Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 40, Tuesday, October 12, 2010



LS editor’s note

The fearful step to knowing

I want to keep this between you and me. It puts less burden on me to share my uncertainties and my fears with people whose faces I don't know and who will never know me either. People who will not preach to me and tell me I am wrong, or give me a complex because I don't have the courage to face my fears.

October always gives me a sinking feeling and a fresh batch of regrets that mock me right in the face. Being the breast cancer awareness month, it points out that another year has gone by and I have still not conquered my fears. I have not gone for my first mammogram yet.

Citing claustrophobia, time problems, reluctance, financial concerns and of course traffic, I have given myself every justifiable pretext to avoid this test. Knowing that mammograms are very valuable and necessary for women who are 40 and older and that for a few moments of discomfort or pain, I could be saving my own life, I act as if doing the test will bring upon a curse.

I die a sorry death every month. I worry that I am affected, I foresee the worst kind of scenario and at times I even cry; yet I still cringe at the thought of a mammogram. The reason I wanted to share my stupidity today is because I wanted people like you to tell people like me that early detection or knowing that you are healthy is the wiser option next to battling cancer. This disease will not only kill you it will also cripple your entire family.

Women who are at the risk-prone age should go for the test which certainly isn't the end of the world and as has been said a million times, prevention is always better than cure. But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Some factors, like a person's age or race, cannot be changed. Others are linked to cancer-causing factors in the environment. Still others are related to personal behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, and diets. So all you need is the strength to do the mammogram to cross out the fear factor.

The awareness month, apart from creating awareness of the disease and raising funds for research into its causes, prevention and cure, also provides a prime opportunity to remind women to opt for earlier detection. Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in the year 1985. The aim from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the Pink Ribbon as its symbol.

I see all conscious people around me wearing the ribbon and changing their Facebook statuses but I am all knotted inside with dilemmas and insecurities. As I am penning this, I hope next October will see me happy and relieved. I hate this fear of not knowing if anything bad is happening to me, I just need to make an appointment today and nail the issue. Till then fingers crossed.

- Raffat Binte Rashid


Facts about breast cancer

If not all, most of us have heard, seen or been affected by cancer whether it was a close family member, an acquaintance or a friend. With the month of October upon us again, pink ribbons will start to pop their alerting heads on coat lapels, kameez dupattas, newspaper clippings and television commercials. But although we may see them all around, very few of us actually know the facts behind the research, the fears behind the risks and the reasons behind the causes. This October, make sure you take note of the little pink ribbons for what they truly stand to accomplish-breast cancer awareness.

1) In some countries, USA for example, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity.

2) Although uncommon, men can also get breast cancer. In men, breast cancer can happen at any age, but is most common in men who are between 60 and 70 years old. For every 100 cases of breast cancer, less than 1 is in men.

3) Female breast cancer incidence rates have increased by around 50% over the last twenty-five years.

4) 8 in 10 breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 50 and over.

5) In the 1970s around 5 out of 10 women with breast cancer survived the disease beyond five years. Now it's more than 8 out of 10.

6) Women diagnosed with breast cancer are now twice as likely to survive their disease for at least ten years than those diagnosed forty years ago.

7) Breast cancer survival rates are better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.

8) Around 9 out of 10 of women diagnosed with stage I breast cancer survive the disease beyond five years. This drops to around 1 out of 10 diagnosed with stage IV.

9) Since peaking in the late 1980s breast cancer death rates have fallen by more than a third.

10) Women with a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer have almost double the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer themselves.

11) Risk increases with the number of first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, but even so, eight out of nine breast cancers occur in women without a family history of breast cancer.

12) Obesity increases risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by up to 30%.

13) The risk of breast cancer in current users of oral contraceptives is increased by around a quarter.

14) Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer - as little as one alcoholic drink per day increases breast cancer risk by around 12%.

15) A more active lifestyle reduces breast cancer risk.

Source: Cancer Research UK and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

LS Desk


The 6 things I know about breast cancer:
a survivor's advice

1) Breast cancer teaches you all kinds of things you never knew. Like the difference between radiation and radiology. And what an oncologist does. How to pronounce adriamycin. And that the infusion suite has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a luxury spa.

2) It doesn't hurt. No, breast cancer mostly doesn't hurt (unless it's inflammatory). But the treatment can be an absolute bear.

