Parsi Fish Vindaloo

 

 

 

 

I’ve always believed that birds of a feather ‘feed’ together. Otherwise there is no explaining why most of my father’s closest friends’ wives were excellent chefs and all their get-togethers were always about great food.

Vera Umrigar is a jewel among cooks. Wife, mom, petrol pump owner, she managed a spatula with the same fervour she did a broken axle. Her smoked ham, dotted with cloves and glazed with honey, her exquisite apricot soufflé, as frothy and festive as a wedding frock and her sugar-studded apple pies are memorable to me 20 years after I first feasted on them.

The families went to the Umrigar’s home in Lonavala for long weekends and the boot of the car was converted into a mobile freezer, piled high with everything from my mother’s vindaloo and pao bhaji to Vera’s dhansak and kheema cutlets, all frozen rock solid a week in advance to survive the drive. Any space leftover was meant for waffle machines, OK wafers and mom’s Balicao jars.

Whatever thawed first was demolished quickly and efficiently. We were lawn movers and there was no grass too tall.

The weekend rolled by, literally, as Vera’s Maharashtrian maid, togged up in a nine-yard sari, drawn between her legs like some Roman warrior, rolled puran polis to fill the tiny gaps between 4-course meals.

Let me tell you this. There is nothing, nothing quite like a puran poli straight off a hot tawa. Those cold chindis sold in shops are very sad.

The crisp top is paper-thin and the weight of a spoonful of ghee cracks it open like a pond of ice on a sunny day. Ghee meets warm jaggery in an eternal romance. My fingers would get all jammy as I tried to break off bits of poli and turn the pages of my Enid Blyton all at the same time. I pitied Fatty; all he got was cold tongue sandwiches.

Everyone knows the Goan Pork Vindaloo, but when Vera offered her mother’s recipe for a Parsi Fish Vindaloo, I was all ears. Parsi cuisine unites ancient Persian traditions with both Indian and British colonial ones. Sour Zereshk or barberries in Berry Pulao is Persian while Worcestershire sauce in Lagan no Saas is a British one.

“Parsi vindaloo? It’s not a prawn patia?” I ask incredulously.

Vera explains that there are many kinds of prawn patia, the classic sweet and spicy Parsi prawn dish, not pickle, less curry that’s served with dhan dal. “Some Patias are made with kadipatta, while others are not. Some have garam masala, others do not.”

Like all vindaloos, this one is also an Indian-Portuguese fusion. It contains red chilies, red wine vinegar (vin in Portuguese) and garlic (alho in Portuguese) and is sweet, spicy and sour. The vinegar and jaggery balance the spicy chillies.

So how is it different from a Goan Vindaloo?

Vera whispers conspiratorially. “It’s got lots of fresh kothmir in it and you eat it with hot Toor Dal Khichdi.

As you can guess by this point I’m lying in a pool of drool.

When Vera pulls the ground masala out of the fridge, its deep almost unreal red colour brings back a flood of memories. My Dad would always say that he could tell my mother and Vera’s vindaloo by the red colour.

Good vindaloo must have this flaming colour. Not the dull brown that so many inferior restaurant-vindaloos have.  So what’s the secret? How do you give the gravy such a deep red without synthetic colour or an overdose of chilies.

Vera uses dried Kashmiri chilies, but suggests you can also use bedgi. She insists you use fresh homemade tomato puree, processed in a food mill, also called a puran maker in India, not in a mixer.

When you blitz tomatoes they lose their red colour and turn pink.

She then proceeds to fry the masala in oil. “This dish needs oil ha? You can’t fry a masala without oil ok?”

I imagine someone trying to make vindaloo with non-stick, fat-free cooking spray.

I can’t help but giggle. Those days of excess, of ‘lagaooing’ and ‘enjjwaaaying’ good food are a thing of the 80s. Of showing up at your friends place at midnight and honking for kheema pao are gone. Everyone is caught up with immortality. If it weren’t for the Parsis, I really think there would be no majja in life.

