Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Salmon Posto -- Salmon in Poppy Seed paste

Salmon was not a fish I loved when I first set foot on the shores of this country. I liked neither the taste nor the smell. The very thought of ordering a salmon sent me into bottomless despair. "What is this country where the fish does not taste like Ilish or Rui", I would often cry, my patriotic heart wailing for fish from my motherland. It is always about the food and the fish, isn't it?

I was convinced that my husband's Bong colleague who had gone about the office inviting folks in what sounded like "Plish come to my house, I make pish for you" was actually referring to salmon.

But then the only salmon dishes that we had were in the restaurants, which then were very bland for my taste buds. I was also not fond of the skin-on-salmon and had no idea that I could request the fishmonger to take the skin off.

But we live and learn. We adapt. We love new things and then cannot live without them

Learning from friends, improvising and experimenting, searching the web. we have now found many delicious ways to eat Salmon. It is one of the few fish which adapts itself well to Bengali style dishes like "Shorshe diye Salmon", "Doi Salmon", "Salmon er paaturior even a Salmon kalia. Our Salmon experience improved for the better when a friend suggested to bake salmon at a lower heat than other fish. It keeps the fish juicy, he said. And by God, it did. It was so much better and moist when baked at 275F.

Salmon is one of our favorite fish these days and we have it often

A couple of days back I made a Salmon Posto. Rui Posto is something that my Mother makes. I love anything with Posto and so to give salmon a makeover, I made Salmon Posto or salmon in Poppy Seed Curry. You can use any other fish like Rui, Kaatla, Bhetki, Swai or Tilapia in this recipe too. The traditional way is to fry the fish before adding to the posto gravy but of course I baked my salmon.

Also do remember, anything with Posto tastes best with white rice, so though the photo has red rice on the plate, if you have white rice stick to it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Moumita'r Kochu Paata Chingri -- Colocasia Leaves with Shrimp

Moumita making her Kochupata Chingri
Today I will bring you a dish that  I had never had it growing up and my Mother never made it. Nor did my grandmother. 
But it is a Bengali delicacy and I have heard a lot about it mostly heard of  this dish as a speciality in a restaurant called Kasturi in Kolkata! Next time I am viisting india, I have to make sure I land up at Kasturi.

If you are still clueless as tow hat I am blabbering about , it is the famous #KochupaataBaataChingri or #KochupaatabhaapeChingri . We were on a scientific mission to nail down this dish which none of our Mothers had ever made and a couple of us had tasted it only once or maybe twice in their life. This project was very different from re-creating a dish from nostalgia. There was no recipe to follow either. Here we were re-creating something only from heresay. At least the cuisine was same and we had certain benchmarks to guide us like "shorshe baata" (mustard paste) or "narkol baata" (grated coconut). It would have been way harder if the ingredients had unknown tastes of "Yuzu" or "Katsuobushi"!

Our first imediment was our very little knowledge as to how to get Kochu Paata  I mean back home was I ever interested in Kocu? Err never ! The husband-man who is usually a "know-all" in these circumstances, said "kochu'r loti" is okay but no one ever uses "Kochu Paata" in  a Bengali dish!! We didn't pay much heed to him and the Kochu Paata problem was solved by Gujarati folks in town who use Colocassia leaves aka Kochu Paata to make Paatra. They guided us to the aisle in Patel Brothers which carries those leaves. 
Next it was my chef-de-extraordinaire friend Moumita who led the experiment. Now, she is the one who was making complex kheer kodomboss when I was barely getting my rice and egg curry right, so I knew the experiment was in able hands. "Chokh bondo kore bhorsha kora jaay" type. As in English, -- "Have full faith"
A few days back, one Thursday evening she called me to say that she had finally made "Kochu Pata Chingri" and  the result looked like a success, so she would drop off some for me to taste. Now by Thursday I have hardly anything interesting to eat at home and was planning to go out for dinner after Child 2's science fair. But Moumita's message was music to my ears and I shelved all plans, cooked a pot of rice and waited for dinner time. .
Her Kochupaata Chingri was delicious to say the least. Since I do not have the Kosturi benchmark to test against, I do not know how theirs taste but this one was awesome.

Next day, I sent the husband-man to scour aisles of Patel brothers and get "Kochu Paata". Then on a fine Saturday, I made the dish, following Moumita's recipe and tweaking on what she had created. She did the entire thing on stove top but after the initial few steps,  I put it in the oven bwhere I cooked it the same way I make "Chingri Bhaape".  The end result tasted very good though honestly we were yet to distinguish the taste of Kochu paata in it. But I am so glad that we did it and I don't have to wait a whole year to taste what Kochupata Chingri tatses like.

A big thanks of course goes to Moumita. And I hope we can get some time to bring a video of her famous Biriyani for you too.

And since I love to drool over kitchens and such, here is Moumita's gourmet kitchen. isn't it lovely?

And Ta-Da, here is the pretty Master Chef herself...

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Robibar er Murgi r Jhol -- Sunday Chicken Curry

A few months back I got an email.

