Kolkata has a very strange relationship with monsoon. Till such time it begins, everyone yearns for it. However, the excitement, love and that sense of satisfaction lasts only till the first or the second spell of shower. There are still parts of Kolkata which gets heavily waterlogged when it rains for even half an hour. The condition of the roads worsen by the hour, traffic slows down and the challenge remains in remembering all the alternate routes to your home.
Madhushree and I were stuck in such a traffic bottleneck last week and remembered an incident which happened a decade back. Newly weds that we were, it was our first monsoon as a couple. A new home for both of us, two new souls starting to discover each other, the age old argument of wet towels on the bed, toilet seat differences and share holding pattern of the shoe rack. We had however found a common thread, which was the strongest – that was food.
It was one of those days in July/August when monsoon was at its peak and some celebration, coupled up with a light/ medium drizzle all afternoon, triggered a quick beer with a functional head (yes I was a HR professional with immense pride in my profession).
On our way back, driving through crazy traffic and in a slight tipsy state, we stopped to buy fish. It was 9.30 in the evening. I had never bought fish before in my life, but alcohol in blood streams can make you do crazy things. And I did the same. I bought Hilsa for the first time in my life (with due help from my colleague) and when Madhushree opened the door – she didn’t know how to react. We had dinner well past midnight.
In your first year of marriage did something like this happen to you? Come share with us.
Speaking of Hilsa – this is one dish which has been in tradition in my home, one of my mom’s best and a pass on recipe from my mother to Madhushree …
Doi Ilish/ Hilsa cooked in a yogurt and mustard sauce
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 15- 20 minutes
Recipe Author: Madhushree
|Ilish Mach (Hilsa)||4- 5 pieces||Turmeric Powder||2 tsp|
|Mustard Paste||2 tbsp||Hung Curd||½ cup|
|Red Chili Powder||½ tsp||Nigella Seeds||4 -5|
|Green Chilies||4 -5||Salt||To taste|
|Mustard Oil||4 tbsp||Sugar||1 – 2 tsp|
- Marinate the pieces of fish with salt and 1 tsp of turmeric powder and keep aside.
- In case you have a mustard paste of black mustard, make sure to strain it properly to remove the black skins or else the paste kind of becomes a bit bitter.
- In a wok or a frying pan, pour a tbsp of mustard oil and lightly fry the fish pieces. With Hilsa, one doesn’t need too much oil since the fish by itself is very oily and some of them ooze out oil. So eventually, you are left with excess oil in the pan, which is great for your sauce. This should not take more than a minute and half. It is best to just place the fish in the pan with the hot oil and flip within 30 – 40 seconds keeping the other side for an equal amount of time. The purpose is just to add a bit of colour without drying out the fish. Once the fish is done, take them out of the pan and keep aside.
- To prepare the sauce/ gravy, using the oil from the pan, plus another couple of table spoons of mustard oil. When the oil is hot, add the nigella seeds and a couple of whole green chilies (break them into two) and let them splutter.
- Immediately add the mustard paste, turmeric powder and red chili powder and season with salt.
- Keeping the heat at a medium, cook the mustard paste till the raw smell from the turmeric goes off. Sprinkle some water if you like to keep the paste from sticking to the pan.
- Beat the hung curd in a bowl and then add to the sauce. Remember to lower the heat or else the curd will split. Add a little bit of water and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the fishes along with the pan juices from the fish. Add the desire amount of water and let the gravy simmer.
- Season with salt and add sugar to balance the sourness from the curd. Then let it cook for about 5 – 10 minutes till it releases oil and it starts to float on top.
- Finally slit the balance green chilies and add them.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.
- Depending on the sourness of the yogurt, sometimes sugar is not even required and sometimes little more.
- In case you feel that the yogurt may split on adding to the gravy, then whisk it well with a tsp of bengal gram powder (besan) or even maida and then add to the gravy.
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