Saturday, August 1, 2015

Kashundi - A Mustard Relish From Bengal


 I was horror struck  when a sharp, hot and pungent sting hit my nostrils as it raced through my palate and rocketed beyond! I found myself breathless and fumbling for water, water and more water ! Yes, I had just tasted a spoon of 'Kashundi' which was just then freshly prepared by Dibs! I was stupefied when I learnt that the Bengali Mustard Relish had to be savoured very little at a time, that too along with the main course! How did I forget the Tamil adage 'Kadugu siruttaalum kaaram kuraiyaadu'?  Meaning  'Mustard is miniscule, but its heat is not!'
This miniscule spice which pops up in the seasoning of every day cooking in every Indian household has been in cultivation in India since the time of Indus Valley Civilization. I have used the ancient spice in powdered form in my pickles, or ground only about a spoon with coconut and chillies for my Sasves or Mor Kuzhambus. I was amazed when I found out that Kashundi - a creamy and appealing dish from Bengal - was an out and out Mustard preparation. It can be added to various dishes similar to other masalas while cooking. It can also be relished as a pickle or dip with  meals and snacks.
Traditionally the ingredients were placed on a rough and heavy stone slab called Shil in Bengali (Ammi Kal in Tamil). A cylindrical stone called Noda in Bengali ( Kuzhavi in Tamil ) was rhythmically rolled over the ingredients till they were crushed and ground  to a paste drawing out excellent  flavours.
Here is how Dibs prepared the lip smacking, flavoursome Bengali Mustard Relish -  KASHUNDI using her blender.

 Mustard seeds (Black / White) - 2 cups
Mustard oil - 1 cup
White vinegar - 1/2 a cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Bhoot Jolokia also known as Ghost Pepper - 1 or Green Chillies - 5 to 6
( Beware Bhoot Jolokia or the Assamese chilly is one of the world's hottest! You can replace it with  normal green chillies if you are not game for the super hot 'bhoot' !)
1. Soak the mustard seeds in vinegar and little water overnight.
2. Add salt, sugar, turmeric powder and green chillies to the mustard-vinegar mixture, and grind all the ingredients together into a paste. ( It can be slightly coarse or very smooth as per your requirement).

3. Little more water can be added  as required if the paste is too thick.
4. Pour in the mustard oil when the paste is done and blend once again.
5. Store the Kashundi in a clean air tight glass jar.
The antibacterial property of the Mustard seeds acts as a preservative and lends Kashundi a long shelf life. 
Savour only very little at a time. Dipping a finger in the Relish for every morsel of Rice and dal  (Dal Chawal) is the best way to enjoy Kashundi. Thanks to the guidance of my son-in-law ! I have now learnt to relish the Bengali KASHUNDI with every meal and 'tiffin' too without the least bit of hesitation!