Nearly a decade of living in the United Kingdom has made the elder sister a good cook and an almost expert in the art of ‘kitchen substitutes’. A cheerleader for the ‘quick and easy’ meal squad, Raka (the elder sister’s name that means ‘full moon’) confesses that she has learned by trial and error.
“I would crave certain Bengali dishes that we’ve (her husband included) grown up eating but would not know how to make them in England. There were missing ingredients, be it the greens or fish or spices. It took me a while but over the years, with a little guidance from my mother and late mother-in-law, I learned tricks that helped me figure out the substitutes,” she says.
As I observe her working in the kitchen, I realise that substitute is not the apt word here. She has adapted the Bengali ways of cooking, the methods of using spice to the ingredients available in the markets of Bristol. Probably how she comes up with interesting combinations like the celery-coconut stir fry, kale fritters or the basa maacher jhol (basa fish curry).
The shorshe (mustard) salmon or salmon in Bengali mustard sauce is one among this arsenal of recipes she has built. “Salmon is a favourite and cooks easily. I can just put the pieces into the sauce and go about doing my work. The best bit is that I don’t need to fry the fish before cooking it. Helps save time,” she explains while teaching me how to flip the pieces in the bubbling sauce.
For the clueless, most Bengali fish curries require the fish pieces to be fried before they are cooked in the sauce or sauce.
Fingers crossed I can find some good salmon in Ahmedabad and make this again! Until then, here’s the recipe for you. If you cook it, do click a photograph and post it on social media. Don’t forget to tag me in Facebook (From The Corner Table) or on Instagram (@fromthecornertable).
- ½ kilogram Salmon
- 1/2 cup Mustard seeds
- 2 Green chillies (slit)
- ½ teaspoon Cumin seeds (optional)
- 2 Onions (sliced)
- 2 tablespoons Mustard oil
- 2 teaspoons Turmeric powder
Cut the salmon into smaller pieces, to a size of your choice. I prefer rectangular pieces roughly 1.5x3 inches.
Place the salmon in a large bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each of salt and turmeric powder on them. Rub the spices onto each piece, coating them completely. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
Pour the mustard seeds in a mixer/grinder jar. Add ½ cup water, 2 green chillies, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (optional) and a pinch of salt to the seeds. Grind into a fine paste.
In a deep and big pan, heat 2 tablespoons mustard oil. Add the onions and cook for a minute or two.
Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon each of turmeric powder. Mix well, cover and cook on low flame till the onion slices are translucent.
Add the mustard paste to the softened onion slices. Stir.
Pour in a cup of water to the onion and mustard paste mix cooking in the pan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer for around 3 to 4 minutes.
Now slowly slide the salmon pieces into this simmering sauce, one at a time. Each piece should be covered in the sauce. Add some more water if needed. Cover and cook on low flame for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, individually flip over each piece of salmon. Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Check the sauce for salt; adjust as per taste. Cover and let the sauce simmer until the fish is cooked. Serve piping hot with steamed rice and some fresh vegetable salad.
- The smoother the mustard paste, the tastier your sauce. So grind away.
- Your cooking vessel needs to be deep and big enough such that the salmon pieces do not overlap and are completely covered in the sauce.
- Feel free to substitute mustard oil with vegetable oil of your choice. Remember that in doing this you will be reducing the punch that mustard packs.