Tisrya (Clams) Masala

It has been many many months since we made ‘Tisrya’ (clams) at home – so it was decided that the situation has to be rectified promptly. Result was an oh-so-wonderful, Tisrya-focused, lazy Sunday lunch…as only Sunday lunches can be. So I decided I should be prompt enough in posting the recipe as well. So here goes…

Tisrya are made in many ways in the konkan region – sukha (dry), with gravy (which in turn can be a thick or watery), etc. This is the gravy-wala recipe.

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BTW, for folks like me, cleaning & prepping the Tisrya itself is a learning. So for similar ignoramus/ novice folks, have done a detailed note below (after the recipe) on this aspect.

A couple of fundas before I begin:

– Like with certain other seafood, Tisrya are traditionally NOT eaten during the months of May, June, July & August (months which do not have an ‘R’ in their spelling) as it is the breeding season. While neophytes & commercial establishments ignore this, families like mine stick to this quite religiously.

– Small Tisrya are considered better – and tastier – than medium or large ones. So when you go shopping, don’t get tempted by the large guys.

Ingredients (for about 40-50 Tisrya):

General:

  • Tisrya – 40-50 pieces
  • Onions – 2 (medium size) – finely chopped (about 1.5 cups in volume)
  • Potato – 1 (large) – cut into 8 pieces, leaving the skin intact
  • Garlic – 15 pods (pounded)
  • Tamarind – size of one lemon
  • Hing (Asafoetida) – 1/2 tspn
  • Haldi (Turmeric) – 1/2 to 3/4 tspn
  • Red Chilli Powder- 1/2 tspn (can add more if your spice levels are higher)
  • Garam Masala – 1/2 tspn
  • oil – 2-3 tspns
  • salt to taste

For the Masala:

  • Onion – 1 large
  • Dry Coconut (copra) – a piece of approximately 2-3″ square dimensions
  • Fresh grated coconut – 1 tbspn full
  • Lavang (cloves) – 4-5
  • Dalchini (cinnamon) – 3-4 pieces (1 inch size)
  • Whole black peppers –7-8
  • Dhaney(coriander seeds) – 2 tspns
  • khas khas (poppy seeds) – 1/2 tspn
  • oil – 1 tspn

 

Procedure:

Soak the tamarind in some water and set aside

Making the Masala:

Directly roast the lone large onion directly on the gas on a slow flame till it turns black all over. Keep turning it so it gets roasted on all sides. An easy way to do this is to stick a fork into the onion so it becomes easy to keep turning it. When done, remove the blackened cover and chop into large pieces.

Similarly, roast the Dry coconut (copra) piece directly on the gas till it blackens all over. Scrape off the blackened portion slightly after it cools down – not completely though. The blackened portion adds to the taste. Then pound the copra piece well. (In kokani or marathi, this is called ‘thechaney’). Alternately, you can chop into fine pieces too

In a ‘tadka ladle’ (called ‘pali’ in kokani/marathi) or on any flat pan/tawa – add 1 tspn oil, the lavang (cloves), dalchini (cinnamon), black pepper and dhaney (coriander seeds) and roast well. Basically the dhaney have to get roasted well till they slightly change colour. Turned off the gas, then add the khus khus and mix well. The reason why the khus khus is added after the gas is turned off is because, otherwise, the khus khus gets burnt. Wait till this mix cools down.

Grind this along with the roasted onion, roasted copra and fresh grated coconut into a fine paste. The trick is to first run the mixie with these ingredients as is for one round, then add a little water and run it again. The resultant paste should be thick (not watery) and fine. Keep aside

Making the Dish:

In a pan, in 2-3 tspns of heated oil, add the pounded garlic pods, hing (asafoetida), haldi, finely chopped onions and salt (note that Tisrya are a salty seafood – so you need hardly about 3/4th tspn of salt for this quantum of Tisrya).  Roast till the onion gets a little soft. Then add the large chopped pieces of potato and the cleaned Tisrya (look below for how they are cleaned and one side of the shell removed) – and add water (Note: Use the water in which the Tisrya have been first warmed – see the prepping process described below). The water has to be just enough so that it is level with the Potato+Tisrya volume – roughly the same volume. To this, add the garam masala and red chilly powder. Cover with a flat lid and add some water ON the lid. Cook over a medium flame till the onion & potatoes get cooked. The Tisrya get done in the meantime. To check if the onion is cooked, take a small bit out and press. If it is soft and disintegrates easily, it means the onion is done. The whole process should take about 10-15 minutes for this quantum of Tisrya.

