Hey guys, Pujo is almost here…are you not excited? In just a couple of days, we Bengalis across the globe will be celebrating Durga Puja; a five-day festival, this festival marks the worship of Goddess Durga and celebrates her win against the evil demon ‘Asur’. Now, if you’re a Bong like me, I don’t need to entail what this festival stands for to us; for the uninitiated however, Durga Puja is all about unbridled ‘adda’ or gossip, visiting Puja pandals across the city/town with friends and/or family, getting dressed up and flaunting your latest ‘Pujo look’, and most importantly, gorging on glorious food…
Now, let’s get down to today’s dish; What is Ghugni, you might ask? Ghugni is a popular street-food and snack available in abundance throughout eastern Indian states like Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, as well as in some northern cities like Delhi, Lucknow, etc. The preparation and taste differs across states and cities, but essentially, Ghugni is a semi-dry dish made with dried yellow/white peas, and is usually…vegetarian. Not this one though…oh no 😉
Mangsher or Mangshor Ghugni is a popular version of the Bengali ghugni, and uses tiny pieces of mutton on the bone in the curry. It is often served on special occasions, such as, you guessed it, Durga Puja. 🙂
Strangely, as a kid growing up in a Bengali home outside Bengal, I was never quite a fan of Ghugni. My Mom and Dida (maternal grandmother) were expert Ghugni makers, but I would hardly enjoy a couple of bites, before I lunged for some other delicacy. To me, the north Indian ‘Chole’ was heaven, and thus, the humble Ghugni got to make its rare appearances only during Durga Puja, or specifically, on the day of Bijoya Dashami (Vijaya Dashami). Armed with a plate that consisted of a bowl of Ghugni, some Kucho Nimki (namakpare), some Pantuas (Bengali gulab jamun) and Jhumko Goja (Deep fried sweet dunked in syrup), I would go up and down the staircase, carrying these goodies and offering ‘Pronaam’ to elders.
So many memories..
Now my Maa, she has some completely different memories of the Ghugni…of school days and a Ghugni-wala Dadu, of almost missing the late bell while having second servings of Ghugni….but we shall leave that for a ‘true’ Ghugni post.
The Mangsher Ghugni is made at our ancestral home by my Mother’s aunts, mostly between Pujo and Diwali. Maa has had made this a few times only, decades back, and hasn’t since. So this year, I took up the reigns, and decided to give it a try. I’m happy to report, it was a resounding success.
Now as you would probably know, ghugni by itself, while tasty, is like an empty box of gift…what could have been, but has not. So, it is a MUST that you serve Ghugni with the following condiments:
- Kancha peyanj or chopped onions (preferably the pungent kind)
- Dhonepata kuchi or chopped cilantro (fresh)
- Kucho lonka or finely chopped green chilies (the spicier the better)
- Lebu or a lemon/lime wedge…and
- Bhaja moshla or roasted spice powder (a mix of dry roasted cumin and red chili powder)
I’ve served the Mangsher Ghugni in a bowl made of Sal leaves, with a wooden ice cream spoon; just how you’ll find it at street-corners 😉
A small tip; many people find it challenging to cook ‘Ghugnir Motor’ or white/yellow peas. They either overcook and turn it into mush, or under-cook it and end up with hard stones. In that case, you may use chana/chole or chickpeas….BUT…remember, the taste will NOT be the same. Do so at your own risk 😛
Mangsher Ghugni (White/Yellow Peas with Mutton)
- Ghugnir motor/White or yellow peas (dried) – 2 cups (about 300 gms)
- Mutton – 250 gms (cut into inch-sized pieces with bone, preferably ribs)
- Onions – 3 or 4 medium-sized, chopped
- Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp
- Tomato puree – 1 cup (not canned, fresh puree or paste)
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Bay leaves – 2
- Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander powder – 1 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Kashmiri red chili powder – 1 tsp (for colour, optional)
- Garam masala powder – 1 and 1/2 tsp (adjust)
- Turmeric – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Sugar – 1/2 tsp approx
- Mustard oil – 1/2 cup
- Coriander leaves – 1 cup (some reserved for garnish)
- Chopped onion – 2 tsp
- Chopped green chilies – 2 to 3
- Lemon wedges
- Bhaja moshla (dry roasted spice powder; mix of cumin and red chili, dry roasted and powdered)
- Soak the peas in water for a minimum of 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Next morning, rinse them, drain water and keep aside.
- Heat a pressure cooker with the oil, and add cumin and bay leaves.
- When they sputter, add the chopped onions, turmeric and sugar.
- Saute well, and let them turn translucent.
- Now add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute, before adding in the tomato puree/paste.
- Mix well, and let the masala simmer for a minute, turning it every now and then.
- Add the pieces of mutton into the masala, and mix.
- Add the dry spices; cumin and coriander powder, red chili powder, and Kashmiri red chili powder.
- Keeping the heat on high, let the masalas coat the mutton well.
- Now add the peas, and mix again, and add salt.
- Cover with a lid (don’t shut the pressure lid yet), and bhuno for 4 to 5 mins on a medium-low flame. (This ensure the masalas are cooked well, and the peas and mutton are sauteed very well with the masalas.)
- Once the masala has released oil, add the garam masala powder and chopped coriander.
- Mix, and add water (double the amount of peas), and cover the lid and add the whistle.
- Allow 4 to 5 whistles, turn off heat, and let pressure release. Open the lid and check…the ghugni/peas shouldn’t be mushy but just soft enough to squeeze between your fingertips.
- Check seasonings and gravy consistency; if too thin, boil for a few minutes until ghugni is semi-dry.
- Serve individual portions and garnish with chopped onions, green chilies, a lemon wedge and some bhaja moshla.
- Enjoy hot, spicy and tangy Mangsher Ghugni…
- You may choose to boil the peas and mutton separately, and then mix. We do not.
- You may add whole garam masala. We don’t like biting into a clove or cardamom with each mouthful, thus, garam masala powder.. I use Everest Garam Masala Powder when in a crunch, you can make your own and store, as I do normally.
- Serving suggestions – Have this by itself, or with Luchi (Pooris) or even plain Roti 😀