Indian Scotch Eggs

On my first trip to Kolkata – 13 years ago – I was introduced to my new extended Indian family, going from home to home, meeting a bevy of smiles and warmth behind each door. Every household we visited offered food in great abundance – either a full meal or some delicious snacks. I struggled a little with the sweet treats, not having a sweet tooth, but the savoury snacks were something else.

As we normally saw three or four different families on average each day I had to be diplomatic when it came to eating. Not eating would be disrespectful, so I had to pace myself. One of life’s more pleasing conundrums. One snack that really stood out was Indian Scotch eggs, which were just so heavenly. Unlike your traditional Scotch egg which has sausage meat covering the egg, this one has spiced potato and has half a boiled egg per ball.

I have been trying to replicate the recipe ever since and I think I am pretty close so I wanted to share it with you all today.

 

Indian Scotch Eggs

makes 6 

5 medium potatoes, peel and boiled then mashed

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic-ginger paste

1 tsp salt, to taste

2 small fresh green chillies, finely chopped

handful of fresh curry leaves, finely chopped – optional

4 eggs

breadcrumbs – either freshly made, panko or bought

4 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. First peel and boil the potatoes until they are soft. This usually take around 10-12 minutes. Drain and then mash until smooth. Do not add any butter or milk. They must not be too wet.
  2. Meanwhile boil 3 of the eggs by placing them in a pan of cold water and then once it is simmering, turn it down and leave to cook for a further 8 minutes so that they are completely hard. Once cooked drain and immediately put in a bowl with ice and cold water – this will allow you to peel the egg really easily. Leave the eggs to sit for a few minutes before peeling them and leaving them to rest on a plate
  3. Add the spices, garlic-ginger paste, chillies, fresh curry leaves if using, salt and mix in thoroughly. Allow to cool before handling the potato.
  4. In a shallow bowl add the remaining egg and whisk.
  5. In a separate bowl add some breadcrumbs.
  6. Halve the eggs, lengthwise. Take a small amount of spiced mashed potato into your hand and place the egg, yolk side down, onto the mashed potato. Gently cover the whole egg with the potato to create a ball. Place to one side whilst you do the same to the remaining eggs.
  7. Now take one potato ball at a time and gently roll it in the whisked egg followed by the breadcrumbs then place on a plate. Complete the rest.
  8. Heat the oil and when it is hot gently fry each potato ball, a couple at a time, turning at intervals so that the breadcrumb coat bronzes nicely. Place to one side, whilst you complete the rest.
  9. They are wonderful eaten hot, but equally you can serve them at room temperature – perhaps perfect for a train journey.

I like to eat them with a chutney. My tamarind and date chutney works really well.

 

 

 


Cambodian Nut Mix

I wanted to introduce you all to my favourite snackage at the moment. I only came across it recently when I was staying in Kep-sur-Mer in the south of Cambodia – you can read about my stay in Kep here. Most evenings we would head to the sailing club (below – the pool table was a perfect activity during cocktails hour) next to our hotel – Knai Bang Chatt – which I really recommend if you are thinking about a trip – and when you order your drink they give you a bowl of this delicious nut mix.

They are so simple to make and yet completely addictive and because they are a little salty you naturally want more to drink. Clever hey.

Anyway I thought it would be perfect to show you how to make your own nut mix at home. It makes sense to make a decent amount and then store it in an airtight container. There seems a bit of a theme with airtight containers – I blame it on the snow and being stuck inside few weeks back. There is literally 5 ingredients: peanuts – with their red skins on- fresh curry leaves, dried red chillies, garlic and salt. That said I think there may have been some lemongrass mixed in with the nuts, but I can’t be sure, so if you have any by all means finely slice it lengthways and fry it with the sliced garlic.

