Pumpkin Leaf & Dried Fish Curry
This is a curry that comes with a warning. Acquired taste.:) But if you go through the recipe, this could well be used for meat, fresh fish or paneer.
I have mentioned in some of my posts before that I am lucky to be living in an area where vegetable vendors come. I do not mean the regular ones who sell commercially grown vegetables. But the ones who come with organic produce from the villages and jungles from the Assam and Meghalaya border areas. Some are grown in village gardens and some are still foraged from the wild. Like bamboo shoots, vegetable ferns, banana flowers and banana stems. There is a bit of the smell of the jungle in the wares they carry with some of them wrapped in banana leaves or leaves that resemble those of the turmeric but much larger. And in places where storage is an issue, leaves have long been used for preserving (to some extent) leafy greens and herbs.
|Assortment of vegetables brought to my door by vendors|
I look forward to these visits and there is one particular lady who comes oftener than most. We sit down under the fan, have a cup of tea and cake (usually) and talk about this and that. It’s like childhood being revisited as I am reminded of my mother a few decades ago choosing the best of produce from the baskets of vendors in another time and another place. The vendors who usually came in a small group would sit on the veranda and talk about the weather, their families and the signs of the times. In those days, our town had fewer people and the rapport between different communities was extraordinary. And it was always the ladies from Jatinga who would come all the way to town, a distance of 8 kilometres from the main town on foot. The village grew the best oranges then. In winter, the baskets used to be laden with the fruit. Buses and autorickshaws, to travel that distance, were unheard of in the 60s and 70s.
Recently I got a bunch of pumpkin leaves and my first thought was about teaming them up with jackfruit seeds. This is a lovely combination. I have a picture of the same in one of my recent posts. But then I decided I would use only the tender leaves and make this curry.
1 bunch pumpkin leaves (the stalks were kept aside to be cooked with dal or with other vegetables)
4-5 dried fish cut into bite-size pieces (I used Bombay duck)
2 medium eggplants, cut according to the size/length of the dried fish pieces
2 onions, peeled and finely grated
6 cloves of garlic, ground
1″ piece of ginger, peeled and ground
Red chilli powder, as per taste
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
A quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder (to be rubbed on the dried fish and eggplants)
5 tablespoons mustard oil
A pinch of mustard seeds
A couple of dried broken chillies
Herbs for the garnish (optional)
Wash the pumpkin leaves and lightly steam them in a colander. A couple of minutes should do.
Let them cool a bit and grind them fine.
Wash the dried fish pieces in warm water. This makes it easier to remove any grit that might be on the fish.
Place in a colander to drain out excess water. Then rub the turmeric on the fish pieces.
Wash the eggplants and rub with a dash of salt and turmeric powder. Set aside.
Heat the mustard oil in a karhai. As soon as it comes to smoking point, add the fish pieces.
Fry on both sides for about a minute each. Remove.
In the same oil, fry the eggplants till they turn golden but not wholly done.
Since eggplants soak up a lot of oil, check to see if another tablespoon might be needed.
Throw in the mustard seeds. As soon as they sputter, add the broken bits of dried chilli. Then add the grated onions. Cook till they turn translucent. Add the rest of the spices and cook till the oil separates.
Add the pumpkin leaf paste and the fried eggplants. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Pour about 11/2 cups of hot water and let it come to boiling point. Continue to cook on medium flame till the gravy thickens.
Add the fried dried fish pieces and cook for a few more minutes.
Remove from the stove and transfer the contents to a serving bowl.
Garnish with fresh herbs if you like.
This goes best with steaming hot rice and other accompaniments like dal, simple cucumber/tomato salad and maybe another fried vegetable dish.
Pumpkin leaves are usually chopped and cooked. This method, rather like the palak in ‘palak paneer’ makes the gravy so much thicker. And better!