Sunday afternoons were the only time Bapi managed some respite from his otherwise hectic, often punishing, schedule.
Of course there was the occasional emergency that would still need him to rush to the hospital, but by and large it was quiet.
The long daalaan, with her glazed red oxide floor, stark white-washed walls and high ceiling supported by teak rafters, that separated the rooms from the verdant green backyard, was the hub of activity.
The Sunday daily would lie in confusion around Bapi, a ball-point pen dangling between his fingers, he focused on the last couple of words that would complete the crossword. The latest Desh Potrika, visibly tired from her arduous trip from the printing presses of Calcutta, waited patiently for her turn to be picked up. The sun-bleached maroon Ikat cushions lay in disciplined harmony on the ancient rattan chair, the resident pigeons strutted around vainly, the mischievous sparrows chased each other silly. Grandmas vintage gramophone record player, that were still out of bounds for either Dada or me, hummed Tagore classics and tea, stewed endlessly in the battered aluminium saucepan and sweetened generously with tablespoons of sugar, flowed.
Grandma would be in her ancient rocking chair, the leather-bound Ramayana on her lap, speaking occasionally to Bapi in whispers.
This is Mother-son time, Bapi would remind me if I disturbed him often, go and get your crayons and drawing book. Have you tried drawing the bulbul yet ?
The red crested bulbuls were the newest visitors in the garden.
Joining the pandemonium of cantankerous parakeets, the lonely wise owl, the melancholy cuckoo and the gorgeous bou kotha kou. Yes, and the thirsty chatok pakhi during sultry summers, pining for rains.
Bapi loved Grandma. And Sunday afternoons were his time with her.
Didi would be in the kitchen, Maa by her side, furiously assembing the phulkopir singara that Bapi and Grandma adored.
Do not overheat the oil, Maa reminded Didi as she prepared to release the assembled singaras into the kadai nestled on the oonoon.
Phulkopir Singara. Home-made samosas with a delectable cauliflower filling. The crunch of toasted peanuts. The luxury of that hidden raisin. And the fire of the odd chilli you occasionally bit into.
What a life that was !!!
This is my version of Didi’s Phulkopir Singara, baked rather than deep-fried, but every bite just as delectable.
A must-try I would insist for the weekend !!!
Phulkopir Singara (Cauliflower Samosa)
For the cauliflower stuffing
- 1 medium sized cauliflower cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh green peas
- 1/4 cup peanuts roasted
- 2 tbsp raisins soaked in water for 15 minutes
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp green chilies finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp bhaja masala
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- salt to taste
For the Singara cases
- 1.5 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- oil for brushing
For Bhaja masala
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 dry red chilies
For the cauliflower stuffing
- Heat oil in a pan, throw in the cumin seeds, allow them to sputter.
- Now add the cauliflower florets and green peas, sprinkle in the turmeric powder, saute for 3-4 minutes over a high flame.
- Stir in the ginger paste, add the green chillies, peanuts and raisins, cook over a medium flame for another 6-7 minutes till the cauliflower florets are just tender. (You don’t want the cauliflower to be over-cooked and mushy) Splash a little water if it is getting a wee bit too dry.
- Season with salt, sprinkle the bhaja masala and mix well. Keep aside.
For the singara cases
- Take the plain flour and whole wheat flour in a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the salt, add the vegetable oil. Mix well till the oil is well incorporated into the flour.
- Make a well in the flour, add 1/4 cup of warm water. Gently mix the water and flour and start kneading with your fingers.
- Gradually add more warm water as needed till the dough becomes firm but soft and pliable when rolled. Cover with a damp cloth for 30 odd minutes.
- Divide the dough into medium balls, using a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball to an oval shape as shown in the picture.
- Cut the oval diagonally just as shown in the picture. Brush the edges with a little water. Bring the straight edges gently together to form a hollow cone.
- Hold the cone in your hand, just like I have done in the picture and fill it with cauliflower stuffing.
- Now press the open mouth of the cone, as in the picture and give it a double fold to seal it. Your singara is now ready to be baked.
- Repeat the same procedure for the remaining dough.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush the singaras with a little vegetable oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till the crust is golden outside.
- Serve hot.
For Bhaja masala
- I usually stock up my bhaja masala. Take all the ingredients and roast them patiently over a low flame and then ground to a powder. Stays fresh and aromatic for about a fortnight if kept in an airtight container.