Monday, September 17, 2012

Rajashree Banerjee’s Tel Koi, Climbing Perch Cooked with an Extra Dash of Mustard Oil

Now that I look back, I see that I had signs to be a food lover pretty early on life. Being a Bengali most probably established that love even more. Food, after all is a dialect in the Bengali language.

I enjoyed absolutely loved each time I accompanied my parents to the fish market. The maacher bajaar was such a vibrant place to be. I’d be this proverbial wide-eyed, bushy-tailed girl each time I’d go there.

My parents would even let me touch the fish displayed there. Except for one. The live and kissing Koi maach.


Koi is like that hard-hearted, emotionless aunt every family has. Tough from the outside, but as you discover it, you see how sweet and tender it is from the inside.

Its a much underrated fish compared to other more easily available fish we Bengalis eat.

I’d watch with utmost awe as the maach wala would carefully pick from the big, round tub the live Koi my parents chose to buy. He would then beat each on the head with a wooden mallet, lightly at first and then one last phhhaaataaak to kill the feisty Koi. The Koi doesn’t give up easily. It’d still move its tail and open its mouth to utter some last words of profanity for us killers.

IMG_6868We don’t get fresh Koi here, and neither is walking up to the freezer section of the Bangladeshi store is as thrilling as a maacher bajaar from childhood. But I am thankful to the Koi Gods (or Goddesses) that I am able to get this fish here in Toronto. I am also thankful to kitchen Goddesses like Rajashree Banerjee who are eager to share their family recipes with complete strangers.

I will admit to making small changes to Rajashree’s recipe. But the framework is hers. The only thing her recipe did not have for the Tel Koi was ginger, which when I Googled for the recipe, found Sandeepa’s and saw she had used ginger in her recipe. Which I did too.

Ingredients for Rajashree Banerjee’s Tel Koi are:

4 good-looking Koi fish, scales removed and cleaned
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 + 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
4-5 whole green chillies, sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2-3 bay leaves
Half cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin mustard oil

Grind together the cumin seeds and black peppercorns. Start by dry grinding and then add water, little by little. I added a green chilli for extra fire.

IMG_6863Rub salt and turmeric on each Koi. If there is any extra water from washing the fish, make sure you pat dry the fish.

Heat a frying pan till it starts smoking. Now add the half cup oil and let it heat up too. This way, when you fry any fish, you will not damage the skin. Because the pan is smoking hot, the fish will come out clean. Koi is known for its thick, beautiful skin. You don’t want to damage that. Its delicious to eat.

Koi will splutter and burst when put in hot oil, make sure you have a lid on on the pan. I ALWAYS fry Koi this way.

IMG_6873When the oil is really hot, release the fish in it, carefully not to burn your fingers. Cover and fry on high for 2-3 minutes. Turn. Give another 2-3 minutes to the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep.


In the same oil, throw in the bay and couple of green chillies. Give them a few seconds to season the oil.

IMG_6878Now add the wet ground cumin and black pepper. Sauté the spices on medium heat till oil separates from them. Add the grated ginger and turmeric.

IMG_6880IMG_6881Mix everything well. Season with salt. Add about one and half cups of water to the spices. Let it come to a boil.


IMG_6888Release the lightly fried fish into the sauce. Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes without covering the pan. Check seasoning, add salt if necessary. The sauce would have reduced to half its original quantity. Turn the heat off.


IMG_6892Drizzle couple of spoons of raw mustard oil on the fish. That completes the Tel Koi dish, which literally means Koi with an extra dash of mustard oil.

Serve the Tel Koi hot with plain white rice.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jamie Deen’s Dijon Mustard and Rosemary-Grilled Chicken

The other day I saw Jamie Deen make this for dinner for his family. Its a kid-friendly recipe, which meant that even my one-year-old could eat it.

Ingredients for Jamie Deen’s Dijon Mustard and Rosemary-Grilled Chicken are:

6 portions of chicken breasts cut just above the bones (retain the bones for soup stock)
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves chopped up
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
2 lemons halved
Quarter cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
Freshly cracked black pepper

IMG_6679Marinate the chicken for up to 3-4 hours. But if you don’t have time, just mix everything up and do it on the grill right away.

Here is what I did. I mixed all the ingredients (except the halved lemons) in a large bowl and marinated the chicken in it for two hours.

Then I heat my grill pan and brushed some olive oil on it. Wipe off any oil extra with paper towels.

IMG_6747When the grill pan is roaring hot, place the marinated chicken on it. This way the chicken won’t stick to the pan. Give the chicken about 6-7 minutes before you turn it. This way you will get the perfect grill marks too on your chicken. Each side needs about 6-7 minutes to cook through.


On the same grill pan, keep the halved lemons face down for about 3-4 minutes.



