This is a very traditiional breakfast food, served in Maharashtra , and made usually by the ” Bamans/Bramhins”. Luckily i was half of one so got to taste this delicacy many a time as a child. The sago or tapioca pearls are made from the sap of the tapioca,( Dont ask me how, because i have never researched that).
To date there are several tradional eateries in my town of Pune, where this is served only once or twice a week, depending ontheir menu or when it used to served as a fasting food.Some oof those places like ” Sri Uphaar Gruha”, maintain their tradition.Another place where i would eat this a lot was at Deccan Gymkhana Tennis Club, where an old guy called Appa was running their canteen. 2018 when i went to look alas, the whole place had chnaged and the canteen disappeared. Even Sri Uphaar gruha had moved from its share a bench with some unknown stranger and only 15 seat capacity to just down the road in a more spacious place. Fortunately the food was still good
Ok before we meander too much lets get back to the job in hand .
Sago/ Sabudana pearls(large sized )- 200 gm/ approx 1 cup
peanuts shelled, peeled roasted – 2 T/ 40 g
Green chilli- 1 medium
Potato 1 medium(125 g or so ) cooked and peeled
Salt to taste
Sugar- to taste
cumin / jeera seeds- 3 gm/ 1 t
Ghee/ clarified butter- 10 g/ 2t
Oil- 10 g/ 2 t
Red chilli powder – pinch
The pre prearation starts the night before, when you soak or just wash the sago pearls. What i like to do is just wash in a strainer and wash a few more times after and they will swell up./Alternately you can also soak with the barest minimum water to just come up to the surface level of the pearls in a bowl.Beware too much water and the tapioca starch in it will make it into a sticky yuckey goeey mess. Practise and experience helps.
The next morning the soaked pearls should be swelled up and easy to separate not clumped up. To the sago we add crushed peanut+chilli which we blitzkrieg together in the blender. ( Not too fine mind it , we like some texture in it).We also add salt and some sugar to taste. its not a sweet dessert so the sugar is just to balance the chilli and make it oomph.
Heat the oil and ghee and add the cumin, cook it till turns browner but not burnt then add the cubes of potato and saute them till they are coated and not very mushy. The next step is crucial too to ensure you dont get stodgy khichdi.
Add in sago mix and stir very lightly.keep on a medium/ low heat and cover just for a minute. you might need to add more oil/ ghee .Any longer and the pearls over burst and get mushy, we just want them translcent and slightly sticking to each other.
Garnish with chopped coriander and shredded coconut and or cucumber and yoghurt relish and sing an ode to ye olde masters Appa..
The name is just me being cheeky and calling it like how the Thai Chef i trained under would call a curry and how the Marathi peoples (i am half marathi) call this artery blocking snack!!
I first ate this at this hole on the wall bakery called ” Santosh bakery” on Apte Road, where one of my close friends Gautam “gotya” kotwal used to stay. They would have a line of people waiting to get them and would invariably be sold out since they made it only 1-2 times a week.
What made it better was that Santosh bakery packed up their shop and moved to 100 mtrs from our house in Pune .Unfortunately by then, i was away in Dubai i think oor could be Chennai then Dubai..
They used t make this by hand and bake them in a puff pastry / flaky pastry and filled with a spicy mix of potatoes and peas and so on. There are more refined versions available all over the world and in different forms( could be a turnover or a sausage roll or something else wrapped in pastry )
My version is something that anyone of you can make at home, pretty easily. There are more complex versions where you make the puff pastry at home and while i can do it quite easily(or train you to make it too).
Not on this post though we are going to keep this succint and short and easy to accomplish.
The recipe below makes about 20 generous sized ones …
Puff/ Flaky pastry- 1kg—ready made one , look for one made without animal fats.
For the filling
onion chopped- 1/ 200 g
cumin- 1/2 t- 2 g
turmeric – 1/4 t- 1g
green chilli chopped- 1-2 or more, if you like to live dangerously like my friend Jatin Nandrajog used to at one point of time.
