Chital Macher Muitha (Chital Fried Fish Dumplings)

Fish BallsIn the Calcutta or Kolkata region of India, Chital, also known as Clown Knife fish, is a popular fish used in many dishes. It is an interesting fish, in that it is carnivorous (meat eating) and often cannibalistic (eats its own kind). I’m not sure if it is in fact a kosher fish, but it is almost a moot point for those of us in North America, as it is very hard to get outside of certain specialty ethnic stores, and even then it’s frozen. Fresh, if it was kosher and possible to find, it’s apparently a nightmare to debone! Having said all that, I’m making this recipe less authentic by substituting Chital with any ground white fish. I’m sorry to all my Bengali enthusiasts out there, but sometimes, you have to make sacrifices in the name of food! All that being said, this recipe will serve 6 if served as a main entrée and can easily be cut in half for appetizer portions instead. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 ⅓ pounds ground fish (any white fish)
1 ¼ cups cooking oil
6 medium potatoes, peeled
4 large tomatoes
6 medium onions
4-5 inch piece of fresh ginger (or 4 ½ tablespoons ginger paste)
2-3 green chilies (optional)
12 cloves of garlic (of ¼ cup bottled minced garlic)
4-5 bay leaves
3 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons butter/olive oil (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
4 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
1 ½ cups water
cilantro (for garnish)*

* Click here to learn how to clean cilantro.

Directions:

In a large pot, bring the potatoes to a boil and cook through. While the potatoes are cooking, dice the tomatoes and onions, and set them aside. In food processor or blender puree the ginger and garlic (separately) so that you get a paste formed from them. If you are using chilies in this recipe, you can puree them as well with either the ginger or garlic.

Once the potatoes are done, drain the potatoes and mash them to a smooth consistency. Once the potatoes have cooled a bit, mix them together with the ground fish, 2 ¼ tablespoons of the ginger paste, the garlic paste, ½ the diced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of salt.

In a deep sauté pan, heat the oil to about 350-375 degrees, or that when a bit of the fish mixture is dropped in, it starts to fry and bubble immediately. Make small balls out the fish mixture, like you would a meat ball, and drop them one-by-one into the hot oil. Do not over crowd the balls, as the more balls in the oil at once, the lower the oil temperature will drop, and you’ll wind up with oily fish balls rather than nicely fried ones. It is best to fry them in batches. Once the balls turn nice and golden, remove them from the oil and set them aside on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

After all the fish mixture has been fried, add the bay leaves and remaining onions to the left over oil and fry for 2 minutes. After 3-4 minutes add the diced tomato and stir for another 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining ginger paste, turmeric powder and cumin, combining it well and allow it to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the water and salt to the mixture, and bring to a boil.

Once the sauce has come together, return the fried fish balls to the sauce, and let simmer for another 5 minutes. After that, add the butter or olive oil, if adding, and the garam masala powder. Taste for salt, and mix well. Serve the fish balls and sauce hot over white rice.

Alt Flours… Not Just for Hipsters

Alternative FloursWheat flour contains gluten which is the protein that strengthens and binds dough in baking. Because of this, when baking with wheat free flours you may need to source alternative binding agents. Wheat free recipes using flour substitutes usually have been carefully formulated to get the best possible result taking into account the problems associated with lack of wheat gluten, therefore substitution can be a risky experiment. If you try substitution, then be aware that you may get a failure, so don’t do it for the first time if cooking for an important occasion.

The flours listed below are alternatives to wheat flour. However it is important to be aware that there is no exact substitute for wheat flour, and recipes made with wheat free alternative flours will be different from those containing wheat. It’s always best to store flours in airtight containers, in a dark cool place to avoid them turning rancid.

Amaranth Flour
Amaranth flour is made from the seed of the Amaranth plant, which is a leafy vegetable. Amaranth seeds are very high in protein, which makes a nutritious flour for baking. Alternative names: African spinach, Chinese spinach, Indian spinach, elephants ear.

Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot flour is ground from the root of the plant, and is very useful for thickening recipes. It is tasteless, and the fine powder becomes clear when it is cooked, which makes it ideal for thickening clear sauces.

Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is heavier than its relative, white rice flour. It is milled from unpolished brown rice so it has a higher nutritional value than white, and as it contains the bran of the brown rice it has a higher fibre content. This also means that it has a noticeable texture, a bit grainy. It does have a slight nutty taste, which will sometimes come out in recipes depending on the other ingredients, and the texture will also contribute to a heavier product than recipes made with white rice flour. It is not often used completely on its own because of its heavier nature. Bulk buying is not recommended as it is better used when fresh, store in an airtight container.

Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat flour is not, despite its name a form of wheat, buckwheat is actually related to rhubarb. The small seeds of the plant are ground to make flour. It has a strong nutty taste so is not generally used on its own in a recipe, as the taste of the finished product can be very overpowering, and a little bitter. Alternative names: beech wheat, kasha, saracen corn.

Chia Flour
Made from ground chia seeds. Highly nutritious, chia seeds have been labelled a “superfood” containing Omega 3, fibre, calcium and protein, all packed into tiny seeds. Also known as “nature’s rocketfuel” as many sportspeople and superathletes use it for enhanced energy levels during events. If chia flour isn’t readily available then put chia seeds in a processor and whizz up some. If used in baking, liquid levels and baking time may need to be increased slightly.

Chick Pea Flour (also known as Gram or Garbanzo Flour)
This is ground from chick peas and has a strong slightly nutty taste. It is not generally used on its own.

Cornflour
Cornflour is milled from corn into a fine, white powder, and is used for thickening recipes and sauces. It has a bland taste, and therefore is used in conjunction with other ingredients that will impart flavour to the recipe. It also works very well when mixed with other flours, for example when making fine batters for tempura. Some types of cornflour are milled from wheat but are labelled wheaten cornflour. Alternative name: cornstarch.

Cornmeal
Ground from corn. Heavier than cornflour, not generally interchangeable in recipes.

Hemp Flour
Made from ground hemp seeds it has a mild, nutty flavour. Needs to be refrigerated after opening.

Lupin Flour
Made from a legume in the same plant family as peanuts. High in protein and fibre, low in fat, but carries the same protein that causes allergic reactions/anaphylaxis to peanut or legumes, which makes it unsuitable for people with peanut or legume allergies e.g. soybeans.

Maize Flour
Ground from corn. Heavier than cornflour, not generally interchangeable in recipes.

Millet Flour
Comes from the grass family, and is used as a cereal in many African and Asian countries. It can be used to thicken soups and make flat breads and griddle cakes. Because it lacks any form of gluten it’s not suited to many types of baking.

Potato Flour
This flour should not be confused with potato starch flour. Potato flour has a strong potato flavour and is a heavy flour so a little goes a long way. Bulk buying is not recommended unless you are using it on a very regular basis for a variety of recipes as it does not have a very long shelf life.

Potato Starch Flour
This is a fine white flour made from potatoes, and has a light potato flavour which is undetectable when used in recipes. It’s one of the few alternative flours that keeps very well provided it is stored in an airtight jar, and somewhere cool and dark.

Quinoa Flour
Quinoa is related to the plant family of spinach and beets. It has been used for over 5,000 years as a cereal, and the Incas called it the mother seed. Quinoa provides a good source of vegetable protein and it is the seeds of the quinoa plant that are ground to make flour.

Sorghum Flour
Ground from sorghum grain, which is similar to millet. The flour is used to make porridge or flat unleavened breads. It is an important staple in Africa and India. This flour stores well under normal temperatures.

Soya Flour
Soya flour is a high protein flour with a nutty taste. It is not generally used on it’s own in recipes, but when combined with other flours is very successful as an alternative flour. Can be used to thicken recipes or added as a flavour enhancer. It needs to be carefully stored as it is a high fat flour and can go rancid if not stored properly. A cool, dark environment is recommended and can even be stored in the refrigerator.

Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is made from the root of the cassava plant, once ground it takes the form of a light, soft, fine white flour. Tapioca flour adds chewiness to baking and is a good thickener. Tapioca flour is an excellent addition to any wheat free kitchen. It’s a fairly resilient flour, so storing at room temperature is no problem.

Teff Flour
Teff comes from the grass family, and is a tiny cereal grain native to northern Africa. It is ground into flour and used to prepare injera, which is a spongy, slightly sour flat bread. It is now finding a niche in the health food market because it is very nutritious (see today’s quiche recipe!).

White Rice Flour
This flour is milled from polished white rice so it is very bland in taste, and not particularly nutritious. White rice flour is ideal for recipes that require a light texture. It can be used on its own for a variety of recipes and has a reasonable shelf life, as long as it is stored in an airtight container to avoid it absorbing moisture from the air.