May 17, 2011

Shirazi Mutton Fry

Committed meat sacrilege today! I am particularly averse to boneless mutton, I never cook with it. Mutton in our kitchen is mostly curried, I make chops very often and I sometimes buy a tiny little rib rack to pot roast and finish in the oven. However, if I had regular and affordable access to lamb (the real thing) then things would be different, I wouldn’t miss beef this much and I would cook pork as much, anyhow that’s one issue that’s not going to solve itself, so till today it had been years since I bought boneless mutton. I grew up eating a lot of Indian Muslim cuisine, mutton curries were cooked in their own fat, no cooking mediums were used. Yoghurt attributed a lot to the creamy texture of the curry and those are memories that influence a lot of my cooking now. Bones were essential for a rich gravy and of course, the tender, fall off the bone meat! But I had found this awesome Kerala beef fry recipe that I wanted to try with mutton so I prepped the whole deconstructed makeup of this dish and made it with mutton.

The only thing with me is that I like to cut the meat myself, so if you have a butcher you can talk to and explain things to, then by all means do! I tend to get frustrated so I asked for a chunk of boneless mutton and then I was on my own. Andy was nice enough to stand and get the prawns deveined because he knew I already had too much to do for this evening (I made his all time favourite prawn and okra curry). So when I started Andy’s pre b’day dinner, the first thing I did was the mutton slivers. For me the trick is to cut with the grain, you know, the way the lines of flesh are going, cut at the same angle, thin pieces, as equal as possible. I cut them ½ “ in length and little less than ½ “ thin. They seemed really small but it worked out.

½ kg boneless mutton, cut into strips

3 tbsp whipped yoghurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Deggi Mirch or Cayenne pepper if you have any
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garlic paste

1 large or 2 small onions thinly sliced
6-8 garlic cloves smashed
1” ginger piece smashed
1 tsp pepper powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chilli powder (depending on how hot you want this, you can chilli flakes of paprika)
10-15 curry leaves
Juice of 1 lemon or 1 tbsp tamarind paste
5 tbsp oil (keep one tbsp separate)

Marinate the mutton for around an hour or more if you can, keep it in the fridge and keep it covered. I usually mix the marinade with the meat by hand and kind of work it all in a bit. Heat 4 tbsp of the oil, fry the onions, garlic and ginger, till the onions turn light brown. Add the meat and the balance 1 tsbp oil and fry for 4-5 minutes on high, add the masala’s, the curry leaves, the lemon juice and salt. Fry on low fire for 3-4 minutes, once all the moisture is released, you will get a curry of sort, turn up the heat and fry on high to dry it off, let the meat lightly char, take of the heat and toss up and serve with Malabar parantha, Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice or Rasam and rice.

We all love the flavour of curry leaves, so I add it quite late in the whole process, if you like it like you taste it in the sambhar tempering, then add it with the onions.

May 8, 2011

Crazy About Snacks

The Shirazi family can out-eat anyone, not just in quantity but in variety too! Luckily both Andy and Ally are natural slim with a turbo charged metabolism, I on the other hand have to work hard at staying presentable! In all this mess, we still manage to have some pretty yummy snacks over the weekend. Anyone knows that a combination of cheese, flour, milk and deep fried is going to turn out fine but the challenge is how many variants/snacks you can think of with that very combination. We have plenty of family snack recipes that combine all the goodness of (or should I say badness?!) milk, eggs, flour, cheese, bread and oil ... and one of those is Cheesy Turnovers. I learnt these in school, I think in Home Science and even my mother started making them once I tried them at home. So this is a 20 year old recipe that we all still love!

Cheesy Turnovers

½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ cup grated cheese (we use a combination of parmesan and cheddar, but just cheddar is yum too!)
1 egg
1 tsp mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste
5 slices of bread cut into 4 = 20 pieces (this is a good time to use old bread, you can use any bread for this, even fortified ones like whole-wheat, baguettes etc.)
Oil for deep frying

Combine the flour, milk, egg, cheese and seasoning with a whisk, till smooth and mixed well. You can use more or less oil depending upon how the mixture comes together, this has to be a thick, sticky mixture, not runny at all, just slightly drippy. Put one tablespoon of the mix on each piece of bread and put batter side down into hot oil, check the heat of the oil by putting one drop of the cheese batter into the oil, it should sputter and rise to the top. The reason the batter shouldn’t be runny is because you have to put this in upside down/batter side down, since the oil is hot enough, it will cook the batter immediately and it will hold onto the piece of bread, so don’t worry. The key to good deep fried snacks is temperature of the oil, once you master that, you will always get consistently done and relatively dry snacks. Fry for 2 minutes, turn over and fry the bread side, remove when it begins to brown. Serve with ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, sweet/chilli sauce, chilli sauce, whatever condiment you prefer!

