Summer food round up
With the sun shining high and mighty, summer arrived early this year.
Here we present a round up of traditional summer foods from Bengal and how we modify our every day meals as appropriate for the season. Fresh vegetables are prioritized, and a minimalist approach to cooking lends a beautiful touch to our summer menu.
Summer is known for jack fruit, sojne ( moringa flowers, leaves, drumsticks), neem leaves, gourds and mangoes , king of fruit that brings wide culinary potpourri to the summer table.
Eating seasonally is an age old practice for the best nutritional values but in the modern times we are slowly forgetting that. Here’s the list –
1. Bengali mango dal – tok dal – is a perfect marriage of sour and sweet flavours, with a delicate balance that you need to achieve else it might get spoil for you. A kiss of fiery red chillies ,the rhythmic dances of tiny mustard seeds, and a whiff of bhaja masala, my rendition, together creates a magical harmonic balance of taste and flavours.
This green mango dal can certainly brings a fresh and stimulating touch, to your meal and can enliven your senses. Click here for the recipe of mango dal.
2. Bengali teto r dal lau diye- have you ever prepared a Dal with bittergourd? This is one of the highlighted Dal of the season. Golden fried yellow lentils or moong dal with lightly fried bitter gourd slices and bottle gourd and coconut. Ancient medicinal practices used to prescribe foods itself to combat the ailments and so does we have such recipes in repertoire. An age old practice followed till date, to relish the goodness of this unique Dal on hot sweltering summer days.
3. Shuktoni / Shukto – Shukto is Bengali’s pride and prejudice both. This is not name of a dish but shukto is basically a class of dish and we do prepare this dish in many ways, with a mandatory bitter element that makes it unique and special. This is one of the most sought after dish during summer because of the cooling and healing properties it imparts.
4. Sojne phool Posto – Sojne or moringa flowers are bloom of the season and because of the various health benefits it imparts, become one of the most sought after food of the season. Sojne phool posto is simple and sublime. A dollop of heaven on plate on a surreal mid summer day . On heaps of fragrant gobindobhog, when few drops of homemade desi ghee drizzle like wistful dream and handful of posto baata with streams of extra virgin mustard oil trickled on it like a golden sunshine, life could not be more beautiful, contented and surrealistic than that. Click here for the recipe of sajne phool posto.
5. Sojne shaak chorchori – Saag chorchoris are common everyday dish in many Bengali homes. Sojne shaak chorchori is a medley of stir fried vegetables, like drumsticks, eggplants, red pumpkin and potatoes, together with the moringa leaves, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti- oxidant properties, with a dash of mustard base. Click here for the recipe of sajne shaag chorchori.
6. Neem Begun – Fried neem leaves with brinjals. In an accordance with Ayurvedic practices, a Bengali meal typically starts with something bitter. And love for bitter food does not starts and ends with bitter gourd only. To begin with we have neem leaves and many more bitter flower and leaves that we regularly use in our daily meals. Neem or margosa is loaded with antiviral, anti microbial and anti oxidant properties that can boost our immune systems. So, eating neem-begun during the month of April-May highlights that very thought and philosophy of clean eating in accordance with Ayurvedic practices.
7. Posto /poppy seeds – That quintessential Bengali summer meal of kalai dal and posto et.al, as no discussion on summer lunches are complete without posto, the white poppy seeds which has bestowed Bengal with a unique and rare culinary gift. Posto is one of those cooling food and together with onions ( another cooling food) is perfect match made in heaven, and so as the pyanj posto jhuri. This one is my favourite accompaniments during summer lunches but we Bongs can be so creative, we can dish out even complete full course menu with Posto only. Bong’s love for Posto is simply undeniable. Click here for the bengali summer meal of kalai dal and posto.