Cambodian Nut Mix

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 whole garlic, pealed and thinly sliced

2 steams of fresh curry leaves (approx 20 leaves)

5 dried red chillies

1kg of red peanuts

rock salt to taste

optional: lemongrass, thinly sliced lengthways and fried with the garlic

 

  1. In a large pan gently heat the oil and then fry the garlic so it turns a light brown. If you are also going to use lemongrass, add it at this stage.  Remove and place on kitchen paper.
  2. Using the same pan gently fry the fresh curry leaves and add the dried red chillies. I tend to split some of them so as to release some of the seeds to give heat.
  3. Add the nuts and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Take off the heat and add the garlic (and lemongrass if using) thoroughly.
  5. Once cooled store in an airtight container. They will last for ages and are good to bring out with drinks in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

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After the excessive eating around Easter time, which always happens when my family gets together for a few days, it was time to detox a little and by that I mean eat vegetable-only lunch and suppers. If you are a vegetarian, eating and cooking Indian food holds so many delicious possibilities, in fact it would be really easy to be a vegetarian in India as all the vegetable dishes taste so good and in many cases better than their meat and fish counterparts. Anyway after a few days of worthiness we did cook one dish, or perhaps I should call it a snack, that was perhaps a little less healthy – as they are fried – but are very addictive.

 

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They are incredibly moorish and the perfect accompaniment when eating rice/chapati and dal. The trick is to eat them within a couple of minutes of being cooked as they are not as tasty once they become cold. When eating Indian food with my family at home I tend to eat with my right hand – why? – well I find the food actually tastes better, although be careful not to over eat as it is easy to eat more this way ;o). Eating a thicker dal (not the overly soupy kind) and chapati with these fried spiced aubergines is one of lives pleasures. Have a go and you’ll know what I mean. They may not be pretty but they do taste rather good.

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To cook these little beauties follow these simple instructions:

 

Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

4-6 people depending on the size of your aubergine

1 aubergine

100g chickpea/gram flour

100ml water

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp poppy seeds/sesame seeds

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

1. To make the batter mix the flour and water together. You want to get the right consistency – not too watery and not too thick so add a little more water/flour as you see fit.

2. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, poppy seeds/sesame seeds and salt and mix into the batter.

3. Slice the aubergine into thin circles – approximately 1cm in diameter. If they are too thick they will not cook through properly.

4. Place the aubergine slices into the batter, a few at a time.

5. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan on a medium heat. When it is hot add a few of the aubergine slices. Fry on both sides for around 3 minutes per side.

6. Once bronzed place carefully on some kitchen roll and serve immediately with more salt as required.

 

 

 

 


Chicken, Ginger and Spring Onion Gyoza/Jiaozi/Pop Sticker

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Mention the worked ‘gyoza’ in my household and you will hear yelps of delight – and that’s not just from the children. These moreish savoury dumplings are incredibly addictive and are a great little starter or snack, although you can off course have them as a main meal along with some steamed greens with soy and garlic perhaps.

Japan and China both have their version of the dumpling, although these dumplings first originated from China and were then adopted by the Japanese. The Chinese dumplings are known as jiaozi if they are boiled or steamed and guo tie if they are fried, in Japan – gyoza and the US – pot sticker.

The Chinese variety have slightly thicker wrappers and have a far wider combination of fillings than their Japanese counterparts. They are often steamed, whereas the Japanese gyoza are fried for a few minutes and then steamed for a further few minutes. The fillings I typically use for the vegetarian are tofu and shiitake mushrooms, or the meat variety filled with pork, chicken or duck or the seafood version, which tends to be prawn. Whatever takes your fancy these little dainties will be forever cherished by those who sample them.

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Now the question is to lovingly prepare your own wrappers or to buy some from your local Asian grocers or online. Basically it will come down to time on your part. Making your own takes a little time, but its the perfect activity to do with a mate who comes over for coffee – just rope them in they’ll love the experience or even with the kids. Shop bought is pretty cheap, as you can see for the price sticker I left on above, and are likely to be more uniform in thickness, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which suits your lifestyle.

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For those who wish to make their own it is SO simple. Seriously you only need a couple of ingredients and then a bit of kneading.

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Homemade Gyoza Wrappers

Makes around 20

210g plain flour, seived

125ml warm water

 pinch of salt

1. Stir the salt into the warm water until it completely dissolves.

2. Place the sieved flour into a large bowl and add the warm water. Using a wooden spoon mix the flour and water together and then use your hands to create a ball.

3. Kneed the dough on a cold surface for around 10 minutes, when it will be soft and springy to touch. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough if it is getting too sticky.

4. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

5. Take small balls of the dough – about the size of apricot – and flatten it with your hand. Gently roll the dough into a round shape, turning it after every roll. Using a round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a saucer) cut out a round circle and cover gently with flour and place in a pile.

