Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wrap Your Head Around Some Cabbage--Galumpkis Cabbage Rolls




Its cabbage again. Though I will not shred or dice it. I make stuffed cabbage, taking liberties with a Tyler Florence recipe. It has this wonderful comedic name- Galumpkis. The name rolls off my tongue so easily. I say it again and again, happily knowing we are in for a treat. The name is a mouthful and definitely is a mouthful of goodness when you bite into it. A delectible package of pork and breadcrumbs wrapped in cabbage leaves, bathed in a sweet and sour tomato sauce.

The first time I made Galumpkis, we has a field day telling everyone what we ate for dinner. The novelty soon wore off. Now it's stuffed cabbage in its generic form, though the dish is anything but that. It is versatile, savory, spicy and tender. Cabbage is not everyone's favorite. And yet it makes for a healthier wrap than filo pastry or a tortilla. This is one of those recipes that tastes far better than it sounds. Trust me...if it wasn't, Galumpkis would not have repeat performances at our table.


Galumpkis (Or My Amended Version of Cabbage Rolls)
Makes 12 rolls


Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 teaspoon Olive oil
2 cloves Garlic
1 28 oz. can crushed Tomatoes
2 teaspoons white Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Heat olive oil in deep saucepan.

Drop the garlic into the oil and let turn golden brown.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt. Be careful, the tomatoes do splatter.


Cover partially and simmer on a low flame for 10 minutes.

Take off the flame and let the sauce cool.


Pork stuffing for cabbage leaves

1 pound ground Pork
3/4 cup Sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
2 tablespoons Canola oil
1 Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 tablespoon Tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons Red wine
1 cup Sweet and Sour sauce (recipe above)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 head Savoy Cabbage


To make the stuffing, combine pork, bread cubes, egg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a bowl. Keep aside.


Peel and chop the onion into small dice.

Peel and chop the garlic finely.

Heat a saucepan on a medium flame and add canola oil.

Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

Mix in the tomato ketchup and stir well to incorporate.

Add the red wine and let it come to mild boil.

Stir in the cup of sweet and sour sauce and mix well. Take the saucepan off heat and cool.

When cool, add this mixture to the pork and mix well.

Boil a quart of water in a large pan.

Trim the outer leaves of cabbage. Try to keep the leaf in one piece as it is a base for the stuffing. I start by cutting the leaf at the base and then gently easing it off. You will need 12 to 14 leaves.

When the water comes to a boil, throw in a teaspoon of Kosher Salt.

Add the separated cabbage leaves in batches. This depends on the size of the pan. Three of four leaves should float unencumbered in the water for 5 to 7 minutes. Boil all the leaves in this fashion. Drain the leaves and pat dry.

Using a knife cut out the thick stem at the base of the leaf. This will make stuffing the leaf easier.


Lay a leaf on a flat surface.

Place 2 tablespoons of stuffing in the lower center of the leaf. Fold right side and then the left side. Bring the top flap over to make a small package. Keep on a tray seam side down. Use up all the stuffing and leaves the same way. You should get 12 to 14 rolls. Some look neat and the others a little sloppy. It won't matter as they will be covered with sauce.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ladle 2 to 3 spoonfuls of sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13 ovenproof dish.

Nestle the rolls side by side on sauce.

Cover with remaining sauce.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for an hour.

We have Galumpkis piping hot with some green salad.


Notes

Pork could be replaced by ground beef or turkey.

Taking the leaves off the cabbage is tricky. An easy way is to core the cabbage before you cut the leaves.

I did not have Savoy cabbage. Regular cabbage leaves are harder to remove. The above trick works well. Though Savoy cabbage with its bright green wrinkled texture, makes quite a lovely wrap.




Tomorrow's lunch is taken care off!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Steakhouse Titbits-- Filet Mignon Au Poivre






It's a steak and potato kind of day. Not comfort food but more contour food as meat and potatoes adhere to those body parts I don't need additions to. Steaks sit in my freezer along with beef stew, stroganoff and wagyu beef hash, fortuitously delivered by my brother. Let me tell you about this most generous, big-hearted, kind and caring brother I have. Samir Dhurandhar is much younger than me, though his colleagues have mistaken me for the younger sibling! It must've been the ambient lighting in his restaurant!! Being the youngest in the family, he has always been doted on, spoilt, and generally lavished on by my parents being the only son. For an Indian family a son is paramount, the scion to carry forward the family name. He started his kitchen adventures at the tender age of ten, making mashed potato sandwiches for tea time. They were awful, mouthfuls of cold rubber-like paste. My sister and I spoke complained loudly but Mum praised him to high heaven. That was encouragement enough and soon more palatable concoctions emerged from the kitchen. Culinary school was a logical choice. He honed his skills at The Culinary Institute of America and set off on the yellow brick road. For him Oz was in Dallas. He lives there now with his wonderful wife Lori and two beautiful kids Mia and Cole. They spoils us rotten when we visit.


