Bengali Vegetarian Recipe Series
Next in our Bengali vegetarian series is this – the eternal favourite and one of the classic – Bengali chanar dalna which is not regular paneer curry. This is the one dish that remains a hot favourite in our home for all seasons and all kinds of occasions.
And here once again I am repeating the fact that Bengali vegetarian dishes are essentially no onion and no garlic recipes and no tomatoes too, at least in our home.
So what makes the base of these curries? Good question and before I come to that question let me first clarify the doubt between chhena and paneer.
First chhena and paneer and not the same thing, nor that we Bongs called paneer as chhena. The process of making both paneer and chhena however remains same, difference lies in their textural appearances.
Chhena is soft , kind of curdled cheese and paneer is stiff, moisture is pressed out of it and hence it can be cut into desired shapes and sizes. Since the moisture is completely pressed out of the paneer, this alters the taste also and it does not absorb the flavors of the spices well. On the other hand, soft chhena readily absorbs all the flavours of the spices and it becomes little juicy owing to its moisture content.
Here is – how to make paneer at home.
Here is – how to make chhena at home
For this recipe of Bengali chanar dalna, we preferably uses freshly curdled chhana and not paneer. However you can try this recipe with regular paneer also, but it wont live up to the expectations.
How To Make Bengali Chanar Dalna?
Here I will go with my Ma’s recipe, because hers always taste best of all the versions I have tried so far. After the milk has been curdled, the soft chhena is usually gathered in a muslin cloth / cheese cloth which is then given a gentle cold wash to get rid off the lemon or vinegary smell. The whey is gently squeezed out of it and then it was roughly gathered into a lump and cut into irregular shapes and sizes. This irregularity in shapes and sizes is however characteristic of this dish.
In absence of onion and garlic and tomatoes in our case, the base of curries are essentially a unique blend of spices – called jeere aada baata/ transliterated to cumin-ginger paste. The strong flavour of both ginger and cumin makes up for the absence of onion- garlic in the recipe. Tomatoes somehow mellow down the strong flavour of the ginger-cumin paste and adds a nice tang to the dish. Since tomatoes are traditionally not added in the recipe, hence I had abstained from using it here.
The eternal favourite, Bengali chanar dalna or cottage cheese curry in a flavourful ginger cumin base . This is a no onion no garlic recipe.
- 200 gm Cottage Cheese (Chhena / Chhana)
- 1 cup Potatoes (medium size Cubed)
- 3 tbsp Ginger - Cumin Paste (see recipe note)
- Cashews and Raisins (Handful)
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1-2 Green Chillies
- Whole garam masala (that includes few cloves, green cardamoms,cinnamon stick )
- 1 Dry Red Chilli
- 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder
Bengali Garam Masala Powder https://saffronstreaks.com/recipes/bengali-garam-masala-spice-blend-for-whom-the-flavors-comes-first/
- 2 tsp Ghee
- Mustard Oil as required
- Salt and sugar to taste
Gather the freshly made cottage cheese (chhena), knead it lightly, gather again and then cut it into desired shapes and sizes.
Fry the cottage cheese (chhena) in oil or ghee. You can lightly fry them in a pan or you can shallow fry them too till you get a deep brown color. Keep them aside.
In the same pan, fry the cashews and raisins too. Keep aside.
In the same pan (to retain the flavour) add the cubed potatoes and fry them lightly. Keep aside.
Add some more oil and temper it with whole garam masala , red chillies, green chillies and bay leaves.
Add ginger cumin paste (take care this will splatter a lot) with a pinch of salt and sauet the paste on low heat for few minutes.
Once the potatoes are well coated with the ginger cumin paste, add rest of the spices, except garam masala powder.
Fry the spices for few more minute. Add warm water, lower the heat. Close the lid and let it cook on slow heat till potatoes are cooked through.
Add the cottage cheese (chhena) pieces, cashews and raisins. Adjust salt and add sugar. Sprinkle garam masala powder.
Add more water and adjust the consistency of the gravy as per your likings. I sometimes add leftover whey in this gravy that not only adds a nice tang to the dish, but also gives this curry a little creamy look.
Drizzle of a teaspoon of ghee to finish it off.
This chanar dalna goes very weill with bengali pulao or luchi / poori.
Ginger- Cumin Paste -
Soak 2 tablespoon cumin seeds for 1 hour. Drain the water and add it to the mixer. Grind it to fine paste along with 2 inch ginger piece. You can also add one green chill while making this paste.
There is a similar dish called Bengali chanar kalia in my blog which is one of my Pop-Up favourite. Another very uncommon , rare and old school recipe is – Bengali chanar dhokar dalna which I had created from an equally old and traditional cook book on Bengali cuisine.