Once the onions and potatoes are cooked, add the tamarind pulp and boil well for a full five minutes – till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.

Turn down the flame to low and add the ground masala and blend well. Add water if you want the gravy to be a little more ‘liquidy’. Basically, how thick or liquidy the gravy has to be is an individual preference – so you can decide. Bring the gravy to a light boil on the low flame. And your Tisrya are done.

Like a lot of gravies from the konkan belt, this dish tastes best when it is left aside for a few hours before eating. So try and make it at least a few hours before your meal.

Tisrya masala can be eaten with chapatties or rice. Nothing like having it with Solkadhi-Rice!

 

CLEANING & PREPPING THE TISRYA:

This is something that I have learnt only in the recent past. Listing down the steps below so the process is clear:

– When you buy the Tisrya – first of all, make sure that they are ‘clammed shut’. If they are beginning to open up, it means that they are not fresh

– Start the cleaning by washing the Tisrya thoroughly in running water. Do it 4-5 times till any residual sand/mud is washed off.

– Next the tisrya need to be split open as only half a shell with the meat is used in the dish and the empty half-shell is discarded. My parents tell me that in the ‘old days’, the Tisrya would be split open after they are washed over a ‘Vili’ – (a traditional cutter which is actually far more effective than a knife once you get the hang of using it!). Apparently this process of cutting the tisrya open – called ‘Karlaavnay’ – is a skill and not everyone could really do it. Luckily, the next generation of super-innovative ladies like my mom have come up with a much easier way of doing this. So you basically put the washed Tisrya in a pan, add some water (a little – just a tad lesser than that required to submerge all the tisrya) and heat it for about 5-6 minutes, keeping a lid on the pan. Check from time to time – you can see the Tisrya gradually opening up.  Put off the gas once they all open and let them be till they cool. IMP – DO NOT drain and chuck the water – use it for cooking as some of the flavour is drained into the water while the Tisrya are getting heated!

-This is how an ‘opened up’ Tisri looks like:

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– Split this open so it looks like this (note that the two parts of the shell are still fused together at the central ‘hinge’:

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– Next take the top shell and slowly twist it while gathering the meat stuck to the bottom shell. In the process, the two shells come apart. If they don’t, pull them apart 🙂

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– Watch out for small silverish piece(s) that would – in all probability – be there in the meat. These are fine pieces of shell that need to be removed. In our part of the world, there is a specific name for this – called “kakri”.  Getting rid of the kakri is an important aspect of cleaning tisrya. The picture below shows you what a kakri looks like:

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– Once you have separated the shells, gathered the meat and removed the ‘kakri’ – individually – you are ready to go ahead with cooking.

Whoever said making Tisrya was easy, huh? There is a lot of hard work involved – but well worth the effort!

 

 

Kaala (Black) Mutton

Happy Holi, folks! After a very long hiatus, this blog sees some activity. The much needed inspiration came from a dear friend who was determined to try out my mom’s signature mutton dish – Kaala (Black) Mutton. So we jotted down the recipe for her in staccato ‘whatsapp’ mode, which she faithfully followed and I was fortunate to relish the dish at her place amidst great company on a chilled-out saturday evening. (We also made mom’s stuffed pomfret, btw – which is going to be a separate post!)

This recipe has been handed down in my mom’s family. I recollect my beloved Usha Mavshi, my mom’s late sister, making this – it used to be, quite simply, THE VERY BEST.  Meticulous and the perfectionist that she was, she would line up all the ingredients precisely before embarking on the kaala mutton journey. This post is in the memory of Usha Mavshi.

BTW, making this mutton is indeed a ‘journey’ – elaborate that it is. This friend slogged over it for a good two hours!

Ingredients (for 1 kg mutton):

For the marination:

  • Ginger-garlic-green chillies-coriander-Pudina paste
  • Turmeric – 1 to 2 tspns
  • Curd – 4 tablespoons
  • Salt to taste

For the dry masala:

  • Lavang (cloves) – 10,
  • Dalchini(cinnamon) – 3 to 4 pieces (1 inch size),
  • Whole black peppers – 20
  • Badishep (Aniseed or Saunf)- 1 tspn
  • Velchi / Elaichi (cardamom)- 1or 2 pods
  • Dhaney(coriander seeds) – 2 tbspns
  • Dry red chillies – 7 to 8

For the ‘fresh’ masala:

