Lau shak die Macher Morich Pora Jhol (Fish curry with bottle gourd stems)

4:34 AM

"Maa, what are you cooking today?"
I asked her while sitting on the dining table chair with a heavy thump.
She was cooking in my open kitchen with the sunlight reflecting on her sweaty face. It was 9 in the morning and I could see most of her cooking was done.
Which clearly disappointed me.
Pregnancy made me crave crazy things and on the last leg of that journey, Maa was there to indulge me and I was greedy enough to set the menu every morning. That day was different though. I could hardly sleep the night before and thought have missed my opportunity.

But she knew it and smiled at me while bringing my tea and said 'don't worry its something you love'.

It sure was.
With the bottle gourd vine that I planted and tended especially for her visit, she prepared my favourite fish curry. Tender stalks and leaves of the gourd plant in a soupy, light fish curry. Lau shaak die Macher Morich pora jhol.

 Pregnancy made me crave crazy things, like tetor bora (bitter fritters), Mayer hater paneer bhapa (Steamed cottage cheese) and so on. The husband oblised as and when he could, but morich pora jhol is a completely different ball game.
For that matter any recipe that uses as fewer spices as Morich pora jhol needs some level of expertise.  So I waited. I waited for her to come and indulge me.

I can still remember that day. Baba was visually unhappy as he never liked such watery soupy gravies. But I felt completely at peace and with a few squeezes of the lime I just relished my meal in utter silence.
Like many other dishes, I stopped making this after she was gone. This lockdown though, I do not know why I had a crazy desire to make and feed the same to my kids. 
So with the fresh lau shaak the vegetable cart got the other day, I made this.

Lau shak die macher Morich pora jhol
(Burnt chili flavoured fish curry with bottle gourd stalks)

Rohu/carp fish steaks: 4 pieces
Potato" 1 medium
Tender bottle gourd stalks: 2, (16-20 pieces-cut in 2" pieces)
Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp
Green chillies: 4-5
Nigella seeds paste: 1 tsp (Pound 1 tsp seeds to a fine paste with a pinch of salt and few drops of water)
Ginger paste: 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil: 4 tbsp
Bori/ sundried lentil drops: a handful
Pinch of pepper powder to activate the turmeric

Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric. Keep aside for 15 minutes.
Wash the potato and remove the skin. Cut in quarters or in six pieces.
Wash and clean the stalks. Cut in 2" pieces. Pick the tender leaves and cut them in 3-4 pieces. 
In a small bowl mix, the nigella seeds paste, 1 tsp turmeric and 4 tbsp water.

Heat oil and fry the fish pieces on medium till golden on each side. 6-8 minutes altogether. Take out.
Fry the bori in the same oil on medium till golden and crispy. Take out.
Fry the potatoes with a pinch of salt and turmeric till golden. Take out.

In the same oil (We need just a teaspoon of oil at this stage) add the nigella seeds and slit green chilies. Saute on medium till the chilies turn brown. Pour in the spice paste. Cook on low till oil starts to separate at the sides.
Add the stalks and leaves with some salt and cook for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell is gone.
Pour in 1 cup of water. Mix. Adjust salt and turmeric and add the fish and potatoes. 
Bring it to a boil and then add the ginger paste. Mix again. cover and cook till the veggies are done.

The dish does not have much gravy.
Serve hot with rice.

A Homemaker's Notes:
  1. Vegetarians can make this without fish. Add more seasonal veggies like pumpkin, pointed gourd (patol), etc to it.
  2. If you want more gravy increase the spices accordingly.

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