Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

Potoler Dolma | Potol er Dorma | Stuffed PointedGourd

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

The word Dolma, from the Turkish verb Dolmak, means to be filled and refers to all kinds of stuffed food in the Ottoman cuisine, the most popular being stuffed grape leaves. The Persians call it Dolmeh. The Bengalis call it Dolma or even Dorma. Potoler Dolma or Dorma is a very popular Bengali dish made with the summer vegetable potol or pointed gourd. It is believed that dolma came to Bengali households holding the hands of Armenian families who were originally from Persia and had followed the trade route to finally settle in Chinsurah, near Kolkata. While the original Dolma was stuffed with minced meat and rice as mentioned earlier, the fusion potol’r dolma in Bengali households was stuffed with minced meat, fish and even a vegetarian stuffing of paneer and coconut.

Potoler Dolma is the kind of dish that always, always reminds you of your grandmother and her kitchen. A slightly hunched figure, sitting on the kitchen floor, on a raised wooden plank called pinri, her gnarly fingers expertly stuffing hollowed out potols (pointed gourd) , which would then be lightly fried and simmered in a gravy. I don't know how my Dida felt about making Potol er Dorma or where she learned it from. It was not really an easy task and since it was always made when there was a house full of people, there were lots of Potols to scrape and stuff. She cooked happily, tired but satisfied, and we thought it was given that she would make Potol er Dolma for us.

My Mother prepping Potol

More than the potol or pointed gourd, I loved the stuffing that went in it. My Dida's standard stuffing for Potoler Dorma would be made with fish. Fish filet was not easily available in North Kolkta in those days and my Dida steamed pieces of Rohu, deboned them patiently and then made a delicious stuffing with the fish. Usually when she was making a large batch of Potoler Dorma for the whole family, my mom or one of the aunts was delegated to make the stuffing. But rest of the Dolma was always hers and hers alone.

Ma stuffing the Potol. This stuffing was made of Ricotta as I was too lazy to make Chhana

Unlike my grandmother, I never ever make Potol er Dorma when there is a house full of people. I want to hold on to my lyaad-quuen crown and cooking difficult stuff for a crowd doesn't get you one!
So it is always made in small quantity for the family and then depending on the availability of the right size Potol(Pointed Gourd) in our Patel. I think I made it multiple times a few years back in 2019, while writing "Those Delicious Letters" as there was a chapter around this dish. This summer I made it once more. My mother was surprised and couldn't believe her eyes that I was doing such a thing !!

Now what I have realized is with a dish like this if you can break it down into smaller tasks, it is much easier to do. 
1. Day 1/Task 1 -- Make the stuffing. Depending on your choice you can make a niramish stuffing with chhana/paneer or  amish stuffing with fish or keema. Refrigerate and make sure no one eats it.
2. Day 2/Task 2 --  Make the base for the gravy/curry. Scrape the potol, Peel in alternate strips, hollow it out, wrap it in a damp cloth and refrigerate.
3. Day 3/Task 3 --  Fry and stuff the potol. Finish the gravy. Simmer the potol in the gravy. 

There are two things I do to make stuffing the potol more easy

1. I first sauté the potol, cool and stuff. In the original recipe, the raw potol is stuffed and then fried. There is a chance that the stuffing might come out if you do this so I do the sauteing first.
2. I try to make my stuffing with a very smooth texture, so that it kind of sits nicely inside the potol and doesn't  spill out. My Dida would securely tie the potol but I don't do that and so far it has been fine.

Hope you make this dish at least once to see what a star Mr. Potol Babu can be too. I have shared the recipe for both the vegetarian Paneer stuffing OR the Fish stuffing, you can use either.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Ilish Maacher Tauk -- heady memories

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok/Ambol | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Chutney, Ambol and Tok are the three different varieties of sour dishes in Bengal, the difference being in the sourness and thickness of the gravy in the dish. While Chutneys are the sweetest with a thick, sticky base, the ambol and tauk/tok are more sour and have a thinner gravy. Of all this, the Tauk(or Tok) is supposed to be the most sour. Since fish is abundant in Bengal, fish often features in a Tok or Ambol. Usually it's the tiny Mourala  which goes in a Tok or the fish head and tail of Hilsa (Ilish Macher Tok).  This tangy stew kinda dish is had as a last course, mixed with rice and supposed to have cooling effects in the hot summer.

