Like any other above average Indian home cook in the United States, I’ve been told over the years by American dinner guests that I should open a restaurant etc. It’s flattering to be told this, of course, even if in the context of most Indian restaurants in the US it seems like somewhat dubious praise. Of course, I am never going to open a restaurant. But two and a half years ago I decided to scratch that occasional itch without flirting with bankruptcy, and launched a little series of “pop-up in my own home” dinners for eight. As a tribute to the North American curry house I call it India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. The guests are all friends and friends of friends and the dinners have become quite popular. I’ve done 14 of them so far. The first 13 were seven course meals with each course served individually plated. The recipe I have today was the second course at the tenth dinner. It is, as you will see, very much a slight play on a very traditional dish. I thought it came out very well, and the diners enjoyed it very much.
As I am Bengali one of the things I played around with in the original incarnation of these dinners was a rough approximation of the structure of a formal coursed Bengali meal which features bitter greens early on. Indeed, the only repeated dish across the dinners so far has been a version of sauteed bitter greens with kashundi, the Bengali mustard sauce. For the tenth dinner I was going to make a dal with broccoli but at the last moment decided to substitute the broccoli for the bitter greens for that course. It turned out rather well. Here is the very simple recipe. Well, the recipe is simple but you do have to get your hands on some proper Bengali kashundi. Considering I can do that at South Asian grocery stores in the Twin Cities—the excellent Little India market on Central reliably has it—I don’t think that should be too difficult for anyone in a major metro.
Ingredients (to serve 8 as a first course)
- 1 lb broccoli, broken into florets
- 1 tspn panch phoron
- 8 dried red chillies, broken in half
- 1/2 tspn turmeric
- Oil, preferably mustard oil
- 8 tblspns kashundi
- Heat the mustard oil in a large karhai or wok (carbon steel is best, in my opinion) till just smoking.
- Add the panch phoron and the broken red chillies. Stir-fry vigorously till the chillies are glossy and beginning to puff up but be careful not to scorch them.
- Add the broccoli, turmeric and salt, mix thoroughly and continue to stir-fry vigorously till the broccoli just begins to brown.
- Divide among 8 small plates with one broken chilly in each plate and drape a tblspn of the kashundi over the middle.
- This goes very well with dal and rice even if you’re not doing a frou-frou seven course meal.
- The most recent dinner, the 14th, featured four larger savoury courses and dessert. The savoury courses were served “family style” as is conventional for Indian food even in most high-end restaurant settings. The next dinner will also be in this format and I’m considering bringing this stir-fry back as the first course.