Sunday afternoon was billed as a kosha mangsho afternoon for our guests.
I wanted to make a rui fish dish which was different from the garam masala based kosha manghso. So rui kaalia wouldn't work. Both were brown, garam masala and fried onion gravies after all.
My next option was the curd/ yogurt based doi maachh. Problem is that I had never made it before. I wondered whether it would be fair to experiment on our guests.
Still, kosha mangsho done, I set off on a doi maachh (fish in curd) journey.
Disaster struck as the curd base for the curry began to curdle once I put it on the stove. The sauce would have been at home on a lab petri dish. There was no way that I could serve it to the gang of Finely Chopped readers who were coming for lunch. I wouldn't touch it myself. I sat down flummoxed, the fight gone out of me.
I called up my friend Nilakshi who had earlier given me her recipe for doi maach. N was at Gurgaon cooking chicken and shukto for her niece's birthday. She stopped, heard me out and discussed her method again. It seemed to make sense and my anxiety attack began to fizzle out. I decided to try her recipe with one moderation. I would use the microwave in the finishing stage. Compared to an open flame, the heat would be more even and regulated and possibly more gentle for the sensitive curd. Banu and I consulted each other. She too felt that the curd had to be added at the end.
I knew I was taking a risk as the dish had to be cooked just before people ate. Which meant that it could have gone wrong as we were about to sit for lunch. I didn't have a back up plan. I had to get it right the first time. There would be no second chance. No prisoners would be taken.
I steeled myself and decided to give it a shot. My instincts told me that the new method would work. And it did!
The result was sheer poetry in curry. I was thrilled and jubilant to see the dish make a Phoenix like comeback. I had cracked the doi maach code. All thanks to Nilakshi.
So without further ado, here's my sure shot doi maach recipe:
- 6 pieces of rui or river carp, smeared in 1/2 a teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon chilly powder + salt
- Curd marinade - 100 g of curd (I use Nestle Probiotic Dahi) + 1 teaspoon chilly powder + 1/2 teaspoon jeera (cumin) powder + 1/2 tea spoon sugar + 1/2 tea spoon salt - whipped together in a mixer grinder or beaten (stirred) hard with a spoon. No turmeric
- Gravy base - 1/2 an onion - pasted, 1 tea spoon of ginger paste + 1 teaspoon whole cumin (sada jeera), dry red chillies + as Amitabha says in the comments, 2, bay leaves (tej pata) and some whole garam masala
- Garnish - a spoon of finely chopped coriander and 2 split green chillies, a tea spoon of whole garam masala
- Medium fry the fish
- Put the fish in a microwave cooking bowl and pour the curd marinade on it. Keep it for at least half an hour so that, as Nilakshi puts it, the marinade soaks into the fish
- Fry the sada jeera in a bit of oil till it sputters. Add a couple of dry red chillies if you want + Amitabh's suggestion of tej pata and some whole garam masala
- Add the onion paste to it and stir till brown
- Add ginger paste, ditto
- Spoon this mix when done onto the fish and curd mix and leave them alone for a while to get acquainted with each other
The final moments (my only contribution to N's recipe)
- Put the mix into a microwave (or oven)
- Switch it on for two minutes
- See if it curdles. It won't
- Switch the micro on for two more minutes
- Your doi maach is ready
- Garnish with coriander and chilly
- Add some whole garam masala on the top if you want to
- Best enjoyed with steamed rice.
The result was a dish that was subtle, light and ethereal. A far cry from my first flopped attempt. Nilakshi and and I had cracked the code.
So who's the daddy now?
Lesson for the day : if you are using curd as the base for your gravy then add it at the end. It curdles in heat otherwise.
Sharmila of kichhu khon suggests adding a bit of besan (gram flour) to the curd to stop it from curdling