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Monday, September 30, 2019

Bengali Veg Chop / Vegetable Chop / Bhejetebil Chop

Today marks the last day of this mega marathon featuring 'Indian sweets and snacks' and day after tomorrow, I am going to post a round up of the dishes I posted this month. The last one in the series is a Bengali street food called vegetable chop or in colloquial terms, bhejetebil chop. It is a Bengali take on the cutlet recipe and the croquettes are oblong shaped. The vegetables used here are beets, carrot and potatoes. Some fry onions and add them as well. The prepared vegetable mixture is well seasoned with a local spice powder called bhaja masala, coated in a flour slurry and seasoned bread crumbs and then deep fried. The resulting chops are very delicious, crispy from outside and soft from inside. The chops are served along with ketchup and onion- cucumber salad but they go good with any spicy chutney. 

I am not into deep frying honestly speaking and as my husband points out I deep fry something only when the blog recipe demands but not upon his requests, which happens to be a fact. My both kids are not at all tempted and don't touch deep fried foods, especially the vadas / bahjias kind of stuff and my mother keeps telling me that it's all my doing. I tell her that it's a blessing in disguise. 😉 And so, I kept postponing this recipe until last month only ending up trying it twice because I was not very happy with the recipe and also the pictures I took. 

I followed Sandeepa's recipe for these chops. The first time I followed the method of boiling and grating vegetables and then cooking to dry up any moisture present. I felt the mixture was on a softer side at that time though on hindsight I realize it was perfect and I did not do two things which would have given me the perfect chops. She mentioned adding some bread crumbs / flour if the mixture appeared to be in need of binding. I did not do it. The second thing was I did not coat the rolls generously with bread crumbs which made some of the rolls to fall apart while deep frying. I shallow fried the remaining chops that time. The second time I chose to grate carrots and beets and saute in a pan, without any water added. I cooked the potatoes separately and dried them thoroughly. The resulting mixture I made for rolls was on a drier side and made perfect rolls. I choose to deep fry the first time going the authentic way but the second time I chose to opt for shallow frying. I coated with seasoned bread crumbs lightly since I was shallow frying but coat generously if deep frying. My husband suggested to try air frying them since everything in the rolls except the slurry was cooked so that I can avoid the hassle of frying. I wasn't sure and went ahead with shallow frying. Also here is an important tip to note. Taste the mixture used to prepare chops before hand and keep it on a spicier side since the vegetables used here are naturally sweet. Otherwise the chops end up being sweeter and one may not enjoy if expecting some chatpata cutlets.

Ingredients for bhaja masala:
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
6 cloves
12 peppercorns
3 green cardamom
1/2 inch cinnamon piece
2 or 3 dried red chillies
1 tiny bay leaf

Ingredients for the rolls:
2 big sized carrots
2 medium sized beetroot
2 big sized potatoes
2 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2 to 4 finely minced green chillies (Adjust the quantity as needed.)
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
1/4 cup toasted, skinned and halved peanuts
1 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
Bread crumbs / all purpose flour (optional)
Oil for frying

Ingredients for the slurry:
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup water or more
Step 1 - Directions for preparing bhaja masala:
* Saute the spices individually on low flame without burning. One can make bhaja masala just with cumin seeds and red chillies.
* Let them cool and then grind them together finely.

Step 2 - Directions for preparing the mixture for chops:
The vegetables used are beetroot, carrot and potato. Either you can boil them and then grate / mash them. Or grate and cook beets and carrots while boiling and mashing the potatoes separately. I have tried both the methods and thought the second method makes the veggie mixture firmer compared to the first method. If one is trying these chops for the first time, then I recommend to grate and cook the vegetables. Or if following the first method, drain the cooked vegetables thoroughly and use some binding if needed.

Method 1:
* Peel and pressure cook the vegetables (without chopping) adding enough water for one / two whistles. When the valve pressure is gone, remove the lid and drain the vegetables.
* Mash potatoes. Grate beets and also carrot if you can or mash the latter. The vegetables don't need to be finely mashed. It is ok if they are grainy.
* Heat a tsp. of oil and add ginger, green chillies, prepared vegetables, 1 heaped tbsp. of bhaja masala, salt, chili powder. Saute them together until the excess water dries up and the mixture comes together. Add the roasted peanuts and coriander and mix. If needed 2 tbsp. of bread crumbs or all purpose flour can be added for binding. (My mixture still was loose and I did not notice the tip of adding flour or crumbs to bind which is crucial, I guess. Also I sauteed just the vegetables and added other ingredients just to combine.)