Update: This post was originally done in2012. I am updating with new photos and more precise recipe in 2021.
midst the umpteen other things that my Dida(maternal grandmother) cooked, there was an Ilish Macchher Tauk. Heads of ambrosial Ilish suspended in a thick, brown, sweet and syrupy liquid that was sweetened with jaggery and soured by ripe tamarind. To call it a "Hilsa Head Chutney" would be plain blasphemy.

It was a backstage kinda dish. I mean while the choicest pieces of Ilish were fried and served as is in a bhaja, the beautiful steak pieces steamed as a bhapa in clinging mustard sauce with fluffed white rice, the fish roe were fried and served with the tel and fresh green chili, the head and the tail led a sad life in waiting.

"Too many bones. Can't eat it", said the young girls in the family with a toss of freshly washed step-cut hair.

"Not enough meat in these pieces", said the grown up men who thought it beneath themselves to be served a lyaja -- a fish tail.

"Rohu heads are better. This has a strong smell", said the younger men, their faces till gentle, their opinion yet not chauvinistic.

And so the matha and the lyaja -- the fish head and the fish tail -- waited in my Dida's kitchen till she was done with the bhaja, the jhaal, the jhol. By then the sun was high up, the crows sitting on the Neem tree outside the kitchen were tired of all the cawing, the neighborhood cat had a princely meal of Ilish fish scales and was patiently waiting by the kaltala for the remains from the men's lunch plates who could never chew on the fish bones. The kaajer mashi--the house help-- Minoti'r Ma was hovering around the back door waiting to see which piece she would be taking home.

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Tok

Ilish Mach er Tok/Ambol

It was then that my Dida opened up a green lidded plastic jar where lay a block of tamarind, brown, ripe and sticky wrapped in a piece of
The matha and the lyaja heaved relief. They loved the tauk. They loved being in that tangy, sweet liquid where they were the stars of the dish.

Minoti'r Ma stopped fretting and came to sit by the stove. I kept telling Ma that I would have lunch later with Dida and the older women. Dida put the kadahi back on the unoon and poured some more Mustard Oil in it. Minoti'r Ma rubbed the tamarind in a bowl full of water to take out the seeds and make the "kaath". The water slowly turned a deep burnt sienna and the kadhai hissed with scarlet red chili and mustard seeds. The matha and lyaja nudged each other and smiled. Their moment had come. As they bubbled in the tamarind gravy of the tauk sweetened by jaggery I waited patiently for the last course of my meal. The Ilish maacher Matha'r tauk.


My Mother made this tauk way back in March when she was visiting. I merely hovered around in anticipation. She and I are the only ones in the family who will eat this dish nowadays. So I wait for her--to visit us---and amidst many other things to cook me a Ilish Maacher tauk.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Salsa Egg Curry -- Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha

This Salsa Egg Curry saga goes way back to pre-Independence India, when my grandmother was a young girl who tended wild hens in her backyard while making fresh salsa that a Mexican traveler had taught her! Those wild country hens laid some delicious brown eggs and the Mexican traveler had brought her some of his country's fresh hot jalapenos. Actually that was his way of proposing marriage but she gave him bhai-phota and ruined his plans! Inspite of this heart breaking incident, this dish was much loved in our home and went by the name of Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha.

How many of you think that is the truth? How many of you think staying true to your roots means cooking a dish from your country or culture exactly how it has always been done?

Truth is this Salsa egg Curry saga goes back to the summer of 2019  when vacationing in Iceland and missing Dim Kosha, we had promptly made this egg curry, the night after we saw the magical Northern Lights. This is the story that I will tell my grandkids. This might just become their story for their version of Dim Kosha,

How at 9:30 PM at night, the aurora tracking app on my phone started buzzing and we jumped into the car, driving towards the location where sighting was supposed to be best. A merely short 10mins drive out of town and we could see the activity increasing. We pulled up on the side of the road somewhere in pitch darkness and the magnetic storm put up a great show for us. The dark sky above us came alive with curtain of lights, swaying and waving, and  taking on colored hues. It was at the same time beautiful and creepy, kept reminding me of horcruxes from HP.
The night after we had Salsa Dim Kosha!
If a Bengali dish with Mexican ingredients comes into existence in Iceland,  does it mean going back to your roots or adapting your roots and giving it space to breathe and grow?

