Saturday, February 20, 2016

Beef samosas with green chutney

It's getting warmer here. The brief but brittling desert cold gives way to That Season, which seems to drop in with the blink of an eye, very dry eye, and won't leave even when the rest of the world thinks its time.  So, we enjoy interim, a confused weather, howling wind gusts, overcast days paired sometimes with rain, chilly floors in the morning and warm hot windowpanes by sunset. Though, really it is not a choice, I'm grateful for anything that will cool the earth and my newly sprouted flower blooms before the Lords of Inferno and Scorch arrive.

Not that I'm fond of rain or gloom, but it's nice when your house doesn't always feel like you're living inside the sun. Somehow it has my befuddled brain think a wee bit clearly and gives me chances to do things I otherwise would be too tired to do. Look out the window. Attempt to hide file tons of kids' "savable" schoolwork. Fold laundry. Dust. And make piping hot cups of tea, the kind that scald tastebuds and nerves in two seconds flat.

Climate confused days can bring light to a wandering mind as well, one that can't sit still and seeks answers, to life, well-being and what can we snack on with tea(?). I know, I know, it will be my forever rant, a justified motto, albeit. Why, after perusing the 129(with this 130) recipes that plug the archives and several million more that clog my head, don't you see there will never really be a situation that food can't be an answer to, at least slightly so?  

So it appeared, right in front of me, one of my favorite topics. With a cup of tea. Or not. On a rainy day. Or not

Therein, my next keynote address comes about by just observing the weather. Lovely, right?

While you in a no way require a weather forecast to make these unassumingly beautiful things, you cannot ignore the fact that the subject at hand possesses a certain comfortfood disposition. Almost mac'n"cheese-ish. Almost. It's a comfort gilded with flavors that come from spoons of spice and lots of things nice.

What then are these golden triangles looming over your screen? Snack? Perfectly so. Appetizer. Yes, of course. Entree. Why not? Amuse-guele? Fancy that! It's yes to all and so familiar to my Indian soul and globally wellworn palate. Moreover. I believe it is the better alternative to the cheeseburger you were dying to have tonight. 

Samosas are flour pastries that usually surround and seal a well seasoned filling. Something like a savory hand pie, with cooked stuffing comprising various vegetables, meats, shrimp, even pasta. Possible brilliant samosa fillings could be just about anything your heart desires. Chicken, egg or both? Shredded lamb and sesame seeds? Yes, yes, you can, go at in every conceivable way.

The one point in rendering these a regularly doable affair (and epic), is key hereon to my samosa making 101: buy quality egg roll wrappers in lieu of stretching and pulling at large amounts of dough that you'd normally need in the outer pastry. Because really don't you have enough to do? The twenty odd wraps will save you a day, and unless you love to roll out dough to wafer thin perfection, (which perhaps could be your stress release, then I cheer you forward) I strongly think you should, for this project, favor the store-bought.

It's the beef we, here, obsess over, a padding sufficiently swaddled in flavor attributes typical to an Indian samosa. I believe I've shown you several manifestations of similar glory. A basic triumvirate of onions, garlic and ginger with enough spoons/ dashes of electric ingredients culminate into one spectacular bed of mince beef. In the end you will have the whole family pushing through to have one spoon of Indian speckled hamburger meat.

I don't really enjoy multistep tasks, especially when it calls for superstar skill in culinary origami as a pererequisite . Taking pictures while twisting dough requires acrobat ability. Something I don't gracefully possess. But I house some younger labor who does.

It's when you call in the teenager who "really needs to get her license so she can drive to the grocery and get those wrappers for you".  Do you bribe her? No, because she's the same teen that deems it privilege to mass fold- tuck several batches of samosas(thank you Youtube!) so well, we believe her to be The Grand Pastry Stylist, even if it's just for this one job. She's done more than a hundred hours of samosa structuring and never once have they been of shoddy build. Because she loves these conical packets of season and spice just as much as anyone else. It's not too difficult for me as mother to enjoy the show, as she makes about like a frenzied factory worker. No coercion, really, just pat hints of how close that DMV visit might very well be.

A right temperature in oil guarantees tender packets form a flaky crisp, light crust. The riot of flavors beef samosa envelopes sits plush against the skin-like cover, crumbling obligingly on each and every bite.

To leave out the the chutney dip would be heretical, because this pairing is what makes the whole ordeal truly outstanding. The condiment of all condiments is a perfect green, pepped with enough mint and cilantro, and freshened with juice of lemons, tart, sweet and perfectly proportioned to make samosa consumption all the more entertaining.

Here it is then; the instructions, illustrations and notes that will bid you no wrong. 