Method 2: (I halved the recipe the second time.) 
* Peel, chop and boil potatoes in a microwave or on stove-top and drain completely. Mash and keep it aside.
* Peel and grate beets, carrots and ginger. Chop the green chillies finely.
* Heat oil in a pan and add green chillies and ginger. Saute them for about 30 seconds and add the grated carrot and beets. 
* Cover and cook on low medium flame until the vegetables are done.
* Add bhaja masala, salt, chili powder to the pan and mix. Turn off the stove and add peanuts, and coriander leaves. Taste and add chili powder more if needed. Keep the mixture spicier since the carrots and beets are on the sweet side. 
Step 3 -  Directions for shaping and coating the chops:
* Mix all the ingredients well to combine and shape them into the traditional oblong shapes or as discs. (These rolls were from the first time and the second time, they were very firm. )
* Sieve chickpea flour and make a lump-free slurry adding water. All purpose flour / cornstarch can be added instead of chickpea flour.
* Take a roll gently and dip it in the chickpea flour slurry coating it's entire surface.
* Gently lift the roll and let any extra liquid coating it drip into the flour slurry bowl. Immediately roll in seasoned bread crumbs. Repeat the steps of dipping the roll in slurry and coating them in bread crumbs with all the vegetable rolls. If deep frying, coat them with bread crumbs a little more than my rolls shown below. I have coated them lightly. Refrigerate them for about an hour. The rolls at this step can be refrigerated for 3 - 4 days and can be fried later when needed. Or can even be frozen for a longer period of time given that they are thawed before frying them. (These rolls were made following the second method where beets and carrots were grated and then cooked. The rolls were easy to shape and they held the shape even after dipping in slurry.) 
* I coated a batch of rolls in semolina since the bread crumbs were garlic flavored which I don't prefer. (These rolls were made the first time, from boiled and then grated vegetables. They held the shape but after dipping them in slurry, I had to reshape a few rolls and were not perfect looking.)
Step 4 - Frying the chops:
* Heat oil in a frying pan without bringing it to smoking point. The quantity of oil depends upon whether one is deep frying or shallow frying the rolls. When the oil is hot, add the prepared rolls to the pan. 
* Keep rotating and fry them to golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon, draining as much oil as possible. Transfer them to a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat the frying step with the remaining rolls. Serve them immediately sprinkling some chaat masala and ketchup / spicy chutney.

So far my recipes in the series of 'Indian Snacks and Sweets' are below.

First week - Indian Traditional Sweets
Malaadu / Hurigadale Unde
Dry Gulab Jamun
Coconut Burfi / Kobbari Mithai
Almond Halwa / Badam Halwa
Elaneer Payasam
Godhuma Sojjappalu

Second week - Snacks from Gujarat, India
Damni Dhokla
Doodhi Muthia / Lauki Muthia
Dal Pandoli
Methi Khakhra
Pressure Cooker Khandvi

Jhal Muri
Jowar Kothimbir Vadi
Kalmi Vada
Ooty Varkey
Dahi Gujiya

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#104
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Click here to enter

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Dahi Gujiya

Today's recipe 'Dahi Gujiya' comes from the state of Uttar Pradesh. These dahi gujiyas are a treat where literally melt in mouth vadas stuffed with raisins and cashews are served in a spicy yogurt base. The recipe is a variant of another popular north Indian snack dahi bhalle and shaped in the form of a gujiya, a dessert popular in the region. Both use deep fried vadas made with a ground batter of urad dal / skinned black gram that are then soaked in a yogurt base and flavored with spice powders and chutneys. The vadas in case of dahi bhalle are shaped round and fried directly whereas in case of dahi gujiyas, the vadas are stuffed and shaped as half moons. The outer shell in these gujiyas is not the dough made using all purpose flour as in sweet versions which is easy to roll but the urad dal batter which is a little tricky to shape. I kept postponing trying this recipe until last week thinking that it would be a hard one to nail. It was quite easy shaping them in my hands instead of using cloth / sheet  and the gujiyas were done in no time. I made a dozen dahi gujiyas and used the rest of the batter to prepare Andhra style perugu vadalu as my husband is a fan of those.

A filling of raisins, cashews, ginger, pepper / chillies and chironjis are used. Shredded fresh coconut would also be a flavorful addition. Use a tiny quantity of filling to each gujiya and don't go overboard with the filling. A moist cloth stretched and tied over a wide cup or a plastic sheet can be used to shape the gujiyas. Remember to keep your hands and the work surface moist all the while shaping gujiyas. Don't go on greasing the work surfaces with oil as it doesn't work. If one has hard time transferring the shaped gujiyas from the sheet / cloth.  shape them on your moist hands instead as I have shown below. They will come off easily without sticking to hands given that hands are moist. Remember to wet your hands with water each time you work with a gujiya.

