Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Parshe macher jhal / Parshe fish cooked in mustard gravy

I have been compiling a lot of my thoughts, in my head of course, to make a new post, for a while now. There were two or three things that I had decided to write upon. But everything went haywire this afternoon.
All because of a crow.
It was almost past twelve and the sun was blazing outside. The bare trees stood still. And there was an eerie quiet all over. It was obvious that everybody preferred to stay indoors as much as they could. Stepping out in the shimmering heat would be only for those who had to.
I had spent the whole morning doing nothing ... if you bar the laundry and some darning.
And had just stepped out into the balcony.
Finding it so hot and quiet all over, I decided to go back inside.

And that is when a crow cawed.
Not near anywhere ... from somewhere a little far away. But that cawing in that hot afternoon suddenly turned me into stone.
And a wave of nostalgia swept over me.
To make matters worse, I had Rabindra sangeet playing.
"Jedin tomar jogoto nirokhe, horoshe poran uthiche puloki ... " Sagar Sen, Bapi's favourite singer, was singing.
And I was transported back home in a blink of an eye.

Through watery eyes I saw Bapi come in, as usual, for lunch and head straight for the stereo system first. He would put on a record and wait for the food to be served. The kitchen would be a war zone then ... everyone trying to put out lunch in time .... 1 o'clock sharp.
Dadu and his sons had lunch first. So the ladies of the house hurried from the kitchen to the dining room, the house helps following them with bowls of food and trays holding glasses of water.
And the dining room bustled with the sounds of plates, glasses, talks, a cough hear or there, with Rabindra sangeet in the background.

I would sit on the window sill and watch quietly, soaking in the scene.
And look out of the big windows to see the haze of the afternoon heat outside.
And past the quiet, sleepy uthon / courtyard and the pond beyond it, on the single Taal tree, a crow would sit and caw.

And I would look at everybody's plates to see which one had the biggest pile of fish bones on the upper right corner of the plate.
Dadu would ask for another helping of bhaat just to mop up the gravy of the jhaal. His plate had the least bones .... Dadu was known for chewing up most of the fish bones easily.

Tears flowed freely as those voices reverberated in my mind.
I did not cook and did not feel like having lunch. With B away for work these days, I have no compulsion or motivation to step into the kitchen.
Rather, spent the whole day going through albums and memories.
And wishing for the nth time that I had recorded those voices somehow.

This Parshe maacher jhaal is a typical dish cooked in numerous Bengali homes with all kinds of fish, small or big, usually for lunch.
 I add tomatoes only if I am making it during winters.

Need :

 Parshe fish - 250 gms , marinated with salt + turmeric powder
Mustard paste - 3 tbsp
Onion - 1, medium, sliced
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
Fresh green chillies - 3
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp 
Nigella seeds / Kalo jeere - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water -for gravy
Cooking oil - 3 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy kadahi / wok.

Fry the fish and remove. Keep aside.

Add the nigella seeds + the green chillies.

Add the sliced onions and fry till the rawness goes away.

Now add the tomatoes + turmeric powder + salt.
Fry well.

When the tomatoes are done, add water + mustard paste.

Bring to a boil and add the fish.

Check for seasoning, cover and cook for five minutes.

Remove cover, check for gravy's consistency.


Serve hot with rice.

Here is a snap of our lunch that day .... Rice, dal, cauliflower fry and raw banana fry.
I have more lunch plate shots and ideas on my blog's page on Facebook.
Do stay in touch there for more recent food updates.


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Pui Chingri / Prawns cooked with the Malabar Spinach

The sun is blazing hot these days. The birds are already draining the water bath by the time our breakfast is over.
I have to fill it at least thrice a day these days.
It breaks my heart to see the poor birds flying around, looking for water.
Many try to drink from the dirty puddles on the roads but those too are not easily seen these days, given the dry weather and the heat.
I feel a kind of relief every time I see a bird drinking clean water from the bath on my balcony.
It is a sturdy and flat terracotta vessel and just deep enough for the bigger birds like the crows to dip their beaks in.

I keep the water level low in the mornings so that the little birds like the bulbuls, sparrows and the sun birds find it easy to bathe. They come very early in the mornings.
The crows, swallows, pigeons and the parrots come later.
I try to get a peek now and then .... I love to see them splashing around in the water.
And love the look of contentment on their faces.

There is a beautiful photograph of a freshly bathed swallow who sat in the sun for a while .... and dozed, that I had clicked once.
It is on the blog too but I do not remember in which post it is in ... hence cannot give the link just now.

