Shukto - a symbol of everything auspicious
Wedding days can be hectic for everyone. Not just for the bride or the groom, but also for the parents and the siblings taking care of all the elaborate arrangements. Especially since in India, it is believed that the marriage is the beginning of a journey of two families instead of mere two individuals, everyone tries to portray their very best and reach upto the over - expectations of the whole extended families. Those expensive gifts, meticulous arrangements for the guests in spite of the hush - hush behind your back have been traditionally going on since ages. These are those special moments when some long forgotten uncle of yours would be overly concerned about your employment and would be more than happy to give you a forceful career counselling session. Oh!! You better not forget about that clingy aunt of yours who would be amazed at how fast you grew up and its high time you should get married now, of course with someone from the several options she has in offer. A living Tinder app I must say!! So, I generally used to try working out a deal, while I was an unemployed youth staying with my parents to just drop in for the lunch or the dinner part and escape later. Yes!! I still cannot afford to miss out those intricately prepared wedding delights, come what may.
The modern dinner menu with varieties of pastas, quiches, miniature galouti kebabs, fish orlies, baked sweets always remain a hit. The sophisticated buffet spread is the first thing we go to check out even before greeting the newly - weds. But for me, the main attraction of the wedding meal are the lunch options. The gorom Bhaat ( rice ) with that splendid bitter - sweet Shukto smelling of ghee as a starter, is something every Bengali can relate to. A mix - veg stew cooked in a gravy of milk famous as Biebarir Shukto still remains a favourite among a large part of the Bengali population. Its healthy, its nutritious and its delicious. Naturally, the day after my wedding when I enquired about some left - over shukto for lunch, I got to know it was the thing our relatives gorged upon the day before and hence did not leave a drop for the new bride to merry upon!! Shukto tastes slightly bitter but with all those posto - mustard juices mixed in with some broken boris ( fried lentil fritters ) and ghee will always remain a part of traditional Bengali menu in every auspicious occasions.
You can use any vegetable in this dish, so this recipe works really well when you try to clean up the vegetable tray of the fridge. The spices used are all basic ones with the famous Bengali paanch - phoron..and a special "radhuni" which I think is closest to celery seeds, something I think you can get in Bengali shops only. But even if you are short of radhuni, you should never be discouraged to try this authentic Bengali dish served in every Biebari compulsorily to mark the beginning of a happily ever after.
- Potato - 1 medium, sliced
- Brinjal - 200 grams (approx.), diced
- Bitter gourd / korola - 1 medium, sliced
- Pumpkin / kumro - 150 grams (approx. ), diced
- Radish / mulo - 150 grams (approx.), sliced
- Ridge gourd / jhinge - 150 grams (approx.), diced
- Unripe green banana / kaanch kola - 1 medium sized, sliced
- Stems / daata - A few stems of any shaag slit through. This time I used the stems of laal shaag.
[Any other veggies like beans, broad beans, carrot, sweet potato are among others which goes perfectly well with this dish ]
|Veggies ready to be in the Shukto mode|
- Dried Red Chilli - 2
- Paanch phoron ( a combination of fennel seeds / mouri/ saunf, cumin seeds / zeere, onion seeds / kalo zeere, mustard seeds / sores, fenugreek seeds / methi ) - 1/2 teaspoon.
|The five best friends along with an occasional buddy|
- Radhuni powder - 1 teaspoon
- Cumin powder - 1 teaspoon
- Ginger - 2 inch (approx.) grated
- Boris ( lentil fritters ) - 4-5
- Milk - 1/2 cup
- Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
- Posto seeds - 1 teaspoon
- Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
- Mustard oil
- Ghee - a dollop
- Salt and Sugar according to taste
- Green chilli - 1
- Soak the Posto and Mustard seeds in water for at least an hour ( preferably overnight ) and make a smooth paste of it along with a pinch of salt and a green chilli.
|Soaked Posto - Mustard for the gravy|
- Marinate the brinjal and bitter gourd pieces with a teaspoon of turmeric and salt for around 10 minutes. This step releases the water in these vegetables which makes them absorb much less oil when shallow fried.
|Salty turmeric laden begun and korola|
- Heat up some oil and fry the boris till brown. Remove them from the heat and break them into pieces.
- In the same oil add the bitter gourd after squeezing out the water and saute them for around 5 minutes on low flame. Remove from flame.
- Repeat the same with the brinjal pieces. Saute them for around 5 minutes and remove from heat.
- In the kadhai heat up some more oil, about 1 tablespoon and add the paanch phoron and the dried red chillies.
|Paanch phoron and Red chilli in the oil|
- Once spluttering starts put in the grated ginger and fry them for around 2 minutes on low flame.
|Ginger goes in|
- Start adding the un - fried vegetables one by one. Mix everything together with the oil. Cover the lid and wait for 5 minutes on medium low flame.
- When you open the lid you will notice the vegetables all sweat up. Its time to add the cumin powder, radhuni powder along with salt. Stir upside down. Add a splash of water to prevent burning of the spices.
|Cumin and Radhuni powder along with salt|
|All mixed through|
- Add the previously fried vegetables. The posto - mustard paste goes in now. Mix up.
|The bhaja Begun and korola goes in|
|The Posto - Mustard paste|
- Cover the lid and wait for around 10 - 15 minutes till all the vegetables are cooked through.
- Open the lid, add the broken boris along with the milk.
|In goes the milk|
- Wait for around 2-3 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Add a teaspoon of sugar. Check the consistency and you are ready.
|Steaming hot, ready to be on your plate|
Yes it is an elaborate process with all the chopping of the vegetables which is a bit time consuming but I can assure you that the moment you mix a bit of this heavenly Shukto with a morsel of rice, place it inside your mouth, all your taste-buds would be ignited at once and you will be reminded of pure HAPPINESS!!!
|What a wonderful sight !!!|
P.S. You will always have some leftovers no matter how much you decrease the amounts of the vegetables. I usually make a batch and enjoy this for at least two days in a row. It gives satisfaction in taste and the roughage from all those veggies works really well in the mornings!!