Ingredients for the outer layer:
1 cup urad dal
Salt to taste
Ingredients for stuffing:
Chopped cashews
Grated ginger
Freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh, shredded coconut (optional)
Chironji (optional)
Ingredients for soaking water:
6 cups water
1/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
1/2 tsp. salt
Ingredients for dahi gujiya:
Salt / Black salt to taste
Green chutney
Sweet chutney
Cumin powder
Chili powder
Chaat masala 

Prep work:
* Rinse and soak urad dal for about 3 hours. Drain the water completely and grind the soaked dal finely, without adding any water. The heavy duty Indian style grinder works best for this. At the most add a tbsp. of water if needed. It is essential that the batter is quite thick since the outer covering for the gujiya is made using this batter.
 * Add salt and beat the batter for about 5 minutes or so using a spoon or hand, to make it fluffy.
 * Keep the stuffing that is going to be used for the gujiyas ready.
* Keep ready a bowl of water with a pinch of asafoetida and 1/2  tsp. salt added.
* Whip yogurt and keep refrigerated. Add salt and also a pinch of sugar if needed. (Yogurt made with full fat milk is traditionally used but I used homemade fat-free variety.)

* Heat oil in a medium sized wok / frying pan on medium heat. Drop a pinch of batter into the hot oil. If it immediately swims to the surface then the oil is hot enough to fry. If it sinks to the bottom then oil needs some more heating. Don't bring the oil to a smoking point.
* Wet a plastic sheet and your hands. Place a lemon sized ball at the center.

*  Pat it with fingers into a thin circle of about 3 inches diameter. 

* Place 1/2 to 1 tsp. filling on one half of the circle, taking care to leave the edges free for sealing. (Don't go stuffing too much as we do in case of sweet gujiya versions.) 

* Gently lift the plastic sheet to cover the other half over the filled side. Pull away the plastic sheet and seal the edges carefully tapping with the moist fingers. Gently transfer into hand and drop it into hot oil. Instead of a moist plastic sheet, a moist cloth can be used to shape the gujiyas.
Alternatively, the gujiyas can be shaped on a hand which I found to be a foolproof method. Follow this method if you have difficulty transferring the shaped gujiya to hand from the sheet / cloth. Pinch a big lemon sized portion from the ground mixture and place it on your left hand. Pat it into a round disc using right hand fingers. Don't make it too thick or thin. Add the stuffing onto one half of the circle, keeping the edges free. Fold the other half over it, matching the edges. Carefully seal the edges, patting with moist fingers.
* Carefully drop the shaped gujiya into the hot oil. In the same manner, go on shaping and dropping the gujiyas in hot oil one by one. Add as many gujiyas as the pan can accommodate. Fry them on low medium heat, flipping them intermittently until golden brown. The batter needs to thoroughly cook and so don't go on frying on high heat setting.
* Remove the fried gujiyas with a slotted spoon, draining as much oil as possible and drop them into the salted water bowl.  Use the remaining batter and prepare gujiyas this way.
* Add all the fried gujiyas to the water and let them soak for about 15 minutes.
* Gently squeeze the water from the gujiyas by pressing each one between your palms. Drop them into the prepared yogurt. The gujiyas must be well immersed in the yogurt. This can be left in the refrigerator until the time of serving. They stay good for few days.

* When ready to serve, transfer a couple of gujiyas along with the yogurt to each serving bowl. 

* Add green and sweet chutneys over the gujiyas and yogurt in each bowl.

* Sprinkle the spice powders of your choice and enjoy immediately.

So far my recipes in the series of 'Indian Snacks and Sweets' are below.

First week - Indian Traditional Sweets
Malaadu / Hurigadale Unde
Dry Gulab Jamun
Coconut Burfi / Kobbari Mithai
Almond Halwa / Badam Halwa
Elaneer Payasam
Godhuma Sojjappalu

Second week - Snacks from Gujarat, India
Damni Dhokla
Doodhi Muthia / Lauki Muthia
Dal Pandoli
Methi Khakhra
Pressure Cooker Khandvi

Jhal Muri
Jowar Kothimbir Vadi
Kalmi Vada
Ooty Varkey

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#104.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ooty Varkey

Today we are travelling to Ooty, a hill station in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu for a baked delicacy called varkey. It is a rustic shaped, flaky, baked biscuit which is quite popular in the region. I have been to the place but don't recall even seeing them. My brother in law used to work as the director of 'Pasteur Institute of India' in Coonoor. The institute and their bungalow with an enviable garden used to be right in front of Sim's park. They have lived in the area for about a decade and half and I need to check with them later about these and to see if my sister in law knows the recipe by any chance. 