First Sighting as per FB: September 2019 -- in Iceland

In Bangla there is a saying "Dheki swarge giyeo dhaan bhaange".
Loosely translated it means "If possible, a Bong will cook & eat a spicy dim kosha(egg curry) even when she is amidst the beauty and luxury of a place like heaven"!
Well actually that's not the translation but I an 100 percent sure this is what it means🤣😜
After the ethereal beauty of the Aurora yesterday, this egg curry gave us  joy that only heaven can shower on you. So errm, due to lack of regular ingredients this was made with salsa from a jar, onions, sriracha sauce and a sprinkle of curry powder. All found in our Airbnb kitchen!
And it was so good that I am going to copyright this recipe. Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha!! ❤

Also a huge thanks to all of you who inspired us to cook on vacation. Grocery stores will be put on my next vacation itinerary. Really enjoyed the experience.

Second Sighting as per FB post: August 2020 -- in Maine

Last year, around this time we were getting all ready and doing last minute booking for our Iceland trip🏞.
Food was big on my mind as everyone had said Iceland is an expensive country. However other than some packets of maggi and snacks, I did not carry any more food in my luggage. I love to eat local at the places we travel and if local restaurants were expensive or not good enough then I would rather buy local groceries🛒 😜
And that is what we did. I made it a point to visit the local grocery store Kronan and Bonus in the 4 different places that we stayed in our airbnb!!!  
However I don't like spending time cooking during vacation either. So there were shortcuts. Marinated salmon and fiskoo burgers were our regular buy.
And then this egg curry, made with a jar of salsa 💃 + hot sauce🌶. No chopping onions and garlic, no other spices needed. This was such a hit that on our recent road trip to Maine, we made this salsa egg curry again. 
It's the easiest egg curry that tastes closest to dim kosha and with zero effort. Perfect for a vacation or staycation.
I think I should post a recipe for this one soon. A #norecipe recipe 😍

In Maine, this Egg Curry was made with a tub of fresh pico de gallo at the neighborhood grocery store. Some green chilies, garlic powder, paprika went in.

Third Sighting: May and July 2021 -- in Vermont and Catskills

This time the salsa was a super hot, ghost pepper salsa. The spice rack at the AirBnB had some seasoning from TJ’s and also some paprika and curry powder. That’s all that went into the curry.

The Egg Curry was delicious. And so easy to make. I don’t know why I don’t make this at home. Maybe it’s the wanderlust that makes this egg curry more exciting, the adventure of what lies in an unfamiliar kitchen, who is to say!

Salsa Egg Curry - No Recipe Recipe

Buy Eggs from the local grocery store wherever you are.

Buy Salsa
  1. You can buy fresh Pico de Gallo
  2. You can buy a jar of any generic hot salsa
  3. You can buy the super hot Ghost pepper or Dessert Pepper Salsa.
I prefer the salsa to be bit chunky for this dish.

Now if you do not want to buy salsa, the essence of this dish is lost, but what can we do. Make your own fresh Pico De Gallo, You can follow this recipe for pico de gallo but I will say increase the jalapeno.
Make this Salsa too. Use one or both
Take 2 medium good quality tomatoes. If you don't have access to great tomatoes, open a can of crushed or diced tomatoes.

In a food processor add
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
3 chopped green chili or 1 jalapeno chopped
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Pulse to combine everything. Should NOT be a smooth paste.

Add salt and sugar to taste to the above. Combine. Your salsa is ready

Boil and peel the Eggs. Score the tips like a cross. Fry them with Turmeric powder and a sprinkle of paprika until the skin starts to crinkle and takes on brown spots. Remove and set aside.

Now in the same oil, add the Pico de Gallo and sauté. Follow with the Salsa. (Note: With store bought chunky salsa, just add the salsa to the oil, nothing more).

Add any spice powder that is available and takes your fancy. Some suggestions - garlic powder, total seasoning, onion powder, curry powder, paprika, red chili powder, a touch of garam masala.

Sauté until you see oil separating from masala. The ole Indian trick. Add salt and sugar as per your taste.

Add the eggs now and cook along with the masala. The gravy will be clinging to the eggs. Serve with rice.

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach - Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach - Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

KaloJeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach | Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

Kalo Jeere (Nigella Seeds) is supposed to alleviate joint pains. Sesame seeds might lower lipid levels. Every spice has a nutritional benefit, other than adding taste and flavor. Taking off from the Bengali favorite Kalo Jeere diye Maacher Jhol, this is a little different salmon dish, cooked in a paste of coriander, nigella seeds and sesame seeds. It really tasted so delicious and is so easy to make that it has found a secure place in my weeknight salmon repertoire. You can play around with the spices and find your perfect fit.

