Ramadan began ten days ago, and with it a wonderful sense of beauty and excitement, and so much to look forward to. Last few days have been stunningly busy, at the same time quiet, with much uninterrupted privacy. Although must confess, quite adore the peacefulness, temperance and moments of repose about this time of the year.
And so, a little fashionably late, I wish you all a most generous and blessed month. Ramadan Kareem, my beautiful, beautiful audience. And again, a million thank you’s for taking a moment to stop by with your warm, thoughtful messages. I’ve had not much time to say hello or respond to your notes, but I’m forever touched by your kindness and love.
These is so much to love about this month. The perfect beauty of the whole family abstaining from food and drinks; Iftar times positively filled with family and friends; very late sultry nights and stops at the roadside kebab stations; the enhanced sprit of giving and sharing; and best of all the promise of new beginnings. And with each anniversary of Ramadan, the notion of maintaining a healthy mind and body comes back to life with great vigor.
Talking of Ramadan, there’s something totally charming about so many observant people fasting from sun dawn to sundown. For one whole month. With no food. No water.
And when the table is laid for memorable iftar meals, the expectations run high. Moreover, there are quite different palates in my family, and with all fasting, including both my kids, I must take into account everyone’s preferences while planning the menu.
Besides dates, fruits, and juices, we have our own little tradition of serving plenty of snacks for Iftar. Finger food that are usually baked, grilled or deep-fried. Puffs, panino, croquettes, pakoras, and the likes. Unless we have extended family and friends, we don’t really do a full meal.
Croquettes or cutlets have always been among our favorite, with each crisp bite so sinfully delicious and satisfying. The ingredients are varied each time, with tuna, beef and chicken being more regular than mutton or veggie options. Our absolute favorite? Tuna! And of course, beef cutlet—back home, it’s a staple served for evening tea.
For some reason, when I think of snacks, I start craving some deep-fried goodness. Ironically, this goodness is really bad because it’s the unhealthiest of the lot. But wait. If deep-frying is done properly, you can strike off the extra guilty. Remember the rule of thumb: choose the right fat—anything with high smoke point, the right pan like a deep, heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet, and start frying at the right temperature. And oh don’t over-crowd the pan.
Now when it comes to tackling meat, pressure cooker is my go-to tool. In fact it is one of the most used and indispensable appliance in my kitchen, and — I have invested in cookers of varied sizes, I must say. Tough cuts of meat that call for hours of cooking time on stove-top, are done to succulent tenderness in a pressure cooker, and that too in a matter of minutes. Ha, I just can’t do without a pressure cooker.
Enough. Time to bring some Indian flavor to your dining table. If you are a meat eater, you’ll sure love these tiny bites of ground meat laced with creamy mashed potatoes, onions and spices. Crisp on the outside and absolutely yummy on the inside!
For a bit more oomph and flavor, try serving it with a dipping sauce. Just combine finely sliced red onions with equal parts tomato ketchup, and chili sauce—so simple and delish.
Beef Croquettes — Kerala Style Beef Cutlets
Makes about 20 patties, depending on size
Prep+cooking: 30 min, plus extra time for cooking beef
For prepping beef
½ kg boneless steak (beef), cut into small cubes
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
½ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
½ teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
¼ teaspoon garam masala powder
1 green chili, slit
few curry leaves
salt, to taste
2/3 cup water
2 cups finely chopped onion (about 3 medium onions)
4 green chilies, sliced finely
12 curry leaves, torn into small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons ginger, julienned
½ teaspoon garam masala powder
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
½ teaspoon meat masala powder (I used Eastern)
1 cup boiled and mashed potato (about 2 medium potatoes)
2 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon oil, plus extra for deep-frying (I used canola for deep-frying)
salt, to taste
First, cook the beef. Place all the ingredients for prepping beef with 2/3 cup water in a 2-liter pressure cooker, lock the lid in place, and bring to full pressure on high heat (cooker whistles at this stage). Then reduce heat to low; cook for 25 minutes more. Remove from heat, and allow pressure to release naturally. Now check the meat—it should be tender. If any broth remains, return cooker to high heat, without lid. Simmer away until no stock remains and meat is coated with spices. While still hot, break beef chunks into small pieces by flaking with a fork. Alternatively, allow meat to cool, and pulse in a food processor.
Heat 1-tablespoon oil (use coconut oil for naadan taste) in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion with a bit of salt and sauté until soft and lightly browned, about 6-7 minutes. Tip in ginger, curry leaves, chili, and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute more. Then add minced beef, meat masala, garam masala, black pepper and stir-fry everything for 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Combine beef masala with mashed potatoes in a large bowl, and mix with your hand until well combined and mixture holds together. Shape into small balls and flatten into cylinders or round patties with your palms—make sure there are no cracks. Raw patties may be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days, or sealed in an airtight container and frozen, for up to 2 months.
Meanwhile beat eggs in a shallow dish; spread bread crumbs on a large plate. Dip patties in the egg, then dredge in bread crumbs, making sure it is evenly coated. Set aside on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.
Heat oil in a deep pan or deep-fryer to 350 — 3750F, or until almost smoking. Fry patties in batches of 4 to 6 until crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel–lined plate.
Serve hot with a dipping sauce, if you like. For a simple dipping sauce, combine finely sliced red onions with equal parts tomato ketchup, and chili sauce.
Serve croquettes with salad and warm pita bread for a quick dinner.
I hope you have a most enchanting month filled with love, forgiveness, guidance and blessings. Ramadan Mubarak.