Doi Begun /Eggplant in yogurt gravy …. to beat the summer heat

Memories in May ..

doi begun_bong appetite

 

A squirrel quenching it's thirst (Photo courtesy : Bhashkar Dasgupta)

A squirrel quenching it’s thirst
(Photo courtesy : Bhashkar Dasgupta)

Summer reminds me of this song by Rabindranath Tagore.It perfectly describes the ruthlessness of summer heat and the agony  of  sun fatigued days,while eagerly waiting for the thundershowers to sooth tired souls.

 

Darun  agni-ban e re hriday trishay han-e re .

Rajani nidrahin,dirgho dogdho din..

Aram nahi je jaan-e re.

Shushko kanon shakhey  klanto kapot daake..

Karun kator gaan-e re..

Bhoy nahi,bhoy nahi,gagone rohechey  chahi.

Jani jhanjhar beshe  dibe dekha  tumi eshe..

Ekoda tapito praan-e re.

In this scorching heat of summer

My heart is so thirsty

The nights are sleepless..the days are burnt too long

Doesn’t get little respite

The tired pigeon moans sadly on  a dry brunch of a tree

But,fear not..worry not

Our eyes are roving in the sky

We know,you would show up in the guise of  tempest

And bless our restless souls with the downpour of your kindness..

(Translation courtesy: Abhijit Mazumdar)

 

 

While I write this post  summer has clearly touched base,and  temperature is  rising to a soaring high in most parts of India and many parts of the world ,with  mercury touching 40 degree Celsius with a humidity of 45%   in Kolkata,my home city.There you will  not consider it to be  a very cool idea to stay outdoor during the summer day unless your work  forces you to be,or you decide to get drenched in your own  sweat.  With no rain  to bail you out of the discomforting temperature,the only respite could be sort after in the ice creams,kulfis,daab-er jol(coconut water)shorbot ( Bengali cold drink concoction) etc.A few summers back, on my way to my work place,a college where I used to teach in Baghbazar(in North Kolkata) a common  sight  in the summer days that I vividly remember : the hand drawn rickshaws  plying hurriedly through  the city lanes and by-lanes.While the melting pitch of the streets took better of the poor rickshawallas,the passengers remain seated somewhat comfortably under the narrow perch of the rickshaw,and when that’s not comforting enough they would open  up their umbrellas to shield the raging  sun.

Rickshaw  ride  in the summer afternoon (Source:The Namesake)

Rickshaw ride in the summer afternoon
(Source:The Namesake)

Another visual that would make me secretly jealous,thinking how fortunate some people are, was on the days when I would have my classes in the second half of the day. I would notice the shutters of some of the small shops in the locality half down or a makeshift curtain arranged to cut down the entry of  heat to the shop,while the shopkeeper doze off to  afternoon siesta after his daily quota of maach-bhaat  morsel.Not a good business proposition to do  in the middle of the day,but I don’t  blame them,specially when you have minimum  customer  traffic  during  the times of sweltering heat.Summer  afternoon,however,did not always spell bad business for all .The ones who sold ice lollies called pepsi(the name that was given by the sellers themselves..remember the pipe shaped flavored and colored ice lollies?that probably you as a kid would buy with a 50

 Colourful Ice-lollies (Photo courtesy: Jishnu Nandy)

Colourful Ice-lollies
(Photo courtesy: Jishnu Nandy)

paisa ,tear the edge of the plastic pack  with your canines and gulp at  a go)dunked in their  ice  thermocol boxes,as they hop on and off the mini bus and private buses stopped in the middle of a traffic jam  being caught up at a traffic signal.While watching the street children kind of jumping,dancing and racing against each other under the public tap,which probably they would consider their private fountain showers, I would be immediately transmitted to my childhood days.Summer in spite of all it’s ghastliness  would bring the  unadulterated joy of summer vacations.The summer vacations were largely spent in my grandparent’s house  in central Kolkata,  with all my cousins united to spend the holidays together.

A bird's eye view of a busy road in Central Kolkata

Bird’s eye view of a busy road in Central Kolkata

A boy having ice candy to beat the heat  (Source:Reuters)

A boy having ice candy to beat the heat
(Source:Reuters)

The joy of watching the  para cricket(oh!if you have not known we have a Sourav Ganguly in every locality,if not a Sachin Tendulkar)round the corner of the street and wait impatiently towards  the end  of the afternoon for the ice cream-wallah(ice cream seller)to come  in  the locality with their ice-cream  carts.Our (me and my cousins’s)balcony  would be  the parapet of the roof terrace,We would cautiously stand on the tip of our toes with  the upper half of the body leaning little dangerously towards the roof  parapet,as we were not tall enough to  see the lane below just by standing on our feet.While the ice cream vendors would make sounds of sort  to signal their grand arrival , I along with my cousins would rush hurriedly to our grandparents to ask for khuchro(small currency change) to buy ourselves our favorite vanilla,choco-bar,orange flavored ice cream cups and sticks.Every season comes with a reason-true! whoever said so .

