Friday, 27 November 2015

Ilish Begun (Hilsa and eggplants cooked in Mustard)

There are times when every efficient household in every bustling city goes through unimaginable stress. Mine is going through one right now. It is at these times when we stop and realise life is too short to be running all the time. Mornings are too beautiful to be missed. And dinners are too important to be skipped. It’s just the dinner where everyone in the house sits and dines together. Though my mind tells me that it should be a bowl of fresh out of garden salad that I need to dig in, but the heart guides you to a more elaborate carbohydrate filled and rich dinner that brings everyone together on the table. Couple it with a mismanaged household and all the running stress; and, this dish is born. 

I have been working from home since long. And suddenly today when I have to be out of the house each day, every day at the same time, somehow nothing seems to work in my favour. Everyone has expectations too high, and I have tolerance too low; which makes life really miserable for many. Yes my laundry basket is full and overflowing at times and a kitchen which is never clean by my standard. Absence of a proper housekeeper is evident from every corner of my home.  

While I sort through my troubles, I figured it is time for indulging in a dish that has given meaning to a life of a Bong more than once. My freezer has been ignored in these trying times, to the effect that it’s been more than 15 days since these last few pieces of fish were jailed inside. It’s a delicacy for us, on palette as well as on the wallet. I couldn't risk it on the untrained hands of my help to cook it properly. I for sure didn't have time, bouncing from one task to another. Finally, yesterday something dawned on me and i found these few fishes lurking in the dark corners of my freezer. I decided it is time now to come out of the induced slumber of inertia, and make something delicious, yet easy and comforting for my family to savour. My Ilish Begun is easy, sharp and gets the palette interested in the right level at the right time!


Ilish/ Hilsa/ Indian Shad- 6 steak pieces (
2 tbsp whole Yellow mustard seeds
1.5 tsp whole Black mustard seeds
1 dry red chilly whole, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp of nigella seeds
½ tsp or less of ginger paste (just a pinch)
5 tbsp of mustard oil
2 long brinjals (small size) cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Turmeric powder to taste
8 green chillies slit


Smear the fish well with salt and turmeric to marinade, and keep it aside.

Marinade the eggplant pieces in salt, sugar and turmeric and keep it slanted on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes. 

Make a paste of both types of mustard with a pinch of salt and 2 green chillies. Once ground to the desired consistency, keep it aside. 

Now in a pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil with red chilli, and wait till it heats up while the chilly turns dark brown. Tip in the marinated eggplants and fry till it turns golden brown. Take it off the flame and keep it aside. 

In the same pan, heat 2 more tbsp of oil to smoking. Lightly fry the fish pieces and keep it aside. 

Now in the pan add the last bit of oil and crackle the nigella seeds. Tip in the mustard paste, and fry for 30 seconds. Add salt and turmeric to taste, followed with a half cup of water. 

Once the paste starts bubbling add in the eggplants and give everything a good toss. Add another half cup water, and let it come to a steady simmer. 

Tip in the fish pieces and adjust the water the way you wish it to remain. Let everything simmer on low heat, partially covered for 2 - 3 minutes. 

Taste for seasoning, and switch off the gas once you are certain of it. An additional drizzle of cold pressed Mustard oil will bring up the flavour and taste many folds. Serve it hot with steamed rice. 

P.S.- I had left over pieces which included the head and the tail of the fish as well. These cuts are extremely delicious and I am quite against of throwing these away. Respect your food and keep the wastages to minimum. Cheers!!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Garden Update!!

Choddo Shak

Today is Choti Diwali. And tomorrow is Diwali. I want to go green and want everyone of you who are reading, to think about it too. Today we create a dish with 14 different leafy veggies and eat it after lighting 14 diyas around the house. Its an age old custom marking the onset of festivities in Bengal. Diwali is special, but lets just keep the noise and smoke levels down. Festive time should never be marked with enjoyment over smoke and noise. HAPPY DIWALI!!  

