Saturday, 9 May 2015

Besan ka Chilla or Vegetarian Omlette

Besan chilla or tomato omlette is a very easy snack recipe. In 10 minutes flat you can prepare this dish.

Besan is not very frequently used in Bengali cuisines. Its only used for pakoras or any other fried snacks in Bengal. But besan finds wide usage in North and Western cuisines. Many main course items are also made of Besan in this part of the country.

I came to know about the existence of such a dish only when I came to Bombay the erstwhile Mumbai 9 years ago. On the very first day at office I saw a "Tomato Omlette" listed on the Menu in our canteen. Being a hardcore non-vegetarian, for me Omlette always meant something to do with eggs. So I happily ordered for the "Tomato Omlette". I was pretty puzzled when instead of a lucious egg omlette I was served two yellow pancakes with chopped tomato and a slight hint of chopped onion. My Maharashtrian colleagues laughed at my expression and explained that this is what is known as a vegetarian omlette in this part of the country. With an awkward embarrassed smile I finished the tomato omlette. Though it didn't taste like an egg omlette but it tasted really good. I began liking this new kind of omlette from that day.

But soon I realised I was not the only one caught off guard because of this confusing name. Once I was travelling to Pune via the expressway from Mumbai and we had stopped at a roadside food mall on the highway. I had ordered the usual Vada pav and I heard one of my co-passengers order"tomato omlette" . When I went to the counter to collect the food I heard a heated argument taking place between that co-passenger and the server. He was literally screaming at the top of his voice - " You name it omlete and serve me this besan thing?? Either you give me an egg omlette or change the name of the dish. I demand a refund. blah blah..." The sight was pretty amusing as I could very well related to the persons exact sentiments, reminded me of my first day at the office canteen.

Its kind of a comedy of errors whenever some non-Maharashtrian has their first encounter with this dish. Later on I came to know it was also known as Besan ka Chilla in the Northern states of India.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes  

Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Cuisine: Bengali

  • Besan or Gram Four - 1 cup
  • Hing or Asefotida - a pinch
  • Totamto - 1/4th cup chopped
  • Onion - 1/4th cup chopped
  • Green Chilli - 1 chopped
  • Carrot - grated 2 tsp
  • Curd - 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder - a pinch
  • Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar as per taste
  • Salt as per taste
  • Refined Oil for frying
  • Water

1. Take a mixing bowl and add besan, salt, sugar, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, hing and mix well.

2. Chop all the vegetables and grate the ginger. You can add all kinds of vegetables you like. You can also add grated paneer for extra protein. Mix everything in the mixing bowl with the besan mixture. Make sure all the vegetables are coated properly.

3. Add the Curd and some water to make a uniform batter. It should not be too runny or too thick. Consistency should be so that you can easily spread them.

4. Take a non stick skillet and let it heat for 2-3 minutes on high flame. Reduce the flame to medium. Once the skillet is heated properly add 2 tsp of oil and spread it. Once the oil is hot enough take a ladle full of the batter and evenly spread on the skillet to make small pancakes. Let each side cook for 2-3 minutes on high flame taking care not to burn the omlette.

5. Put 1/2 tsp oil around the edge of the omlette and flip it over. Make sure both sides are golden brown before removing them from the skillet.

Garnish with corriander leaves and enjoy with tomato sauce or your choice of chutney. 

Kochu Pata Diye Macher Paturi (Fish Steamed in Colocasia Leaf)

There are days when we get bored of having the same recipes over and over again and feel like breaking the monotony with something new, something experimental for the palate. Well it was one of those days for me. While picking up my groceries from the supermarket last week I was wondering which vegetables to get so that I can prepare something different. I was pretty bored with the usual brinjals, pumpkins, potatoes and cauliflowers. Suddenly a rack with bunches of neatly tied Kochu Pata or Colocasia Leaves caught my attention.

