Monday, May 10, 2021

Ma-in-law's Macher Dim er Bora Jhol | Fish Roe Fritters

Maachher Dim er Bora | Bengali Fish Roe Fritters

For fish loving Bengalis, the fish roe or macher dim is a delicacy that they hanker for. Nope we are not talking of caviar! While Ilish maach er dim(Hilsa Fish roe) is the star, the Rui Maach er dim comes a strong second when it is made into fritters or bora. Mostly available during the monsoon season, the fish roe of sweet water fish like Rui or Carp makes a mundane lunch fantastic for the Bengali middle class.

Last Friday Big Sis had her second dose of Covid-19 vaccine and with that all of us eligible for vaccine have been vaccinated. Waiting for Pfizer to give the green light for 12-15 year olds now.

Now the reason I brought up the vaccine is that the pharmacy where BS's vaccine was scheduled was close to a South Asian fish and meat store. So how could I not stop by and get some fish? You tell me! That would be so impolite right?

Now that my mom is here, we have been going more often to the fish store than ever before. This time I stopped by thinking to get the tiny fish called Kaachki or Mola fish. Along with a pack of that tiny fish, I also saw a tray of Rui Maacher Dim -- Fish Roe and picked it up. 

In my home, my Dad was not very adventurous when it came to food and so Ilish Maacher Dim aka Hilsa fish roe was the only fish roe that he enjoyed. Since Hilsa Fish Roe is a star by itself, it is best enjoyed fried as it is and nothing else was ever made out of it. A few times my Mother would get Rui Macher Dim and make the fritters as a snack for me and her to enjoy, but those were few and far in between.

On the other hand, in my in-law's house Maacher Bora and Maacher Tel are very popular. My ma-in-law makes a delicious curry with the fish roe fritters too. 
So when I go the fish roe, I texted her for the recipe. Guess what my 70+ year old Ma-in-law tells me. She said "Search in UTube, oikhane shob ecipe thake". I mean really!! So then I called her and clarified that I wanted her recipe and not "YouTube's". She gave me the recipe of the fritters and then said that I could add it to a peyaaj-roshun deoa jhol like a rich version of fish curry. She also added that her son, who is not very fond of  Rui/Kaatla type of fish actually loves maacher dim!!! 

Monday, April 05, 2021

Lau with Dhonepaata - Lauki in Coriander-Poppy Seed paste

Lau Dhonepata, Bottlegourd Sabzi, Lauki Sabzi

Some days you wake up in the morning on a weekend and your life is so mundane that you sit down with a cup of chai and a foot long bottlegourd. No, you do not do anything new with the bottlegourd, you just chop it! You might also be watching something on your iPad while all the mundane chopping. Something like Bridgerton, which I had been resisting for a while and then finally gave in. Your life seems just more mundane.

You then wonder who were the first people who discovered turmeric and cumin and coriander, and then decided to make a paste of these spices, and add it to flavor their food. Long before wars were fought and new lands discovered, who was the one who said --"Let me add a dash of cumin and a pinch of turmeric to today's dish".

Who were these interesting people? Did they go to debutante balls and ride horses? Did they work in chemistry labs with pipets and glass flasks?

This was not just slapping a piece of meat on a fire and cooking it. This was far more nuanced. Like, who decided to grind certain lentils into a paste, whip them up all airy, then put dollops of that batter to dry in the sun and make Vadis/Boris? They never went to a culinary school or any school and yet they knew all the techniques. In that situation, I would never know to experiment to that rigorous level. At the most, I would pound green chilies and salt and add it to the meat which I would then throw onto the fire. Isn't that sad ?

Frustrated by your lackluster life, with no Duke of Hastings in the horizon, you are hell bent on unleashing your innovative, genius inner soul to unsuspecting family members. So you do best with what you have in hand. A little different combination of spices for the familiar.  So instead of making my usual Lau Chingri or Bori diye Lau, I made a Lau in Coriander-Green Chili -Poppy seed paste. Yeah, big deal. Not. 

But Dhonepaata baata diye Lau tasted very good and different. Not radically different but different enough to jazz up my morning. You must try it.

The tender lau, lauki or bottle gourd with its soothing green skin soothes the eyes in harsh summer and because of its high water content has a cooling effect and so is one of the preferred veggies in the summer months. According to ayurveda, the cooked bottlegourd is cooling, diuretic, sedative and anti­bilious(corrects secretion of bile). It gives a feeling of relaxation after eating it. It is rich in essential minerals and fiber.

