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Monday, 25 June 2012

Alu Jhinge Posto - A Gourdious Dish

 We have changed supermarket and switched to Morrisons. Tesco might sulk but we couldn't help it. Whoever has seen the recent make-over on Morrisons will understand my decision. The are A-M-A-zing! Especially the array and display of vegetables and fruits has completely blown us off. I have never seen so many different kinds of lettuces under the same roof. The herbs are so fresh that you have to resist yourself from pouncing on them. Everything is vibrant and fresh. And wait..the best part is yet to come. They keep our beloved Indian vegetables in bulk and don't ask for a hand and foot for them. I behaved like a girl in Disney store when I went there. You can't blame me for that. First time in this country I've seen whole, fresh and green Lau/Lauki (Bottle Gourds), Jhinge (Ridge Gourds), Uchchey (Bitter Gourd), Ol Kopi (Kholrabi) and Pepe (Raw Green Papaya). For the past 7 years we are so used to seeing the same in horrible forms, mutated shapes and scratches and scars all over them that seeing these beauties almost brought tears into my eyes. Yes that was going too far but trust me when I say that my heart started dancing in joy and I looked at the husband to see the same pleasure in his eyes.

I remember my Shejo Mama (Maternal Uncle) used to be in charge of doing vegetable and fish/meat shopping on Sundays or whenever there was any get together or occasion at my Mamarbari (Uncle's House). He used to take it upon himself to wake up early in the morning and take the 'Mashkabari Parar Rickshaw(local rental pulled cart) to Kali Babur Bajar in Howrah, West Bengal. He was a man of military discipline and we kids were all very scared of him though now when I think back I don't see him like that anymore.He was very particular about Sunday lunches, probably because that was the only meal he could have with his family. He was a connoisseur in Bengali food and made sure that we eat each and every course of a four or five course meal. So Sunday lunches at Mamarbari wasn't a very pleasurable experience, especially when you cannot jump to Mangsho Bhat (Meat & Rice - The main course) instead of having Uchchey or Dal Torkari (Lentil soup and Vegetable curry) first. He didn't understand that we were kids and we were not supposed to love Jhinge Posto or Uchchey Bhaate, just like we didn't understand the sweetness and emotion involved in a traditional Bengali family meal. 

Coming back to the recipe, Alu-Jheenge Posto (Potatoes and Ridge Gourd cooked in Poppy Paste) accompanied by any kind of Dal (Lentil soup) is one of the ultimate Bong comfort foods. Served with steaming hot boiled rice and a dash of mustard oil or Ghee, it can make any Bong sing Dhinka Chika at any given time of the day!

Alu Jhinge Posto

Prep time - 10 minutes
Cooking time - 20 minutes
Makes enough for 4

Ingredients : 

Potatoes - 2 large, peeled, washed and cubed
Ridge Gourd/Jhinge - 2 large, peeled, washed and cubed
Green Chillies - 2-3 split
Salt  - 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Nigella Seeds/Kalo Jeere/Kalonji - 1/2 tsp
Posto/KhasKhas/Poppy Seed Paste - 4-5 tbsp *
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp (you can use Sunflower oil if you want)

Method : 

Heat oil in a pan/wok and add the Nigella seeds. Let them splutter.  Add 1 chilli and the vegetables and fry on high heat for a few minutes. Add the salt and turmeric and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done. 

Remove the cover and add the poppy paste. Mix well and cook on high heat till all the water has been absorbed. Add the rest of the chillies and a dash of mustard oil(optional). Serve hot with rice and a dal of your choice. 

(*Note - Poppy paste is normally made using a Sheel Noda/speciality stone Mortar and Pestle. It can also be made using the small Chutney attachment of your food processor)

Musurir Dal/Masoor Dal

Prep Time - 2 minutes
Cooking time - 10 minutes
Makes for 4

Ingredients : For the Dal

Musurir Dal/Masoor Dal/Red Lentils - 1 cup
Water - 3-4 cups
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - A Pinch

For tempering

Nigella Seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 small, chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped(optional)
Tomato - 1 small, chopped 
Green Chillies - 2-3
Corriander Leaves - a few stalks, chopped
Sunflower Oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)

Method : 

Pressure cook the Dal alond with all the ingredients listed under 'For the Dal'. Bengali style Masoor Dal shouldn't be too mushy so cook accordingly (I wait till 1 whistle and then take the pressure out). 

