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Sunday, May 25, 2014

The color of the summer is mango

A lesson in how to handle a woobly-ooubly mango jelly

                                                                                     The summer evening transform her-self into a sky of mangoes-the spectacular shades of orange, yellow,  red, in the foreground the trees add the hues of green, all the play of colors you will find in a mango! That is the way I choose to see at times, so can you. Summers and mangoes are so close to each other that it will be fun to imagine that two of them worked with each other to build a bomb packed full of both of their flavors, when the sun shone bright and came close to this part of the earth the bomb exploded, the flavors, the heat, the mangoes covered great distances, fell here n there, reached corners of the earth and made the corners juicy n yummy.

                                                                                                                                          I am literally driving on mangoes these days-if I was a car my wheels will be mangoes. This year our good old mango tree being blessed by the sun, the rain, the wind, the earth burst into mangoes. 3 weeks back was when they started making sounds on the ground-the ripe mangoes hitting the ground covered with dry mango leaves and it’s a sound you get only accustomed with after the first couple of falls. When I first heard it I was unsure of the source, curiously I walked out to see if someone has been visiting the garden secretly, I looked around at eye-level, no one, then I started inspecting the garden floor and I found out who it was, a green mango with hues of orange on the top laying silently in the ground, then I found another. I knew it was time to get the mangoes out of the tree.

                                                               So there Is this special tool for that, in description it is long wooden branch of any tree, on the narrower side another tiny twig is fastened with ropes that almost creates the letter “X” in the top, sometimes beneath that a small light metal wire box or an inverted umbrella shaped cloth is added to collect the falling mango which has been detached from the tree by hatching the “X” with hand when the particular target mango is caught in one the narrower angles of the “X”. While many times there is no wire box under the “X”, so the mangoes come falling to the ground. It is a fun tiny adventure because sometimes the falling mangoes tend to love landing on our heads! Timing and observance thus saves our heads, it’s so much fun.

                                                                                                     You can imagine the charm of collecting mangoes. On the first day I counted, there were 55 of ripe mangoes and some more waiting in the tree. So I let them stay there. The smell that hit me whenever I go near them is summery-delicious. If I can say mangoes smell like summer, harsh summer only would sound so beautiful.  All I was thinking what will we do with all these mangoes, most will eaten just like that, we will share some with our neighbors, some will be used for making mango-lassi, some for mango-shake, some will be made into a jelly-which is what I did.

                                                                                                                                                                                 For a mango jelly it is a good idea to choose a variety of mango that is sweet n sour in taste, especially if we are eating that in summer, you know how refreshing the tang in summer can make us feel. However I made two kinds of jelly with 2 different variety of mango, one is “Gulabkhash” which is sweet n sour and has a beautiful flavor and another one is from our own mango tree “Himsagar” which is sweet and what a subtle beautiful flavor! So when finally the came out of the refrigeration and I have my chilled bite, it was so refreshing in that hot yellow day…it was like a chilled hug of a mango who loves you and whom you love.

Now I will tell you about the recipe.

For The Recipe:   you will need
2 medium ripe mangoes which are sweet n sour in taste
2 tbsp of gelatin powder
2-3 tbsp of sugar
Half a lime
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp of lightly roasted fennel/mouri/saunf powder (optional)

1.       Soak the gelatin in cold water for 20 minutes, you will see it will begin to fluff a bit n get think.

2.       De-skin the mango with a knife, then chop the mango flesh in chunks, put them in a blender and whiz them until smooth. Pour it in a container then add the sugar, stir to dissolve, add freshly ground black pepper, fennel powder, a pinch of salt and the lime juice. Taste and if you think you need more sweetness add more sugar, for more sourness add a bit of lime or more mangoes.

3.       Now put this in a saucepan and add the gelatin mixture, heat this gently, don't let it come to a boil anyway, stir so that the gelatin is completely dissolved. Now off the heat and cool this mixture.

4.        Place small dices of mango in the bottom of small glass or metal containers, I added  a little strawberry crush in some of them, then pour the mixture gently into the glass or metal containers and put them in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or overnight and they will set.

