I firmly believe that the state of mind one is in while cooking reflects on the quality of food. Food that is cooked with care and passion tastes far more delicious when you cook with negative emotions. So when a friend and fellow blogger Rhea prepared a full blown Bengali spread for me and another friend Medha baked a fabulous cake as a farewell treat during my last trip to India. Considering the effort they both had put in making the evening very special for me; I felt blessed.
My love for Bengali food is not unknown; I love the reticent subtleness about the cuisine. The way it makes you fall in love with its quiet charm is almost disarming. For a loud Punjabi like me, Bengali cuisine can be a quick lesson on how to keep it simple and yet make it delicious. Not that Bengalis are not noisy; you just have to sit next to two Mashima’s (aunties) to know how loudly can they exercise their vocal cords however their food slowly whispers on your taste buds instead of announcing itself with a loud bang.
So when Rhea, who is a Bengali, decided to treat me to a full blown feast, you can only imagine the number of back-flips my Punjabi heart would have done. The meal was made up of Randhuni diye masur Dal (an understated but very delicious Masur dal tempered in ghee with a spice called Randhuni). Narkol ar sorse diye chingri (Prawns cooked in coconut and mustard gravy, which was mind blowing). Tomato’r chutney (a sweet chutney made of Tomato, which yours truly almost polished off on her own). Alu’r Dom (a delicately spiced dry potato preparation) and lastly the very typical Bengali dish of Macher Jhol (which is fried fish cooked in a thin tomato gravy) served on a bed of rice without which the meal could not be complete.
I couldn’t stop asking for second and third helping and licked my plate clean twice. And then if the meal was not enough Medha decided to go ahead and bake a “White Chocolate Orange and Raspberry mini cake,” the cake was frosted with colored Ganache and decorated with Chocolate and edible Gold dust. As I went to bed, that night I slept peacefully in a food coma so delicious that I did not want to wake up.
Like any fabulous meal, I dreamed and obsessed about the food for many weeks after my return. While I cannot bake like Medha, I felt confident enough to make a hearty meal like Rhea did for me. The “Narkol ar sorse diye chingri (Prawns cooked in coconut and mustard gravy” was what I decided to make, as the taste of the dinner in India had lingered in my memories so profoundly. In my opinion, my version of the Curry did not taste as great as Rhea, but it reminded me of a pleasant evening in the company of friends I had grown to care about.
Recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 2)
250 Gms Prawns shelled and deveined
One tsp Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Marinate the Prawns in Turmeric and Salt, which you prepare the gravy.
For the Gravy
Two medium sized Onions freshly minced
3 Green chilies slit
One tsp fresh Garlic paste
Two tsp Mustard powder mixed with 1 tbsp water into a thin paste
200 ml Coconut Milk
Half tsp Turmeric powder
Half tsp Sugar
One tsp Cumin powder
One tsp Red chilly powder
Salt to taste
One tbsp Mustard oil
Heat the Mustard oil in a wok till it reaches smoking point. Reduce the heat and add the Green Chilies and Onions and saute till the Onions have browned.
Add the Sugar and cook for five minutes and then add the Garlic paste and cook for around minute or so.
Add the Prawns, Turmeric powder, Chilly powder and Cumin powder and cook for a few minutes.
Add the Coconut Milk and Mustard paste and stir gently till the Prawns are done. Add Salt to taste and ½ cup of warm water if you want the gravy to be a little thin.
Serve on a bed of hot rice and enjoy with your fingers.