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1 cup moog daal
1 medium sized fish head (rui or other similar fish)
1½ tbsp polao chal, soaked and partially ground
½ cup cheera, deep fried
3 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp ginger paste
1 cup onions, sliced
4 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp coriander (dhaniya) powder
2 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
2 bay leaves
1 cup oil
Salt, to taste

Soak the daal for about an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare a special spice mixture by frying 2 tablespoons sliced onions, 2 bay leaves, 2 pieces cinnamon and 2 pieces cardamom in a bit of oil. Then remove these spices from pan and grind to make mixed spice powder.

Wash the fish head thoroughly and rub with salt and 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Heat oil in a wok and gently fry the fish head, then remove from wok and keep aside. In the remaining oil, fry the remaining onion until light brown, then one by one add all the spices and stir well. Then add the daal along with some water and allow the daal to simmer and cook. Once the daal has cooked and the water has partially dried up, add the polao chal and the fried fish head.

Then add about 2½ cups of water and cover and let simmer. Once the curry has reached a slightly thicker consistency, remove from heat.

In a separate pan, heat 1 teaspoon of ghee, and sauté 2 teaspoons of onions and 2 to 3 dried red chillies until light brown. Sprinkle this concoction along with the prepared spice mix powder over the curry and mix well. Just before serving, sprinkle the fried cheera.

Rui and green mango curry
1 medium sized green mango, cut julienne style
1 kg rui fish
½ cup sliced onions
3 tbsp onion paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp turmeric paste
1½ tbsp chilli paste
7 tbsp oil
½ tsp cumin (jeera) paste
1 tsp coriander (dhaniya) paste
2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste

Heat oil in a pan and sauté onions until light brown. Then one by one add all the spices and cook for a while. Then add the fish pieces, stir carefully and cover. After about a minute, add the green mango and one cup water and cover again. Let curry simmer, and once the added water is reduced to a gravy like consistency, add the sugar and the green chillies, stir slightly and serve immediately.

Dal makhani
1 cup mashkolai daal (with skin)
9 tbsp oil
50g butter
½ cup cream
1 tbsp ginger, finely diced
1½ tsp garlic, finely diced
1 tsp fenugreek (methi) powder
3 tbsp onions, sliced
Salt, to taste

Soak the mashkolai daal in water for 1 hour. Then wash daal thoroughly and cook in pressure cooker until soft. Keep aside.
Heat the oil and butter together in a wok, and add the methi powder. When a flavour arises, one by one add the ginger, garlic, and sauté till softened. Add onions and stir further. Then add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are slightly softened, add the cooked daal and stir well. Cook for a few more minutes, then add the cream and salt and stir one last time and serve.

Doodh kodu
2 cups shredded kodu (gourd/squash)
300g powdered milk
1 litre water
1 tbsp ghee
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp cardamom powder

Boil the shredded kodu in water, drain well and keep aside.
In a pan, heat the ghee, add the cardamom powder and kodu and sauté together.
In another pan, mix the water and powdered milk together and mix well over heat. Then add the milk to the sautéed kodu and bring to a boil. Stir until milk is reduced and mixture reaches a slightly denser consistency.


Smart uses for vinegar

NOW that you know ketchup can be used for shining copper and repairing hair, or that vodka can be used to repel insects and freshen laundry, you may have been wondering what other tasks you can get done for cheap with household items.

We thought we'd take a closer look at vinegar, an inexpensive, versatile good. In fact the word vinegar comes from a French translation for "sour wine."

Cure hiccups
Some have said they were able to cure pesky hiccups instantly by swallowing a teaspoon of vinegar. Most folks use white vinegar, but people have also reported success with apple cider, balsamic, and rice varieties. So you have a few options as far as taste and aroma. Hey, if the Roman legions drank it, it must be good for you, right?

Fight cramps
If you often get foot or leg cramps in the middle of the night, you may want to try boosting your potassium levels. There are a number of great super foods rich in potassium (way beyond bananas). Some folks have also suggested trying this remedy: Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, and a cup of hot water. Then drink before bed. Yummy!

Break badon bds
Having trouble getting that annoying sticky label residue off a product? Or accidentally glue something together? Vinegar can be used as a solvent to dissolve many common adhesives. Vinegar is also good at cutting grease.

Deter cats
We love cats. But sometimes you don't want them doing their business in the kids' sandbox or in your flowerbed. A simple solution is to pour vinegar around the edges of the area you want to protect every few months.

Mutton medley

WE rediscovered! OK, ok. I have to get out of this habit of starting my writings without any background. So, allow me to expand.

Some of our school friends have rediscovered each other lately. This was fuelled by the fact that the beloved and respected Rector of our school passed away recently. Most of the batch mates came for the condolence meeting. At least most of those who live in Calcutta. We exchanged phone numbers, email-ids and other coordinates and promised to meet up every so often.

One of those often happened to be a dinner at my place. Three of my school friends were coming. Two promised to bring their significant others. One said he would come alone. Now was the most exciting part. Menu planning. My raison d'être.

Few phone calls were made and dietary restrictions were gathered. It seemed that barring few allergy calls relating to prawns, eggs and chicken, all else was game. My tendency is to veer toward the unknown and create a surprise every meal. I decided to do my standard mushroom rice and a whole fish Mexican style. I also decided to roast some potatoes and onions together to give a stir fry feel to it.

But what would be the piece d' resistance? Chicken was out of bounds. But certainly mutton was not. I thought long and hard. I wanted to create something different, yet comfortingly familiar. Can't tell you why, but I was pretty sure that I wanted to do a stew. How, was the burning question. I vacillated between Italian and Mexican inspirations. And in the end, settled for an Italian classic of Tuscan origin.

But it had to be made a little more familiar. Out went the red wine reduction. In came tomato puree. The recipe also called for black olives. I refrained. I increased the amount of garlic. But there were two things I did not mess with. One was red peppers. No, not the hot kind. The bell pepper kind. Sweet, bright, full flavoured. They brought a whole new, yet familiar dimension to the dish. The other was fresh rosemary. I rubbed them as marinade into the meat. Fragrant, sharp and distinctive, it blends very well with red meat to mellow the otherwise gamy nature of the meat. And mutton can be very gamy.

The result was very satisfactory. A stew that looked red and rich, redolent of garlic and the perfume of rosemary. Ying and yang. Would have please Confucius himself. After all, the great man did proclaim that a dish must strike a balance between colour, flavour, taste and texture.

Here it was all. Succulent meat simmered in silky sauce. Interspersed with bites of fried garlic. Smelling almost flowery with rosemary. I can only hope my friends will give me more opportunities to create such eccentricities. And I can only hope that they liked it as much as I enjoyed making it.



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