Ginger and garlic- 20 g
chopped vegetables- 100g(carrot, cauli, beans or whatever you fancy really)
green peas-50 g / 2T
cooked and peeled potato-250 g
coriander chopped-as much as you like usually i add abput 2 sprigs of my favourite flavouring herb…stems and all, just make sure you wash it well
So you heat upthe oil and add cumin and saute the onion and add the chilli, turmeric, ginger and garlic. Also add in your chopped vegetables and peas. Make sure the vegetables are cooked and then add in the potato. Check seasoning( is there any salt written there, no because i was checking to see, if you do read everything)
Cool down your mixture and then add in the coriander . then you make the sheets into triangles or rectangles. Seal the edges well and then refriegrate for 15-20 mins. You need to keep these cool, because the pastry gets very soft otherwise.
Preheat your oven to about 180C/ 400 F and brush these with beaten egg or milk if you dont eat egg.
Bake for about 18-20 ,minutes turning midway through to make sure they get coloured evenly.
You can replace the filling with spinach and ricotta or cooked chicken , or mince and will still be very nice.
Enjoy with some spicy suicide sauce or tomato ketchup or dipping sauce of your choice…ill put down some dip and sauce recipes soon too
So when were young or rather younger, we as in my younger brother Deep and I would go off to my Ajjis( grandmother in Marathi)house. Aai and Baba being doctors were busy so would send us there before school began at 1230 .
Since I always had a taste for the savoury or rather the tasty snacky bits I and Deep too would get a bowl of Ajjis chiwda. For the uninitiated Chiwda is snack or pharal made at any time of the year but also predominantly at Diwali the festival of lights.Every family claims that their secret recipe is Manna from heaven .Having been an afficionado since me tender years I can also make vague claims like these..
Makes you happy , makes you smile..all nonsense..
So you need to make this with poha ,( a kind of flattened rice flakes) , which I don’t know the history of.I am not going to say these are hand beaten by young Marathi people in one little lane of Pune , but it could be true..and add some embellishments to my little tail.
Now these rice flakes come in varying thicknesses and this particular recipe is for ” Paratlela pohyachya Chiwda”, which needs the thinnest variety called Pattal poha or Nylon poha.
Poha flakes- 500 g
Ghee- clarified butter-20 g or so..
Mustard seeds black 1/2 t about 1 g if you wanted to be pedantic and weigh it
Cumin seeds/ Jeera- 1 t, 2.5 g
Curry leaves-1 sprig
Green chilli-1-2. Chopped fine ,can go a bit more if you like to burn your taste buds
Garlic -1-2 cloves sliced very thin…cant do it ..go back to post where you learn to sharpen your knife.
Asafoetida- small pinch Ferula asafoetida comes from Afghanistan or Iran and is compounded and mixed with wheat flour usually.. this is typically used as anti flatulent in most indian foods which are snacky or with lentils beans …
Roasted peanuts with skin on typically…yay you can go berserk with quantity here I’ve developed an intolerance over the years but love these still.
Roasted chickpeas skinless called daliya- about 2 T, 25 g or so.
Cashew nuts – 2 T, 50 g or so..if you are feeling rich..can be made without and tastes just as good.
Ok moving on to the method…At the end I’ll share a story of how I eated a whole lot and drove my Ajji mad.
So traditionally the poha flakes are sauteed lightly over a low heat for a long time till they get cripsy..( the typos are deliberately put in to check if you are noticing)
But I like to roast these in an oven low heat so that avoids breaking the grains..so about 120 C for about 30 mins on low fan or zero fan . Turning every ten mins or so.
Then you heat the oil, and add the mustard seeds and crackle them , take off he heat add cumin, curry leaves , chilli garlic , asafoetida and turmeric ( which I hadn’t added to the list of the ingredients so about 1/2 t or 2 g)
Add also the daliya, peanuts and cashew and saute..of course by now you have gotta put back on the heat. This you do till the cashew and the daliya is toasted and cruncheee.
Then add salt and sugar which are also not in the list of ingredients..because U need to gauge how much you want to add here ..and the rice flakes .turn that oven off now and U could use the residual heat to dehydrate mandarin slices or so..
Then continue to saute till the rice flakes are well mixed and not burning..low heat..please.Add in the ghee and check for seasoning and taste from time to time . At this point my wife shouts saying stop being greedy.
Usually I have this stuff stored all through the year like Ajji used to.
She was 70 + when we were kids so I’m pretty sure we harassed her a fair bit without meaning to..there was once I climbed up on the chair took down the container of chiwda and ate it all up.when she woke up from her afternoon nap she was furious…as was meant to be rationed over the next few weeks …ohh the memories..”arree melyano, khetra ni badveen”( meaning, you little brats/ rascals, i want to smack you with my slippers).