  • Ginger – 3-4 slices,
  • Garlic pods- 4-5,
  • Onions – finely Sliced (not chopped) – 2
  • Fresh coconut – grated – 1 cup.
  • Dry coconut (copra) – grated – 1 cup
  • khas khas (poppy seeds) – 1 tsp full

Other ingredients:

  • Mutton – 1 kg
  • Onions – finely chopped – 2.5 cups
  • Shah Jeera (Black Cummin) -1/2 (half) tsp
  • Tejpatta (Bay leaf) – 2 or 3
  • Potatoes (Optional) – cut into large pieces
  • Tamarind – size of 1 lemon

Procedure:

Stage 1: Marination

Apply all the ingredients mentioned under marination above to the mutton (cut into pieces). Keep aside for at least an hour, if not more

Stage 2: On the side

Soak the tamarind in water and keep aside

Stage 3: Cooking the mutton

Add 1.5 cups of finely chopped onions to the mutton, add on sufficient water so that the whole mix is just-about submerged and pressure cook

Stage 4: Making the masalas

In very little oil, roast all the ingredients of the dry masala. Keep aside

In same vessel, in a little oil,  add the slices of ginger, garlic pods and sliced onions. After the onion browns, add the fresh grated coconut and roast till it becomes light brown in colour.  Then add the grated dry coconut (copra) and the khas khas and roast till golden brown.

Mix earlier dry masala to this and wait till it all cools down. Then grind it to a paste – not very fine though.

Stage 5: Putting it all together

In a little oil, add the Shah Jeera, Tejpatta and one cup of finely chopped onion and fry till golden brown. Add cubes of potato (optional). Add on a little water n cook till the onions n potatoes are fully cooked. Then add  the cooked mutton and the tamarind pulp (from the soaked tamarind) and boil till the raw smell of tamarind goes away. Then add the ground masala paste, adjust the water to the gravy consistency you like and bring to a boil on a slow flame for 2-3 minutes.

This dish gets its dark colour (hence ‘kaala’ mutton) from the tamarind basically. The older (mature) the tamarind is, the darker the colour)

You can have this mutton with rice or chappatis. Its best to cook the mutton at least a few hours before the meal and leave it aside. It tastes better that way 🙂

Shirshira

Having been exposed to the Mahesh Lunch Homes and Gazalees of the world in Bombay, a friend remarked the other day that most seafood preparations from the coast seem to be rather ‘heavy’ and ‘elaborate’. I don’t blame her – after all, most people don’t realise that Konkani cuisine is rather different from Goan and Mangalorean cuisine – which these restaurants specialise in. But I did think that it was time I posted a recipe to quell this perception – and what came to mind is another favorite : Shirshira

Shirshira is a classic fish preparation that is simple, quick and easy to make – and yummy to boot! To give it perspective, my dad said “even I can make it” – since his skills in the kitchen don’t extend far beyond making a mean cup of tea 🙂

The other neat thing about Shirshira is that its a great recipe for the smaller variety of fish – as well as for the more commonplace pomfret and prawns. So if you have scratched your head for a recipe beyond the usual when you come across fresh Mandeli, Modaka (or Verlya), Pedve, Kaanta, etc (apologies for using the marathi names – I dont have the english ones at hand), Shirshira is your answer.

Ingredients:

  • Fish – Pomfret / Prawns / Mandeli / Modaka / Pedve / Kaanta. If large fish like Pomfret-8 to 10 pieces. Smaller variety – 15-18 pieces
  • Onion – 2 medium-to-large, finely chopped
  • Ginger – finely chopped, 1 tsp
  • Garlic – finely chopped, 1 tsp
  • Green Chillies – 2 or 3, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • Coconut – fresh, grated, 1 tablespoon
  • Kokum/ Aamsol – 4 to 5
  • Coriander – chopped, 1 tablespoon
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Haldi (Turmeric) – 1/4th tsp
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Haldi (Turmeric) leaf – optional. The Haldi leaf lends this dish (and several others from this region) a unique flavour. 

Procedure:

Marinade the fish in 1/4th tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp of salt. Keep aside for a couple of hours. You can also marinade the fish as soon as you bring it home and put it away in the freezer till you cook the Shirshira. Only thing is remember to thaw it for a 3-4 hours before you start cooking – if you are freezing it.

Mix the onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies, coconut, coriander, kokum, salt (about 3/4th tsp) and oil (1 tsp). The suggested way to do this is to crush all the above ingredients together by hand.

