Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bangla-fied Kashmiri Fish Curry -- that is how we roll

Bengalis eat a lot of fish. Growing up, I think we ate fish almost every day of the week. Not Fridays, because that is my Mother's Puja Day and not Sunday because that was the National Bengali Mutton Curry Day. But all other days there was fish for lunch and dinner. And not just one kind of fish. We could go a month without repeating the same fish actually -- mourala, magur, shingi, chara pona, tyangra, pabda, parshe, rui, katla, bhetki, ilish, chingri, the variety was endless. With each kind of fish the fish curry too varied. Crispy fried mourala, a dry dish of tyangra with eggplants, a soupy curry of shingi, pabda in a mustard sauce, fried fish with bhetki, malaikari with chingri --- ahh just the names make my mouth water.

In my home here, we eat a lot of fish too. Not always the fish that I would actually love to eat but mostly the fish that my girls love. I had never thought being a mother would involve so much of "Mother India" martyrdom but that is what has happened. I cook what the girls will eat rather than I want to eat, just because it is difficult to cook 3 different dishes. This means though we eat a lot of fish, it always hovers between -- salmon, bassa, tilapia or prawns. To add variety I try to cook these fish in different ways, grabbing recipes from far east, unknown west and anything in between.

When I saw a fish curry posted by Anita @ A Mad Tea Party on insta, a few months back, I knew I had to make it. Her photo was so alluring that I wanted that fish curry right then. I pinged her for the recipe and the true blue Kashmiri that she is, she shared her home recipe with details as to what to do when and what to substitute. The recipe was not on her blog yet and so there was no measurement.

When it comes to recipes, I trust a "home-cooked" recipe above everything else and so I took her recipe of Kashmiri Fish Curry as the guide and then "Bangala-fied" it. Which means, I added all those ingredients that a Kashmiri wouldn't but a Bengali would when she doesn't have Kashmiri suggested ingredients.

So instead of thinned tamarind water --I had lime juice, Ginger powder --was subbed with grated Ginger, and the Ver Masala -- was replaced with Garam Masala but Anita had suggested this. And then i added some fried boris or vadis as we do in a maacher jhol often.

The gravy had no onion, tomatoes and was a thin, runny gravy just like our Bengali jhol. But what made it taste different was the fennel. What a lovely flavor it added and the mild sour punch of the lemon juice was so very refreshing. We all loved this curry and I have been making it often.
I dare not call it Kashmiri as I respect an authentic recipe and I think I deviated quite a bit from the original. We will just call this Bangla-fied Kashmiri Fish Curry and rest our case.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Garlicky Tilapia with Milk and Lime

This is my friend K's recipe. I am not sure if he would like his whole name here so we will just leave it at K. This is a Tilapia with loads of garlic and bit of milk which he thinks he learned from a Italian Cooking show. When I saw the original video however I realized that this dish is more his creation than any Italian grandmother's. The addition of milk gives the dish a texture like my Mother's Dudh Maach, which the kids love, and then the garlic and green chilies take it to another level.

This dish can be served just by itself with some bread or with rice. We love it with rice like everything else.

Both K and I, have come a long way when it comes to honing culinary skills. There was a time 20 years back, when I had a reputation for frying cauliflowers by throwing them at the kadhai from a distance. Ahem, a considerable distance. Given that I was non-athletic and had hardly every netted a basket, the cauliflower throwing was a hit and miss affair. That I ever managed to make a "aloo-phulkopi" with cauliflowers in it, seems like a complex probability problem to me now.

K, has his own stories from the similar time period. His culinary experiments ranged from pressure cooking rice in milk to make "dooddh-bhaat" and making a dal-gosht that even the stray dog in their neighborhood refused to touch. None of that deterred him though and that is a good thing.

As you can well imagine, our friends still make fun of our amazing skills. But believe me, all that is a thing of the past. I have come a long way from those disasters. And same with K. Actually he is far a more adventurous cook than me and tries his hands at new technique and recipes all the time. He goes well beyond his comfort zone and every time we visit, there is a new dish waiting for us.

I pick up the ones, that my girls oooh and aah over. I know those are the ones I can pass off on weeknight dinners. I also make sure that I pick only the simple ones to try at home.

This Fish dish with loads of garlic, a touch of lime and then milk was what he made on our last visit. It was a simple dish, taking 30 mins max from start to finish.  The perfectly done fish in a pale daffodil gravy was as pretty to look at as it was to eat. You could have it with some bread or white rice. My girls loved it so much that I had to make it once we were back and since then it has become a fixed dish on the menu every week (until they tire of it).


Buy Tilapia Fillet. If You have got the bigger ones, I would suggest to cut it into two. I got the Tilapia Loins and they were slimmer than the filet.