Colocasia leaves are very common in all parts of Maharashtra and comes very cheap. Its used in a very popular Maharashtrian dish known as Alu Vadi or patra which is Colocasia leaves stuffed with gram flour mixture rolled and deep fried or steamed. I used to see the local village ladies sell the leaves by the road side most of the days on my way back from office but never paid any heed. But that day when I saw the leaves it immediately reminded me of a recipe I read in a blog. By chance I had come upon Purabi Naha's blog Cosmopolitan Currymania.

She had a recipe of Colocasia leaf wrapped paneer roll in her blog which had really piqued my interest. If we could make a paneer paturi with these leaves why not try to make the traditional fish paturi with them? So I immediately got those leaves bagged and tagged. The tag read RS.6. There were in total 6 leaves which meant it was 1 rupee a leaf which was quite cheap considering a supermarket standard. Later also I had got 2 bunches of these leaves at Rs.10 only!

Now the next thing was I didnt have a proper fish which was suitable for traditional paturi - no Ilish, Koi or Bhetki. All I had was Rohu. What the heck I thought, anyway I was making an experimental dish so why not be experimental with the fish as well? So Rohu and Colocasia leaves it was for my Macher Paturi. Now let me clarify I like the simple jeera bata (cumin paste) paturi much much more than the one prepared with mustard paste. Much lighter on the stomach and very healthy. Also much more flavorful than the musrard paste one.You can check out my Koi Macher Paturi (Climbing Perch Wrap) also.

This dish was made in the exact same way as the Koi macher paturi.

Due to the presence of Calcium Oxalate in the Colocasia leaves it can cause an itching sensation if ever had uncooked similar to the usual Taro. So make sure you properly steam ir fry it before eating.

Once I tasted them I knew I have hit a jackpot!Who would have thought that Colosia leaves paturi can taste so interesting. It made me forget my sorrow of not getting Lau shak in this part of the country. These nice and fresh green Colosia leaves would come to my rescue everytime I craved for macher paturi.My wholehearted thanks to Purabi for inspiring me to experiment.
Now the recipe:

Preparation Time: 20 minutes  

Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Bengali

  • Rui Mach (Rohu )- 4 pieces (peti)
  • Tender Kochu Pata (Colocasia leaves) -  2 Big leaves 
  • Fresh Jeera Paste (Cumin Paste) -  4 tbsp
  • Green Chilli - 4 (withing the paturi) + 1 (in Jeera Paste)
  • Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil - 3 tsp

1. Clean the fish. Choose peti for best result. If you have any other portion that will also do. 

2. Marinate the fish with turmeric and salt for 10 minutes

3. Fry the fish lightly in mustard oil and keep aside.

4. Wash the leaves and pat dry. Place the glossy side face down and with a sharp thin knife carefully remove the mid vein partially. Keep enough of the vein so that the leaf holds together. 

5. Soak Jeera for 20 minutes and then grind it with a pinch of salt and one green chilli into fine paste. Add a pinch of turmeric to it. Make sure the paste is very fine.

6. Take 1 leaf glossy side up. Brush some mustard oil on the leaf

If you have small leaves take two leaves at a time. Place one on the other in opposite direction ( Suppose the first leaf tip faces you so when you place the next one it should face away from you.)

7. Smear the fish with the Jeera paste and place it in the middle on the glossy side of one of the leaf. One fish on one leaf. If using peti then two petis one on top of another in one leaf. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

8. Drizzle 1 tbsp of mustard oil on each fish. Place a green chilli on top of it

9. Wrap the fish well so that no part remains exposed. Tie it well with a thread. Prepare the other fishes in the same way

10. Take necessary amount of rice and water in a pressure cooker. Place the wrapped fish inside. Steam the rice till cooked.

In a serving dish, serve the Fish Paturis( still wrapped) over a small bed of the flavoury rice. When you 
eat it you need to open the knot and take out the fish from the leaf. Mix the leaf and spices with the 
rice, add a pinch of salt if required and enjoy it along with the fish.

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