Add the fish to this mix and stir gently – so that the fish don’t break. Transfer to a flat pan and add about 1/3rd cup of water. If you have gotten hold of the haldi leaf, insert that into this mix. Cover the pan and steam (don’t forget to put some water on the lid for effective steaming) for 8-10 minutes – or till the fish are cooked. Make sure you don’t stir more than once or twice – that too gently – or the fish tend to break.

And you are done!!

PS: Remember the haldi leaf is not to be eaten – it is only for flavour.

Shirshira goes well with rice (solkadhi-bhaat/ dahi bhaat) as well as chappatis.

Kusbeer or Kismur – a Dry Fish Delicacy

As the monsoon begins its advance into the country, I am reminded of dry fish….and Kusbeer!

For my vegetarian friends, this very same dish can also be made with roasted (not fried!!) papad. Tastes equally good – so read on…

The monsoon season and the heavy rains it brings engulfs the western coast of India for 3 – 4 months. In the earlier days, when there were no mechanised boats and hence deep sea fishing was not possible, no fishing was done during the monsoon. More importantly, this is also the fish breeding season – so fishing continues to be a big ‘No’ even today during this season. In fact, some states have laws against fishing during the monsoons.

However, the kokani palate needs its fish! So that is how dry fish came into the cuisine. Fish like prawns, mackerel (bangda), bombay duck (bombil) etc are dried under the sun by fisherfolk during the summer months – for consumption during the monsoons. Most kokani families stock up on dry fish in the month of May before the onset of the monsoons.

A variety of dishes are made with dry fish. Kusbeer (also known as Kismur in Goa) is one such – which is my favorite! Kusbeer can be made with dry prawns or shrimp – or even dry mackerel.

A couple of ‘fundas’ about dry prawns:

You get two varieties of dry prawns on the west coast of India – ‘Sungata‘ – which are the larger variety and ‘Golma‘ – which are the tiny dry prawns. They are also known as ‘Jawala‘ – should you go looking for them in the market. I have come across packets of ‘Jawala’ in some supermarkets.

The Sungata need to be cleaned – you need to remove the head, tail, etc. I will do a separate post one day – with pictures – of cleaning sungata. For now, if you are not familiar with the process either get it done by your local fisherwoman (yes, they do it for you!) or stick to using Golma / Jawala for this dish – which is less complex to clean!

To clean Golma, first sieve it properly. Remember, these are often dried in the open on the seashore – so they are likely to have sand or fine stones mixed in them (depends on where you buy the Golma from). Hence the sieving is necessary. Then do a round of manual cleaning – check for any left-over tiny stones or any other particles.

Also – it is important to remember that fish are dried with salt. So, take that into account while making any dish with dry fish.

Now you are ready to make the Kusbeer…

Ingredients:

  • Golma / Sungata – 1 cup
  • Onion – finely chopped – 1 cup
  • Coconut – fresh, grated – 1/2 cup
  • Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Oil – 1/2 tsp. This dish tastes great with coconut oil. So if you like/ have access to coconut oil, best to use that.
  • Salt to taste. Since the dry fish is already salty, you would need less than half a tsp of salt for this dish.

Procedure:

Stir-fry the dry fish in half a teaspoon of oil on medium flame – till they become really crisp. In fact, they give out a lovely aroma which is unique to dry fish as they get done. Keep aside.

Mix the finely chopped onion, red chilli and salt in a separate serving bowl. In fact, they need to be ‘crushed’ together by hand and mixed really well. The term in marathi for this is ‘churadnay‘.  Keep aside.

Just before your meal, add in the coconut and the stir-fried dry fish. Mix really well. Add a tsp of coconut oil and serve!  It is important to mix it ‘just-in-time’ – else the dry fish lose their crispiness.

Eat with chappatis, rotis or rice.

For enhanced taste, you can also add 1 tsp of soaked aamsol/kokum water. Add it to the onion while crushing.

For all ye vegetarians out there:

Instead of dry fish, you can make this with roasted papad. Use your regular Lijjat papad variety. Roast the papads and crush them into tiny pieces. And follow the exact same recipe above. Believe me, it tastes yummm and can add a zing to any meal!

Kolambi chi Aamti or Prawn Curry

We got some fresh prawns yesterday and wondered if we should make the old favourite – Kolambi chi Aamti – or something else. The aamti thought prevailed.

