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Eastern Ecstasy

Our culinary explorations on this blog have taken us all across India, visiting places that have used Mustard Oil for hundreds of years in various creative, innovative and unusual ways in their traditional cuisines. On this journey, we have explored destinations like Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bengal. Today, we travel to a state that’s right next to Bengal to discover and savour their delicious food. Yes, we are heading for Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) in the eastern part of India. The cooks of Odisha were famous for their ability to create magical flavours by using only those spices, vegetables, lentils and grains that were available locally. They were also revered for their deep understanding of cooking in accordance with scriptural requirements. In the 19th Century, many of these cooks migrated to Bengal, taking with them their heritage recipes. Over time, many of these recipes were seamlessly integrated into Bengali cooking styles and repertoires.

The recipe we will be preparing today is an integral part of Odia Bhoji – which means “The cuisine of Odisha”. This dish is a sour and spicy side dish called Bhindi Besara. The word “Besara” refers to a paste that is created with mustard seeds and spices. This dish is a traditional preparation of ladyfinger cooked with mustard oil, mustard seeds and an assortment of spices.

The sour flavour in this dish is created by using a variety of dried and salted mango found in Odisha called “Ambola”. If you can’t get this variety you can substitute any raw (green) mango that has been dried in the sun. 

Here are the ingredients that you will require.

Ingredients:

  1. Ladyfinger (Bhindi):150 grams

  2. Potato: 100 grams

  3. Tomato: 1, large

  4. Onion: 1, medium sized

  5. Mustard Oil: 6 tablespoons

  6. Mustard Seeds (Rai): 3 tablespoons

  7. Garlic (Lasun): 6 cloves

  8. Red Chillies: 3

  9. Dry Mango (Ambola): 1

  10. Sundried Lentil Dumplings (Bari): 3 tablespoons

  11. Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: 2 teaspoons

  12. Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: Half a teaspoon

  13. Salt: to taste

The quantities mentioned above are for serving four persons. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.

Preparation:

Keep aside a teaspoon of mustard seeds and a teaspoon of cumin seeds for later use. Take the remaining mustard seeds and cumin seeds along with the garlic and red chillies and soak them in around 100 millilitres of water for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, drain the water. Put the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies and garlic in a blender to make a thick, rich paste. Add a little water, if required, but don’t let the paste become watery.

Wash and cut the tomato in half. Chop one half of the tomato into small pieces.

Wash, peel and finely chop the onion. Add the half tomato portion and blend the onion and tomato into a paste.

Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut them into small cubes.

Wash and cut the ladyfinger into small one-inch pieces.

Cut the dry mango into small strip-like slices. Add salt and keep aside.

Method:

Heat four tablespoons of Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame. When the oil becomes hot, add the ladyfinger pieces and fry till the pieces are done (but don’t fry till they become crisp). Then strain the fried ladyfinger pieces to remove the oil. Keep the ladyfinger aside. Put the hot oil back in the pan.

Next, add the potato pieces to the pan and fry. When they turn golden brown in colour, remove them from the oil and keep aside.

Add the remaining Mustard Oil to the pan. Fry the Bari and keep aside.

Now add the teaspoon of mustard seeds and the teaspoon of cumin seeds that you had kept aside earlier. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the onion-tomato paste and sauté for around three minutes.

Next, add the turmeric powder and salt – and mix well.

Add the fried ladyfinger and potato pieces and continue to sauté.

Now add the mustard paste and the tomato pieces along with around 200 millilitres of water. Reduce the flame to Low and let the contents cook slowly till the potato pieces are done (use a fork to check).

Add the dry mango pieces and continue to stir and cook for another minute or so. Then turn the flame off.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving dish. Crumble the fried Bari and sprinkle the pieces over the top of the dish.

Your traditional Bhindi Besara prepared in an authentic Odia style is now ready. This is usually eaten as a side dish with rice and dal (lentils).

You can find more recipes at : https://www.purioilmills.com/recipes-in-english/


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