Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kalai Daal aar Alu Posto

Today I will write about the scrumptious meal of Kalai Daal and Alu Posto! Thanks to Sonal Gupta! Why thanks to her... well will come to that in a little bit! But first I have to talk about this heavenly combo of Kalai Daal and Alu Post.  Thursdays back at home were pure vegetarian eating days, it being the day of Goddess Lakhsmi. Even though I wasn't a big fan of fish then, somehow I used to miss it immensely on Thursdays and absolutely did not look forward to Thursday lunches. Unless.. unless there was Kalai Daal (Biuli Daal/Urad Daal/Spilt Black Gram) and Alu Posto (Potato with poppy seeds) on the menu. Then I would polish off my all the rice on my plate in a jiffy. Post marriage I used to ask our cook to make Kalai Daal and Alu Posto, but somehow it never used to taste like home. I did not know how to cook then and had to gulp down Minadi's Kalai Daal and Alu Posto grudgingly, and later complain to my Ma how Minadi successfully managed to butcher and murder these divine delicacies. That time I didn't cook at all so the simple solution did not hit me! All I had to do was ask my Ma for the recipes! Duh!

Kalai Daal aar Alu Posto

I have made this combo many times since then but never got around to blogging about it (a shame, really). I decided a couple of months back that it was high time I started documenting the recipes that I grew up eating. That, and Sonal Gupta's encouragement made me write this post!

Sonal Gupta  hosts a monthly Guest Post series on her blog (which is a treasure trove of vegetarian recipes, tips and fun ideas) where she introduces her blogger friends to her world! And today is my turn! She encouraged me to cook and blog about something vegetarian that quintessentially from the Bengali cuisine for a guest post on her blog SimplyVegetarian777.

So this is how my Ma makes Kalai Daal and Alu Posto and now I do too!

Aloo Posto:

Alu Posto

  • Potatoes - 3 Cups, cubed
  • Poppy Seeds - 3 tbsp
  • Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Green Chilies - 2 or 3
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Water - 3 tbsp + enough to cook the potatoes
Back at home, Shil-Nora - a rectangular block of stone is traditionally used to grind Masalas (spices) into a smooth paste. There would be interesting designs chiseled into the Shil-Nora - my Ma's one has a fish on it! She would get it re-chiseled once in a while from one of the guys who roam the lanes and bylanes of Kolkata shouting.... "Noraaa..... Sheeeel Noraaaa!"

You can use your wet grinder to make the paste. My Ma would throw in the green chili along poppy seeds when making the paste. I used my coffee grinder to grind the poppy seeds into a coarse powder, mixed in 3 tbsp of water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

I used small red potatoes (with the skin on) for this dish, but you can use russet potatoes. In Kolkata, we would use 'Chandramukhi' variety of potatoes.

In a non-stick pan or kadai, heat up oil and throw in the cubed potatoes along with the green chili and a sprinkle of salt. Cover and cook while stirring from time to time, till the potatoes are almost fork tender. In the Bengali cuisine, a lot of stress is put on how vegetables are cut. And all pieces need to be of similar, if not same size. This particular dish calls for the potato to be cut into smallish cubes.
Once the potatoes are almost cooked, add the poppy seed paste and enough water to just cover the potatoes and cook till the raw smell of the poppy seed paste disappears and the potatoes are fork tender. Serve warm with steaming hot rice and kalai daal.

Kolai Daal

Kalai Daal

  • Kalai Daal/Biuli Daal/Urad Daal/Spilt Black Gram - 1/2 Cup
  • Water - 2 1/2 Cups (for cooking the Daal)
  • Paanch Phoron - 1/2 tsp (Five Spice Mix - details below)
  • Dried Red Chili - 1, split
  • Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp or a fat pinch
  • Bay Leaves - 1 big or 2 small
  • Fennel Seed Paste - 1 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger paste - 1 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil - 1 tsp
I used a pressure cooker to cook the Daal - it took about 12 or 13 minutes. Then I used my wire whisk to to mash the daal and kept it aside. Almost all households in Kolkata has this wooden stick call 'Daal er kNaata' which is used to mash up the boiled lentils.

A special mix of 5 spices that we Bengalis call 'Paanch Phoron' is used in this dish for tempering. Typically, Paanch Phoron will include equal quantities of Fenugreek Seeds (Methi), Nigella Seeds (Kalo Jeera), Fennel Seeds (Mouri), Cumin Seeds (Jeera) and Wild Celery Seeds (Radhuni). 'Radhuni' is rarely available outside West Bengal, so celery seeds or black mustard seeds are also used as the 5th spice. I sometimes add a 6th spice - coriander seeds.

Heat up the oil in a kadai or a pan and temper with 'paanch phoron', dried red chili, bay leaves and  a fat pinch of asafoetida. Once the spices starts spluttering and the aroma of asafoetida hits you add the boiled Daal back and mix well. Add the salt and turmeric and bring it to a boil. Add little water if you think the Daal is too thick. Throw in the fennel seed paste and ginger paste - give it a quick whisk. Cook for just a couple of minutes and take it off the heat.

Serve with hot rice and a side of Alu Posto!

Kalai Daal tastes best when freshly made. We sometimes use the leftover Daal to make Daalpuris. 

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