Bengalis make a variety of dishes with lau over the summer from Moog Dal Chhora Diye Lau, Doodh Lau with milk and a little sweet in taste, Lau er Malaikari where the bottlegourd is cooked in a rich coconut gravy to the all time favorite Lau Chingri where bottle gourd is cooked with shrimp. The Dhonepaata Lau now got added to that lau repertoire .

Lau with Dhonepaata - Lauki in Coriander Poppy Seed paste


Lau/Lauki/Bottlegourd ~ 3 cups. Peeled and chopped in small cubes

For Paste
Green Chilli ~ 3-4 Green chili
Coriander leaves - 1/2 Cup(loosely packed) fresh coriander leaves
Posto/Poppy seeds - 1 Tbsp
Make a paste with little water.

For Tempering
Kalojeera/Kalonji/Nigella Seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Ginger - 2 tsp grated
Green Chilli - 2 slit

Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1 tsp
Mustard Oil - 1 Tbsp

Start Cooking

Heat Mustard oil in a Kadhai/Frying pan
Temper the oil with
1/2 tsp of Kalonji
1 tsp grated Ginger
2 Green Chili

Add the chopped bottlegourd and stir it for a few minutes. Sprinkle salt to taste and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover and cook until bottle gourd softens. Bottlegourd releases water and the vegetable will cook in its own juice.

Once the lauki/bottlegourd is almost 3/4th cooked, add the coriander-green chili-poppy seed paste. Add 1 more tsp of grated ginger.
Add about 1 tsp of sugar and adjust salt to taste. Sprinkle a little water if necessary.
Mix the spices and the vegetables and cook until the bottlegourd is fully cooked. 

Garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and this light dish is perfect for the summer heat.

Alternate option: For a richer dish, add some grated coconut along with the coriander-poppy seeds

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Chana Bhaapa | Bhapa Paneer -- Steamed Paneer in Mustard sauce

Chana Bhapa | Paneer Bhapa | Chhana Bhaapa

Chhana Bhapa | Bhapa Paneer | Steamed Paneer in Mustard sauce

Chana Bhaape or Steamed Paneer is a very popular Bengali Dish where fresh home-made chhana (ricotta cheese) is steamed in a a sauce of mustard and coconut. It is a very quick and simple recipe. Traditionally steamed in a pot or pressure cooker but I do it in the microwave. This recipe for Chhana Bhapa tells you both methods.

This past weekend, close friends across 2 states came visiting. They wanted to meet my mom but were waiting to get vaccinated before coming. 
One of them has converted in her food habits and is now a complete vegetarian. She really loved fish and meat and then one fine day, she just stopped eating any of those. And not for health reasons or because someone told her to. For the past year, I kept thinking she would quit, would start eating at least eggs, but nope she is still a vegetarian.
I think it takes a lot of discipline to do that. To give up something, not for the purpose of achieving a goal or anything but to just let go.❤
So anyway, we being Bengali and she being Bengali, I am always worried as to what vegetarian food to cook for her. I mean she is a good cook and cooks a variety of vegetarian food anyway at home. Also she is more fond of Bengali vegetarian than say a plate of pasta.
Bengali vegetarian recipes are in plenty and with little nuances each one is very unique.
This time, I made two dishes, that she had not tasted before. She really loved them. We chatted so much and she talked to my Mom about her spiritual journey and in the middle of all that, I forgot to take photos of the other food items, or the table, or people!! I forgot to even look at my phone almost all weekend!!!
🌱This was our **vegetarian spread** -- Motor Dal, Motor Dal er Bora (lentil fritters), Kolmi saag with Begun, Peper Shukto, Paneer Bhaape, Phulkopi korma(again my Mom's recipe), Pineapple Chutney and Malpua.
🌱This here is **Chhana Bhaape** with shorshe posto (Steamed paneer with mustard and coconut). Many of you know this and it's an easy dish with great taste.
🌱The other dish that she loved was **Pepe r Shukto**. Shukto with grated green Papaya. That's my Mother's recipe and has a delicate taste.

The Chhana Bhaapa or Steamed Paneer in mustard sauce is exactly like our Shorshe Chingri Bhaape.  It has all the key Bengali elements of mustard paste, coconut and loads of mustard oil. The "bhaape" here means a cooking process where the food is cooked by steaming. Traditionally these "bhaape" dishes were done in two ways.
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a steel tiffin box, close the lid and put it in a pressure cooker to steam.
2. Mix all the ingredients together, wrap in a banana leaf, tuck the leaf parcel in the pot of rice which is almost cooked and still hot and steaming. Here the leaf parcel is cooked by latent heat. Often such dishes steamed in a leaf are also called paaturi.

Here I have made this in microwave and it is super simple. Don't get intimidated by the steps. I have deliberately broken down the steps to making the mustard paste, posto paste etc.