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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Pabda Shorshe to beat that homesick feeling!

Winter in the UK is terrible. It's horribly cold and damp and depressing all the time and we hardly get snowed in. The Sun chooses to remain hidden behind the clouds most of the time of the day and when he does come out it's either too cold or too late to go out. As soon as the festivities finish, time just drags from January until the first glimpses of Spring appear through clear blue skies and a few daffodils and snowdrops here and there. This is the time when I miss Kolkata most. Winter in Kolkata is like a constant carnival. Waking up to a cup of steaming hot milky Nescafe coffee accompanied by Phulkopir Shingara (Winter special cauliflower samosas), reading the newspaper on the balcony under the sun and that eager anticipation of the winter celebrations. 

What celebrations if you ask me, starting from picnics to the Book fair, from Christmas to New Year in Park Street, from foggy morning trips to Victoria Memorial to having dinner at the clubs, from Poush Parbon to the numerous weddings, the list is endless. And the choice of food is also endless. So all you need is a steady supply of Gelusil, a muffler(Bong version of a scarf - has to be knitted by Mom, Mashi or a similar post holder) and a good pair of trainers(you do not want to depend on the public transport during these months) and you are sorted for the winter in Kolkata. 

Coming back to the UK, winters are torturous. They are slow, dark and ever so depressing. The only way we can drive away the winter blues is by recreating the Barir khabar (made at home, especially by Moms back home), seeing friends and just glancing at the calendar to count how many days are there until Spring arrives. Lucky for us, I think we are almost there! 

Shorshe Pabda (Pabo Catfish in a mustard-coconut gravy)

Ingredients :

Pabda Fish(Pabo Catfish) - Cleaned and packed in 8s
Mustard Paste - I use the Sunrise powder that I get from India
Desiccated coconut - Dried or freshly grated 1 cup 
Salt - 1/2 tsp to rub on the fish and to taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 a tsp to rub on the fish and 1/2 for the sauce
Green chillies - 3-4 slit halfway through
Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Water - 1/2 cup

Method :

Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder. Heat oil and shallow fry them in Mustard Oil. Keep them aside. 

Make a paste of Mustard powder, turmeric powder and coconut. Add salt to taste. 

Heat oil and add the nigella seeds and green chillies to the hot oil and let them splutter. Add the mustard-coconut paste and cook it on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring the sauce to boil. Add the fish and cook on high until all the liquid has dried up leaving a thick gravy. Be careful to not break the fish as they are very delicate. 

Serve with steamed white rice. 

 ** Note - If you don't have mustard powder grind 2-3 tbsp of mustard in a grinder along with 1/2 cup of water. Then strain the liquid out and discard the skins. This will give a smooth pungent taste without the strong bitterness of the skins. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Why is February so special!

The month of February is very special to me for two reasons, my dad’s birthday and the month when I met my Best Friend Forever. And of course there is Valentine’s Day, although, even being a hopeless romantic all my life, I’ve never felt compelled to celebrate this particular day! I still watch DDLJ at every chance I get and sigh heavily at the chemistry of Raj and Simran, but personally I’ve never wanted a Raj in my life. I mean come on, a Uni drop out, practically living on Dad’s wealth, goes on an extravagant Euro tour with Dad’s money, flirts with a girl on the tour, gets her drunk and into his bed and then stalks her all the way to India. Not my type!

So this BFF happens to be my husband who I met on the fateful day of the 19th of February, 12 years ago! We used to be internet friends and NO we were not out of an online dating site as back in those days we didn’t even know anything like that existed, especially in India. I had to muster up a lot of courage to face a stranger whom I didn’t know at all. So I chose a busy road in the middle of the afternoon, my deo in my bag (we didn’t have pepper sprays back in those days) and my inner Kung-Fu master ready to pounce if needed. He was late and as I was wondering if it was actually a bad idea and whether I should leave, a red car stops right in front of me. Out comes a tall, dark and quite handsome man with glasses and a boyish grin, extends his hand over the car roof and says, ‘’Hi I’m Val. You must be Rhea”! I don’t know why but I remember that first line as if it was yesterday, may be because I was totally floored by that voice and that boyish charm, though I still like to claim that it was never a “love at first sight”! 

Many of my friends have asked me later on that who made the first move, who proposed and whether we were dating or not. To be honest, neither of us proposed, we don’t know when we crossed the line between being just friends to becoming special friends. I just know that we were meant to be, and that on 19th of February I found my best friend, my confidant and my guide. 

I still make special something for Valentine’s Day, as I’m a hopeless romantic. This year I made Rasmalai, not only for my husband, but also for my other best friend who lives in London and who I  found through internet as well. But that’s a story I will tell another day. :)

And for the first love of my life, my Dad. 
Happy Birthday Baba. I love you and miss you a lot. 

Here's the recipe for Rasmalai or Rosho-Malai as we call it in Kolkata.