Tales of Childhood, Sprat in Mustard Sauce & World MRSA Day!


There was a stool.

A rickety old one.

With it's yellow paint peeling off.

It stood in one corner of our kitchen.

It creaked every time I sat on it, making me feel sorry for the poor thing.

As a child I imagined that inanimate objects had life and could talk to me.

Like that old stool that stood quietly in one corner of our kitchen. Quietly that is, till someone sat on it. Then it creaked and creaked and to the silly young me it felt like the stool was complaining and groaning with all it's might. That it could bear my weight no more.

But I was not ready to give up on that stool. It was my favourite place to sit on in the kitchen. Safely away from the kitchen fire, the knives and what nots. I would sit on that stool and chat nineteenth to the dozen with my mother who would be busy in the kitchen. Now as an adult  I wonder how she kept her cool and worked with me chatting away. What a distraction I must have been!

As I grew my mother would often call me from my perch to stir a simmering pot, or add some veggies to the sautéing masalas or whisk an egg or stir the cake batter. While I would do a particular task she would  explain to me why that particular step is important in the cooking process. I remember as a child being proud thinking that I have made something for people to eat! If she was not crazy busy we would often chat about various things. I learnt the basics of cooking watching my mother cook. Even now when I am cooking flashes of what my mother used to do comes back to me. I learnt many of life's important lessons sitting on that stool. After I left home, my brother took to stool sitting and chatting with my mother while she worked in the kitchen.

My mother is a cleanliness freak, especially in the kitchen. She grew up seeing kitchens being swept clean twice a day, once after lunch and a final one after dinner. She continued the practise.  Every day she cleans her kitchen twice. By cleaning I do not mean a cursory mop. It is one of those hearty cleans which at the end of it leaves the kitchen sparkling & brand new. My mother says in a tropical country like India you never know what germ is lurking where and the only way to get rid of it is through an intensive cleaning. Another thing she is insistent on is washing hands often while working in the kitchen.  We, my father, brother and me, would often mercilessly tease her about her habit of cleaning her hands every two minutes while in the kitchen. But she is adamant about it. And good thing too, specially since I was recently told about MRSA, a nasty bacteria which is potentially deadly. And it is not only the hot countries where there is a risk. Countries like the UK also suffer from this problem.

Did you know that our kitchens (yes the place where people spend a chunk of their days and food bloggers love to hang out) are bacteria breeding grounds? And our hands are the biggest spreaders of germs at home?
You can read more about MRSA here.

Sounds rather alarming, doesn't it? But fear not, like all bad things in life, this one also has remedies and really simple ones at that.

Steps Ensuring Hygienic Food Preparation

Preparation

Washing your hands before you begin any preparation. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing the spread of bacteria’s, such as MRSA and E. coli. As a routine we have learnt from a young age, it can be easy to forget, so getting you and your family into a routine where you wash your hands as soon as you go into the kitchen to prepare food can really help.

Ensure the environment you are working in is thoroughly cleaned. Wash surfaces and chopping boards to prevent any germs already lurking being passed onto your food. Sponges and cloths can easily pick and up and be a hub for breeding germs, so ensure these are cleaned and changed regularly.

Wash fruit and vegetables before use. Running fruit and veg under the cold tap helps clean away any pesticides and dirt on the surface. The soil and dirt may contain E. coli so it is important that any traces are fully removed before you begin food prep.

Whilst Preparing Food


Wash your hands after handling raw meat and eggs.  Harmful bacteria can live on raw meat, it will most likely be killed once cooked correctly, although, it can easily be passed onto ready to eat food before this.  Therefore, always wash your hands and any utensils that have come into contact with raw meat and is then being reused for ready to eat food.

Any food that is dropped on the floor should be discarded immediately. Even if your floor is clean, our feet can carry millions of bacteria making the ’3 second rule’ a lot more lethal than perceived!

If you take any breaks during your food prep, wash your hands when returning. Nipping to the toilet, smoking, stroking pets or even touching your face can lead to bacteria transferring onto your hands.