6. Continue until the dough has been used up. You should make around 20 dough wrappers with the proportions above. Whilst you prepare the filling place a damp cloth over the wrappers so they do not dry out.

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So now you have the wrappers ready to go you need to prepare the filling. Whether you want to use chicken, pork mince, prawn, duck or shiitake mushrooms and tofu the rest of the ingredients remain the same.

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Whilst using Chinese cabbage is the most authentic, use whatever green cabbage you have in your fridge. Place two large leaves in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute and then drain and pat completely dry with kitchen paper. You then want to slice and cut them up as small as you can. You can blitz everything in a blender but I tend to often take the slightly slower version of cutting by hand. Today I used chicken and as I tend to find minced chicken hard to source so I bought boneless chicken thighs and cut up them up into small pieces. I also added spring onions, chopped garlic, finely grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper and hey presto you have your filling. You can get creative and add any other ingredient you think might work – how about carrot, fresh chilli, five spice.

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Wrapping the dumplings is rather satisfying and you will begin to get into a rhyme with them. Don’t overfill the gyoza, instead putting a teaspoonful in the centre and then, using your finger tip, wet the low half rim of the circle. You then want to fold over the gyoza in half and then begin to pleat from left to right, making sure the filling is securely inside the parcel. It is definitely a case of the more you do the better you become. My 8 year old is a complete natural and can do multiple pleats across the top. You only pleat one side of the gyoza s0 do not turn over and attempt to do more on the other side.

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The above photo shows half of the gyoza pleated. I finished doing this row, but did not turn it over to attempt to do the other side. To pleat you simply use your thumb and forefinger to make small pleats going over the last. Make sure you press the top together so that it is firmly stuck together – you don’t want them opening up in the pan.

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So you can see some are neater than others above. They will still taste delicious even if you haven’t got the perfect symmetrical pleating!

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Dumpling Filling

to fill around 20 dumplings

2 large leaves from a green cabbage/Chinese leaf cabbage

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

20g ginger, peeled and finely grated

3 spring onions, finely sliced into small pieces

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp mirin rice wine

275g boneless chicken thighs/or chicken mince (or duck, pork mince, tofu and shiitake mushrooms)

100 ml water

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Dumpling Dipping Sauce

3 tsp rice vinegar

6 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp chilli oil (optional)

1 tsp sesame seeds

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1. Finely chop all of the ingredients and then bind together using your hands.

2. Place a heaped teaspoon of the ingredients onto one of the wrappers in the centre.

3. Wet the rim of the lower half of the wrapper using your finger.

4. Fold the wrapper in two and then pleat from left to right across the top, making sure to firmly seal the top of the wrappers.

5. Bend the wrapper slightly so that it is in a crescent moon shape and so it can stand up unaided. Place to one side whilst you prepare the rest.

6. Using a large nonstick pan add a tablespoon of sesame oil and when hot add the dumplings so that they are standing up and not sticking to one another. Fry them for 3 minutes, by which time they will have bronzed underneath. If they have not bronzed sufficiently leave them to fry for a little longer.

7. Add 100ml of water to the pan and place a lid on the top. Leave to steam for a further 3-4 minutes so that the water has completely dissolved.

8. Mix the ingredients of the dipping sauce together and then place to one side in a little bowl.

9. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

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Trang’s Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce

Not so many moons ago I met a Vietnamese lady when I was on a brief stopover in Singapore. We were both taking advantage of the hotel pool and as we pretty much had the pool to ourselves we struck up conversation. The topic of food naturally came up and I think she could sense my longing to experience the culinary treats of her native homeland. She spoke about her favourite Vietnamese spring rolls and I tried hard to take down a mental note of all the ingredients she was spinning off.

Later that day when I returned to my room I found a couple of hand written notes detailing her Vietnamese spring rolls, or Cha Gio to be precise. I was really touched that she had gone to the effort of writing it down and slipping it under my door. Life is clearly full of wonderful surprises.

Upon returning to London I sent her an email thanking her for the recipe and promising that I would try it out very soon. She then replied with a further recipe for the dipping sauce, known as Nuoc Cham, which would compliment the spring rolls to perfection.

So that brings me to today. Making spring rolls, much like making tortellini, is definitely a communal affair so I rallied the troops…..well slight exaggeration, I rallied a newlywed friend of mine who was up for the challenge.

They were really good fun to make although there are definitely some tips to take on board, before embarking.