The Art of the ” Cully puff” or more heart breaking things ( quite literally)
So this is an ode to something very snacky can be a bite or a bit more substantial it’s all upto the doer / cooker.
I’ve called it the Cully puff after Chef Prakob who would pronounce a curry that way but with absolutely no disrespect..That guy was a master Thai chef , when I was a humble trainee in Delhi at The Oberoi and at India’s first Thai restaurant ” Baan Thai”.
But apart from the name that little introduction had nothing to do with what we are looking to cook.
This little confection can be as fancy pants as you want it to be or a really simple street food in India , where I first ate it. Over the years in many different parts of the world I’ve seen different versions of something similar with various different fillings and varying degrees of sophistication.
What this is essentially is a flaky pastry triangle or rectangle filled with mix of vegetables quite spicy of course and potato…something which we could afford to buy for 2 Rs at one point of time ( approximately 5 cents ) when I was in college in 1988-90. The place making this since closed down and moved to my delight 200 mtrs away from my house in Pune . Santosh bakery where they would bake these in a wood fired monster sized oven and then they would be a queue of people lined up to buy them burning hot from the oven.oozing trans fats ( who knew there was such a thing in the 90’s) these were quite amazing.
So here is my take on them. This recipe makes about 8 .
Flaky or puff pastry – 250 g / get a good quality one pre rolled if you can or you can pay me to teach you how to make it.
For the filling.
Peeled and chopped brown onion -1/2 / 50 g
Boiled and peeled potato- 1 medium /200 g
Oil – 20 ml
Cumin seeds whole – 2 g/ 1/4 t
Ginger and garlic paste or chopped -20 g
Turmeric -1/4 t / 1 g
Curry powder 1/2 t / 3 g
Coriander leaves chopped -1 sprig
Mint leaves chopped -1 sprig ( U can add more of this and coriander they are there to aromatise the filling.
Green peas-1 T or about 20 g
Carrot 1/2 small about 25 g or can be replaced with frozen mixed vegetables
Dal makhani means lentils with butter literally, what it is really is these black lentils traditionally cooked overnight slowly on a tandoor oven.
i know at this stage some of you are going to walk away because it’s not everyone who has a tandoori oven tucked away in their garden or worse Kitchen..So I’ve come with a sort of compromise which will work for most homes sans monster clay oven. We will require however a thick bottomed pot or the quintessential staple of an Indian kitchen ,the pressure cooker, which should be used the world over really. Saves time and gas /power which means a cleaner earth for future generations.
We also will make modified recipe because the traditional one would be cooked with lentil 1 kg+ butter 1 kg+cream 1 kg. Since we don’t want to kill you so quickly..and lose on potential ad revenue from Google, we make a lighter version ,which is just as tasty but lighter .Having said that this is still a rich winter food and you should stop at one bowl.
time to take a break and go do more important stuff.
ok back after a bit so what we need is
Black urad dal whole- 250 g( that’s plenty for about 10 people, but the time spent on making it makes it easier to make a large batch and then freeze. Wash really well and soak overnight , do actually is a 48 hr process.dont worry we have a short cut.so 24 hrs later bring it to a boil and skim the scum till no black / brown stuff is floating on top. From here on gets interesting , U could slow cook if you have a tandoor or wood burner in your house. Otherwise put the lentil/ dal in a pressure cooker with adequate water about 20 ml oil/ 1T .Add 2 T /30 g ginger and garlic paste ,1/2 T coriander pdr, pinch cumin powder and 1/2 t of bright red chilli powder,not very hot one. Then cook till it gets really mushy/4-5 whistles on low heat.
Then in a separate pot , take 1 T oil heat ,add 1/4 t cumin seeds and then about 2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced.Add also about half an onion very finely chopped and saute till lightly translucent.then add about 1T of good tomato paste or about 3T of tomato puree. Add the cooked lentil/dal and slowly simmer .
Add a largeish pinch of kasoori methi( these are fenugreek leaves dried ,which I toast and grind to a powder, makes them easier to blend). It’s not exact but you put too much it gets too bitter but gives a nice flavour for want of better words( no smoky peaty , chalky undertones here , most of that takes years to understand and comprehend quite a bit is just pretentious BS)
I also add some Julienne of ginger ( gives a bit of texture and also healthy).