Take it and run,  might just be the best possible thing you've encountered, any side of the web.
  • 2 tbsp oil and an additional 2 cups for frying
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 serranos chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • salt
  • ½ cup frozen peas or a mix of chopped frozen vegetables(carrots/peas/beans)
  •  1 lb packet  egg roll wrappers( I use these)
  • water
  • 2 cups oil, or enough needed to fry
  • In large pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil, add onions, chopped peppers, ginger, garlic and saute till softened.
  • Add spices from cayenne to cumin. Stir for a minute, then add beef.
  • Brown beef over medium heat. Add salt.
  • Stir in frozen peas and/or vegetables. Allow to thaw and cook slightly, a minute or two. Take off heat.
  • Take egg roll wrappers and cut each sheet into two even rectangles (pictures below will help).
  • Have a bowl of water ready.
  • Fold over each end to form a triangle. Brush ends of these folds, (that meet down the middle) with water. Seal.
  • Open shape up like a cone, as shown in picture below, and place one level tablespoon of beef filling in center of the cone. Fold over the top and seal with water. Make sure to seal all edges tightly. Keep aside and repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
  • Heat dutch oven with oil for frying.
  • Fry over a medium heat all the assembled samosas two to three at a time, turning over once to brown sides evenly. Drain on paper towels.
  • Serve warm with green chutney
The envelope like folding that creates a dimensioned cone shape for easy filling.
Golden brown beauties straight from the oil bath.
The king of all after school snacks in this clan. Between th samosa maker and her brother who can eat through a several dozen batch. 
Size can be can be doubled for dinner portions, served with a side of salad or rice. Perfect anyway, on a plate, off a plate, in your hands, between your cheeks. 
Beautiful ingredients make for beautiful chutney

Green Chutney~
  •  1 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 2-3 sprigs mint, chopped. 
  • 1-2 serranos or jalapeƱos. 
  • 1/2 tsp chopped ginger. 
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice.
  • good pinch of sugar. 
  • Salt to taste
  • Blend till silky paste forms. 
  • Serve alongside samosas.
This may also be used many places that elicit a condiment.
Bulk making is favored as you can freeze them between parchment in glass containers. Take out and fry when needed.
"When you had that first camera you took terrible pictures. You bought a new one and even after for a long while, the pictures looked bad. You kept on working with it, until you got better and better and now your pictures are really good. So, Amma, it's not the camera or any new one you intend to buy. It's the skill, the skill, Amma and the perseverance you have that made the shots keep getting good. Keep on doing just that with what you have- and God will honor it, remember(?)." 
Wise words of an almost-there 12 year old when his mom wondered out loud if a brand new camera would help take nicer pictures."
It's things like this that make my day. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kerala Parotta

There are moments, bell ringing loud, when my mind tells me to aspire beyond, and I mean way, way beyond that which it can sanely behold. Does it happen to you? Then you know the waning gap between your dreams and reality, a hope above and besides anything you really can hope for and how impossible it may so be. Trying to run a mile in 6 minutes, when best record set thus far is double and a half the time. Wearing 6 inch heels when your seriously strained disc prolapse refuses to. Punching words into a blog you believe will soar, but is often left to fend for itself. Wanting to deconstruct and recreate nth number of times an utterly failed recipe. Why do I go where I don't need to? Or do I? Is there an answer? Even in many disparaged moments, I believe in nonsensical pursuit, the one that has my 5"2" frame want to jump like LeBron, filter some great expectations, both mind and faith pushing through, gearing, my not so ambitious body into an always forward view.

Getting to point; even if you dare fail once, twice, hundred and two times over, it cannot, will not be the end and my next few paragraphs and these glimpses of my life shall prove to reiterate that point.

But before I forget, this goes to the houseguest who, once-upon-a, bullied me into taking today's theme to task, my first, when I probably was more a novice at kitchen work than I agreed to admit. The experiment failed to utter chaos, a whole day's disastrous mess, jokes at the expense, and left sulking moi to never ever forget That Day

Thus, the memory doesn't fare well, but the pursuit did not end. I was fixated on mastering this thing called parotta. Then and again, within newly occupied kitchens, fiddling with alternate ingredients, pro tips/tricks, even wearing a new shirt. Because we all need wardrobe updates when we're trying to nail a dish, right?

Finally, we arrive, to this post and megapixelled screen, due to perhaps, circumstances(when your specialty grocers sell out of freezer megapacks too fast), few hundred hours spent in relentlessly trolling the web, new and improved mindset, or all three. Though, in great probability it could just be the Most Entertaining Chef on Youtube who showed me how fun it could be. Thus, our subject did pass test, immutably well, proof being in each of the ten times we had it for dinner, past few weeks alone. 

Parotta, Kerala parotta as its fittingly known, comes from the same place I do, great State of Kerala, God's own country, strip of India's beautiful southwest coast, and land displayed in many of my spotlightsThe region that gifts much to India's colorful culinary backdrop. I've given you a few peeks, in deep, dark beef fry, coconut-spice cloaked seafood, not-so-basic basic chicken curry, and yeasty champion breakfasts, these distinct plates are commonfare, not only in their local land, but mentionably so throughout the country's diversified streets. And much of the above, companions astoundingly well with a stack of cloudlike bread. Kerala's parotta is worthy of much and I intend to showcase that worthiness in the next less than hundred words.