Just before the storm hit us, he had sent my son steaks for his birthday. Sadly, they were lost to power failure and flood water. When we moved into our temporary digs, he sent us three humongous boxes of prepared food as it took a few weeks to get the gas connection going. He sends us flowers when we move back in. He sends us more steak. So I will grill tonight.


Filet Mignon au Poivre
Serves 4

4 8 oz Filet Mignons
2 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon unsalted Butter

Pat the steaks dry.

Liberally coat steaks with ground pepper and salt.


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a cast iron pan on a high flame.

When it is hot add the teaspoon of butter.

Place the steaks in the pan.


Let the steaks sear on all sides. This should take 5 to 7 minutes.


Place pan in the oven and let them cook uncovered for 8 minutes. At this point they will be medium rare. If you would like them medium, cook then for 10 minutes. I hate to say it but well done is not a good option, but if that is what you crave, then cook then for 12 to 15 minutes.

Take them out of the oven and tent with foil. Let steaks sit for 5 minutes.

Dot steaks with Truffle Butter (recipe below) and serve with potato gratin, onion rings and greens.




Truffle Butter

4 tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 teaspoon Truffle Salt




Samir runs Nick and Sam's Steakhouse. The vibe is a sophisticated wine and dine experience. The lights are dim, steaks are of artisanal prime flavor and come in Texas-sized portions. I try to simulate the steakhouse atmosphere. Out come the steak knives. A bottle of Malbec is uncorked. The steaks sizzle in the pan.  Onion rings crisp up in the fryer, A creamy potato gratin bubbles in the oven. Creamed spinach graces the table.  Well-marbled Filet Mignons emerge from the oven. The sides take second place to the star of the show. Once again my little brother has done me proud!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Offering of Okra-- Masala Okra Fry


It's been a draining two weeks. I look into corners only to see displaced boxes. Motivation escalates in the morning and fades by evening. Rooms begin to develop a semi-finished look.  And for that I am immensely grateful. Grateful to family who follow my directives. Grateful to Geeta Rodrigues who took over refurbishing the kitchen contents. Grateful to her for spending a week, single-handedly washing over two hundred pieces of crockery and Tupperware. Grateful  to her for forcing me to winnow out the chaff. But most of all I give thanks to the Almighty for bringing us home intact. For restoring normalcy to our family. And for giving us a home better than the one we knew. I give thanks the way I know best, through food.

For generations my family makes offerings of food to the gods. From my grandmother's house to mine, we create intricate meals to show our devotion for the blessings granted to us. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, we celebrate good fortunes with ghee, religious holidays with regalia. We make elaborate meals served on banana leaves or silver thalis. Sweet offerings include kheer, shrikhand, phirni, jalebis. Fried pooris, papads, spiced vegetables and bhajias abound. Verdant cilantro chutneys sit next to sour-sweet date preserves. Coconut curries have their requisite vaatis. Vegetables make up for the lack of meat. An offering to the gods is always vegetarian, made with greens growing above ground. Root veges are taboo. The Indian vegetarian kitchen has a plethora  to choose from. It is way too easy to find my choices.

I go about prepping my thali dinner. Vegetables slivered, chopped and diced, sit in bowls. Cans of coconut milk get a thorough shake. Yogurt hangs in muslin, leaching out liquid. The blender whirls a lush green paste. I knead dough for pooris. Daal sits in warm water. And so it comes together.


Masala Okra Fry
Makes 3 cups


1 pound Okra
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoons Aamchur Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Rice Flour or more if needed
6 tablespoons Canola Oil


Wipe okra pods with a damp paper towel.



Trim the top and bottom ends.

Slice okra vertically in half, then each half vertically into slivers. Put slivers in a bowl.




