I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ∼ Gordon Ramsay
Hello – Happy New Year to all of you! I had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Ramsay in October last year and found the above quote of his very compelling, specially for the state of mind I am always in. I am telling myself to absolve the essence of the quote into each and every cell that I have in my body. Otherwise, I will be doling out explanations that I think I owe to my readers and and myself… how could I write more than 30,000 words across 60 articles in 2016, but not a single word for my blog? Or why could I post more than 530 posts on my Instagram (@ishitaunblogged) but not a single image in this blog! I travelled to 4 different countries, eaten in more than 30 new restaurants, interviewed more than 20 chefs – a few with the Michelin fame, encountered several delicious moments – all of which deserve a space here. It’s not that I haven’t had the time – writing is all that I have done in the last year. Didn’t a single word or an image make the cut for my blog? I have lost count of how many did actually – all because I have been FREAKING OVERTHINKING! The only thing that I have realised is that the blog is the life line for my all my creative juices and it has to continue, no matter what. It started off being such a fun space depicting my Dubai life, my Bong heritage and my travels elsewhere. What happened? Dear Ishita… be Gordon Ramsay, and look for the next cow – or fish if that pleases your Bong soul! Debbie, my blogger friend (aka Coffee Cakes & Running) and editor at FoodeMag (the food & travel emagazine that I had cofounded and now edit, an oft repeated info in case any of you are joining me in my blog space for the first time), left me with the ultimatum – “Press The Freaking Publish Button before this midnight.” I promised her I will. “So what are you going to write about?” she asked. I answered: “A Freaking Fish Biryani!”
Sniffing into fresh herbs and greens and brightly coloured fruits, I plopped up random stuff in the grocery this weekend. I danced in excitement when I saw a promising loot on the iced shelves of the fish section. I cooked up a few recipes in my head – all in flat thirty seconds of crossing the grocery aisles. The way I tugged at Big Z’s sleeves, it seemed like I was at a fancy grocery for the first time. Well, the first time after many weeks for sure, for the #BeardedBiker (that’s S formerly, but now transformed into this new hashtag permanently, much to my dislike) has taken away the grocery chore from me. Two reasons – One, I was proving to be more expensive and two, there was more wastage. The Z-Sisters of course had a way of manipulating me into buying stuff that we either didn’t need or were so much in excess of our needs that they regularly overshot their expiry dates and had to be thrown. “Please Mummy, please please please, can you buy some….?” Lady M too would tell me to add things randomly at the last minute, or minutes after the bill had been paid. “I forgot to write down…” These things don’t work with the Bearded Biker. No more apparent wastage. The part about my conscientious wife’s dented ego – well, I forgot about it soon as it worked to my advantage – no more last minute tweaks in the grocery list for flavoured gummies – and visibly cheaper grocery bills, fuller tummies, ampler time and more energy for my fingers to type!
Gulf News Fun Drive; Image credit – my friend Sneha
Meditation… Freaking Meditation anyone?
Everywhere I have been reading about the power of Meditation. The more I read, the more frustrated and irritated I become as I stumble on my path to traditional Meditation. That’s where friends come in – they twist and tell you things that’s convenient for you! According to my friend and wellness practitioner Tanuka (aka Soulight Tanuka on Facebook), Meditation is doing any activity which doesn’t make you think of anything. Cooking for me is then, Meditation, otherwise my mind is full of nonstop chatter! Result of my meditation on last Saturday was this ~ FREAKING ~ Fish Biryani. Although the Bengali soul longed for Hilsa and all I could remember was the taste of the Hilsas from my last Kolkata visit, I have to admit that these King Fish steaks did a remarkable con job. Just because it was still the weekend and just because the Bearded Biker was back home after bashing the dunes in GN Fun Drive and just because he had put in a request for a King Fish Biryani many moons back – it had to be this fish Biryani on the menu. A Fish Biryani request coming from a Biryani loving Bong came as a bit of a surprise, because since time immemorial, a Biryani for a thoroughbred Bengali, had always meant an Awadhi Biryani (here’s a recipe of it from my blog)!
During my Kolkata visit this time, my Mum-in-law’s ‘Shorshe Bata Iilish’ or the Mustard Hilsa was so subtly spicy and sublime, specially when she poured her love, thick mustardy love!
