Recipe from the past: Kumro r khosha Diye Mosoor Dal (Red lentil cooked with pumpkin skin)
My parents come from a thrifty background. Partition, migration, war in 1971 and being refugee had an immense impact on the way my parents grew up, their values, life style and the food they consumed. My father worked in small grocery shop to get through his education. Then there was my 5 of my uncle’s who lived with my father and my grand parent. My grandfather was the owner of Krishna Nagar Bazar in Neyajpur, Bangladesh and they had agricultural land. According to my thakuma ma (paternal grandmother), the bazaar was worth 1cr in 1950. However, when one of my grandfather’s brothers was murdered, cut into pieces and was send home to my grandfather during the partition, he left Neyajpur with just two bags and his whole family. Later they went back, but by then the bazaar was gone and taken by government, agricultural lands were mostly captured as Hindu property. All they could get was some gold that my thakuma dug underneath the mud floor of my ancestral house. Since then for many years they lived in refugee camp before buying land and having a home.
My mother belonged to a wealthy family, they never went to school as school teachers came to their house and taught them, Noakhali Govt collage was once run by my grandfather and is still on their land, they had a black beetle. I have spent a lot of time in what is left of my mama bari. It still has some 300-coconut tree, 5 pond, their own funeral area, their own Ram Thakure r Mondir and a house which is almost 200 years old. However, during the war, the very house was the home to horrific crime against women. According to my grandmother, when they went back home all they saw a headless bodies of women and a toilet tank full of women’s head. My grandfather took very ill after that and the he never really recovered from the horror. My grandmother and the whole family had to return to kolkata. Since then they lived in kolkata in almost hand to mouth situation. My mother was married off as early as 17. She was an extremely good student but being 5 sisters never worked in a family who lost everything and who were depended on just one earning member of the family- my boro mesho. My didon returned to her house after my dadu died in early 1990’s. She did not feel the need to stay back any more. She took my choto mama with her. Since then my didon travels between two country and still finds it difficult to understand the concept of nation state and geographical boundary, so does my father. They never left their own home.
Coming from such background, both my grand mothers had to be innovative in cooking and feeding everyone. So there was no concept of waste, everything was eaten-pumpkin skin, gourd skin, potato skin, potol skin. Therefore, such recipes of dal cooked with pumpkin skin or gourd skin fry or potol skin bhorta was never positioned as innovative cooking idea- but ideas born out of desperation, ideas to feed many with minimum cost.
Being born in the very late 1970’s, I myself felt some of brunt of the time my parents went through. Being a daughter of a professor who earned only Rs700 and had almost 7 people to feed at any point , life was not as smooth as today. Legacy of thrift was passed downed from my grandparents to my parents and then to me. Things changed a lot when we moved to North Africa, my brother who was born at the very late of 80’s does not know what it means to ‘not have’ and I feel good that he had it better than many of us in the family. At the same time, I also feel extremely humbled to have so much now. However, we as a family continue to live very humble and make sure that nothing is ever wasted. We pick up every grain of rice that fall out of our plate, never waste food, never take more than we need and never return any one empty handed from out home who come to seek support.
This simple recipe of Kumro r khosha Diye Mosoor Dal (Orange lentil cooked with pumpkin skin) is my legacy and I am proud to share it with you.
120gm Masoor Dal (red Lentil) washed
½-Komro r Khosha (Pumpkin Skin) thinly sliced (use as much as you have. There is no real quantity to it. I used 1/4 of pumpkin’s skin)
1- teaspoon Panch Phoron
Salt to taste
Method 1: Short cut for kaam chor’s like me
1. Heat oil in a pan
2. When hot, add red chili and panch phoron
3. When panch phoron starts to splutter add hot water
4. Let the water boil a little, add masoor dal ( yellow lentil )
5. Add turmeric, salt and bay leaf
6. Boil until masoor dal is almost done
7. Add the pumpkin skin
8. Cook until dal and skin is cooked. You can keep in dry if you like. Otherwise, add more water if needed. Add green chili just before taking off the flame.
9. Eat with white rice
Method 2: the way my mother cooks it
1. Boil water in a pan
2. Add Masoor dal, salt and turmeric
3. When Masoor dal is almost done add pumpkin skin
4. Cook until both dal and the skin is cooked
5. In a separate pan heat oil for tarka or sombar
6. Add red chili, bay leaf and panch phoron
7. When panch phoron starts to splutter add the boiled dal with skin
8. Add water depending on desired consistency. Add green chili and boil for 5-10 mins.
9. Serve with white rice