The year 2012 started on a bad note in the kitchen for me…this is not the recipe that I was expecting to post as my first for the year 2012. But after two failed attempts at baking (also the reason for the delayed posting), I gave up the thought of starting the new year on a sweet note…I mean I was expecting to post either cake or cookies as my first post this year but they both turned out an absolute disaster. My coconut macaroons turned out mushy and the cake wasn’t a pretty picture either L I decided to make something to perk up my mood and this fish is what came first to my mind. This is a Bengali preparation of fish. I got hold of this recipe from my mom-in-law. Though not a Bengali, she speaks fluent Bangla and cooks Bengali food with equal élan. She has magical fingers when it comes to preparing traditional Indian food.
A very typical mixture of spices is used in most of the Bengali savoury dishes. It comprises of a mix of equal amounts of nigella seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds. It is called the Panch-Phoran. Panch means five and phoran means spices.
Though my Bengali friends assert that a fish preparation is incomplete without it, mother-in-law has never used panch phoran (instead she uses fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds) while cooking this fish. If you wish to try the panchphoran, you can add a tea spoon of it. Perhaps she made a few alterations to suit our taste nevertheless she has done full justice to it. The taste is finger licking good. Another change that she made is that she shallow fries the fish before putting it into the gravy. In case you wish to avoid frying the fish, you can add the fish pieces towards the end of the recipe* (see below)
Here are the required ingredients: 850 grams approx rohu fish (sliced or you can use fish fillet) – You can use cod or any variety of carp (white fleshed fish)
1½ tbsp Yellow Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Ginger paste
2 tsp Garlic paste
A pinch of Fenugreek seeds
1 large Ripe Tomato
2 Green Chilies
¼C mustard oil (for frying the fish)
2 – 3 tbsp mustard oil for frying the masala
1 tsp chilli powder (depends on how hot you want the curry)
½ tsp turmeric powder + ½ tsp tsp for sprinkling over the fish
1½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp roasted Cumin seeds powder ½ tsp Garam Masala
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander for garnish
Clean and wash the fish. Allow excess water to drain and transfer the pieces onto a plate. Sprinkle with salt and keep it aside for 2-3 minutes.
Wash the fish again under running water and place the fish on a separate plate. Pat the pieces dry with a kitchen towel and sprinkle the fish sparingly with turmeric powder and keep aside for 5-7 minutes.
During this time, you can prepare the masala for the curry. Ground the yellow mustard seeds to powder and add 3-4 tbsp or more of water. Pulse it again along with chopped green chilies to form a smooth paste. Remove from the jar and keep this aside. (if you are using freshly chopped garlic and ginger, add it along with mustard seeds & green chilies and add water to grind to a smooth paste). Next, roughly chop the tomatoes and grind them in the same jar and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. Since this oil has a very pungent smell, you need to smoke it.
Once the oils begins to smoke, carefully slip in the slices of fishes to the pan (be careful since the fish will splutter oil; I use a large spoon with a long handle to do this job)
Cook the pieces of fish on high flame till they are golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and keep them aside. Fry the fish in batches.
Remove the oil, in which you fried the fish, from the pan and in the same pan pour 2 – 3 tbsp of oil and again smoke it. Add the fenugreek seeds to the oil.
Immediately, add the mustard paste along with ginger and garlic paste. Keep stirring and fry it on medium heat till the masala becomes almost dry. You need to constantly stir the paste to prevent it from getting burnt.
Once this is done, add a few table spoons of water and re-fry it till it becomes dry again. Add the tomato paste along with the spices – red chillies, salt, coriander powder, garam masala powder and cumin powder. Fry till the masala leaves oil towards edges and then pour 550 ml of water to form a curry.
Once the water starts to boil, add the pieces of fish to it. Let the water boil again. Now, reduce the flame to low and let it simmer for five minutes.
Remove the fish from the heat and transfer to the serving bowl. Serve the fish, garnished with fresh coriander leaves, with steamed or cumin fried rice.
Note: For an authentic taste of Bengali Fish Curry, you should specifically use mustard oil only.
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