This recipe serves 4 and I cooked with 4 Tilapia loins

Get a whole head of garlic, about say 12 pods. Either use a garlic press to press them or mince all that garlic. Garlic plays a important role in this dish so don't skimp.

We are going to make this Bengali hot, so grab a bunch(4-5) of green chili and chop them fine. If this scares you just use 2.

Start Cooking

1. Rinse and pat dry the fillet. Dust the filet with flour.

2. Season with salt and generous helping of fresh crushed black pepper on both sides

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Warm 2 tablespoon of olive oil and then add the tilapia fillets. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until pale golden and cooked through.

4. Stir in the minced or pressed garlic and the green chilies. I needed add little more Olive Oil. Move the garlic-chili around so that they cook in oil and become soft.

5. Add 1/2 Cup of water at this point. You are supposed to add white wine or broth, but we all just make do with water and it tastes fine.

6. Next goes in 1 tsp of lime juice, zest of a lemon and salt to taste. If you have added wine just check if you need the lime juice.

7. When the water bubbles and reduces to half, add 3/4 Cup of Milk.

8. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Add some parsley or dhonepata (I had neither). Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Serve with the sauce but we love it as a jhol with rice.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sheem Posto with Kasundi -- Snow Peas with Poppy seeds and Mustard

I have this habit of switching veggies, concocting recipes, substituting one ingredient with another. So it is no surprise that I hardly ever buy sheem, which we never find fresh at our Indian grocers anyway. Instead I buy the fresh, tender, translucent green snow peas from the Asian Market and substitute it for sheem!

With those fresh, tender, translucent green snow peas...ahem, I mostly make Dhonepata Bata Sheem. That dish is so freaking good that I cannot even begin telling you.

The one time that I actually cooked with sheem, and made a Tel Sheem, was when a blogger friend Soma, who grows amazing vegetables, sent me a box of tender sheem from her own garden. Those were soft and buttery and one look at them and you would fall in love.

Recently a friend had made Shorshe Sheem and the husband-man loved it. With snow peas in my refrigerator I thought of making a "shorshe sheem" today. Only, I felt extremely lazy and did not want to soak mustard seeds and then make a paste of it. I also don't have the smaller Magic Bullet jar anymore and to make a paste in the bigger jar, I would have to make a larger quantity. Instead, I decided to make a "Posto Sheem with Kasundi". So there would be posto and kasundi from a bottle and it would taste as wonderful.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Salsa Fish -- when Mexican meets Bengali

I don't have a lot of time to write today. I had promised to post this last week but then last week was super busy like any other. So if I start writing, this recipe will never see the light of the published blog!!

A quick note to say, that this Salsa Fish is my recipe, mine and mine alone. So don't compare it to salsa fish of a mom from Tijuana or to your neighborhood TexMex restaurant. Maybe she makes it this way or maybe the restaurant makes it better, I don't know. I have never had it at any Mexican restaurant here either. The inspiration came from our very own tomato fish and of course salsa.

So I make a mean salsa and my salsa has tomatoes, garlic, cumin, jalapenos, coriander leaves, sugar and salt. And then a couple of weeks back I thought since I am already making this why don't I use this to make a fish. That is what I did and called it Salsa fish. It had gravy and tasted like maacher jhol that a mom in Tijuana would make.

I served it with rice, and loads chopped onions, tomatoes and some jalapenos.

Then again few days back I made a similar fish, but not much gravy. I also added green peppers. Same salsa as the base. This was a drier salsa fish.

This is when I saw my housecleaning lady had put up her dinner photo on her WhatsApp status and there were tacos and guac and salsa and all very authentic as the mother in Tijuana would make. Not the American tacos that on the border makes.

Inspired I assembled a similar dinner. Multigrain tortillas made the base. Rest all were already there, how we served it, changed the scene and country!! So if you want, you can serve the salsa fish that way too.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nolen Gur Shooters -- for Ma Saraswati

So all this shooter-wooter was initiated by a single text. A text from a friend's little sister living in London.

Last month she sent me a message "BMdi, do you have a Nolen Gur er souffle recipe?"

Until that very moment I had no idea of any existence of "Nolen Gur er Souffle". A souffle as I know it is this --"A soufflé is a baked egg-based dish which originated in early eighteenth century France. It is made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert."

So would a Nolen Gur er souffle be an egg based dessert sweetened by Nolen gur or would it be a faux eggless version? I didn't know!

"How do they make it I asked?".
This particular young lady had earlier shared her secret malai kabab recipe with me and they were the very best, and so I hoped she would know this one too. (Will post that kabab recipe sometime).

"I don't know. Balaram Maullick has it," she replied back.

Since that day, I kept on thinking of Nolen gur er souffle. After a bit of research and since I wasn't sure if I should or should not add eggs, I finally decided on a mousse kind of recipe. After all a mousse -- a mousse is a soft prepared food that incorporates air bubbles to give it a light and airy texture-- is a close cousin of a souffle. The bonus point was mousse can get its foaminess from whipping cream and not always eggs. Perfect!

