Friday, March 30, 2018

Scotch eggs

Scotch egg needs no introduction. A picnic fave with English origins, although it may have been inspired by the Mughlai dish - nargisi kofta.  A well made scotch egg is a perfectly soft boiled egg encased in sausage meat flavored with herbs, breaded and deep fried to a crisp golden perfection. The best part is cutting into that soft-boiled yolk - one of life's simple pleasures. Makes for a perfect and convenient picnic food and this year it is my Easter Egg recipe.

This dish requires just a few ingredients, eggs, meat and the breading stuff.
Soft yolk or?
Egg is the important part of the recipe and so is the debate of how much to cook the eggs. I love our scotch eggs a little soft in the center but if you prefer them more robust then use hard boiled eggs instead. Truth be told, soft center eggs are a little delicate to handle through the breading and frying process. Each time I make them I find myself holding my breath till the task is done. But the reward is quite gratifying.
The mince
The sausage meat requires no special flavors, just a dash of nutmeg with some herbs of your choice. Some recipes call for addition of garlic or other veggies, I personally don't think it makes much of a flavor boost. So I keep it simple.
Crispy coating
The breading process is super important for a crunchy output; and so I like to use the Panko bread crumbs. Don't skip any part of the breading process. This sequence is important since breadcrumbs won't stick without the egg wash, and egg wash won't stick without the flour dusting.
Fry or bake?
And finally, deep frying at medium hot temperature cooks the meat through properly without affecting the softness of the egg yolk. Some recipes call for baking, but I like them fried.

These crisp golden beauties taste awesome hot from the frying pan and we love them with vinegar onions on the side. So get breading and frying.

Ingredients: (Makes 5)
6 eggs
1 lb pork (or turkey) sausages with casings removed
Pinch nutmeg
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (my choice chives, parsley, and thyme)
Panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, to fry
  1. Boiling Eggs - In a deep pan bring some water to boil. Place egg in a spoon and gently lower it into the boiling water, so as not to crack it. Repeat for 4 more eggs. Meanwhile, keep ready a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes. 
  2. Boil eggs for 4½ minutes. I like my Scotch eggs a little runny in the middle, but if you prefer a hard-boiled center, boil the eggs for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, drain out the water and plunge the 5 boiled eggs in the prepared ice bath for a few minutes. This will stop any further cooking of the yolk and will also prevent them from turning grey. 
  3. Prepping the Meat - Mix together sausage meat, nutmeg, and herbs in a bowl and divide them into five portions.
  4. Carefully peel the eggs. Prepare an assembly line for breading the eggs. Put seasoned flour in the first bowl. Beat the remaining 1 raw egg in a second bowl with a splash of milk and tip the breadcrumbs into a third bowl. 
  5. Breading - Take one portion of the sausage meat and flatten it in your palm. Place a peeled boiled egg in the center and encase in the meat by smoothing it into an egg shape. Important to keep an even coating of sausage all around, and not too thick. 
  6. If doing this by hand is difficult for you, use the cling film trick. Place a square of clingfilm on the work surface, and oil lightly. Put one of the meatballs in the center, and put another square of oiled cling film on top. Roll out the meat until large enough to encase an egg and remove the top sheet of clingfilm. Place a boiled peeled egg in the center, bring up the sides of the film to encase it, and smooth it with your hands.
  7. Give each prepared egg a light dusting of flour, dip in the egg wash and then roll onto the breadcrumbs. This sequence is important since breadcrumbs won't stick without the egg wash, and egg wash won't stick without the flour dusting. 
  8. Frying - Fill a deep pan half with oil and heat to 340°F /170°C (till breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden when dropped). Fry the eggs for 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and serve hot with vinegar onions. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Raw Mango Chutney

No matter how long the Winter, Spring is sure to follow. And Spring brings with it, transformation. Cold to warmth, grey to color, dry branches to bursts of new leaves, beautiful flowers, and delicious fruits.
Thinking of spring, a vision of succulent, fresh, zingy mangoes pops up in my head. Mangoes are the golden glories of an Indian Spring. From Panna (a cooling summer drink) to mango kulfi (frozen mango dessert), chutney to curried fish, there are several local recipes that use mango as their star ingredient.
Kacha aamer chutney is a sweet and spicy, slightly zingy chutney from the Bengali kitchen and is often included in the lunch thali. A typical Bengali meal consists of 5-6 courses and includes all type of flavors, from bitter to sweet. This raw mango (aamer) chutney or chatni (literally meaning to lick)  is served as a palate cleanser just before serving dessert. It is eaten as a course of lunch/dinner to accent the meal and never used as a dip or relish. The tartness comes from raw mangoes and sweetness by adding jaggery or sugar. Addition of dry roasted cumin powder on top gives a beautiful smoky flavor.
Serve it with lunch/dinner, or spread on toast or dunk it with a bite of paratha. Or enjoy it like I do, all by itself.

