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Appetizers

From my Father’s Food Memoirs

Stir fried Beef with shallots.

This is the story of a young boy who lived in a small town in Kerala. He was the youngest among his six brothers and this earned him special privileges in the family. One of the privileges of his life then was that he would always get a portion of  special dishes cooked for the elders of the family. It was very common in those days to save the best dishes for the head of the family and to be able to have a taste of those was a rare treat. He would wait to have dinner with his dad when ever his mother prepared this special beef fry and his dad never disappointed him. Days and years went by, everything around him changed but his love for the beef fry his mother made  remained the same.

This young boy is my father and every time he narrates this story to us he would be beaming with joy. You would be surprised to know this beef fry has proven to have medicinal powers and works better than antipyretic in treating fever in the case of my dad. Every time he falls sick my mother makes sure he gets a dose of his mom’s beef fry along with the tablets. This is definitely the ultimate comfort food for him not just for taste but for the flood of memories it brings back.

I am excited to share the recipe with you and you would be amazed to know a beef fry recipe can’t get any simpler.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 500 gms of Beef cut into bite sized pieces
  • 5-6 Green chillies split lengthways
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 1 cup Indian Shallots halved
  • 1-2 tsp of White Vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Sprig of curry leaves
  • 1-2 tsp oil

Method

Wash the beef and place in a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 cup of water and salt to taste and cook for about  10 minutes after the first whistle. Alternatively, you can cook the beef in a regular pan with enough water to cover the beef for about 30 minutes until the meat is soft. Make sure there is at least  half a cup of stock remaining in the pan at the end of cooking.

Add  the chopped shallots, chopped ginger, slit green chillies and vinegar to the beef and cook until all the liquid in the pan is gone.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan .Transfer the contents of pressure cooker to the pan. Add curry leaves and fry it on a low flame until the meat is browned as seen in the picture.

Serve it as side for rice or even better use it as filling for your tortilla wrap.

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Fusion is the order of the day

Chilli Paneer – fiery hot succulent pieces of Paneer with a crunchy coating.

For me until a couple of years ago Manchurian , be it  Gobi or Baby Corn , epitomised Chinese cuisine. I packed my bags and came to UK for a Master Degree and landed in a class room packed with all but English students.Yes  there were Indians, Africans, Chinese, Arabs but not a single English student in my class.To be honest I was slightly disappointed and was saddened. I didn’t  lament for too long and was quickly making friends with everyone. One of those miserable winter afternoon, I was sitting in the lecture theatre with a group of Chinese friends.I quickly used that opportunity to boast my knowledge of Chinese cuisine.I confidently popped the question “So how do you guys make Manchurian at home?”. My Chinese friend’s look said everything – he didn’t understand a word I said. I am not the kind who gives up , so I wrote down on a piece of paper  – “Manchurian”. All of his brain cells failed to recognise it.He was also not the one to give up and quickly entered “MANCHURIAN” into his electronic translator and  not really to my surprise(By then I had almost realised that I didn’t know a thing about Chinese cuisine) , even the electronic circuit bailed out .I had emptied the place before he declared “Manchurian is not Chinese”. With the aid of Google the ignorant me found out Manchurian , the staple served in Indian Chinese restaurants  along with the many other regulars on the Menu card that are considered Chinese , by me at least,   are  believed to have originated in the streets of Calcutta. The use of Chinese seasonings and method of cooking makes it Chinese enough or more appropriately Indo Chinese.

This  introduction was just  to  take you through a very popular Indo Chinese dish with Paneer – chilli Paneer.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250 gm of Paneer cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1 cup Onion diced
  • ½ cup Spring onion finely chopped
  • 4-5  Green Chillies slit length ways
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Garlic
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Vinegar
  • 2 tsp soya sauce
  • A pinch of Sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for Shallow frying

For Marinade

  • ½ cup All Purpose flour
  • ½ cup Corn flour
  • 1 tsp Soya Sauce
  • ½ tsp Ginger – Garlic paste
  • 1 tsp Pepper Powder
  • 1 tsp Chilli powder
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt to taste

Method

Make a thick  marinade with  all the ingredients listed under “For Marinade” . Place the Paneer pieces  in the marinade, mix well and leave it aside for about half an hour.

Heat oil in a shallow pan . Fry the Paneer pieces (make sure the pan is not over crowded) until golden brown. Remove and keep aside.

For the sauce , heat  oil (Use 2 tsp of oil from the left over oil used for shallow frying) in a wok. Add the diced onion along with the chopped garlic and saute on high flame for about  1 minute. Add the chopped spring onion whites and saute for further 1 minute. Mix vinegar with the red chilli powder to make a paste. Add the red chilli paste, soy sauce, sugar and combine. Add the fried Paneer pieces and mix carefully making sure Paneer is coated well with the sauce. Do a taste test at this stage and add salt if necessary.Cook on high for another 3-4 minutes and turn off the stove.Garnish with spring onion greens and serve hot.  This is a great starter to get any party going.