Earthen Pots- The true organic pot for cooking Indian food. My new passion in cooking section is terracotta Pots. I have heard so much about ancient healthy and hygienic cooking in them that I finally got attracted to it and started trying my hands on it.
Thinking of these pots, take me back to those childhood days in Krishnanagar at my Grany’s place, where once in a while, we used to lit a fire outside the house and cook in those earthen handis. It used to be fun-filled cooking noontime, full of excitement with my Dadu and Dida. But that too was a rarity in my growing days.
My Dad has fond memories of his childhood days cooking in those earthen pots. I have heard these stories several times and every single time he narrates them with a sparkle in his eyes. In his growing days chicken was not a popular Hindu meat so was not allowed in the regular kitchen. Cooking Chicken in the household used to be a big deal and rarely it was allowed to be cooked at homes. My Dad describes how he along with the other siblings would gather together and the elder one would take the lead to cook chicken in the courtyard during a bright sunny winter morning. The custom was to destroy the pot every single time after cooking chicken as chicken was considered as untouchable meat and the pots used to cook them went back to the soil where it came from.
In 2018 we went for a vacation to Hartola in Uttarakhand and there we stayed in a home stay assisted by a local cook. First time I saw how easily Rajma can be boiled in those beautiful earthen pots and from there my inner desire kicked in for these earthen beauties. I started collecting few from local Banjara market and few from Surajkund Mela.
There are lot of benefits of cooking in earthen pots, primarily the taste. As these pots are porous they retain heat and moisture and ensure an even distribution of heat throughout the entire cooking process. The food cooked in these earthen pots are no doubt more aromatic, tasty and it retains the nutrition of the food and on top of that adds required minerals that include calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Isn’t it magic cooking?
This pandemic time gave me a lot of opportunities to explore new things, and one among them is cooking in these earthen pots. My best one is cooking Champaran Mutton (a speciality from Bihar) in terracotta handis. You can feel the spices in the tender meat which melts into your mouth. I also make Kerala fish curry in these pots. The spices enter in fish uniformly making it soft and tasty even more. Daal is a must-try in these pots, it will the best Daal which you have ever tasted. Stir-frying vegetables in a terracotta pan is also a tried and tested option.
In Olden days, Bengal’s Sara pithe a popular sweet dish of the Harvest festival (Poush Shankranti) used to be prepared in earthen pots. The misti doi & rosogolla in Bengal comes in clay pots and outside every offices and corner of the road, you can still see bharer cha (earthen cups) for tea. The simple rule is to drink it and crush it, no use of paper or plastic cups till date.
Having said all these, one thing for sure, these earthen beauties need lot of care and pampering. We cannot wash it in a similar way with other utensils. Washing tips I got from the Banjaras from whom I purchased the pots. Never use soap in these posts, porous body will absorb the soap water and might be injurious to health. I can’t put them in dishwasher too along with other dishes. After using the pots I just wash with hot water to remove the food particle, after that I boil water in the pot for 5 to 10 mins so that the oil and smell goes away and the pots become sterile. This has helped to keep them clean and odour free. These darlings are no wonder high maintenance babies which needs care during washing and also from mishandling. I call them the delicate darlings of my Kitchen and the most pampered ones, but trust me they are worth the pamper considering the tasty food they help me to serve.
No wonder that earthen pots have magic but honestly I don’t use it daily, though I am trying to introduce terracotta wares in my daily cooking and not just the fancy one
A quick recipe of my style of Kerala fish curry- A simple one.
- Wash king fish (Surmai) pieces, put salt and turmeric
- Original recipe don’t tell you to deep fry it but I do to get rid of its fishy smell. But one caution don’t over fry it, otherwise, it will become tough. A quick shallow fry will also do.
- Take an earthen pot , heat it with little oil- fry ginger pieces, whole garlic cloves, Onion cubes, red chillies, tomatoes, black pepper, curry leaves, whole jeera for 5 to 10 mins, switch off and let it cool down. Make a paste of it.
- Now in the same terracotta pot put oil, let it heat and then put curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds- once it splutters, put chopped onions and fry till its light brown.
- Add the paste made to it and keep frying in the same oil.
- Once cooked add coconut milk and pot the fish in the creamy gravy.
- Serve it with LOVE, along with Dosa or rice .