Bori diye maach er jhol/fish curry with lentil dumplings and paradoxes of blogger life

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Looking back it was just another cold wintry morning in December when I decided to start blogging..but why blogging?I have been following a few blogs since last few years and always thought it’s a great platform to share once’s thought,ideas and creativity.Indeed it is !

But managing a blog and keeping it updated,with a continuous flow of content  is not that easy.Or  does it appear so because I am still in the bottom of the learning curve?

Lessons learnt in the  last few months :It is never enough to just think  and conceive an idea and to jot it down,or just click some random pictures of the food you made.However,sumptuous and palatable the food is ,it has to look equally good and convey the message through pictures.It has to tell a story.What story?

May be the food is a part  of your heirloom kitchen or maybe it is a creation pressed out of you rattling in the everyday kitchen.Whatever it may be ,it has to be conveyed through photographs..but  how?

Through props(properties) may be.But what are props?

These are the non  food items required for the photo shoot.Anything starting from plates,cutlery,fabrics,kitchen utensils,books,background,fabrics  and what not  can count as prop.You can never have enough of these .You have to work your mind through  scavenging your props and decide which ones will look good and in harmony with each other  in respect to a particular dish .

They call this food styling and I thought I loved this  until I realized you might have the tastiest dish in front of  you,use one of the best cameras available,use great lighting;but all that won’t make any sense if you go wrong while choosing your props.If you consider these  challenges ,as a  tiny fraction  of my otherwise happy blogger-life,then probably I have to enlighten you further on my blogger life technical  challenges.Fixing a widget,link or managing tools are far from  cakewalk for me.I am learning my way through it ,and enjoying the rewards my effort  is bringing with it.It’s a package deal as they say.

 There are  perks of food blogging too..more stories to tell on that..but some other day!

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Alright,so now that the rant part is over, lets move  on to  the real food -talking,shall we? If you ever peep into a Bengali kitchen leave apart the pan-Indian scenario,you will find apart from  the traditional and well known recipes of fish ,every household and almost every family has got a special fish recipe to share  and a story evolving round it to tell.So,for me the store bought ready to make curry paste  sucks big time.A curry made out of it will never(or hardly) tell  a  story.I really can’t relate to it.Can you ever  imagine  doing a Bhog er Khichuri or for that matter of fact your favorite Murighonto with a curry paste?For me food is an emotion as well.

We don’t  buy Bengali fish varieties  (specially sweet water  ones with bone)very often since we get the frozen ones  here,but whenever we do,I make sure  to do at least one  simple curry , that we used to eat  at home.You can call  this  my immigrant syndrome.I will happily agree…after all we  always try to  find our root in our attempt at replication of the past.

 While I deal with the everyday challenges of blogging, I am glad not everything about blogging is that complex.Cooking the everyday fish curry is perhaps one of them.Simple,unpretentious and promising.It tastes as good as it looks.This  is a mundane fish curry  which is light and not extraordinarily spicy.It gets it’s unique punch from  the Bengali version of  dry lentil dumplings.They add texture and bite to the otherwise mellow but flavorful light   fish  broth.You can add your choice of vegetables (eggplant,green beans,carrot,courgette,pointed gourd/potol,ridge gourd/jhinge,cauliflower etc)to it  if you fancy.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Rohu/telapia steaks/or any other sweet water fish of your choice : 8-10 pieces
  • Whole cumin seeds(dry roasted): 3 tsp(1 tsp for tempering and 2 tsp  for cumin paste)
  • Whole  coriander seeds(dry roasted): 2 tbsp
  • Turmeric:  1-1/2 tsp
  • Whole dried red chili :   2-3(adjust according to your choice)
  • Green chili : 2( slit)
  • Potato : 3-4 (small to medium size)
  • Ginger paste : 1-2 inch
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Lentil dumplings/Bori : a  handful
  • Coriander leaves /cilantro(optional)

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Method :