Heat oil in a wok and add the nigella seeds, garlic and chillies and temper for 2 minutes. Add the onions and fry till they start changing colour. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the dal and incorporate everything nicely. Add the corriander leaves and the Ghee if using.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Kolkata style Chilli Fish

Yes. As all of you've already guessed, I'm a huge fan of Chinese food! I love the Indianised Chinese food that we all grew up eating. All those MSG loaded Hakka Noodles, Fried Rices and our very own Kolkata special Chilli Chicken and Chilli Fish dishes. We Bongs have very peculiar food habits. When it comes to street food there's an amazing unity amongst all the communities. We claim that we like fish and rice but the truth is that we eat anything and everything and we simply love to eat. Period. Maybe that's the reason why Kolkata is considered to be food lover's paradise by many. No matter what kind of cuisine you are looking for you will find it there. It's because of this reason, one of the most favourite places on a food lover's 'must visit' list in Kolkata is the China Town or more popularly known as Tangra.

I'm not sure whether there is indeed any authentic Chinese dish called Chilli Chicken/Fish or even Manchurian. I asked a few Chinese friends and colleagues and everybody seemed to be at loss after hearing these names! But then why the heck should I care or even complain! We are talking about one the most popular street food in Kolkata remember? This particular dish is not only available in the Chinese restaurants but also at all the little roadside stalls and even five stars. So you can guess how much this preparation is loved by all us Bongs...well not only Bongs but all the Kolkatans as a matter of fact! 

So suddenly with the KKR winning and all, I decided to make this dish as a tribute to Kolkata. It's a pretty simple dish to make, though a bit time consuming. But the end result is definitely worth the try. My 4 year old loved the fried Fish and we couldn't stop munching on them too. Perfect as starters on their own too. 

Kolkata Style Chilli Fish

Prep Time - 30 minutes plus marinating time
Cooking Time - 45 minutes (Fish needs to be fried in batches)
Makes enough for 4

Ingredients : 

 For the Battered Fish - 

Any kind of white fish like Cod/Haddock/Barramundi - 600 gms , skinned and cubed
Onion - 1 coarsely grated
Ginger Paste - 1 tbsp
Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Green Chillies - 2-3 minced
Salt according to taste
Cornflour - 1/4 cup
1 egg
Plain Flour - 1/4 cup
Sunflower oil to fry

For the gravy - 

Onion - 1 diced
Green Pepper - 1 cubed
Green Chillies - 10 halved (more if you want it hotter)
Ginger - 1/2 tsp minced
Garlic - 1 tsp minced
Rice Vinegar - 2-3 tbsp
Dark Soya Sauce - 3-4 tbsp
Green Chilli Sauce - 3-4 tbsp (use any other hot chilli sauce if this unavailable)
Tomato Sauce/Ketchup - 2-3 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Cornflour - 2 tbsp
Water - 1 cup + 1 tbsp
Oil - 3 tbsp

Method : 

For the Fish - 

Marinate the fish pieces with the onion, ginger, garlic and chillies for sometime, preferably 2-3 hours. Beat the egg separately and add it to the fish and mix well. Add salt and the flours and mix until all the fish pieces and coated nicely with the batter. Do not add water as the egg and water released by the fish and onion is enough for this batter. 

Heat oil in a wok and deep/shallow fry the fish pieces. Try to scoop a spoonful of battered marinated fish and add them to the oil. That way the fried fish will be flavourful. Fry in batches until golden brown and remove. Keep on paper towels to remove excess oil. (* These tiny fish bites are perfect as starters!)

For the Gravy - 

Heat oil in a wok and add the sugar. Let it turn dark and add the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chillies and peppers and fry on high heat for a few minutes. Add all the sauces and Vinegar and mix well. 

Mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp of water and keep aside. Add 1 cup of water to the wok and bring to boil. Add the cornflour paste, season with salt and pepper boil till the gravy thickens. If needed add more cornflour paste to the gravy. Remove from heat and garnish with Julienned spring onions. Serve hot with your choice of noodles, fried rice or even chapatis.