Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bhapa Chingri (Steamed Prawns in Banana Leaves)

Prawns, rather shrimp, steamed in a mustard-chili sauce was one of the favourite holiday dishes when we were growing up. Normally, what Mom would do is seal the shrimp with the spices into a small container and put it into the bhater hari (rice-pot) once the rice was half done. The shrimp would get cooked in it's own juices on slow heat over an hour or so. And when at lunch it would be opened, you would have fragrant steam rising mixed with the pungent mustardy, chilli smell. Ahhhh.....Heaven.

Miss those rainy afternoon lunches when we would sit down for long slow lunches. Anyway, here's my personal adaptation. It's extremely simple to make, relies on the natural flavours of the spices to make the dish stand out and is great if you have a cold. Let me know if you try it.

Ingredients (Serves -2, Approximate cooking time-1 hr)

  • Prawns (shelled and deveined) - 250 gm
  • Mustard seeds- 4 tbsp (more if you are adventurous)
  • Green chillies- 8
  • Mustard Oil- 4 tbsp
  • Grated coconut (optional)- 3-4 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Banana leaves- If you can get them for wrapping the prawns-2 large


Soak the mustard seeds in hot water for 2 hrs. Grind half of the chillies to a paste. Add salt and the mustard seeds. Grind to a smooth paste.

Mix the paste into the prawns and set aside for 15 mins. Now wrap the prawns in the banana leaves along with the mustard paste. Sprinkle on a little bit of salt, 2 tbsp mustard oil, and two of the remaining green chillies chopped into small pieces. Use the second leaf to make a waterproof parcel as shown below. If you want, you could seal in even this pack in a length of aluminum foil so that you have no messy drips in the oven.

Bake in the oven at 200 C for 30 mins.

Remove the foil and unwrap the banana leaves. Add remaining chopped chillies and mustard oil. Serve hot with rice.

  • Picked this one up from my cousin. When grinding the mustard seeds, it is recommended that you add a pinch of salt as otherwise the paste takes on a bitter taste.
  • If you want, you could add a pinch of turmeric and red chili powder with the marinade in the beginning. Lends colour and masks a bit of the fishy smell.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Grilled Chicken Purses with Cheese & Basil Stuffing

Nothing as comforting as baked potatoes, chicken and cheese. Here's a recipe for chilly winter evenings when you are just tired, and want to dig into some comfort food.

Ingredients (Serves 2):
  • Chicken Breasts- 2
  • Mozzarella- 1/2 cup grated
  • Potatoes- 4 medium sized ones
  • Garlic- 2 large cloves
  • Button mushrooms- 1 cup
  • Butter-1 tbsp
  • Basil- Dried, 2 tsp.
  • Peppercorns- 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste

Preparation (About60 mins):

Clean the potatoes and pop them into the oven at 300C for 25 mins. While the potatoes get warmed up, clean the chicken and cut into halves. Dice garlic into small pieces, mix with grated cheese, peppercorns, half of the basil and salt to taste. Mash the mixture. Make slits in the chicken breasts and stuff with this mixture. Seal the chicken purses with toothpicks.

Baste the chicken with butter. Once potatoes finish 25 mins in the oven, add chicken to the baking tray. Dab the potatoes with a bit of butter, sprinkle a bit of salt and remaining basil over the potatoes and the chicken. Cook in oven for 20 mins at 250 C.

Turn the chicken over and pour the juices on the potatoes and chicken so that they do not dry out. Add mushrooms to the tray after dusting them slightly in remaining butter. Pop into oven and cook for 10 mins more at 200C. Serve hot.


  • The potatoes can be mashed with a bit of the gravy that drains out from the chicken . Tastes heavenly.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hilsa baked with mustard

The perennial Bengali fishà Hilsa is back again. Strange that even in Muscat, you manage to find Hilsa. As my fishmonger Nizam put it, “Bhai, absolutely fresh from the Padma. Only two months on ice.” But then what else could a Bengali guy do when faced with Hilsa.

To top it all, there’s this new chappie in office, who had been eating my ear’s out with stories of home cooking, lau-chingri, posto bata, sukto, einchorer dalna, note shak bhaja. So there I was standing with a kilo of tucked under my arm and no idea of what to cook.

In the end I decided on “Illish Paturi”. Back at home, the hilsa would have been swathed in layers of fresh banana leaf and left to cook in the embers of a dying wood or coal fire, but Muscat being as removed from Calcutta as fish from the desert, what follows is my modified version.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

  • Hilsa- 250 gm
  • Mustard seeds- 3 tbsp
  • Green Chillies- 6 large
  • Mustard Oil- 2 tbsp (You can cut it down for a diet h ilsa bake, but it does leave something lacking).
  • Salt to taste

Preparation (Processing 10 mins+ Baking Time 25 mins~Total Time 40 mins)

Soak mustard seeds in warm water for half an hour. Cle

an fish in fresh water. Grind mustard seeds, 4 green chillies to fine paste. Add mustard oil and salt to the paste. Spread this paste evenly on the fish. Slit and place the remaining green chillies on top of the fish. Wrap the fish in double layers of aluminum foil. Seal the packet from the edges, as you see in the pic below, so that steam does not escape. Do not wrap the fish too tightly as otherwise the pack may burst in the oven.

Set oven to 250 C and bake for 25 mins. If you have time on your hands, I would recommend cooking at 150 C for 40 mins. The longer time you can give it low temperatures, the better do the flavours mingle.

Serve hot with rice.

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  • Though we are using a lot of mustard and green c hillies, the baking process tempers down the spices. So if you want to have it really spicy, I would recommend serving green chillies on the side for accompaniment.