Sometimes I wish there was nothing called SEO. Actually, each time I start to write, I have to do a research on what should be my key word and then write accordingly. I am sure, every other recipe blogger or any blogger/ writer, goes through the same feeling. There are so many recipes that I would like to share and document. However, I realise that they are not SEO friendly. No one is going to search for such recipes. It is only the common recipes that get searched. This is one such post with a recipe of Kolmi shaker bora shukto. I mean, who searches for that?
The best I would get are, ‘recipes using kolmi shak’, or ‘english for kolmi shak’ or ‘kolmi shak recipe’. We already have the recipe of shukto in the blog. The keyword for that was ‘shukto’. Hence, I cannot use the same keyword here. Now do you get my dilemma? Should I continue writing about this recipe or should I go back to one of those easliy searched recipes? I think I am going to continue with the former. Kolmi shaker bora shukto is one of my favourites and I could call this particular one, my family recipe.
This post is a tribute to my grandmother
My grandmother (thakuma and I called her Dida) was one strong lady. She came from an affluent family and then got married into a very large family with a humble background. However, she had her share of struggles along with my grandfather in running her family and much later, in her 40s, she decided to re-invent herself and became an entrepreneur.
Dida learnt the skill of batik printing and started a small unit in Canning. Eventually, over the years, her unit was the largest in South 24 Parganas and she employed more than 150 women. She used to work with several Government bodies and supplied sarees to them. Along with her brilliant business sense, she was a cook par excellence. People used to say that she had magic in her hands and she would take the most basic ingredients and turn them into something remarkable.
Kolmi Shaker Bora shukto is not commonly heard of
Dida detested eating bitters. Yes, in season, we would have neem begun, neem patar bhaja, bitter gourd fries and so on. But she would never force feed it to us. It was our choice and my mother told me that since Dida never liked eating bitters, she would never force anyone to have it. I wasn’t a fan of bitters wither. I can just about tolerate it now and only in certain recipes. Dida used to make shukto with kolmi shaker bora. Kolmi shak or kolmi greens is a semi aquatic plant, very common in Bengal. In the vegetables, she would never add korola or bitter gourd, which is a mandatory for a shukto. Kolmi shak has a slight bitter after taste, which was good enough for this shukto.
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Kolmi shak is called water ipomoea in english
Dida had her roots in Rajshahi, a district in Bangaldesh and my grandfather was from Pabna district in Bangladesh. That makes us ‘bangal’. Having said that, my grandfather grew up in Mathabhanga, a small town in North Bengal. So, we have a lot of the North Bengal influence in our cooking, accent, etc. Our shukto is unlike a ghoti shukto. Everytime I would go to a biye bari, I would question my mother about the difference in taste of the shukto from what we eat at home.
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Bangal shukto is different from the ghoti shukto
Unlike the ghoti shukto, we do not use radhuni in our shukto. We also do not use panchphoron. The basic tempering is black mustard seeds and the flavour of the shukto comes from the robust use of posto bata (poppy seed paste) and fresh ginger paste topped with oodles of ghee. When using kolmi shaker bora, I have also seen Dida use the leftover batter with a little bit of water and pouring it into the sauce. The dumpling batter is made with matar dal (Bengal grams) and kolmi greens. As a result, that acts as the thickener for the shukto. Kolmi shaker bora shukto is very delicately flavoured and manages to cling on to your mind, even at the end of a full blown non vegetarian meal.
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I witnessed this at Chilekotha, where this was part of the vegetarian and non vegetarian menu in the Bengali food festival by Debjani and me. Sharmishtha Ghoshal from Indulge Express also mentioned about this shukto in her article on this food festival. So, each time someone would tell me how unique this shukto was and how they loved it to bits, I would fondly remember Dida.
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In case you are interested in the recipe of regular traditional shukto, here it is.
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Kolmi Shaker Bora Shukto- Bengali style vegetable stew with Kolmi greens dumplings
Ingredients for Kolmi shaker bora/dumplings
- 1 cup matar dal bengal gram
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 1 handful kolmi shak
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- salt as per taste
Ingredients for shukto
- 1 no large sized potato
- 2 no medium sized brinjals
- 1 no slice of pumpkin
- 2 no sweet potato
- 1 no ridge gourd
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 nos dried red chilies optional (see notes)
- 1/4 tsp methi seeds
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger or ginger paste
- 2 tbsp poppy seed paste
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt To Taste
To make the kolmi shaker bora
- Soak matar dal overnight in water. In the morning, grind it with washed kalmi shaak and very little water. Just as much as required to make a paste. The paste has to be thick in consistency.
- Once the paste is ready, take it out in a bowl and add salt and sugar. Have your kadai ready with oil for deep frying. Take a tsp of hot oil and add to the batter. Now whisk it rigorously so that there is air created and the batter becomes slightly fluffy.
- When the oil is hot, drop heaped tsp full of batter in the hot oil and make small round shapes. Preferably do this with your fingers (dropping the batter in the oil).
- Now keep the flame at medium so that the outside doesn’t burn. Flip it when you see the colour changing on the bottom and cook on the other side. You have to do this slowly and carefully. Then when you feel that it is cooked all way through, use a spatula to drain the excess oil and take it out on a kitchen towel.
- With this batter, you will probably get 40 odd pieces of bora and you will need only half of it for the shukto. The other half, you can keep it refrigerated and use it later. You have even serve the bora as it is while it is hot, as a starter.
- After you have finished making the dumplings, do not give out the utensil for washing in which the batter was kept. Leave it for later use in the shukto.
To make the shukto
- You have to wash your vegetables and cut them into cubes of the same size (about an inch and half in length). You can also cut them into equal sized rectangular long pieces. You need to peel the skin of the potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato and the ridge gourd partially.
- While you are making the bora, sprinkle some salt and sugar over the brinjals and keep aside. When you are ready to cook the shukto, drain out the excess water that comes out of the brinjals.
- In a kadai, take 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and when the oil is hot, slowly place the brinjals in the kadai and lightly fry it to a golden colour and keep aside when done.
- In the same oil (if the oil has been soaked out by the brinjal, add another tbsp of oil), add the dry red chili, mustard seeds and methi. Stir it around till you get the whiff of the aroma from the spices.
- Add the potatoes and sweet potatoes. Stir them on high flame and then reduce the flame to a medium low. After five minutes, add the pumpkin and then the ridge gourds. Sprinkle some salt, stir around again on high flame, then reduce the flame and cover the kadai.
- Cover on low flame till the vegetables have become almost soft. You have to stir from time and again to check that nothing is sticking to the bottom. If you feel, sprinkle some water . Don’t add extra water. We want the vegetables to become soft but not mushy.
- Once the vegetables have cooked, mix a cup of water with the poppy seed paste and add to the vegetables. Also add ½ tsp of sugar. Add the ginger paste. You can be generous with the ginger paste and add a heaped tsp of it.
- Stir everything and add half a cup of water in the utensil which had the dumpling batter. Nicely clean the leftover batter with the water and pour this into the shukto. Add more warm water for the vegetables to completely soak in the gravy.
- Now add half of the kolmi shaker bora to this gravy. Give it one boil and drizzle ghee from top.
- Check the seasoning and add more salt if required. Then turn off the heat and serve the shukto with steamed white rice.
- Please note that you need adequate water since the bora soaks up water. In case later it thickens, just add half a cup of hot water and stir.