Celebrate Bengali New Year with Chitrita Banerji

Today is Pahela Baishakh – Bengali New Year, and to help our readers celebrate here are two delicious recipes from Chitrita Banerji’s Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals.

Duck Bhuna

A duck weighing approx 1½ kg / 3 lb
120 g / 4 oz onion paste
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp each ground garlic, chilli, turmeric, cumin, coriander
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 pieces of cinnamon, 2.5 cm / 1 inch long
120 ml / 4 fl oz mustard oil
120 ml / 4 fl oz water
2 finely chopped small onions
6-7 large cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp ghee
10-12 whole peppercorns

For duck bhuna you need a nice plump bird, skinned, cleaned and cut into a dozen or so portions — 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 4 breast pieces and 3-4 assorted pieces from the rest of the bird. Make sure you discard the giblets, including the stomach and liver. Combine the duck with the pasted onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ground black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, mustard oil, water and some salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Mix thoroughly and leave tightly covered on a low heat until the meat is absolutely tender. Stirring is not required, but you should shake the covered pot gently from time to time. Remove from the fire and set aside. Heat the ghee in another pan, add the whole peppercorns and the chopped onion and garlic. Fry until golden brown, add the duck, stir for 4 to 5 minutes until no moisture is left and the sheen of oil is visible. Check for salt and remove. Since this is a dry preparation without much gravy, it is best to serve it with khichuri or parotas, together with a tomato, spring onion and chopped coriander salad.

Cauliflower Bhaji

1 medium cauliflower
120 g / 4 oz green peas
2-3 medium potatoes or 7-8 new potatoes
1 finely chopped medium onion
3-4 finely chopped spring onions
2 tbsp mustard oil
3-4 dry red chillies
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 bay leaves

Take a medium-sized cauliflower and chop it into very small florets; the hard stem at the bottom should be cut into tiny pieces. Cook the green peas and drain them, then peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Heat some mustard oil (start with 2 tablespoons, and add more later if need) and fry the potatoes golden brown. Remove and set aside. Throw the dry red chillies, whole cumin seeds and bay leaves into the same oil and, after a couple of minutes, add the onions, fry till golden brown and throw in the cauliflower. Stir once or twice, add a little salt and reduce to a medium heat. Sauté gently for three to four minutes, add the peas and fried potatoes and simmer covered over a low heat until the florets are tender. Uncover, check for salt, turn the heat to high and stir until the vegetables are browned. Just before removing, add the spring onions. Despite being dry, it tastes good with both rice and luchi.

Find out more more about Bengali Cooking here.