A well-made recipe video draws our attention to the raw ingredients laid out in glistening bowls, close shots of the mouth-watering process of food being cooked and then the delightful sight of a dish so tempting that it makes one want to rustle it up immediately. The founders of Lost and Rare Recipes, Subhajit Bhattacharyya and Amit Ghosh Dastidar, take My Kolkata behind the scenes to their Chetla kitchen, allowing us a glimpse into their culinary process which involves heating the oil as precisely as roasting each other! What slices through all the jabs and julienne, is their evident love for the art.
Look out for the recipe series – Thakurbari or Maharani Gayatri Devi – on the YouTube channelPhotos: Ritagnik Bhattacharya
Cooking in the time of Covid
Subhajit and Amit are partners at the event management company, The Event Managers, and the penchant for simplicity also reflects in the self-explanatory nomenclature of their recipe channel, Lost and Rare Recipes. After a decade in the event management business, it took a pandemic to drive the two of them to pursue seriously, a long-simmering passion. “Subhajit has always been a fantastic cook, but it was always limited to friends and family only. When we started discovering all these rare recipes from Bengal, we decided we wanted to document it as a part of our culinary history,” says Amit, the man behind the camera in the kitchen.
Behind every flawless recipe video is a videographer chewing out the chef. “Look at him cooking as though he’s in his own kitchen, not giving me any space!” grumbles Amit, as he arranges the ingredients of an intriguing dish – Chingri Korola Purpuri, which has its origins in the Natore district of Bangladesh. It’s the first in their Bangladesh series, which includes 12 dishes from 11 districts.
Although Amit Ghosh Dastidar (left) is the video editor for the recipe channel, the journey has also kindled in him a desire to cook. ‘I was never much of a cook before, but interest in anything is half the battle won. I’ve discovered that it’s a great stressbuster,’ says Amit
“He’s always asking me to sit down and stand up! At this rate, I’m going to lose weight just sitting down and standing up in the kitchen!” rumbles Subhajit, reluctantly acquiescing to his fist being adjusted while he stirs and pours, being caught off guard by a camera suddenly under his elbow.
They bicker through the process.
“Move that prawn to the top.”
“You can’t see the prawns in the dish! What will I photograph?”
“Just let it cook!”
Subhajit and Amit have both grown up eating elaborate home-cooked food, but they’re starkly aware of the fact that those days are gone. “People don’t have the time to invest in long-winded recipes anymore,” says Amit who grew up in a joint family with its varied members constantly trying their hand at different dishes ranging from Cabbage Soup to Bijoya Mishti. Subhajit’s widowed grandmother found innovative vegetarian dishes to make for the family, which she would always serve with rice. Subhajit himself was cooking by the age of 11, his first dish being Aloo Tikia.
In the pursuit of recipe books
Long before Lost and Rare Recipes became a recipe channel, it was marinating in the background of their lives in the form of a hobby. Subhajit has always been a connoisseur of uncommon recipe books. “Once I started off on this journey, I went deeper and deeper and it has been fascinating. I have a book by Bipradas Mukhopadhyay who passed away in 1914, which means the recipes are at least a century old. I also have two volumes of recipes published by Renuka Devi Choudhurani, who was the wife of the zamindar of Muktagacha and Kalipur in Bangladesh,” explains Subhajit.
Interesting books from the library at their Chetla address include ‘Gourmet’s Gateway’ by Maharani Gayatri Devi, a compilation of recipes from all the princely states, and ‘Regimental Zaikas’ which notes down special dishes from the canteens of the different regiments of India
What started off as a deep dive into culinary history has turned into a process of self-discovery. For Amit, it has been the art of perfecting the video edits. For Subhajit, it has been the joy of plumbing the depths of his interest in the culinary arts. In fact, the recipe channel explores various series such as Amar Didar Ranna, Anglo Indian Cuisine and Amar Barir Ranna. With popular demand they now have a pop-up almost every weekend, which you can preorder and have delivered. They have had their food delivered to New Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bangalore. “I’ve always felt that cooking is an art which needs all five senses – you hear, smell, see it cooking, feel the texture and taste the food,” smiles Subhajit.
‘Roll…. Hold it!’
The heat is palpable during the video shoot. When the aroma of chingri, aloo and korola cooking in the spices, on a low flame, fills the room and is ready to be eaten, Subhajit gets ready to transfer it into a bowl, on the call of Amit’s “Roll”. But seconds later, at “Hold it” he freezes with the ingredients teetering dangerously close to the edge of the deep cooking pan, waiting to spill out into a copper bowl. Everyone holds their breath as Amit focuses on the prawns and potato slowly rolling out. The subtle flavours of the Chingri Korola Purpuri, where the bitter aftertaste of the gourd cuts the spicy gravy of the prawn curry, makes it a perfect accompaniment with plain rice.
It’s been entirely worth the effort of unearthing it from the book Bangladesher Ancholik Ranna, and the subsequent bickering between stove and camera. Watch out for the Bangladesh series on the YouTube channel!
Chingri Korola Purpuri
Look up rare recipes on https://www.youtube.com/c/LostandRareRecipes