The Blue sky of every Bengal Monsoon - Ilish Pulao

Ilish - The Wonder Fish

Your ties actually strengthen much, when that lovable pleasure comes along only once, in a long while. A Bengali's love for fish has stood this foolish test of time and a whole lot of judgemental eyes. We have learned to wait patiently for that perfect time of the year if our kind Mother Nature has promised to gift us the best, it has in store, to enjoy. So, come monsoon and what a true Bong can only fantasize about is Ilish ( the beautiful, Hilsa ) . The silver lining to all their traffic jams and waterlogging worries. Ilish is special. It has an aura of its own and doesn't stand any competition among its peers with respect to its grandeur flavour. Ilish is one of those weekly expensive items in their baazarer jhola ( bag ) which a Modhyobityo ( middle - class ) Bangali never says no to. Its loaded with hundreds of minute bones but still has the ability to unite the Bangals and the Ghotis of Bengal with their Bangladeshi counterparts. The skyrocketed price of Rs. 1500 / Kg seems trivial in front of Bangali's romanticism for Ilish Maach. That soft texture and the slight saltiness of its meat leaves you craving for more. Hence, this monsoon remember to just keep calm and simply have some Ilish maach.

You can prepare just about anything with this versatile fish. A simple Ilish maach bhaja ( fried Hilsa ) on a bed of rice can make up for a week - long vegetarian dinner to adjust on the food budget. Sometimes it comes draped in moist Banana leaves to simply take your breathe away. An occasional stew with this monsoon delight cooked in with little pieces of potato and brinjal or a garam masala infused Doi - Maach ( made with homemade curd, a similar one like this , just substitute the fish ) is what we can only dream of when we lie low the waiting duration.

My personal favourite and like every family has their very own dish is Ilish - pulao. It has Ilish, it has gobindo - bhog chal ( a fragrant rice variety famous among Bengalis ) and of course, it has ghee (clarified butter ) and when mixed with big spoonful's of love.. how can any other combination taste better? The mild flavours complement each other excellently and take my word when I say that the aroma of all these ingredients mix, can take you out of this troubled earth the moment you put that first morsel into your buccal cavity. I wouldn't waste much time now, rather just get on with sharing the recipe.. of happiness!

  • Ilish pieces - 500 grams cut into pieces.

  • Cardamons ( 3-4 ) and Cinnamon ( 1 inch ) - dry roasted and grinded.

  • Turmeric powder - 2 teaspoon
  • Chilli powder - 1 teaspoon

  • Tejpata ( Bay leaf ) - 7-8
  • Govindo - bhog chal ( or any fragrant rice ) - 350 grams ( approx. )

  • Ghee
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil / Soya bean oil / Peanut oil - 2 teaspoon

  • Make a smooth paste of the turmeric, chilly powder and salt.

  • Heat up the oil in the kadhai and add the spice paste. Cook it for around 3-4 minutes with little water whenever it dries up.

  • Add a bayleaf and continue the same for around 2 more minutes. Do not burn the spices..add water splashes whenever necessary. Finally add in a cup of water.

  • Put in the fish pieces along with a half of the cardamom and cinnamon powder mix. Cover the kadhai and cook the fishes for around 15 minutes over low flame, till done. Be delicate with the fish. Its fragile, so handle them with love. Add another pinch of cardamom cinnamon mix and save a bit for later.

  • Meanwhile, wash the rice and cook it in some boiling hot water with some salt. Do not overcook the rice though. Drain them well.

  • Its time to assemble everything in layers now. 
  • Coat a deep - bottomed flask with dollops of liquid ghee and add a layer of rice.

  • Throw in at least 4 bay leaves over the rice layer, covering them up with the fish pieces. You can add a little bit of the fish gravy over the pieces.

  • Add in the other half of the rice. A spoonful of fish gravy and a few of those bay leaves. Be generous with another tablespoon of ghee all over the rice. The remaining cardamom and cinnamon mix also goes in.

  • Put on the lid of the vessel and keep it on the lowest flame for around 5 - 10 minutes. This helps in that perfect combination of all those beautiful aromatic flavours and mould itself into something really elegant.

The perfect recipe for Maach - Bhaat ideal for a windy , rainy evening!!


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