3) Your body will never feel exactly the same again. You'll be missing part or all of your breast(s). You might have sore ribs forever from radiation. Chemo may leave you with tingling feet and a prickly scalp. Drugs make your joints ache. If you're lucky, you might escape most of these cancer souvenirs; but chances are you'll experience some of them. Accept it: little aches and pains are probably going to dog you.

4. After cancer, life goes on. The sun rises, people go to work, babies are born, kids make the honour roll. Yeah, life goes on whether you're there to enjoy it, or not.

5. Breast cancer changes your life. For the better, if you let it. Little things that used to bother you no longer seem important. Your appreciation for the commonplace increases a hundredfold. You learn what it feels like to be taken care of. And later, you learn how good it feels to take care of someone else going down the same rocky path.

6) Cancer reveals things you never knew about your friends and family. The colleague who can't stand the sight of blood, offering to bring you to chemo and then fainting when she comes with you to the blood draw. The sister who's a natural-born caretaker… and the sister who's never learned to focus on anyone other than herself. The casual acquaintance who's stronger than you ever believed… and the best friend who's scared enough to totally disappear from your life forever.

Source: HealthCentral

For the love of food

Pushtirupeno sangsthita

By Kaniska Chakraborty

My eyes are taking in all the bamboo structures and the tarp on the streets. They are trained on the frenzy of shoppers keen on crossing the streets defying all things traffic and orderly. My ears are picking up strains from loudspeakers already installed and being tested with either devotional songs or latest Bollywood hits. And not to be left behind, my taste buds are gearing up for a lavish culinary period. Durga puja is here again. Four days of worshipping and revelry.

As I write this, it is officially Debipaksha. The fortnight of homecoming of the Mother Goddess. Next Thursday, Calcutta will be engulfed by revellers, staying up all night, walking endless miles to catch multiple glimpses of the various idols, decked in their best, new saris, latest denims and of course, limping from the blisters caused by shoes not yet broken in.

I am not one of those. I seek other solace for my work weary soul. I look forward to some serious gastronomic therapy. Every meal for those four days is an occasion, a celebration. The perfect beginning of the day is a breakfast of luchi and alu bhaja. Luchi, made lovingly with unhealthy refined flour, deep fried in cholesterol laden ghee, served with slivered potatoes also deep fried.

I challenge you to find a better tasting and a more harmful breakfast. Ok. Sure. The British beat us to that with their sausages and bacon and eggs and fried bread. If you are of the slightest healthy bend, skip the alu bhaja and opt for chholar daal. A rich, deep ochre sensation with pieces of coconut enhancing the softness of the melting pulses. Not to be outdone by the more famous alu bhaja, chholar daal comes with a dollop of ghee in the tempering as well. A well fried, puffy luchi dipped in a thick bowl of daal is many a foodie's idea of nirvana.

This is usually accompanied by the labour of love. The narkel naru. Made with either jaggery or, my favourite, with pristine white sugar. Ground coconut shaped into little balls. I oversimplify. It is nothing short of fine art. The right stickiness, the right hint of camphor in the sugar variety, and you experience heaven on earth.

This should sustain you nicely to lunch, which is typically a late affair. Typically a community affair.

Preparation for lunch begins early though. Soon after you satisfy your soul with breakfast, the air becomes redolent with the heady aroma of garam masala being made into a paste for the mutton curry. The loveliness that is the aroma of ground onion, ginger and garlic hangs low. The soaking basmati rice releases its pheromone to entice the true blue Bangali, who is after a hearty lunch to follow up the hearty breakfast.

But to me, the defining part of the puja lunch is the chutney made of jalpai, the local olive. Cooked with sugar and spices and all things nice, it is the perfect accompaniment to the richness of mutton curry. What makes it so special? The fragrant aam ada that is grated on top. The gingery mild heat, the exotic aroma comes together to lead the way for a bowl of mishti doi.

Now, I am not a fan of mishti doi. Especially the brown coloured one. Usually, Calcutta is inexorably associated with this classic yoghurt. I think it is highly overrated. After all, it is the humble yoghurt. But even the cynic that is I cannot resist the mild acid hit of the white mishti doi. Not available everywhere, the knowledgeable ones can try the small sweet shop on Rashbehari Avenue near Gariahat. But get there early.