Given that my balcony faces west, it becomes very difficult to care for the plants too.
I get busy with setting up contraptions to cover them from the direct sun.
Watering them twice a day is a must.
I do not have a green thumb at all .... most of my plants die sooner or later. Much of which I can attribute to our frequent trips too.
No matter what precautions I take .... from half filling the bath tub and placing the pots in it to lining every little indoor pot with damp newspapers to keeping them under very light running water .... I have done it all.
Right now my only surviving plants are the few palms that I had carried back all the way from Bangalore, a curry leaf plant, which I keep an eye on like a mother hen and my very precious Pui plant .... which I had planted from the stems of the big bunch that I had got from Bangalore last year.

That Pui plant has been doing well, touch wood, so far. I have already cooked a few times with its leaves and stems. I just hope it survives this harsh summer that nature is promising us.

This time, when I made this Pui Chingri from its leaves, I decided to make a post.

I do not use too much of spices in this chorchori.
Rather, I let the flavour and the sweetness of the prawns to mingle with the freshness of the Pui leaves.
And they speak for themselves.
If you are making this in winter, do add vegetables of your choice.
I did not add any ... just threw in some sweet potatoes for that extra sweetness and some baby Brinjals / Eggplants for some moistness.

Need :

Fresh water prawns - 250 gms , marinated with salt + turmeric powder
Sweet potatoes - 1 medium, diced
Brinjals / Aubergine - diced
Pui leaves and stems - washed and cut roughly
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Paanch phoron / Bengali five spice mix - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp 
Whole dry red chillies - 2, broken
Bay leaf - 1
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste ( this will a little sweetish dish )

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy kadahi / wok / open pan.

Add the prawns and fry lightly and remove.

In the same oil add the paanch phoron and the dry red chillies.

Add the potatoes and cook on low heat, covered,  till done.

Remove cover and add the grated ginger, stir a little and add the pui and the brinjals.

Give a stir and add the prawns too.

Now add turmeric powder + red chilli powder + salt + sugar.

Mix well till everything come together.

Cover and cook on low heat till the leaves are well cooked.

Remove cover and stir well.

Cook without cover, mixing now and then till all water dries up.

Serve hot with dal and rice.

And oh! .... This summer, if you have an empty space anywhere in your house ... even a window sill will work ... please do keep out some clean water for our feathered friends.
Be kind.

God bless !!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Amla ka achar / Gooseberry pickle

 Seasons come; seasons go.
Year after year. Time after expendable time.
We stand aside and watch.  And marvel at this wondrous thing called nature.
And the changes in it.
Every year.
We marvel at the leaves turning brown and they way they shower down.
We marvel at the beautiful rain.
We wonder at the sun's change ... from the loving warm to the angry heat.
And its move from north to south and again from south to north; twice a year.
We watch the bare trees bathe in green again.
We plan our days and nights and months in accordance to it.
Every single year.
And never tire of it. Ever.

Birthdays come; birthdays go.
We sit back and watch.
At ourselves.
And wonder.
What if we had taken that trodden path instead of the smooth highway?
Through the sunny woods and brown leaves laden trees?
What if we had opened up our faces to the sun and our hair to the wind?
What if we had stepped into that puddle instead of walking around it?
And let the rain in on us instead of hiding under that umbrella?
What would we have got had we walked through that stream and not taken the little bridge?
And what have we missed by not hugging that old person instead of just smiling and standing aside?


So many questions flood the mind.
So many 'what if?'s.
After seeing life upfront and close the past few years, this is what I have started to do.
Make a promise to myself.
That I will live in the moment more and plan less.
That I will let go of the obsession of staying organised and let myself be; at least for some time.
That I will take up things that I love to do ... more.
That it is ok to read a few more pages of that book and not leaving it for chores.
That I will learn to understand that everybody will be fine if I do not enquire after them.
That I do not have the sole responsibility of worrying about people and their well being.
That I will soak in nature more .... just like I watch Bapi's 'dwitiya'r chaand' every month, diligently.

That I will step into the rain next time, without that umbrella; for sure.

Speaking of seasons, winter is tip toeing out.
Very reluctantly; very lingeringly.
While we did travel a lot this January, I took out time to make some boris and stock up for summer and its dose of Paanto bhaat.
I also made some achaars / pickles.

