Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alu Potol diye Maacher Jhol -- a fish curry with veggies

AluPotolMaacherJhol4
As a kid growing up in India we ate seasonally. There was no other way. Cauliflower, Carrots, Green Peas and Beets only in Winter. For a short period, maybe November to late February. By March, the carrots in the haat were shriveled old things, the cauliflowers absent and nary a green pea could be found spilling the bean. 

The most that we missed once winter wrapped itself up in a Pashmina and traveled further North were the Tomatoes and green, leafy coriander. Ma, made bottles and bottles of Tomato ketchup which we hung on to until April or even May and after that dearly missed the maacher jhol with tomatoes and generous garnish of coriander which was a winter staple. Not a speck of green coriander leaf or a squishy red tomato could be found once summer set in. Later, even in the early nineties, the bunches of coriander that were sold post-Winter were sad, raggedy bunches that clearly wanted to join their sibling in a colder climate.

AluPotolMaacherJhol1

Summer always meant green vegetables with more water content and fruits brimming with juice. Jhinge or ridgegourd with raised thick skin, Pointed Gourd or Potol with its deep green stripes, and pale green Lau or BottleGourd were the standard. The tender potol in the early days of summer had a glamorous life. They were pounced upon to be made into stuffed dormas, fried to grace a cholar dal or steamed with coconut and mustard in a paturi. But as they say a life of  fame does not last forever.

As summer progressed it was the mango which stole the show while  potol and jhinge were forced to lead a sad backstage life featuring in every B-grade home cooked movie and being berated by home cooks. Just as the populace in the gangetic plains waited for the monsoon, for the summer to be over, they also craved for more color in their menu. For that though they had to wait. For Winter.

Thus there was a clear demarcation of Summer and Winter Menu with some overlap and rarities thrown in Spring when Drumsticks and copper colored baby neem leaves made a brief appearance.

AluPotolMaacherJhol3

Now as we all know it is not so. Six pack tomatoes, shiny and un-squishable lead a comfortable life all through out the year. Green, striped Potols stay put and no one's heart misses a beat on their first day, first show appearance. Here in the US though, the Indian grocer gets his Potol only in Summer. Good for me. I feel privileged to eat overpriced potol, a couple of times a year. The mundane is uplifted to the precious and I blog of alu potol diye maacher jhol which makes me go all mushy and tearful just like the tomato-dhone pata diye maacher jhol did with the first batch of deep red tomato.

Did you eat seasonally while growing up ? How did your menu change from summer solstice to winter ?

AluPotolMaacherJhol2

This alu -potol diye maacher jhol is a soupy, runny gravy of fish and vegetables. Suited best for hot summer afternoons it is a delight when mixed with rice and a squeeze of lime.
It is also my Ma-in-law's recipe as proffered by the husband. Unlike me, I think he hung around in the kitchen while his Mother cooked. He rattles off recipes without picking up a single phone to anywhere. And said that his Ma puts a little bit of onion in this jhol. Now,in my home a jhol will not have onion while a dalna might but this one does and it is from a Bengali home so you see when it comes to a dish there is nothing written in stone.


If you do not like Potol or do not get it you can make this same jhol with cauliflower and it will taste as good.
Alu Potol diye Maccher Jhol

Wash and clean fish pieces. The favored fish is Rui/Rohu. I have used fresh Tilapia. Rub with turmeric and salt. Keep aside for 20-30 minutes.

Chop 2-3 small potatoes in quarters and about 10 potol in halves. Before chopping the potol you need to scrape off its skin lightly and then peel of alternate strips. Heat some Oil and saute the potatoes and potol with turmeric powder and little salt, till golden. Remove and keep aside

Heat 2 -3 tbsp of Mustard Oil and shallow fry the fish till it is golden brown on both sides. Remove and keep aside.The health freaks can broil in the oven. It works.

Add a tbsp more oil to the pan. Once Oil is hot temper with
2 Green Cardamom
a 1" thin stick of cinnamon
roughly 1 tsp of PaanchPhoron(this time my PaanchPhoron had Radhuni instead of Mustard seeds)

Let the spices infuse the oil. To avoid the spices getting burnt I often switch off heat at this point and let the spices mingle in the oil.

Switch back the heat and to the oil now add 1 tbsp of minced onion and fry with half a tsp of sugar.

Once the onion has browned add 1 tomato finely chopped and 1 tbsp of fresh grated ginger. 

When the tomatoes are totally mushed up add a wet paste of
1 tbsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Kashmiri Mirch


Fry the masala with sprinkle of water for next 3-4 minutes till you see oil seeping from the edges. 
Add the potatoes and potol that you had fried and kept aside. Mix well with masala.
Next add water for the gravy. Since this dish has a lighter gravy I usually add about 3 cups of warm water. Add salt to taste.


Let the gravy simmer and come to a boil. Once the potatoes and potol are cooked add the fish pieces. Lower the heat and simmer for 4-5 more minutes.


Serve with rice and a slice of lime on the side.

29 comments:

  1. Priyanka Saha DeyJune 20, 2012 12:00 AM

    Khabar tar presentation tai eto sundor lagche... Yummy... :)

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  2. I never knew that coriander was a summer seasonal thing, imagine that! I think mangoes are about the only commodity now that can't be found in winter, thank God for that. But there is a breed of mango that fruits in September - December, it's rare, though, and I've only seen the green one, not the ripe one.

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    Replies
    1. No coriander was a WINTER seasonal thing

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  3. Irresistible,droolworthy and totally inviting.

