• Monday, November 24, 2014

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Winter lunch on the terrace

By Shawkat Osman

Sometimes the day itself is a cherished guest -- especially in mid-winter, when the air is crisp and the sun makes you want to just sit outside and enjoy it. On such a balmy Bengali winter noon you "encourage" your desire to call some of your friends or family to enjoy the fruits of winter with you. With all the vegetables available in our mild winter, breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner is a gourmet's delight. We have planned the lunch-menu, based on the winter vegetables and with the idea that it will be served al fresco.
The food will be served with our traditional steamed rice: 'bhat' and the 'deshi' pancake: chitoi pitha.
Chitoi pitha
This is a basic recipe to make 'chitoi pitha'-- our very own pancake. The best type of pot for making mess-free, near-always perfect 'chitoi pitha' is a flat 'matir patil' (clay pot), covered with a clay 'shora' (domed lid). You can also get a clay pot which has several dents to form 'pithas' of uniform shapes built in them.
Clay is a porous material. When the dough is placed in the pot, it gets saturated with water in the batter. The water seeps through the pores of the clay to the outer surface, and evaporates quickly. During the cooking process, the batter continues releasing its water. This water cannot escape until the pot is completely dry. Then the water released from the batter as steam remains enclosed within the pot and aids in cooking the 'pitha'. Sprinkling water on top of the clay lid inhibits the clay lid from absorbing the steam. Quite a bit of science!
Because clay does not become as hot as metal, it is necessary to cook at higher temperatures with clay pots. But don't worry, the danger of burning food is minimal and can only happen if the food is cooked for too long.

Preheat your pot over a high flame, and test the pot by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water evaporates quickly, the pot is ready. Make 'chitoi pitha' of just about any size, from tangerine round to CD disc range, the popular size. You can top the 'pitha' with a pre-cooked hilsa steak in the middle of the cooking process. Or soak the freshly made 'pithas' in thick sweetened milk to form a desert. Otherwise, just eat in hot and plain with honey, mustard paste, 'hidol shutki bhorta', 'torkari' or 'salon'.
The pot is easy to clean because food will not stick to the surface (unless, of course, you burn food in it). Simply let the pot cool after it has been taken from the flame and soak it in warm water for a few minutes. Sprinkle the pot with salt and scour in with a stiff brush. Rinse the pot and let it drain until it is dry. (As clay is porous, it is not wise to clean it with detergents or scouring powder).
In case you don't have a clay pot, use a heavy griddle and a domed lid to cover.
Ingredients:
4 cups aatop rice flour
1½ tsp salt
Hot water
Method:
Place the rice flour and salt, in a mixing bowl: pour in enough hot water to make a thick pour-able batter. Heat the earthen pot (matir patil) to high heat, dispense a ladle full of batter, and cover with the earthen lid (shora). Sprinkle some water all over the 'shora' and deposit some in the cup-shaped handle of the 'shora', situated at the top. If using any other kind of lid place a wet towel on the lid.

Watch for the steam escaping from the sides of the lid, the getaway steam indicates that the 'pitha' is ready (if the water in the handle-cup dries up you have overcooked the pitha). Take off the lid, run a metal spatula/'khunti' under the edge of the 'pitha', levering it all around. Slip spatula/'khunti' beneath the 'pitha'; gently pry it off the 'patil'.
Kura Toon
This is a Chakma receipe. The present day domesticated fowls are descendants of the local Grey-fowl crossed with the Red-fowl of the Himalayan terrain. These two species are the ancestors of all the fowl that inhabit the world today. Chicken is called 'Khoru' in 'Chagma Vaj', it is also called 'Kura', an influence of the Chittagonian dialect on the 'Chagma Vaj'. 'Toon' is their term for curry.
Ingredients:
1 country chicken, skinned
1 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
20 green chillies
2 tsp salt
Method:
Cut chicken into 32 small pieces. In a 'deghchi'/pot combine chicken, oil, ginger, garlic, green chilli, salt and two cups water. Set pot over a flame and bring to a boil. Cook until chicken is tender. Take pot off the flame.
With the underside of the ladle, crush the green chillies against the side of the 'deghchi'/pot. Stir vigorously to integrate the chilli paste with the gravy. Mix up and re-heat before serving.

***

Recipe By Rashika Osman
Cilantro ayer mach

Ingredients:
8 pieces of ayer fish
250g sheem-er bichi (beans),  peeled
1 large onion, sliced
3 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch cilantro
5 green chilli, sliced
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
Oil
Cilantro for garnish
Method:
Wash the fish and rub turmeric powder, chilli powder and ½ teaspoon salt on it. Set it aside. Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the fish till slightly golden.  Set aside the fried fish. Put the tomatoes, chilli and cilantro into a blender and blend into a fine paste. Keep this tomato paste in a bowl.
In a non-stick pan heat 1 tablespoon oil and add the onions. Fry till translucent. Add the garlic and ginger paste. Fry till the onion turns golden. Add the tomato chilli paste and fry till it release an aroma. Sprinkle the coriander powder and mix. Add the beans and pour in two cups of water. Bring it to a boil and then lower the flame, cover the pot and let it simmer till the 'sheem-er bichi' cooks. When the seeds are tender add the fish gently on top.
Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last modified: 4:19 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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