Use different chopping boards for raw and ready to eat foods. This carries the same principle as hand washing.  Germs on raw foods will be naturally killed in the cooking process, however, ready to eat foods are not cooked so the germs will not be killed. Therefore, remember to use separate chopping boards to prevent germs interchanging.

Follow cooking instructions. As we are no strangers to our kitchen, we may improvise from time to time and create our own recipes, however, it is important to remember that cooking instructions are there for a reason. This particularly applies when cooking meat at the right temperature and for the instructed time, so always ensure to check that meat is cooked through and is piping hot before eating.

The Clean Up

Plates, surfaces, utensils and of course, hands must be cleaned. Once you have enjoyed your homemade masterpiece, ensure that all plates, cutlery and surfaces are cleaned. This stops any leftover germs multiplying and leaves you with a hygienic living space that you will look forward to cooking in once again!

These points may seem like tedious tasks that we have been doing for years, so take them with a pinch of salt (figuratively speaking) and use them as a gentle reminder to ensure you and your family can enjoy hygienic cooking.

2nd October is the World MRSA Day. To celebrate the day come lets all be a little more careful about our kitchen hygiene.

The text on MRSA & Hygenic Food Preparation is provided by Jennifer Kelly, Content & Online PR Executive.


All these memories of childhood has made me crave fish. And not just any fish, fish in glorious mustard sauce, the Bengali speciality. Now in traditional kitchens mustard is ground on shil nora {mortar & pestle} but I was too lazy to do all of that.  Instead I bought home jars of English & French mustards and combined the two to make Bengali mustard sauce. If you are wondering why mix the two mustards? That is because when you grind your mustard using the traditional mortar and pestle it stays a little grainy. So while the English mustard paste will give you the taste, the French mustard comes in to give you the texture.



Recently I discovered a variety of small fish called Sprat. Now we Bengalis love fresh water small fishes. Bengali mamas believe that small fishes are treasure trove of vitamins and nutrients so it is often served for lunch. When I discovered Sprat I thought of all those small fishes I have had over the years and gleefully got home some.
Here is how I cooked Sprat in mustard sauce.

Ingredients:

1. 350 gm of Sprat fish, washed and drained
2. 2 table spoon of English mustard paste
3. 1 table spoon of French  whole grain mustard
4. Half a tea spoon of paanch phoron {a typical Bengali 5 whole spice mix}, can substitute it with Nigella seeds
5. A tea spoon of turmeric/haldi
6. 2 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and chopped into cubes {optional}
7. 1 egg plant, washed, peeled and chopped into cubes {optional}
8. 2 green chillies, washed and deseeded
9. Salt to taste
10. Half a tea spoon of red chilli powder
11. Oil for frying and cooking {you may use mustard oil for the entire cooking or cook your fish in any other oil and add a tea spoon of mustard oil at the very end for the smell and flavour or if you are not used to mustard oil because you may skip it totally}
12. Chopped cilantro for garnish

If you do not want to use ready to eat mustard you can use this recipe.


How to make Sprat in Mustard Sauce
1.Wash the fishes and drain well.
2.Sprinkle half a tea spoon of turmeric, red chilli powder and some salt on the fishes. Coat the fishes with the spices. Best would be to use your hand.
3. In a pan heat some oil and shallow fry the fishes in two or three batches. Be very careful while doing this. Keep reducing the heat and use a cover because fish sizzles a lot while frying.
4. Use some paper napkins to drain the excess oil from the fried fishes.
5. In the same pan, if there is no oil left add some, if there is more than 2 tea spoons of oil, please drain away the rest, add the paanch phoron or the Nigella seeds.
6. Then add the washed and chopped potatoes and let them fry for a little while.
7. After 3/4 mins once the potatoes start looking translucent, add the cubed eggplants.
8. Add half a tea spoon of turmeric, the green chillies.
9. After a couple of minutes once the turmeric is fried and no longer smells raw, add the two types of mustard.
10. Mix well, let it all cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt according to taste, remember the fish already has salt.
11. Add a cup and half of water and let it come to a boil.
12. Add the fishes, slowly, stirring the gravy gently all the while.
13. Once all the fishes are mixed, let it boil for 5 more minutes. The gravy will thicken, you may add more water if you want a watery gravy. I prefer dry, so I cook till most of the gravy has disappeared.
14. Check the seasoning, garnish with some cilantro and serve with hot steaming rice.

