Indrani Banerjee

Can you think of India without our typical ghar ka khaana (the quintessential home-cooked food)? Take away food from India, and you’ve taken away our soul. Gregory David Roberts, the famous author, very rightly said that for Indians, food is the music inside the body and music is the food inside the heart. Indeed. Food is a way of life for us Indians.

Down the ages, food has played an important role in keeping families and societies together. Each Indian state has its signature set of recipes and food. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that each family has its own signature dish(es), developed by the Master Chef in the family.

With my experiences of home-cooking, interest in culinary arts and the love I see in food-lovers, I have realized that family recipes are handed down over generations and remain specific to families and there are interesting stories around food. Did you know that the Dum Biryani actually originated as a meal for the poor in Awadh? I was pleasantly surprised when I read about the humble originations of this dish, considered a royal delicacy fit for feasts.

Through my blog I hope to feature the Master Chefs of our families, family recipes and food stories.

Today, I pick up a recipe that’s been soul food in my family down the ages, and in many other Bengali homes. I also discovered that it doubles up as an amazing filling for sandwiches too, when I had a sandwich at a Birdy’s outlet in Mumbai a few years ago.

Boiled egg and potato mash (Deem-alu-sheddho makha)

Ingredients:

  • Eggs – 4
  • Potato – 2
  • Onions – 1 sliced
  • Green chillies – 2-3 (depends on how spicy you want it)
  • Butter (3-4 dollops) or mustard oil (3-4 teaspoons)
  • Salt to taste

Procedure:

  • Hard boil the eggs, cool, peel and keep aside.
  • Boil the potatoes until soft, cool and peel.

egg-and-potato

  • Now mash the potatoes and eggs together and blend to make a coarse or fine paste, depending on your taste.
  • Add butter or mustard oil and salt and mix well.
  • Garnish with sliced onions and green chilies.

Egg-potato-mash.jpg

  • This mash-up is best enjoyed with steaming hot rice. It also serves as a great filling for sandwiches. For sandwiches, use butter, not mustard oil. You can even add mayonnaise and cheese to it.

How did this mash-up become soul food for my family?

Many families from the current-day Indian Bengali community were displaced from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Bengal) during the partition of India and were forced to live their lives as refugees. Many families came and settled in the north-east and east of India, because of the proximity with Bangladesh. My father was uprooted from his ancestral home (stay tuned for the blog) in Bangladesh during the partition and he filled me in with the stories of his struggle, triumphs and learnings. The story of food was my favourite.

With close to no resources, refugees from East Bengal (Bangladesh) had to rely on foodstuffs that were inexpensive and easily available. A mash-up of boiled eggs, potatoes, mustard oil and onions emerged as a filling and tasty option. Later in life, though their situations improved and they grew in resources and stature, the boiled egg and potato mash continued to adorn their meals and got handed down to their succeeding generations. As a child, this was my staple for breakfast and I found solace in it when my stomach would churn before my exams. Till today, everybody in my family swears by the wholesomeness and comfort of this simple yet wondrous recipe.

Ask any Bengali who is a Bangal (a term used to describe people with roots from East Bengal or Bangladesh) and they will surely tell you that deem-alu-sheddho-makha is pure comfort food.

Do you have a family recipe or a food story to share? Do you want to feature the Master Chef in your family? Write to me at quadrantsoflife@gmail.com, or leave behind a comment.

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