Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Katla maacher patla jhol / A light Kaatla fish curry

Katla macher jhol

(Vegetarians can make this with a mix of vegetables like  potatoes + brinjals + cauliflower. )

I have been sitting for the past ten minutes, trying to write a post.
But can't.
Too many things on my mind.
The days are rushed; loads of chores to be done with.
Settling down feels difficult. My mind is still in Amritsar.
The jovial people; the wonderful food; the beautiful mustard fields.
I just can't get over the wonderful days I spent there.

But now it has be back to reality.
And I am facing a block. Can't write anything.
And I have to make second post on my travel blog and that too is stuck.
So I'll just go ahead with the recipe of this simple jhol that I made a few weeks ago.

There are days when I do not have the time or energy to lay a proper table and click a proper photograph.
But in the hurry, when a certain dish turns out good, I know I have to share it with my readers.
So when this jhol came out so beautifully light yet flavourful, I had to make a post on it.
If not for others, at least for my own self.
For I rustle up things on the go and forget the recipe later.
So I clicked a few hurried photos and here they are.

I apologise of they are not too appealing. But this jhol will appeal to you.
That I know for sure.
Kaatla maacher patla jhol

Need :

 Katla fish pieces - 2, cleaned and marinated with salt + turmeric
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green cardamom / Choto Elaach - 1, broken
Cinnamon / Dalchini - 1 small piece
Whole red chilli - 1
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
Potato - 1 medium, cut into slices
Mustard oil - 3 tsbp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Red chilli powder - ½ tsp
Fresh coriander leaves - chopped

How to :

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed kadahi / wok.
When it reaches smoking point, slide in the fish and fry well on low heat till both sides are well browned.
Remove and keep aside.

In the rest of the oil, add the green cardamom + cinnamon + whole red chillies.
Then ad the chopped onion.
Fry well on low heat till the onion starts to brown slightly.
Now add the ginger paste + garlic paste + turmeric + red chilli powder + salt.
Fry well till the masala turns dry and oil starts to leave the sides.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry till they turn soft and mushy.

Now add  water. Check for salt and add if necessary.
Bring to a boil.

Now add the cut potatoes.
( If you want to, you can fry the potatoes first and then add now.
I do not. )

Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.

Now add the fish + coriander leaves.
Cover and simmer for around ten minutes. 
Pyaj rosun diye katla macher jhol

Remove from heat and serve hot.
Goes best with steamed rice.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Aloo Kumror Chechki / Stir fried Potatoes and Pumpkins

Aloo kumror chenchki

It has only been 10 days since my last post and yet I feel like it has been ages.
The reason lies in the fact that I was away on a short vacation.
I was in a new place,with  new people, new surroundings, discovering new things, eating local food and listening to local language.
I was in the land of Sarson da saag te Makke di roti.
I was in the land of tandoori chicken and  lassi and kulfi and samoses.
I was in the land of exquisite phulkari works and carpets.
I was in the land of kind, happy and jovial, large hearted people.

I was in Amritsar, Punjab.

And now I am back to my old city and home. To my routine life.
To my kitchen.
It has been simple food at home now for the past few days ... after all that gorgeous, butter laden Punjabi dishes. The night we reached home, it was very late. And yet we did not even think of ordering from a restaurant. I had put in some rice and potatoes with plenty of water and a pinch of salt on the stove. And by the time we had freshened up, steaming hot fyana bhaat, every Bengali's ultimate comfort food, was ready.
A good sprinkle of ghee and the potatoes mashed up with a healthy dose of raw mustard oil + chopped onions + chopped green chillies, into a perfect  Aloo bhate and we had a very satisfying and  soothing meal.
Nothing can beat such soul warming comfort food.
The perfect thing to come home to at the end of a vacation.

After returning, just as much as I was caught up with straightening the house and the kitchen, I was equally busy in editing a big number of photos to be able to share with my friends on FB.
At the same time, I had to make some posts on my travel blog too ... before I forgot the smaller details of my trip.
So got down to make a quick post there ... one post done and two more coming up.
And before I get caught up with those two posts and the rigmarole of editing and arranging photographs, writing down the details and then editing the post again, I though I'd make a quick post here on Kichu Khonn too.
Pumpkin and potato fry

So here is a quick vegetable stir fry, tempered with Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds and fried in Mustard oil.
A bhaja. A chechki. A chenchki. You can call it anything.
No overwhelming masalas. Nothing spicy.
Just the natural flavours of the vegetables, the sweetness of the Pumpkin with the hint of the nigella seeds and green chillies coming through.
Tastes simple. Tastes good.