5.       When they have set and you are ready to eat, take them out of the refrigerator, rub your hands and warm the container by the warmth of your hands and shake gently on a plate until the jelly comes out.  Beautiful! Now dig in. Bon appétit. J

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Plastic Chutney!

A translucent love-affair

                     My love affair with chutneys have not had seen a low day yet right from the moment it began, it began a long time ago, it takes me back to my early childhood.  And sometimes I am amazed to find how the memories of chutney from that time-period, has still been carefully stored in my brain cells! I remember with clarity, it was long time ago, I was just entering school in standard 1 and a new family moved in just beside our home. That time most of the spaces around our house were still empty and green, so when this new family appeared I witnessed a new house being built just beside our home. Mom, dad and a young kid- three of them, later on I came to know this young boy was at the same age with me. It didn't take long for our friendship to develop and flourish, later on we entered the same school. While their house was being built they used to live nearby in a rented house and many times me and my mom used to visit them there.

                                                                                                                                                                        It was the middle of yellow summer, one day after spending hours in the green fields playing and jumping in the burning noon, me n my friend went back to his home, it was time to have a bath and have lunch, while  we are still playing inside the house his mother brings this new dish made from mangoes, she feeds this to me and him and I can’t describe in words how it tasted that time…after so many years if I have to describe that taste I will say it was tangy, filled with the amazing flavor of those particular mangoes she used, it was sweet, light translucent yellow in color, by the texture it was runny…later on I came to know it was called “Ambole” and at the top of all of this description..It was divine. It was so tasty that it has stuck to my brain even without my knowledge! When I came back home I told my mother about this and she was excited hearing the detailed description from her little son. Some days later while talking to her, my mother mentions how much I talked about that Mango Ambole , it made her smile hearing about it and guess what! After a couple of days she comes to our home with a bowl full of Ambole! Oh my god! I was so excited, this time she brings an Ambole of Bottle gourd! In Hindi bottle gourd is often called Ghiya/Dhudhi/Lauki, in Bengali it is known as Lau, in English we know this sometimes as Calabash/Long Melon, the biological name being Lagenaria Siceraria. The Ambole was almost translucent with a touch of green in it and it tasted so wonderful- a combination of sweet n sour and the flavor of Lau.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             The difference between Ambole and Chutney is in its texture, while chutney is thicker, syrupy, little jam like, Ambole tends to be lighter n runny, more liquid than chutney. Chutney and Ambole both are made from various fruits like mangoes, tamarind, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate, green papaya and much more and often eaten paired with crunchy papad/papadums.

The chutney today I am gonna tell you about is a very special chutney first of all because it is called Plastic chutney! Off course it is made from Plastic sheets, that’s why it is called so.

                                                                                                                                                                                   No. Lol. In fact it is made from green papaya, it is peeled and then thinly sliced, placed in a flavored sugar syrup for some time until the thin slices are cooked through, have absorbed the flavored sugar syrup and have become literally translucent like tiny plastic sheets. So now you know the secret. There are many people who tend to avoid dishes made from raw papaya, but just give them this chutney without telling them what it is made from and watch them getting lost in it, licking their fingers, the bowl…its fun watching that I tell you. Some times less information does a job well. And I think how green papaya does its magic with its humble origin in the tree. And for all those who stay away from green papaya…you are missing out something very nice.

                                                                                  I don’t remember well when n where I first tasted this unique chutney, I must have got its first taste in a feast during a Hindu marriage or on the celebratory gathering when a child is 6 months old and he/she first starts to eat a grain of rice-it is celebrated and it is known as “Annoprashan” where the word “Anno/Anna” means rice. Later on the word ‘plastic chutney’ ignited my curiosity, following that years later I cooked it in my kitchen and that was the first time it was made in our home. Since then I have never stopped.

                                                                                  Now it’s time for the recipe. Bon Appetit! Bhalo Kore Khaben!

