I sit ruminating this morning, thinking of the origins of Bengali cuisine and the influences that have shaped it to its current form. How wonderfully eclectic, I chuckle to myself, well, I might be biased, but I would really struggle to identify any other Indian cuisine that has so gracefully embraced and ungrudgingly accommodated elements from so many disparate cuisines over centuries, and in the process reinvented itself every time.
The list is rather scholastic – Islamic invaders, Portugese traders (did they not enlighten us on the science of curdling milk ?), the French, Tipu Sultan’s family unceremoniously deported post the fall of Mysore, Wajid Ali Shah’s successors ignominiously exiled to Calcutta, English colonialists (do we not adore our batter fish fries ?) the Jews, the Armenians (they introduced us to the exotic dolma, didn’t they ?), I could go on and on !!
I cook a classic lamb curry this morning, mouri mangsho, lamb stewed in cream perfumed with earthy fennel, refreshingly different from a traditional Bengali Sunday mutton curry or even the Irish-influenced lamb stew.
I try to unravel the mystery of the genesis of mouri mangsho, but struggle to do so.
Maybe a youthful exuberant English chef just introduced to the magic universe of Indian spices ?
Or a bored randhuni-thakur in the hallowed Jorasanko kitchens idly experimenting with new-age ingredients and techniques inported from the west that are taking the culinary world of the metropolis by storm ?
Or an anonymous youth in Kidderpore, with a proud lineage that traces back to the bawarchis of the Nawab of Oudh, playfully attempting a marriage of Avadhi flavours with English ones ?
Hope I learn some day 🙂
Mouri diye mangsho (Mutton with fennel seeds and cream)
- 500 g mutton cut into small pieces
- 100 g baby potatoes
- 150 ml fresh cream
- 100 g shallots
- 3 tbsps onion paste
- 2 tsps ginger paste
- 3 tbsps fennel powder
- 2 tsps fennel seeds
- 2 - 3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black pepper powder freshly crushed (more if you can take it :))
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1/3 cup mustard oil
- sugar to taste
- salt to taste
- Marinate mutton with fresh cream, crushed pepper (lots of it :-)) and salt for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan and saute the baby potatoes and shallots. Keep aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan, throw in bay leaves and fennel seeds. Allow them to splutter.
- Now stir in the onion paste and fry till golden brown. Add the ginger paste and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mutton along with the marinade, sprinkle in the fennel powder and continue to cook over a low heat till the meat is almost cooked. Splash a little warm water if it's getting a bit too dry.
- Add the baby potatoes and shallots and cook for a further 10 odd minutes.
- Finish with a hearty dollop of ghee and serve hot with rice.