Neem Begun

Neem Begun / Neem Eggplant

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I am sharing this one which I cook in guilt only. Reason being, it is a bitter veggie and most would not understand as to why this should be made at all. But bitter can be tasty as well, right ! Think of so many things which make bitter an edible flavor. The story of this vegetable lies in the state of Bengal where I believe every 4th vegetable is an eggplant 🙂 .  Soft, new, near fluorescent leaves of the neem tree are used for this since they are yet edible.

The neem is a must found plant in any home in India that has a garden. It falls under the category of Tulsi, Curry patta etc. in terms of existence, character and virtue. Eggplant or the Brinjal is such a delicious veggie too. I grow at least 4 different types in my garden and enjoy them throughout the year. Remember this snack that is really popular in my house, the Eggplant Chops !

I am guilty of cooking this one since my kid obviously would never eat it 🙂 , but this is a loaded with nutrition dish. Try out, but only with your mature taste buds !!

…need to know (food details)

  • Number of people served : 2 tablespoon per person would be a good serving
  • Preparation time : 20 minutes max.

….and we need (ingredients)

  • Eggplants / Brinjal / Begun chopped, for this dish I prefer long ones with thin tall slices, 3 brinjals : I  Eggplant or aubergine or brinjal or “begun” as the bengalis would refer to it (this being a bengali dish) is extremely rich in fiber, Vitamin C, potassium and help in liver health, blood cholesterol, heart health and many others. As already stated, I love growing this hardy plant all across the sunny portion of my garden though the white flies trouble me a lot. It is mildly bitter in taste which fades after cooking and the texture is interestingly spongy !
  • Mint sprigs, 1/4th cup or 3 tablespoons when chopped : Mint is chopped well from our garden since they are extremely easy to grow. They are slightly bitter and sour with an umami essence. It is great for digestion and is a great anti oxidant.
  • Neem leaves, broken, fresh 1 tablespoon: The virtues of neem are not a few but a list. It is wonderful for skin, hair, blood, ulcers, stomach, teeth and gums and getting rid of intestinal worms. Though neem is one of the most bitter edibles in the garden yet the new leaves that we harvest here are a bit better with extremely mild sweetness embellished in the otherwise first layer of bitterness. Not for kids though !
  • Red chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon : Red chili powder has a sharper, earthier essence then the fresh green ones. It is a good source of Vitamin C, A and E hence beneficial for skin and hair.
  • Turmeric powder, 1/3rd teaspoon : Turmeric gives a great orange color and a mild bitter taste to the pickle here. It is a wonderful antioxidant and anti inflammatory. I grow them in tubs in my backyard. They test your patience coming up, but they are amazingly pretty as a plant.
  • Salt, to taste, use simple table salt here : Bitter Regular table salt works best here. So regular treated and mineral controlled it is.

….time to cook ‘n roll (preparing instructions)

  • Wash the brinjals well and slice them along the length, as in the picture.
  • Mix the turmeric powder, the red chili powder, the salt and 1 teaspoon mustard oil.
  • Coat the eggplant slices with this mix paste.
  • Now heat a teaspoon of mustard oil in the pan.
  • When it starts evaporating, add the chopped neem leaves and the chopped mint leaves and stir for 30 seconds on medium flame.
  • To this add the sliced and spiced brinjal and stir well so as to mix with the sauteed leaves.
  • Add 4-5 tablespoons of water and cook while stirring for  5 to 8 minutes till your required stage of cooking is reached.
  • Now take off the flame and serve hot garnished with some more chopped mint leaves. There you are !!

Storage : You’ll either love it enough to gobble it immediately or you wont appreciate the bitterness and wouldn’t want to store anyways 🙂 .

Missing Something ? : Some mild ground mustard paste can be used in the marinate.

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Fish Rechiado / Roopchand

Fish Rechiado

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Rupchand or Roopchand is a medium to big size fish which occupies your platter well. I always need courage to cook it, not because it is not tasty (which it certainly is plentifully), rather due to its hefty size. I like to cook fish whole, especially good looking ones and this is a pretty fish indeed. However, cooking whole means no leftovers. And that makes for a really big treat 😀  !  So here’s the one which I absolutely love when there’s a good couple of hours of eating strength left in me.

And the recipe, well, Rechiado is an amazing concoction which I first came across during a binge with friends in Goa. I was absolutely led by it’s umami essence and a fragrance that would fill a shackk or a room for hours.

