Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vegetable Puffs

One of the reasons I do not see myself making Germany or any of its neighbouring countries as a place to settle down for good is the WINTER. Snow is fine, I can get along with it, the low temperatures, yeah, can live with that too. So what's it that gets me down...................................
it's the definite lack of colour.
And when you add never ending rain, grey skies and bare trees to the picture, it's a sure path to looking grumpy and feeling low. So rather than sit around and brood myself out, I have been spending time in the kitchen a wee bit more than intended. After the cooking, I must be also providing sheer entertainment to my german neighbours with my crazy antics during the photo shoot. Well, a girl's gotta keep herself busy even if it means looking crazy.

Coming back to these vegetable puffs, who would have ever thought that these could be made at home. My memories of the crispy crust with a soft filling of spiced onions, potatoes and peas goes back to the days when mum would thrust a few rupees in my hand and ask me to bring these home on our way back from school/college. On such days, we were a happy lot and couldn't wait to get back home and dig ourselves in. 

When a fellow expat and I were talking about the food we missed so badly, she surprised me by saying that there was puff pastry available and it was good too. The funny part about shopping in Germany is that you've got to know the german terms of your grocery list, else you can simply assume that ingredients are simply unavailable. Thanks to her, I've been preparing these vegetable puffs quite often, more so, whenever I am reminded of home.

Ingredients:
  • 2 sheets puff pastry(see notes)
For the filling( for 10-12 rectangular puffs):
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • a fistful of frozen or fresh peas
  • a medium sized onion sliced fine
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp bafath powder or red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsps oil

Method:
  1. Wash and boil potatoes with skin in sufficient water. Cool them, peel, mash well and keep aside.
  2. Slice the onion fine.
  3. In a handi/vessel heat the oil.
  4. When hot, add the mustard seeds.
  5. When they begin to splutter, add the onions and fry well.
  6. As the onions turn golden brown, add the chilli/bafath and turmeric powders.
  7. Mix well and continue to fry for a minute.
  8. Add the boiled and mashed potatoes along with the green peas.
  9. Mix well and continue to cook till the peas are cooked(5 to 7 minutes). Keep stirring and avoid the mixture from burning.
  10. Switch off and let the mix cool down.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  12. Line a baking try with parchment paper.
  13. Spread out the pastry sheet on a clean platform.
  14. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into equal shaped rectangles(see pic above).
  15. Place the potato filling in the centre of each rectangle. Do not overcrowd the base.
  16. Close or seal the potato filling with the folded flap and seal the edges well(See pic above).
  17. Place the puffs neatly in a line on the baking try. Do not keep too close to each other.
  18. Place the tray on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes or till they are golden brown in colour.
  19. Remove from oven, let cool(Do not burn your mouth as I did) and have them with a hot cuppa tea.


Notes:
  1. Puff Pastry is called BL√ĄTTERTEIG, available in Edeka, Kupsch, Lidl and Tegut. There are two kinds available, one in the frozen section and the other in the coolers(along with the butter, curd etc). The frozen pastry can be kept upto many months, where as the one in the coolers need to be used within a short period of time. Personally, I prefer the latter.
  2. Puff pastry comes in sheets or in different shapes too. It is left to your personal choice as to what you would like to get and how you would like to shape it.
  3. You can experiment with the filling. This is a simple recipe which my family likes. You can add minced meat, eggs, vegetables, different kinds of herbs and spices too. Experimentation is the key.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pork Vindaloo

Off lately, the family and I have been watching the BBC food series on our iPad. One of the presenters being Madhur Jaffrey, we love the way she weaves around different states of India, cooking up dishes relevant to the state in exotic locations. Like the Pork Vindaloo, a dish which the Goans prepare a lot. Influenced by the Portuguese settlements that arrived in the early 16th century in Goa, the name Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish "Carne de Vinha d'Alhos", which means a dish of meat(pork) with wine(vin) and garlic(alho). It was fascinating to watch Madhur cook in the famous ruins of the St. Augustine's monastery in Old Goa. She sufficiently inspired me to try the same in my german kitchen and the result being, we have a new found love.

When you do intend to prepare this, I suggest you to plan in advance as this recipe requires overnight marination. 

