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High on hilsa: Five traditional and easy ‘ilish’ recipes for the weekend

A quick steam, light gravy or a hearty stew — if there is hilsa in the house, can cook-a-thon be far behind?

Pooja Mitra | Published 30.07.22, 06:13 PM
Hilsa and monsoon — a love story like no other

Hilsa and monsoon — a love story like no other

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It’s that time of the year again when we plan our calendars around a hilsa lunch! Be it daily-use recipes or offbeat curations like ilish shukto or smoked ilish — we may never tire of this deliciously slick and full-flavoured monsoon delicacy.

So, if you’re staying in this weekend, bookmark these five traditional hilsa recipes for a big family lunch:

Ilish Bhapa

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This recipe can be prepped in under 20 minutes and promises a fierce melange of spices.

Ingredients:

  • Hilsa: 5-6 pieces
  • Poppy seeds: 4-5 tablespoons
  • Yellow mustard seeds: 2 tablespoons
  • Black mustard seeds: ½ tablespoon
  • Green chillies: 6-7
  • Lemon juice: ½ teaspoon
  • Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Mustard oil

Recipe:

  • Soak both types of mustard seeds and poppy seeds with a pinch of salt and sugar, two green chillies and lemon juice for 10-15 minutes and make a smooth paste
  • Marinate fish with salt and turmeric powder
  • Grease a tiffin box with mustard oil and place the fish pieces in it. Pour the spice paste. Make sure the paste is thick and is covering all the pieces
  • Put a few slit green chillies and drizzle some mustard oil
  • Steam for 15 minutes on medium flame. Check the status of fish and seasoning. Drizzle some mustard oil when the fish is ready and serve hot with rice

Ilisher Begun Diye Jhol

Pooja Mitra

Savour the goodness of hilsa with an old-school begun diye kancha maacher jhol — a light soupy gravy with nigella seeds and green chillies — it’s perfect when teamed with gorom bhaat, as the monsoon clouds loom over the city’s skyscape.

Ingredients:

  • Hilsa: 5-6 pieces
  • Brinjal: 1 (cut into medium pieces)
  • Ridge gourd: 1 (cut into medium pieces)
  • Green chillies: 6-7
  • Nigella seeds: 1 teaspoon
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Red chilli powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Mustard oil
  • Salt

Recipe

  • Marinate fish with salt and turmeric powder
  • Shallow fry the fish if you like
  • Shallow fry the brinjal pieces and keep aside
  • Heat mustard oil in a kadhai and heat well. Add nigella seeds and 2-3 slit green chillies and temper the spices. Add cumin powder and saute for 2-3 minutes
  • Add water and seasonings and bring to a full boil in low to medium flame, allowing the spices to mix well with the water
  • Add the fish pieces and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes in low to medium flame, add the brinjal and ridge gourd. Cook for another 3-4 minutes and add the green chillies
  • Check seasoning, the fish and the vegetables. Drizzle some mustard oil and serve hot with rice

Ilish Paturi

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A thick piece of hilsa in a paste of mustard and coconut, wrapped in a banana leaf makes for the perfect weekend recipe. Smoking hot rice, a few green chillies on the side — oh, the bliss!

Ingredients:

  • Hilsa fish: 5-6 pieces
  • Coconut-yellow mustard seed-poppy seed paste-green chilli: Half cup
  • Banana leaves: 3 large (to be on the safe side)
  • Green chillies: 7-8
  • Turmeric powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Mustard oil

Recipe:

  • Marinate fish with salt and turmeric powder
  • Make a paste with the spice paste, some mustard oil, salt, sugar and turmeric powder. Check seasoning at this point
  • Cut the banana leaves into large enough pieces so they can be covered and tied from all sides
  • Lightly roast the banana leaves on a non-stick pan without any greasing agent
  • Take each banana leaf portion and put a dollop of spice paste. Place one hilsa piece and another helping of spice paste to evenly cover the fish
  • Add a slit green chilli and drizzle some mustard oil
  • Wrap from all sides and tie with a string
  • Steam for 15-20 minutes in a tiffin box in a half-submerged kadhai on medium flame or One can shallow fry the wraps on a non-stick pan.
  • Make a slight opening in one of the paturis and take a status update
  • Serve hot with rice

Shorshe Bata Diye Ilisher Jhal

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A delicious and spiced gravy that can be made in under 30-minutes — it’s a recipe for when the heart craves punchy flavours, but the stomach reminds you that balance is key.

Ingredients:

  • Hilsa fish: 6 pieces
  • Yellow mustard paste: 1 and ½ tablespoon
  • Nigella seeds: ½ teaspoon
  • Green chillies: 3-4
  • Coconut milk: ½ cup
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Salt
  • Mustard oil

Recipe:

  • Marinate fish with salt and turmeric powder
  • In a kadhai, add mustard oil and heat
  • Add nigella seed and slit green chillies and set to temper
  • Add the mustard paste, turmeric powder, green chillies and a pinch of salt and cook well till the raw smell from the spice mix is gone and light oil residual can be seen on the surface
  • Add coconut milk and cook on low to medium flame for about 5-7 minutes before adding the fish pieces
  • Cook for about 5-7 minutes more, check to season and serve piping hot

Ilish Shukto

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Ilish and shukto can be an elegant pairing and can offer an umami-rich flavour profile. While a classic shukto is a milky, veggie stew, some East Bengali recipes accommodate some piscine accents to the bitter curry to make a savoury maachher shukto.

Ingredients:

  • Hilsa: 6 pieces
  • Bitter gourd: 1 (cut into medium strips)
  • Raw banana: 1(cut into medium strips)
  • Raw papaya: 7-8 pieces peeled and cut into thick medium strips
  • Eggplant: 1 (cut into medium strips)
  • Sweet potatoes: 1 (cut into medium strips)
  • Potatoes: 2 (cut into medium strips)
  • Drumsticks: 2 (cut into medium strips) 
  • Green chillies: 3-4
  • Panchforon: 1 teaspoon
  • Radhuni: ½  teaspoon
  • Radhuni paste: ½ teaspoon
  • Bay leaf: 2 small
  • Ginger-green chilli paste: 1 and ½ tablespoon
  • Yellow mustard paste: 1 and ½ tablespoon
  • Poppy seeds paste: 2 and ½ tablespoon
  • Milk: Half cup
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Ghee
  • Mustard oil

Recipe:

  • Saute all the vegetables (except green chilli) till golden and keep aside
  • Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric powder and shallow fry till light golden. Set aside
  • Using the same oil and adding some more in the kadhai, add mustard oil, bay leaves, panchforon, radhuni and a small pinch of turmeric powder and temper the spices well
  • Next comes the turn to add the ginger-green chilli paste. Cook well before adding the mustard paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the poppy seeds. Stir well to mix and cook in low to medium flame for 3-5 minutes
  • Add seasonings followed by milk and a 1 and ½ cup of water
  • Add the vegetables one by one. Point to remember — add veggies that need more cooking time first, for example, potatoes, sweet potatoes and raw bananas. Add the softer vegetables when potatoes are almost cooked
  • Add fish and cook on low flame for 5-7 minutes, covered
  • Add green chillies and check to season. Add the radhuni paste and cook for 2-3minutes
  • Pour some ghee and serve hot

Tips to remember:

  • Always paste mustard with a pinch of salt and a few drops of lime juice to avoid bitterness
  • Some fish recipes require salt to balance taste, some don’t. Don’t shy away from adding a pinch if you like
Last updated on 30.07.22, 06:13 PM
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