So, here’s my treat !! Read on ….

 

….need to know (food details)

  • Number of people served : This is a 4 guest fish for sure.
  • Preparation time : 30 minutes
  • Serving size : Half platefuls would be a great treat.

….and we need (ingredients)

  • Roopchand fish, 1 full, cleaned and slit, 1400 grams approx. : Roopchand is sometimes called the Indian piranha, quite unfairly though. It is white and sweet and has chunky meat portions and bones that are easily separable. It is good in omega acid and proteins as well. It looks so pink and pretty and hence the nomenclature. Some also call it the fake pomfret or the chinese pomfret. 
  • Vinegar, 2 tablespoon : Vinegar preserves the flavors in my dishes very well, so I don’t mind frequenting it. Prime reason for it’s preservative qualities are the amounts of acetic acid and anti bacterial present in it. And yes of course, the sour essence is brought out very well with vinegar. It is an amazing preservative.
  • Curry Leaves, 1 tablespoon : There isn’t a household in India which does not have a curry leaves plant. They have high amount of calcium, carbohydrates, fibre, iron, phosphorus, Vitamin E, B, C and A hence helping heart, hair, skin and fighting infections. Here I add them for their extreme spicy aroma. One old friend from Bangalore once told me, if the South Indians would have their way, they would even add curry patta in Chinese food 🙂 
  • Salt, 3/4th teaspoon : Use the sea salt for authenticity and it’s minerals.
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon : Gets necessary sweetness to the dish adding fibre and aiding digestion too.
  • Lemon juice, 1 teaspoon or from 1 average sized lemon : Sour and acidic, with a good amount of citric acid, we add lemon here not just to enhance the sour essence but also to use it’s hydrating and digestive qualities.
  • Dried Red Chilies, 6 : Dried red chillies have a sharper, earthier essence then the fresh green ones. They are a good source of Vitamin C, A and E hence beneficial for skin and hair.
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/3rd teaspoon : Turmeric gives a great orange color and a mild bitter taste to the pickle here. It is a wonderful antioxidant and anti inflammatory. I grow them in tubs in my backyard. They test your patience coming up, but they are amazingly pretty as a plant.
  • Cumin seeds, 1/3rd teaspoon : Cumin has the classical earthy and nutty essence. Cumin is also extremely popular due to it’s aid to digestion, immune system, respiratory system and being a source of iron.
  • Garlic, 10 cloves : The King Pungent. Pungency is the reason why we use this allicin rich clove which combats sickness and common cold.
  • Black peppercorns, 8 : Good proportion of salt and pepper are great anti oxidants too.
  • Ginger, 1 inch : Unmistakably earthy, the ginger adds the heat quotient in the dish. The gingerol in ginger is a strong anti nausea and anti inflammatory agent.
  • Cloves, 4 to 5 : Cloves is extremely beneficial for it being anti cancer, anti diabetic, pain killing and breath cleansing properties. It has a distinct pungent, bitter essence.
  • Cinnamon, 1 inch : Again an amazing sweet taste and flavor enhancer, cinnamon is also an anti oxidant, anti inflammatory and sugar controlling ingredient which I often use in meats.

….time to cook ‘n roll (preparing instructions)

  • Pick a cleaned fish from the market, the guys will slit it for you too. It’s a medium to big fish with medium to thick bones. Cleaning at home will make a you clean a lot more than you expect.
  • Rub it with sea salt, turmeric powder and lemon juice and set aside for 30 minutes. Make sure that the salt mix gets deep in its  cuts.
  • While that’s been done, grind the red chilies, cumin seeds, garlic cloves, peppercorns, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, vinegar, sugar and salt into a coarse paste. Using a mortar and pestle would be better since that would be cold grinding and wouldn’t evaporate the essence. Grinding it this way will also require any additional water. Apply this paste well to the fish.
  • Preheat the microwave for 5 minutes and then place your fish on a grilling tray. Grill your fish for 20 minutes on medium heat (about 180 degrees), turning 3 to 4 times.
  • Served smoking. Again as I always say, keep checking your fish to keep it soft and edible. Too much cooking and you’ll give it a funeral 😦   🙂

Storage : Since it’s a big fish and cooked with vinegar, you may refrigerate for 2 days reheating once. Thereon, it’s texture will start getting leathery.

Missing Something ? : Dress them up with basil, I did so !!