Monday, January 23, 2012

Ek Baati Maacher Jhol, Bowlful of Winter Goodness

I love winter vegetables because they show how the simplest of ingredients can evolve into something with a life of their own.

002Mothers in many Bengali homes have over years used vegetables in their fish curries to add that hint of “health” to the meals they cook. And also dispel any myths doing the rounds that all our lunch and dinners are made of phish and rice only.

044This maacher jhol (runny fish curry) is a classic dish in my family. Seasonal vegetables are cut and diced to be cooked in a rather runny mixture of spices to get all the flavours rocking and rolling together. Finally shallow-fried pieces of fresh water fish would be dunked in the end to create what I call is a marriage made in heaven.

There is no one way of making this jhol. Once you have made it a few times, your intuition will kick in and you will be able to make it with perfection and precision every time.

I have used vegetables like cauliflower, potato, green beans, whole sugar peas for today’s recipe. You can use Oriental eggplant, green banana, potol, or even sojne data when available.

017020Traditionally, a jhol like this is made of fish with bones (you can use rohu, tilapia, catla, pabda, or even bata). However, today I have made this with boneless-skinless Tilapia fillets. Just for the ease of eating when the husband and I take turns to have our dinner because of the way Little Miss N is programmed - to wail just when we sit down to eat. I have a feeling its also a camouflaged complain about what she is missing culinary-wise. That insipid bottle of formula can make anyone cranky!

Ingredients for Maacher Jhol are:

4-5 pieces of shallow-fried pieces of white fish
5-6 large cauliflower flowerets
1 large potato, cut into wedges
Handful of green beans, strings removed and cut into halves
Handful of whole sugar peas, strings removed
1 large ripe tomato, coarsely cut
Few green chillies, half made into a paste, others slit lengthwise
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
2-3 tablespoons yellow mustard powder (I freshly dry grind mine when I am making this jhol)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
Mustard oil

Once you have fried the fish, keep it aside.


In the same oil, sauté the potato and cauliflowers, till they get lightly browned on the edges.

In the remaining oil, add the greens, mix around in high heat for a couple of minutes and remove.

Now make a runny mixture with the freshly ground yellow mustard seeds, green chilli paste, turmeric, red chilli powder, and salt. Mix well and strain.


030You can skip the straining step, but I do it to enjoy the taste of mustard, even without the sharpness it can add to a dish.

In a large, open-face pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons mustard oil and add the tomatoes and green chillies. Let them soften a bit before you press the tomatoes down with the back of the spatula to get all the juices out.


Now add the runny jhol into the pan. Let it come to a rumbling boil. Start by adding the hardiest vegetables for the maacher jhol first and follow with the green beans and sugar peas which take the least time to cook. Make sure the potato is half cooked before you add the next set of vegetables. I like to keep some crunch to my cauliflower and greens.

Slide in the fried fish pieces and cook them in the jhol for about 4-5 minutes. Check seasoning, add salt if needed. Turn heat off and add chopped coriander to the maacher jhol.



Serve this maacher jhol with plain rice. Squirt a wedge of lemon (or Gondhoraj Lebu) on the jhol-bhaat to take it to the next level.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Soma Chaudhuri’s Methi-Murg Kebab, Not Just Another Chicken Kebab!

So Soma sent me her famous Methi-Murg Kebab one day. Nothing would be simpler to knock out than this chicken kebab recipe of hers. Methi Murg_Soma
Apparently, she stumbled onto this recipe in a tandoori cookbook many years ago in Calcutta. Since then she has played with the ingredients, and given it a Soma-touch! 


And this is something I made up of her Methi-Murg Kebab.

I have to admit, I did tweak Soma’s recipe a bit. I thought of playing around the idea of adding some yogurt in the marinade would make the kebabs more moist. Soma’s Methi-Murg Kebabs taste delicious and look really beautiful on a massive platter in the middle of a table. And the leftovers, if any can sneak into your pita/tortilla/paratha with some greens the next day for a take-to-work lunch!

Ingredients for Methi-Murg Kebabs are:

3 chicken breasts, cut in two-inch pieces
Half cup plain yogurt
3-4 tablespoons plain cream cheese
1 heaped tablespoon ginger paste
1 heaped tablespoon garlic paste
1 heaped teaspoon green chilli paste
Juice of one large lemon
Half teaspoon red chilli powder
2 tablespoons kasturi methi leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons besan
Bell pepper squares for skewering with the kebabs later
1 egg beaten, for basting

010Make a marinade with the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon juice, ginger-garlic-green chilli, red chilli, kasturi methi and salt. Make sure you break down the cream cheese to mix well with the rest of the ingredients.

Now add the chicken pieces, and coat the marinade well. Keep covered in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.

027There are two steps to making this kebab. Heat a pan until really hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil and add the besan, quickly stirring and reducing the heat to low-medium so that we don’t burn the besan. After about 2-3 minutes of stirring the besan in the oil, dunk the marinated chicken into it (with the marinade). Cook the chicken on high for 10-12 minutes or until half-cooked, moving continuously and coating the chicken well with the besan and its marinade. Remove and let it cool for you to handle it.

028030Add the green (or red/yellow/orange) bell peppers to the half-cooked chicken and let it sit for 10 minutes. When you are ready to cook, heat a grill pan or you can even do this in a gas tandoor or broil.

032Skewer the chicken and bell peppers alternately to go on the grill. If you are using bamboo skewers, make sure you soak them in water for sometime to prevent them from cracking under the heat. I use metal skewers, because I want mine to see me through the rest of my life!


Baste the skewered chicken and bell peppers lavishly with the beaten egg. Your grill pan should be really hot before you drizzle some oil on it.

034Place each skewer gently on your grill pan and let it cook on each side for 3-4 minutes.

PreeOccupiedTurn and baste with the egg and some more oil, till you get a beautiful char on all sides.


038Remove the kebabs from the pan and serve with salad, onion rings, and green chutney on the side. Preferably on that lovely platter you have been keeping away to serve a star dish.