For a long time, I could not figure out what to name this dish ? Was it DKT (Dhonepaata-Kalo Jeere-Til) Maach or KTD (Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepata ) Maach? Or was it just Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon? Or was it just a delicious weekday fish?

I think I spent more time in the nomenclature than in cooking this simple dish which definitely tastes more Bengali than it sounds. It owes its origin in parts to my mother, who has been trying to add more of kalo jeere(nigella seeds) to her food once she learned that Kalonji seeds help in alleviating joint pains and aches. 

I had heard of this magical property of Kalonji long back when our babysitter M Nani, from Bangladesh, used to eat Kalo Jeere bhorta ( a paste of roasted nigella seeds, chilies and garlic cooked in little oil) as a side with her meal. However until my mother used the same strategy in fish, it never crossed my mind to do that. My mother also added sesame seeds (til) along with the nigella as she read somewhere that sesame seeds help in controlling cholesterol and has been gently coaxing the husband-man to have sesame seeds in his diet.

This is really a very simple, easy recipe. I haves skipped garlic but you can add it. Play around with the quantity of Nigella and Sesame seeds until you find the best balance. This is what worked for me this time, there was no overpowering taste of kalonji or til. Next time I might increase the amounts a little.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Ma'r Peper Shukto -- Green Papaya Shukto

Pepe Shukto | Raw Green Papaya Shukto

Peper Shukto | Raw Green Papaya Shukto

Shukto, in Bengali cuisine holds a very important place as a palate cleansing starter to a gourmet meal. Dating back in origin to the medieval period (as mentioned in Mangal-Kavya, shukto recipes might vary over time and region but a bitter vegetable is always the mainstay. The more common Bengali shukto is cooked with a mélange of vegetables. This very different Pepe Shukto made by my mother, has grated raw green papaya and bitter gourd, both vegetables having immense medicinal qualities and is the perfect start to a meal on a summer day.

Some people cook a lot in times of stress. I am not one of them. I think my Mother is.

Last year, when India went into lockdown during Covid, I had suggested that my parents get food delivered from a caterer. A friend suggested a home caterer recommended by her elderly parents in the same area as my parents. There was some initial resistance from my parents,

My Mother had always cooked all our meals as far back as I can remember. She never liked the idea of a cook and on the few occasions that she had one, she couldn't wait to get rid of the "cook" person.  Naturally she was not very eager about this home delivery. However I was getting worried about them going out for daily grocery, vegetables, fish etc. during Covid and so the home delivery seemed like a wise decision at that point. Simple Bengali dishes, cooked at home by the gentleman's wife, enough for two meals for my parents. 
Surprisingly, they soon took to the home delivery, in particular the person who ran the business, and on occasions my Baba would even praise the cooking. "Enchorer torkari ta besh bhalo korechilo, laal rong hoyechilo jhol tar," my not-interested-in-food Baba would say over the phone.

Many of you know that I was in India in the later part of last year. The home delivery was still continuing. The food was good but for someone like me, who cooks mostly in Olive oil and always chooses low-oil options, the aloo-potol er dalna with a slick layer of oil floating on top or the jackfruit curry with a shimmer of oil like a placid lake, was too much for everyday meals. The oil was not in excess for those used to full course Bengali/Indian meals but I realized it was me, whose food habit had changed with time and environment,

So to complement the food delivered with healthier options, I started popping across to the small store across our housing complex, every other day to get some vegetables that could be steamed or boiled. I bought the same vegetables every time -- a raw papaya (pepe), a couple of bittergourd, carrots, green chilli and lime. I would then add all these vegetables to a pot of lentils and boil them together, to make a dal with vegetables. I was in no mood to do anything more.

One day for lunch, I saw a beige colored vegetable dish with a bay leaf peeping out for lunch. It was not from the home-delivery tiffin carrier. My mother sheepishly admitted, that she had made Pepe'r Shukto. I had never heard of it. Neither did I understand the point of making hundred different types of shukto.
Maybe my mother got tired of the raw green papaya and bittergourd that I would always steam with the lentils, maybe she just wanted to do something that would keep her mind busy, maybe she wanted to be engaged again in her kitchen, to go back to a routine...I don't know. What I admired was that with so many things going on, she gathered strength to grate a raw green papaya, chop bittergourd and make a dish which was far more complex than the boiled fare I had been doing all along!