Need :
Pumpkin - around ¼ kg
Potatoes - 2 medium or 1 big sized
Onion - 1 big sized
Fresh green chilli - 2
Mustard oil - 1 tbsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - a little
Red chilli powder - a little ( optional )
Salt - to taste

How to :

Wash the pumpkin.
Using a knife, peel it but not completely ... leave some of the skin on ... like so.

stir fried pumpkin and potatoes

Cut it into thick, longish slices.
Cut the potatoes in the same way ... thick and longish.
Slice the onions.
Alu kumro bhaja

Heat mustard oil in a kadahi / wok.
Let in the nigella seeds and the green chillies.
Then let in the onions and fry till the raw smell goes away.

Then raise the heat and add the potatoes.
Give a good stir, lower heat and add the turmeric powder and salt.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are half or almost done.

Remember to stir once in a while.

Remove cover and add the pumpkins, cover and cook till all the vegetables are done.

Remove cover and stir the vegetables on high heat for a while.
Remove from heat and serve hot.

Kumror chechki

This bhaja  or fry is a dry preparation .... so water is added during cooking.
If you have a batch of stubborn potatoes that take time to cook, make sure you cook them on low heat till well cooked and then add the pumpkin pieces.

The pumpkin pieces will release water and so eventually the dish will turn moist while cooking. Do remember to dry it up by removing the cover and cooking on high heat for a little while before serving.
Do remember to keep an eye on it while on high heat ... we want the vegetables to caramalise a little and turn brown .... definitely not burnt. :-)

The pumpkins impart a natural sweetness to this bhaja.

It  goes great with rotis, parathas or luchis.
It is great as a side too ... with dal and rice. Makes for a perfect comfort meal.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Kaatla maacher jhol Aloo Phulkopi diye / Katla fish cooked with Cauliflower and Potatoes

Kaatla maacher jhol aloo phulkopi diye

 (Vegetarians can skip the fish  and make this with potatoes and cauliflower. )

We had just shifted to Bangalore and I was on the lookout for good fish shops.
Since we lived outside the city limits, it was quite a task.
Friends, both online and offline, pitched in.
But somehow, things were not falling into place. And so even after two months of settling down, I was still clueless regarding where to get fresh fish from.

Until one day.
I was in the non vegetarian section of a super market, waiting to get my mutton cut and packed, when a lady walked in and ordered some chicken.
The man offered her some fish too, but she declined. The man smiled at her and said he knew where she gets her fish from. "They do have good fish, but please try some from here too".
Apparently she was an old customer and they made small talk while I stood there, all ears.
Later I waited for her near the billing counter and as soon as she stood in line, I abandoned B to deal with things and went up to her.
On my question, she smiled and said "Why did you not ask me there?!"
And went on to give me the names of shops I can get mutton and fish from.
I told her I am new to the place and will not be able to remember all the names at a time.
"Send a message."
"Send a message to yourself. Write down and send it to yourself."
The bulb lit up.
I wrote down every single word and sent a message to myself.
And to be on the safer side, to B too.

Katla macher jhol aloo phulkopi diye
I bought fish from the place mentioned by the lady ... which happened to be just around 6 kms from our home ... for a few months. But  it was the same routine as before.
Only Rohu. Or prawns.
I wouldn't touch all the other kinds of fish available there for the simple reason that I wasn't in a mood to experiment more than what life had been doling out to us in those days.
Anything new to me drew a panic attack.
So I settled with that one kilo of good ole Rohu and did not look beyond it.

Not until one day, when we were on one of our aimless drives ... finding out new places, especially Bangalore's lakes.
We had stopped at one of the lakes, parked the car and went inside the gateway to have a look at the vast mass of water. The lake spanned such a large area that the banks on the other side were hardly visible.
It was mid morning and we decided to have a stroll, taking in the air coming in from over the waters.
A few steps ahead and we saw a small group of people. They seemed to be waiting for something. Some were restless and were walking up almost to the edge of the water.
And then we saw them.
Boats. Fishing boats. 
There were at least five of them. Coming towards the shore in full speed.
As soon as they reached the bank, they started to empty their catch by throwing them on to the shore where there were men piling them up to be sold.

Fish! Fresh fish! As fresh as they can be.
Still alive, jumping up and down, gasping for air.
It was a pitiful sight.
But the Bengali in me quickly overcame it and was immediately transported to the days at Dadu's house.
One of the huge ponds would be full of helps, drawing a huge jaal or fishing  net from one end to the other.
And the numerous fish, huge flecks of shining silver in the sunlight, would be jumping inside it.
Only the required ones were picked and the rest, especially the baby ones, were let loose again.

Katla macher jhol

The loot from the boats were huge too. There were Rohu. And baby Rohus.
There were big sized Katla. And baby Katlas too.
And Puti. And Tyangra. And Parshe. And Crabs too!
I fell in love with fish all over again!

