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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