Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ilish Maach Bhaja / Fried Hilsa Fish

Come monsoons and Bengalis everywhere look forward to one thing ... the very favourite and a delicacy worth giving your right arm for ... the Ilish or the Hilsa fish.

This fish is so sought after that it's price is skyrocketing year by year . A must in every Bengali's plate this time of the year, Bengali cuisine is not complete unless a few Ilish recipes are mentioned or cooked and served.
Even if it is not the season for Ilish, it would still dominate conversations when food is the topic.

Ilish is enjoyed in a variety of dishes ..... starting from the plain 'bhaja' or fry that is usually had as a starter to a meal .... to the sour dish called 'Ambol' (recipe coming up next) that ends a proper Bengali meal.

One piece of a fried Ilish / Hilsa is enough to down a plateful of hot Khichuri while it is pouring outside ... yes ... khichuri and Ilish are a great and classic combo. :-)

My fishwala has disappeared without a warning .... again. So while I was busy directing homesick Bengalis new to the city as to where to buy good Ilish from, I had not got a look or a whiff of this fabulous thing ..... till last week.

The other half took me to Oh!Calcutta. We did not sit down for a meal this time, but packed a dish for myself. But nah ... I was totally disappointed. The fish tasted bad ... am sure it was frozen. So could not have more than a few spoonfuls of the greasy gravy.

A couple of days back, the hubby took me for a much needed short drive... something that was so common and has been so missed for almost a whole month. On the way, we saw a fish market on the roadside. And stopped to have a look. There were some great Ilish ... big sized ( read less notorious fine bones ) and also with roe.

Though I have heard my Thamma ( paternal grandmom) say that fish with roe ( maacher dim ) does not taste as good as they should, I went ahead and bought one ... who knows if I'll get one again. :-)

I asked for whole pieces ... hence the huge sized ones ... and got a brainwave. Asked the guy to cut it with the roe. That way I got a good chunk of roe in every piece. Now I'll be able to get to taste the roe in different flavoured gravies ( Kalyan, I hope this answers your question to some extent) instead of getting to make only Macher Dimer Bora / Vadas from fish roe ( will post it next ).

Phew .... where did all that rambling come from ... guess I haven't written for far too long a time. :-)

Anyway .... here I am .... starting a few posts on I lish .... with the fried one or Ilish Maach Bhaja.
Remember to enjoy this when the fish has been just bought and is fresh and not been frozen yet.

Need : Ilish / Hilsa fish pieces ( cleaned and marinated with salt and turmeric), mustard oil to deep fry.

How to : Heat enough oil in a wok / kadhai till it starts to smoke.

Gently let in the pieces .... remember to hold a cover in your other hand and cover it immediately ... else the oil and water create havoc .... you may burn your hand.

Cook till brown on one side .... turn it over and brown the other side too.

The health freaks can grill it too.

Serve hot with some hot steamed plain rice with some lemon, salt and green chilli on the side. One mouthful and you are in heaven! :-)

Enjoy !!
This bhaja goes to Indrani's event on Fish.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Tomato Chingri / Tomato Prawns

( Vegetarians and Vegans can use any vegetable like mushrooms, cauliflower, even potatoes or paneer / tofu for this dish ).

After wading through gallons and gallons of vegetable broths, soups, purees and more broths, soups, purees ( I know, I know, they are healthy stuff ... but I have my health very much at place and I was not the one ill ... ) , I finally started to cook some decent meal for myself. Got some fish and eggs and .... well .... started to live again. :-)

The only thing that spares me from any guilt of having proper food right now ( read non veg food ) is that the other half is a pure vegetarian.

Anyways ... those of you who know me by now must know how I keep turning out something that I call a dish ... and then when at a loss for a name .... just name the main ingredients in it. Has always worked for me. ;-)

Whenever I get prawns and am not having guests, like I have said before, I eat them up as I am frying them .... nothing beats some garma garam fried prawns straight from the pan. ;-)

The few that get to save themselves from my chomping mouth get frozen to be stored .... and eventually are the ones that need some accessory to make them edible again. There are so many good prawn recipes ... but I do not like to go through any detailed process just to cook for myself.

