Monday, 27 February 2012

Haah aru Kumura Aanja

Haah aru Kumura Aanja (duck curry with gourd)

A few Assamese terminologies :
1. Haah : Duck
2. Kumura : a variety of gourd known as Ash Gourd 
3. Poka : ripe
4. Aru : and
5. Aanja : curry
6. Joha rice : a variety of tiny grained rice, gives out aroma when cooked. 
7. Aaita : grand mother 
8. Maa : mother

Indigenous Assamese cuisine is incomplete without this particular dish. In the upper region of the state of Assam, this dish is regarded very highly. In the olden times and even today, when a dear friend or a respected guest is invited over a meal, this delicacy takes the place of the main course. I remember as a young girl, whenever a reputed person or a respected guest is invited to the house, instead of the cook, either my Aaita, Maa or aunt would be doing the honours of cooking this particular dish with utmost care. 
Although duck meat is found and eaten any time of the year, it tastes best during December-January. During this time of the season the ducks are full of fat.  Harvesting season starts from the month of November and during this time ducks get to eat a lot of freshly harvested seeds of paddy. This is believed to be the reason behind the taste of duck meat during this time of the year. 
After toiling all year round, when harvesting is over, its time to celebrate and merrymaking. In mid January Assam celebrates one of the three Bihus. In this Bihu, called the Maagh Bihu or the Bhogali Bihu, duck becomes the most preferred meat. 

Cutting and cleaning : 
Today we cut and clean duck in may ways to suit the recipe we plan to cook. But here I am narrating the traditional method. 
Duck is kept in hot water for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

This makes it easier to dress the duck. Pull the feathers off. Wash it thoroughly. Then lightly roast over a fire, turning all the time to brown it evenly. This gives out the unique roasted aroma. Now it is ready to be cut into pieces. Although I add a little garam masala while cooking duck meat, my Aaita never did. She liked keeping the natural roasted flavour of the meat. 
To make Haah aru Kumura Aanja, you need : 

400gm duck meat

Kumura growing in my kitchen garden. 

It is very easy to grow Kumura in this part of the country, without much care. Notice the two different colours of kumura in the above picture. Green one is tender and can be eaten as a plain vegetable, the white is ripe which is generally used for the duck curry. Grow much bigger as they ripen. The ripe ones remain fresh, can be preserved up to a year. 

A piece of ripe kumura

350 gm Kumura, cubed. 

Method :
Marinate the meat with : 
1. paste of 1 onion
2. paste of 6 pods garlic
3. paste of 1 tsp ginger 
4. paste of jeera (cumin seed) 1 tsp
5. paste of dhania (coriander seed) 1 tsp
6. pepper powder 1/2 tsp
7. turmeric 1tsp
8. salt 1 tsp
9. raw mustard oil 2 tbsp 

Mix well and keep aside for an hour. 

Ingredients for cooking : 
1. chopped onion 1
2. chopped green chilly to taste (optional)
3. garam masala powder (cardamom+cinnamon+clove) 1 tsp (optional)
4. mustard oil 1 tbsp
5. salt to taste
6. a few tezpaat (bay leaves)
6. a few fresh coriander leaves for garnishing. 

Heat oil, put in tezpaat and onion, fry for a while and put in the marinated meat.  Keep frying in low heat, stirring occasionally. Add kumura, fry again. The kumura will give out lot of water gradually while frying. 
Take the pieces of kumura and leave aside. Cook the meat in pressure cooker to save time and energy. 
Open cooker, add the kumura, little water and cook again till done. 
Pour the curry out into a pan, add garam masala, green chilly and cook again for a few minutes. Check salt. 