“And Tara, add the chopped kothmir and the pomfret to the masala together so their flavours get into the gravy. Dhaniya is not a garnish. It’s part of the curry.”

She puts the steaming fish vindaloo on the table.

I will stop writing now.

I won’t describe it.

Just make it.

Be zindadil for a day.

Lagao.

Use dried red chillies and tomato puree for a bright color.

Vera Umrigar’s Parsi Fish Vindaloo

The Goan pork vindaloo is extremely well-known, but this tangy fish vindaloo is a gem that deserves a permanent place in your recipe collection. The flaming red colour is a red herring – it isn’t that spicy!

Make the tomato puree using bright red tomatoes and process them in a puran maker or a food mill. This way you will maintain a bright red colour.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

1 kg silver pomfret steaks (about 8 pieces plus head and tail)

For the masala:

15 red kashmiri or bedgi chillies with stalks removed, broken into bits

8-10 large cloves of peeled garlic

5 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp red vinegar or to taste (kolahs or kalverts)

½ cup chopped red onions

4 cups fresh tomato puree

¼ cup crumbled jaggery or to taste

1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

¼-1/2 cup vegetable oil for cooking

Salt to taste

Method:

1. Grind the first 5 ingredients for the masala to a smooth, fine paste. This will take several minutes. Add a little water if required.

2. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet on a medium flame.

3. Add the ground paste and cook, stirring frequently about 8-9 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan and the sides to prevent the spice paste from sticking to the bottom. When the oil begins to separate from the sides, stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook for 10 minutes on a medium flame until the mixture bubbles and thickens.

4. Add 1 tbsp of jaggery and 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir well.

5. Lower the flame and add the fish slices one at a time and the coriander leaves. Stir gently.

6. Cook until fish is tender.

7. Taste for salt and sweetness. Add more vinegar, jaggery and salt if required.

8. Serve with toor dal khichdi or plain white boiled rice.

 

BUN MASCA CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING

THIS IS AN EASY DISH THAT EVERYONE LOVES. BUN MASCA  (MASCA MEANS BUTTER )IS AVAILABLE AT ANY IRANI BAKERY. IT COMES PARTIALLY SLICED AND BUTTERED. IT IS COMFORT HOME COOKING. IF YOU DONT LIKE CHOCOLATE LAYER THE BREAD WITH A GOOD JAM, ALMONDS, CARAMEL SAUCE, EVEN LEMON CURD.

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 BUN MASCA FROM IRANI BAKERY
  • 1 CUP CHOCOLATE CHIPS SEMI SWEET
  • 1 TEASPOON BUTTER
  • FOR CUSTARD
  • 5 EGGS CRACKED AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
  • 1.5 TEASPOONS VANILLA EXTRACT
  • 1/2 CUP LIGHT CREAM (TETRAPAK) WARMED
  • 2 CUPS WHOLE MILK HOT
  • 1 CUP SUGAR CASTOR OR GRANULATED

BAKING TRAY TO FIT BOTH BUNS SNUGLY (ATLEAST 1.5 INCHES DEEP)

METHOD

TO ASSEMBLE BREAD

BUTTER YOUR BAKING PAN.

OPEN THE FIRST BUN UP (WATCH MY VIDEO ON IGTV) AND LAY EACH HALF ACROSS THE BAKING PAN OF YOUR CHOICE SO THE BREAD IS SPREAD EVENLY ACROSS THE PAN OF YOUR CHOICE. SCATTER CHOCOLATE CHIPS ALL OVER. OPEN UYP THE SECOND BUN MASCA AND LAY IT OVER THE STOP. PRESS DOWN SO IT FITS SNUGLY INTOT HE PAN. THEN USE A KNIFE AND CUT THE BREAD ACROSS ALLTHE WAY THROUGH IN TWO PLACES LENGTHWISE.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 325 AND PREPARE LOWER RUNG WITH BAKING RACK.

