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Maach-Bhaat by Avinandan Kundu

There is nothing I prefer eating more than my fish and rice. Oddly stereotypical perhaps, but I have extremely fond memories of fish markets in the city. This plate of food puts a number of aspects about food I love generally in one place. The slight advantage of something like this is it allows for an incredible amount of flexibility and switching. A lot of it will be done earlier, pulled out and put on a plate. The main focus still remains the fish and the rice.

Two things elevate both: the ghee and the honey. I have always been a fan of the rice varietals at amar khamar. But what absolutely blew my mind this time was the honey. This kalo jeere honey which has gone on this plate is quite possibly the best tasting honey I have had the pleasure of treating myself to in recent memory. And the bitter edge on it is what makes everything work.

by Avinandan Kundu, Chef de cuisine at Sienna Store & Cafe

 

Ingredients

For the fish

  • 500 g fresh mackerel
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 4 tbsp amar khamar's black cumin honey
  • 1/2 tsp amar khamar's black cumin seeds

 

For the stock

  • 100 g chicken wings
  • 500 g water
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf

 

For the rice

  • 100 g amar khamar's radhatilok rice
  • 1 tbsp amar khamar's Kalimpong ghee
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Salt

 

For the chilli kraut

  • 500 g cabbage
  • 2 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 15 g salt
  • 1 tbsp amar khamar's black mustard seeds

 

For the plating

  • Cooked Fish
  • Cooked Rice
  • Chilli Kraut
  • Spring Onions
  • Fried Onions
  • Ghee

  

Method

  1. The first element which takes a few days to get up to scratch is the chilli kraut. I sliced up some cabbage, gave it a quick rinse and weighed out 3% salt of the total weight of cabbage and gave it a good mix in with the chilli powder and mustard seeds. You can go less on salt, but in the heat of Kolkata I just prefer a little more salt to slow fermentation. It took mine about 3 days outside in a jar. Give it a mix everyday and try and keep it submerged in the liquid. Start tasting after 3 days. It’s ready when you are happy with it. Store in a refrigerator.
  2. For the stock you can use anything. A vegetable stock from scraps works absolutely great. I have used chicken wings, because I had them in my freezer. They are fatty, gelatinous goodness, which means my stock will have more flavour. Also, I can pull the meat off them and have a sandwich the next day. I just pressure cook the wings with the other ingredients for about an hour and strain the liquid off to use in the rice.
  3. The fish I marinade in half the honey and soy for an hour at most. Doesn’t really require much more. I filleted the fish. Feel free to keep it whole and flavour it the way you like.
  4. To cook the rice I give it a couple of rinses to get some starch out. In a deep pan I put in ghee and lightly saute the sliced garlic and sliced onions. I add the rice to it and get it nice and shiny. A slit red chilli is added and then the strained stock is poured in. I give it a stir and let it simmer till it gets cooked. Took me 10 minutes with the lid off. I added about 50 ml of water later to get to a slightly runny consistency. Merely a personal preference.
  5. In a 220C preheated oven, I put the fish on a tray with some parchment paper and on the top rack. Set a timer to 2 mins and take it out every time and brush with a little honey and back in. A filleted mackerel of this size should take 6 minutes to cook through. Sprinkled on some black cumin seeds for the last minute or so it spent in the oven.
  6. Plate as you wish. Switch the components around. You could use leftover dal instead of the stock. Use any other pickle you want. I like some fried onions, but aloo bhaja would work just as well. At the heart of it, this plate is very familiar, it is meant to be so. 

 

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