It’s a gorgeous autumn morning.
The nimbus clouds that had usurped the heavens above and scarred them an ominous ebony have disappeared.
Pristine silver cloud boats ferry lazily on a pastel blue sky.
I sit in my terrace garden, lost amidst the fairy boats, the breeze playing with my tresses, the early morning sunlight casting a kaleidoscope of images on the white-washed garden wall, a hot Darjeeling my solitary companion.
A phone call punctuates the idyllic morning silence.
Hello, rings the effervescent voice on the other end, the voice familiar as if i heard it yesterday.
Hello, I reply, my memory working on on overdrive, desperately seeking to recall who the caller is.
You recognise me, don’t you ? She asks in childlike enthusiasm.
Silence. Come on, I prod myself, remind me who this is.
Aren’t you … ? I ask halfheartedly, confident that I am not correct.
No, I can sense despair in the voice.
And then in a flash, it comes to me.
Aren’t you …. ? I enquire, without even a pause for breath.
The next half hour flies by in a jiffy.
A decade and a half have elapsed since we last met. (I still recollect the sniffles and sobs that marked the evening I was leaving for Delhi, promising to be back with friends in Guwahati at least once every year)
The conversation flows on.
The highs and lows.
The trials and tribulations.
The triumphs and failures.
The rosy dreams we had spun.
The secrets we had shared.
Well, she is in India for a month with her professor husband and in my city for a couple of days. A week from now.
Of course we should meet up, I offer, you folks should come home for lunch.
He’s vegetarian, she informs me, I too am largely vegetarian nowadays.
Yes I adore my fish, but never do I relinquish the golden opportunity to cook a vegetarian meal.
That Bengalis eat only maach-bhaat is a myth I love to debunk and nothing gives me more sublime joy than laying out a vegetarian feast.
What do I cook though ? I ruminate.
Shukto definitely, how can a luxurious Bengali meal not start with bitter ? So a Jhinge Shukto I decide to prepare, a fine balance of bitter balanced by the earthy sweetness of ridge-gourd.
Dal of course, I stick to the you-can-never-go-wrong quintessential favourite Motorshuti diye Bhaja Moong Dal, roasted moong dal cooked with green peas.
It has to be shaak next ? I opt for Pui Shaak er Chorchori – Malabar spinach cooked with a medley of vegetables.
A ghonto to follow the shaak ? No second thoughts before confirming Grandma’s Moong Phulkopir Ghonto. A delectable pairing of autumn cauliflower and moong dal.
And how can a decadent Bengali meal not include a paturi ? Has to be my Bandhakopir Paturi. Finely shredded cabbage smothered in a mustard-posto paste, drizzled with mustard oil and cooked in banana leaf parcels.
And of course the ubiquitous dalna. Let me settle for a Kumror Dhokar Dalna. I tell myself. A sublime symphony of sweet pumpkin and chana dal paste. Fried to a sinful golden. In a delicately flavored tomato-yogurt curry, perfumed with whole spices and spiked with ginger.
I visit and revisit the menu several times during the course of the day. I add a tomato chutney (how did I miss that in the first run ? I chuckle) and fuss on the dessert, finally endorsing my Chhanar Payesh.
It’s while I turn to my blog to refer to the recipe of Moong Phulkopir Ghonto do I realise that it doesn’t yet feature in the blog.
How could that be the case ? I murmur.
And this hasty post on Moong Phulkopir Ghonto follows.
Moong Phulkopir Ghonto. A mellifluous symphony of cauliflower and moong dal. The perfume of ginger. The heat of chillies. A generous dollop of ghee. Divine !!!