Chutney is a versatile spread/condiment that is usually associated with Indian cuisine. Chutney could be sweet, spicy, tangy depending on its main ingredient and could be made of herbs, fruits, veggies, dry fruits or a combination of one or more of these. Most chutneys have similar ingredients, fruits or veggies, sugar, salt, spices and vinegar/acid and these all balance out to adds flavor to whatever it is served with.

Kacha Aamer Chutney (sweet and spicy raw mango chutney)
Ingredients: (yields about a cup)
1 raw mango
2 tsp oil
½ tsp panch phoron
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
1 dry red chili
½ tsp dry ginger powder (you can reduce the quantity as per your taste)
2 tsp lemon juice (more or less based on the acidity of the mango)
½ cup brown sugar (or jaggery)
½ tsp roasted cumin seed powder
  1. Peel the skin off the mango and slice it into small pieces. Add salt, red chili powder and toss to mix. Keep aside. 
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, break the whole red chili into a few pieces and add to the oil. Allow it to sizzle for a few seconds before adding the panch phoron. 
  3. Sizzle for a few more seconds. Now add the mango pieces followed by ginger powder and lemon juice. Stir well to mix it all. Simmer, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. 
  4. As it cooks the mango will release some water. Uncover and cook on medium flame till mango pulp is tender. 
  5. Now add sugar. If you are using jaggery, add a splash of water to help dissolve it. As the sugar/jaggery melts there will be an increase in the liquid content. Continue cooking at low heat and keep stirring to avoid burning. 
  6. Cook till mangoes are a little bit more than fork tender. As the chutney cools, it will thicken. So keep that in mind as you cook down the liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Sprinkle the roasted cumin powder on top and mix to combine. 
  7. When it cools completely, transfer the chutney to a glass jar and refrigerate. Keeps well for a couple of weeks.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tomato Chutney

Sweet and savory tangy and spicy - this tomato chutney comes from the Bengali kitchen. A perfect condiment to make when tomatoes are in abundance.
I like to use cranberries instead of raisins as I love their tanginess and beautiful hue. Feel free to use anything you like. To make the chutney spicy you can use dry red chili flakes instead of green chilies, gives a lovely smoky flavor.
Tomato chutney is almost always served with the main meal lunch or dinner. But it tastes just as awesome with papad in the beginning, or as a dip or spread on toast.

2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water 
A small piece of ginger
2 green chilies, chopped
1 tsp oil
¼ tsp panch phoron
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
  1. Heat oil in a pan and add panch phoron seeds. Let then crackle for a few seconds before adding tomatoes.
  2. Add all other ingredients except sugar and cook over medium heat. Stir for 2-3 minutes till tomatoes cook a bit and become soft and pulpy. If the concoction becomes too thick, add a small amount of water.
  3. Now add sugar and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes till thick and shiny. 
  4. Taste the salt and sugar and adjust them both as per your taste buds. 
  5. Enjoy.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Cheddar Garlic drop Biscuits

Birthday celebration dinner, relaxed chitchat, and shrimp cocktails. Clam chowders and a bread basket all covered with white linens at our table. It opens to reveal these delicious looking biscuits, hot and soft and buttery and all resolve breaks at the sight of these savory delicacies. We all loved them so much that I had to re-create these beauties at home.
A type of quick bread, these savory biscuits are easy and quick to make. Just scoop the batter onto a baking sheet and bake them till they are crispy and golden on the outside and soft inside. Cheese and herbs add a whole lot of flavor making then delicious and addicting. 

These beauties are very versatile and can be served at any time of day. 
  • The perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup or stew.
  • Awesome served with a main dish salad.
  • Delicious alongside your choice of eggs in the morning.
  • Fabulous for high tea with sandwiches and cake.  

Ingredients: (12-15)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
2/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheese
Fresh parsley (or chives, or thyme, or rosemary)
Brushing on top
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp paprika
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and soda, garlic powder, herbs, salt, and sugar. 
  3. In another bowl melt the butter and cool it slightly. Add buttermilk and stir until butter forms small clumps. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just incorporated. 
  4. Using a greased ¼ cup measuring scoop, drop a level amount of batter onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with paprika. Brush with melted butter.
  5. Bake until top is golden brown and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Serve hot with soup or stew.