 Enjoy & don't forget to wash your hands please before you sit down to eat!
This is a sponsored post.

36 comments :

  1. Delicious looking fish dipped in mustard sauce. looks wonderful.
    Deepa

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  2. Was just telling my wife that this would be possible with sprats and came across this recipe, how great is that!

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  3. What a huge difference in pictures Suchi, back lighting hmmm !! :)

    Dont know anything about the recipe, but pictures are very tempting even for a vegetarian like me

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  4. an intersting recipe, I have never tried fish with mustard!

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  5. We like this food, and we like to invite you to upload your unusual delicious & unexplored recipe on Find best dishes at restaurants in Ahmedabad

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    1. Thanks Arpit, will visit your site one of these days :-)

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  6. I understand your mother, I am another cleaning freak but I have to confess, I don't clean my kitchen 2 times a day. I tend to wash my hands every 2 minutes with liquid soap, or I go mad. ^.^
    I haven't tried cooking fish in a mustard sauce before. Comes at a right time since I have made a new batch of homemade grainy mustard paste. =)
    Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Suchi , washing hands every 2 minutes ?! Hey , better safe than sorry , right ? :D Sprat looks like a baby sardines and I thought they are one and the same :P I love the blend of flavor in this simple yet very tempting dish ! I think I would love it deep-fried lol

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    1. Oh Anne come visit me, will make you deep fried Sprat and we can discuss your desserts while eating those :-)

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  8. Hi lovely lady. I have passed on two Awards to you, thats coz you deserve them. Happy blogging and a big hug

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  9. lovely recipe and I wish my kids would sit in a chair ha they pull the chair up to cook with is great but my 2 yr old boy scares me

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  10. I don't know about the curry, but your kitchen stories are always very interesting to read..

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  11. how beautifully you write Suchismita. because my health reasons I cant sit for long and hence my log hops have come to a stall. came to visit you after ages and loved reading about your childhood memories. the macher jhal looks awesome and so is your plates and bowls.

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  12. Lovely story telling. In my country these sprats are also quite popular and quite addictive. Here we call them fry dry and the bones are no problem as everything is nice and crunchy to eat. Love 'em. I must try it with your mustard sauce which looks so very delicious.

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  13. Love these Suchi! I love how they look:))

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  14. What a heartfelt story Suchi:) I must admit, I am a bit of a neurotic when it comes to washing my hands every two minutes. Sometimes, when I'm cooking a big meal, my hands dry out from so much washing, lol...I don't give the kitchen a good cleaning twice a day though. Only after dinner do I do a complete wipe down.

    I didn't know about MRSA Day. I will be noting it on my calendar though.

    Now, those sprats! Cooking them in mustard is quite interesting. I recall a dish from childhood when my grandmother would cook either sardines or anchovies in mustard sauce. Mustard in itself is a good germ fighter:) Thank you so much for sharing your lovely story and this interesting recipe. I must admit, I am delightfully surprised that it also includes eggplant.

    I hope you will be joining us for the Pasta Party!

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    1. Of course Louise I would love to join you for the pasta party :-)

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  15. Suchi, ki darun darun photos. Will also look for sprat here, looks so fresh. Have a wonderful Pujo season.

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  16. Suchi, what lovely memories are those with your mother..sometimes I also see a small me when my daughter does that -hanging around with me in kitchen ..just feels like circle of life..anyhow ami ek-du baar sprats kine enechi ..tobe amar barite baki dui jon aro ache tara khete chaye na , tai r ana hoye ni...eyi bhabhe besh makha-makha jhaal-2 amar O khete bhalo he lagey..Pujo khub bhalo katok tumader ...sharodoutsav'er shubecha..hugs and smiles

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  17. Lovely childhood memories, which is so irreplaceable and precious :)

    Love the use of mustard here. Yum!

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  18. Beautiful post with memories from childhood...

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