Just wrap your head around the title of this recipe for a moment. Homemade mustard with fiery Bengali spices. Oh-em-gee.
For me it’s important to make new variations of condiments, dips, and spreads. Over the years, I have noticed specialty mustards, packaged beautifully and available for purchase at foodie stores. The price is usually staggering and the ingredients have words I can’t pronounce.
Dabbling in homemade mustard making has the benefits of controlling sodium levels, avoiding additives, getting a healthy dose of spice (I like my heat), and the surprising ease of doing it yourself.
I research food related topics often (okay, daily). I read anything and everything I can find pertaining to India’s regional cooking. Perhaps it is the cultural geographer in me, or the wanderlust soul that is obsessed with India’s food history. Not sure, but it’s fair to say my compendium will take a lifetime to peruse. The thought of the enormity of this learning and exploring appeals to me.
What I came across is that whole brown and black mustard seeds are used in many geographical areas of India, but the black variety is most prevalent in South India. What I found unique to Bengal was the extensive use of a freshly ground mustard paste. The pungent mustard sauce, named Kasundi includes grated raw mango and is used a dipping sauce. Like all condiments it has many iterations, some that include tomato, green apples, and even eggplant.
I have always been a fan of mustard and its original form –mustard seed (rai). I use mustard like it’s going out of style, adding it to salad dressings, Panini sandwiches, and chicken wings. My mom has perpetually used mustard seeds in her pickled carrots and roasted potatoes. It only makes sense that I would be interested in delving into making homemade mustard. I wanted to make something authentic to my favourite flavour profiles, yet still take inspiration from Bengal’s Kasundi.
Now when it comes to making your own mustard there is a “wow” factor, a double-take and the “you really make mustard?” Everyone will be invariably impressed, even more so when they taste how delicious this bold mustard flavour. While they will think you have worked tirelessly to make this creation, it is really very easy to make.
Mustard requires no cooking (in fact, heating the ingredients ruins the flavour). The biggest step for this South Asian variation is blooming (soaking) the whole mustard seeds with flavourings like ginger, garlic, and chilli in apple cider vinegar overnight. In general, mustards contain some form of vinegar and as such are acidic enough for long-term refrigerator storage. This is where the strong flavours permeate and shine.
When you come back the next day, the mustard seeds will be plumped and soft. Then with the addition of a little bit of extra spices and some sweet to balance out the robust flavourings, the bloomed mustard concoction is puréed in a blender. The result is a hearty, grainy mustard that is the consistency of a custard. The mustard is not quite ready to be chilled, rather it is poured into a jar, topped with a lid, and then left to sit on a cool, dry counter for three days. Then guess what? It’s time to eat it.
Once it is in my fridge, I can’t help putting it into every dish imaginable. However, my current favourite way to eat it is in the form of a grilled steak baguette sandwich. Rub a rib eye steak with ground garam masala, salt, and black pepper. Grill it until it is medium rare. Cool and slice thinly. Build sandwiches on a baguette with Fiery Bengali Mustard, sliced steak, arugula, and shredded mango. Simply amazing!
Fiery Bengali Mustard
6 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 & 1/2 inch slice ginger, peeled and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 red chilies
3 teaspoons cayenne powder
3 1/2 teaspoons Himalayan sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons honey
Place mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, and chillies in a glass bowl and cover with the vinegar. Let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.
Place vinegar mixture in blender, add cayenne, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, honey and sugar and blend until a creamy consistency is reached.
Once blended, place in glass jar and let stand at a cool room temperature for 3 days. Store in the fridge thereafter. Mustard keeps forever and a day in the refrigerator.