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  4. Wowo i have never had a fish curry like this looks uper yummy.

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  5. The description was more tempting than the pictures!

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  6. The curry looks tasty. Potol is something I have never cooked with and cooking fish with vegetables is also something I am not familiar with. Yes cauliflower, peas and I think carrots were all winter weather vegetable not availble year round.

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  7. Presentation ta bhison bhalo hoyeche. Mach diye potoler jhol dekhe barir kotha khub mone porche. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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  8. And we would wait for winter to have gobi fryied in mustar oil. Yum. U took me on a nostalgia trip. Bengalies use potol to make some sweet too na, stuffed with paneer I think??

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    1. Yes, there is a sweet like that. I have never tried my hand at it. Honestly never even liked potol before :-D

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  9. Office e boshe ei shob mail pora literally "torture".
    emni macher jhol er chobi dekhe tarpor cafetaria giye khabo shukno bread aar cheese!!!
    ;-((
    Shob i bhaggo........
    ;-)
    lovely post Sandeepa.
    cheers,
    d

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    Replies
    1. ei macher jhol kheyechi sei Sunday. Obostha ta bujhte parcho ?

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    2. Ei machr jhol ami kheyechi last year! India te!
      ;-) abar khabo kodin pore...india jachi...
      jodio khub enthu niye kachkolar kofta banalam last week..(post korechi)
      ;-)
      d

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  10. Halka mach'er jhol with vegetables amader O bhalo lagey Sandeepa..garam moshla addition ta new amar jonney ..and potol kheye onek din hoyeche..we did used to eat according to season..kinto ekhon thanks to cold storage and other methods of cropping/cultivation/plantations/storage every other vegetables is available all through the year..hugs

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  11. didn't know about coriander... but definitely remember certain vegetable like lau and potol being a summer vegetable and cauliflower, mulo being winter ones. halka macher jhol amar-o favorite.

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  12. Potol is pointed gourd? Did you coin that? I've seen it at Indian grocers here in UK - they are called parmal or parval - but never seen them where I grew up. I do buy them here and cook them with a tempering of saunf, cumin etc with potatoes...quite yum. I also have to learn how to pick the young ones as the more mature ones are not as tasty when cooked.

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    Replies
    1. No, no I did not :-D I think it is called that in Indian english :) In Hindi it is called -- parwal. Parmal, I guess is misspelled at the grocer's

      In India, it is not that popular in the South, even B'lore did not have it in late nineties

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  13. The dish is soo tempting, never cooked fish and veggies.. interesting!
    Do visit my blog and leave your valuable comments!

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  14. We've been reading your blog for some time now and really enjoy the recipes! In case you are interested, I have nominated your blog for the versatile blog award:
    http://ourearthland.blogspot.ca/2012/06/versatile-blogger-award.html

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  15. " The tender potol in the early days of summer had a glamorous life", that was one of the best descriptions ever. Potol were a welcome change at the beginning of summer, but I also remember how things would get somewhat boring as summer progressed. You get those "buro" potols towards the end with huge seeds, which I hated to bite.

    Your recipe is making me miss potols. Lovely writing, as usual. Will respond to your emails today.

    Best,
    SD

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  16. humm yum! Yes childhood was full of seasonal variations and hence nostalgia and memory. I wonder if my child will remember anything season wise! I wrote a blog on similar lines
    http://blog-e-zine.blogspot.in/2010/07/when-summer-meets-winter.html

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  17. I miss those days when we used to wait for winters to have nimona or for summers to have parwal sabzi ,this post made me nostalgic,.,and that curry looks delicious

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  18. gangulydeepti@yahoo.co.ukJune 25, 2012 12:31 PM

    Your last post for beans bhorta was absolute murder of my favourite vegetablei.e green beans

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    1. I am sorry but fortunately (unfortunately in your case), people in some part of the world eat it that way. You are free to choose your own.

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  19. You know when I was in Calcutta, potol used to be one of my least favourite veggies, now however it has almost become the centerpiece of my visits to Patels (to patel for some potol )! Maybe I am growing old :)
    By the way, in BS's blog, if you could please allow comments to be posted by using just names, that'd be nice for us who have embarrassing old one-post blogs attached to their google names that they'd rather not make public :)

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  20. Sandeepa, Bangalore e ekhon potol pawa jaye amra HAL market theke kine ani. Tomar ei patla macher jhol with potol dekhte khhob bhalo hoyeche. Adding cinnamon stick is new to me , jodio ami doi mach e gorom mosla use kori...

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  21. Sandeepadi....Macher Patla jhol is sooooo Bengali thing...myself a Bengali married to a Bihari had to really adjust to Fish cooked in thick masala of Onion,garlic, mustard paste etc. etc. with no other ways to cook fish.

    though am slowly warming to mom-in laws- idea of Fish Curry and Rice only dish, can never forget Fish cooked with patol or FulKopi or begun or any other mundane veggies, and not to forget the Chara Pona mach diye Chaccharies and tentul tok.

    Love your description of the recipes and Congrats for being selected by Harper Collins to write a book.

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  22. Hi di, I love to follow your blog....Akdom mayer hater touch paoa jay tomar blog e. This is my first post here, but you know, 2 bochor age "NIRAMISH MANGSO" search korte giye ei blog ta khunje pai r random follow korte suru kori.

    This is also one of my favorite dish in summer time. But the city Chennai is not very familiar with Patol. I miss that particular veggie here. Tobe ei rannar khetre ami avoid kori Chili powder ke. Tar bodole just lomba lomba kore chire Green Chili use kori.

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