Eid Mubarak and Shubho Bijoya to all of you! Born a Hindu and brought up embracing all faiths, I am always amazed to find how different festivals from different faiths almost always coincide with each other – as if, underlining my belief that we are ultimately bound by only one faith… that of humanity.
This year, the pujo bumper came via a feature on me and Bengal in GoodFood Middle East’s 7th Anniversary Bumper issue in Food Safari: Bengal. The article chalks out my childhood, my food and travel memories and Bengali cuisine, followed by the recipes of Bhapa Mishti Doi and Shorshe Bata Salmon or Mustard Salmon (here’s another version of Mustard Salmon with French mustard paste in my blog), the signature mustard fish preparation with Salmon. Every year, around the five-day long autumn festival that surrounds around Durga Pujo, I anxiously wait for the Facebook uploads from our Bengali friends and family living around the world for an annual update on food and fashion ideas that are born during the Durga Pujo! This time, my brother led me through a journey of ‘Pandal hopping’ in Kolkata. He also shared his experiences of witnessing the Bishorjon, the immersion of idols in the River Ichamati, along the borders of India and Bangladesh under the strict vigilance of the Border Security Forces, courtesy Whatsapp. I have also shared the beautiful images in this post with his kind permission.
Food Safari: Bengal, in BBC Good Food Middle East, October issue
Both dishes are legendary dishes in Bengali Cuisine – obviously not Mustard Salmon, but the Bengali mustard fish, although these two dishes don’t encompass everything Bengali Cuisine has to offer. If you are so interested, do read my encyclopaedic post on Bengali Cuisine. Following are some of the behind-the-scene shots of the photo shoot on the day the BBC Good Food team came home. The actual photographs in the feature look gorgeous (taken from the other side of the table), so do grab yourself a copy and let me know what you think.
My Bhapa Mishti Doi on The Travel Show of Dubai Eye 103.8FM too
The protagonist in the last few months in my life has definitely been the Bhapa Mishti Doi. Just a few days back, I had been chatting with Mark Lloyd and Lucy Taylor on the Travel Show of Dubai Eye 103.8FM about Kolkata, Bengali food, my blogging journey, Bhapa Mishti Doi and more. Sharing the podcast – note the mmms as both Lucy and Mark relish the taste of Bhapa Mishti Doi on air!
My thoughts on Mishti Doi and Mishti in general
Mishti or sweets ‘belong’ to Bengalis. You will find many famous Indian sweet shops outside Bengal with a Bengali Sweet counter. Yes, even in Dubai – in Bikanerwala, Chappan Bhog and others. Sweets are a necessary sign-off for a traditional Bengali meal. The Chutney signals an end to a meal and beginning of a more formal dessert tasting. Chutneys can be sweet and tangy and can be made with every conceivable fruit, sometimes even vegetables. The choices in the Mishti category are absolutely endless. While Roshôgolla or the Rasgulla rules the popularity chart, the one dessert that comes a close second is definitely the Mishti Doi or the sweet yoghurt. While the making of the traditional Mishti Doi can be pretty time consuming and there is always the apprehension of whether the Doi will come out perfect, the Bhapa Mishti Doi or the baked sweet yoghurt can be pretty easy, if one is using store bought condensed and evaporated milk to fasten up the process. Bake a bit longer if you find that it’s not set yet! In Kolkata, if you enter any sweet shop, you will get to see a stack of earthen pots in different sizes like the above where Mishti Doi is set in earthen pots like these. The traditional preparation of Mishti Doi calls for an elaborate process – caramelising the milk with sugar or Notun Gur, the season fresh jaggery. The thickened milk is then let to ferment overnight in a container which has been coated with fresh yoghurt, which helps in the culture. An earthen pot allows gradual evaporation of water through its pores and provides the right temperature for the yoghurt to set in. Why not make my quick Bhapa Mishti Doi instead?
I feel that Mishti Doi, specially Bhapa Misht Doi caters better to a non-Indian palette more than any other Indian desserts. As I spend more time with food and meet different people through my blogging, I have come to the conclusion that although people may enjoy and experiment with different types of cuisine, it’s not the same with desserts. My non-Indian friends may love Indian food, but when it comes to Indian desserts – they feel that they are too sweet.
