice to have it on the blog. It's a fairly simple recipe though it can be fiddly because you have to form the chops properly and fry them carefuly so they don't break. Here's my recipe for mangshe'r chop as I remember it from my Didin's kitchen.
200gms mutton kheema
1 onion finely sliced
1 green chilli, minced
Half tsp each turmeric, chilli powder, jeera powder and garam masala powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Half tsp sugar
20 raisins, stems removed
Salt to taste
2 tbsp mustard oil
3 potatoes, boiled and mashed
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
Marinate the kheema for some time with salt, the dry spices and the ginger garlic paste.
Heat a little mustard oil in a pan or wok and fry the onions. Add the sugar and let the onions only turn pale brown. Don’t caramelise too much. Chuck in the minced green chillies, fry for a minute and then add the marinated kheema. Stir well and cook for 10 to 15 minutes breaking up the lumps till the kheema is cooked through. Add the raisins and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Dry out whatever water has been released to make a dry kheema stuffing for the chops. Taste and check that the salt is enough.
In a bowl mash the kheema as much as you can with your fingers to break up any lumps. Add half a boiled potato and mix in well. This helps bind the kheema and keep it together while shaping the chops.
Mash the potatoes with a little salt. Make sure you have a smooth lump free mash.
Now set up your production line with the mashed potatoes, the kheema filling, eggs, and bread crumbs.
Beat the eggs and put them in a bowl. I should have set up this shot after doing that!
Form a ball of potato in your hand and flatten it out. Put a little log shaped bit of kheema on the potato and cover it from all sides to form a squat drum shaped ‘chop’. Make all the chops in this shape and set out on a plate.
Put your kadai on to heat and pour in a generous quantity of any neutral oil – sunflower, peanut, whatever you use to fry stuff.
Dip a chop in the egg and coat it well. Then roll in the breadcrumbs pressing the crumbs lightly so they stick. Remember to coat the two ends of the chop too.
Fry in hot oil till it’s a beautiful golden colour.
Serve hot with kasundi (mustard sauce), chopped onions and a fresh green chilli.
Marathon Bloggers Project 52