Spice the slivers liberally. Stir to distribute spices evenly.



Let okra sit for 2 to 3 hours.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Add more oil if needed.

Toss slivers in rice flour. Shake off flour and drop carefully into hot oil.


Fry slivers, stirring often, until crisp and golden brown.


Eat them hot. Though they can be made earlier and reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.






Notes


Aamchur powder is made from green unripe mangoes. It has a tart taste. You could buy it at any reputable Indian grocery. 

This recipe calls for a non-stick saucepan with not too much oil. It is a "low cal" way to fry.
As you can see in the above pictures I used a wok. It does make for a crisper okra. The wok is my utensil of choice. Not the healthiest option but this is a special meal.



I fry okra. It is one component in a thali that comprises of 14 dishes. There is lime and salt on the left for those who need the extra flavor. Below them is cilantro chutney, followed by spinach raita. Two vaatis hold shrikhand and cauliflower coconut curry. A poori rests atop a vaati.  Green pepper kairus, papdi pea bhaji and tender coconut bhaji nestle beside fried okra. A mound of rice is smothered with daal and ghee. Towards the bottom right sits roasted mutton curry...sacrilege!!! It isnt part of the offering, more a paean of thanks to the diehard meat eaters I am surrounded by!



Guests gather as I make my offering. We sit at the table, not the floor. Like the old house, that relic of the past is left behind. And we are all thankful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dosa Diner--Chicken Stew


My kitchen floor is littered with bags from the Indian grocery store. I sort exotic vegetables like karela, paapdi and chawli. I make piles of masalas, frozen foods and refrigerator stuff. The dosa mix calls to me. Yes, I'm cheating. It is a relief to make dosas when a ready ground batter stares at you from the refrigerated section. Dosa batter is not that easy to make. You only have to think about it the day before! It involves soaking lentils overnight, grinding them to a smooth paste and then leaving the batter in a warm place to ferment!!! Long term planning required! If your palate fancies a dosa for lunch, you either resort to a quick fix packet to which yogurt is added, or the next best thing -- ready-made batter at the Indian store.

In many parts of India, you walk to the market or local grocery store, where you might find a man grinding the batter as you watch. He sits by an immense electric grinder, that is foaming with lentil batter. He doles it out in a plastic bag and it's yours to do what you may wish!! Just like going to the store to buy bagels or donuts!

For several years I have had to plan dosa-making or using powder mixes, so when I see a container of dosa or idli batter sitting on the shelf, I know I will throw out the packet mixes I have. I will not be soaking lentils or smelling a rubber odor from an overused blender. It really is a laborious grind to get the batter to a smooth paste.

Dosas are usually eaten for breakfast, with sambhaar and potato bhaji. South India has many variations depending on where you travel. Mysore masala dosa, paper dosa, rawa dosa, I could go on for a bit and not repeat myself. But today's dosa does not have any of the above accompaniments. I pair it with chicken stew or as we call it in our house, Gray Chicken. The moniker comes from my son. Rehan loves this chicken. As you can see from the picture, the stew takes on a grayish color. As a child he could never remember it as stew and took to calling it Gray Chicken and the name stuck!


Chicken Stew aka Gray Chicken
Serves 4 

2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
2 tablespoons Canola oil
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Cloves
10 Peppercorns
1 Bay Leaf
10 Curry leaves
1 large Onion
4 slices Ginger
1 large Potato
2 tablespoons Garam Masala
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 cups Coconut Milk
2 green Chiles
2 teaspoons Lemon juice


Trim fat off chicken and cut into bite size pieces. Wash well and drain.

Peel and chop onion into small pieces.

Peel and chop potato into small chunks.

In a Dutch oven or deep saucepan, heat canola oil on a medium flame.

Carefully drop in cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and curry leaves. Let them splutter for 10 seconds.

Add the chopped onion and stir the spices.


Drop in the chicken and potato chunks.

Slit green chiles in half.

Add garam masala, chiles and salt at this point and stir well to mix spices and chicken.


Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Partially cover pan, lower flame and simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix in lemon juice and serve hot with dosas (recipe follows).





Dosa Batter
Makes 16 small dosas

2 cups Dosa batter
1/2 cup Water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt.
Non-stick spray 


Mix dosa batter, water and salt. Let this liquid sit for 1/2 hour or more before you use it.

Heat a flat non-stick pan on a high flame.

