What is for lunch? I ask Ma on my way back home from school.
Today is Niraamish, Ma says with a smile.
No Chicken or Mutton? Not even fish or egg for lunch today? I frown and ask, swaying the strap of my water bottle in circular motion.
But don’t we eat your sister and your favourite Niraamish dishes on Thursdays? Then why complain? Mumbles Ma.
Oh wait, did you make Enchor, Pui Shaak or Phulkopir Rosha? My eyes gleam with hope.
No, even better than these. Ma says in a sweet voice as we approach home.
As I run towards the door to open in at a lightning speed so that I do not miss even a small portion of my favourite serial “Shaanti,” Ma whispers in my ears in a singsong tone: CHANAR DALNA it is!
Famished, I dig into my bowl of Chanar Dalna, while appreciating the beauty of Mandira Bedi and her long, curly hair. The Chana is soft and perfectly shaped into flat rounds. The Dalna (gravy) is light, yet well-balanced in spices. With hand, I mash the potatoes with rice and add some jhol (broth) from the Chanar Dalna to make a delicious feast. Each flattened Chana spheres has a tiny raisin inside. Every bite is moreish, every bite is comforting: just like my Ma’s love.
This is just a postcard from the memories of my childhood. Chanar Dalna is still very much a star of my Niraamish Bengali spread, especially on the days when we choose to go all veg for religious reasons. Otherwise also, I love to cook Chanar Dalna on all special occasions or to make even a drab day special. The Bengali Chanar Dalna is definitely going to be one of the dishes that I will be cooking on Durga Pujo 2020, as this recipe doesn’t use onion or garlic. This recipe of Chanar Dalna is pretty much a constant since years. I use homemade and freshly ground cumin and coriander powders for an unbeatable aroma and flavour in my no-onion, no-garlic Chanar Dalna. My homemade Garam Masala powder has two one-inch cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves and eight green cardamoms: roasted lightly and then ground to a fine powder. I always make small batches of Bengali Garam Masala, so that the aroma is maximum.
If you like this Bengali recipe, do give it a five-star rating. If you make it, do let me know in the comments or on @purabinaha on Instagram. And here’s my new Youtube Channel for other yummy recipes.
Chanar Dalna | Traditional Bengali Paneer Without Onion and Garlic
- 250 g Homemade soft Chenna (not too dry)
- 2 tsp Maida (refined flour)
- Around 15 Raisins
- 250 g Potato (diced)
- 2 tsp Ginger paste
- 2 Medium-sized tomato (finely chopped)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 Cinnamon stick: 1 inch
- 4 Green cardamoms
- 6 Cloves
- ¼ tsp Cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek seeds
- ¼ tsp Fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp Freshly ground coriander powder
- 1 tbsp Freshly ground cumin powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- ½ tsp Red chilli powder
- ½ tsp Homemade Bengali Garam Masala powder
- 1 tsp Sugar (optional, but really enhances the flavour)
- Salt According to taste
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 4 Green chillies (slit)
- ½ cup Mustard oil
- 2.5 cups Warm water
- Mix the refined flour, 1 tsp ginger paste and 1 tsp salt with the chenna/chana/paneer. Mash it with hand for some time, until no cracks develop on rolling a small portion of the dough into a ball.
- Make small chenna balls from the dough. Flatten each and put a raisin inside. Re-roll and flatten a bit, as shown in the main pic.
- Heat the mustard oil in a shallow pan. Once hot, reduce the flame to a minimum. Slowly put the discs of Chenna into hot oil and fry carefully, until light golden on both sides. Remove on an absorbent paper and keep aside. Always fry the Chenna discs in batches, so that these do not break.
- In the same oil, fry the potatoes with 1 tsp salt. When the potatoes turn golden, remove them into a plate lined with absorbent paper.
- Using a sieve, filter the hot oil, in case it has black residue. Careful with this step, as the oil is very hot!
- Clean the pan of any remaining residue and heat it again. Add the filtered hot oil into the clean pan.
- Add bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and green cardamoms to the oil.
- After a few seconds, add cumin, fenugreek and fennel seeds.
- As soon as the fenugreek seeds darken a bit, add a paste of turmeric powder, ginger, red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. Sauté continuously to avoid the spices getting burnt.
- Add the finely chopped tomatoes and cover. Sauté after every 2 min, until the tomatoes are mushy.
- Add warm water, potatoes, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. Cover and bring this to a boil.
- Stir and add the homemade garam masala powder, green chillies and the flattened Chenna balls. Simmer for 10 min.
- Check for the salt and adjust accordingly. Add ghee, stir and switch off the flame. Transfer into a serving bowl immediately.