My family is a curious mix of Bengalis and Punjabis.
The Punjabis are arguably more Bengali than the Bengalis and the reverse applies to (some of) the Bengalis.
With an equal mix of both these genes fighting for supremacy in my system, I sometimes find that I am neither.
Fortunately however, I am married to a Fauji Bengali who is the only thoroughbred Bengali in the family who is worse off than me. He is as un-Bengali as a Bengali can get and is my solace in moments of misgiving.
My Punjabi mother is unidentifiably Bengali.
This may be justifiable and suitably forgivable considering that she has been married to a Bengali for many years now. But my emphatically Punjabi Mami and the rest of her Punjabi family are not so easy to brush off. Having lived in Kolkata for many years now, they outdo us half bred Bengalis at our language, literature, songs and dance. And that is certainly not easy to excuse.
These glaring misdeeds by certain sections of my family fortunately, are easily forgiven and forgotten when we meet at the dining table, thanks to the foodie genes that dominate both sides.
Salivating tongues merge the Punjabis indistinguishably with the Bengalis. The love of Kathi rolls, Tele bhaja (pakodas), Shingara (samosa), Mishti (mithai), Aloo parathas and Maanh ki Daal and their consequences on our waistlines, unite us seamlessly and irrevocably.
Once a year however this unison is threatened by a festival.
The Autumn Navratri is the acid test of loyalties. The Punjabis fast as the Bengalis feast.
As mantras hammer themselves out in the minds of the devout fasters, the feasters can only hear the loud growling of their stomachs.
Luckily, harmony is just seven days away.
Ashtami restores harmony with dollops of ghee and oil. The gorging feasters unashamedly devour the kale chane, puri and halwa offered by the fasters.
The burps of ecstatic stomachs merge with the audible sighs of relief as the fasters join the feasters in the gastronomical orgy of the devout - called Durga Puja.
- Soak a katori of Kale chane overnight in water. If you are in a hurry like I always am, soak the kale chane in boiling water for at least two hours.
- Wash the soaked chane well in at least 3 changes of water
- Put the chane in a cooker, cover it with water to submerge, add salt and pressure cook. After the first whistle lower the flame and cook for 30 minutes on lowest flame. Open the cooker when it cools
- Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a kadhai
- Add a pinch of Hing.
- Then add whole jeera and let it sizzle.
- Then add 2 teaspoons of chole masala and fry. Be careful not to burn it
- Now add the kale chane with a slotted spoon in order to get just the chane in without the liquid.
- Fry this for a bit
- Then add the cooking liquid of the chane and boil.
- Continue boiling until all the water evaporates.
- Sprinkle bhuna jeera powder if you like
- Serve with puris.