Like it or not, you will feel sleepy after such a repast. And sleep you will, despite the best efforts of the dhakis to keep you awake. You will wake up in the evening craving for that cup of Darjeeling, with just the dash of milk and the sprinkling of sugar. Rejuvenated, you will join the revellers on the street, walk a lot. Or if you are like me you will sit at the community puja and soak in the bonhomie and culture. The song and dance, the recitations, the one act plays, the local talent on display.

Dinner is again a late affair. Did I tell you that time slows down during these four days? Even if you are the type who has his dinner by 7 pm, you will be very agreeable to have a very late meal. In the days gone by, this was typically the smallest meal of the day. Still is the case. But the nature of the meal has changed a lot. From a predominantly fish and rice oriented diet, we have graduated to the practice of eating biriyani for dinner. Chicken biriyani as mutton was the call of lunch. With raita. And ending with a great sandesh. I travel to the northern part of the city to get my preferred sandesh, the Chandrapuli. But to each their own.

And now, you are ready for a night of pandal hopping, partying, and whatever may your little heart desire. And deep down inside, you will chant the mantra “Ya devi sarbabhuteshu pushtirupeno sangsthita namaha tasmai, namaha tasmai, namaha tasmai, namo namaha” (I bow to the goddess who has come in the form of food and nutrition).

Remember, this is just one day of the festivities. Day two is another story altogether.


Bijoya sammilani

By shawkat osman

The Hindus have separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all ten days of the festival. We present here a dinner menu for the tenth day: Bijoya.


Doi ilish

Sheer malaikari

Shorse mangso

Rui moorighonto





Community celebrations of Hindu worship are a multi-sensory experience. This is a time when one gets to observe the array of lamps lit in honour of the deity, pronams (paying obeisance) offered to her, hear the ringing of bells and sacred chants, smell the dhup (incense) and taste the blessed food offered at the end of the ritual.

The azure sky with fleecy white clouds and a nip in the air marks the advent of autumn in the month of Ashwin (September/October) - the season for the Bangladeshi Hindu's most popular festival, Durga Puja.

This is a ten-day affair, which commences on the day after Mahalaya, the last day of the waning moon, with the melodious strains of agomoni (welcoming songs) and Chandi Path (readings from religious texts). The festivities begin from Maha Shashthi (the sixth day since Mahalaya) when the priest unveils the deity during a ritual known as bodhan and breathes pranpratishtha (life) into the idol of Goddess Durga.

The morning of Maha Saptami (seventh day) is taken up with the worship of Nobopotrika (a banana plant, dressed in a sari, commonly referred to as Lord Gonesha's wife), followed by anjali (flower offerings). Prasad -- sweetmeats with luchis offered to and blessed by the deity during the rituals -- is distributed immediately afterwards while the bhog (blessed meal) is awaited till lunchtime.

On Maha Ashtami (eighth day) the priest performs Sandhi Puja (which marks the passage of the eighth day of festivities to the ninth) to the chanting of shlokas (couplets). Merry-making reaches fever pitch by the evening on this day.

On Maha Navmi (ninth day), meat is served in many pandals (makeshift canopies where the puja is observed) as part of the bhog, but never in the temples. This being the second-last day of the puja, one begins to feel the pang that it is soon going to be over.

On the last day of puja, married women bid farewell to the Durga idol through various rituals, entreating her to come back every year. In the playful ritual of sindoor khela, the women smear each other's hair, faces and bangles with vermilion powder in a carnivalesque bid to diffuse the solemnity of the occasion.

Later, all the idols are taken to nearby rivers or ponds to be immersed. On his way back, the head of the family brings a jora (pair) of ilish (hilsa) home for dinner.

Hilsa in yoghurt sauce
A more elaborate version of Sorshey ilish, the use of kala jeera (nigella) to temper the cooking oil gives this dish a unique flavour. Notice that the customary turmeric is missing in this recipe.
Serves 10

2 Hilsas, cut into steaks
2 cups yoghurt
½ cup yellow mustard paste
Salt to taste
3+3 tbsp mustard oil
1 and ½ tsp kala jeera (nigella)
10 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Rinse fish steaks in cold water and pat dry. In a mix bowl combine yoghurt, mustard paste, salt and three tablespoons mustard oil. Whisk to a silky paste. Drop the fish steaks into the mixing bowl, cover all over with the paste, and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat three tablespoons mustard oil in a korai (wok), toss in nigella and green chillies. Cook undisturbed for a few seconds. Side the fish steaks into the wok along with the marinade. Saute for a minute, turn over and sprinkle 2 tablespoons water. Lower the flame, lead it to a moderate simmer and cook gently until fish is ready.