Gravy should be neither too watery nor thick. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander. Serve with a plate of steaming hot Joha rice. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ondla Jwng Naa Jwng

Ondla Jwng Naa Jwng (Fish curry with rice powder) 

Ondla is another favourite curry of the Bodos. It's an extremely delicious and very healthy dish, basically made of ground rice, can be cooked with fish, chicken or pork. There are many variations to this curry. Following is the recipe to make Fish in Ondla Ingkhree with either baskar bibaar or mwdwmphool bibaar.
A few Bodo terminologies:
1. Ondla: a curry cooked with ground rice.
2. Ingkhree: curry
3. Naa: fish
4. Jwng: with
5. Baskar bibaar:known as Bahek Tita or Tita Bahekor Phool in Assamese. A tiny red flower, tastes a bit bitter, believed to be nutritious.
6. Khaari: alkali,known as Kol Khaar or Kola Khaar in Assamese.Procedure of making:sun dry  peels and trunks of banana plant and burn to collect the ash. Then pour water, keep over night, strain and store the clear brown liquid to use in curries. This is very common and used in a variety of dishes all over the North Eastern part of India.
7. Mwdwmphool bibaar: papaya flower
Ondla can be cooked with either meat or fish alone. But adding Baskar bibaar or mwdwmphool bibaar certainly enhances the taste as well as the colour and texture of the curry. This is my observation, over the years, cooking and visiting many Bodo village kitchens. 
To cook Ondla Jwng Naa Jwng,  you need:

Fresh(live if possible) fish 6pieces. Seen in the above picture are pieces of a 'Sole' fish.

1cup baskar bibaar, cleaned and washed.

Baskar bibaar can be replaced by 100g mwdumphool bibaar. 

    1/2 cup rice, soaked for an hour and ground to a fine paste with water. Normally this recipe is made with rice powder. But if not an expert, the curry gets lumpy while cooking. This variation gives a smoothness to the curry.

1tblsp Khaari.

6pods of garlic, ground coarsely. Half tsp turmeric. Salt to taste. Chopped green chilly to taste. 1tblsp oil for the curry and 1/2 cup to fry fish. A bunch of fresh coriander, chopped.

Fry the pieces of fish smeared with turmeric and salt.
Heat oil in a pan and fry baskar bibaar, adding salt, turmeric and chilly. Pour water and cook for about 5mnts.

Now pour out the rice paste into the pan stirring constantly. Cook for another 5mnts.

Put in the fried pieces of fish and cook. Add garlic paste and stir well when fish is cooked, cook for a few more minutes. Finally add Khaari and chopped coriander.

Ondla Ingkhree with fish and baskar bibaar is ready to serve.
This curry can be cooked with a little variation by replacing baskar bibaar with mwdwmphool bibaar, tastes almost same, only colour of the curry is pale.

Method is same, in place of baskar bibaar, fry mwdwmphool bibaar ...

... add water, cook till the bibaars are tender. Pour the rice paste stirring and cooking for a few minutes.

Put in the fried pieces of fish and garlic paste. Cook for sometime and finally, add khaari and chopped coriander.

Ondla Ingkhree with fish and papaya flower is ready.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bhapot Diya Iilis Maas

Assamese Cuisine is incomplete without this delicacy. 'Bhapot Diya' means to cook in steam, 'Iilis Maas'  is Hilsa fish.

 Steamed Hilsa is very easy to cook yet divinely delicious. 
To cook Bhapot Diya Iilis Maas, you need :

Iilis Maas (Hilsa Fish)

6 or 7pieces of Iilis Maas, washed and pat dried.

  3tsps level yellow mustard seed, ground to a smooth paste with little water.
1/2 Onion, ground to a smooth paste.
5or 6 pods of Garlic, ground to a smooth paste.
3or 4 Green Chilly, slit length wise.

1 and 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder. 
2 tsp level salt.

3 to 4 tblsps Mustard Oil. Usually for this recipe, mustard oil is added without prior heating, it exudes a strong oily aroma, which is very appetizing and much loved by the Assamese. Oil can be heated and cooled before adding, in case you find the smell of raw oil too strong.

Mix all the ingredients well till it turns very smooth, leaving aside Iilis Maas.

Smear the pieces of Iilis well with the batter of all the mixed ingredients.

Steam the Iilis in a steamer.

Cover and steam for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also steam in a pressure cooker.

Bhapot Diya Iilis is ready to be served with a steaming hot plate of Joha rice ( a small grained rice with a  lingering aroma, a favorite of the Assamese).