Shrimp and Salmon Bake with Asparagus – A Fishy Cassoulet!

Dear Daibi and Didi,

The three of us are known everywhere for being “avid fish lovers”..isn’t it? Just like other fellow Bengalis, the three of us drool at the mere mention of the word fish, right? Heheheee….our friends who read this would know for sure that am lying.  When it comes to fish, we are ‘Fraud Bengalis’ as the sight and smell of fish is enough for us to throw our hands up in the air and call for a hunger strike, saying, ‘Cholbe na cholbe na’ which in English means, it will not be tolerated (though that never worked with our parents as they would still stuff the large Rui or Katla fish pieces down our throats).  As a child I loved fish, Ma still tells me that I used to happily polish off a whole fish head back then…but I guess growing up with you two fish haters, I too switched over.  Then when I moved to Europe, I realised that genetically modified chicken tasted bad and it wasn’t the best way to complete my protein intake.  Being a student, limited my finances, hence I could’t afford the organic stuff either. This made me turn to fish and eggs (I hated both of them).  I began to eat cans of tuna or herrings or sardines and even smoked salmon, anchovies and caviar (a continental chef would sue me for saying this, but I would still say, by themselves these things STINK!!!!).  My all time high was when Baba, a true fish lover, could not eat raw fresh herring in Amsterdam whereas I ate it without any qualms! I even fell in love with the different forms of Sushi and finally came to the conclusion that ‘pheesh runs in my blaad too’ :).

Till now I have cooked with tuna and sardines (have even turned them into divine Indian curries and koftas), but never with salmon.  I am finally beginning to do so and Niloy, who is another fish lover, has complimented each of my experiments.  I must say that I got the general idea of this particular dish from the Masterchef Australia 4 series, and thought it was unique.  But then I read about Cassoulet – a traditional dish from south of France made with haricot beans and meat topped with crunchy bread cubes – and I knew where the influence came from 🙂  There are many ways of cooking this dish, but here is my version of a fishy cassoulet!

Shrimp and Salmon Bake with Asparagus

Ingredients: Serves 4

1 roughly chopped Onion

1 tsp of chopped Garlic

400 gms of Salmon steaks (or any other boneless fish)

1/2 cup cooked and peeled Shrimps

2 Carrots chopped in cubes

1/2 bulb of Fennel (you could use 1 tsp of Fennel Powder instead and add some other veggie)

15-20 green Asparagus sticks (you could replace with 1 Broccoli/French Beans for adding crunchy greens)

(optional) 1 Celery sticks, 5 inch leek piece, peas, corn

4-5 slices of stale White Bread

1 cup of White sauce (traditionally called roux) or 1/2 cup white sauce+1/2 cup sour-cream (for people concerned with health, thick sour yoghurt mixed with 1 tsp of white flour to stop it from getting curdled)

1/2 cup White Wine

1 Lime/Lemon

2 tbsp Olive Oil

A few sprigs of thyme and dill

Parmesan Cheese, Salt and Pepper to taste

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In a hot pan, sear the Salmon steaks til crispy brown on both sides.  Set aside.  In the same pan, to retain the fish oil and flavor, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and throw in the garlic and onion.  While the onions are getting cooked, cut the bread into cubes, place them in a baking tray, sprinkle some olive oil on them and roast for 12-15 mins till crispy – leave in the oven with the heat turned off.  Add the carrots, the fennel, some salt & pepper in the pan and saute till cooked.  Chop about 7-9 asparagus sticks into 1inch pieces and add in the pan with the other cooked veggies for 3-4 minutes or till nice and fresh green – transfer this into a baking dish.  Crumble the salmon steaks and put in the shrimps, white sauce, wine, herbs and lemon juice.   Mix and season well according to taste (you could add more lemon juice for a tangy flavor).  Coarsely crush the bread cubes and cover the fish mixture.  Finally sprinkle some Parmesan cheese (quantity as per liking) and bake in the oven at medium heat for 10-15 mins or till the crust turns brown.  In the meanwhile take a pan, add a tsp of olive oil and saute the rest of the asparagus or broccoli till crispy green. Season well and serve as a side dish with the bake.

Do make it some time and let me know how it tastes, coz Niloy and me loved it and finished it off in 12 mins flat 🙂

Take care, lots of love,

Rinki

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Crispy Ham and Dumpling ‘Bourguignon’

Dear Didi and Daibi,

Do you know about Boeuf Bourguignon, a famous French recipe?  The step-by-step documentation of this dish was first done by Auguste Escoffier who popularised and modernised  the French cooking methods.  His techniques were based on Marie-Antoine Carême who is regarded as the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings.  He was an early practitioner and codifier of French haute cuisine which empashised on meticulous preparation and elaborate presentation of food.  Now keeping with the tradition of haute cusine, Boeuf Bourguignon takes about 10-14 hours to cook as a traditional chef would also make the bouillon or the beef stock right from the scratch which itself takes about 4-5 hrs of cooking (and people say Indian cooking is slow!!).

I first learnt about this dish from my friends from Germany, Paruedee and Marco who saw the movie Julie and Julia and followed the cooking frenzy shown in the movie.  Unfortunately when they cooked it (and I tell you it took 14 hours for them), I was back home in India .  So my Romanian friend, Gabi decided to cook the dish, but with lamb (coz I my tummy goes on vacation whenever I eat beef); and all I can say about it is…mmmmmmmmm…..

Yesterday I decided to make my version of the dish, a much simpler one though which still took me 3 hrs…but the satisfied look on Niloy’s face when he had it, made the 3 hrs worth!  I added some ‘Dakhina Touches’ to the dish and would provide options if someone doesn’t eat Pork 🙂

Crispy Ham and Dumpling ‘Bourguignon’

Ingredients: Serves 3

250gms Ham (or shredded goat meat)

1 large Onion

2 big cloves of Garlic

1/2 stick Leek (or 1 onion+1 big clove of garlic)

2 Carrots

1 Red Pepper

2-3 Celery sticks (or radhuni seeds for almost similar flavour)

7-8 Mushrooms

1 cup Red Wine

My Bouquet Garni – A twig or two of thyme, rosemary, sage, 1 Bay leaf,  few peppercorns

4 tbsp Butter

For Dumplings

3/4 cup White Flour

1 heaped tsp Baking powder

Dried herbs like Dill or mixed herbs

4 tbsp Butter

150ml warm Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

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First wash and cut all the vegetables into dices.  In a big pot saute the ham/meat in 2 tbsp of butter till they are crispy and caremalised.   Transfer them in a plate and to the same pot (let the caramelised burnt oil stay) add 2 tbsp of butter and throw in the onions and garlic. Once the onions and garlic are brown, add the veggies, salt and pepper powder, and cover for 5-7 mins.  Then add the ham/meat, bouquet garni and wine and let the stew cook on medium heat.

Take the flour and rub in the butter, herbs, salt and pepper.  Add the milk and make a sticky dough (the sticker it is the softer the dumplings are).  In boiling water, drop teaspoon-sized balls made from the dough (if the dough sticks too much, apply some oil in your palms).  The dumplings will rise to the top when cooked.  When the whole lot is done, transfer them to the stew pot.

Check seasonings and let the whole stew simmer for another 30-40 mins on slow heat.  Serve hot with freshly-made loaf or baguette!

Let me know if you guys decide to make it.

Lots of love,

Rinki