I have never been fond of any kind of shukto ever but I have started making this Pepe'r shukto often. My friends and the husband-man seem to love it. In my mother's version it is more sweet than bitter and with a generous amount of ghee, it could pass off as an almost dessert!! Naturally, my version has less sugar and ghee but if you want be generous with those.

Monday, May 10, 2021

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

Macher Dim er Bora, Bengali 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.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Gondhoraj Bhetki| Gondhhoraj Fish-- Fish flavored with Lime leaves

Gondhoraj Fish | Fish Flavored with Lime Leaves
Gondhoraj Fish

The first time I had Gondhoraj Bhetki was about seven or eight years back at Oh! Calcutta. Even at that time, Bengali restaurants serving Bengali food in a great ambience was rare and Oh!Calcutta was kind of a trail blazer. I had found the food good enough but the restaurant too expensive. Two things had caught my fancy. One was their Nolen Gur er Ice Cream, I had never had that one before. Second was their Gondhoraj Bhetki

Recently, my friend Nandini shared with me her version of Gondhoraj Fish, made with Basa and Kaffir Lime leaves. It was delicious. I took  her recipe from the eastern part of the world and married it with part of my friend Kaushik's recipe of  Fish with Garlic and Lime from the west. The result was so delicious that this has now become one of our favorite fish to cook.

But my question is can I still call this dish Gondhoraj Bhetki if I used neither Gondhoraj nor Bhetki ? The recipe is same and I am sure the flavors hit all the right lime-y notes. The thing is if I wait for the right ingredients I will never cook half of the dishes I have grown up eating!

Gondhoraj Lebu is a special variety of lime which Bengalis are very possessive about. Oblong in shape and a pretty, vibrant lime green in color, it is larger than your regular Indian lime but not very juicy. A wedge of Gondhoraj Lime will yield only a few drops of juice but it is their heady scent that they are most known for. The citrus fragrance of this lime is so potent that it lingers on for hours after you have had your meal.
Originating in Sylhet and the hilly tracts of Chittagong, the gondhoraj is actually a Rangpur lime — a cross between a lime and a mandarin orange. 

Now there is no way that I can get Gondhoraj Lebu here, and even if I do in the freezer of some Bangladeshi store, I do not know if they will still carry their fragrance from the soil of their homeland million miles away. So I settled for the leaves of its distant cousin, Kaffir Lime, which I get in abundance in the Asian stores here.
I could have searched for Baramundi fish(Bhetki Fish) but I didn't and instead settled for what I had in my freezer.

Gondhoraj Fish-- Fish flavored with Kaffir Lime leaves

Fish fillet - Basa or Bhetki or Tilapia
I have used 4 Tilapia Loins each cut in three 2" x 2" pieces (approx. 400 gm of fish)

Marinade 1

Ginger paste - 1&1/2 heaped tsp
Garlic paste - 1 heaped tsp
Lime Juice - 1 Tbsp
Salt - to taste

Marinade 2

Yogurt - 1/2 Cup
Milk - 1/2 Cup
Heavy Cream - 2 Tbsp (for more creamy gravy use 1/3 Cup))
Lime zest - zest from 1 medium lime or half of a big one
Green Chilies - 2 chopped fine or made into paste

For the Gravy

Garlic - 6-8 fat cloves minced
Green Chilies - 4 chopped fine
Kaffir Lime Leaves - 2-3
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 3 Tbsp Mustard oil or Olive Oil

Wash the fish filet, cut in 2" x 2" pieces, pat dry.
Toss the fish pieces with Marinade 1 as follows
1.5 heaped tsp Ginger paste
1 heaped tsp Garlic paste
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
Let it rest for 15-20 mins

In another bowl add the ingredients in Marinade 2
1/2 Cup Yogurt 
1/4 Cup Milk 
2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
Lime zest from 1 small lime or half of a big one
2 Green Chilies chopped fine or made into paste

Take the fish pieces out of Marinade 1 and put in Marinade 2.  Toss it well and let it rest for next 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Warm 2 tablespoon of oil(I used Olive oil. You can use Mustard oil) .
Stir in the minced garlic and the green chilies. Sauté them until you get a beautiful aroma

Remove the fish pieces from the marinade and gently add to the skillet. Cook one side for 3 minutes and then gently flip the fish pieces.
Now pour the marinade into the pan. Cook at medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add salt and a little sugar to taste and mix it in. Add few Kafir Lime leaves or Gondhoraj Lime leaves. Add couple more green chilies slit at the center. Taste and if you want more citrus flavor add 1 more tsp of Lime juice.
Switch off heat and keep covered for the next 10 minutes. Serve with steaming white rice.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Kamala Salmon | Salmon cooked with Orange in an Indian Curry

Komola Salmon|Salmon cooked with Oranges and spices

Kamola Katla is a fish dish cooked with fragrant oranges made very popular by the Bengali movie Maacher Jhol. My Kamala Salmon has no relation to our Madame VP and is Salmon cooked with 🍊 oranges in a tangy, spicy Indian Curry

It's been a while since I wrote here. A lot has happened since my last post but I won't go there right now. I just  wanted to write down this recipe so I don't forget. Have you seen the movie? 