Summer have it’s  fair share of contribution to the Bengali appetite.Few vegetables which are only available during summer like mocha(banana blossom),potol(pointed gourd),enchor(jackfruit) etc are catapulted to a position of great respect and delicacies would be made out of them.While in summer  there are few vegetarian option available as such,the humble brinjal aka aubergine aka eggplant would come to the rescue of the households as it is one of the most precious summer vegetables( though it ‘s widely grown even in warm tropical winter  as well)we get.The patla maach er jhol shobji diye(light fish curry with vegetables)will inevitably have large chunks of  brinjals or eggplants immersed in the flavorful broth  to sooth the summer heat fatigued souls and if you give it a thought you can carve out a star dish out of the eggplant in the form of Doi Begun or eggplant in yogurt based gravy.Doi begun is one of the easiest mouth watering ‘make ahead dish’  that you can make with the fried eggplants  tipped in a lightly spiced yogurt based gravy,generally served mildly chilled or at room temperature with steaming hot rice to have a cooling effect.

begun

Doi begun to me does not look like something very authentic to Bengali tradition.I believe,this dish mostly  grew in popularity in Bengal  by being influenced by various Muslim invasion and influences from milk and cream based cuisine of Afghanistan.The dish which has huge similarity to our own doi begun is quite popular in Afganistan and is known as Baigan ki Boorani.Similar dishes can be traced to Tripoli in Lebabnon with a meat topping of choice(optional) as Batenjane be-laban or Fattet-al-Makdoos as  eggplant in yogurt based sauce in Beirut.Brinjal or eggplant with yogurt is also a  delicacy representative of the Turkish meze.Thick yogurt is a common ingredient in the  Turkish cuisine ,and is often served  flavored with herbs and spices with grilled vegetables like eggplant.

How I make Doi Begun..

 

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Ingredients

 

  • Aubergine/Eggplant/Brinjal : 1 cut into thick round slices
  • Hung curd /Greek yogurt/thick yogurt : 500 gm
  • Red chilli powder :1 tsp
  • Turmeric: 1tsp
  • Dry roasted cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar  to taste
  • Ginger: 1 tbsp(finely chopped)
  • Curry leaves: a handful
  • Dry red chilli :1-2
  • Asfoetida/Hing : a pinch
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp
  • White oil  to fry

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Recipe

  • Cut the eggplant into thick slices,and dry marinate them with salt,turmeric ,red chilli powder and cumin powder.
  • Let the eggplant sit in the dry marination for half and hour
  • Fry the eggplant slices in batches,making sure they are not over fried . Place them in the serving bowl.
  • Beat the chilled yogurt with sugar and salt.The yogurt mix should ideally have a sweet-salty-tangy taste to it.
  • Spread the yogurt mix on top of the eggplant making sure the eggplant slices soak well into the yogurt sauce.
  • In the wok heat 2 tablespoon white oil.When the oil is smoking hot ,lower the gas and add the dry red chillies (broken into halves) and the mustard seeds.Let them splutter.At this point add the chopped ginger pieces and fry them till they change their color to golden brown but not burnt.Add the curry leaves and give the mix a good stir.As soon as the curry leaves change their color add a pinch of asfoetida and take the wok off  the flame.
  • Pour the oil-spice mix on the yogurt dressing .
  • Serve it chilled or at room temperature,but do not reheat the dish as the yogurt might curdle.
  • You  can prepare the dish 4-5 hours before serving,but don’t keep it  overnight  in the fridge.

Note: Cut the eggplant slices little thick to avoid them getting soggy in the yogurt mixture.

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P.S. Can you think of any other Bengali  vegetarian dish which is influenced by Muslim invasions in India?

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Khoya /Mawa making made easy

KHOYA 1

If you are an Indian and fortunate enough to be spared by the curse of dairy or lactose allergy  it’s most likely that you have grown up  tasting mawa/khoya in one form or the other.Be it your favourite hot  gulab jamun  or gajar ka  halwa from Delhi or Shaktigar-er lyangcha and  kheer -er shondesh from West Bengal  or Benaras ka pedha they all contain khoya or mawa.This dairy product which is an essential part of many Indian sweet and savory dishes is actually the residue milk solid made from dry whole milk or whole milk thickened in a deep open vessel over slow heat.