This is exactly what it said


Apnake Jodi Bengali Sunday dupurer chicken curry ranna Korte hoy , family r jonno . Apni ki bhabe ranna korben ?

What is the best recipe apnar kache ? Kindly ektu information dile khub Khushi hobo .
(Didi, If you have to cook the Bengali Chicken Curry for Sunday lunch, how would you do it?)

At first I was a bit irked by this email. Not by the reader as I guessed he was a much younger guy and yet had not called me "Didi" and not Mashima !!. But you know how this "Robibar er Mangsho" has been done to death and restaurants now have it on the menu and folks who have no idea what "Robibar er Mangsho" means order it on a Wednesday night and eat it with naan and a bottle of chilled beer while watching "Didi No.1" on the telly.

It totally sucks the joy out of the whole thing. Honestly it doesn't really make much sense if you are cooking it on a non-Sunday or eating it at a restaurant or using your "food delivery" app like Swiggy to order "ek plate Robibar er Murgi dena".

Tell me, what is a Robibar er Mangsho if not followed by hours of bhaat ghoom (siesta), bangla natok on Kolkata "Ka", and lingering turmeric colored aroma of a jhol on the tip of your fingers until Monday morning ? And most importantly, what is a Robibar er Manghso if not Goat meat!!!!

So this is what I replied

Eita trick question kina bujhlam na !!! Sunday to Sunday to exactly same hobe na. Eikhane ekta mutton er dilam. Chicken diye mostly ei rokom i kori, konodin moshla beshi, konodin jhaal beshi, konodin duto gajor instead of aloo, je rokom Sunday sei rokom jhol :-D
(I don't know if you are asking me a trick question. Whichever way you cook your chicken on a Sunday that will be your Sunday Chicken Curry!)

But then I cooled down. I realized the world has changed a whole lot since the times when we used to have meat only on Sundays. In the late 70's,  in most middle class Bengali families like ours, everyday lunch and dinner would be dominated by fish. And when I say fish, I don't mean Malaikari or Kaalia for dinner everyday. Simple fish curries with mustard paste or vegetables in season were the usual norm.

Now Sunday was a red-letter day as that was the only day that offices and schools were closed and so lunch would be a family affair. That was also the day when goat meat was cooked for lunch in most Bengali homes. Meat, in particular Goat meat, was not something we ate every day. It was both expensive and also considered a food rich for daily consumption. Chicken or Murgi was not cooked in most Bengali homes that had matriarch like my Grandmother's. She allowed goat meat but considered "murgi" foreign and so it was banned from her kitchen.

So mutton curry aka "pa(n)thar mangsho" on some Sundays(usually the Sundays earlier in the month soon after payday) was something we lived in anticipation for. By the sheer magic of being a rare and thus much awaited occasion, the Sunday Lunch of Meat Curry and rice took a special position in our heart.

Things changed a fair bit after "chicken" started being used widely in Bengali kitchens. Chicken was cheaper than goat meat, cooked faster, and so it could be cooked on any other day too instead of fish. Often on Sundays, goat meat was getting swapped with "murgi", making it a "Robibar er Murgi'r Jhol". It was not a recipe with unique ingredients, nor was it a heirloom one. It was just a chicken curry, cooked fresh with freshly ground spices, that was had with rice for lunch and led to long hours of siesta afterwards. Yes, the siesta part stayed the same.

As we became global and more connected, that humble chicken or mutton curry was pushed aside for what seemed more fancy names like "karahi gosht" or "chicken rezala" or "coq au voin". Meat wasn't special enough to be cooked only on Sundays any more. You could have it any time. If not at home then outside. And since we all know that familiarity breeds contempt, we didn't really bother about "Sunday Dupur er Mutton Curry" any more. Until that is we grew older and nostalgia struck big time. We didn't want to eat mutton curry whenever we could, we wanted to wait, to build up that excitement for we finally understood that
Happiness is not in getting something but in the waiting.

In my home here, we eat chicken a couple times a week. Strangely we eat mutton maybe once in a couple of months. On a Saturday or a Sunday, when I cook chicken or mutton I usually stick to that same age old recipe my Mother followed on her Sundays.Nothing extraordinary, no special ingredients. I also cook with a lot of jhol. My daughters call this "Weekend er mangsho'r jhol". For them, it is a curry that has potatoes and enough gravy to be mixed with rice.

Here's the recipe of Sunday Dupur er Chicken Curry for the next gen. After wading many waters and making onion paste, grating onion, blah, blah, I have realized the easiest and simplest recipe works best. After all, who wants to waste all of Sunday making Chicken Curry for lunch ?

I also use a Radhuni Meat masala, which my friend had got for me from a Bangladeshi store. It is really good. In its absence use any other Meat masala.

To read about the Sunday tradition and goat meat curry click here - Bengali Pa(n)thar Mangshor Jhol
Another simpler recipe from my Ma-in-law of a mutton curry -- Robibar er Mangsho'r Jhol