The love affair with Clarified Butter
Bengal is a food lover's delight. Once a huge state , it is currently quite a small one but its cuisine is diverse indeed. Go up north and you have the delightful taste of the famous dumplings from the hills. East Bengal once a part of Bengal has a special style of cooking and from what I have heard or researched it is strictyl a fish based cuisine with many of the vegetarian dishes being cooked with fish parts adding to their deliciousness.
Now when you feel lazy and you have an old friend coming over, one who is never on a diet , it is quite easy to cook and have all the time on your hands for lots of chatting and that is what I exactly did. I decided on the good old 'Ghee Bhat' (rice cooked in clarified butter' Now a virtual glance cannot do justice to the aroma and taste of this delicate dish. It looks like pulao but what makes it special for your taste buds is the amount of clarified butter which is not only the taste bud's delight but the sense of smell as well. Perhaps it has only one enemy and that is the increased waistline after its consumption. Well throw caution to the wind once in a while and simply indulge in this sweet and mild flavoured delicacy.
2.5 cups basmati rice
1.5 cup ghee
3 to 4 cloves
1 large sized Bay leaf
Handful of sugar
handful of raisins
Handful of cashew nuts
Soak the rice for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. What one needs to do is to drain the rice and take a bit of clarified butter and gently mix it with the rice. Now this is a trick which always helps in keeping each strand of rice separate. The water must be preserved for cooking. Heat the clarified butter and add bay leaf , cinnamon stick, green cardamom and cloves, add the rice and gently stir. Basmati being the delicate queen of rice easily breaks. Add cashew nuts and raisins. Add 5 cups of water and include the reserved water within these 5 cups. Bring everything to a boil and add salt and sugar and then simmer covered but with a little gap left for about 12 minutes to 15 minutes depending on the quality of rice. Once done keep the lid on and let it remain that way for about 7 minutes to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the rice to a colander else it will take the shape of the container you put it in and the rice wouldn't delicately remain separated from each other. Enjoy it with the 'fish kalia' a rich gravy made with curd or 'chanar dlana' (Home-made paneer in a gravy from the kitchens of Bengal)
Fish in a gravy (Bhetki macher Kalia)
Serves 4 to 5
5 pieces of the fish Bhetki or any other fish which doesn't have bones
salt and turmeric
Ginger garlic paste
Onion and green chili paste
1/3rd cup churned curd
less than a handful fo cashewnuts made into a smooth paste with milk
Pinch of garam masala
Wash the fish and rub it with salt and turmeric and let it rest for about an hour. Fry the fish lightly in mustard oil making sure it is not browned or is even red because we want the fish to soak up all the goodness of the rich gravy. Set aside the fried pieces of fish in a bowl.
Decant the leftover oil from the fish and add 1 tsp to 2 tsp clarified butter and add the ginger garlic paste and fry it till it becomes golden and add the onion and chili paste and mix it well till it is cooked thoroughly and add the bay leaf and other spices. it is recommended that one gives the spices a mild pounding before adding them and then ad the tomato puree and stir continuously till it is well cooked and add salty and turmeric. Add the churned curd and mix well and enough water to make the desirable amount of gravy and keep stirring continuously while bringing this to a boil so that the curd doesn't separate. Simmer this and slowly add the cashew paste and once again bring everything to a boil while stirring continuously and add the fried pieces of fish. Let everything boil for half a minute and simmer and cover and let it cook for about 12 minutes to 15 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure the gravy isn't drying out and add extra water if necessary. When it is almost done add clarified butter and garam masala and let it simmer for another minute or so and serve it with rice or pulao.
P.S. Even though the taste is best enjoyed along with plain white rice, it is a nice accompaniment with the 'Ghee-Bhat' (rice cooked in clarified butter) or other pulaos.
This recipe is a part of the E-book Best kept Secrets an initiative to preserve heritage family recipes from across India by Parzen Patel of Bawi Bride