Spray with oil spray.

Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter and spread it in a circular fashion. It should be thin like a crepe.



Wait until the underside browns, then flip over and cook for 5-7 seconds.

Serve hot with stew.



Notes

Dosas are best eaten straight off the pan. So it is the job of one self-sacrificing soul to make them while the family eats. In our house that is me. I say sacrificial as we always sit down to dinner together.

The stew can be eaten with rice or chapattis too.




I make dosas as the famished family eats. Many protests come my way chiding me as I juggle two pans to keep up with appetites. Usually guilt overcomes hunger and they munch away. I don't mind. It's not like we eat this meal often. It is a treat, my gift to the ones I love.






Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sprouting Thoughts--Fettuccinie with Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower


Every now and then I get the urge to just have vegetables for dinner. Forsake meat for a toothsome cauliflower, some sweet potato or the much reviled Brussels sprouts. The last one is by far is my favorite. Brussels sprouts and Thanksgiving kind of go together, but in my kitchen it has a year round presence. Halved or quartered and stir-fried with a chili sauce. Slivered, they take the place of cabbage in a mustard spiced subji. Roasted whole with a coating of olive oil, they make a perfect side for pork chops. They pop up in restaurants menus. At Uchiko, in Austin Paul Qui does a mean roasted Brussels sprouts. And I love fall, when you can buy them fresh on their stalks. Short of having a vegetable garden, these stalks are the next best thing. The novelty of picking them off the stalk thrills me. Odd things like this please me endlessly! 

November is a ways off, so the carton has to suffice.. I peel off the cellophane wrap. I slice the sprouts in half. Today they go into pasta along with another favorite, cauliflower.


Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower.
Serves 4


2 cups Brussels Sprouts
2 cups Cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons Olive oil
2 tablespoon Garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
8 oz. fettuccine
Several grinds of Pepper 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts. Slice them in half.

Clean and trim the cauliflower florets.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in non-stick pan. Keep the pan on a high flame for a quick sear.

The Brussels sprouts go into the hot oil. Saute for 7 to 8 minutes till they turn golden brown. Remove from pan and keep aside.

Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, wait 20 seconds till it heats up and add the cauliflower. Stir the florets well and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes till they are tinged golden brown.

Return sprouts to the pan with cauliflower along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Cover the pan and steam cook the vegetables for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pan with water to boil.

Add 3 tablespoons of salt to water and add fettuccini. Bring back to a boil and cook for 8 or 9 minutes.

Save 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Drain pasta and add to cooked vegetables.

In a small pan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add Panko crumbs to pan and stir till they turn golden brown.

Add pasta water to vegetables.

Season with remaining teaspoon of salt and grinds of pepper.

Blanket pasta with Panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Toss well and dig in!



Notes

I like egg fettuccine for the texture. You could use any pasta you like.  I have made this with oricchiette and penne too.

I try not to use an entire packet of pasta. Half is quite sufficient for this recipe. 


Vegetables are not always popular at my table especially if they stand alone, but this pasta, blanketed with crunchy crumbs and salty cheese, is the perfect antidote to a meatless meal. A glass of wine, a green salad and bread is a fine way to end the day.


















Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why This Koliwada Prawns Day--Koliwada Shrimp

At the end of the day we park ourselves at the table. We spend all day arranging and rearranging possessions. I know we all deserve a large glass of adult grape juice. Glenn uncorks a TicToc, a shiraz with fruity undertones. He gives us a generous pour and asks us about our day. While we regale him with the foibles of the day, I fry some shrimp. A squeeze of lime and we are gobbling them up. The spicy shrimp pair well with the shiraz.

I  love shrimp but don't cook them often as my kids are allergic to them. My husband, being the non-conformist Goan, is indifferent to shrimp. So when guests arrive I am thrilled to indulge their palate as well as mine. Early in the morning I lie in bed, my mind wanders the culinary realm. I plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shrimp is high on my inspiration list. I flirt with the idea of a curry, but fried shrimp and fish sound better and better as recipes swirl in my mind. I peel and marinate. Koliwada shrimp and fish fry are well known Bombay street food favorites. Kolis are the indigenous tribe who trawl the bays for seafood. Koliwada is the designated name for the areas they live in.  After sunset, in the small lanes of Koliwada, numerous small open air stalls serve these fried foods. The evenings unfold with an aroma of smoke accompanied by an audible sizzle of bubbling oil.  A portion of shrimp comes nestled in newspaper, a perfect foil soaking up grease. Icy bottles of pilsner sit on the tables to offset the spicy shrimp. Some vinegary onions and wedges of lime complete the ensemble. Fingers are the best way to enjoy the flavor. Satisfied laughter rises from tablesides



