I love cookbooks, and you know I love reviewing them. My original reason for accepting this latest book? Jason.
He loves Indian food, and I want to learn more about these flavors I enjoy as well.
The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, Exploring the Cuisine of Eastern India, is from Rinku Bhattacharya. Born in Kolkaka, India, she now lives in Westchester, New York. In addition to the book, she teaches cooking classes and writes a food blog, Cooking in Westchester.
The book title comes from the five-spice blend Bengalis call panch phoron. This spice blend consists of five whole spices in equal proportions: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, and fennel seeds and is at the heart of Bengali flavors and the individual spices form the basis of the Bengali pantry.
Peppered with wonderful family stories. history and Bengali culture, this book is entertaining, educational and delicious. There are 180 easy to follow recipes – both traditional and contemporary – and a thorough guide to spice blends and pastes.
We have already prepared several recipes from this book, and I have many more marked to try. Everything has been fantastic – from tofu with tomatoes and bell peppers in cashew nut gravy and winter squash in spicy coconut mustard sauce to green plantain cakes and onion rings with nigella seeds. We have loved it all.
I handed Jason the book and asked him to choose the first recipe I’d make him. He picked a good one – this dal is warmly spiced and incredibly flavorful. Jason is requesting I make this weekly – in fact he said “I could eat this every day.”
This is buttery, with the perfect level of layered heat and complex flavors. I will not mind making this weekly.
Mesho’s Cholar Dal
reprinted with permission from publisher
makes 4-6 servings
2/3 cup dried yellow Bengali gram lentils (cholar dal), soaked overnight
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon fresh ginger paste (instructions below)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 or 3 dried whole red chilies
Drain and rinse the lentils and place in a cooking pot with 3 cups water. Bring the lentils to a simmer. Add the turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper powder, ginger paste, garlic, and tomatoes and simmer on medium-low heat for about 35 to 40 minutes. The lentils should be soft and easily mashed with the back of a spoon; the mixture should be creamy and fairly thick but the lentils should retain their shape.
Heat the ghee in a small skillet and add the cumin seeds and chilies. When the seeds begin to sizzle pour the mixture over the lentils and serve.
Fresh ginger is peeled and ground to a smooth paste for use in Bengali dishes. Look for ginger that is relatively young, smooth and without much fiber. The ginger paste can be made by processing ginger in a blender or wet/dry grinder.
*I shared this recipe as is from the book; I kept our version vegan by using dairy/soy free butter.
Are you a fan of Indian cooking? I highly recommend The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles.