Mishti Doi/Bengali Sweet Yogurt

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Bengalis are known as the sweetened lot.People who speak a sweet language called ”Bangla” ,people who can act sweet(read ‘nyaka’ or overtly coy)if they wish to and people who love their sweets to death.Well to tell you the truth these rendezvous of Bengalis with sweetness, as a youngster living in Kolkata(nee’ Calcutta) always made me feel  sweets are overrated virtues of Bengali cuisine.Any non-bengali I have met from outside Kolkata have started or ended their conversation with me as ”Do you like roshogolla ,mishti doi?” or ”Oh! I love mishti doi” .Come on there’s so much more in Bengali cuisine than just sticking with this eerie affinity for mishti(sweets) .But as they say as you grow up(read grow old) your mind tends to be less rebellious and more grounded to reality.Staying outside Kolkata have now knocked some senses in me that cliches are cliches for a reason.Nothing can beat Mishti doi in popularity.It is the Amitabh Bachchan of Bengali cuisine.The ultimate showstopper.Time tested,survived all the competitions and travelled across the country as the brand ambassador of Bengali cuisine,you have no other choice than to love this sweetened yogurt,very typical of Bengal and some other regions of eastern India.

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The term mishti doi for me conjures up a memory of a chilled earthen pot filled with a slightly pink colored sweetened yogurt,with a thick layer on top,creamy when spooned out yet well set in the wet earthen pot.With the spoon I would happily make an indent in a corner of the doi in the earthen pot and lick the spoon up with closed eyes.As a kid I was intrigued by the slightly pink colored yogurt and always wondered why we nicknamed it lal doi(red yogurt) and not golapi doi( pink yogurt).May be we are a color-blind lot! The art of making this yogurt, has  hardly ever  crossed the threshold of the Bengali sweatshops and not entered the Bengali kitchen until recently probably because the traditional process of making mishti doi is bit time consuming  than making the white yogurt variety at home.  The traditional preparation of mishti doi calls for caramelizing the full fat milk with sugar or jaggery. The thickened milk is then set to ferment overnight in a pot along with a some fresh yogurt which works as culture for fermenting.Earthen pots are traditionally used  to set this  yogurt as  the pot allows evaporation of  water through it’s pores allowing the yogurt to set in the perfect temperature.Phew ! Thankfully every long cut has got an equal and opposite short cut! Trust me on my take  of the Newtonian law.I prefer shortcuts that gives splendid results without compromising on the quality.And this is how I do my mishti doi .

Stop Press : This yogurt tastes even better,more creamy and decadent a day later !

 

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Ingredients :

  • 14oz condensed milk
  • 14oz  evaporated milk  or 1 litre full fat milk reduced to 40 % of it’s original content
  • 14oz Greek yogurt or thick flavorless plain yogurt

Serves : 6

 

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Method :

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Additional step : If using full fat milk instead of  canned evaporated milk ,heat milk in a heavy bottomed pan,stirring continuously till the milk is reduced to almost 40 % of it’s original content(removing 60% of the water content in the milk) . Remove from the heat  and let it cool at room temperature.
  • In a large container mix the condensed milk,the evaporated milk or the thickened reduced milk and plain yogurt.
  • Whisk the contents of  the mix ,till there is no lump.
  • Pour the mixture in a baking container of your choice.
  • Bake at 180 C for exactly 15 minutes and then turn off the oven.
  • Do not open the heated oven and let the yogurt seat there and cool down slowly for at least 6-7 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the set yogurt from the oven,cover with a cling film or aluminium foil and put it in the fridge.
  • Serve chilled.
  • Enjoy!

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Pujo and paturi

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While the world is busy debating about the ice bucket challenge,whether to pour a bucket of ice cold water on head or to donate money towards the worthy cause,we Bengalis have some more debates to indulge in at the moment-which Durga Pujo will get the first prize for it’s protima or which one will lead the race for it’s pandal(marquee).Yes we are back to that time of the year,when if you are a Bengali , the smell of pujo will feel your mind and  soul  even if you are residing as far  as Brisbane or Bristol.

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Once one of my collegue here in UK asked me about the scale and importance of Durga Puja in my home city Kolkata.The spirit of Christmas in UK,the madness of Tomatina of Spain,the vibrancy of Rio Carnival of Brazil,the joyfulness and urge of sharing and giving on Thanksgiving of USA and Canada could possibly sum up to mean what Durga Puja is to a Bengali.For most of us  our year starts and ends with the count of Durga Puja.