Ingredients:

  • 1250 grams pork, cleaned, washed and cut into big cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsps brown/malt vinegar
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 large onions sliced
  • 2 medium chopped tomatoes
  • 3 slit green chillies
  • 3 tbsps oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup water
For the MARINADE:
TO POWDER:
  • 12 long dry red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3" cinnamon stick
  • 12 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp pepper corns
  • 6 cardamoms
TO GRIND TO A PASTE:
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 2" piece ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 tbsps vinegar

Method:


  1. Apply salt and 5 tbsps brown vinegar to the meat and keep aside for 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile grind the ingredients coarsely mentioned in TO POWDER.
  3. Grind the ingredients to a paste mentioned in TO GRIND TO A PASTE.
  4. Mix the powdered spices and the ground paste together to form a thick dry paste.
  5. Apply half of the above paste to the marinated meat and refrigerate it overnight. Refrigerate the remaining paste too (Pic 1 and 2 above).
  6. On the following day, slice the onions, crush the garlic, chop the tomatoes and slit the green chillies.
  7. In a deep bottomed vessel heat the oil.
  8. When hot, drop in the crushed garlic and fry for a few seconds till you get an aroma.
  9. Add the sliced onions and fry till golden brown (Pic 3 above).
  10. Drop in the slit green chillies, chopped tomatoes, the remaining paste and sugar. Fry well for about 5 to 8 minutes on high heat. 
  11. Add the marinated meat and continue frying for another 5 minutes.
  12. Add a cup of water *(see note), bring to simmer and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat.
  13. Adjust salt to taste, remove from heat and garnish with slit green chillies.
  14. Pork Vindaloo can be had with rice or bread of your choice.

Notes:

  1. You can substitute brown with white vinegar.
  2. The water that has been used to clean the mixer of the ground paste can be kept aside and used in the preparation.
  3. Pork Vindaloo can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator. The longer you keep it, the better it tastes with each passing day. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mangalorean Cashew Macaroons

If you were to ask any Mangalorean to name one of their favourite childhood sweets, I am sure the majority of them would reply "Macaroon" pronounced more as "Mukroons"...:D
The sugary goodness coupled with the crunchy cashew nuts would simply melt in ones mouth. From what I recall, we always got these macaroons from a sweet meat shop called Taj Mahal which was located right at the city centre. So a trip to the city meant a definite pack of goodies. 
I remember them being quite expensive by the kilo and had simply assumed that they must have been laborious to prepare. Not to forget also the price of cashew nuts.

Moving to Germany saw me being introduced to the coconut macaroons. A christmas preparation in many households. Sadly, I never developed a liking to it.  While the germans like their macaroons to be golden brown and heavy with coconut, I wanted to retain the colour, look and texture of the original ones I remember eating from childhood. Today, I was inspired to experiment on making a small batch of them. So, here goes....

Ingredients:
  • 1 egg white at room temperature
  • 175 gm finely powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 75 gm unsalted cashew nuts
Method:
  1. Chop the cashew nuts coarsely.
  2. Preheat oven to 90C.
  3. Separate the egg white from the yellow. There should be no traces of any yolk at all.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg white till stiff. When you lift the whisk, the peaks should not drop or fall down.
  5. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time to the egg white and keep beating. Continue till all the sugar has been used.
  6. Beat in the cardamom powder.
  7. Gently fold in the chopped cashew nuts into the sugar egg mix.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Drop in spoonfuls( I used a tablespoon) of the macaroon mix. Use the same level of mix for each macaroon. I din't bother about the shape. I let them be irregular as it is. Use up all the mix(makes 12).
  9. Place the tray on the lower rack and bake them for 40 to 50 minutes until crisp *See note
  10. Remove the macaroons from the tray and let them cool.
  11. Store in air tight container.


Note:

  • When trying out a new recipe in your oven, I suggest you to know your oven well. Baking procedures and temperatures differ from oven to oven. I have a manual for mine which clearly states what rack should I place my tray in(lower, middle or higher), what temperatures should I use and how long should the baking process be for different recipes(cookies, cakes, pizzas, meringues). Based on this information and using my judgement, I proceed with the recipe.
  • If you like your macaroons to be slightly/golden brown you can raise the temp up a bit to 120C.