The Kacche haldi ka achar and this Amla / Indian gooseberry ka achar is a must make during winters.
While I prefer to eat a whole Amla raw ... for its healthy properties to work better on us, I also make this achar so that we can have it with our food, on the side, too.

This achaar goes very well with some dal and rice. Or even parathas.
I am not much in favour of dousing things with loads of sugar ... so never make the murabba.
And neither do I boil the amlas ... all the nutrients get drained away that way.
I just keep them very small in size ... they get done quickly, in the sun, that way.
You can grate them too.

Need :

Amla / Indian gooseberries - 250 gms
Sarson / Black mustard seeds - 2 tbsp
Saunf / Fennel seeds - 2 tbsp
Kalonji / Nigella seeds - 2 tbsp
Methi / Fenugreek seeds - 1 tbsp
Whole dry red chillies - 6 pieces
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tbsp
Sea salt - 1 tbsp
Hing / Asaefoetida - 1 tsp
Mustard oil - Enough to soak the pickle ( around 2 tea cups )

How to:

Cut amla into bite sized pieces.

Coarsely grind mustard seeds + red chillies + saunf + kalonji + methi seeds.
Just one or two pulses in the mixie works.

Mix the amla with salt and the above mix + haldi powder.

Put into a dry sterilised bottle.

Heat mustard oil to smoking point.

Switch off flame and wait for a while .... till the temperature drops a little.

Add hing ... the oil should be only that much hot that the hing will sizzle and cook but not burn.

Cool the oil.

Pour it into the bottle.


Sun for four to five days ... without cover.
Here are my bottles of the Tel Kopi and Kacche Haldi ka achar along with the Amla, soaking up the winter sun.
Your Amla ka achar is ready to eat now.
Do not balk at the amount of oil ... it is just to preserve the pickle.
Over time, the oil takes in the flavours of the spices and the tang of the amla and turns delicious.
Just a few drops on some plain rice or muri / puffed rice will take you straight to food heaven.


I had made some Mooli Methi theplas that paired very well with this awle ka achar.


On another note, I finally managed to make a post on my New York trip, after ages.
Do hop over.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Bandhakopi diye Muri Ghonto / Cabbage cooked with Fish head

Or Bandhakopir chanchra maacher matha diye.
Whatever the name you call it by, it will stay the same ... fish head at its glorious best.
And this is my favourite way of enjoying the Rohu / Rui fish head.
No other way of the muri ghonto ... be it with the Cholar dal, the bhaja muger dalwith the Pui shaak or the one made with rice, comes even close.
At least for me.

I prefer to make this more during the winters.
When the bandhakopi / cabbage is fresh. The green peas are fresh, tender and sweet.
And I can add a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves for that wintery feel.
The advantage of using fresh cabbage is it will turn soft quickly when cooking and has a certain sweetness too. And not at all pungent like the ones we get off season.
That does not mean you cannot make this muri ghonto during other seasons too.
Of course you can.

I am not cooking much these days. All those travels and adventures have finally taken their toll and I am down with a case of acute bronchitis.
So, right now, the whole world seems like a miserable place to be in. My throat, sinuses and bronchi have suddenly come alive and decided that they have a will of their own.
And are acting very weird.
While I lie quietly, in high fever, and give in to their theatrics.
And dream of making so many posts that my blog smiles with joy.

But life says "Dream on."

You go ahead and enjoy today's recipe.

Need :

Rohu fish head - 1, cleaned and cut
Bandhakopi / Cabbage - 1 medium, cut into thin slices
Fresh peas - 1 cupful
Ginger + garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Whole dry red chillies - 2, broken
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Dhania / Coriander powder - 1 tbsp ( optional )
Mustard oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Garam masala powder or Bhaja moshla - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Fresh coriander leaves - chopped, 2 tbsp

How to :

Marinate the fish head with 1 tbsp turmeric powder + salt.

Heat 1 tbsp mustard oil in a heavy kadahi / wok.
Fry the fish head till brown.
Remove, crush to break into a few pieces and keep aside.

Add the remaining oil to the kadahi.
Add the jeera + dry red chillies.

Then add the ginger + garlic paste and fry a little.

Add the turmeric powder + red chilli powder  and fry well.

Add the cabbage and mix well on low heat.
Cover and cook till it starts to release water.

Add the fish head and salt.
Mix well and cover.  Cook till well done.

Remove cover and add the peas + garam masala powder and + sugar.

Stir and mix everything well.
Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Sprinkle the coriander leaves and remove from heat.