FOR THE CUSTARD

WHISK EGGS AND VANILLA WITH SUGAR UNTIL WELL INCORPORATED IN A MIXING BOWL. SLOWLY ADD WARM CREAM AND WHISK CONTINUOUSLY. ADD HOT MILK AND WHISK AGAIN. USING A SIEVE, STRAIN HALF THE MIXTURE OVER THE LAYERED BUNS. PRESS THE BUNS DOWN SO THE CUSTARD CAN SEEP INTO IT EVENLY. LET IT SIT 15 MINUTES.

SIEVE THE REMAINING MIXTURE OVER THE BUNS AND LET SIT 15 MINUTES.

BAKE 30-35 MINUTES UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN. WHEN YOU PRESS DOWN WITH A SPOON THE CUSTARD SHOULD NOT OOZE OUT BUT YOUR PUDDING SHOULD BE SOFT AND CUSTARDY INSIDE.

 

CHHOLE- AMRISTAR STYLE CHICKPEAS

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

250 grams  Chick peas also called  garbanzo beans and Kabuli chana soaked overnight in excess water

pinch baking soda
3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp garlic finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh ginger peeled and finely julienned
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) lightly toasted
1 tsp Cumin (jeera) seeds lightly toasted
2-3 tsp good quality fresh Garam masala powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp Turmeric (haldi) powder
1/2-1 tsp Red chilli powder/cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Dried fenugreek leaves also called kasoori methi
1 tsp Dried pomegranate seed powder also called anar dana
Salt to taste

Jaggery if desired

Method:

  1. Drain the chickpeas and wash again. Then pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles in 6 cups of water and pinch of baking soda. The chick peas should be edible but slightly firm.
  2. Reserve chick peas and water.
  3. Heat the ghee in a medium size pressure cooker or thick bottomed cast iron pan  over medium flame; add the  ginger and saute till it softens. Add the garlic and sauce again till it softens but don’t brown garlic.
  1. Add the toasted fenugreek and cumin seeds and saute for a minute, then add chick peas (with the water in which they are boiled).

  1. Add garam masala, dried fenugreek, turmeric, pomegranate powder and red chilli powder on medium heat. Add 2 cups water and cook 15 minutes covered.
  2. Add salt to taste, cook again until gravy thickens and chickpeas are very soft. Add more water as required until chick peas are velvety soft. You can also pressure cooker this.
  3. You can also add some jaggery to adjust the taste to your palate.
  4. Serve hot with puri, boiled rice, bhatura or kulcha.

PUFF PASTRY IN INDIA

Puff Pastry photo Tara Deshpande

 

Puff Pastry- Where to Buy It in Mumbai and What to Make with It

Before the chicken puff came puff pastry. In India Pattice and savory Khara biscuits available at Irani cafes are the most commonly eaten snack made from puff pastry. 

Puff Pastry also known as butter paste and puff paste originated in France where it is called pâte feuilletée or feuilletage. Feuille is the French word for leaf.

 Puff pastry, unlike pâte brisée is a laminated dough where layers of dough are repeatedly rolled and rested with layers of butter to produce a very flaky, fine and crisp dough.  In some early, medieval recipes eggs were also added to the dough. 

The process is far more time consuming than short crust or the choux pastry (pate a choux) so many home cooks buy it frozen or readymade at a bakery.

photo Gallica

The first published recipe for puff pastry appeared in François Pierre La Varenne‘s “Pastissier Francois” in 1653.

But it was invented some years before this in 1645 by a French pastry cook’s apprentice, Claudius Gele who accidentally stumbled upon the technique for puff pastry while trying to make a loaf of bread for his bed ridden father. 

Claudius later went to work for the Brothers Mosca’s pastry shop in Florence, Italy where he continued to produce the puff pastry for his employers all the while keeping the recipe secret. He made his employers a fortune. 