And from there, the banks of the wonderfully full, huge water body that we call a lake, started my journey of cooking Kaatla at home. The fish that I got from there used to be so sweet it took me back home. That taste compared only to the fish I had eaten at home. Frozen fish doesn't even come close to it.
I had my fill of Kaatla at Bangalore before I returned last year.
And came back to my beloved city to discover my fish wala has started selling big sized Kaatla too!!

I loved to eat the pieces of kata maach as a child ... almost every Bengali child does ... due to the big sized bones, I guess, which are easy to pick, ... especially the peti or the belly side pieces.
Another thing I absolutely loved ... and still do ... is the thick fat in those pieces.
I love them.
A plain bhaja or fried piece? Great!
Soaked well in a jhol? Even more better.

This recipe has ginger and garlic paste ... a rarity in my recipes.
I have added aloo and phulkopi/cauliflower ... as well as some tomato and fresh coriander leaves ... to get that feel of winter meals.

moong sprout salad

Need :

Katla pieces - 4, cleaned, washed and marinated in turmeric powder and salt
Potato - 1 medium, cut lengthwise
Cauliflower - around 8 medium sized florets, washed
Tomato - 1 medium, cut lengthwise
Ginger paste or grated - 1½ tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1 medium, cut into long slices
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - enough for gravy
Mustard oil - 3 tbsp 
Fresh coriander leaves - washed and chopped

Katla fish cooked with potatoes and cauliflower
How to :

Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a thick kadahi, till smoking point.
Let in the fish pieces and fry lightly.
(You can refer to this post on how to fry fish.)

Add the rest of the oil to the same kadahi.
When hot, add the sliced onions and fry well.
Now add the garlic paste and the ginger paste. 
Fry well on high heat.
Add haldi powder, red chilli powder , salt and water.

When the water starts to boil, let in the cut cauliflower and potatoes, cover and cook.
(If you want, you can fry the vegetables earlier and add now.
I don't as I like them to soak up the flavours of the gravy.)

When the vegetables are done, add the sliced tomatoes.

Check for water and add if needed.
Check for salt too.

Add the fish pieces , the garam masala powder and the coriander leaves.
Cover and simmer for some more time or till desired consistency of gravy.
Katlaa maacher jhol
Serve hot with steamed rice.
A dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some green chillies on the side .... makes for a perfect Bengali lunch of fish and rice. 

I had made a salad to go with it.
Nothing much. Just tossed some sprouted moong with some chopped onions + green chillies + pomegranate seeds + chopped apple + lemon juice + a dash of mustard oil + freshly ground black pepper powder + salt.

Moong sprout salad with pomegranate


Friday, 7 November 2014

Quick Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable biriyani
( Vegans just skip the ghee )

The mad rush of the days of Durga puja and Diwali finally settle down to a sudden quiet.
I can almost hear a sigh of relief in the air.

The days are sedate now. No more rushing about, meeting deadlines, following rituals.
No more staying on our toes; keeping an ear out for the doorbell ... anticipating another batch of friends or guests. No more checking if the jars and the fridge are full ... or at least half full ... to be able to offer something to guests.
The afternoons are lazy. The sun has already shifted and the South facing windows and rooms are flooded with sunlight; making the spots delightful to sit down with a book or for a snooze with a light quilt around you. Which I eventually do these days. Both.
Catch up with my much needed rest.
A book ... a few pages through ... and I am asleep.
The evenings are quiet too. I get up to a cup of tea and my book again.

Sometimes I cook something other than the daily dal, roti, sabzis.
It might be a quick pizza in the oven ... a store bought base with loads of chopped veggies and some cheese and pizza sauce, a few minutes in the oven and done!
We take out slices from the oven and leave the rest there to stay warm ... as we munch on our slices and watch the Big B's voice resonate through the room. I love watching KBC.
On other days I make a quick stir fried noodles ... again with loads of veggies ... but cut differently.
A quick toss and done!
Now that winter is here, most nights will see hot Aloo parathas, Mooli parathas or Methi parathas off the tawa onto the plates ... with some spicy pickle on the side.

These days, I try to keep everything short and quick. Of course I have always loved to cook light and quick meals. But these days it is more out of necessity. I am not supposed to strain my hand and shoulders too much.Which I follow.
I am not going to throw care to the winds and get banished from my beloved kitchen for months together ... not any more.

Vegetable biryani

So, when in one of our after lunch addas B asked me if I remembered the vegetable biryani that we had got packed from Souza's Lobo, Goa, for our return journey home, I jumped up and said I am going to make it!
What days those were! Two vagabonds, rushing off to unknown destinations, exploring new places, new food ... all in a shoe string budget. 
We were leaving Goa just before lunch. I had my fish with me ... all packed for the journey. 
But we had no idea what to pack for B. That was when the kind onwer suggested their Veg Biryani.
He said it will stay warm and we should finish it by late noon. 