Check them out.

1. Don’t wet the rice paper too much. Literally place it in a bowl of warm water and submerge it and spin it once and then remove it. If you leave it in the water for too long, it becomes very difficult and limp to handle.

2. There is definitely a skill in folding the rolls. Keep them tightly folded and secure and after the first turn tuck in both ends before proceeding to roll the rice paper further.

3. Don’t be greedy and overfill. Less is more, definitely comes to mind when rolling these beauties.

4. The oil must be very hot BUT on a low heat, that’s the trick folks. Place a crumb in the oil and if it fizzles, then the oil is ready.

5. The pork meat will cook beautifully, don’t worry that it won’t. 3-4 minutes and the spring roll will be ready.

6. Steaming is also an option – it will take 20 minutes, but I thought that I would try the less healthy option of frying for my first attempt.

So here are the ingredients for the spring rolls.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls  (Cha Gio)

Makes around 20

300g minced pork

120g crab meat, (tinned is fine)

150g bean sprouts

150g of fine rice noodles

1 handful of exotic mushrooms (ideally wood ear mushrooms), sliced

1 western onion, chopped finely

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

22 cm rice paper (I used the Banh Trang variety)

optional ingredient:

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1. Finely chop the onion and then combine it with the mince, egg, noodles, crab, mushrooms, beansprouts, carrots (if using them) and salt.

2. If you are going to use carrot then slice thinly into 2cm long straws.

3. If you are using wood ear mushrooms (I could not find them so opted for exotic mushrooms) you will need to soak them for 30 minutes before slicing them into strips. Similarly you may also need to soak your noodles for 20 minutes in cold water before cutting them to 10cm in length. I used Amoy  ‘straight to wok’ rice noodles, which do not need any soaking.

4. Place the rice paper into a bowl of warm water for no longer than 5 seconds. Then lay it out onto a flat surface and add a spoonful of the pork/crab mixture. Tightly roll the rice paper over the filling and after the first roll (so that the mixture is covered), fold in both ends before proceeding to finish the rolling. Rest aside on a plate, making sure that the spring roll is not touching another spring roll. They will tear each other apart from sticking if you place them side by side. I found that they stuck well together (only one broke in the pan, but that was from over filling the rice paper). However, if you find they need some help at sticking the ends together mix a little flour with some water to form a paste and dab a little of this past at the end of the rice paper.

I found a fellow blogger who has produced good step by step photos of the rolling if you care to take a look .

Once you have rolled them all up they should look something like this.

5. Heat a deep pan with vegetable oil. You need to have enough oil so that the spring rolls can be submerged under the oil. Heat the oil to a high temperature and then turn down the heat so that it remains cooking at this low, but hot, heat. If you drop a crumb in the oil and it fizzes you know that the oil is hot enough.

6. Place a couple of spring rolls in the oil at a time so that you can carefully monitor them. Turn them in the oil a couple of times. They should be well cooked through in 3-4 minutes. If you are going to use a steamer they will need 20 minutes cooking time.

Please note they will not turn a golden colour like they do when you go out to a chinese restaurant. This is because they are using egg roll paper, which is different from rice paper. With rice paper they will go crispy BUT will remain with a white ish hue. Let them cool on kitchen roll, which will soak up the grease.

7. Serve with nuoc cham dipping sauce.

If you are vegetarian these will taste really good with tofu as well, so give them a try.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

1 tbs fish sauce

3tbs boiled water

half a tsp sugar

1 tbs of rice vinegar (or lemon/lime juice)

5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

half a carrot, sliced and chopped into small pieces OR shredded

optional extras:

 1 small red birds eye chilli

half a kohlrabi, sliced and cut into small pieces

1 tsp of soy sauce (this will deviate from the traditional recipe but I like the salty balance)

1. Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid on and give it a good shake. I could not source kohlrabi so simply omitted it and to really throw caution to the wind I added a tsp of soy sauce, apologies to all those purists out there, I could not resist. I also liked having a little chilli to spice things up a bit – sorry I can’t help it. I promise though that when I do a blog on game in the next month or so, I won’t be adding chilli!

2. Add additional sugar, salt, lime to taste.

I hope you will love this gloriously sweet, salty, sour and spicy accompaniment for the spring rolls.

I’d really like to hear how you get on so do post a comment.

happy eating