Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nandini's Fish Curry with Lime Leaves -- Lebu Pata diye Maacher Jhol

I often hear people say that you don't make good friends after your childhood. That the best friends you make are the one you had since school or college. I understand the logic in there, that the friends you made in the age of innocence, unencumbered with worldly burdens or egos, are the true ones.

However, I have been extremely lucky to have found some good friends in all phases of my life. I found a very good friend when I was working in Mumbai and I am always indebted to her for sharing her love for reading with me. We would go second-book shopping outside Churchgate on Saturdays and she was the one who gave me a copy of "My Family and other Animals", thus introducing me to the magical writings of Gerald Durell.

N, is the aunt who dresses up my daughter for her Bharatnatyam performance as I am clueless
When I came to the US, and was desperately seeking a Bengali fiend, I found Nandini at K-Mart. Nope, she was not on sale. How I met her and what led to our friendship, is a saga on its own and I have even written about it in my book. If you are very interested, you can look it up in there. Slowly, I made more friends but had I not met N that day and braved myself to express my desperate need for friendship with a stranger like her, my life in US would probably be very different. Probably mundane and glitter free.
From her undying love for Shahrukh Khan to her obsessing about exercise, she keeps me informed about a wide range of things from Bollywood to weight-loss trainings, from the best sushi place in town to lebu-paata diye maacher jhol. Honestly, she is like the sister I never had !

Last week, when we came back from our vacation, hopping in and out of 2 flights with a cumulative flying time of 12 long hours, all my heart craved was some steamed rice, masoor dal and a light fish curry. I had already frozen some dal and chicken curry before leaving as I knew that I would be in no mood to cook after coming back. But my Bengali heart was not craving any chicken curry, and my brain kept saying "maacher jhol" like piped music. This is when Nandini called and said, she would drop by in the evening with some food. The first question I asked is "Did you make maacher jhol?". And she had!!! She had!!

Her dal and lebu-paata diye maacher jhol was gospel music to our tired traveler's soul that day, all the while singing "Hallelujah".

Last weekend, I could not wait to make a big batch of fish curry with lime leaves following her recipe. Since we don't get Gondhoraj Lebu paata here, I have used Kaffir lime leaves from the Asian stores. Whenever I see a pack of lime leaves in those stores, I buy and then freeze them in zip-locks. I had some of those leaves left over in my freezer (Hallelujah all over again) and they brought the perfect lime taste to the curry. I also added some lime zest since I did not have too many of those leaves. It was a very beautiful curry, light and summery, with a slightly sour taste from the tomatoes and lemon.


I used 3 fillet of Bassa fish for this curry. You can use a fish of your choice but a fish with a strong flavor might not go well in this light curry

Cut the Baasa in pieces. Toss with little turmeric, salt and Olive oil. My friend cooked the fish in the curry but I broiled it before putting it in the curry.
Arrange the fish pieces in a single layer on a oven safe tray. Broil for 20 mins

Chop 2 large potatoes in thick half moon slices

Make a puree of
1 Cup of chopped tomato
1 tbsp grated ginger (or 1 tbsp of ginger paste)
2 green chili

Start Cooking

Heat 2 tbsp Mustard oil in a a saucier/kadhai/cooking pan

When the Oil is hot, temper the oil with
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds(Jeera)
2 green chilies slit

Add the sliced potatoes. Sprinkle a little Turmeric powder and saute for 3-4 minutes until the potatoes take on some color

Add the pureed tomato+ginger. Fry for the next 6-7 minutes until the tomato is cooked and the raw smell is gone

In a small bowl add
1 tsp Coriander powder
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri Mirch
1 tsp of water
Make a paste

Add this paste to the pan and cook along with the tomato+ginger for 3 more minutes

Now add about 3 cups of water (at room temperature), salt to taste and cover the pan. Let the potatoes cook.

Once the potatoes are done, add about 2 Cups more of water. This is a thin curry so the water added is more

1/2 tsp Lemon zest
5-6 Lime leaf  or more if you so wish(I used Kaffir lime leaves)
1 tsp of fresh lime juice

Let the gravy simmer. Add the fish pieces and taste to check for salt and other spices. Simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes.

Serve with steaming white rice.

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  1. As I am reading this on a Sunday I feel like having this today afternoon . Simple comfort food is the best food

  2. I like macher jhaal/jhol a lot ..and have made with lemons/lemon leaves as well..so i know it must have been very delicious ...enjoyed reading your blog after such a looong time ..yeah i know ..love to big sis and lil sis ..time flies and kids do grow fast even before we realize . ...best of wishes ..take care ...hugs and smiles ~~ Jaya


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