Fish Curry

October 4, 2008

Don’t believe everything Amit tells you: I’m a pretty good cook when I put my mind to it – which, admittedly, isn’t very often.

The only thing is, not having been brought up on it, I don’t make very good fish.
In fact, apart from a pretty good fish fry (it must be pretty good, judging by the rate at which it disappears; but I claim no credit for that, good fish fry anyone can make: take fish, fry it, it disappears; it’s infallible), I prefer not to do fish at all. My attempts at “traditional” (Bengali) fish dishes are usually abysmal failures. It would not be stretching the truth to say that me and fish do not get on very well; we never see eye to eye, if I can help it. (For more on me and fish and other meats… )

Still, once in a way, especially if there’s no one else around to lay the burden of their expectations on me, I out-do myself even with fish.

Here’s what I did today. I took:

    one packet of frozen and almost boneless fish fillet
    a few curry leaves
    the Bengali five-spice mixture, though I’m not even sure how authentic that was. I think it should have white til in it; why else would I even have white til in my spice rack, considering I don’t know what it’s used for? The other four are mustard seed, jeera, saunf, and kalonji, I think. (Um… That would be cumin, asafoetida (?) and black cumin (?) in English, maybe.) Anyway, that’s approximately what I threw in, in small quantities
    a dash of haldi (turmeric) powder
    a healthy amount of Bolst curry powder (it claims to be hot, but I don’t find it so)
    some coconut milk (or was it cream? I think it was Dabur) out of a carton
    cooking oil, of course (we use olive for health reasons, but I suppose mustard or coconut would be better, seeing as this appears to be a fusion of kerala/tamil nadu/bengal cuisine)

I dumped everything in the pan in more or less random order, squeezed a bit of lemon juice on top, and in 5 minutes flat, it was done. And pretty delicious it was too, or so I thought. The kids ate it grudgingly, but they eat anything grudgingly at dinner time, after all, it’s time taken away from play time. At least they didn’t reject it outright. (Though they did seem to prefer ancient, black, refrigerated bananas over the fish, they went through about 4 of those each! But that’s kids for you, no taste, no predictability, no gratitude.)

I should have taken a photo of the dish, but Amit’s absconding with the camera, leaving me high and dry. So you’ll just have to take my word on this one.

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Culinary Delight

May 4, 2008

Sometimes I surpass myself.

Doesn’t this chicken look delicious? I thought it did – it tasted just as good, too. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t be saying it myself, but you see, there wasn’t anyone else around to say it for me.

Sunday evening. Alone. Amit travelling. Yeah, again. I wasn’t much in the mood to cook, naturally. Still, it was Sunday and there was some chicken. So – a simple grilled chicken, even grilled in curd, seemed too boring. Curry, then? I reluctantly chopped an onion, tomato, a load of garlic, a tiny sliver of ginger (all I could find in the fridge), added a lot of peppercorn and a bit of cinnamon, and tossed it all into the pan. When it began to stick and burn, I added the chicken. When that began to stick and burn, I scraped out the leftovers of the twins’ special full-fat yoghurt (Nandini’s – it is really delicious) and threw that in as well. Oh, and, somewhere along the way, I added all the powders, of course – jeera, dhania, haldi (cumin, coriander, turmeric) and a bit of Bolst’s curry powder. Salt – goes without saying. To my surprise, it turned out way better than the “passable” I’d thought I was heading for. I’m good!


Recipe? Why Not?

February 5, 2007
If you really want to do this, Andy, just remember my mother and all her dire warnings.Start with two egg yolks. I’ve forgotten whether you add the seasonings now or later, but I did it later and it seemed to work. I think you should add a pinch of salt, though.

Add oil and beat it (remember: drop-by-drop with a manual egg-beater).

Mayonnaise is actually an “emulsion” – I’m not sure what that is (though it tastes pretty good), but it means that it has to hold, or bind, or something. If the eggs look curdled and disgusting, it’s not doing that, so you throw the whole thing out and start again.

After the drop-by-drop business has been going on for a while, you have a pale, creamy mass which looks like a lot more in quantity than the sum of the ingredients. This is good. You can gradually increase the volume of oil you add at each step, and keep beating. The mixture should start to get quite thick and gluey.

At some point, you stop and add lime juice, which will thin the mixture. After that, you can keep adding lime juice and oil alternatingly, to keep the mixture in the range of acceptable consistency.

After a while, your egg-beater hand will be hurting, so you stop.

If you taste the mixture, it will mostly taste of oil. Now add the seasonings: salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, mustard powder, vinegar. If you want to turn it into tartar sauce, add finely chopped onion, tomato, garlic, green chillies, and whatever else you feel like.

This mayonnaise is not like the one you get from a jar. It will be tart with lime juice and not sweet. It us also usually a little thinner in consistency.

Usually the seasonings will mask the oil flavor, but it is better to use a mild flavored oil, or one that you actually like the flavor of, such as olive oil. Strangely, it doesn’t taste of raw egg yolk.

I used a small jar-full of oil. It was about the capacity of a small jar of jam, or coconut oil. Of course, I finally ended up needing four egg yolks, but usually two will do. Keep plenty of lemons handy (at least three) – you can keep adding lemon juice and oil until you think you’ve made enough.

Hint: If you think this recipe is a little dicey, do a quick search on Google for a better one.

And, if it still doesn’t work out, don’t forget the role played by the thunderstorm, and the vampire bat.


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