PurePlay

While there is joy in following a recipe and getting predictable results, there is ecstasy in trying out permutations and combinations and coming up with originals. Here are some wacky experiments that ended as pleasant surprises.

Saoji Mutton

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It was in 2005, I had to deliver a workshop at Nagpur and that's when I first savoured this lip-smacking dish at the Pride hotel. Fortunately for me, there were several occasions when I had to keep coming back to Nagpur and every time I made it a point to request the banquets to serve this dish for lunch.
9 years later, on a foodies group called Experimental Cuisines I saw the recipe for Saoji Masala posted by Shilpi Sanyal. Shilpi very kindly obliged me with an online tutorial and what followed is here.

Pungent. Earthy. Robust. Piquant. These are some of the words that come close but don't really do justice to this dish.

Ingredients:
Mutton - from the hind leg 1 kg, medium pieces
Mustard oil (about 1 cup)
Onions 300 gms sliced
Saoji masala 3 Tbsp
Spinach 6 -8 leaves
Ginger garlic paste 2 Tbsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Deghi Mirch 2 Tbsp
3 medium potatoes quartered
Salt to taste

Saoji Masala:
10-12 dry red chillies
2 bay leaves
8-10 cloves
2-3 black cardamom
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
1/2 tsp mace (javitri)
2 tbsp fennel (sauf)
1 tsp caraway seeds (shahijeera)
2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
1 tsp black pepper corns
Dry roast the poppy seeds first and then add the rest of the spices and roast them on a low flame till they're lightly browned. Grind and after setting aside 3 Tbsp for the curry, save the rest in an airtight container for future use.The original masala calls for 2 tsp of jowar atta (that's pearl millet flour). Shilpi says that it adds nutty edge to the masala. I didn't have it, but the next time around, I'll make sure it's around.

Method
1) Marinate the mutton pieces with 1/4 tsp of turmeric, salt and some mustard oil. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
2) Fry the sliced onions till they're a rich brown and set aside to cool.
3) Grind the 3 Tbsp of the Saoji masala with the friend onions and a little bit of water to a fine paste.The original recipe calls for grinding the spinach leaves along with the onions and the masala. Again, I skipped this as it was nowhere in sight.
4) Transfer the ground paste to a non-stick pan. Add 500 ml of water and simmer on a medium to low flame till the masala thickens and turns a rich brown colour.
5) Heat the rest of the mustard oil and fry the quartered potatoes till they're golden in colour.
6) Add the 2 Tbsp ginger garlic paste, 1/4 tsp turmeric and 2 Tbsp of Delhi Mirch to the oil and potatoes. Mix well.
7) When the masala's aren't sticking to the sides of the sauce pan, add the marinated mutton pieces and cook on medium- low till well done (meat falls aft the bone consistency). Alternately, cook in a pressure cooker till well done. If needed a little water can be added while cooking.

This is what it should look like when it's done
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Like I said before, pungent, earthy, robust & piquant. These are some of the words that come close but don't really do justice to this dish. Paired well with some dry chapati's and am sure it would be awesome with a fresh crusty loaf as well.
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LearningsThe original recipe called for 6 to 8 Spinach leaves to be ground along with fried onions and the dry masala (step 3 above). I skipped this as I didn't think it was worth stepping out just for a bunch of spinach leaves. I was dead wrong. In hindsight, I do think it could have added a greater depth of flavour.

Recipe inspired by Shilpi Sanyal


Mini Frittata's

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It was one of the days when I felt like eggs for breakfast and somehow the thought of sunny sides up or scrambled eggs or an omelet didn't sound good enough. I quickly rummaged the fridge and i found some chirizo's and some pitted green olives. While I set them up on the counter, I thought I heard some sun-dried cherry tomatoes call out to me. 🙂 I scanned the shelves again and found some dried oregano too. So I quickly sliced one chorizo and sauteed them lightly in a non-stick sauce pan. I divided these into 2 portions and got them to fit into 2 silicon pancake moulds. I then poured 2 beaten eggs into the moulds and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I then tossed in equal portions of the halved green olives and the sun-dried cherry tomatoes into the 2 moulds. I finally dusted the surface of the eggs with some oregano and then covered them and let them cook on a low flame for about 5 minutes. I like my eggs wet and if you want your set - you might have to let them stay for some more time. Here they are. They went well with last night's milk pull-apart rolls.

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Ingredients
2 eggs beaten with a little milk
2 pitted green olives halved
2 sun-dried cherry tomatoes
Oregano

A frittata is an Italian omelet that often uses up left-overs. I've made frittata's with left over meat, chicken, potatoes, pickles and whatever I felt like using. It's a great way to indulge in a creative meal. What's your version going to be like?


Mini Frittata's

IMG_2143_2

It was one of the days when I felt like eggs for breakfast and somehow the thought of sunny sides up or scrambled eggs or an omelet didn't sound good enough. I quickly rummaged the fridge and i found some chirizo's and some pitted green olives. While I set them up on the counter, I thought I heard some sun-dried cherry tomatoes call out to me. 🙂 I scanned the shelves again and found some dried oregano too. So I quickly sliced one chorizo and sauteed them lightly in a non-stick sauce pan. I divided these into 2 portions and got them to fit into 2 silicon pancake moulds. I then poured 2 beaten eggs into the moulds and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I then tossed in equal portions of the halved green olives and the sun-dried cherry tomatoes into the 2 moulds. I finally dusted the surface of the eggs with some oregano and then covered them and let them cook on a low flame for about 5 minutes. I like my eggs wet and if you want your set - you might have to let them stay for some more time. Here they are. They went well with last night's milk pull-apart rolls.

