Bengali Mustard Fish Curry

This post has been a loooooong time coming. Last week was totally full on with both my daughters now in school. There was a catch however, that being that Little Z was to be weaned on gradually with half days over the course of the week and a half, which mean’t that much of my existence was spent ferrying children in a car back and forth to school – six times per day for me to be precise, therefore allowing very little time to actually get on with anything productive.

At the weekend I threw myself into organsing an a friend’s baby shower so was baking and making in preparation for the event. The spread included: a Victoria sponge cake, flapjacks, egg mayo, smoked salmon with horseradish, cream cheese and cucumber finger sandwiches, rainbow coloured fruit sticks (got to keep it healthy!), a carrot cake and a few other sugary treats accompanied by big cups of tea and coffee, oh and not forgetting peach bellinis upon arrival.

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It’s now Tuesday and calm has reigned once more in my life as Little Z stays at school for her first full day. This now gives me the necessary breathing space to get this blog post out to you all.

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Mustard fish curry – Maach (fish) Jhol (gravy/curry), is probably THE most popular fish dish in Bengal. The Bengali diet includes a lot of fish and mustard oil/seeds/paste is as ubiquitous in Bengali cuisine as pepper is in the west. Traditionally the mustard paste for the curry is made by grinding brown mustard seeds on a ‘sheel nora’ or grinding stone that can be found in traditional Bengali kitchens. I learn’t this recipe however from my husband, Mr B, and my mother in-law who have converted to the quicker version of mixing some smooth Dijon mustard with some wholegrain mustard, which works superbly. Cheating? Well not really, just speeding up the process, which is always a bonus in our otherwise hectic lives.

This time I used sea bream, mainly because it is what I had in my freezer, but mackerel, tilapia, salmon or trout work equally well. Served with a bowl of rice it is perfect for a speedy week(end) night supper.

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Some recipes require that you rub turmeric and salt into the fish first and then deep frying them for a 2/3 minutes and then in a separate pan adding the mustard oil, nigella seeds and mustard paste followed by the fried fish. I have always tended to omit the first part, keeping the dish healthier, but by all means try both versions and see which you prefer. Similarly I often cook the dish with the fish whole, but head removed. However, you can also chop the fish into smaller pieces but do not fillet it as it will not work so well.

Bengali Mustard Fish Curry 

Serves 3 (if serving for 4 add one more fish and an extra chilli or two!)

3 sea bream/mackerel/tilapia/salmon/trout, head removed but kept whole

3 tbsp mustard oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

3 green chillies, halved (more if you prefer it hot hot)

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp wholegrain mustard

pinch of salt

8 tbsp water

1. In a pan/wok/kadai heat up the mustard oil. When it is hot carefully add the nigella seeds, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir for a few seconds before adding both mustards. Stir well.

2. Add the chilli and then place in the fish using a spoon to cover the fish in the mustard juices. Add a pinch of salt and some water and place a lid on the pan so that the fish can steam. Keep the heat low so as not the burn the bottom of the pan. If it is drying out add a little more water or oil if need be. Spoon the juices over the fish from time to time.

3. The fish will be cooked within 10 minutes. Leave to rest. Scatter with chopped coriander before serving. To reheat, simply add a sprinkling of water and warm the pan.

Serve with rice.

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Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad

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Grey days deserve brightening up and there is no better way to lift ones mood, than to indulge in a rather bright and summery looking salad….. in winter. I recently had this salad at a cheery little deli/restaurant on the Kings Road (they have two branches now at differing ends of the Kings Road) called Megan’s, where the staff are attentive and cheerful and there is a constant flow of customers coming in to have breakfast, lunch or to indulge in tea and cake, either to-go or to linger for a while in the warm haven of the restaurant. There is a positive buzz, not least because the food is fresh and inviting and made on the premises. It’s casual, unstuffy eating where you queue in line at the salad and hot bar and take your pick.

What initially attracted me to the chicken, mango and avocado salad was the colour – the bold yellow balancing beautifully with the reddish pink of the radish and the green from the salad leaves and coriander. The blend of flavours and textures complimented each other so well and I like the fact that the chicken had been delicately romancing with the dressing.

I took a mental note of what was in the salad and swore to conjure up a similar one in my home and then to share with you all when I had got it right. Of course it works brilliantly in the summer months, but I think a splash of colour and a healthy salad in the winter is fabulously refreshing. You can choose to have your grilled chicken warm or at room temperature, both work equally well so it is up to your personal preference.

What recipes do you cook when you need to brighten up your day?

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Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad

serves 4

Romaine lettuce, chopped

300g chicken breasts

1 avocado

1 mango

bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

approximately 6 radishes, sliced

salt and pepper

dressing

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp whole grain mustard

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1. Preheat the grill to 180 degrees and cook the chicken for around 20 minutes, turning half way through.

2. Slice, cut and chop the remaining salad ingredients and place in a large bowl.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients together and place to one side.

4. When the chicken is cooked, slice the chicken breasts into strips of edible bites and place into the large bowl.

5. Add a little of the dressing and then gently toss together with all the salad ingredients.

6. Place in a serving platter for guests to serve themselves, with a small jug with the remaining dressing on the side.