Posted on April 20, 2017
With her grief, loss, failure, resentment, disappointment, defeat, death, imperfection, heartache, scars and empty cups from the previous year, Bangladesh greets the first day of Bengali year (14th April) with festivity and day long feasts.
Devastating floods, lurking droughts, looming tidal bores, famine, oddities, hidden fears, riots, leaders pocketing relief money… still oblivion people of this emerald island would forgive the sacrilegious rulers every year and cook plethora of ancient, mythical, majestic as well as humble, peasant-like dishes on this auspicious day.
Rural Bengalis do not belong to a world full of urban sleepwalkers where nobody was actually awake; a world full of churning hatred, human heart like verbal firing squad, bitter suspicions; a world busy with mocking, angry talk, spreading vicious debate, heated conversations. They do not spend their income on war and guns. Only hunting and survival tactics they practice which they Inherited from their ancestors.
Bengali Style Fish Stew:
The fish caught from sweet water lake shores or thunderous tumult oceans or rigorous rivers, would mesmerize your senses with its own aroma. And the spices would gently waltz in the amber broth. Spices must not shackle the fish.
2 pounds fish fillets/cutlets. Bite sized pieces. ( I cooked Hilsa slices)
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
2 cups Water
Green Chillies/Peppers 4-5 pcs
Salt to taste
In a big enough pot, lightly fry pat-dried fish chunks for a couple of minutes in hot oil on medium heat. Set aside.
In the same pot, add water-turmeric-salt. Let the water come to a boil.
Add fish. Cut Chillies into half and throw them in the pot. Cook for 5 minutes on medium high heat with the lid on. Or, until fish is boiled properly.
Serve with steamed rice.
To my ancestors, to the rural people of Bangladesh, God always appears in the form of rice and fish. These beautiful, straight-out-of-a-novel people never exhibit the savage practice of killing each other off; they labor hard for peace and catching fish.
Posted on March 24, 2017
You are spinning and wondering in the wilderness. Emptiness spreads through seven heavens. Silence howling. Icebergs crackling behind.
Standing at the red cliff of the mountain, your heart is breathing faint and fast. Dead sky crumbles into cloudbursts.
Resurrected from the nightmare you grasp your dear one’s hand with a tight clasp. And you weep over the near ones buried under nameless graves in the fierce waves.
P.S. Marinate the whole or cut-up skin-on chicken with only four ingredients: tomato ketchup, olive oil, salt and red chilli powder. Measurement depends on your taste buds, kitchen and common sense. Let it rest in the fridge for a few hours. Then roast at 400 degree fahrenheit for about an hour. Roasting time may slightly vary based on the size of the bird and your oven. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds or fresh herbs.
“Which is the true nightmare, the horrific dream that you have in your sleep or the dissatisfied reality that awaits you when you awake?”
― Justin Alcala
Posted on March 12, 2017
It took you light years to spit the pieces of your bad and broken luck.
………….Along came the King…………….
He stones you and crushes your soul and spits you in the eye.
Then he leaves you in the middle of nowhere to die.
Uzbekistani Lamb Plov
1 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1 pound boneless lamb meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
2 teaspoons each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds ( Toasted and crushed)
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
2 cups boiling water (pinch of saffron threads goes into it)
1 whole unpeeled garlic head, washed
1 big bunch of scallion, Cilantro or Parsley
1 cup fresh/frozen green peas
* Place rice in a large bowl, wash with hot water and cover with warm water. Set aside.
* Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until smoking, and then add lamb. Cook, turning occasionally, until the lamb is evenly browned, 10 minutes.
* Add onion; cook, stirring, until the onion has softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Mix in cumin, coriander and peppercorns. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. If you find the meat is sticking, add 1 teaspoon or so of water before covering the pot.
* Pour cleaned rice over the lamb mixture in an even layer. Add carrots. Place the raw garlic head on top of the rice and squeeze it into the center.
* Slowly pour in the saffron-infused hot water over a large spoon or wooden spatula. This will ensure even distribution of water over the rice. Do not stir. Season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low.