Kolambi means “prawns”. Most recipes from our region have coconut as a core ingredient. Coconuts grow in abundance along the coast and is therefore, naturally, used in our cooking. So Aamtis in a Gaud Saraswat Branhmin (GSB) household usually have a coconut base. I dislike using the term “curry’ – as it has different connotations. But…sigh…one must live with the limits of translation 🙂

For a really good Aamti, always pick mid- or small-sized prawns. No large fellows for our Aamti – they don’t taste as good. You also get these really teeny-weeny prawns – those are better suited for prawn pickle, not for an aamti.

Cleaning the Prawns:

Fresh Prawns usually need to be cleaned before cooking. Basically de-vein them by carefully taking out the vein that runs along the spine of the prawn. Frozen prawns usually come de-veined – but then, fresh prawns are fresh prawns, right?!

The Marination:

Marinade the prawns in Red Chilly Powder, Haldi (turmeric) & Salt (proportions listed below). Its always best to marinade as soon as you are done with cleaning / defrosting. Keep aside for half an hour. You can also put away the marinaded prawns in your freezer for later use.

A couple of fundas about the Chilly powder & Turmeric:

– Always try and use Chilly powder & Turmeric from a known and reliable source – preferably folks who do the grinding themselves. Chilly Powder & Turmeric are two ingredients that are most adulterated in India. So if you can, please avoid buying it off shop shelves.

-The chilly powder that Aai uses is a mix of “Byadgi” and “Sankeshwari” mirchis. Byadgi is less spicy but adds the colour while Sankeshwari is spicy but less red in colour.

The Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Prawns – medium sized, 200 gms (12-15)
  • Coconut (scraped) – 1 cup. Do not use dried or dessicated coconut pls!
  • Onion – finely chopped – 3/4th cup
  • Pepper corns (black) – 12-15
  • Red Chillies (Byadgi) – 4
  • Turmeric (haldi) – a pinch
  • Dhaniya (coriander) seeds – 1 tsp full
  • Rice (1/2 tsp). (You can also use 1 tsp of rice flour instead)
  • Tamarind – size of a small lemon. Soak it in water for a while and use the juice
  • Oil – 2 tsps
  • Salt to taste
  • For Marination of the prawns : Red Chilly Powder (1.5 tsps), Turmeric (3/4th tsp), salt (1 tsp)

Procedure:

A. Making the “Goli” or the “Coconut-based paste”:

Mix the coconut, 2 tsps of chopped onion, pepper corns, turmeric, red chillies, dhaniya seeds, rice (or rice flour). Grind to a fine paste adding water as required. Keep aside.

B. Making the Aamti:

Heat 2 tspns of oil in a pan. Add 1 tsp of finely chopped onion and fry till DARK brown. Then add 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions (yes, once again!) and 1/2 tsp of salt and fry till the onions turn transluscent and soft. The funda behind adding the salt at this stage is to soften the onion quickly. Next add the marinaded prawns and stir for about 2 mins. Add 2 cups of water and cook on medium heat. The recommended way to cook is to cover the pan with a flat lid and pour some water on the lid. Cook till the onions are fully cooked. The way to test this is to take a piece of onion out and press it. It should turn ‘pasty’. The prawns get cooked during this time frame.

Then add the tamarind water. Boil for a full five mins after adding the tamarind -else it leaves behind a raw taste. Then add  the “Goli” and let the mix come to a ‘low’ boil on low flame. Dont let the mix get into an “active” or “high boil” mode! Taste and check if salt needs to be adjusted. And your Aamti is ready!

Some Alternatives:

You can use Kokum or raw mango instead of tamarind:

Kokum or Aamsole:

This is a staple from our region – Aamsole or Kokum. Called Aamsole or simply ‘sole’, it is the ‘magic ingredient’ used in a lot of our recipes. Used to lend a type of ‘sour’ flavour to the dish, the resulting sourness is different from what you get if you use, say, tamarind or raw mango. Aamsole are not easy to source – unless you live in Western India.

If you are using aamsole, add the aamsole instead of the tamarind water. Boil for a full five mins before adding the ‘Goli’

Raw Mango :

Use one small raw mango, peeled and sliced (large slices). Add it as above, once the onion is cooked, and boil till the raw mango is cooked. Only then add the ‘Goli’.

For Enhanced Taste:

We sometimes add white radish to the aamti. It adds its own unique taste and flavour to it. Peel and slice the radish and add it along with the prawns.

Kolambi chi Aamti is usually eaten with plain rice. But is actually goes with anything.

Try it out and let me know how it turned out 🙂

Next Post : Ginger Raita (Aalya che raite)