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You are invited to comment as often as you like and,most especially,to propose questions,suggest new topics,and to tell your experiences about using Chef Zubin D'Souza's recipes. The purpose of this blog is to establish a back and forth dialog with Chef Zubin about things food and things Indian. It seeks to augment Chef Zubin's book,All-India Vegetarian Cooking:A Subzi Sutra containing the secrets of India's multi-regional vegetarian cuisine.

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Indian mustard,kasundi and mustard based recipes

Almost a century ago,the famous Bengali poet and Nobel laureate,Rabindranath Tagore,viewed the swaying mustard flowers and immortalized them in poetry. The mustard plant has,for centuries,been a part of most Indian diets.

When I say most Indian diets,the mustard crop is grown and harvested mostly in the North and the Eastern regions of the country. Traditionally the seeds are pressed to form a rich mustard oil,using a process that has not changed in centuries. The seeds are placed in the centre of a thresher and it is powered by oxen that walk around it in a circle,operating the levers and cranks that operate the rollers that produce the rich,strongly aromatic oil.

The oil is used raw in smaller quantities to give a sharp,pungent taste to a dish. If used for cooking;it has to be heated till it almost smokes,to cook out the harsh raw flavour. Mustard oil is also used raw for traditional Indian head and body massages. Of course,a regular imbibing in this activity could cost you all your friends because of the strong sulphurous overtones in fragrance.

Mustard seeds are also ground to a paste to use in sauce traditional Bihari,Bengali,Bhaiya and Oriya cooking.

The Bengalis make an absolutely fantastic mustard dip called ‘Kasundi’. If the supply and production processes could be improved,I am sure that a little town called Dijon,in France,could be facing some real serious competition.

Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish

Mustard seeds                     200 g/ 1 cup

Garlic cloves peeled              20 g/ 4 tsp

Green mango peeled and diced –    100 g/ 1/2 cup

Mustard oil                       100 ml/ 1/2 cup

Fresh chillies                    6

Salt                             to taste

Soak the mustard seeds in warm water for an hour. In a food processor grind together the drained mustards seeds,the garlic,the green mango,the chillies and the salt. Slowly trickle the oil in to form an emulsion. Remove when a thick paste has formed and check seasoning. This will keep well for several weeks under refrigeration.

Okra cooked in a Bengali mustard sauce

Bhindi jhaal

The ‘jhaal’ is a very traditional Bengali preparation that usually has fish simmering in it. Around the mid-nineteenth century and at the turn of the twentieth,the city started seeing an influx of Marwari traders who were compelled by their religions to follow the vegetarian way of life. Not wanting to deny their new guests the finer aspects of traditional Bengali hospitality,modifications were made in deference to the requests of their new compatriots.

Okra,trimmed at either end – 450 g/ 1 lb

Yellow mustard seeds –       30 g/ 2 tbsp

Black mustard seeds –        30 g/ 2 tbsp

Chopped fresh chillies -        15 g/ 1 tbsp

Slit fresh chillies –        3

Mustard oil –                30 ml/ 2 tbsp

Fresh tomatoes ground to a puree –    50 g/ ¼ cup

Water –                      50 ml/ ¼ cup

Turmeric powder –            20 g/ 1 tbsp

Chilli powder –              5 g/ 1 tsp

Salt –                       to taste

Soak the mustard seeds in about 50 ml (1/4 cup) of hot water for an hour. Grind together with the fresh chillies.

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pot. When it smokes,fry the okra till the vegetables turn bright green. Remove and drain off the excess oil and sprinkle on some salt and a bit of the chilli powder. Reheat the oil in the same vessel and stir in the tomato puree. When it browns add in the mustard paste. Simmer for a couple of minutes till it thickens,add in the water. Sprinkle on the turmeric and chilli powder. When the sauce thickens,simmer the fried okra in the gravy. Check seasoning and remove. Serve with steamed rice.


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