Recipe for Macha Ambila
In the plethora of recipes and cooking videos out there that give you exact measurements and processes down to a T, we seem to be moving away from the beautiful concept of ‘Andaaza’.
From the beginning, my mother has always given me instructions which emphasised your memory of the food and your estimate.
I remember I had just started to learn cooking and I wanted to try my hands at chicken curry. When I asked for the recipe, she insisted that I rely on my memory and tell her what should go into the dish.
I listed few ingredients and she said yeah go and make it now. Very vaguely she told me the process too. When I complained later about not having told me the whole process, she said ‘apna andaaza lagao, warna seekhogi kaise. Basic cooking main reh jaogi agar sab poochti rahogi’.
From that day, I started to pay close attention to the ingredients in my food- how it tasted, how it felt in my mouth. If I was cooking, I would always use my hand for putting masalas. With time, it became intuitive.
I made mistakes while cooking but gradually learnt how much masala should go into the preparation, strong masalas don’t go too well with green vegetables, that baigan cooks faster than kaddu so you put them in stages if they go into the same dish etc etc.
The idea is to practice and go by yoyr instinct while cooking. Once you’ve gone past the teething problems, you will realise the wonders that instinct can do to your food.
On that note, I will put down this recipe I took from my mom and which will test your andaaza.
I can tell you this recipe is khatta-meetha with a nice tadka. There are three steps to it-
1. Fry the fish
2. Boil water with haldi, imli, jaggery and salt
3. Prepare the tadka and cook everything together
- 250 gms Anchovies or any small sea fish
- 1/2 tsp turmeric for marinating fish and 1/2 tsp in the syrup or curry
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
- 3/4th tbsp tamarind (1 tbsp if using store bought paste)
- 3 tbsp jaggery powder or 1.5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp pounded garlic
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 3-4 methi (fenugreek) – this is bitter so never add too much methi unless you want the flavour to be bitter
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 3/4th tbsp saunf (fennel seeds)
- 3 dried red chillies
- 1.5 tsp pounded ginger (grated gets dissolved, so don’t do that)
- 1 small onion (chopped)
Frying the fish:
1. Clean the fish. Mix it with turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Fry in an open tawa till the sides are brown. Be careful not to break the fish.
Making the syrup or curry
2. Boil water with tamarind, turmeric powder, jaggery and salt. Taste and adjust tamarind, jaggery and salt till you reach the proper khatta-meetha balance. Remember that fish also has some salt.
Adding the tadka and cooking together
3. Put all the ingredients together in a plate and keep ready. Prepare the tadka by taking oil in a pan. Add garlic. Wait till it turns golden and then add cumin seeds, methi, mustard seeds, curry leaves, fennel seeds, dried red chillies, ginger and onion. Fry till onions turns translucent.
4. Add the syrup or curry and wait till it gets a boil. Add the fish. Boil everything together for 3-4 minutes.
5. Serve with rice!