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As I write this post the artisans and workers are busy constructing pandals in every nook and corner of my city,while the artisans in Kumortuli are busy putting finishing touches to the almost done clay figurines.I can well imagine the mad rush of pujo buyers in the streets of Gariahat , Newmarket , and Hatibagan while the small  retail shop owners  are trying to make brisk business by cutting down the bargaining spree of the pujo

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shoppers.A quick break from shopping means indulging in some roadside eggrolls or quenching thirst with the fizzy Thumbsup or sipping in the masala tea from the road side tea stall,before quickly going back to shopping again.After all  waiting for  pujo means preparations for festive days, countdown to festivities,churning out childhood pujo nostalgia and letting happiness come through the windows.

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 For a Bengali out of Bengal,Durga Puja is perhaps the most loved and most missed  of all the festivities.UK is interspersed with Bengali communities and Durga pujas in almost every county, but the crazy fervour of five day long festivity of my homeland is perhaps nowhere to be found.The essence of waiting for the arrival of Durga pujo is hugely missed now a days. As a child my  pujo countdown  would ideally begin, as soon as I would see the Ekdalia Pujo Pandal,nearer to my school being constructed.With each passing day of the pandal nearing it’s completion,my joy  and

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happiness would increase manifold at the thought of  start of the  month long pujo vacation.The pujo special editions of  children’s magazines would start to inundate the market by that time.  As kids we had our share of worries too-which pandals to visit,what dress to wear on each day of  pujo,and offcourse drawing up a list of food we would like to eat on pujo days.Luchi and chhola’r dal was ear marked for Shaptami, while Bhog -er Khichuri and labra for Ashtami ,Nabami was special with menus like pulao, mangsho and maach er paturi and off course shondesh and other sweets on Bijoya Doshomi-the last day of pujo.

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Paturi is the name given to a dish and cooking method very typical and traditional of Bengal. The word paturi comes from the Bengali word ”Pata” meaning leaf.In  this particular form of cooking the ingredients are wrapped in  leaves and cooked in steam or by roasting the parcel on the griddle. The leaves used in paturi plays an important role in the cooking ,as the leaves when steamed enhances the flavour of the dish. Paturi can be both vegetarian and non-vegetarian depending on the choice of key ingredients. The popular paturi dishes are Prawn paturi, Bhetki-maach er paturi among the non vegetarian dishes and chhana ‘r paturi,mocha’r paturi  among the vegetarian options. The leaves used in this preparation can range from banana leaf to ash gourd leaf .

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Use of leaf for wrapping cooking ingredients while cooking is also common among other cultures ,other than Bengali traditional style of cooking. Thai, Parsi and Caribbean style of cooking are abound with recipes using banana leaf to wrap key ingredients being marinated in various spices. Paturi ,very simple yet versatile and rich in flavour  is said to have originated in Dhaka,but now it is considered to be one of the signature Bengali dishes,being cooked on special occasions and during festivities.

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Ingredients

Bhetki or any other white fish(Cod/Haddock /Pollock etc) fillets : 6

Mustard Oil : 3 tablespoon

Turmeric powder: 1teaspoon

Coconut, grated : 4 tablespoon

Salt, to taste

Green Chilli paste : 1 tablespoon

Green Chilli: 6 (split length-wise)

Mustard paste(yellow) : 3-4 tablespoon

Banana leaves ,a few

Gondhoraj lebu zest : 1 teaspoon(optional)

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Method

  • Combine the mustard oil,mustard paste,green chilli paste, grated coconut, turmeric powder,salt.Blend it well and generously coat each fish fillet.
  • Sprinkle some zest of Gondhoraj lebu on top of the fish.This is an additional and optional step, a deviation from the original recipe. It enhances the flavour of mustard just the way chocolate does to coffee.
  • Keep the fish fillets marinated for half an hour.
  • Cut the banana leaves in a 8/8” square shape. Rub mustard oil gently on it’s glossy side. Lightly roast the banana leaf on the heat to make it soft and foldable. Roasting will slightly change the colour of the leaves.
  • Now place one of the marinated fish fillets in a prepared banana leaf,top the fish fillet with a slit green chilli and wrap neatly to form a parcel or envelope.
  • Tie the leaf envelope with a thread or seal them with wooden toothpicks.
  • In the same way make 6 envelopes.
  • Take a large frying pan and grease it with oil.
  • Place  banana leaf parcels in it and cover with an airtight lead so that steam cannot escape.
  • Cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes.
  • After that turn each packet upside down, to allow the other side of the fish to be cooked.
  • Cook the other side of the fish for another 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and transfer the paturi to a serving dish
  • Serve the closed parcels with steamed rice .
  • Unwrap and let the subtle smell of paturi fill your senses with joy.

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