Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thinking aloud: How the pauper's breakfast led to the royal brunch

All through my days at school there was really no concept of breakfast in my life. Breakfast in those days meant the ubiquitous bread-butter-jam combination, along with a glass of warm milk - neither particularly appetizing at the wee hours of morning. The trouble with breakfast is that it obviously needs to take place early in the day - if I had my way I would love to whip up pancakes and poha each morning, only if they could be consumed at lunch! And so it happened that for most part of my school-going years and thereafter, I opted out of the meal, inadvertently making me fall in love with those rare holiday season elaborate morning meals. I have realized now that old habits indeed die hard and despite the deluge of information now available on the benefits of a king’s breakfast, it is still a difficult battle to win. But luckily necessity has led to great many inventions, and it is probably this problem with breakfast, that led to the birth of its generous big-hearted sibling - the brunch :) And thus, for me, and perhaps a great many others, nagging weekday breakfast have given way to luxurious weekend brunches! And as Wordsworth said once, it is abundance recompense! And looking by the number of restaurants offering brunch buffets all over the city, it may be stated with absolute  certainty that people indeed love a good brunch. For me, a good brunch maketh a good weekend - those wonderfully slow Sunday mornings that begin with a cup of steaming hot coffee and gradually build up to steady flow of friends at 11 am, all ready to tuck into a sumptuous home-made brunch menu!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Poached fish with mushrooms and bamboo shoots

L's best fish recipe that is healthy and great to taste!

Ever since L and I returned from Manipur armed with bags full of local produce, I have been on a Manipur-inspired cooking spree. The one thing that most Bengalis would never quite consider, is the fact that fish can be curried, not just using oil, but water! I am quite certain that my mother or grandmother or aunts or anyone else in my near and far family would ever poach or boil fish. Bengalis fry their fish, almost always, except in the occasional Doi Machh or Muithha recipe, but even those involve frying/sautéing other ingredients at some stage, even if not the fish specifically. Having said that I must admit that of all the things my cross-cultural marriage has taught me, it has given me an opportunity to try out a  fantastic alternative - fish cooked sans oil. This wonderfully aromatic recipe uses one of my favourite items, bamboo shoot along with papal. Papal is a type of dried mushroom, with a smoky, earthy flavour from Manipur. Rohu seemed like a good choice; it took on the flavours to perfection and became so soft that it simply melted away. 

Poached Fish

What you need:

300 gms Rohu, or any other big fish 

Dried mushrooms, a handful of papal-go*
2 tbsp fresh or fermented bamboo shoots
Local herbs, a handful of mongche**
1 dried raja mirchi, or red chilly powder
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1/2 inch ginger, crushed or sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
300 ml water

*this is a mushroom available in Manipur, but I think all kinds of mushrooms would be nice here

**back in the city here, I would use fresh mustard leaves and coriander instead of mongche 

How to:

Clean the pieces of fish with water. 

In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients, and let the fish simmer away for about 15 minutes. I covered the pot with a lid and stirred it gently every now and then; if it looked like too much of the liquid had evaporated, I just added some more water. 

When ready, the fish will be white and ready to flake. Turn off the heat. 

We had this fish curry with boiled rice and a pickle on one of those lovely Friday evenings sitting in front of the television watching nothing in particular. The really great thing about this dish was that it took me almost no time to prepare, and yet it tasted fabulous!