Two recipes to help you plan a quick but regal Durga Puja feast

A festive plate of pulao and alur dom
with the 'salad' we have grown up on



Durga Pujo (puja) is the most wonderful time of the year for us Bengalis and food plays a big part in everyone's plan of celebrating the festival.

Queuing up to eat the Bhog served at the pandals, eating at the food stalls set up outside pandals and trying to get reservations in jam - packed Bengali restaurants are an integral part of these celebrations.

It's the time of the year, especially if you are Bengali, to take a break from the routine and to catch up with old friends over some 'Solid Adda' (Chat Sessions).

So I thought of sharing my recipes of a couple of easy to make Bengali dishes that you can rustle up in your kitchen when your friends drop by for the Pujos.

One of these dishes is a rice delicacy (and no, it's not Khichudi, which is best enjoyed at the pandals) but Mishti Pulao which is also known as Bashonti pulao! 

Bengalis love to eat Mishti Pulao on festive occasions, paired with Kosha Mangsho or Machher Kalia, of which you can find recipes on my blog.

But in this post, I am going to suggest a unique pairing - Mishti Pulao and Alur Dom. Making these is a huge advantage because Bengalis love potatoes plus you can serve it to your friends who abstain from eating non-vegetarian food during the season.

Alur dom is traditionally had with luchi of course. I just find the pulao to easy to make while leave the luchi making to my didu (granny).

I am going to give both recipes below and give you a few tips, which will help you ensure that you can cook them first. There are various ways of cooking these dishes and these are my decodings based on chats with my granny, my mother and folks like Amit Roy of Peetuk Caterers here in Mumbai. Like in all my cooking, I have simplified the processes so that they are reasonably easy to cook. 

Alur Dom

Tips:
  • Parboil the potatoes and then shallow fry them before cooking. This will reduce the time and oil required for cooking. Try to get baby potatoes if you can. If using regular sized potatoes, then half them
  • If you have cooked Kosha Mangsho or Fish Kalia before then you will realize that the steps to making Alur Dom are similar and you won’t take too much time making this either as the basic steps are similar
  • Some people like to use curd in Alur Dom. I suggest using tomatoes instead for tanginess. If you are not an expert cook, there are chances that the curd might curdle while cooking and that's a sticky situation to be in. If you are comfortable cooking with curd or doi, then give it a shot
  • If you can’t access mustard oil (preferred by Bengalis) at home, then use any vegetable oil
  • Make sure that the cashews are finely ground as a you want a thick gravy base. Use a mixer grinder ideally

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons Mustard Oil, 250g Potatoes (ideally small ones), 4 Cardamom, 3 Cinnamon and 1 piece of Clove, 2 Bay Leaves, 2 Whole Chillies, 1 Teaspoon Sugar, 1 finely chopped Onion, 1 Tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste (2:1 ratio) 1 finely chopped Tomato, 100g finely ground unsalted Cashews, 6 Raisins, 1 Teaspoon Salt , 1 Teaspoon Red Chilli Powder, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder,  1/2 Cup Water, ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder, 1 Teaspoon Ghee (ideally Jharna Ghee as Bengalis love this brand. Cow's milk ghee preferred to buffalo milk)


Cooking process:

  1. Boil the potatoes; peel the skin, shallow fry in mustard oil
  2. Heat the remaining mustard oil after taking out the potatoes. Put in whole Garam Masala
  3. Put in Bay Leaves
  4. Add Sugar
  5. Add Onions (this helps caramelise the onions) and adds sweetness to the gravy which Ghotis (folks from West Bengal) like
  6. Once Onions turn red, add Ginger Garlic Paste. Skip this if you want to make it entirely niramish as puja food doen’t have onions
  7. Add Tomatoes and stir till it becomes a paste
  8. Add Chilli and Turmeric Powder after a minute
  9. After the oil begins to separate, add crushed Cashews and blend in
  10. Add Raisins
  11. Add Potatoes and Salt and stir it into the masala base
  12. Add Water, bring it to boil, cover pan with a lid and let it cook for 5 minutes (this is the dom/ dum process)
  13. The dish is ready. Top it with some crushed whole Garam Masala and Jharna Ghee (or any other ghee)
Alur dom fresh off the pan

Mishti Polau (pulao) / Bashonti pulao

Tips:
  • Usually, spices are added to raw and pre- soaked rice while cooking. In my experience, it is difficult to ensure the firmness of rice in the end pulao if you are not used to cooking this. You are better off pre-boiling the rice and then assembling the two together making it a ‘frying pan pulao’. Whatever works!
  • Try to source some short grained Gobindobhog rice as that’s the rice used by Bengalis on special occasions. Else Basmati will do

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Ghee (ideally Jharna ghee), 4 Cardamom, 3 Cinnamon and 1 piece of Clove, 2 bay leaves, 2 whole Chillies, 1 Teaspoon Sugar, 6 Raisins and 6 unsalted Cashews, 1 Teaspoon Salt, ¼ Teaspoon Turmeric, 1 big bowl of steamed rice, 4-5 strands of Saffron dissolved in a Tablespoon of Milk

Cooking process:
  1. Heat Ghee in a pan
  2. Add whole Garam Masala
  3. Add Bay Leaves and Chillies
  4. Add Sugar and Turmeric
  5. Add Cashews and Raisins
  6. Add Rice and a dash of Salt, mix it well together for 2 to 3 minutes
  7. Add Milk with Kesar and spread across the pulao at the end and toss around the ingredients to mix it together for that very Bengali festive flavour.
The pulao is ready

Both dishes take very little time to make if you use my tips such as pre-boiling the potatoes for the alur dom and pre-boiling the rice for the pulao. 

Planning everything in advance helps hasten the cooking time so that you can spend more time with your friends when they drop in, than in the kitchen.

In other words, it always helps when you #PlanToCelebrate, doesn’t it?

Do check out the video for these recipes I shot in association with SBI life Insurance highlighting how planning our celebrations gives us the best in life, and see how I cooked these dishes. 

Happy Pujos to you and your family.


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