Chanar Dalna, the aftershock of Durga Pujo
Durga pujo, when goddess Durga with her children travels all the way from Kailash to visit her maternal home for a handful of days. Though the festival originally signifies the victory of goodness over evil, it is evidently a celebration of homecoming. These are the days which makes even a reticent service - class Bengali sitting at his / her corner desk - job in any nook and crook of this world, gather some courage and apply for a week long of leaves. If approved, he would start counting minutes for this once in a year reunion with fun, food, family and friends and if not then, plan on planning a "Baro - yaari" Pujo committee with his similar sympathizing fellow associates.
This festival has never been only about the prayers and offerings to the goddess. It is the sense of belongingness, a craving, to grasp our roots which marks this as a special occasion. Kolkata, the City of joy, adorns itself with lights, music, art, culture being in its true colour and joyous spirit welcoming each one of us, however far we might have drifted apart by distance. We come Home, we party in our own mere ways forgetting every tightness and rigidity and try to hide those tears on the last day of the Pujo, Doshomi, bidding adieu to the loving daughter Dugga who returns back to her usualness, her job. Its time for survival..again!!
Now, obviously when there are so many partying Bengalis involved, there has to be food. Varieties and loads of it. Those of us who have never experienced these festivities forever argue about how disrespectful we all are when we eat meat or fish during these auspicious holy days. However, for us when it calls for a celebration of homecoming, we cannot leave behind our gluttony for each one of those special dishes which brings back the memories of all that is beautiful. That may include anything, starting from humble samosas as breakfast or Kosha Mangsho with luchi as dinner!! But, amidst all these, one day, the eighth day a.k.a. Osthomi, the day when we put on the best dress and visit the local pandals for Onjoli, the morning prayers together with the whole family occupies a special place in our heart. On this day every Sarbojonin Pujo Committee organises special"bhog" for lunch with steaming hot Khichuri ( a special porridge of rice and lentils flavoured delicately with some mild spices), Labra ( a mix veg dish) and only sometimes a handful of Holud pulao along with a gem of "Chanar Dalna". This Bengali "Dalna" dish is precious. The hint of sweetness in the light gravy complemented by the richness of the garam masala absorbed by those little balls of "Chana" melts in your mouth bowling you over its simplicity. You get one"Chana" ball in your mouth and it will leave you longing for more. So trying our hands in preparing "Chanar Dalna" seems justified.
"Chana", a home - made cottage cheese is the main ingredient in majority of the traditional Bengali sweets. One can easily get the milk curdled, strain it overnight and get"Chana" at home. But, since nowadays all of us are continuously struggling for our existance to remain the"fittest" for Careeristic Selection, waiting overnight for one ingredient of our lunch menu seems a bit far-fetched. However, an alternative,"Paneer" works best as a substitute. That's the commercial name for cottage cheese we can get from the local grocery store here in India. Lactose intolerant ones have a sibling - Tofu. You just crush them up into bits and there you have it - the perfect readymade "Chana". So, whenever you get tired from all that workplace competitiveness, return with some Paneer, freshen up and put on your cooking clothes ( a few of us have tit - bits of turmeric patches when we rubbed our hands on them during previous cooking sessions), play your favourite music out loud, pour yourself a glass of beverage and get your hands all cheesy because that smell of good home - made food rekindles good memories, relieves all irritating stresses and may be, even bring a smile on your lips reminding you of your first mutual gaze during "Osthomi Onjoli"!!
- Paneer - 200 grams
- Garam masala powder - 2 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder - 2 teaspoon
- Chilli powder - 1.5 teaspoon
- All purpose flour ( maida ) - 1/2 tablespoon
- Soyabean oil ( any white oil ) - 2 tablespoon
- Raisin - 9 -10
- Garam masala - Cardamom - 2, Clove - 3, Cinnamon stick - 1/2 inch, Bay leaf - 1
- Salt and Sugar to taste
- Take the paneer along with 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of garam masala powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar along with the maida, raisins and some salt and mash up all together into a smooth paste. Use your hands for this. Ball them up.
- Heat up the oil and fry the balls. Be gentle, they are delicate.
- Make a paste of 1 teaspoon of chilli powder, 2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt along with some water.
- Take a kadhai along with 2-3 teaspoon of oil and add all the garam masala. Wait till they splutter.
- Add the spice mix into the flavoured oil. Cook it well for at least 8 - 10 minutes with regular splashes of water till the oil seperates along the boundary.
- Add final round of water along with the previously fried Chana balls. Let it simmer for around 2 - 3 minutes over low flame.
- Add a dollop of ghee and another pinch of garam masala powder and then you are ready.
Ideally, Chanar Dalna goes best with Bengali Pulao, but on a weekday night, some warm white rice will go just fine with it to help you boost your confidence and make yourself happy.