  For the Recipe: you will need

1 medium raw green papaya
1 cup granulated sugar
2-2 ½ cups water
1-2 tsp of lime juice
1 tbsp kismis/sultana
½-1 tsp mustard seeds
½-1 tsp fennel/mouri/saunf seeds
A pinch of salt
5-6 almonds thinly sliced.
2 tsp  flavorless vegetable oil.                

          1.       First peel the green papaya with a peeler, then half it lengthwise, then slice each half into 4-5 sections lengthwise until in the middle their maximum thickness is around 1 inch.  Doing that you have around 8 long slices of the papaya. Remove the seeds and thinly slice out the whitish part just beneath the seeds. Now place one of the slice on chopping board, you need a sharp knife now, start to slice as thinly as you can along the breath. You will get like rectangular thin slices with curved edges as you slice. Try to slice as thinly as you can, so a good sharp knife is helpful, also keep in mind if you are not an expert with knifes it will take a bit of time. Be careful with your fingers. Do the same with the other 8 portions with patience, it will take around 15 minutes and you will end up with a heap of sliced papaya.

2.       In a saucepan or kadhai or wok, place the sugar, pour the water over it, then put it in low heat, stir in between until the sugar has completely melted, now increase the heat to medium and let it reach a simmer, then pour all the sliced papaya in that, mix well, now lower the heat, cover the pan and now it will take 15-20 minutes until the papaya slices will start to get translucent.  After the initial 10 minutes add the kismis/sultanas. You have to stir in between a few times and keep the heat low, if the slices are a bit thick it will take more time for them to go translucent, being thinner it will take less time.

3.       After 20 minutes you can literally see they have become translucent, sprinkle a little pinch of salt in then, and then add the lime juice. Taste it, adjust it.

4.       In a separate pan heat a tsp of flavorless vegetable oil, let it heat up in a medium flame, when hot add the mustard seeds first, let them start to pop, add the fennel seeds, remove from flame, give them 30 seconds, then pour this whole thing into the chutney and mix.

5.       With half a tsp of vegetable oil in low heat in the same pan, add the sliced almonds, toss them with spoon at time until they start to get little light brown, once there remove from heat. Sprinkle them over the chutney. The almonds add a little crunch and their flavor.    


And now you should enjoy this after all that hard work J let it make you smile.

Friday, May 2, 2014

For Pabda

From the heart of mustard to the hands of a green chilly 


                                    For handling this fish you need delicacy or you will break her heart, her flesh and then her bones and you will have in hand fish gravy filled with broken hearts n bones. Even if that happens that doesn’t mean disaster for the taste will still be the same, only the texture will be different. So how come such a delicate fish be safe with hot chilies n pungent mustard, how come the flavor of the delicate fish make friends with fiery green chilies and hot yellow mustard?-the answer is unknown.

                                                                              As you are looking at the pictures of this delicate fish you may or may not have noticed something, that thing which makes it different from most fishes- that this fish doesn’t have any fish scales. With the absence of the fish scales it becomes an easy job for even a novice to handle this but then please be delicate with her, being a bull in the china shop will not help. This fish is soft n delicate in terms of  when you try to fry this fish it tends to break apart easily because of the softness of her flesh. Now scientifically this fish is known as Ompok Pabo, while in English we will know the fish as Pabo catfish or Pabda catfish.

                                                                                                                                         In terms of the flavor it has a subtle flavor which becomes fragrant when cooked and naturally it has slightly as if salty flavor, so going by that the most popular preparation of this fish in the regions of Bengal; tends to be salty in its basic taste spectrum. Some very traditional and popular preparations are ”Pabda  Macher Jhal”, which translated will mean the fish prepared in a gravy flavored with mustard paste and green chili paste , the oil being mustard oil, the other will be “Pabda Macher Jhol” which is the fish being stewed with a much lighter gravy infused with the flavors of cumin or nigella seeds or mustard seeds and tomatoes, onions, ginger or garlic of both at times and fresh coriander leaves. Now traditionally both of these fish preparations are eaten with white rice, it can be white basmati rice or the par-boiled rice “siddha” or sun dried rice “Aatap”.