Sheer malaikari
A distinctive feature of this version of the classic Narkol Chingri Malaikari is the addition of yogurt, along with coconut milk. Very few Bangladeshi recipes have this unique combination. Serve with steamed rice.
Serves 10

½ cup vegetable oil
6 cardamom pods, gently cracked
5cm-long cinnamon stick, quartered
8 cloves
2 tejpata (bay leaves)
4 onions, chopped
2 tsp red chilli powder
10 black pepper corns, crushed
4 tomatoes, diced
1 tsp ginger paste
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 cup badam (almond/cashew) paste
½ cup yogurt, whisked
1 kg large prawns, shelled
1 cup coconut milk, first extract only
2½ teaspoons salt
1 tbsp gawa ghee
1 tbsp fresh cream
1 tbsp almond slivers

Heat oil in a korai (wok). Toss in cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves. Cook undisturbed for a few seconds. Add onions, sauté until translucent. Stir as you add red chilli powder and crushed black pepper. Saute for a minute. Add tomato, ginger and turmeric. Cook stirring vigorously until the tomatoes disintegrate. Pour badam paste and yogurt. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Next pour coconut milk and salt. Lead contents to a slow simmer and cook gently for 2 minutes. Drizzle with ghee, stir to mix and take wok off flame. Before serving, mix fresh cream and garnish with almond slivers.

Shorse mangso: chevon in mustard sauce
Serves 10

1½ kg patha (un-castrated goat) meat
750g yogurt, whisked
½ cup oil
6 cardamom pods, gently cracked
10cm-long cinnamon sticks
15 cloves
1½ tsp black pepper pounded
6 dry red chillies
1½ onion, chopped
3 tsp ginger paste
6 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp red chilli powder
1½ tsp black pepper powder
1 cup yellow mustard paste
20 green chillies, slit
2½ cups hot water
7 teaspoons salt
1 cup cilantro, chopped

Rub the meat with yogurt. Marinate refrigerated for 8 hours or keep overnight. Return to room temperature before cooking. Don't apply salt until later as it tends to draw out the meat juices. Heat oil in a korai (work), toss in cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pounded black pepper and dry red chillies, all together. Sauté for few seconds.

Lob in the onions and sauté gently for 10 minutes, until softened and lightly coloured (golden). Add ginger, garlic, red chilli powder, black pepper powder and 2 tablespoons water and mix well. Sauté stirring vigorously, until fragrant. Add meat, Sauté, stirring continuously over high flame to seal in the juices. Once the meat acquires a brown colour all over, lower the flame and simmer gently.

Now add mustard paste and slit green chillies, stirring continuously. Mix well. Bring it back to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Add hot water and salt. Mix well. Maintain the gentle simmer.

Cover with a lid, lower flame to its minimum setting and cook over very low heat for 40 minutes. Sprinkle chopped cilantro. Cover with a lid and immediately take wok off the flame. Serve after 5 minutes.

Luchi, a breakfast item consumed by Bangladeshi Muslims, is much relished with vegetable labra and sujir halua.
It is seldom eaten with meat and never with fish. It is a much acclaimed dinner item in West Bangal, where it is
also served as a jol khabar (snack) at any time of the day.
The hotter and fresher the luchi, the better it is.

Sandesh: Sweet yoghurt with cottage cheese
Serves 10
Sandesh is a sweet made with soft chhana (cottage cheese) and sugar; and the best of both is required for the purpose. What makes a sandesh delicious is veeyaan -- the long-drawn stirring process. The ratio of chhana to sugar is called paak. A single portion of syrup to 5 portions of chhana makes the best paak, its worst when the portions are equal. The ingredients are cooked over a very high flame. It is important to increase the speed of the stirring as one goes along. It must reach a fever pitch towards the end!

When draining the chhana, drain out the water, but do not squeeze too vigorously, as it would drain the fat out of the cheese. During winter khejur gur (date palm jaggery) Sandesh can be made by making the syrup with equal portions of sugar and gur. Serve with luchi.