While many food historians agree puff paste was a logical outcome of short crust pastry others believe that it was influenced by Middle Eastern Phyllo and werqa dough made with olive oil and fine sheets of dough. 

My 1765 edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by a Lady has an early recipe for ‘Puff-pafte’. By the early 1800’s Puff Pastry become the standard term used in English cookbooks.

photo

 

In Mumbai you can buy Puff Pastry to order at Worli’s City Bakery.  They sell it by the kilogram and must be ordered with 24 hour notice. It is also available refrigerated in 250 gram sheets at American Bakery in Byculla. Both are vegan. Check with the local Irani cafés in your city –if they make khara biscuits and pattice, chances are they will sell you the readymade dough. You can also buy it in the frozen section in supermarkets and some club shops.

I would advise you keep the fresh puff pastry refrigerated (not frozen) at all times and use it within 24 hours.

For me puff pastry is the go to when I don’t have time to make leavened dough or a short crust pastry.

Here are some of the easy, elegant and delicious recipes I make. You can also make chicken pot pies, cheese straws, vol au vents, poisson en croute (whole fish wrapped in pastry.

No Huff, Puff Pizza photo Bini Bharucha

NO HUFF PUFF PIZZA

Perfect for large groups, you can add on almost any filling.  While this recipe calls for a red sauce you can also do a Pizza Bianco or a sweet dessert pizza with fruit compote and almonds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAPOLEONS

This classic layered dessert should be served plated as individual portions. They are impressive and elegant but easy to make.

Napoleons with pastry cream and fruit photo by Bini Bharucha

http://www.taradeshpande.in/mixed-fruit-napoleons-with-pastry-cream/

MUSHROOM AND GOAT’S CHEESE BEGGARS PURSES

Beggars Purses with puff pastry photo Beynaz Mistri

Knotted with chives these delicate purses can be stuffed with meat, prawns, tofu or turn them into a dessert.

http://www.taradeshpande.in/puff-pastry-beggars-purses-with-mushrooms-goats-cheese-and-thyme/

APPLE, HONEY AND CINNAMON TURNOVERS photo Bini Bharucha

Turnovers are so easy. I bake them just before the dessert course and serve them warm with vanilla ice cream and some honey drizzled over the top. A winner! 

http://www.taradeshpande.in/easy-apple-honey-and-cinnamon-turnovers/

 

Poisson En Croute

A classic French preparation this is a complex dish but makes a spectacular main course.

poisson en croute with puff pastry photo Tara Deshpande

 

THE CHICKEN PATTICE STORY IN INDIA

FROM PASTY TO PATTICE

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN PUFF IN INDIA

Nahoum’s Chicken Pattice (Kolkota)

 

Some of my debut film ‘Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin’ was filmed in south Mumbai. A film about one eventful night we began shoots at 7 p.m. and invariably director Sudhir Mishra and some of the crew ended up at Kayani’s Café early the following morning.  Fortified by cups of sweet Irani chai and flaky chicken pattice that came straight out of Kayani’s dinosaur ovens, I’d race off to St Xavier’s College for economics class. 

Everyone in Mumbai has an Irani café story and pattice are an integral part of the menu.

Jimmy Boys Caramelized onion puff (Ballard estate, Mumbai)

It is suggested that Indian chicken and Mutton Pattice also called Chicken Pattie and puffs is a ‘desi’ variant of the Cornish Pasty introduced to the colonies by the British. While a typical Cornish Pasty in England is a crimped, stuffed D shaped savory made with short crust pastry or rough puff (flour and fat), most Chicken Pattice at Irani bakeries and private English era clubs are a version of the layered French puff pastry or pâte feuilleté. 