The biryani was good. In fact very good. 
It had baby corn, green peas, carrots, potatoes,paneer, etc. 
And the gravy and the fried onions on the top were to die for. 
The rice has soaked it up well.
And we had one of the best lunches that day, while our train rushed through the Konkan countryside.

I did try the recipe out later ... almost always with left over rice.
But this time I did not have any left over rice ... so made it from scratch.
I did not boil rice in a vessel and drain it ... the usual way that I cook rice. Instead I cooked it in a kadahi till half done and added to the vegetables later.

If you are looking an authentic version of cooking biryani, this is definitely not it.
But it works.
Super quick and time saving. And not too much of compromise with the flavours.

Quick vegetable biryani

Need :

Basmati rice - 1 and ½ cup, washed well
Whole garam masalas - clove + cinnamon + black cardamom (broken ) + bay leaves/tej patta + dry red chillies
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Tomato paste / puree - 4 tbsp
Curd -  6 tbsp , beaten till smooth
Onion - 3 medium sized
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
 Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Biryani masala - 1 tbsp ( I use Everest )
Fresh coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Kasuri methi - 1 tbsp, crushed well 
Cooking oil - 6 tbsp
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Kishmish / Raisins - soaked in water
Cashew nuts / Kaju
Vegetables of your choice - chopped into small cubes
( I had beans, baby corn, cauliflower, green peas + potatoes + paneer cubes )
Water for the rice - 1 and ½ cups ( use the same cup that you have measured the rice with )
Water for gravy - as needed

How to :

The rice :

Heat 2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee in a heavy bottomed kadahi.
Add the whole garam masalas.
When they start to splutter, add the cashew nuts and fry a little.
Remove the nuts and add the washed rice.
Fry well on low heat for a while. Do not brown.
Add a little salt ... around two pinches.
Heat the water and add to the rice.
Cover and cook on low heat till all water is soaked up.
The rice should be half done.
Remove cover, fluff it up a little and keep aside.

Instant vegetable biryani
The fried onions or Beresta :

Take two of the onions and slice them up thinly.
Heat 3 tbsp oil in another kadahi or pan.
Let in the onions and fry till golden brown, on low heat.
This will take time ... so let it sit on one burner and start prepping for the vegetable curry.
Do not raise heat to brown them.
You can deep fry them too ... I did not.

Fried onions or beresta
The vegetables :

Heat the rest of the oil and 1 tbsp ghee in another heavy bottomed kadahi or pan.
Preferably a flat open pan ... and the base has to be thick as you will be arranging the biryani in it. We don't want our biryani to burn before it is cooked well.

Add the potatoes and the paneer and fry on high heat to brown the sides.
No need to wait for them to cook .... they will, once they are dunked into the gravy.
Remove and keep aside.

Chop up the third onion and add to the same oil.
When slightly brown, add the ginger + garlic pastes and fry well.
Add the haldi and red chilli quickly for it to stop spluttering too much.
Add some water if needed and fry well till cooked and dryish.

Now add the curd keep stirring on low heat.
When it has mixed well, add the tomato puree.
Cook till dry.

Now add the vegetables, the paneer, salt, sugar and a little water.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are done. 
Remove cover and add the kasuri methi, the biryani masala, the cashew nuts and raisins.
Add water if needed.
We need a thickish gravy like so.
Now spread the rice on the top of the gravy.
Sprinkle the ghee and the coriander leaves and the mint leaves.
Spread the fried onions all over.
Give one single stir to bring up some of the gravy to the top and then spread the rest of the rice on it.
Spread the rest of the onions.
Top it with the rest of the ghee.
Layered quick biriyani
Cover tightly with a well fitting lid or a heavy plate.
Let it sit on low heat, on the biggest sized burner of your stove, for 10 to 15 minutes , depending on the amount of gravy you have.
Switch off heat and let it sit for a few more minutes.
Once cover is removed, serve immediately.

Here is a closer look.
Quick vegetable biryani
This biryani is enjoyed best with the Raita on the side. Chilled, if possible. 
To make the raita, all you need to do is beat fresh curd till smooth, add salt, roasted jeera powder and some red chilli powder.
It is the perfect match to the light spice of the biryani. The caramelised onions give a slight sweet touch to every bite.

Quick vegetable biriyani

Enjoy this quick biryani on a lazy winter afternoon with friends and family.
Or as dinner on a lazy night.
Also perfect to whip up when you have sudden guests who you want to stay over for lunch.

Cheerio all !!