IMG_2144

Ingredients
2 eggs beaten with a little milk
2 pitted green olives halved
2 sun-dried cherry tomatoes
Oregano

A frittata is an Italian omelet that often uses up left-overs. I've made frittata's with left over meat, chicken, potatoes, pickles and whatever I felt like using. It's a great way to indulge in a creative meal. What's your version going to be like?


Turnip and Rosemary Soup

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I spotted these gorgeous turnips at the supermarket a few days ago and picked them up not knowing what I would do with them. 2014-09-09 16.57.26 e

I've seen a few pictures of turnip bread earlier and  have been eager to play with them. I guess that will have to wait, as those beauties went into a delicate soup that went well with some Challah I'd baked earlier in the day.

So here goes:

Ingredients 4 servings
500 g small Turnips peeled and quartered.
1 medium-sized Potato peeled and quartered.
1 medium-sized Onion chopped fine.
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary.
3 C of warm vegetable / chicken stock.
Salt and Pepper for seasoning.
1 egg white beaten (optional).
A few small pinches of Nutmeg powder.

As I reached out and turned on the flame, the 'Oil-free Cooking' event on facebook came to mind and I figured it would be fun to experiment without any oil again. So, this is an oil-free recipe.

Method

Saute the chopped onions on a non-stick pan and when they began to brown at the edges, toss in the turnips and let them sizzle. A few minutes later, toss in the potatoes and the rosemary sprig and turn down the flame. Stir them around every few minutes and when they look like they are beginning to brown, add the warm stock. Season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Switch off the heat and let it cool. Pull out the rosemary sprig and keep it aside. I love dishes that manage to bring alive the individuality of the ingredients. So, if I think something maybe too strong I pull it out and keep it aside - knowing that I can always go back to it later. What's your preference - monochrome or color?

Blend the cooled mixture (in batches) till you have a silky smooth puree. Transfer the contents back into the non stick pan and heat the soup gently. Add water, if required to get it to the consistency you prefer. Spoon the egg-white onto different sections of the soup. In a few minutes the egg-whites will coagulate. Stir so that they're well interspersed in the soup.

Pour into soup bowls and add a small pinch of powdered Nutmeg on the surface.

2014-09-09 20.17.49 e It paired well with the Challah. 2014-09-09 17.45.16 e

 

Learnings: I'm a strong believer that we first eat with our eyes and our nose before we use our mouth. While I played with this soup, I was reminded of how perfumer's speak about their perfumes. They talk of top notes and middle notes and base notes. When I dug into this soup, I first felt the warming presence of nutmeg, the rosemary drifted in gently a little later and I was left with the slightly 'radishy' flavor of the turnips. If you're wondering what the red thingy is - that's a sun-dried cherry tomato - literally a cherry topping! As always, look forward to hearing about your own versions / tweaks to this recipe.


Roasted Beetroot and Garlic Soup

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A couple of days ago, while rummaging through the fridge, I found a few beetroot's that looked perfect for some soup. And the previous 'oil-free' soup felt good and I figured I could play some more. Turned out well. My parents - Dad's 90 and Mum's 78 both loved it. Dad even commented about it a day later. Roasted beetroot and garlic take on a mellow, rounded and delicately sweet flavor. And the color is just 'undescribable'! So, here goes:

Ingredients 4 servings
Beetroot's 3 - 4 medium-sized ones. If you do have large one's just cut them into 2
Potatoes 2 medium ones
6 cloves of garlic
Vegetable / chicken stock - 4 cups
Yellow Chilli powder - depends on how badly you want to be knocked out 🙂 1/2 t should work. Substitute with any other chilli powder, but try to use something that won't mess with the gorgeous color of roasted beet. Also, go easy on them - you don't want to mess with the delicate flavor of roasted beets and garlic.
Salt and Pepper to season.

Method
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Meanwhile, wash the vegetables well. Pat them dry and wrap each of the beetroot's and potatoes loosely in aluminum foil. The garlic cloves can be bunched together in one aluminum foil packet. When the oven is ready, place the aluminum foil packets on a baking sheet / tray and bake for 60 minutes.

When done, open the packs carefully and let them cool. This is what my packets looked like 2014-09-08 19.32.18
When the veggies have cooled down, peel them and toss them into a blender. Add the yellow chilli powder and the vegetable / chicken stock and blend till you have a silky smooth puree.

Transfer contents onto a non-stick pan. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes.

 

Here's a closer look. 2014-09-08 21.28.08 e

You're now ready for something that's rich in color and flavor. Post some pictures here when you've made your version. And post your thoughts too. I'd love to hear from you.


 

 

2 thoughts on “PurePlay

  1. Hi
    Love this blog and also love baking but not very good at it…do you intend to hold any baking workshops in the last week of April or 2nd week of may 2017. I am visiting goa during this time. Do let me know…thanks
    Komal

    1. Hi Komal,

      Thanks for all the kind words. The next 2 workshops are on 23rd April and 7th May and they’re both sold out. The next available seat is on the workshop scheduled for 21st May. Game?

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