Kachki Macher Baticharchari (One bowl Ganges River sprat with veggies and spices)9:52 AM
Recipe writing is not easy. You got to trust me on that.
Accurately measuring each and every ingredient is difficult but more difficult is to find an englisg name for every recipe.
Especially Bengali recipes. Where we use so many methods of cooking that calling every dish a 'curry' just doesnot seem right.
As a kid we used to joke about how simple everyday recipes would sound gourmet when translated in English. simple Alu seddho, a homey dish when becomes mashed potato with virgin mustard oil sounds so posh and upmarket. but when it comes to true representation of the dish it needs a rather deep understanding to name it in English.
For example this bati charchari dish which is nothing but all ingredients mixed and cooked on very very low heat. What will you call it? It definitely not is a gravy dish, nor a steamed one or sauteed. This is a lazy dish where everything is mixed and cooked on slow fire. For some reason I associate such recipes to the women of the household.
Growing up I have seen the hustle and bustle of a traditional joint kitchen. Ours was a family of eighteen with additional live in maids and servants. The men of our family worked in the service sector, some Govt. servants some school teachers and all of them had to go out by 10 to attend to their work. Unlike other cultures we Bengalis strongly believe in having our macher jhol bhat before we head out of home for the day. So morning was the most busy time.
After a round of Cha and Muri for breakfast ( tea and puffed rice) The ladies will engage themselves to serve lunch on time. The day's veggie and fish will come home early in the morning and cutting veggies, washing fish, grinding fresh spices will take quite some time. Mother, grand mother, aunts all would share the job. so while on one stove the rice would bubble, on the other stove someone will prepare the spices for fish curry, one will pack snack box for the kids and other will arrange the table for the meal. It was busy yet functioned on some unique harmony.
Once the men and kids went out of the house an uncanny silence would take over. The ladies would make another round of tea and relax. This was the time to prepare the add on dishes with vegetable peels, foraged greens and fish, which needed time to prepare and which the men were not very fond of. My mother never liked baro mach or big Rohu and Carps. I have always seen her making these. Somedays it would be small crabs called chiti kankra as small as 2-3" and somedays it would be fish gills and oils with vegetable peels charchari. She was master of these dishes. This bati charchari was one of her specialities. She would go and take out the cane contraption from the pond to see the days catch, mostly very small fishes and would make a fiery hot dish out of it.
The coal or wood fire stove would almost die down by then and all these preparations were done on the dying ember of that stove, slow cooked over a long time. and while these dish would cook themselves the women will do some embroidery or knit a sweater while talking to each other. Many a times neighbours would join with a small bowl of what they cooked for that day and chat over tea and biscuit.
We dint live in that joint family for long as father's job took us out of the village but Maa's business in the morning remained same. The size of the family decreased and her kitchen companions were missed but she carried on. Every morning she would prepare fresh curries, lentil and fish curries for the four of us. Then she would work on her handicraft business...She joined one of India's most prestigious college to learn art and built a business...but thats another story. Will share that some other time.
Kachki mach or Ganges River sprat looks similar to silverfish fish. Very tiny and unlike any other fish this does not need to be cut or clean. just wash them properly under running water and you are good to go. This is a very simple recipe.
Kachki macher Bati charchari
KAchki Mach: 250 gms
Potato: 1 medium
Onion: 1 large
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Tomato: 1 large
Coriander leaves: handful
Mustard paste: 2 tsp
Green chillies: 2-3
Red chili powder: 1/3 tsp
Mustard oil: 1/4 cup
Wash the fish and place in a colander to drain.
In the mean time finely chop the onion, potato and tomato. Place them in a big bowl/kadhai in which you plan to cook. Add 1 tsp salt, turmeric, ginger paste, Chopped coriander, mustard paste and 2 tbsp oil. Using your hand mix and mash them slightly.
Now add the fish and chili powder and lightly mix. Adjust the salt.
Cover and keep aside for 30 minutes.
Now on very low flame place the Kadhai. Add 1/4 cup water and the rest of the oil. Cover tightly and let it cook for the next 15 minutes. Remove the lid and mix. taste and asjust salt and chili. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes.
Sprinkle more coriander leaves on top and serve with hot steamed rice.