Sunday, 29 March 2015

Pui Shaker Chorchori Macher matha die (Malabar Spinach Medley with Fish head)

I am back after a long long break. And in between made a quick trip to Kolkata also. Going home means getting a much needed break from the daily life. I also look forward to all the favorite "ma-er hater ranna" that I miss so much in Pune. Especially all sort of "shaak" and "kata mach". Yes you read it right - I love my greens. I was a good baby and have always loved to eat veggies.  In fact once I learnt the sense of taste, I ate almost everything without fuss. Even during hotel life during my engineering days, I never complained about the food served. Rather I ate everything when almost every single girl would create a lot of fuss. Credit goes to mom for building a good food habit for me. I never had a problem so far in any city I lived in the world.

Since A has been travelling a lot of late, most of the times it's just me for whom I cook. I am pretty much a lazy person and cooking various delicacies for just me means a lot of hard work which I can of course live without. After coming home from office its usually the quick fire fish curry for me most of the days - toss in a few vegetables and fried fish to make a soupy macher jhol that goes well with white rice. I am even lazy to make a separate daal for myself. So that's about it. On weekends only I would still push myself to do something a bit more elaborate like a shukto or maybe a matha die ghonto but that's it. Until its someone else I'm cooking for, I prefer spending that time reading or writing or even looking at the sky.

So when I visited Kolkata this time it was an opportunity for me to learn some family recipes from mom and try my hands at them.I find the taste of vegetables that you get in Bengal are much much better than what you get in Pune. Mostly due to the quality of the soil. I would also bring some of the favorite vegetable back with me from Kolkata every time. But this time I found that the taste of the veggies were not very exceptional. Maybe it was a transition season and hence the taste difference. Also I doubt that since most of the stuffs are becoming hybrid the taste is getting affected. The organic stuffs that we used to get during my childhood days were something else.

Usually when people visit their natives they declare its complete rest time for them and utilize their time in other things than daily chores. But I find the daily chores are more interesting when done together with mom in Kolkata. That's the reason I love visiting the local market or spending time at the kitchen when I'm at my home town.

Time spent in the kitchen with mom is not just about cooking but a lot more than that. The continuous chit chat about every possible thing is rather interesting. One moment we might be talking about the recipe, next moment we might discuss about any travel memories or a recently read book, which might soon drift into something about religious thoughts and beliefs. We never run out of topics and can keep talking all day long. So there is not a single dull moment at the kitchen.

The long list of food menu is meticulously prepared by mom one week before I come. Since summer had already set in by the time I came, I requested to have minimal spicy fares. Light hearted soupy gravies and mish-mash of vegetables were my preference. Mom had already bought some of the Shaaks I had requested her to make. The first thing that we decided to make was "Macher matha die Pui shaker chorchori". It can be made in a pure veg version as well with fried Boris (lentil dumplings), but for an ardent fish lover like me, preference is always for the non veg version.

Chorchori is a mushy medley of different seasonal vegetables. Pui Shak or Malabar spinach or Climbing Spinach is a very common leafy vegetable found in Bengal. Scientific name is Basella alba.The veg version of the dish is commonly served along with the bhog( Khichudi) during the Durga Puja. But then the flavor radically changes into something more earthy due to the infusion of the aroma of the dhup-dhuno used for the puja.

Anyway back to the recipe. The Pui data looked absolutely fresh and yummy.We had a lot of chopping to do with the supporting vegetables of the dish.Any fish head could be used but we used Rohu fish head as it was readily available at home. Using Hilsa head instead gives it an additional burst of flavors.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes  

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 3

Cuisine: Bengali 

  • Pui Shak/ Pui Data - 2 Nearly 4 ft long tender stems
  • Potato - 1 medium sized cubed
  • Carrot - 1 medium sized cubed
  • Raw Papaya - 7-8 pieces cubed
  • Sweet Potato - 1 medium sized cubed
  • Pumpkin - 8-10 pieces cubed
  • Brinjal -  1 medium sized cubed
  • Rohu Fish Head - 1 split into two halves
  • Bay Leaf - 1
  • Dry Red Chilli - 2
  • Panch Foron (5 spice mix) - 1 tsp
  • Whole mustard - 1 1/2 tsp coarsely ground
  • Sunrise mustard powder - 1 1/2 tsp made into a paste with water
  • Turmeric powder - as required
  • Salt as per taste
  • Sugar as per taste
  • Mustard Oil
1. Wash and dry the shak and separate the stem and leaves. Chop the leaves. Cut the stem into 1 inch pieces and slit in between.

2. Cut all the other vegetables as mentioned in the Ingredients

3. Marinate the fish head with turmeric and salt

4. Heat mustard oil in a wok, when smoking add the fish heads and fry them till well done. Take them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and keep aside

5. You can use the remaining oil or use fresh oil. When smoking temper the oil with panch foron, bay leaf and coarsely ground mustard seeds. 

6. Add the vegetables in the order in which they get cooked. Hard vegetables go in first and softer ones at the end. So stem pieces would go in before the shak. Add papaya, carrot, potato. Fold in the spices and the vegetables.

7. Add turmeric and salt

8. After 2-3 minutes add the sweet potato cubes. Give a good stir. 

 9. After a couple of minutes add the stems. Cook for 5-7 minutes

10. Add Pumpkin pieces and brinjal

11. Add the mustard powder paste and fold in everything.

If you don't have sunrise mustard powder with you, you can make a paste from mustard seeds and use.

12. Add the pui shak and fish head at the end and mix. Break the head a bit with the spatula. Cover and cook. Keep stirring occasionally.

Don't add water separately. The vegetable will get cooked in their own water. If required sprinkle very little water just to see that the vegetables don't stick to the wok.

Once all the vegetables are cooked properly, take it off from the heat. Serve with piping hot rice and and daal. 

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