I absolutely love Thai food (having had a brilliant experience in the country along with some authentic Thai cooking lessons), but I don’t get excited by Thai desserts at all. The liking for desserts, by and large, is probably an acquired taste. This is where Mishti Doi wins hands down over other Indian desserts. The texture and the taste resembles the crème brûlée or the pudding or the Dulce de leche – Journey Kitchen writes about her version of Mishti Doi – the Baked Dulce de leche Yogurt. The other day, I had dropped in at my friend and food blogger Debbie’s place (she writes as Coffee Cakes and Running) when she was in the midst of making her famous Banoffee Pie. The caramel toffee she had prepared tasted exactly like the Mishti Doi. A few blogger friends who had attended one of my Bengali pop ups in Book Munch earlier on (above), commented how the Mishti Doi would taste like a cheese cake filling if it had been thickened more – thus giving me new ideas – to set a thicker Mishti Doi in a pie crust. That would be my Mishti Doi Tart!
My own experiments on Mishti Doi
While the Mishti Doi Tart is yet to be born in my kitchen, there has been a few successful variants that I am already proud of. My friends and family are an integral part of my kitchen experiments – while the Z-Sisters are never tired of my experiments with Bengali fusion recipes, some friends willingly lend themselves to being the untiring guinea pigs (thanks Shelly). And there are other friends who are my *recipe consultants*. For example, Sumana. She is my authority on desserts – my *dessert consultant*, while with Neel I am always exploring new recipe possibilities. The former has successfully inherited the recipe of Bhapa Mishti Doi, after having tweaked the original recipe from one of my favourite Bengali food blog – Bong Mom’s Cookbook. My recipe has been re-tweaked from Sumana’s. Often, we brainstorm on different Mishti Doi variants. While different flavours of Mishti Doi are not unusual in Kolkata, like Elaichi Doi / Cardamon Doi or the Mango Doi … from vintage sweet shop *Balaram Mullick* (estd in 1885!), we are currently experimenting variations of toppings, without changing the flavour of the original Bhapa Mishti Doi. Here are a few of them…
Bhapa Mishti Doi with pomegranates or the saffron topping – both worked very well (Lucy Taylor commented that the latter tasted like honey). Again, Debbie accidentally discovered during my Bengali pop up event, that the Mango chutney topping (above), which I have to admit worked really well! The next on the pipe line is the hard caramelised topping a la the crème brûlée! I have also tried setting the Bhapa Mishti Doi in one big earthen pot (below) – the challenge lies in not burning the surface, while making sure that it has thickened consistently. I ended up burning the surface as well as the earthen pot and spoilt the look by scraping off the burnt crust. It tasted very good, nevertheless!
Bhapa Mishti Doi or Steamed Sweet Yoghurt
1 ½ can of sweet condensed milk (I used Nestle, each can = 350 gm)
1 can of evaporated milk (I used Rainbow, each can = 410 gm)
1 kg of plain yoghurt
½ tsp saffron strands
- Whisk the sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and yoghurt finely or beat with a hand mixer or in the blender till nice and frothy
- Pour them into small ceramic pots (if you can’t get hold of earthen pots)*
- Sprinkle saffron strands on top (not used in traditional mishti doi)
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Fill a large baking tray with water so that the pots are submerged in the water for about half an inch
- After 30 – 35 minutes the yoghurt will set. It’s ready when the top and the edges start browning a little. At this point insert a tooth pick lightly to see if it is done (the tooth pick should come out clean. It might be a little wobbly but will be all fine once refrigerated. Chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
*Please wash them in running water and let them dry out before you use them.
(Recipe as shared in BBC GoodFood Middle East, October 2014)
The Bhapa Mishti Doi is also a favourite of the Z-Sisters! Do let me know what you think of the recipe… and also the write up of Food Safari on Bengal. Do have a look at the incredible gallery of Durga Pujo in Kolkata – including the Shovabazaar Raajbari Pujo and the Bishorjon in the River Ichamati, as shared by my brother Stay blessed by the Man, the Goddess!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.
My brother’s pick of the most creative idols
Immersion in River Ichamati
And finally, Pujo fashion…