* Cover until the liquid starts boiling. Now remove the cover to let the stock almost evaporate. Then tightly cover again and cook on very low heat until rice is ready, about 20 minutes.
* When the rice is ready, open the lid, remove the garlic head, sprinkle in scallion green tops, herbs, and peas, cover and let stand for about 10 minutes. Then fluff and carefully mix everything together and serve.
Dig a tunnel. Hide away. Bury your fragile hopes. Grow some Roses and save them for your own funeral. Because the King’s ghastly white earth does not bear Roses anymore.
Posted on February 6, 2017
The old king with a cold heart, with his raven-black voodoo presence, turned every single Summer into dust.
His kingdom was covered all over with rust. “Adjust!” kingsmen ordered the people.
“Fear chokes me, makes me feel like I’m dead, as dead as one can be”, cried a wretched fellow. He was one among hundreds of hungry, scared, nearly-dead people fleeing from a far-away-land and trying to reach this rich kingdom.
In the middle of the ocean they are stuck, froze-up in a dingy dungeon-like boat. Their lives are caught in a spider web. Their souls are trapped in an unknown bottomless pit where there was no swimming forward or backward. The boat is sinking, people are drowning, dying of thirst but did not get a drop to drink.
The wealthy treacherous king, like a chunk of cloud that does not let the sun rays in, shuts the door in their face. He abandoned them.
Every other morning folks find a few lifeless bodies washed up on the shore … lying face-down.
When Rome was burning, Nero the king was playing Lyre. But we, the people, choose to stand by each other. We let others light off their candles from ours. Our light won’t glow any dimmer. Then like Fireflies in the night, twinkling love surrounds us all.
P.S. Succulent, crisp-skinned and faintly perfumed with salt-pepper-olive oil-Dill, this piece is to be enjoyed slowly, mindfully in a winter noon. Taste and joy will increase should you choose to SHARE your little piece of fish with those who go to bed hungry everyday and die an unthinkable death every day.
Posted on January 26, 2017
Smell of Death and Darkness hangs all around. Limbs and bones of Life and Light are wrinkled, crippled, thin and heavy with the burden of an avalanche of hatred. Love tottered and fell.
But still hope remains afloat instead of sinking. Peace decided to live.
With burning sands of the endless Sahara in our eyes, fear as heavy as the Himalayas in our heart, we live on and cook Fish Pilaf. We choose ‘sharing and caring’ over THE Wall.
Give a whisper of spice to the cheerful fillets; and your Pilaf will be heightened with the touch and smell and smoke of ginger and bay leaves – warm and moist, the Pilaf-pot will sing the song through your kitchen chimney which you have been trying to sing for years.
Ingredients: for fish curry
Ghee ( vegetable Oil or olive oil is good too)
2 tbsp onion paste
2 tbsp juice of Ginger paste ( take a handful of ginger paste and squeeze out the juice)
4 tbsp yogurt
Half cup Coconut milk ( regular milk will do too)
Salt to taste
Whole Green chilies (Handful)
6 pieces Hilsha fish ( your choice of fish fillets cut into bite sized pieces. 10-12 pieces)
Ingredients for Pilaf:
3 cups Basmati/Kalijeera or any fragrant rice
6 cups water
2 Bay leaves , 2 Cardamoms , 1 stick Cinnamon
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Handful of Green peppers
Fried onions ( from one large onion)
Method: for fish curry
* In hot oil/ghee put first five ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes in medium low heat.
* When spice-mix separates from oil, add fish and green peppers. Make sure the gravy is not dry. Add a tbsp water, if needed. Cover. * In low heat cook for 15 minutes max or until fish looks cooked- trough, tender.
Method: for Pilaf
* In high heat, boil water. Add ghee/oil, salt and the whole spices. Let it come to a bubbling boil. Add rice.
* Add some gravy from the fish curry. Gently stir so that ghee and gravy can coat every grain of rice.