If you are a Bengali, you must have seen @pratimdgupta 's famous movie #MaacherJhol. If you haven't, umm...don't know what to say, just watch it. It's either on Netflix or Prime. Even if you are not a Bengali, go ahead and watch it, turn on subtitles. Kamola Katla is a fish dish with oranges made very popular by the Bengali movie Maacher Jhol
So I did not know about *Komola Kaatla* or Kaatla fish cooked with fragrant oranges before this movie. Yes, I probably live under a rock or a world where all our oranges were consumed.
a. As is.
b. In Juice form.
c. In a dessert like Komola Kheer.
In fact I had never even thought of pairing oranges with fish in an Indian curry until then!

The idea of oranges and fish seemed like a beautiful fragrant pair to try out. Since Salmon is our fish of choice and orange glazed salmon is pretty delicious I decided to make a Komola Salmon almost similar to the Kamola Kaatla. I have cooked this fish curry a few times now with Salmon. The tangy, spicy fish curry with soft morsels of oranges is really delicious and a favorite with my girls ❤

I cook it several different ways. In one option, I bake the salmon and then add to gravy. In another I directly add the fish to gravy and cook in there. Sometimes I add Green Pepper aka Capsicum, on other days Cauliflower. On good days I sprinkle a few sesame seeds and add more orange juice. On others make do with less
Possibilities are endless with this one. Any which way it's a delicious fish curry and is pretty simple to make.
I prep the fish in one of the two ways:

a. Marinate the salmon as instructed in the recipe, bake it with a drizzle of mustard oil at 250F for 25 mins, then add to the gravy and finish cooking there.

b. Marinate the salmon as instructed in the recipe, then add it directly to the pan and cook in the gravy

Kamala Salmon | Salmon cooked with Orange in an Indian Curry


Make juice of 2 Navel oranges. From each orange, we get about 5 Tbsp or 1/4th cup of Juice

Salmon -- 6 pieces of salmon 3" x 4"

Marinate the salmon with
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chili Powder
2 Tbsp Orange Juice
Keep aside for 15-20 minutes

While salmon is marinating we will get the onion-ginger-garlic masala ready.
Heat up some oil and sauté the following
Onion - 1 medium chopped in large chunks
Ginger - 2" Chopped
Garlic - 6 cloves
Cool and make a paste. This is our onion-ginger-garlic paste

Start Cooking

In the same pan add some more oil. Not much. We like to keep oil low. I have used Avocado or Mustard Oil in this dish, you can use Olive oil or Vegetable Oil.

Temper the oil with
Green Cardamom - 2
Cloves - 2
Cinnamon stick - 1"
Tej Patta/Bay Leaf - 1
Green Chilies - 2 slit

Add the onion-ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add 1 Green Capsicum chopped into small pieces.
Add the spices
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chili powder or Kashmiri Mirch - 1/2 tsp
Sprinkle a little water and sauté until the peppers are softened.

If you are cooking the salmon in the gravy, then now add the marinated salmon to the pan, making sure they are all in a single layer. Cook for about 3 minutes. Gently flip the fish pieces.

Now add about 3 Tbsp of Orange Juice + 1/2 Cup of warm water. Gently mix and let the gravy come to a simmer.
Note: If you have baked the salmon then once the gravy starts simmering, you will add the fish to the gravy

Once the gravy starts simmering add
Sugar - 1-2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Orange segments -- about 8 segments from a clementine
At this point taste the  gravy and add about 1/4 Cup more of orange juice for more flavor.

Cook for 3-4 more minutes until the orange segments are softened.

Switch off the gas.
Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of Bhaja Masala or Garam Masala.
Add some chopped Coriander.
Add couple of green chilies.
Cover and let the dish sit for about 5 minutes. This helps the flavors to come together beautifully

Serve warm with steamed white rice or pulao.

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