There were not much authentic recipes online for us marathoners to try. Thanks to Gayathri, who came up with this perfect recipe after a couple of trials, I got to try and enjoy this utterly delicious biscuit from the comforts of my home. The Urdu word 'varq' means layer and the word 'varkey' probably is an allusion to the cookie's texture. This crispy, rich tasting biscuit is said to be originated in Nilgiris during the British era and the local makers of varkey are trying for a geographic location tag. According to the GI application submitted by the 'Ooty Varkey Producer's Association', these biscuits were invented in Ootacamund aka Ooty when it used to be the Summer capital of Madras presidency. Confectioners in the area employed several local and migrant laborers from Kerala to churn out large number of baked snacks to suit the tastes of British officials stationed there.

According to a 'Times Of India article', The Ooty varkey is said to be a local adaptation of the French puff pastry, which incorporates fat into the dough in stages. Varkey makers use homemade leavening agent called maavai which is basically the starter from the previous day's batch. This maavai is made from all purpose flour, semolina, sugar and banana. It is added to a bigger batch of flour, sugar and salt which forms the final dough for the fresh batch. They also set it for overnight fermenting according to Gayathri. Others in the plains use yeast in varkey production. No animal fat is used in the production of varkey. 

The local varkey producers believe that the varkey turn out better only when the dough is kneaded by hand and baked in brick ovens with wood fire. Cooking these can take about 12 hours since the local weather is cold. They think that 25 deg C is the right temperature to make varkey and so the local summer weather suits best for the purpose. It seems to be also the reason why varkey's sales are more in summer than the cooler months in this hill station area.
The shapes of varky can vary. One can pinch portions out of strips into balls and bake. Or shape them into neat squares or rectangles  which look like puff pastry when baked. The original version however is the one which looks like the bakers were in a hurry to even shape them. It is a rustic version where the strips are roughly shaped into a round lump and randomly pressed on top once with finger tips. They can also be fried instead of baking if one opts to do so but they are traditionally baked since the dish originated in the bakeries. They can be enjoyed along with tea or coffee. Or they are soaked in hot milk for about 10 minutes and eaten as a cereal.

Our local temperature was around 16 degree C when I prepared the dough last week and it went up to around 21 degree C by mid afternoon. I left out the dough at room temperature for about 8 hours but there was no way for my dough to rise as there was no leavening agent. Also the rectangle I made out of dough was no where perfect and the varkey shape may not have turned out as the authentic ones. However the cookies still turned out super good texture and tastewise. They were utterly crispy, somewhat crumbly and I could feel the buttery richness though butter is not part of the recipe. They have a very faint sweetness which made even my husband to enjoy them. I made a small batch thinking that there would be only me eating these but I regretted it after putting one in my mouth. I did not brown them much since they were done even before I removed them from the oven.

(I halved the original recipe and had to use less than 3 tbsp. oil.)
Ingredients for the cookie dough: (Yield 12)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. oil
Water as needed (I needed about 2 or 2.5 tbsp. water)
Ingredients for the paste:
All purpose flour as needed
Oil as needed (I used about 2 tbsp in total.)

* Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl.
* Combine them to a crumbly mix.

* Add water only as much needed to form a soft, pliable dough. Let it sit for a couple of hours. Or the dough can be let to sit at room temperature overnight. (I left it at room temperature for about eight hours.)

* Generously oil the work surface that is going to be used. This is important when you need to lift the dough to fold. If not greased well, the dough is going to stick to the work surface. I used a 1 by 1 foot granite slab to work. 

* Place the dough ball at the center and roll it into a thin rectangle, which should be transparent enough to see through.

* Pour 1 to 1.5 tbsp of flour and 1.5 tbsp. oil over the rolled out rectangle and make a spreadable paste. 

* Add extra flour and oil if the paste is not sufficient enough to spread. Spread the paste evenly all over the rectangle. 

* Starting from one of the longest side, lift 1/3 of the rolled portion and fold. 

* Similarly fold one more time from the opposite direction.

* Again pour oil and flour over it and make a spreadable paste.
 * Again spread and cover the entire surface with the paste. 
* Lift from one of the short sides and fold up to the center point. Then do the same from the opposite side. Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes.
* Preheat the oven to 355 degree F / 180 degree C.
* Roll the rectangle thinly and cut into 5 vertical strips.

* Pinch 2 portions from each strip (or more if the rectangle is big), roughly make into a round shape pinching at the top.

* Shape the rounds from all the strips.

* Arrange the rounds on a baking tray. Bake them until they turn brown, about 40 - 45 minutes. (Mine took less time.)

Jowar Kothimbir Vadi
Kalmi Vada

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#104.
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