Pasties, patties and pattice fall into the ‘portable pies’ category that includes turnovers, calzones, empanadas, pop tarts, Natchitoches and Stromboli. There are numerous references, entire cookbooks even dedicated to these stuffed pies throughout medieval history. They were cheap to make, easy to carry and very satisfying. It is no wonder they have been adapted the world over.

In my 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse’s ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ the author provides a recipe for puff paste and for patties and pasties. Curiously some of the recipes like this one for Beef Patties require the pastry to be fried. 

This is unusual because while the fillings, shape and size of Patties and pasties have varied during its evolution they are almost always baked.

Food historian Clifford Wright alludes to the Middle East for the origins of these pocket pies. In 9th century Baghdad Sanbusaks or Samosa, a stuffed fried triangular pastry faintly resemble the calzone. 

Kayanis chicken and mutton puffs (Dhobi Talao Mumbai)

The Persians made Baghlava Esfhani, a sweet D shaped pastel and Boreks, fine yufka dough stuffed with meat originated in the Ottoman Empire.

 Larousse Gastronomique links Pasty to Bastilla or Bestila, the national dish of Morocco. Some suggest Pastilla has Arab Andalusian origins from the time of the Caliphates in the 8th century. Pastilla in Spanish means ‘small pastry’ and employs a fine werqa dough. The B in Arabic replaced the ‘P’. The King of Spain Philip II had a fondness for Bastilla. 

In cookbooks dating 1129 to 1200 the French were making a kind of stuffed pie called pastilles.

Pastis (not to be confused with anise flavored liqueur) is derived from the French word pâte meaning pie.  Pastis Landais, Gascon and bourrit are all made with different kinds of dough but are often served as individual pies.

Author Claudia Roden refers to Turkish Pasteles de Carnes made by Sephardic Jews from Greece. The Syrians also make a pie called Pastelis.

Kolumna in Russia claims to have invented a sweet Pastilla with egg whites and has a museum dedicated to this pie. Corsicans still make Bastella, a meat and vegetable filled pie pastry.

I also found mentions of patties, pastie and puffs in Rundell’s ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ (1814). Interestingly the terms are used interchangeably but they all employ puff pastry, are individual pies, stuffed and baked. 

Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1898)

Cornish pasty can be traced back to 1300 A.D. in Cornwall when it was a miner’s food and contained only potatoes. Meat was added later. It is said that King William the Lion (1143 A.D.) served wastelli dominici to Richard the Lion-Hearted. 

The Cornish pasty has a PGI – Protected Geographical status now and the Cornish Pasty Association (yes there is one!) insists it be made with beef, must contain no other vegetables besides turnip (swede, also called Rutabaga in the U.S.A), onion and potato. It also lays out specifications for the kind of dough (not too flaky but hearty and robust enough to survive a trip down a mine shaft in someone’s pocket). Some traditionalists suggest the addition of bread flour to the dough. In order to be sold as a Cornish pasty the savory must be made in Cornwall. 

Cornish Pasty is believed to have travelled to America in the 1830’s when 37000 miners immigrated to the USA. Their coal mining expertise was in great demand and its possible with them went the food they loved the most.

In parts of the USA like Michigan and Pennsylvania where the Pasty continues to be popular the dough is sometimes made like choux pastry by boiling butter, water and flour over a stove. The Cornish pasty evolved a little differently in Jamaica where the traditional patty is dough seasoned with turmeric and is often served vada pao style with a coconut bread bun. The journey this culinary delight took through the colonies transformed the plain vegetable and meat fillings into more flavorful versions spiced with scotch bonnets, garlic and curry spices. 

Cafe Excelsior Spicy Chicken Puff (Fort Mumbai)

On the other hand in the USA and UK a patty is also a breaded cutlet like a cutlet or tikki in India, (the Ragda Pattice is a curried potato cutlet) though the term is also used to describe burger patties in school canteens. An empanada or Brazilian pastel would best describe a pasty in the USA, while a turnover made with puff pastry would most closely resemble an Indian chicken patty. rectangles, even round.  

