Kolkata: Recipes from the Heart of Bengal, written by Rinku Dutt, features over 70 dishes focusing on the vibrant cuisine and flavors of the city. A few highlights include Chirer Pilau (Pounded Rice with Vegetables), Dhoka’r Dalna (Lentil Cakes in Gravy), Postor Bora (Poppy Seed Fritters), Murgeer Jhol (Bengali Chicken and Potato Curry), and Aam Kheer (Mango Pudding). I will also be sharing her recipe for Aloo Shedo (Bengali Mashed Potato) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Smith Street Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Rinku Dutt grew up in the UK to Bengali parents, is currently based in London, and travels to Kolkata often to see family and friends. She started Raastawala, a Bengali food truck and pop-up restaurant, in 2014 with her husband and father.
She also produced a Great Taste Award-winning chutney, collaborated on a supper club with Asma Khan, filmed many travel blogs about Kolkata, and contributed Indian recipes to several of the Leon cookbooks. This is her first book.
Rinku begins Kolkata with her family memories and passion surrounding food and visits to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
Along with the fantastic recipes, she also shares cultural notes and traditions across the pages including how Bengali cuisine is served.
Chapters are divided according to the following: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Evening Dinner, Family Feasts & Festive Meals, Drinks, Sweets, Bread & Rice, and Accompaniments & Bengali Spices.
The photography is provided by Steven Joyce. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a beautifully-styled photo of the finished dish. Along with the food, there are also photos of the scenery and people in Kolkata.
Measurements are listed in Metric and US Customary. Titles are written in English and romanized Bengali. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, yield, helpful tips, and ingredient notes.
Aloo Shedo (Bengali Mashed Potato)
The Aloo Shedo (Bengali Mashed Potato) recipe is in the Evening Dinner chapter and such a wonderful, easy use for potatoes.
These Bengali mashed potatoes come together in about 20 minutes and use only a handful of ingredients. Rinku states they are a great option for lazy days, after a bit of overindulgence in rich food, or if you just need something comforting.
Peel and cut two potatoes into quarters and boil until tender. Drain well and mash until completely smooth.
Mix the mashed potatoes with finely chopped red onion, green chilli, cilantro leaves, a splash of mustard oil or olive oil, and salt to taste.
Form into individual balls before serving warm with rice and a light dal.
I used two large russet potatoes in this recipe since that is what I had on hand. The ingredients can easily be doubled for more servings.
I also made Dim Pauruti (Bengali-Style French Toast), Chilli Chicken (Indo-Chinese Chicken), Lebur Jhol (Sparkling Lime Drink), and Patishapta (Filled Sweet Pancakes).
The Dim Pauruti (Bengali-Style French Toast) is the first recipe in the book and such an incredible start. This was a particular favorite for Chad. Toasted thick slices of bread are panfried in an egg mixture with red onion, cilantro, and chilli. Once cooked through, they are served with a bit of ketchup.
I especially enjoyed the Chilli Chicken (Indo-Chinese Chicken). Pieces of chicken are marinated in a soy sauce and lemon marinade, coated in a cornstarch mixture, and deep fried until golden. The chicken is then tossed in a sweet and savory sauce with a variety of vegetables. The flavors were fantastic.
The Lebur Jhol (Sparkling Lime Drink) is such a refreshing drink perfect for hot summer days. Traditionally this beverage uses Gondhoraj Lebu lime, but Rinku swapped for the more accessible limes and paired the freshly squeezed juice with sugar, salt, sparkling water, and chopped mint leaves.
Rinku learned how to make the coconut version of these Patishapta (Filled Sweet Pancakes) from her mother and friends. Thin semolina crepes are filled with a cinnamon and cardamom spiced coconut mixture and served warm with an additional sprinkling of desiccated coconut.
Kolkata is a great pick for those interested in Bengali cuisine. There is a wonderful variety of recipes for every time of day and any occasion. Some come together in 30 minutes or less while others require a bit more prep.
Having a market with South Asian ingredients will be helpful in locating black mustard seeds, bird’s eye chillies, kala namak, chapati flour, asafoetida, cardamom pods, sumac, banana leaves, nigella seeds, curry leaves, besan, fenugreek seeds/leaves, and more.
Aloo Shedo (Bengali Mashed Potato) Recipe
Excerpt from Kolkata
Aloo Shedo (Bengali Mashed Potato)
- 2 potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small red onion finely chopped
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- 1 handful coriander (cilantro) leaves finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon mustard oil or olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with boiling water.
- Bring back to a boil over medium heat and cook for a further 6-8 minutes until the potatoes are tender to the point of a knife. Drain well.
- Put the drained potatoes into a mixing bowl and mash until very smooth with a masher or fork.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Divide the mixture into 8 parts.
- Roll each part into a ball in the palm of your hand and place on a serving plate.
- Serve warm with hot rice and a light dal.