Koliwada Shrimp
Serves 3 to 4 


1 pound Shrimp
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/8 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon Tandoori masala
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Cilantro, finely chopped
4 tablespoons Rice flour
2 tablespoons Canola oil
Lime wedges





Peel, devein and wash the shrimp.

In a bowl add chile powder, turmeric,garam masala, tandoori masala, garlic, salt and cilantro. Mix well.

Add in the shrimp, stir well to coat shrimp with spices.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Heat oil in a shallow saucepan.

Lightly coat shrimp with rice flour.

Add shrimp to pan, cook for 2 minutes and turn over and fry for another minute to brown the other side.

Squirt with some lime juice and serve hot.  



Notes

I make fish fillets the same way, as you can see in one of the pictures.



Shrimp - prawns, call it what you may, makes a delicious appetizer, a fiery prelude to dinner. We eat with our hands, licking the spice off our fingers. Unlike the Kolaveri song, no one is in a murderous rage. Though my kids wait impatiently as I fry fish for them. No pictures though, I am hungry and tired!







Monday, March 4, 2013

A Power Breakfast-- Poori Bhaji


My conundrum this morning is breakfast. I ponder the choices I have. American verses Indian? Pancakes verses Poori Bhaji? Geets, my tagda buddy, has arrived to galvanize me into action. I want to make her a breakfast of spice and sustenance. She loves breakfast Indian Style like sabudana khichadi, poha, masala toast. Oh yes, I will indulge her in hot pooris and spicy potato bhaji. Though mine is not a patch on the famous Khopoli poori bhaji, a greasy delicious snack, a must-stop-to-eat spot on the Bombay Poona Highway. An hour and a half into our road trip from Bombay, Dad would pull up in front of a dilapidated shack by the roadside. A waiter would saunter up to the car and rattle off an oral menu. Dad always asked "kya hai", meaning what do you have, knowing full well what we had stopped for. There really was only one choice for me. Minutes later the waiter would return with a large tray laden with greasy puffy pooris and potatoes, stained yellow with turmeric, dotted with green chilies, cilantro, curry leaves. The aroma wafting through the car was mixed in with diesel fumes and dust. The lingering smells were not really an issue. Alongside us were many other travelers eating with the same gusto. Satisfied, we would journey on knowing this treat waited for us on the return trip.


Poori Bhaji

Serves 4 to 6

Pooris

2 cups whole wheat atta (flour)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 cup Water
Oil for frying


Place the atta and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix.

While the motor is running, add water in small portions, pulsing till the dough comes together in one big round.

Remove the dough from bowl and knead for 2 minutes till it feels smooth.

Cover and keep aside for 20 minutes.


Pinch off a small ball of dough.

Dust the ball with some atta and roll into a round. Do the same with the rest of the dough. I like to roll out many pooris , cover them with a damp muslin cloth so I could fry them all at one time.

Heat oil in a kadhai or wok. The oil should cover 1/3 of the frying pan.

Test the oil by dropping in a bit of dough. If it surfaces in seconds the oil is hot enough. That's my test. I don't use (or have) an oil thermometer.

Slide in a poori and splash a little of the oil on the surface with a slotted spoon. It should puff up.


Fry for 20 seconds till the poori puffs, then turn over and fry for another 10 seconds. Fry the remaining pooris the same way.

Serve with hot potato bhaji. The recipe follows.



Potato Bhaji

5 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon Hing (Asafetida)
10 Curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
2 green Chiles
1/2 cup Cilantro
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt


Boil, peel, and cube potatoes.

Chop the chiles in very thin slices.

Roughly chop the cilantro.

Place a saucepan on a medium flame for 10 seconds.

Add oil to hot pan and swirl to coat.

Now add in the mustard seeds, hing, and curry leaves.

The potatoes go into the pan at this point along with the turmeric, green chiles, cilantro and salt.
Mix well and sauté well so potatoes are coated with spices.

