Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IHCC: Potluck!

Potluck is always a fun thing to plan for dinner. And this week's potluck looked like it would be cooked on shopping day, which makes fish a good choice. Rummaging through my stack of Jaffrey books, I found Easy Fish Fillets in a Traditional Mustard Sauce (Flavours of India, p156). Jaffrey suggest serving this with plain rice. Easy to do. For a veg, I chose Green Peas in a Creamy Sauce (Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, p87), which is an old favorite and truly quick and easy. For an accompaniment, to munch while things were getting ready, there were some Spicy Cucumber Wedges (Indian Cooking, p172). If I had time and energy, I thought, I'd make some Vermicelli Pudding (Flavours of India, p255). The store had some lovely cod fillets on special for the day, so I bought one to share for dinner.

Game plan: Start the pudding on its way. Prep the cuke sticks, down to pouring on the lemon juice and spices. Prep the stuff for the peas, which cook in one shake of a lamb's tail at the last minute. Prep the stuff of the fish. Start rice. Make fish.

The mustard fish recipe looked like a sure thing. Grind some mustard seeds and a dried chili together and mix with water. Make a paste with turmeric, cayenne, and water. Rub the fish fillets with turmeric, salt, and mustard oil and let them sit for 10 minutes. Prepare some panch phoran and hot chilies for the final cooking. While the fish are broiling, the sauce is prepared by heating mustard oil, then adding the panch phoron. When the mustard seeds in that begin to pop, stir in the turmeric paste and some extra water. Then stir in the mustard paste. Bring to a boil, add salt and the chilies, stir, and remove from the heat. Pour the sauce over the fish, then simmer for two minutes. Serve.

Sounds good. Made a pretty plate. First bite—yuck! Unpleasantly strong taste of mustard. The recipe says to stir the ground mustard-chili into water and let the seeds settle. But the seeds never settled. Even after half an hour, the mixture remained uniformly grainy in texture with no settling apparent. Maybe I ground the seeds too fine, although they it looked coarse to me. Or maybe the recipe meant 4 teaspoons of mustard seeds, rather than 4 tablespoons. At any rate, we both scraped off as much of the sauce as we could, then mixed the fish with the rice. This was reasonably good.

Vermicelli Pudding is one of our favorite Indian desserts. I've been playing with the recipe in Indian Cooking (p102) for years (my first notes are dated 1995), and never quite succeeding. The taste is right, but I always seem to end up with a pudding that is too thick. Finding the recipe in the newer (both to me and publishing-wise) cookbook, Flavours of India, I thought I'd give that a try. Unfortunately, I didn't compare the recipes beforehand, and followed this recipe fairly closely. Again, the result was tasty, but still too thick. This recipe is finished with a few drops of kewra water, which I don't have; instead I used a tiny amount of rose water, which I barely notice, but my husband doesn't like. That bit was missable. (The older recipe is topped with chopped pistachios. We both prefer this.) This recipe uses less milk but more vermicelli than the older recipe. That might be the single biggest problem, since it seemed  much too dense with noodles. This recipe also calls for the seeds of cardamom pods to be added without crushing or grinding, which is esthetically not as nice, I think. It also uses much less ghee to toast the vermicelli. This was certainly edible, but I think I'll try yet again by combining aspects of the two recipes. One of these days, I'm going to nail this one!

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

There are only three more weeks of cooking with Madhur Jaffrey to come. And, then, I was very sorry to learn, I Heart Cooking Clubs is going to fold its tent and steal away into ether. This is the third cookalong that I've joined seriously and each of them has closed up shop shortly after I've joined. I'm beginning to feel like a jinx!


  1. This dinner does look delicious--too bad about the mustard sauce. Mustard can be a fine line sometimes from really good to way to strong.

    Let's keep our fingers crossed that someone takes over or we figure something out for IHCC and you break your jinx curse! ;-)

  2. Sorry to hear about the yucky mustard sauce! But it sounds delicious with all the spices!
    Yes, too bad that IHCC is coming to an end, hopefully someone will take over. Three weeks more to go!