It was in the year 1757 , just after the victory of the British over Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah of Bengal at the historic, Battle of Plassey, that Raja Nabakrishna Deb started the Durga Pujo at the Sovabajar Rajbari. Lord Clive was the esteemed guest of honour and there was unprecedented revelry – decadent feasts, music and dance.
Times have moved on, but the Durga Pujo continues to this day at the Sovabazar Rajbari with pomp and splendour.
One of highlights of the Pujo is that Maa Durga’s Vaahan Singha (or lion) has the face of a horse here and is pristine white. Also it is said that the face of Maa Durga continues to be made using the same mould as was used in 1757.
There is no offering of annobhog at the Sovabazar Rajbari. Instead the deity is offered a luxuriant spread of sweets and savoury delicacies.
Sweets include darbesh, khaja , peraki , motichoor laddoo to name but a few. And of course Pokanno, a special sweet offered to the deity on all three days of the Pujo.
The list of savoury items sees the gorgeous poddo nimki , khasta kochori with dal and singara (Bengali Samosa) again with a delicious dal filling.
(Any guesses why the ubiquitous potato doesn’t feature in the singara stuffing ? You got it spot on, potatoes hadn’t yet arrived in Bengal when the Durga Pujo started at the Rajbari. Potatoes, as I understand, do not feature in any bhog offered to Maa Durga)
Today in the seventh post of my Mahabhog series I recreate Pokanno, a unique sweet offered to the Goddess at the Sovabazar Rajbari, following the exact steps explained by the haluikar Mr Ajit. I am thankful to him for patiently detailing every step of the recipe.
I am extremely grateful to Mr Soumit Narayan Deb for allowing me to share this family recipe with my readers .
Pokanno. Besan bhujiyas fried in ghee. The richness of khoya. The luxury of cashew nuts, raisins and pistachios. All rolled lovingly to laddoos. Heirloom recipe of the Rajbari.
Food heaven !!!
If you are keen to learn what is served to the deity in the various bonedi barir Pujo as part of their bhog, do stay tuned for more !!
And if you haven’t already, here’s my posts on what’s in the bhog offered to Maa Durga.
1. Shibpur RoyChowdhury Barir Kolar Borar Payesh
2. Sabarna Roy Choudhury Barir Pui Chingri
3. Chorbagan Chatterjee Barir Niramish Bhetki Maacher Ghonto
4. Bhawanipur Nandan Barir Chandrapuli
5. Girish Bhawan er Chhanar Kalia
6. Rani Rashmoni Barir Perakir Payesh
PS – Please do not reproduce the content without appropriate permission.
Shovabazar Rajbarir Pokanno
- 2 cups besan or bengal gram flour
- 100 g khoya or milk solids grated
- 2 tbsp cashew nuts roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp raisins roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp pistachios roughly chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
- 1/2 cup ghee
- oil for frying
- Take 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a deep bottomed pan, allow to simmer till a thick syrup, of about a 2 string consistency, is formed. Sprinkle the green cardamom powder over the syrup, give it a hearty mix. Let the syrup rest over the hot burner.
- Take the besan in a bowl. Add water slowly to the besan to make a thick batter (little thicker, I would say, than your regular cake batter). (I used about 1/2cup water for 2cups of besan) Whip the besan vigorously for 5 odd minutes to ensure there are no lumps. Keep aside, 10 minutes or so.
- Take 6-7 cups of water in a wide mouthed bowl.
- The recipe calls for frying only in ghee, I have taken the liberty to add half a cup of ghee to my frying oil.
- When the oil-ghee mixture is hot , take the perforated ladle, hold it carefully above your fry pan, give the batter one last hearty stir, take a ladleful of the batter and pour it over the ladle. Gently press with the other ladle, while moving in a circle. Droplets of the besan batter shall fall into the oil, rapidly forming long bhujiya (jhuri bhaja) like structures (As shown in the picture in recipe not). (If the batter is too thin, it shall form round shaped boondis. You have to add little a more besan to get the consistency right)
- Fry the bhujiyas till they catch a tinge of light golden. Take out from the oil with another perforated ladle and immediately drop into the water you have kept aside in the big bowl. Just 10 secs or so. Take out of water and keep on a plate.
- Repeat the process for the remaining batter.
- Reheat the syrup if it’s gone cold. Add the fried bhujiyas to the warm syrup, mix well. Add the chopped nuts and grated khoya. Give another hearty mix.
- Grease your palm now with a little ghee, carefully make medium sized laddus of the mixture when it is still hot. The texture of the laddus shall be soft and moist.
- Keep over a greased plate, allow them to rest 3-4 hours before serving.