Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sorso Bhaate Maach (Bengal) Fish in Mustard Gravy.

To be honest I have never eaten Bengali food (other then the yummy Bengali sweets). So when I got to know that Regional Cuisine of India is Bengal this month, I kept thinking hmm, what can I submit? I know Bengali’s love fish. I thought this is the best time for me to use the fish in the freezer (hubby dear doesn’t like fish, so I rarely get a chance to make it and since he is traveling on work…it is time to defrost the fish). I also know that mustard is a favorite spice and both mustard seeds and oil are used widely in Bengali cuisine.

So, I went about searching for a good recipe, instead of looking online, I went through the many cookbooks that I treasure in my kitchen. This recipe is adapted from Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India. In the book she says that this is the dish-célebré of Bengali cuisine, and the preferred dish is bony Hilsa(Tenulosa Ilisha). The traditional recipe imparts a rather strong flavor, so she has improved the dish with the inclusion of tomato and little lime juice. You can use fish such as Cod, Halibut, Turbot or Monkfish. I used Tilapia fillets for this recipe.

Serves 2 - 4


  • 1lb 5 oz piece of fish
  • 1 ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2oz/60g fresh grated coconut
  • ¾’ ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 green chilies (or more)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 -1/2 red chili powder
  • 5 tbsp oil (I used 1-2 tbsp)
  • 3 tomatoes pureed (I used 1 cup tomato sauce)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves


Wash the fish thoroughly. Smear each piece with a little salt and leave for half an hour.

Toast poppy seeds for 2 minutes on a griddle on low heat. Then pound in a motor and pestle, with a little water. (I toasted the poppy and mustard seeds together and did the next step).
Grind together the crushed poppy seeds, the mustard seeds, turmeric, coconut, ginger, garlic, green chilies, onion, coriander, cumin, red chili powder and 1 ¼ tsp salt, along with ½ cup water, to make a paste.
In a large frying pan heat the oil over moderate heat and fry the spice paste for 6-7 minutes, stirring continuously and adding a little water at a time (up to ½ cup) as and when required.
Add the tomatoes and sauté for 3 minutes adding 2/3 tbsp water of required. Then pour in 2 cups water and the lime juice and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. Adjust seasoning.
Add the fish pieces and cook until done. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves when serving. This dish traditionally eaten with rice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Puttu Kutti
I couldn't make up my mind as to which image to send for the Click event. This months theme is Metal. After going back and forth with the two images, I still couldn't make up my mind...finally it was eenee, meenee, minee moe...and the latter was the one I sent. Fingers and toes crossed. :-))

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Glossary for Baking

Here are some terms, names and alternatives to help everyone understand and use recipes perfectly.

Flaked: sliced nuts.
Ground: I use packaged commercially groundnuts.
Slivered: nuts cut length ways.

Arrowroot: used mostly for thickening. Corn flour can be used instead.

Baking powder:
is a raising agent. Mostly made from cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda in the proportions of 1 level teaspoon cream of tartar to ½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. This is equivalent to 2 level teaspoons baking powder.

Bicarbonate of Soda: baking soda

Butter: 125g = 1 stick butter

Cottage: fresh, white, unripe curd cheese, can use low-fat variety
Cream: also known as Philly.
Parmesan: sharp-tasting hard cheese used as a flavor accent. I use fresh Parmesan, although finely grated is readily available.

Coffee and Chicory essence: Slightly bitter syrup based on sugar, caramel, coffee and chicory. If not available, dissolve 2 tsp instant coffee powder + 1tbsp brown sugar in 1tbso boiling water.

Cream: Light pouring cream also known as half and half.
Sour: a think commercially cultured soured cream.
Thickened (whipping):double cream or cream with more then 35% fat can be substituted.


White self-raising flour: Substitute plain flour (maida) and baking powder in the proportions of 1cup(150g) plain flour to 2 level teaspoons baking powder. Sift together several times before using.

Golden Syrup: Maple, pancake syrup pr honey can be substituted.

Molasses: the end product of raw sugar manufacturing or refining.

Semolina: a hard part of the wheat, which is sifted out.

Sugars: I use coarse granulated sugar, also known as crystal sugar, unless otherwise specified.
Brown: a soft fine, granulated sugar containing molasses.
Castor: also known as super fine, is granulated sugar
Icing: also known as confectioners sugar or powdered sugar.
Raw: natural brown granulated sugar.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Vella Appams/Hoppers

Appams are to Malayalee cuisine what noodles are to Cantonese cuisine. It takes effort and skill to make but it is made by everyone, regardless of social or economic status. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with just coconut milk and sugar or with a spicy non-veg curry. As a kid, I liked my appams for breakfast with a ladle of fresh coconut milk and loads of sugar. As a teenager, I would have it with either mutton or chicken stew. The appam batter is made from rice and grated coconut and then kept out to ferment. The edges of appams have these crispy frills and the center is very spongy.

I have seen many recipes for appams online and most of them use yeast as a rising agent. In southern Kerala, they sometimes use toddy instead of yeast. For me, the taste of yeast is too ‘bready,’ which was not how I ate it at home. Instead of yeast, I use baking soda just before I make them. I also put in a handful of leftover cooked rice while grinding the batter.

Traditionally, we use an appam chatti to make the appams. An appam chatti is a small cast iron wok. Appams can also be made in a small non-stick wok; although I must say that the appams made in an appam chatti beat those made in a non-stick wok in terms of taste and the crispiness (which is very important and what makes an appam, an appam).

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Wash and drain the rice a few times in water. Soak the rice for 4-5 hours.

  • 3 handful of soaked rice,
  • 1 handful of grated coconut,
  • 1 handful of cooked rice

in a blender with little water. The ground batter should not be very grainy. Grind all the soaked rice this way, with the coconut and cooked rice. Leave to ferment over night. The batter will increase in quantity. Add the baking soda, sugar and salt.

Grease the cast iron appam chatti lightly with a paper towel. Pour a ladle full of the batter and quickly swirl the chatti so that the batter coats the sides of the appam chatti. Cover the appam chatti. It takes around 3-4 minutes to cook. When the center of the appams have risen and the sides begin to turn a golden brown color, the sides will start to separate from the wok.

The appam is ready and can be taken out of the appam chatti. Serve appams hot with coconut milk and sugar or lovely chicken/mutton stew.