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. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mawa gujiya

खिल उठे कचनार टेसू
फाग का हो राग घर -घर
हवा में हो रंग उड़ते
क्षितिज भीगे; हंसे अम्बर
रंग में त्यौहार भीगे
और मन भीगे सभी का प्रेम से;
सदभावना से-दूरियाँ मन की मिटाए
होली के पर्व की अनगिनत शुभकामनाये

A happy Holi to everyone celebrating the festival of colors. Holi is celebrated all across India in the month of March to bid winter adieu and to welcome spring with its vast array of colors. Fresh leaves and buds bloom, animals awaken and the earth seems to come to life again. Just like Spring, Holi signifies new beginnings. 

Mawa gujiya is a must make recipe for Holi. These are traditional Indian fried crisp pastry filled with sweet coconut and khoya (milk solids) filling. I have fond memories of my mom making gujiyas, samosas and crisp Sev for Holi. 

Gujiyas are made all over India with a variety of fillings. In UP, Bihar, Rajasthan (the northern states) we call it gujiya and filling is almost always khoya and coconut. Sometimes khoya is substituted by roasted semolina. Semolina filling makes for a lighter less calorie dense gujiya, more economical gujiya, and a vegan version of gujiya. In Maharashtra (to the south) we call it karanji and the filling is freshly grated coconut infused with cardamom, jaggery, and raisins (no khoya). In Bengal (to the east) they make lavang latika. Dough and filling are the same as gujiya, but these are folded like a parcel and secured by a clove (lavang) on top. After frying these dumplings are coated in sugar syrup to get a crusty crisp exterior.

If you are a novice to this dish then you will need a mould to shape the gujiya. Using a mould makes it really easy. Hand folding the edges is an art and with practice comes quite easily. Another hack to shaping them is to seal the edges using a dab of water or milk and press lightly with your finger. Using a fork, press the edges to crimp and seal well.

Ingredients: (Makes 25)
For the filling
Khoya/mawa/milk solids, buy from the store or make your own (recipe below)
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
10 green cardamoms, crushed fine
Powdered sugar to taste
Handful each almond and cashews, chopped fine
Palmful raisins
Mix everything in a bowl and keep aside, covered, ready for filling the gujiyas.

For homemade khoya/mawa
1½ cups of milk powder
 cup cream
  1. Mix the two ingredients together. Microwave for a minute. 
  2. Remove from heat and knead well with hand. 
  3. Microwave can vary, and you may need another 30 seconds. Do not overcook
  4. Knead again and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  5. Grate and it is ready to use.
For the pastry dough
2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp ghee (use oil for a vegan option)
Pinch salt
½ - ¾ cup of water
Oil for frying
  1. Sift the flour in a bowl. Add ghee and mix with your fingertips till fully incorporated. Mix in the water, a little at a time to form a soft dough.
  2. Adding ghee to the flour helps to get a crispy gujiya. Use oil instead, for a vegan option.
  3. Dust with little flour and knead for a minute. Cover and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. 
Prepare the gujiyas - traditional method
  1. Divide the dough into 25 equal portions. Keep them covered while you work on one.
  2. Flatten the dough ball and roll out on a lightly oiled surface to form a 4-inch circle. 
  3. Shape the gujiyas using a mould if using one. Otherwise, follow the steps below. 
  4. Place the circle on the pastry board, add a generous amount of the stuffing (about a tablespoonful) on one side. 
  5. Fold over to form a semi-circle, sealing the edges using a dab of water or milk. Press edges lightly with your finger. Using a fork, press the edges to crimp and seal well. Make sure the gujiyas are sealed well. If they open while frying, the sweet filling can leak out into the hot oil and spoil the entire batch. 
  6. Place the prepared gujiya on a plate and cover with a damp cloth while you make the rest of them.
  7. Heat oil in a deep pan to medium-low heat. Deep fry a few gujiyas at a time, turning a few times until they turn golden. Frying at medium-low ensures even cooking inside and out and also helps to get a crispy shell.  
  8. Fry in small batches to prevent overcrowding the pan. This is a slow process especially if you are making a large quantity, so be patient. 
  9. If the filling does leak out of one of the gujiyas, strain the oil to prevent it from sticking to other gujiyas. 
  10. As an alternative, you can also bake the gujiyas. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place all the prepared gujiyas over a lined baking tray. Brush with oil or ghee. Bake in the oven until crisp and lightly brown all over for around 15-20 minutes, turning it halfway. Let stand for 10 minutes before digging in.

Alternate - light shell baked gujiyas
To save time and make the Gujiyas a little less calorie dense here is an alternate light shell baked gujiyas. Use either phyllo pastry or spring roll wrappers for the crust and bake them instead of fry. Here is the light version of the recipe. The edges don't look as pretty but it tastes just as good.

Ingredients: (makes 8)
8 Spring roll wrappers
½ cup khoya (milk food) grated
¼ cup shredded coconut
1 tbsp each chopped almonds and cashew nuts
1 tbsp raisins
3-5 green cardamoms powdered
 - ½ cup powdered or fine sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. In a bowl mix all the ingredients for filling. divide into 8 portions. 
  3. Take several wrappers and trim them at the corners using a large round cookie cutter. 
  4. Take the trimmed spring roll wrapper, place one portion of filling on one side of the wrapper, fold it in half to form a semi-circle, sealing the edges using a dab of water. Brush with butter or ghee.
  5. Place on a greased or lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning it halfway, till crisp and light brown. 
  6. Let stand for 10 minutes before digging in.