For those of you who have no idea, knowledge or pronunciation skills for my task at hand, no worries; neither did I, advancing back twenty odd years ago, when close encounters with the finest, flakiest, unleveled flatbread became the most exciting thing in my life.  

Critical to understanding it's craveworthiness, we need to dive into those countless gossamerlike layers in it's delicious construction, a requirement that makes parotta a thing to pine for. Rounds of crisped brown outsides and pillowy depth are perfect for enveloping golden curries and thick gravies. This well structured fluff defies all odds and relies on almost a militarylike workflow. The methodical process involves much kneading (if you use hands), much rolling, much resting, much turning, much oiling and bits of twisting. A full on white flour gorgeous gluten formation becomes foolproof, assisted only with a right amount of water and generous spills/ smears of fat. In finality, it's these three magical components that you will ever truly need, not counting salt and sugar, those that might transform your status from home cook to Parotta Whisperer.

So, working through glitches and 10 a few trial-errors, this be the parotta-making sequence of infallible results, one you may actually enjoy, after powering through past season Abbey episodes during several of Grand Dough's interval rests. And sidenote, bouts of laughter are not uncommon on the expertise gained, while you secure through each level of  K. parotta's multistep process.

Over a decade and here it is, an end better than I could ever dream. So, do we then celebrate with another batch?

What's your dinner tonight?

Recipe adapted from Vahchef , Sanjay Thumma's Malabar Parotta
Method  adapted from ShowMeTheCurry, Kerala Parotta

  • 3 cups all purpose flour plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1-2 cups warm water
  • Set aside a substantial portion of counter space, work slab or large kneading board. clean it and spread oil over the top throughly.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the kneading attachment, sift flour, salt, sugar on lowest speed setting.
  • Add 2 tbsp oil and continue beating on low speed.
  • Add water at intervals, until dough forms but is still slightly sticky. You might not need to use the full amount.
  • Take speed to medium high and machineknead for about 3-5 minutes until dough becomes elastic. You should aim for a tacky dough instead of dry one , so if you need more water add by small spoonfuls until desired result is reached. Cover and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  • Take out of bowl. Turn dough out onto prepared, greased work area and knead a few times more until totally smooth and soft. Divide into 8-10 equal sized balls. Brush dough balls with oil generously. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes.
  • Take each piece out individually, leaving the remaining covered. Reapply oil onto work surface and roll ball into a stretchy thin rectangular shape, translucent enough to see through. You can use your hands to pull at ends. It should stretch to a membrane like sheet, about 12-15 inches in length.  Over this, apply oil generously using hands or brush.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour evenly over the top of your thinly formed sheet.
  • Gently, with two hands pick up one long end of dough sheet and pleat, using an in and out motion, fan-like, laying one pleat over another, until it becomes a long, layered, thin strip. It doesn't have to be perfect.
  • Starting from one end, pick up the pleated strip and coil the strip around itself in a spiral, with layers facing up, into a rosette shape. Tuck and secure the loose end under the coil(see pictures).  Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  • Brush these coiled rosette pieces with more oil and let rest, covered for 10 minutes. 
  • On medium-high flame, heat a large griddle.
  • On your workspace, apply more oil if needed and roll out each coiled rosette using rolling pin to a diameter of 6-7 inches, being careful not to flatten out the coiled layers.
  • Drop a tablepoon of oil into hot griddle and brown parottas on each side, heating through to cook thoroughly, flipping once over.
  • After browned and crisped, take off griddle and place on baking sheet.
  • Repeat with remaining parottas.
  • Use both hands and crumple each cooked parotta from all sides to have layers stand out.(kind of like a light clapping motion)
  • Serve with stir fry or curry.
Note~ If you don't feel the need for a stand mixer, the videos above are recipes and methods for hand kneaders.
Not serving parotta immediately? Keep  them stacked and wrapped in foil, until time of serving, then reheat on a baking tray/sheet in a 300°F oven for about 5-10 minutes.
These freeze amazingly well, for upto a month. Place rolled and formed parotta discs between strips of parchment in a freezer safe container and heat on oiled griddle when ready to use. No need to thaw :-)
A right mindset and foreknowledge of the workflow deems for success.
Pleated and turned into rosettes, layers are facing up and get ready to be pressed into shape. 
As you can see, my shaping and rolling skills won't exactly pass a test. But misshapen parottas taste just as good.
Ofter served with a dusky and spice endowed side, like the egg masala I have here. A pair of parotta stacked neat against chicken curry or marvelous beef fry can make for an epic meal. 
" You hear the prayer in it all. We all arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt, Our sins too much for us - but you get rid of them once and for all. Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest at home in your place! We expect our fill of good things in your house, your heavenly manse. All your salvation wonders are on display in your trophy room. Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riot - Far and wide they'll come to a stop, they'll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."  Psalm 65:2-8, The Message