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fishing inner bhopal
People still fish in the “City of Lakes”, however this Madhur Jaffrey recipe comes from her visit to Bhopal a month before sabotage  splayed a midnight methyl cyanide fog of death. Culpable abandonment of safety preceded the planned plant closure one month later. 

My driver, Khan Bhai, living close by in the labyrinthine alleyways of the Old City, claims the water is safe. Scientists disagree, highlighting high levels of water table contamination.

All I now is people still fish in the lakes, dangling a line a float.

Now the night, bright and starry reaches down through drifting vapour ripples that unlike Pune’s shrouded air , glowed  in gossaming sparkles. So, I would rather celebrate the cities regeneration with a recipe.

Sharpura Lake Bhopal

Regeneration comes in contradictions of two cities in one. The Old City, and the Shamla Hills filled with the sandstone hope of  the Bharat Bhavan gallery, the Tribal Museum, and so much more with heady hues, mustard skin tights, the flush of blushing red, and vivid fuscia pink.

The government admits to   deaths. Employees have claimed being forced to bulldoze bodies into mass grave. No one has ever been charged for the act of sabotage, the Bhopal.com   claims the Indian government knows the offenders identity.

When finallymade to pay up Dow Chemicals assessed each death as “48 cents a share”.

I wonder if the Dow disaster was to India was what the sinking of the Titanic was to Europe: a warning that technology alone can is not enough.

A hoped for saviour, many who worked near the plant had fled farm life when the Green revolution went horribly wrong. Supercrops flopped and cows impregnated with sperm of superbul’ls  bore deformity.  Indira Gandhi’s centralised  economy, modelled on Russia, had local bulls had been castrated to prevent  genetic impurity.

Big Brother turned Bhopal into its own 1984. Of urbanism turned parasitic.

Upper Lake Bhopal

There is good news as Bhopal is moves from the blindspot of trauma  Madhya Pradesh has many forests, and celebrates its  tiger reserves one immortalised in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Bhopal also has its growing  stench of  car exhaust: benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons  and the sulphur spluttering from poorly maintained engines, diesel trucks. And two stroke rickshaws.  And women used to cooking in small poorly ventilated enclosed rooms  ignore their irritated lungs  and forget the environment.

Perhaps modern  culture is a a scar – a supportive tissue that replaces the old, leaving evidence that the trauma exceeds the bodies capacity to integrate.

So to celebrate Bhopal’s regeneration from blame to vibrancy, lets celebrate with Bhopali food.

Bhopal Boy

Bhopali Fish with Green Seasonings

Bhopali Hare Mosale ki Macchli

Serves 4

700g thick cut white flesh fish (cod, halibut, haddock, scord or red snapper) or 800g fish “steaks with bone
salt
2 tbp/30 ml lemon juice
75g/c 1 ¼ cups  packed fresh coriander
6 fresh green chillies
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
175 ml plain yoghurt
Vegetable oil for deep or shallow frying

Cut the fish into pieces c 5 cm by 4 cm .

Layered out on a large plate, with ½ tsp salt and 1 tbsp/15ml lemon juice.
Turn over and repat the process on the other side.

Set it on a tiled plate for 2-3 hours, allowing liquid from the fish and lemon to to drain away.

Blend the coriander, green chillies, garlic, ¼ tsp salt and 30ml o water in a food processor to a paste.

Set out two deep bowls.

In one add the yoghurt paste. In the second bowl add and mix the yoghurt with ¼ tsp salt.

Heat the oil until very hot.

Dip 2 – 3 pieces of fish in the yoghurt mix and then the green paste before dropping them in the hot oil. Fry them for about 5 minutes turning over once. Removing with a slotted spoon.

It goes well with Bhopali Pilaf with peas and carrots, or Aubergrine with a yoghurt sauce. Or you could simply try boiled potatoes and a green salad.

aubergine with yoghurt sauce

Baigam ki Boorani

Serves 4

An aristocratic and festive Muslim dish that can be served with a whole leg of lamb, or  rice pilaf . The recipe is cooked in parts that are constructed just before serving.

450g eggpant
2 tbsp/30ml ground coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp / 7.5ml ground turmeric
9 cloves of garlic, crushed – separate  1 crushed garlic  and keep separate.
salt
c 135 ml vegetable oil

175g/2 medium onions, cut in half then sliced into very fine half rings.
250 m/1 cup plain yoghurt

Cut the eggplant crossways into thick rounds.
In a dish mix coriander seeds, turmeric, 8 of the 9 garlic cloves, with a ¼ tsp salt and 60ml/1/3 cu of water .
Line two dinner plates with absorbent paper.

Heat 6tbs / 6 tbsp oil over medium high heat. When hot pat onions and fry to dark brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to one of the paper lined plates.

Reduce the pan heat to medium. And place as many eggplant as can fit in a single layer. This will obsorb oil. When brown turn the eggplant over and dribble in the side of the pan  2 tbsp/30ml of oil.

Repeat until all the eggplant is cooked, adding oil each time  the eggplant is turned.

Then cook thee coriander seed mixture for c 2 minutes, frying the garlic properly and drying the paste. Ad 30 ml water stir once and remove from the heat.

In a bowl mix the yoghurt, the 1 crushed garlic, and ½ tspsalt.

When ready to serve, place the eggplant in a single layer  on a  large serving plate andspinkle with ¼ tsp salt, Spoon and spread the coriander mixture over each slice. Then cover each slice with large dollops of yoghurt.

Crumble the brown onions over the yoghurt and serve at room temperature.

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