Not My Chinese

Like every proud Delhite I love Chinese food but over the last couple of years I am unusually put off by what restaurants now serve as ‘Chinese food’. Ya ya it’s always been Punjabi-Chinese but you know there was a time when even that was palatable and
I can’t afford to be pompous about it because I have never been to China. I prefer Chinese food in Mumbai, I have faint but delicious memories of Calcutta Chinese and some of the fine dining set ups in the Gulf do a killer job too... but here things are bad! In terms of authenticity, I am totally up for trying real, homemade Chinese food anytime, I love the taste of the sea and I need for both my cooked and uncooked seafood to taste of it. I love the crunch of flat beans, sesame, spinach, shiitake and I love the ferment-y flavour of all things Soy (well, tofu not so much, it reminds me of litmus paper, yes I have tasted litmus paper!).

I love pork and I am equally fond of fried, steamed and braised foods, so there! The most apparent thing about the food now is how pungent it has gotten, again I vividly recall even my mother complaining of how spicy Asian food was in India (she had at least travelled to the fast east!) but it is pretty serious now. We ate at our favourite restaurant, The Monk (part of a 3 Star Business Hotel & Spa), the lamb was exquisite but hot, the braised dry red chillies in my noodle bowl tasted a lot like Goan chillies and the pepper in Andy’s rice and lamb bowl was overpowering and made the back of his throat burn! Then we ate at an old favourite (it actually mildly disturbed us that this place was once a favourite!), Zen and yuck yuck yuck! Thick, starchy rice (and this was not an order for sticky rice), frozen prawns, obviously wrinkly bell peppers and full on ‘mirchi’!! And mind you these establishments are not serving only Sichuan...they are serving supposedly all 8 cuisine styles of China!

Now we have come to a point where we either go to a really nice place (waiting to try Oberoi’s Gurgaon once their specialty kitchens are operational because Leela is slipping, we are soooo sure we were served frozen jumbo prawns the last time we ate there, though the Westin is awesome!) or I cook Chinese food at home. I don’t know a lot about Chinese food but from the little I know, I know the entire nation of china doesn’t use as much cornflour as the city of Delhi does when cooking their cuisine!

I personally don’t use any, except maybe in soups. I also don’t use tofu and MSG for completely different reasons of course! This is my quick fix Chinese gravy, I make it with fried chicken/beef or pork pieces, I even make this gravy when I have leftover roasts or chops, just cut em up and stir fry in the gravy for 2-3 minutes and you’re good to go!

Gravy for 2

300 gms boneless pork, chicken, lamb or beef. Cut into strips, thin, 1” long ones.

Marinade: 1 tbsp teriyaki sauce, 1 tsbp soy sauce, 1 tsp chilli flakes, sea salt to taste, 1 egg and 2 tbsp cornlfour, 1 tsp pepper.
Oil to deep fry.

Mix up all the meat with the stuff above and leave for 10-15 minutes. Heat oil to deep fry, check readiness by dropping a piece into the oil, it should sputter and rise to the surface. Add a batch, that will cool off the oil so I suggest you don’t lower the heat and let the pieces get soggy. In time we all know our utensils, how our stove behaves and what size of batches we fry in one go, so no one can really tell you how to deep fry, wish I had done a video! Fry till brown, remove on absorbent paper and keep aside.

Gravy stuff: 1/2 cup sliced spring onions (use some of the greens), 1/2 cup sliced bell peppers (mix all three colours), 5 cloves of garlic (crushed), 1 tsp smashed ginger, ½ cup sliced mushrooms and 6-7 leaves of spinach.

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (I use a Thai one, you will have to try a couple before you settle in on what you and your family like)
1 tbsp honey
½ cup chicken stock (if you don’t have stock you can use warm water, season it with salt and pepper though, I feel it helps!)
1 tbsp cooking oil
½ tsp peanut oil

Heat both the cooking oil, add the garlic and ginger, stir fry on high. Add the spring onion and fry for 2-3 minutes on high. Add all the veggies, the sauces and the seasoning. Stir fry on high for 3-4 minutes, add the stock and check the seasoning, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Top off with peanut oil and if you like it spicier then sprinkle some chilli flakes. Put in the fried meat pieces at the end, just before you serve.