250 + 500g chhana (cottage cheese)
150g sugar
5 drops of rose water
5 drops of kewra (pandanus flower) water

Method: Grind the chhana into a smooth and silky paste. In a wok combine the sugar with 250g chhana. Set the wok on a high flame, and bring the contents to a high boil, stirring vigorously. Add the remaining chhana and continue stirring until the mixture moves away from the sides of the wok. Remove the wok from the heat and add rose and kewra water. Let it cool. Divide the mixture into equal portions and shape into forms you like or use wooden Sandesh moulds to give them fanciful profiles.

Luchi: deep fried bread
No narrative of Bangladeshi food is complete without the unparalleled luchi. The ultimate of all breads, the white puffed glistening piece of cloud nine is soothing to the lochon (eyes) and gratifying to the ruchi (taste). What a word the scholars of antiquity coined to extol its wondrous taste-lochon + ruchi = luchi.

Use freshly milled flour from whole grain. As grain is physically preserved in its shell, the natural vegetable oil is so encapsulated that it does not easily become rancid in the whole grain kernel. Once milled, however, flour can become rancid in a relatively short amount of time. Flour left on the shelf for months lose their B complex and vitamin C portions.

Wheat flour contains the highest amount of gluten, a protein, which makes the luchi elastic. The germ and bran in 100 per cent whole-wheat flour come in the way of making a smooth dough. Wheat bran has rough sharp edges that can damage the gluten framework when the dough is being kneaded and during deep frying. Therefore refined white flour is recommended for making luchi.

Wheat germ is high on nutritive value; however, it contains, among other things, a substance called Glutathione that breaks down the gluten in the dough. Using yogurt in the dough helps counteract any negative effect of Glutathione left behind in the moida (white flour). Yogurt not only helps prevent gluten bonds from breaking down but also repairs gluten bonds that have already been broken. One litre yogurt, if hung overnight to drain, will provide a little more than a cup of yogurt solids.

Vhoisha Ghee is obtained from the milk of the bhoish (water buffalo). Luchi fried in gawa ghee, obtained from gobbo (cow's) milk gets a yellowish tint, while ideally it should be milk white. Ghee tenderises the dough, increases elasticity, and produces a tender crumb after frying.

Salt enhances flavours; luchi with no salt is usually tasteless and flat. Use unrefined sea salt or real salt if possible.
Serves 10

1 litre plain yogurt
1kg moida (white flour)
2½ tsp salt
1 litre vhoisha ghee
Plain Yogurt:
2 litres milk
½ tbsp yogurt

Bring milk to a boil. Take pot off the flame. Let it cool down to lukewarm state. In a mixing bowl, mix yogurt with a ladleful of warm milk. (This is to temper the yogurt to the right temperature). Pour the yogurt back into the pot of warm milk and stir. Pour treated warm milk into individual containers.

Place the containers in a warm place. The yogurt will set in 8 to 10 hours.

Tie the yogurt in a square piece of muslin and hang it to drip overnight. Sift the flour through a fine sieve and discard the impurities. Pile up the flour in a large mixing bowl; sprinkle salt and mix well. Pour 1 cup of hung yogurt and blend till yogurt and flour are fully fused. Add ½ cup ghee to the flour, releasing in the form of a drizzle, and mix until flour absorbs ghee. Knead in as much of the remaining ½ cup ghee the dough will hold. Try not to make it soggy by putting too much ghee.

Now pour enough warm water to form a smooth dough. Gather the dough into a ball. Pull out the edges, press down with the heel of your hand. Pull up the part of the dough that was flattened by your hand and fold it back over on itself. Simultaneously turn the bowl with the left hand to the right. Keep repeating the process, turning the dough periodically.

After 5 minutes of kneading and turning the bowl, turn the bowl upside down and put the dough on a flour-coated board. If the dough is over moist, knead in extra flour, but not much. If it is still too slack and soft, beat it with flour-coated fists. Roll the dough out in the form of a long baton, 2cm in diameter. Slice it at 2cm intervals. Roll the sections into smooth balls.

Using a rolling pin, roll the balls into perfect full-moon-shaped thin discs. Make them as thin as you possible can. Heat the remaining ghee in a korai (wok); slide the luchis (discs) into it in twos and threes (do not overcrowd the wok), and deep fry for a few moments. Using a ladle, spoon hot ghee on the luchis as they are frying. Turn over the luchi and fry until they puff up, remove from the wok and serve immediately.

Photo:Sazzad Ibne Sayed




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