While in school and college (and university as well), I was pretty nerdy. I was upto regular mischiefs and all, but overall I was quite serious about academics — and exams and results did matter to me! Needless to say I spent sleepless nights before exams. I had a unique way of studying though. I could only concentrate when I had the television on. No, I’m not joking. All night long I would watch movie after movie. From HBO to Set Max, I wouldn’t skip a single channel. I almost had memorised whatever the news channels showed throughout the day. And was always the first one to get to know of any upcoming movie via teasers et all. So much of hard work went behind writing my exam papers well!
Whenever I have a hard day, the best way to pep me up is good food. Now I was a History student and my answer sheets would not be booklets but entire books. Understandably, after those marathon 3/4 hours, my hands would go too numb to even spread butter on bread. It was then that my mother would emerge as a messiah and lay down a plate of bhaat and bhetki maachher patla jhol in front of me. This light, almost soupy fish curry would without fail soothe my nerves and calm my soul. After a generous helping of this patent dish, I would go off to sleep only to wake up a few hours later and study for the next exam. Over the years, this dish has elevated itself as one of my top 3 comfort foods (the other two being alu sheddho-dim-sheddho bhaat and khichudi), may be because I’m so used to having this whenever I needed comfort in life. This is Ma’s recipe, because I’m not brave enough to even try and make a patla jhol better than hers. However, I have increased the heat quotient and replaced water with fish stock.
Bhetki, cut into pieces: 6
Potatoes, cut into wedges: 2
Bori/Sundried Lentil Fritters: 10
Fish stock/ Water: 2 cups
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Ginger paste: 1.5 tsp
Turmeric: 1 tsp + for marination
Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Green chillies: 3
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste (optional)
Oil: 1 tbsp + for frying fish
1. Marinade the fish pieces with a little turmeric and salt and keep for 30 minutes. Heat a pan till smoking point, add oil and fry the fish pieces till golden. Drain on a kitchen towel and set aside. In the same oil fry the boris and set aside.
2. In the same or another kadhai, add more oil if required and add the cumin seeds. Let them splutter for 30 seconds and then add the ginger paste. Cook for a minute of two. Add the potatoes and cook covered for 8-10 minutes till the potatoes are almost cooked through. Then increase the heat and let the edges brown a bit.
3. As the potatoes are cooking, the turmeric, red chilli, cumin and coriander powders along with 2 tbsp stock (or water) and cook on medium high heat till the powders lose their raw smell and release oil. Add salt in between.
4. Now add the fish stock/water (trust me, the stock enhances the taste by leaps and bounds), bring to boil, then cover and let it simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
5. Gently add the fish pieces and the pre-fried boris into the gravy and cook covered for another 5-7 minutes. Don’t keep them for too long as bhetki is a delicate fish and in all likelihood will break if cooked for a longer time. Add the green chillies and a little sugar if you want to at this stage.
6. Give it two more minutes. Gently ladle out the fish pieces and the gravy into a big serving bowl and have a hearty meal with plain boiled rice.
Eat Like a Bong: Day 14
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