There’s nothing more delightful than hearing from an old friend who’s visiting town.
So when D calls one overcast charcoal-grey morning to announce her visit a week later, needless to emphasize, I am ecstatic.
You need to come home for lunch, I urge.
Next time, she responds, shy diffidence stark in her voice.
The next couple of minutes is a tug of war, me insisting, she evading, finally she submits to my obstinate persuasions.
We fix the date.
I start my mental calisthenics, an endeavor to work out the perfect lunch menu, trying my best to recall any preferences of hers.
What do you want to eat? I finally question.
Daab Chingri, comes the prompt response.
Done, I confirm, pleased as a Cheshire Cat.
Two days later, comes a call from her.
Dear, she says apologetically, I completely forgot when we planned the lunch, I am vegetarian on Thursdays.
That’s no problem at all, I assure.
Are you sure? She looks for confirmation.
Of course, I reiterate.
Iterations later, I arrive at the first draft.
My Jhinge Shukto.
A tear-jerking spicy Kakrol Pur.
Sylheti Kolai Daal, I know she shall adore this one.
Grandmas Lau Phulkopi.
Kumror Dhokar Dalna.
And Atar Payesh to finish with.
But something is missing, isn’t it?
D had requested Daab Chingri. What could be a vegetarian alternative? I ponder.
Necessity, as the old man reminds, is the mother of invention.
The grey cells go on an overdrive and I decide to conjure for her a Chanar Daab Malai.
A symphony of homemade chana and tender coconut flesh. Something, I am convinced, that she shall relish.
Chanar Daab Malai. A mellifluous pairing of chana with tender coconut flesh. The sublime sweetness of coconut milk. The warmth of ginger. The perfume of green cardamom. The heat of green chillies. Oh, and those luscious raisins hidden inside the chana koftas !!
This is food heaven for sure !!
If you are weary and jaded of your regular paneer subzi, do give my Chanar Daab Malai a try and I can guarantee that smile of blissful contentment on your faces !!
Chanar Daab Malai (Paneer with Tender Coconut Flesh)
For Chanar Kofta
- 200 g homemade chana
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- a handfull of raisins
- salt to taste
- oil for frying
For the gravy
- 3/4 cup tender coconut flesh or daab shansh
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1.5 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 green cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 7-8 green chilies
- 1.5 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
For Chana kofta
- Soak the raisins in warm water for 15 odd minutes. Drain from water, pat dry.
- Place the chana on a flat surface, sprinkle in a little salt, add the flour and knead with the heel of your palm. About 3-4 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth, keep aside.
- Take a little chana dough on your palm, make a ball. Press it gently in the middle using your thumb forming a small oval cup.
- Place two raisins in the middle of the cup and very gently bring the edges together and seal it. Give it a round shape with your palms.
- Heat the oil in a deep-frying pan, fry the chana balls one by one till golden. Keep aside on a kitchen towel.
For the Gravy
- Lightly mash the tender coconut flesh with a masher or your hands, keep aside.
- Heat oil in a pan, throw in the cumin seeds, crushed green cardamom and bay leaves. Allow the spices to splutter. Lower the flame and stir in the ginger paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Lower the flame and very gently pour in the coconut milk while stirring continuously. Add the tender coconut flesh. Cook for 5 odd minutes.
- Add 3/4 cup of warm water, sprinkle in the salt, thrown in the green chilies, bring to a gentle simmer.
- Gently add the fried chana balls to the gravy and allow the curry to simmer over a low flame for another 5-7 minutes.
- Add a sprinkle of sugar, adjust seasonings. Remove from the flame, give it a standing time of 15-20 minutes.
- Serve with steam rice.