Now important part , when this thing is simmering U cannot do too much multi tasking , otherwise it’s going to stick and burn. Pop in about 25 g if butter and cream about 100 ml.
Eat in miniscule quantities( have a heart ) because it’s quite rich remember though we have put in only a 1/3 Rd of the butter and half the cream of what can go in.
With all my food there’s always a bit of a story or some witty banter or somesuch going on.
Makes it a more like a gripping potboiler with some hints of dark humour and stuff..Not embellished to be fictional but sometimes unbelievable and true.So our tale begins with the ubiquitous and humble samosa which is found anywhere in India . I worked once in a place where we sold the most expensive samosa in all Bombay..and it’s was priced so with good reason .Our restaurant part of the Oberoi airport services , had restaurants in all 3 of the airport terminals, NTB – new terminal building for all domestic private carriers,NDT- new domestic terminal and this was actually a newish building for Indian Airlines domestic flights and NIPT , new international passenger terminal or Sahar airport.
So I was posted there straight out of Oshm/Ocld the finishing school for Oberoi hotels where we went through boot camp of hotel chef life after finishing our Diploma in Hotel management.
So to cut a long story short I was posted to NIPT , the first and only graduate to go there and it was brutal .we would get 45 mins notice and had a to make a meal for 400 hungry passengers whos flight had been delayed.Thats a main meal we are talking about for smaller meals we would be cranking it out in 15-20 mins onwards ..LR ( light refreshment)meant one samosa and one sandwich triangle , so you would say Sheesh that’s easy why this guy is moaning so much. Ok so one night , I and one more commis chef made 1500 Lrs, and the breakfast for 500 . This is a kitchen with antiquated equipment and a walk in freezer which used to be +1-2 C.
I would work only night shifts when it used to busiest and we had two stalwarts who were out samosa production team Madhusudan Biswas ( who passed away unfortunately) and Keshav Ganguly. Approximately 1500 samosa made from scratch day in day out sometimes more..when we crossed the 3000+ mark we would sometimes order these from outside. When I landed there I had no clue what I was getting into..bright eyed and bushy tailed I was and soon had to get down to learning also from the more experienced guys even though technically I was their boss/ supervisor.
All the old guys there who I’m in touch with still remember samosas being cooked at all hours ..freakingly nightmarish..Ok time for a break
Ok Ok Here we go finally
Pastry/ outer cover
Flour -150 g
Whole wheat flour – 75 g
Fine semolina – 25 g
Baking powder-1 g
Ajwain seeds( carom ajowan) acts as an anti flatulent ..a small pinch lightly crushed between your fingers
Salt – approximately 5 g
Oil or fat- 35-40 g
Water – enough to form a semi stiff dough- approximately -125-150 g .This will largely depend on what kind of flour you guys are using.
To make the dough you mix all the dry ingredients together very well ( it’s good to sieve the flour also to take out bits of plastic etc ..)
Add the oil and 80%of the water and mix lightly .cover the dough and rest for about 15mins.then knead it well and add the water a bit at a time to make your stiff dough.if your dough is too soft won’t get crisp.
Then rest again .this has to be rolled out and folded into a conical pyramid shape and then stuffed and then slow fried. A video will explain how that happens .Writing about it just won’t be good enough.
For the filling
Potatoes boil and then peel and crush-150 GM’s( 2 medium sized ones)
Green peas – 25 g/1 T
Onion – 1 chopped /75 g
Carrot -1/2 peeled and chopped 40 g
Cauliflower – 50 g roughly chopped
Coriander sprig- 2 washed and chopped
Mint -1 sprig as above.
Oil -25 g
Cumin -1/4 t
Coriander powder-1/2 t
Turmeric powder-1/4 t
Red chilli powder-1/4 t
Garam masala powder- pinch best if you make yourself.
Lemon juice – 1/4 t
Green chillies-1 or as many you can handle
Ginger and garlic paste -1/2 t
Heat oil add cumin , saute the onion and then add the rest of the ingredients and saute till all vegetables are cooked . Reserve the herbs and lemon to add right in the end .
The most important bit is that it should be tasty so feel free to play with the ingredients and have fun while doing it..
Also slow fry so gets even shorter texture when U eat..enjoy with some green Coriander chutney or sweet tamarind one
stories of foods from the world over, laced with a hint of sarcasm and some black humour, its not for everyone, but then never was meant to be..