 

Facts about Khoya/Mawa…did you know?

 

  • Khoya are of 3 types : Hard  Khoya or Batti Khoya is the toughest variety of milk solids used in making pedha or ladoo.Smooth Khoya or Chikna Khoya is soft,smooth and sticky variety used in shondesh  and rabri making.There is also a granulated variety known as Danedaar Khoya and is used to make kalakand,milkcake etc.In this the milk is curdled before evaporation leading to a grainy texture of khoya.
  • Khoya is used in making many Indian dessert,but the sweetened variety is a dessert in itself and is known as Pal Khoya .
Khoya ''cakes'' wrapped in sarees and dupatta(s) in old Delhi's Khoya Market (Photo Courtesy : eatanddust)

Khoya ”cakes” wrapped in sarees and dupatta(s) in old Delhi’s Khoya Market
(Photo Courtesy : eatanddust)

  • Around Diwali about 2000 people flock in old Delhi’s whole sale khoya market at Mori gate bus terminal and huge quantity of khoya and mawa comes from U.P,Punjab,Haryana  and Rajasthan.
  • You can find numerous shops in old Delhi selling mawa or khoya for a living.Om Shiv Mawa Bhandar,Jamnadas Khoyawale,Vishal Mawa Bhandar,Pawan Dairy Products are few Khoya dealers from Patel nagar,ChandniChowk,Khari Baoli markets of  Delhi.
Khoya trader in old Delhi's wholesale khoya market (Photo courtesy : eatanddust)

Khoya trader in old Delhi’s wholesale khoya market (Photo courtesy : eatanddust)

  • Old Delhi’s khoya market handles 50 tonnes of Khoya on any given day.Apparently tons of milk solids are auctioned everyday at Khoya Mandir at Mori Gate on a wholesale basis.
  • Khoya or Mawa are widely used in Indian,Pakistani,Bangladeshi and Nepalese cuisine in making dessert and exotic savory dishes.
  • It is similar to  Ricotta Cheese but the moisture content is much less in Khoya than in Ricotta Cheese.
  • Khoya/Mawa are great source of Vitamin D and calcium.
  • The usage of khoya or mawa largely increased and spread over the whole of North India with the Mughal rule and the previous muslim invasions.The Arab traders  brought with them exotic spices,  Khoya or mawa  and the royal rasoi(kitchen) hugely patronized the usage of such food ingredients leading to spread of this culinary culture along with the Mughal rule.

KHOYA 2

Khoya

Being brought up in Kolkata,the epicentre of the art of ‘mishti’ or ‘shondesh’ making along with the Kolkata style mughlai food I got introduced to khoya or mawa quite early in childhood.Mom’s Shahi Paneer or home made ledikini would contain proportion of milk solids.We got our supply of milk solids or khoya readily available in the para’r mishti’r dokan (local sweet shops).The khoya could have been bought from the shop and used at one’s disposal,and even sometime stored in air tight containers in the fridge for over 1-2 days atleast.

The grainy textured Khoya/Mawa

The grainy textured Khoya/Mawa

 

After coming to UK I realized the blessings of the local  sweet shops ,because the khoya making process is indeed time and energy consuming.Being the foodie that I am I was ,however,unperturbed by the unavailability of khoya from the local shops.I decided to make it on my own  without being bogged down by the strenuous and time consuming procedure. I came up with a shortcut.Yes ‘short cut to success’ do exist..at least in case of khoya or mawa making 🙂

The Khoya ''Cake''

The Khoya ”Cake”

Ingredients

Dry whole/full fat milk powder : 1 cup

Ghee or clarified butter : 3 teaspoon

Milk : 1/4 th cup

Procedure of Khoya or Mawa making 

In a microwave safe bowl take 3 teaspoon ghee and to it add 1/4th cup milk(room temperature).Mix it well and put in the microwave for 1 and 1/2 minute or till the milk is warm .After taking out the bowl, put 2 cups of dry milk powder over the hot  ghee-milk mixture. Stir and mix it well with a spoon.The mawa/khoya is ready.

Checking the texture of the Khoya

Checking the texture of the Khoya

Note :

  • To have more grainy textured khoya you can add  half to one cup of more milk powder.
  • This khoya can be  brought to room temperature,knead into a tight dough(by adding  a teaspoon of milk if it’s too dry) and wrapped in a muslin cloth to be stored in the fridge for around 3-4 days and can be frozen for about a month in an air tight container.
  • Bong Appetite’s suggestion : You can use this khoya in making Shondesh and Enchor -er Biriyani.

KHOYA 5