So I chop up something this and something that .... and well .... something does come up. Besides, when it is the prawn that does the flavour giving part, nothing much is needed. :-)

Need : Prawns ( cleaned & marinated with salt and turmeric ), chopped tomatoes ( the more, the better), chopped onions, chopped garlic, chopped green chillies,
red chilli powder [ optional] ,
salt and sugar to taste, cooking oil ( I used mustard oil ).

How to : Heat oil in a wok / kadhai. Fry the prawns lightly and remove and keep aside.

In the same oil ( if needed, add a little more ), add the chopped onions, garlic and green chillies and fry well till soft.

Now add the chopped tomatoes, salt and sugar and keep frying till they turn mushy.

Now add the prawns and a pinch of red chilli powder . Keep tossing till everything gets mixed well.

Serve hot with rice / parathas/ spaghetti.

Am sending this to Indrani's Event on Fish.

C'ya all friends. I'll be back with more recipes later.

Also, many of you have passed on awards and tags to me recently. Thanks to each one of you for thinking of me. :-)

And thanks to everyone who has stood by us with your kind words. Luv ya all! :-)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Heartfelt Thanks ....

This post is to say two small but hearfelt words .... " Thank You "!!

( The cookie snap is from my draft. I'll make a proper post on it later. )

Since I usually do not write much about my family ... except for some trivial things in passing, I did not write the reason for my break in my last post.

As a result a lot of people, in all innocence, have wished me a 'happy break'. So I mentioned in just one line the reason for my break in the comment section .... i.e. the other half is ill.

And was overwhelmed at the response!

So many people wrote to me .... wishing me luck .... boosting morale .... saying encouraging words!! People from the blogging world, people I know personally, people I do not know at all ... everybody.

I had no idea so many people followed my blog so closely!

And the lurkers ... never again shall I crib about lurkers not leaving a line on my posts. So many of them wrote to me wishing me everything well !!

I sincerely thank all of you who have bothered to write, chat and call in this trying time. It really helps a lot to know there are people out there thinking of you when you are in difficulty.

Thank you so much for your warm words and prayers and for giving me so much courage!!

It is really unfortunate the way the city is under seige ... the swine flu scare is all over ... which is keeping us out of hospitals ... inspite of a required surgery in the offing.

So many innocent and ignorant people struggling to find a hold on this health scare. So many children ill or dead.

Life looks dreary and grey and dull. My writing is haphazard ... I have a thousand thoughts in my mind .... yet can't write properly.

Here's hoping for a better day soon. Till then ... take care all. And thanks again, dear friends .... just for being there with a kind word.

That's all that is needed in these trying times.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Plum Jam ...... & a wee little Break

Last year, when I had made the Tangy Plum, I was experimenting and had no idea it would be such a hit. I had played with it so that it was not the traditional jam .... and neither was it a chutney.
Everybody loved it. I heard several 'encores' and had wanted to make it again ... but the plums had suddenly vanished from the market .... almost as if somebody had snapped a finger and made them disappear.

So I waited a whole year for them to arrive. This time I did not repeat the earlier recipe ... I just dunked in everything with loads of sugar and some ginger ( the earlier recipe had them too).

And yes, I removed the stones this time.

Need : Halved/quartered and pitted plums, sugar ( I can't give a measurement here ... the amount will depend on how tart the plums are), very thinly sliced ginger and a very little pinch of salt.

How to : Dump the plums in a non stick wok and heat. Add a pinch of salt ( very little). It helps them cook faster and also balances the sweet and sour taste.

Add the ginger.
Cover and cook till the plums have released water and are cooked to a mush.

Remove cover and add sugar. It will release water again. Let the whole thing keep on boiling till everything thickens.

Remove from heat and cool. Store in a dry bottle in the refrigerator.

Enjoy all!!
This jam turned out to be pretty good .... though I'd like to make the other version once more. It had jaggerry and I personally loved it.

With this, am taking a break.
I know I can't stay away for long and I do have a few recipes in my draft ..... waiting to see the light of blogosphere ... so maybe if I get the time I'll post a couple .... must admit, the temptation of hearing from you all is a reason . But there are some things that need my attention pronto. I'll be available on mail though.

I'll be back soon ... till then do keep Kichu Khon company. :-)

TC folks ! Will miss ya all.