Serve hot with rice.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Kachkolar Bora / Kacche kele ki tikki

Kacche kele ki tikki
I have been trying to think of something worthwhile to write in a post, for a while.
But there is too much happening all around me right now to focus well. All the travels, the change of places, seasons, people, room and even the beds are getting to me. No, not in a negative way.
I think I am soaking in all of these happenings way too much; so much that right now I am hardly in my 'being myself' mode anymore.

While Hampi was an explosion of gorgeous ruins of the glorious history, all lying around, waiting with open arms for anyone who wants to delve deep and really wants to seek the long gone era, Bangalore was a haven ... with the luxury of basking in friends' company and love. This time I did not venture out much ... had friends over and spent time with them in the luxury of my suite and ordered food in. It was a calming time for me, as the drive back through new landscapes and places was.

And right now, it is Rajasthan that has taken over my senses completely. My sense of taste, smell, hearing, seeing .... everything. The vast and sudden change in food, the way people talk and relate to, the way they dress ... everything assaulted me even before I could get over with the ill mannered 'gentleman'(?) in the train who refused to give me my alloted berth just because he did not like his upper berth. (!!!!)

But visiting the family in Rajasthan always takes me into a different world so quickly that I hardly have the time to sit back and revel in past happenings .... good or bad.
One step into the house and you are swept off your feet in the mad rush of what is daily routine for them.
Everything is happening at once.
People coming, going, talking, going about their jobs .... and all in clockwork precision.

The day starts early, but leisurely, with cups of tea being doled out. I always try to get up as early as possible to be with them ... only to be pushed back into my room with a stern advice that I should rest as I am on on a break.
That I am a bahu of the house and am expected to get up and get going has never been thrusted on me.
Instead I would always be greeted with a sweet smile and "Chai piyegi? Bann rahi hai."
The house helps would have long arrived by then and half the housework and cleaning would have been  done. A couple of the old ones would banter with me, their "Bhabhi", trying to make me feel guilty as to why I was not there for Diwali.

Then the cook comes and everyone points towards me to decide the menu of the day. Papa would come my rescue by deciding finally what would be cooked ... but not before adding one particular dish that should be cooked by me. And of course, the menu would have at least one of B's favourite dishes.
And then, there would be a thousand and one relatives coming over ... just to be able to meet with us.
And since this time we were celebrating a milestone birthday, everything doubled four times over.

And, in all this humdrum, if you want to sit back , detach yourself and just watch ... you are welcome to. Nobody will disturb you.
But there lies the challenge. You just can't.
The energy all over propels you to get up and get going ... be a part of the housework; the people. I stay my quiet self by not speaking too much but listening and soaking in each moment to the full.


Which I am doing.
For a quiet person who lives in a quiet neighborhood in a quiet flat that does not hear much except for some Jagjit singh or some Rabindra sangeet in the mornings and evenings, this whirlwind is a wee little overwhelming.

So I turn to my only sane place, my blog.
And some recipes that are very close to my heart.

Like this Kanchkolar bora or Kacche kele ki tikki or patties made from the raw banana.
Plaintain or raw banana is an excellent source of fibre and iron and I try to incorporate it in my daily lunch plate at least thrice a week.
Boiled and mashed, plain stir fried or made into these tikkies, I love raw banana in all forms. While I prefer the mashed way to the others, I have to resort to making the tikkies or fry with spices for B, once in a while.

Since it is winter and we have some very good vegetables these days, I could not resist grating in a good amount of cauliflower into it this. If you do not have cauliflower, no need to worry. Make it plain or add whatever vegetables you have at hand .... just make sure they cook quickly as the raw banana is already cooked.


Boiled Plaintains / Raw bananas - 3
Fresh Cauliflower - grated, 1 cup
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Fresh Coriander leaves - chopped
Fresh green chillies - 3, chopped
Carrom / Ajwain seeds - 1 tsp
Sugar - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Bhaja mosla / Roasted garam masala - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to shallow fry

How to :

Mash everything together.

Shape into tikkis.

Heat a seasoned tawa or a flat pan.

Fry the tikkis with very little oil till the yturn golden brown and crisp on both sides.

Here is a closer look.
Serve hot.
These can be enjoyed as a snack with your evening cup of tea too.

Here is a look of our lunch plate that day.
Along with rice, it has Tele kopi, Mah ki dal, Besanwali gobi and matar (cabbage with green peas and chickpea flour), Kecche kele ki tikki , some spring onions. a slice of lemon and green chillies.