* When rice looks almost cooked, whitish and water mostly evaporates, put the lid on. Turn the heat low. Very low. Cook for 20 minutes undisturbed.
* Gently add fish along with the rest of the gravy. Sprinkle sugar, green peppers and fried onion. Cover. Cook for another 10 minutes in low heat.
* Serve hot.
Note: Whole Green peppers in the curry as well as in the pilaf are for adding flavor. Not heat. You must use peppers for this dish.
Despair is thick as a brick that hits hard right in the heart. But we must be singing the soothing, somber hymn when the days grow dim. We must inhale a lungful of breaths of hope, light and life. We must love each other or die.
Posted on January 1, 2017
Days when darkness consumes all the greens … nights when the moon is curled up in darkness like a phantom in the forest…give Citrus-Sesame cake a try; Why? Because its worth a try!
These Drop dead gorgeous twinkling beauties are constantly beckoning for you to come closer to her mystery, sink deeper. Their tender, rose-petal softness invites a finger’s touch. Sweet, earthy scent of citrus will intoxicate your senses. A whisper of sesame-seeds crunch will carry you to Paradise.
2 cups cake flour. All-purpose flour will work too
1/2 cup mixed citrus juice (orange, mandarin, clementine, lemon)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
Handful toasted sesame seeds
Powdered sugar or Cream or your choice of frosting for serving
*Set oven to 350 degree F.
*Coat the cake pan all over with oil/melted butter. Sprinkle sesame seeds into the pan.
*Combine sifted flour, juice, eggs and oil. Beat with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute and then medium for 2 minutes. Pour batter into the pan.
*Bake at 350 degree F for 30 minutes if using a cupcake pan. For bundt pan baking time is 40-45 minutes. When the cake is fluffed up and there are subtle cracks on the surface, the cake is done. Take the pan out and let it cool for 15 minutes before flipping the pan. (baking time may slightly vary from oven to oven)
*Serve with powdered sugar or your choice of frosting. Even a dollop of honey or fresh cream will do just fine
Winter mornings are shivering with soft, soothing, alluring sunlight. Citrus clan is thrusting up here and there. Bake a silky, satiny, velvety, luxuriant citrus juice soaked cake.
May you always find some time to remember others in your prayers. May you journey on through 2017 with love and blessings. May you reach your destination with honor, pride, peace and grace.
Posted on November 19, 2016
The taste is as bold as the brightly blazed blue Nile beneath a Harvest-Moon night.
The look is as lovely, glittery and gorgeous as your fondest gold jewelry.
The scent is intense, soft and soothing as the Salvation granted by God on the Judgement Day.
Just a little squeeze of lemon can change it all. Blunt Carrot Soup bowl turns into a Lotus-lake in the Lilac covered Neverland.
And the ordinary Butter baked Salmon achieves an extraordinarily serene scent should you choose to shower and serve the fish with fresh lemons….
- 2 Salmon cutlets or 1 fillet, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- Handful chopped Cilantro, Parsley or Dill
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Couple of pinchful red chili flakes
- Lemon juice. Quantity and intensity up to you. Plus thin slices from 1 lemon for serving
- Marinate pat dried fish into an ovenproof skillet or roasting pan with salt, pepper and lemon juice. 15-20 minutes. This first step brings forth a strikingly tasty result.
- On medium heat, in a small skillet place the butter, red pepper flakes and half the herb. Wait until the butter melts and the herb begins to sizzle.
- Pour that bubbling butte over the fish. Bake 4-6 minutes on preheated oven at 475 degrees.
- Remove from the oven, turn the fish over. Sprinkle butter again.
- Roast 3 to 5 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the piece of the fish. Cut into serving portions, spoon a little of the butter over each and garnish with the remaining herb and lemon slices.
Grow a lemon plant in your backyard and you will witness something marvelous: Moon beams weave fragrant dreams on the amber skin of lemons. Dancing Sun rays cast souls on the evergreen hues of lemon leaves. Suddenly your barren backyard turns Eldorado in search of which you’ve journeyed for so long!