Cover the saucepan, lower the flame and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Serve with hot pooris.



Breakfast is done. Our loins are girded!!! Geets is raring to go. She tackles pots, pans, baskets and bins with relative ease! She prods us into a cleaning frenzy. It MUST be the poori bhaji that motivates her!









Friday, March 1, 2013

Under Pressure--Railway Lamb Curry


It's been a tiring day. The house emerges from its cocoon. I find objects I thought had floated away. I cradle a copper tea kettle. I treasure a pair of brass slippers. My old steel tiffin carrier peeks out from under a crate. A wave of memories cascades over me. I remember carrying that tiffin to school, sitting in the cafeteria eating rice and curry. I remember taking it with me on years of interminable train rides between Bombay and Madras. It always contained snacks, a mid-morning delight, sometimes spicy and other times sweet. In those days the Indian Railways provided tasty repasts over the length of the journey. Breakfast was a spicy masala omelet. And it was with a growling stomach I waited for the train to stop at Guntakal. For that was where the lunch trays arrived. As the train screeched to a stop, rolling carts of lunches were loaded on to the train. Lunch came in a rectangular compartmentalised tray with a enormous mound of fluffy white rice, topped with a fiery red mutton curry, pickle and papads. For want of a better name I dubbed it Railway Mutton curry. The name stuck and so did the memory. Years later much to my delight, I found a recipe by the same name! I discussed the pros and cons of the recipe avidly with my Mum. Needless to say I ventured to recreate the taste I so vividly remembered. You know you cant go back but you have to try. Well it wasn't quite the mutton of the past but with some tinkering, it came close. Mum's advice paid off.

As I go about my day I deliberate silently on my train of thought, no pun intended. I want to be comforted by a childhood choice, but my feet will not venture towards the door. Requests for dinner are met with fatigue. My son volunteers to go food shopping!! Heavens above. I cannot deny him this magnanimous gesture. He returns with lamb chops and ground lamb. He makes it known loud and clear, what he would like for dinner! We are of the same mind. Railway Lamb Curry it is. Shauna and I work side by side. As the lamb sizzles, she turns a bland cauliflower into a spicy side. The pressure cooker whistles. I fluff the rice. Time to eat.


Railway Lamb Curry
Serves 4 people

2lbs Lamb, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 tablespoons Garlic paste
5 coins of Ginger
2 tablespoons Chile powder
1 cup grated fresh Coconut
1/2 teaspoon Curry powder
2 Onions
10 Curry leaves
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1 14oz can Coconut milk
1 cup Water
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 Lime
1/2 cup Cilantro, finely chopped


Clean and wash the lamb chunks.

Grind coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic paste, ginger, chile powder, grated coconut, and curry powder to a fine paste.

Peel and finely chop the onions.

Place a pressure cooker on a high flame.

Pour in the oil and wait for 30 seconds till the oil is hot.

Drop the curry leaves into the oil. They will splutter so take care.

Add chopped onions and saute well till onions are speckled brown.

Now add the ground masala and stir vigorously, scraping up all brown bits.


Fry masala for 3 to 4 minutes scraping the bottom of the pan as the masala tends to stick.

Add the lamb chunks and salt. Mix well.

Pour in coconut milk and water. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Cover the pressure pan with its lid and place the weight on top.

Let it whistle once, lower the flame to the lowest it can go and cook for 15 minutes. (See Notes below)

Wait for the pressure to drop or if you are in too much of a hurry, run cold water over the pan for 3 to 4 minutes.

Open the lid and stir in the juice of one lime.

Add cilantro and stir well.

Serve with rice or roti.


 Notes

I use a pressure cooker as it cooks the meat much faster. The above instructions relate to a Prestige pressure pan. There is a world of pressure cookers out there, each one very different. Follow the directions and use the same cooking time as above.

You can also make this curry in a dutch oven or a large saucepan on the stovetop. Lamb takes about an hour. You also have to adjust the amount of liquid accordingly.

I generally use goat meat or "mutton" as we call it. It is less fatty than lamb but has a more pronounced taste.

And the curry always tastes better the day after it is made!




For me this is journey food, a meal that evokes the constant jerky motion of the train, the al- fresco meal on a compartment berth, the blurred countryside and strange sounding villages whizzing past the slatted windows, but most of all it is the gleam of happiness I see in my family's eyes when we sit down to dinner.