My favorite chicken pattice came from Bastani near Metro cinema before it closed. In Mumbai Jimmy Boy’s make a delicious caramelized onion and paneer puff that closely resembles the shape of the Cornish pasty. You can also buy a spicy chicken puff from Café Excelsior Fort. Wengers in New Delhi and Nimrah in Hyderabad, Flurys and Nahoum’s in Kolkata.

ORIGINAL DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE RECIPE

Original Devils Food cake

THE ORIGINAL DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE RECIPE PUBLISHED IN SARAH TYSON RORERS NEW COOKBOOK IN 1906 IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM THE MODERN VERSION OF THE DEVILS’ FOOD CAKE THAT IS NOW SO POPULAR ALL OVER THE WORLD. IT IS HOWEVER DELICIOUS, ESPECIALLY WHEN PAIRED WITH A RICH FROSTING OR FILLING.

Modern Devils Food cake (left) and original Devils Food Cake (Right)

THE ORIGINAL DEVILS FOOD CAKE IS ESSENTIALLY A LIGHTLY FLAVOURED CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE. IF YOU LEAVE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF THIS CAKE IT IS MORE LIKE AN EGGY GENOISE.

THIS CAKE IS MADE WITH CHOCOLATE AND NOT COCOA UNLIKE MODERN DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE RECIPES. THE QUANTITY OF CHOCOLATE USED IS MUCH LESS THAN IN THE MODERN VERSION OF THIS CAKE. IT ALSO EMPLOYS BUTTER AND CALLS FOR WHIPPING EGG WHITES. THIS CAKE IS MUCH DRIER THAN CAKES WE ARE USED TO SO I WOULD SUGGEST BRUSHING THE CAKE WITH SIMPLE SYRUP TO MOISTEN IT. IVE MADE ADAPTATIONS TO THE RECIPE BELOW BECAUSE I FOUND THE ORIGINAL RECIPE BATTER TOO THICK TO FOLD EGG WHITES INTO.

ORIGINAL DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE RECPE (adapted from Sarah Tyson Rorer’s Cookbook)

 

Makes 2 8 inch round cakes

3 cups of Maida or all purpose flour sifted together with a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder

450 grams unsweetened baking chocolate broken into pieces

1/2 cup commercial cream

1.5 cups water

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened

1 cup castor or granulated sugar

4 large eggs at room temperature, separated carefully

FOR ASSEMBLY

5-6 cups dark chocolate butter cream

Beat together 1 cup regular cocoa, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 cups confectioners sugar and 500 grams unsalted butter until fluffy, 2 tablespoons or corn flour dissolved into 1/2 cup of warm milk.

1 cup simple syrup (optional)

Boil together 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar until reduced to 1 cup. Cool.

 

METHOD

Grease cake pans and line with parchment. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare middle rack.

Heat the milk and water on a medium flame. When it reaches a bubble turn off the flame and stir in the chocolate pieces and keep stirring until completely dissolved.

Reserve.

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or use a hand mixer. Beat on medium speed until soft, fluffy and creamy. Add vanilla extract and whisk again. Add one egg yolk at a time and beat until well incorporated. Add the chocolate mixture and beat again on high speed until completely incorporated. You will have a thick batter.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed until egg whites reach stiff peaks.

Slowly using a spatula fold these egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter into the two cake pans. Smoothen the tops gently.

Bake in bottom rung about 25 minutes. Then move to middle rung for another 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Your cake will have a light mocha or caramel colour. The top will be cracked like this-

This is what the original Devils Food cake looks like even when I added extra chocolate

 

 

Cool completely before unfolding.

ASSEMBLE

Use a sharp knife to slice the uneven tops off.

Slice each cake into 2 equal halves. Glaze with sugar syrup if desired.

Frost each layer and then cover the entire cake with frosting.

Serve at room temperature.

Frosted 4 layer Original Devils Food Cake