Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
To make Narkel chingri it is essential to have the pungent black mustard seeds we use in Bengal, not the white or brown variety. Grind them on a stone or in a blender with a touch of salt and green chilli. The finer the paste, the better. Rinse the prawns carefully in water after shelling and deveining them, discarding the heads if you so wish. Squeeze the lemon juice over the prawns, leave for ten minutes and rinse again in cold water. Heat the mustard oil in your pot and throw in the prawns dusted with turmeric. After a minute or so add the ground coconut, the slit green chillies, ground mustard and salt to taste. Stir briskly and keep covered over a low flame, until the prawns are tender and all the flavours have mingled. Uncover, stir over a high heat until any excess moisture has evaporated and remove from the flame. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh mustard oil and keep covered until it is time to serve. This is best with plain boiled rice.
1 medium cauliflower
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.
A duck weighing approx 1½ kg / 3 lb
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.