  • Remove the scales(if any) of the fish and clean it properly.Dry marinate the fish pieces with salt and turmeric and keep aside for 15-20 minutes.
  • Make  a spice paste of ginger,red chilies,coriander and cumin seeds  by adding very little water to the mix.
  • Fry the lentil dumplings/bori carefully till golden brown,avoiding to break them,as they are generally tender  and brittle.Remove the lentil dumplings from the frying pan.
  • Cut the potatoes in wedge like shape and fry them,by sprinkling little turmeric and salt till almost half done.Take the potato wedges out of the pan and keep them aside.
  • In the same wok add some more mustard oil and shallow fry the fish pieces.
  • Again in the same  wok heat the remaining mustard oil , add 1 tsp whole cumin seeds and let them splutter  for a while and add the spice paste  and add 1/2 tsp turmeric .
  • Cook the spice paste at low to medium flame until  oil leaves the side of the pan.
  • Add boiling water  and adjust salt once the  gravy settles down little bit.Bring to  a gentle boil.
  • Add the fried potato wedges at this stage ,allowing it  to cook in the gravy.
  • When the potatoes are almost done,add the fried fish pieces,cover the pan and let it simmer gently.
  • Uncover ,add the cilantro (if  using)and  put off the  flame.Give it a standing time of 2-3 minutes and then transfer to the serving bowl.
  • Add the fried bori/lentil  dumplings  to  the curry at this stage.The lentil dumplings will eventually  soak in some of  the gravy.
  • Garnish with 2 halved green chilies and serve  the fish curry with steamed white rice and  lime wedges.

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A simple fish curry with mustard greens : maach-er jhol shorshey shaak diye

maacher jhol  shorshey shaak  diye1

Machh -er jhol (fish curry),patha’r mangsho(goat’s meat curry)mishti doi (sweet yogurt),shondesh/sandesh(bengali dessert delicacy),luchi (puffed flour bread) are few thing among many others that hits the top of  the list when we are thinking of a bong’s culinary diary.And how can I be an exception! My tryst with mach-er jhol started since the time I can’t even recollect .Mach er jhol can  be very hot,fiery, rich gravy of fish with  profusion of spices like garam masala or can be a mild yet flavoursome curry with or without vegetables.That is how I have known my mach-er jhol since childhood.There is no one recipe for a machh -er jhol.Each Bong household has it’s own way through maach,jhol and it’s accompaniments.But this cant deny the fact that there are traditional recipes  like maacher kalia,doi maach or shorshey maach which have their position of prime in the heart of Bengalis no matter what.Interesting thing to note is, that a bong can use the same spice or tempering to make different sorts of fish preparations depending on the recipe.With the rich mustard paste they make paturi,while the same mustard paste can be used  with additional greens or any  vegetable of your choice to culminate into a mach er jhol,which is more like a runny fish curry.

Mustard greens (Shoshey Shaak)

Mustard greens (Shoshey Shaak)

I was back home after a year or so,was missing my Maa er haath er ranna (mom’s cooking) immensely- I did make a mention of that to her once over phone and mom was ready with home cooked buffet of food on almost all the days of my stay.Saying ‘no’ to her was not an option, so I happily gave in to mom’s culinary expression of love.This one dish that stayed with me – simple,unpretentious and easy to make ,this is a fish curry to be served with steaming hot rice.

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How Maa made  Shorshey shaak diye maach er jhol

Ingredients  

4-6 pieces of Rohu( Salmon/Tilapia can also be very good alternative)

A bunch of Mustard greens(Shorshe Shaak)

1 teasoon-Nigella seeds/Kalo jeera/black onion seeds

1 teaspoon-Turmeric powder

1 teaspoon – Red chilli powder

5-6 tablespoon-Yellow mustard seed paste

Salt to taste

Few green chillies

Mustard oil

fish and greens

Recipe

Wash and clean the scales of the fish pieces.

Wash and pat dry the mustard green leaves,separating them from the stem.

Prepare a yellow mustard paste with water(just enough to make a thick to runny mix), 2-3 green chillies and 1 teaspoon of salt thrown in.

Dry marinate the fish pieces with turmeric and salt,shallow fry them  in mustard oil till they change their colour to golden brown.

Temper the mustard oil left in the wok (after frying the fish) with kalo jeera(nigella seeds/black onion seeds) and a few  longitudinally slitted green chillies,sauté them slightly.Then add the yellow mustard paste mix and the mustard green leaves.Add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and a cup or two of  boiling water , give a good stir and let it simmer till the greens get well cooked.Check the seasoning.Add the fried fish pieces.Cook for another 2-3 minutes in low to medium heat.Put off the flame,cover the wok with a lid to give it a standing time of 2 more minutes. You can drizzle a table spoon of raw mustard oil on top of this fish curry, if you like the smell of mustard oil.

fish with mustard greens

Serve hot with steamed rice.