Jamie Deen placed the grilled chicken on a bed of fresh baby arugula and served for dinner.

I just squeezed the grilled lemons on the chicken and served.


That’s a quick dinner for you and your family. I am pleased to announce that LMN ate Jamie Deen’s grilled chicken too and quite liked it. I served the Dijon Mustard and Rosemary-Grilled Chicken with my Herb, Cheese & Garlic-Baked Cauliflower, some Grilled Portobello Mushrooms and Roasted Garlic.


Thank you, Jamie Deen and Food Network for being my inspiration last night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Herb, Cheese & Garlic-Baked Cauliflower

There is nothing primal about baking a cauliflower with cheese and herbs and garlic. But it makes a pretty good dinner.

IMG_6479_thumb[1]So here is a quick recipe from my kitchen, something that was literally created with some leftover ingredients lying in the fridge. Like the fresh parsley from Maria’s Piri-Piri Chicken and all that cheese from LMN’s birthday party.

I got a beautiful head of cauliflower from the Farmer’s Market for just two dollars. And instead of making my rather favourite Chingri-Phulkopi, I baked it with whatever was at home!


Ingredients for Herb, Cheese & Garlic-Baked Cauliflower are:

1 medium size head of cauliflower, trim leaves and outer stems
Half to one cup grated cheese (I used a mix of grated Parmesan, Mozzarella and Cheddar)
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped + one more tablespoon chopped leaves + few stems for decoration
5-6 fat cloves of garlic, peel on (Use more, I regret not throwing in a whole pod!)
Juice of half a lime/lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Place the beautiful-looking head of cauliflower on a pie dish (or use a baking sheet).

IMG_6448_thumb[1]Crack black pepper directly on the cauliflower. Season with salt.

IMG_6451_thumb[1]Tuck in stems of parsley in the space between the flowerets.

IMG_6455_thumb[1]Now heap the grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley on the cauliflower.  Throw in the unpeeled cloves of garlic too.

IMG_6461_thumb[1]Drizzle olive oil covering the cauliflower and garlic cloves.

IMG_6470_thumb[1]Bake for an hour.


In a glass jar or bottle add the remaining fresh parsley and pound with a wooden pestle. Add the EVOO and lemon juice. Mix and keep.


When the cauliflower is ready, drizzle the EVOO and parsley dressing all over, covering the cauliflower and the baked garlic.


Cut chunks of the baked cauliflower and serve. Taste the roasted, creamy, sweet garlic with each bite of the baked cauliflower. Enjoy with a baguette and a glass of good white.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Maria’s Piri-Piri Chicken, Very-Very Good!

If you have a family recipe like Maria’s, it ought to be shared and talked about. Maria is my kind and affable butcher lady in downtown TO. Kensington Market to be precise. If you are looking for the best personalized cuts in town, visit Kensington Meat Shop.

(Maria getting ready a leg of goat for me)

Maria loves food. Its obvious from the way she will explain to you about many traditional recipes she has grown up with. The Piri-Piri Chicken which she shared with me, among many other of her customers is one such family treasure.

Piri-Piri means “hot”. So if you are in for a little taste adventure, I’d say, try this recipe soon and get your butcher to cut and open up a whole chicken just like Maria did it for me.


Here is Maria’s recipe, handwritten by her for you! I of course measured everything and used it for her recipe.



Ingredients for Maria’s Piri-Piri Chicken are:

1 cup red wine, I used Merlot
I whole chicken, with skin, cleaned, scored and opened up to lay flat on the surface (about 1.25 kg is ideal)
4-5 fat cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons chilli flakes (you can add more, if you like it hotter)
Juice of one lime (Maria mentioned it later!)
Quarter cup olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

IMG_5826Start by taking a large baking pan, lay the chicken flat on it and add all the ingredients. As Maria suggests, use your hands to rub everything in the chicken. Since I was taking pictures, my husband helped me with the prep work.


I marinated my chicken overnight in the fridge, turning once.

The red wine lent a beautiful dark, rich color to the meat. I have a feeling if you use white or beer, your meat will continue to retain its reddish-pink color. So if you love to cook with red, use it.


After about at least 6-8 hours’ of marinating time, keep the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Bake chicken face down for 15 minutes and then turn. I do face down first so that the chicken’s legs do not part in the heat and look obnoxious. A chicken should look dignified when served on the table!

Continue baking and basting (the chicken with the dripping marinade) for another 45-50 minutes or until done with some char on all sides. Make sure you turn it every 15 minutes of so.


It took me one hour and change to finish baking my chicken. Alternatively, you can also barbecue it outside on a good day.



I served Maria’s Piri-Piri Chicken with grilled vegetables and a fresh baguette. The result was awesome. I will make it hotter next time for the chilli lover in my life.