Now since I am a very lazy-bone, I found the simplest of all mousse recipes that needs only two ingredients. And then decided to jazz it up and serve them as shooters.

Now, Nolen gur or Khejur Gur is a very precious commodity for me. I don't get good ones here. My Ma buys them in winter and then saves some for me. She usually tries to send it through anyone who is flying to USA from DumDum Airport. Actually she did that more frequently earlier until folks stopped telling her that they are flying to USA. "Nope,  I am not flying to US. Jhumritalaiya has a new airport called JFK."

I use my limited stash very very judiciously. Birthday paayesh and such only gets to see my Khejur Gur. So I wasn't just going to make Nolen Gur shooters for my own pleasure. Nope. So I waited and waited for the right moment... and here its.

These Nolen Gur Shooters are Ma Saraswati's proshad tomorrow. I bet she will be very happy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Poush Sankranti r Pithe

Pithe,is reminiscent of the times when paddy was harvested in the months of December-January and the new crop was celebrated by making dishes that used rice, date palm jaggery(khejur gur also collected in the winter months) and coconutPoush Parbon or Nabanno was a celebration of the new crop of rice, which was the mainstay for the then agrarian society. We have moved many years forward from those times where rice is now GMO and harvested multiple times and grated coconut can be found in the frozen aisles of grocery stores. Yet, we still take the effort to celebrate poush-parbon, in our home to honor those simpler times when we revered soil and its bounty, instead of taking it for granted like we do now.

Here is a collection of few sweets, desserts made around Poush Sankranti that I have blogged about in the past years. I have tweaked the recipes and modernized them for my own good. Ideally, the sweet stuffing for the pithes and patishaptas around this time makes use of coconut, khejur gur and milk. The crepes and outer coating of puli and pithe is usually made with rice flour.

Gokul Pithe -- My all time favorite among pithes!!!Small discs of kheer-narkol (kheer and coconut cooked together) are dipped in a batter and then deep fried. These fried discs are then dunked in sugar syrup. Mmmmm!!!

Pyarakia or Gujiya -- Not necessarily in the pithe category but when filled with a coconut and kheer stuffing these empanada style pyarakias do make the Makar Sankranti cut!

Nonta Pithe --  Dumplings made with rice flour and stuffed with sweet and savory stuffing of coconut or potato-peas for savory.

Rosh Bora -- small fritters made with Urad Dal and then soaked in a thin sugar syrup

Pati Shapta -- Crepes made of all purpose flour + rice flour filled with a kheer stuffing

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Khichuri -- on a Snow Day

I would have never, ever thought that my first post on this New year would be a Khichuri.

Yes, the Bong's rainy day picker-upper, their precious offering to Goddesses, their solution to all word problems, the heady mix of rice and lentils with spices and veggies -- the Khichuri.

The thing is I never got the whole brouhaha over this dish.
I mean, "Dude, it is just Dal and rice, why are you going so crazy 'bout it?"

It appears, not the Bongs alone, all of India is kind of crazy about Khichdi. In fact they are so crazy that they wanted to declare Khichdi as India's National food. Seriously? National Food? When you have so many better things like Ilish er Jhaal, Dim Kosha, Biriyani, Galouti Kababs, Aloo Paratha, Mysore Dosa to choose from, you choose Khichuri. Major eye roll!

But what can I say. My Baba is major Khichuri bhokto. He loves his Khichuri with dollops and dollops of Ghee and relishes it like no other. The husband-man is another big time Khichuri fan. Although unlike my Dad, who love his khichuris whether bland or rich, this guy loves a good khichuri.

Today we have been bombarded with what the meteorologists are calling the "bomb cyclone". It has been snowing since midnight, along with a lot of wind and it looks like we are in the middle of a snow desert. Schools have been closed and there is no way any one is venturing outside. So today I decided to make Khichuri for lunch. The only silver lining in that whole cloud of Khichuri was the omelette, yes the only thing that can redeem a Khichuri for me. I don't care for fries or labra. A nice Indian omelette with onion and green chilies is my only knight in shining armor when Khichuri is for lunch.

Unlike the Bhog er Khichuri which is made without onion and garlic and with roasted moong dal, this every day Khichuri is made with Musur aka Red Lentils and has its fair share of onion and garlic.

You can serve it with an omeltte, papad, some pickle like I did or with Beguni or Begun Bhaja

So, the thing is for a long time my Khichuri would never turn out right. You would think it is an easy-peasy thing to do but somehow mine always went wrong. Either the lentils were under-cooked or the veggies were over done or something. I eventually got it right but I figured there would be hapless souls out there who like me fail at making a Khichuri. For them, I even made a shaky video of this whole Khichuri making, holding my phone in one hand!