What Exactly is a Bhorta?
Although similar in nature to a bharta, the term "bhorta" in Chattagram, Bangladesh, refers to an array of mashed dishes, which are eaten with rice. It wasn't till the last decade or so when the humble bhorta was noted. Food consultant Nayana Afroz connects this with the rising popularity of the bhorta overseas. "When Kasturi Restaurant in Kolkata started making bhorta, it drew attention. Soon, different kinds of bhorta were served in different parts of the world, including London and the USA, which made a lot of people notice the array of dishes that fall under this category. Previously, people used to see this as something that was eaten at home, when there were just a few things at home to cook and eat. It sustained you." This sustainability is what perhaps made Somnath Roychowdhury and Anwesha Kundu open up Choturdoshpodi recently, a popup kitchen that serves up an array of bhorta in Kolkata, made to order. The range moves from vegetarian to meat, dried fish and eggs. The response they have received from the market is phenomenal.
About the Kalojeere Roshuner Bhorta
Arijit Saha of Dhakai Handi, known for its array of hand-pounded bharta said, "My aunt, who is from Chattagram, would make these for lunch often, and it would almost always be over before we knew it. They make a very simple lunch, and they have health benefits too. Nigella, or Kalojeere, as well as garlic, are both really good for your health. While garlic helps in reducing cell damage and ageing, nigella seeds have been noted for their anti-cancer effects. Mustard oil is also really beneficial for gut health and is known to have analgesic effects on the body.
The recipe provided here should ideally be consumed with hot rice, and maybe a drizzle of mustard oil. In case mustard oil isn't available, any neutral-smelling oil may be substituted. The heat could be adjusted as per the preference of the cook, and a pinch of sugar may be added to increase the taste.
Kalojeere Roshuner Bhorta
10 gm nigella seeds (kalonji)
50 gm. garlic (peeled)
50 gm. onion (chopped)
2-3 whole dried red chillies
Salt to taste
1/3rd cup mustard oil
In a dry pan, add the garlic pods and roast for 3-4 minutes over medium flame till the garlic is lightly charred on the sides, stirring constantly to not get burnt. Heat pan, add all but 1 tablespoon of the mustard oil, then when it is smoking hot, add the dried red chillies, followed by the onion and charred garlic. Saute over low flame for 2-3 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon water. Cover and cook till the garlic looks quite soft, about 10 minutes. Then, remove the cover and add the nigella seeds and salt. Stir it in and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then, remove from heat and make a smooth paste. Heat the remaining mustard oil and cook this paste till oil starts coming out from the mixture. Serve with hot rice
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About Poorna BanerjeePoorna Banerjee is a food writer, restaurant critic and social media strategist and runs a blog Presented by P for the last ten years where she writes about the food she eats and cooks, the places she visits, and the things she finds of interest. She is deeply interested in culinary anthropology, and food history and loves books, music, travelling, and a glass of wine, in that order.