8. Rui macher jhol / summer fish stew – Bong’s cannot live without fishes for many days. So even in hot sweltering summer days, when majority from rest of India put a self-imposed ban not to touch non-veg food, we Bongs simply tweak the recipe in accordance with the summer and it’s flavours. Fresh water river fish like baby carps does not generate much heat in the body and cooking it as a stew has its own benefits. This recipe of light summer fish stew doesn’t use onion, garlic and tomatoes. It may sound strange to many. Fresh carp, preferably baby carps are stewed with potatoes, sheem or hyacinth beans, ridge gourd, pointed gourd and bori or lentil wadi temper slightly with nigella in mustard oil. Taste heavenly with steamed rice. Click here for the recipe of summer fish stew.
9.Bengali light summer meals – Mild flavours. Minimalist cooking. Healthy , simplistic, wholesome and above all comfort food. Food that reminds me my home, my childhood , the summer lunch sessions I grew upon at home.
Click here for the everyday Bengali vegetarian summer meal.
Click here for the essential summer fish thali meal.
10. Curd / yogurt / dahi / doi – Bengali Doi Chire – we all are familiar with the overnight oats, thanks to Instagram. But do you know a similar dish called doi chire or dahi chura is very popular summer breakfast in rural Bengal? Yes, this is one of the favoured and recommended breakfast option in rural Bengal. Chire or chura is nothing but flattened rice and is considered as good for digestion. Chire is first soaked in homemade sweet yogurt (not mishti doi, but little sugar is added while setting the curd) and then is eaten with fruit of the season, ripe mango slices. Totally yum.
11. Panta Bhaat – or the fermented rice is an ultimate summer cooler of rural Bengal / Bangladesh since antiquity. This dish is also being enjoyed in other parts of India too. Rice is staple and a prime source of nutrition to large population of the eastern region of India. During the hot summer months, fresh rice is usually kept in a clay pot, covered with clean water and the pot is covered with cheesecloth kind of thin cotton fabric. This is then kept under sunlight and left to ferment for days. The fermented water , called Amani is nutritional drink which is relished with dash of mustard oil, green chillies and lemon.
Even after slight fermentation (three hours), the breakdown of the nutritional inhibitor by the lactic acid bacteria increased the mineral content of the rice manifold. The panta bhat, full of nutrition is being enjoyed and flavoured differently and here most of the homes pretty much do on their own. In my home, fried ilish and kochu bata is must with panta bhat, other than the usual flavouring ingredients like mustard oil, cut onions and green chill.
12 Gota sheddho- institutinalizeed mostly as ritualistic food, for Sheetal shosti, a kind of ritual observed mostly by mother’s for the well being of their progeny, a day after Saraswati puja. But in reality gota sheddho is very cooling food and in many rural homes, this is being enjoyed during hot summer months. Lentil preferably whole black lentils ( considered as cooling food), together with whole vegetables like egg plant, sweet potatoes, green peas, hyacinth beans and flowering spinach are cooked together without any spices and oil. This dish is meant to be eaten cold. But I prefer it slightly warm with drizzle of mustard oil.
Click here for the recipe of Gota sheddho.
13. Summer is for gourd vegetables like Lau or bottle gourd, jhinge or ridge gourd and chalkumro or ash gourd. These vegetables are excellent cooling food. A very popular Bengali Lau er ghonto that we prepare during the summer is with coconut milk. Also known as doodh Lau ( another popular dish is Lau shukto) and it will be an excellent addition to your summer menu. Chalkumro or ash gourd is also prepare that way but with a dash of mustard and grated coconut. Jhinge or ridge gourd is popularly known for jhinge Posto but an equally fabulous dish is daab jhinge, with tender coconut cream.
14. Ambol / Tok – an ultimate summer favourite. Ambol is thinner and less sugary version of Bengali sweet chutneys. A very thin soupy preparation of sour fruits like kancha aam / raw mango, kul / Indian jujube, aamra / hog plum , jalpai / Indian olives , chalta / elephant apple and tamarind etc. This is usually served at the end of typical Bengali meals and also acts as a palate cleanser , before moving forward to dessert course. The uniqueness of this dish is that this can be also prepared with fish as well.
What’s your favourite summer food?