A close friend sends me a gorgeous cabbage from her garden this morning. It’s not easy to grow cabbage, she had explained over phone a couple of days back, but I have been super lucky this year after multiple disappointing failures in the past.
I am elated.
There’s nothing that I adore more than fresh seasonal produce and my memories wander to the growing up years in Karimganj when many a weekend would be spent tending to the plants in the kitchen garden, (the plump pumpkin that had hijacked the red-tiled roof of the cowshed, the delicate bittergourd creepers, the bottle-gourd and ridge-gourd vines, the pretty pink radish and luscious green-purple eggplant, the assortment of greens lined up in neat disciplined rows, to name but a few), drying the seeds and preserving them for the next season, watching Manikkaka water the plants with his battered aluminium watering can or paint an ominous face behind an earthenware shora, this would sit snugly atop a stick donned with one of Bapi’s discarded shirts and was designed, though I would often joke that it rarely succeeded, to discourage birds from ransacking the garden.
What do I do with this cabbage? I muse as I sip my Darjeeling. Chaurasia plays in the background. A thin veil of mist hangs over the horizons, a pair of pigeons scout for twigs.
I am inevitably tempted to try Grandmas bandhakopir ghonto, a sublime symphony of cabbage and peas.
Or the more exotic but delectable chal bandhakopi only to realize my pantry doesn’t have gobindobhog rice. Alas !!
Ok, a spicy macher matha diye bandhakopi then, an excited me ruminates. But my misery continues when I realize there’s no fish head at home.
An SOS call to Maa. It must be late evening her time.
Have you had mouri bandhakopi lately ? Maa asks once I have rattled off my list.
No, I answer, almost salivating at the thought of the mouri bandhakopi that Grandma would stir up.
You are a genius Maa, I hang up.
And a Mouri Bandhakopi is what I cook for lunch. Simple earthy and fuss-free, a delectable pairing of cabbage and fennel seeds, neat flavours and finger-licking delicious !!!
A must-try, I would recommend, as gorgeous winter cabbage hits the markets.
- 1 medium sized cabbage finely shredded
- 1/2 cup cholar dal or bengal gram soaked overnight
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 dry whole red chillies
- 3 tsp fennel powder freshly ground
- 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
- 1.5 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Pressure cook the cabbage and dal with a splash of water. 1 whistle, I would reckon. Allow the pressure to release on its own.
- Heat oil in a pan, throw in the fennel seeds, dry red chilies and bay leaves, allow the spices to splutter.
- Dissolve the ginger paste and 2.5 tsp of fennel powder in a little water to form a paste.
- Add the fennel powder-ginger paste to the pan, cook for a minute or two.
- Add the pressure cooked cabbage and dal, sprinkle in the salt and sugar, give it a hearty mix, saute for 4-5 minutes.
- Pour in the milk, cook over a medium high flame, with occasional stirring, till the milk has almost completely evaporated.
- Adjust seasonings, sprinkle the remaining fennel powder. Finish with a dollop of ghee. Serve hot.