We Bengalis really enjoy our fish. We are an absolute nation of fish eaters. We don’t just love the big catches that come in we also adore the smaller fish that are caught.
This is Kajoli fish. A very delicate featherlight fish which is very versatile to cook with. It’s also one that I like to pre-prep and freeze to make life easier on a busy day. I just take it out of the deep freezer and leave it to defrost so is ready to cook in the evening.
Kajoli Mach, (Bashpata) fish also known as Gangetic Ailia, is a fresh water fish and belongs to the catfish family. This fish is typically available and popular in Indian subcontinent. This fish is relatively small and cooked whole.
Today I’ve used my pre-frozen kajoli fish to accompany ash gourd, in bengali chal kumro. The ash gourd also called wax gourd, white gourd, winter gourd, tallow gourd, ash pumpkin, winter melon, is a very popular vegetable.
The ash gourd can be stored for many months, much like winter squash. Ash gourds of the Indian subcontinent have a white coating with a rough texture (hence the name ash gourd). Southeast Asian varieties have a smooth waxy texture. It is one of the few vegetables available during winter in areas of deciduous vegetation. In India, the wax gourd is recognized for its medicinal properties in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It also has significance in spiritual traditions of India and Yoga, where it is identified as a great source of prana.
Ash gourd is always a good pairing with fish though its most popular in vegetarian dishes. I used half a ash gourd as it was enough for just hubby and me.
I also added fresh dill, we call it Sholpa in Bengali. This herb always transforms a curry with the heady aroma and aniseed flavour.
So here you have it, Kajoli fish with ash gourd or in Bengali Sholpa, Chal kumro diye Kajoli mach.
For more about pre prepping fish visit here.
Half a tsp of fenugreek seeds
half an onion very finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped
1 tsp of turmeric
3 tsp of cumin powder
1 tsp of Kashmiri Chilli powder
1 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp of oil
1 tsp of sugar
half an ash gourd peeled and cut into centimetres strips
2 green chilis sliced
1 cup of freshly chopped dill
1 block pre-prepped and sautéed Kajoli fish.
For more about pre prepping fish visit here https://chilliesnspiceandallthingsrice.com/2022/03/26/how-to-pre-prep-fish/
Heat your pan preferably a nonstick pan, add the oil once the oil is hot add the fenugreek seeds. Gently cook the fenugreek seeds until they become a dark brown colour and aromatic.
At this point add your finely chopped onions and green chilis, add your salt and sugar and fry until the onions become soft and lightly golden.
Now add the quarter cup of water, stir and cover and let this simmer on low heat until your onions become very soft, the water has almost completely evaporated and your oil is just starting to separate. This process ensures that there is no residual water left and your onions have taken on the sweetness from the sugar and the aroma of the fenugreek seeds.
So now we add the ground spices, stir this in so it is well incorporated into the oil and onions. Gently cook this until you notice that the oil is beginning to bubble and the spices are coming away a little from the pan.
Add 1/4 cup of water of water and continue to cook again with the lid covered on a low heat until the oil surfaces to the top. Do stir frequently.
Once your water has evaporated again and the oil has separated add the ash gourd and mix well so it is well coated with the spices. Gently cook this for about 4 to 5 minutes. The ash gourd should just start to soften slightly.
Add your fish to the pan, add a cup of water, green sliced chilis and gently bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer cover and cook until the ash gourd is cooked through. Do not stir with a spoon just gently swirl the pan around otherwise you will break the fish.
Now add the finely chopped dill, very gently tilt the pan and spoon the sauce over the dill and try to flip the top layer of fish over. Swirl the pan to get everything covered as much as possible.
Cover again and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is reduced to your favoured consistency and the oil is floating to the top.
Taste for seasoning and adjust your salt if necessary.
Serve with plain boiled rice.
With this dish I like to have a little thin sauce so that my rice is gently swimming when it comes to serving it up on my plate.
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