The first proper dish I had ever cooked in my life. This was way back in 2002 when I met my husband's (then boyfriend's) maternal family and with everybody around sans my boyfriend, I was the little trembling adolescent girl just out of her teens and doing her first year of Engineering, when I was informed by my boyfriend that his maternal family was in town and I should go to visit them. I was in the hostel then and super terrified to meet them all, although I had known them since childhood (we were childhood friends, btw). However, I was meeting them for the first time after our relationship was made public and so the anxiousness and hesitation. They are the sweetest people ever and as dinner time was approaching, no one was in the mood to cook. I got a little carried away in my bid to impress them as a Daughter-in-Law and suddenly spurted out, I can cook! God knows what I was thinking!! I did not know the ABC of cooking then, leave aside making a proper dish. They readily agreed and I rushed to make a hurried phone call to my Mom for the quickest, easiest, and foolproof recipe. That was a day and today is one. The dish was fabulous and I was officially declared Grihalakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity)!! Reliving those memories today with this dish made with love from an Assamese Wife for her Bengali Sweetheart!!
4 pieces of Rohu fillet (you can increase this quantity to a maximum of 6 pieces for this gravy. For more than 6 pieces, you will need to increase the ingredients for the gravy accordingly)
2 medium onions roughly chopped
2 each of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh ginger paste
Scant 1/2 cup yogurt whipped
A pinch of turmeric
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp of sugar
Salt to taste
Mustard oil as required
Handful of raisins (optional)
1 tsp ghee (optional)
1 tsp good quality garam masala
Wash and clean the fishes and marinate it with some salt and turmeric and keep aside for 30 minutes. In a pan dry roast the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves and keep aside. Once cool, pulse for just 1 sec to coarsely crush the spices. Alternatively, you can also grind them coarsely in a mortar and pestle. Now heat a little oil in the pan and fry the onions till pink. Remove from pan and let it cool. Finely grind the onions to a paste, preferably in the same grinder where you ground the spices (after transferring the spices, of course). This will impart maximum flavor to the gravy. In the same pan where you fried the onions, fry the fishes till they are golden browned on both the sides. Take care not to over brown or to fry them till crispy hard. Lastly, in a bowl take the whipped yogurt and add a pinch of turmeric, 1 tsp sugar, salt, half of the onion paste, and ginger paste and mix well and keep aside.
Now time to assemble the gravy. Heat oil in the same pan where you fried the fish (in case, the oil has blackened and has charred bits of fish or others, change the pan). Add the coarsely ground spices and fry for a sec till a lovely aroma arises. Follow up with the remaining onion paste and 1/2 tsp sugar and fry till oil separates from the edges. Now, add the chilli powder and fry for another minute. Lower the flame and remove the pan from fire and add the yogurt mixture. Mix well and put it back on low flame. Once mixed well, increase the flame to medium and continue stirring continuously till oil starts coming out from the edges and the mixture thickens. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Now add about 1/2 cup water (add more if you have more than 4 pieces of fish) and bring it to a boil. Add the fried fish and raisins and cover the pan and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes for the fish to absorb the gravy. Remove the cover and stir. The gravy should thicken a bit by now and have a silky smooth texture. Add a tsp of ghee and garam masala and give a gentle stir. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice.