A few days back on a rainy afternoon, I was looking out of the window and my mind suddenly wandered back to the time when I had first met Anindya. We were young and completely in love with each other. There were so many firsts we were doing then. And now, I could precisely feel the emotion or the sentiment of that time. It was like a distant dream but it had happened. I remembered how I had met my in laws for the first time. You are probably wondering what this has got to do with kankrol er pur bhaja or stuffed teasel gourd. Well, let me share with you a small and very fond memory.
Couple of months into knowing each other, we decided to tie the knot. The mandatory meeting with the in laws before the final decision was pending. Anindya insisted that I go to Chandannagore and meet his parents, which I gladly did. On a Sunday, I took the train to Chandannagore and he was waiting at the platform. We went straight home and I was nervous. Anindya was probably a nervous wreck too but he hid his emotions well (I know that now). Ma greeted us with a hearty smile and pleasantries were exchanged, which was needed to break the ice. I moved around the house, checked the huge collection of books which both the father and son took immense pride in and also noticed a life size Aishwarya Rai poster by his bedside. By the way, this poster has still not been taken down.
Lunch was a lavish spread. I can now understand how much thought Ma would have put in to prepare the lunch. Ma and Baba did not entertain too many people but whenever they did, it had to be perfect from Ma’s point of view. If anyone was coming for lunch, there also had to be a bit of ‘jolkhabar’ or a mid meal snack. She would start preparing her dishes from the day before and she would be tensed about it a week in advance. She would constantly remind baba of all the groceries that need to be brought in and on the final day, she would invariably end up with a couple of more side dishes. Like most jamai adors, this meal was similarly grand. There were bhaja, three kinds of torkari, lau chingri, machh, chutney, payesh and so on. But what stood out was kankroler pur bhaja or stuffed teasel guard. A whole kankrol was stuffed with mustard paste and coconut and the kankrol seeds and then dipped in gram flour and deep fried. It was so incredibly delicious. I took one bite and then Ma asked me to mash it with some rice and then have it. The kankrol flesh was still firm but mashable and the sweetness from the kankrol mixed with the pungent mustard and slightly grainy kankrol seeds bound together was a very vibrant dish.
Over the years, every summer, kankrol would become a staple in our diet. Kankrol bhaja, kankroler torkari, kankroler chorchori and so on. But I never made kankroler pur bhaja, even though I craved for it. For some reason, I felt it was too much effort and hence did not bother. This year, once again kankrol made an entry during summers and as usual, I craved for it. I wanted to ask Ma (mother in law) how to make it. But Ma can barely communicate properly after the stroke. Her words get jumbled and she cannot express properly. So I asked my mother and she gave me the recipe of kankroler pur bhaja. It may be a bit time consuming but is not difficult at all. Once done, I served the kankroler pur bhaja to Ma and asked her how it was. I reminded her about the first meal which she had prepared for me at Chandannagore. Her beautiful smile said it all.
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Kankroler pur bhaja/ stuffed teasel guard
For the Kankrol stuffing
- 10 nos Kankrol teasel gourd
- 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
- 2 1/2 tbsp Mustard Paste This mustard paste should be made with black mustard seeds and then strained to discard the skin which is bitter
- 4 nos green chilies
- 1 no Medium Sized Onion
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Mustard Oil
- Salt To Taste
- oil for deep frying
For the Batter
- 1/2 cup Besan or Bengal Gram Flour
- 1 tbsp Rice flour
- 1/2 cup water
- Scrape the kankrol skin and discard the rough prickly parts. Cut them into half lenghtwise.
- In a saucepan, boil some water and immerse the kankrols in them. Add a tbsp of salt and boil the kankrols for 5 to 6 minutes or until the kankrol has become soft enough for the seeds to be scooped out. It should not be too soft also.
- Take them out and place them in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process.
- Then using a spoon or a melon baller, scoope out the seeds and keep the seeds in a bowl.
- Grind the seeds with green chilies, coconut, mustard seeds, salt and sugar. It need not be a very fine paste. A coarsely ground paste would also do.
- Take the paste out in a bowl. Add finely chopped onion and mustard oil mix it well. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. The stuffing is ready.
- Now fill the cavities of each half with the stuffing and arrange them on a plate.
- Make a thin batter from the ingredients of the batter. Add a bit of salt to it as well. Add the water slowly. You might not need the entire 1/2 cup of water. A runny batter yet it should coat the kankrol is what you need.
- Now heat oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, dip the kankrol in the batter and then slowly slide it in the hot oil. Repeat with all the kankrols.
- Turn them when one side has become golden brown. Keep the heat at a medium or else it will burn.
- When they have become a golden brown colour, take them out with a slotted spoon and place on a kitchen towel to soak the excess oil.
- Serve kankroler pur bhaja as a side with rice and other accompaniments.
- You can also have them as it is.