'Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India' Recipes and Photos

by Celeste Heiter, Sep 24, 2006 | Destinations: India / West Bengal


This collection of recipes is a six-course feast from the Indian province of Bengal. Recipes include Shrimp Fritters, Catfish in Mustard Sauce, Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mustard Seeds, Rice Pilaf with Spices and Peanuts, Deep-Fried White Flour Puffy Bread, and Deep Fried Milk-Powder Balls in Rose-Scented Syrup. All recipes are excerpted from Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India by Lachu Moorjani is available on Amazon.com , and are reprinted with permission from cookbook author and Berkeley, California restaurateur Lachu Moorjani.


Jhingri Pakora (Shrimp Fritters)


1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cip large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon white poppy seeds
1 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
Oil for deep-frying


Mix all the ingredients except oil and add just enough water to make a thick paste.


Heat the oil in a wok to about 300 to 325 degrees. Using a large spoon, drop 5 to 6 large balls of the paste, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, into the oil and deep-fry to golden brown over medium heat. This may take 6 to 8 minutes for each batch. Do nut fry too many balls at one time. Oil may become cold and the balls may soak up too much oil. Remove fried balls and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until the entire mixture is finished.


Serve with Mint Cilantro Chutney.


Mint Cilantro Chutney


2 to 3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
(see step one below for instructions)
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups loosely packed cilantro (about 1 bunch), thick stems removed
1/2 cup mint leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
1 green serrano chile pepper, about 3 inches long, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt


Make the tamarind concentrate by soaking a large lemon-size ball of tamarind in a small bowl for 1 hour in enough water to cover. Mash with fingers to dissolve. Strain. The final concentrate shold be the consistency of thick buttermilk.


Place all ingredients together in a blender. The blender will work better if moist ingredients (tamarind concentrate, tomato and onion) are pureed first. Taste and adjust for salt and tamarind.


Machi Rai Masala (Catfish in Mustard Sauce)


5 tablespoons oil, divided
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
8 to 10 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium onions, cut in quarters and thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 to 2 teaspoons hot chile pepper powder, to taste
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons cracked mustard seeds (pulsed in a spice or coffee grinder)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 to 2 1/2 pounds catfish fillets, cut in 2 to 3 inch pieces


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 6 to 8 quart saucepot. When hot, add mustard seeds and nigella seeds. When mustard seeds begin to pop, add garlic and saute for about 15 seconds. Add onions and saute over medium-high heat until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir-fry for 6 to 8 minutes.


Add turmeric, paprika, chile pepper powder, cumin, cracked mustard seeds and salt. Saute for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add ground almonds, reduce heat and cook until th eoil separates from the mixture, about 8 to 10 minutes. The sauce at this time wshould be the consistency of porridge.


In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. When hot to the point of smoking, add fish and cook on each side for about 1 minute. Treansfer with a slotted spoon to the sauce in the saucepan. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes, or until fish is cooked and flakes easily.


Sorse Begun (Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mustard Seeds)


1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons oil
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot chile pepper powder, or less to taste
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large globe eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Soak mustard seeds in 2 tablespoons of water for 1 hour. Grind into a paste in a blender or spice grinder. Set aside.


Heat the oil in a 4 to 6 quart saucepan. When hot, add ginger and saute for about 20 seconds. Add onions and saute over medium-high heat until onions become soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add mustard paste and saute for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, all of the spices and salt. Stir and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.


Add and mix eggplant. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.Remove the lid and stir every 2 to 3 minutes.


Bengali Pulav (Rice Pilaf with Spices and Peanuts)


2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup peanuts
1/4 cup raisins
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Seeds from 15 cardamom pods
4 to 5 bay leaves
3 two-inch sticks cinnamon
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon sugar


In a 6 to 8 quart saucepot, heat the oil and butter. When hot, add peanuts and saute until they become light brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add raisins to the oil and butter mixture and saute until they puff up. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.


In the same oil and butter mixture, add ginger, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon. Saute for about 20 seconds.


Add rice. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add water, salt, turmeric and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from stove and fluff the rice with a fork.


Mix in peanuts and raisins.


Luchi (Deep-Fried White-Flour Puffy Bread)


2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
Oil for deep frying


Mix all the ingredients except water. Add water gradually, working it into the flour, mixing and kneading. Do not use all the water at once; add it gradually and use only the amount necessary. Knead the dough well until it is supple and elastic. The exact quantity of water used will vry depending on the type of flour used. Leave the dough covered witha damp cloth for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.


Heat oil for deep-frying in a wok. Lower to medium heat once the oil is hot.


Divide the dough into sixteen portions and form into small balls by squeezing it between your palms. Flatten balls, dust with a little flour and use a rolling pin to roll balls into circles about 4 to 6 inches in diameter and 1/16 inch thick.


Deep-fry until golden brown, turning the luchi once to fry on both sides. Luchi should puff up like a balloon when fired. If this does not happen, the oil is not hot enough.Stop frying and turn up the heat to increase oil temperature before frying more. Place fried luchi on a platter lined with paper towels. Serve warm.


Gulab Jamun (Deep-Fried Milk-Powder Balls in Rose-Scented Syrup)


1 cup powdered milk
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Seeds from 10 cardamom pods
Oil for frying
2 tablespoons rose water


Mix powdered milk, flour and baking soda in a bowl. Be sur to meaure baking soda very carefully as using too much will make the Gulab Jamun very soft. Add whipping cream gradually whild kneading the mixture. Add only as much cream as needed to make a dough.


In a 6 to 8 quert saucepot, heat sugar and water together to make syrup. Add cardamom seeds and stir to mix sugar and water. Turn off the heat when the sugar is dissolved.


Heat oil to 250 degrees F over a smaller burner.


Divide the dough in sixteen portions and roll between your palms into a smooth ball about 1 inch in diameter. Fry the rolled balls a few at a time on a very low heat (the balls should slowly sizzle), util they become golden brown. Dunk the fried balls into the syrup and let them soak for 30 minutes or more. Let the Gulab Jamun and the syrup cool to room temperature, and then add rose water. Warm to about 100 to 110 degrees F before serving. Serve Gulab Jamuns in the syrup.


Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India by Lachu Moorjani is available on Amazon.com.

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