                                                                                                                                                    Now for this recipe I am going parallel with the traditional recipe, the crucial part comes when frying the fish where too much handling the fish in the pan will make it go in pieces plus if the pan is not properly heated, if the oil is not hot or the fish is cold…anyone of this can lead to it. But then don’t panic at all if this happens, you will still be able to enjoy the wonderful flavors of this recipe, and if somehow the fishes are intact in one piece…yahoo…it is a good feeling. So I will tell you some stuffs that might help you…if the fish you are using are fresh which means that they are not frozen, then chances are high that your fish will not break into pieces easily, if the fish has been frozen, bring it to room temperature before it hits the pan, for both the cases dry them  before they go into the pan, as for the pan, first heat the pan without the oil until the pan is fairly heated, then add the oil and wait for the oil to be pretty hot, also before adding the fishes in the oil in the pan we can coat the fishes with a little oil, though it Is not necessary. Anyways I will tell you about the recipe now. I really hope you enjoy making and eating this fish in gravy. Bon appétit!

                                                                                                                          Oh I know I am writing after almost a month which is a delay. Did you miss me?

          For the Recipe:

6 medium size Pabda fish
1 ½ -2 tbsp mustard seed paste
1 tsp of whole mustard seed
1 small clove of garlic, crushed to a paste
1 green chili crushed into a paste
1 tsp of turmeric powder
½-1 tsp of red chili powder
1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
1½ tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 or 2 fresh green chilies slit length ways
½ tsp of coriander powder
½ cup of mustard oil
Salt to taste
A small pinch of sugar
1 ½ cups -water                                                       


1.       Begin by making the mustard seed paste, so in heavy mortal n pestle or in a stone grinder or in blender, crush the mustard seeds with a little water until they are all smashed and turned into a paste. Next dilute that paste with a little water and pass it through a sieve so that we get a smooth texture and also the outer husks of the seeds which are still there are filtered out. Next make a paste of the green chili and the garlic.

2.       Let’s handle the fish now, so dry the fish and then sprinkle ½ tsp of turmeric powder over them and using your hands make sure that all the fishes are lightly coated in the turmeric, give them 5 minutes. Begin by heating the pan in a medium flame, when the pan is quite hot, add the mustard oil ( add half if frying 3 fishes in the first batch), let the oil come to a smoking point then reduce the flame, now sprinkle a little oil over the fishes, coat them and then place them carefully in the hot pan. They will start to sizzle, increase the flame to medium high and give about 4-6 minutes on each side. Don’t be tempted to move the fish in the pan with your spatula…this is what will break the fishes easily, if you feel the heat is getting a bit too high, lower it. After about 5 minutes check once with a spoon, tilt the fish carefully in the pan, see if it is coming out easily and if they have browned on that side, if yes flip them over. So when both the sides are done, take them out in a plate.

3.       In the same pan and in the same oil add the whole mustard seeds, let them pop, reduce the flame now, while the flame is at low add the crushed garlic and green chili paste, mix the turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder with 1 tbsp of water and add them to the pan. Give them 2 minutes, then add half of the chopped coriander leaves, saute for a minute, then add half of the mustard paste solution, mix everything well then add the rest half of mustard paste solution, let the flame be medium now and give it about 5-7 minutes stirring them in between. After about 6-7 minutes you will see the oil is leaving the sides of the paste in the pan, increase the flame to high now, add salt and then add the Worcestershire sauce while the pan is hot, then reduce the flame and add the soy sauce. Check to see if the seasoning is right; adjust n add a little pinch of sugar.

4.       Now add 1 ½  cup of water, add the fishes with all their oil in the pan, make sure that the fishes are almost submerged in the liquid, then cover the pan and let it simmer gently for 10 minutes, flip the fishes  over in between,  after 10 minutes the gravy will thicken a bit. We are almost ready, switch off the flame and sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and 2 half-slit green chili and cover. Leave it for 5 minutes and we are ready. White rice goes just great with this recipe, so go get it.

                                    May the delicacy of the fish reach to all of us ;)