In the last few years that I have visited Kolkata, I felt that the Hilsa didn’t taste quite special. Glad that in my last visit, every Hilsa that I tasted, whether fried or cooked in gravy, had been supreme. And for those who vote for the Kolaghat Iilish, the ones shown here are from Diamond Harbour. The Hilsa is a perfect rainy day companion so, if in Kolkata Let it rain…
Freaking Fish Biryani
2 cups Basmati rice
5 steaks of King Fish
1/2 tsp coriander powder
4 green cardamoms
2 half-inch long cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala (the Bengali blend – a mixture of an equal proportion of powdered cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf)
2 tsp fresh garlic paste
1 tsp fresh ginger paste
1 cup low-fat yoghurt
2 tbsp of ghee*
1/2 cup white oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 chilli, chopped finely if you want it spicy
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves (optional – for garnishing)
salt to taste
- Soak the rice in water for some time and drain out. Spread the rice grains thin over folded newspaper and let them dry.
- Mix coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri chilli powder, salt, ginger and garlic paste in yoghurt and marinate the fish steaks in the paste for thirty minutes. Heat oil in a flat pan and fry the fish steaks on both sides until the fish is almost cooked. Pour the remaining of the marinade and let it cook for a while.
- Heat oil in a flat pan and fry the onions until they become translucent. Set aside.
- Heat ghee in a deep, flat bottomed pan. Throw in the bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon sticks. Stir in the rice for a while. Add 4 cups of water (exactly double the amount of rice) and salt as per taste and cover with a lid. When the water starts to boil, cook in the lowest seam. Once the rice is cooked al dente, place the fried fish steaks on the surface along with the cooked marinade. Spread the fried onion. Splatter some ghee around the pan and put the lid back. Switch off the cooker by 5 minutes and remove from fire and let the Fish Biryani cook in its own seam.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and serve it FREAKING hot with a chilled Raita!
*The ghee that most Bengalis prefer to use is a bit strong in flavour and has an acquired taste (and preferably a brand called Jharna Ghee). It isn’t available here even in most Bangladeshi shops and hence travel back in our suitcases from Kolkata! You may also use any other brands of ghee or butter. Just so that there isn’t any more added confusion or disruption in your gastronomical thoughts, this tried and tested recipe doesn’t really belong traditionally to any region and has been developed in our kitchen – with great success!
Seabass stuffed with Green Peas, Coriander & Garlic Garnishing
At 6:45pm on Saturday, I got a sms from the Bearded Biker that there’s been a 600 Dhs RTA fine… a second one of a similar value within the first half of January in this new year… in the same Oudh Metha road. I couldn’t figure out WHY THE FREAKING HECK? I could have bought myself a new geeky gadget for myself with that money – any that can detect these radars and caution me beforehand? I also missed out the opportunity of a weekend afternoon siesta that the Fish Biryani lunch so deserved as an immediate follow-up. All this because of the ridiculous amount of time spent in MOE to collect my annual acquisition – a new pair of geeky glasses from my regular opticians. This also brought me to the realisation that the amount of money spent on my glasses ever since my childhood, just to make my thick glasses somewhat decently thin (I know similar fate awaits me in other aspects of life too), would probably have bought me a fairly oversized diamond ring, in which case bigger sizes wouldn’t matter. The mushiest and the most touching moment amidst all these unfair interludes of life ? Big Z declaring that she will forego all ECAs in school this term and her thirteenth birthday too that’s due in May end (not very soon but fairly soon, according to her and for which she has been counting days from the very next day after she turned twelve – bless her), in order to compensate the unexpected expenditure arisen from my fines. Her kindness melted my heart and while I have put her offer on hold now for a more pressing emergency in the future, I am seeking the next best and the most economic intervention possible – let my Bearded Biker do the weekly groceries. In the meanwhile, I am concentrating more on the menu to cook something delicious daily – it was a smoking hot Seabass stuffed with Green Peas, Coriander & Garlic Garnishing that I cooked the very next day. But first things first, without much OVERTHINKING (which I am capable of, in various intensities) and with less than two hours to go for the Cinderella hour, I have to press the FREAKING Publish Button and I hope that you try out my FREAKING Fish Biryani – it’s fairly FREAKING easy!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS: Looking back if I must (although Gordon wouldn’t approve of it), but looking down I mustn’t! It was only last week that I had an unique dining experience with Dinner in the Sky.
Only FOOD can lure me up there – 50m above sea level, harnessed up in a seat and hanging from a crane!
Disclaimer: I had a media invite for Dinner in the Sky. Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. Do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.