Winter in the UK is terrible. It's horribly cold and damp and depressing all the time and we hardly get snowed in. The Sun chooses to remain hidden behind the clouds most of the time of the day and when he does come out it's either too cold or too late to go out. As soon as the festivities finish, time just drags from January until the first glimpses of Spring appear through clear blue skies and a few daffodils and snowdrops here and there. This is the time when I miss Kolkata most. Winter in Kolkata is like a constant carnival. Waking up to a cup of steaming hot milky Nescafe coffee accompanied by Phulkopir Shingara (Winter special cauliflower samosas), reading the newspaper on the balcony under the sun and that eager anticipation of the winter celebrations.
What celebrations if you ask me, starting from picnics to the Book fair, from Christmas to New Year in Park Street, from foggy morning trips to Victoria Memorial to having dinner at the clubs, from Poush Parbon to the numerous weddings, the list is endless. And the choice of food is also endless. So all you need is a steady supply of Gelusil, a muffler(Bong version of a scarf - has to be knitted by Mom, Mashi or a similar post holder) and a good pair of trainers(you do not want to depend on the public transport during these months) and you are sorted for the winter in Kolkata.
Coming back to the UK, winters are torturous. They are slow, dark and ever so depressing. The only way we can drive away the winter blues is by recreating the Barir khabar (made at home, especially by Moms back home), seeing friends and just glancing at the calendar to count how many days are there until Spring arrives. Lucky for us, I think we are almost there!
Shorshe Pabda (Pabo Catfish in a mustard-coconut gravy)
Pabda Fish(Pabo Catfish) - Cleaned and packed in 8s
Mustard Paste - I use the Sunrise powder that I get from India
Desiccated coconut - Dried or freshly grated 1 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp to rub on the fish and to taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 a tsp to rub on the fish and 1/2 for the sauce
Green chillies - 3-4 slit halfway through
Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Water - 1/2 cup
Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder. Heat oil and shallow fry them in Mustard Oil. Keep them aside.
Make a paste of Mustard powder, turmeric powder and coconut. Add salt to taste.
Heat oil and add the nigella seeds and green chillies to the hot oil and let them splutter. Add the mustard-coconut paste and cook it on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring the sauce to boil. Add the fish and cook on high until all the liquid has dried up leaving a thick gravy. Be careful to not break the fish as they are very delicate.
Serve with steamed white rice.
** Note - If you don't have mustard powder grind 2-3 tbsp of mustard in a grinder along with 1/2 cup of water. Then strain the liquid out and discard the skins. This will give a smooth pungent taste without the strong bitterness of the skins.