I wasn’t a gardener before I shifted here in Gurgaon. In pretty much the same rent, I could now afford a big balcony. The drab red tiles with white walls didn’t really look that interesting. So I started touring the nearby nurseries. Another good thing about Gurgaon is that they have plenty of nurseries everywhere you go. I went to a couple, found my favourite amongst it, and kept revisiting. I love to haggle with the guy, does 20 bucks really matter to anyone anymore. I grinningly give him that 20 and take a couple of seedlings as a gift from him. For him, those seedlings may actually never find a pot if someone doesn’t buy it already. And with the advent of the idea of organic gardening, I guess many of us shy away from picking these seedlings in a bulk. For me, the start doesn’t really matter. Its ok even if it’s inorganic because really a seedling doesn’t need much of nutrition from outside to survive. The growth inside our balconies are more important and that decides organic or inorganic for me.

I use a couple of plant food which are a mix of organic and inorganic. A packet of bought vermi compost, followed by online deliveries of bone meal, sea weed extract and Epsom salt. I use neem oil mixed with vim as a pesticide. Between my days, whenever I can find an hour, I sneak into my container garden to mend to my plants. This is my exercise for the day as well as a reason to smile! Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of a local gardener. But I like it that way. I find more peace in the fact that I got them to grow this big and tall and the fruits are really the fruits of my labour. This post is a quick update of a few that is growing in my little container garden!

It all started with 2 humble pots and seeds. One had tomato seedlings transplanted, other had chillies. 

The pumpkin seeds were sown from a store bought ripe pumpkin, and then the seedlings were transplanted in these huge containers. I had to find the sunniest spot for these crawlers, away from all other plants. My family has devoured these lovely yellow blossoms, as the pumpkin flower is edible and tastes great when fried in a rice - gram flour coating. I am yet to receive a flower with a little pumpkin on the end. These are called female flowers, which gives birth to a pumpkin. I haven't got any yet. Hoping I do get one or two such flowers soon. 

This above picture was taken way back. I had just transplanted my seedlings in these shiny pots. The local nursery gave me seed packets at 20 - 40 INR. I sowed a variety of it in seedling trays, and then carefully transplanted each seedling in new pots with garden soil. The red elongated planters are my bean plants. This picture would have been taken about a week before my first beans sprouted.

The first little beans sprouted like so and led onto a bean explosion in my garden. 

I absolutely love growing this crop. It has kept a constant supply of beans since more than a month now for my kitchen. I don't particularly think this is the season for beans, but yet I am able to harvest beans every week, enough to feed our small family of 3 once a week.  

The banana has sprouted many leaves now for making a good dish Paturi/Patrani style. The little seedlings of brinjals have formed majestic looking fruits now. I have about 10 little brinjals growing right away. The spinach, red amaranth, basil and kaffir lime leaves are continuously cooked with. The radishes from the above picture have been pulled out and eaten satisfactorily, and another batch of seeds were sown and mended to as well. 
Harvested 5 of these! :) 

But the most curious case of my garden remains this tomato plant. A windy night saw it break down into 2 separate pieces. The murdourous scene is still etched in my mind. The stalk and the root got separated, and so I took the stalk, plucked off the bottom leaves and put it an inch deep, back in the soil. The fine hair on the stalk gave birth to new roots and that exact plant came upto life again. My first tomato from the garden came from that plant itself.  

This post was written for encouraging more people to go the greener way. This is not only a very inexpensive hobby, but is one of the most fulfilling ones as well. Today I chronicled a small patch of my garden, talking about just a few of the plants I grow. I have a full list of various different kinds of chillies and lemon plants which I will talk about sometime later. I have even tossed in a few potato cut outs to see if I can ever get some potatoes out of a pot, some soil and 1/4th of a cut seed potato. 

This weekend, I will transplant carrots and beetroot seedlings to its own pots for the winter crops to come to life. These few months of gardening has really helped me understand life better. The new growth will always fill us with happiness all around. 




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