Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alu-potoler chheNchki - Bengali pointed gourd with potatoes

Never spared as much as a thought to the simplest possible dish, common in all Bengali households – the ChheNchki, not until I left home. Sunday morning breakfasts almost always used to be this ChheNchki with white luchi (puri made out of maida, refined wheat flour), the only variation being that in summers it used to be potatoes with diskettes of pointed gourd and in winters pointed gourd used to be replaced with cauliflower florets. When I was small, vegetables used to be seasonal – pointed gourds were available only in summers and cauliflowers only in winters. Now of course, everything is available round the year, robbing our Banerjee—da  of the excitement of spotting the first cauliflower of the season, or the pride of bringing home the first harvest of brilliant red tomatoes before the boastful Mr. Roy next door. Coming back to chheNchki, the process of preparing it is not half as complicated as the spelling. Apart from all holidays begining with a breakfast of chheNchki accompanied with ruti (chapatti), luchi (puri) or porota (small triangular parathas), it also used to be a quick fix savior for the hapless homemaker caught unawares with sudden unannounced visitors , who were frequent back then. The reason why dishes like chheNchki, was popular was, you just slice everything in a jiffy, and toss them into the wok, and it takes care of itself, needing minimum supervision, so that the unprepared host can concentrate on the luchis, which need full attention.
Today, neither do I receive unannounced guests (people are way too polite these days to barge in without meticulous intimation), nor can I afford a breakfast of luchi (too much calories for us) but cant help missing those small simple things that smell of my childhood, of the small quiet town called Durgapur, of Ma. It is on those days that I cook chheNchki –it fills the house with the aroma of panch phoron tossed in hot oil, and drifts me to my childhood….in a small sleepy town in faraway West Bengal called Durgapur.

You will need:

Potato : 1 large
Pointed gourd : 4-5
Panch phoron: 1 tsp
Green chillies : 2
Salt : ½ a spoon

 How to :
Step 1 : Chop potatoes and pointed gourds into ½ cm thich diskettes.
Step 2: Heat oil in a wok and throw in the panch phoron or whatever tadka you are using.
Step 3: As the whole seeds splutter throw in the split green chilly
Step 4: Throw in the chopped potatoes and gourds
Step 5: Add salt and 2 tbsp of water. Close in the lid
Your chheNchki is ready in 5 minutes. Remove lid, check if potatoes are done and take it off the flame. If potatoes are not done, keep it on for some more time.

 Pictorial guide :

If you donot have panch phoron you can mix all or any of these 5 seeds- jeera (cumin), kalonji (onion seeds), methi (fenugreek seeds), saunf (fennel seeds), randhuni (celery seeds). Mix them in any proportion, wont make a difference, if  one or more of the ingredients are missing, still no problem. If nothing else is available just use cumin seeds. 
Did your Ma cook chheNchki differently ? If yes, please share....there are lots of people like me waiting out there, all ears :)

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