Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bread Gulab Jamuns

Gulab Jamuns could truly be the most pan-Indian dessert. Found in every corner of the country, big and small, the flavour rarely varies despite the regional twists. Rose, kewra, cardamom, saffron... the gulab jamun still tastes just like home. 
I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like gulab jamuns. Or G-Jams,  to borrow a term from my cousin. Even those who prefer savoury over sweet can rarely resist the call of the G-Jam! Really, what's not to like? Golden, fried dumplings soaked in cardamom scented sugar syrup. Exotically delicious, yet endearingly simple!
The commercially available G-Jams are usually made of khoya. And homemakers like mum choose the less complicated route of instant G-Jam packets that use milk powder for a smoother, lighter version that is a lot less complicated than the original. And then there is a third, more unorthodox version. The Bread Gulab Jamuns!
I was first introduced to the bread version during my college years. Homesick on diwali, one of our friends surprised my roomie and me with a huge box of gulab jamuns. Made by his fauji mess cook. As we popped the first one into our mouth, he dropped the B-word! These were made with regular white bread! Despite being a foodie and a cooking enthusiast, I would never have guessed had he not told us! As for the taste? Suffice to say I disappeared with the entire box, coz, " Joey doesn't share food!"
I've been looking for the perfect recipe ever since and after many years of trial and error, I've created one that would have made the old Cook baba proud!

Bread                        12 slices (I used wholewheat)
Custard Powder        3 tablespoon
Baking Soda             1 teaspoon
Milk                          2 cups
Sugar                        1 1/2 cup
Water                        1 1/2 cup
Cardamoms              3
Oil                             to deep fry

Method: Trim the edges of the bread. Soak a slice of bread in milk and squeeze to remove the excess. Repeat with all the slices. Run the crumbled, wet bread with the custard powder and baking soda in the food processor. Gently pulsing twice to obtain a smooth yet firm paste. Heat the sugar, water and crushed cardamoms in a deep pan till the syrup reaches a sticky, one string consistency. Take off the heat. Meanwhile, gently form the bread paste into smooth balls. Take care not to press too hard while rolling them or the consistency will not be spongy. Heat oil and gently drop the bread jamuns few at a time. Cook over medium heat so that the outside doesn't brown before the inside cooks. Once they are evenly golden, drain on kitchen paper and transfer to the warm syrup. Repeat with all the G-Jams. You can eat them warm or chill them in the refrigerator to serve later. Either way, they are easy to make and are always a blockbuster hit!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Junglee Maas

My grandfather was eighty plus when one fine day he loaded a rucksack into the back of our jeep. Picked up an old army pal of his and drove straight across the country, from the south to the north east. We had no clue where he had gone or when he would be back. A month later he returned, with a rejuvenated laugh and a twinkle in his eye. And a huge wild boar in the back. Ready to be skinned and pickled.
Shikaar! Aah! That word throws up romantic images of tough men on horseback or open jeeps, rifles slung on the shoulders, tracking the elusive beast through dense jungles. Fearless and focused. Images of late night campfires and rustic food. Smells of sweat, rum and meat mingling with the smoke and the cool night air. 
I've never been on a shikaar or hunting expedition. But the vivid recollections of my father and grandfather transport me to those adrenaline fuelled times. When being true to the roots also meant being in touch with the most basic survival skills handed down by the primitive tribe. 
Hunting expeditions often lasted for days and meals had to be rustic and basic. Carrying fancy ingredients was out of the question. The meat was shot fresh and the only spices used were those that would not perish in the punishing heat. Out of these expeditions was born the hunter's Junglee Maas. A one pot dish with no frills and just a wholesome meaty flavour. High on calories and protein, this was the perfect meal to energize travel weary bones and sore muscles.  

The original recipe calls for ghee, red chillies, salt and of course, meat. The resultant dish is a mildly spiced, juicy and tender meat, crowned by a flaky and crisp exterior. A contrast that delights with every bite. The gravy is thin with a buttery goodness. And if you make it under a starry sky on an open fire, the smokiness from the wood will elevate it to a whole other dimension. 

Goat Meat                 1 kg
Dry Red Chillies       20
Ghee or Butter          250 gm
Salt                            to taste

 Method: Melt the ghee/butter in a deep pot. Add the meat and the red chillies and cook for a medium flame till all the pieces are generously coated with the ghee. Add the salt and just enough water to reach the level of the meat pieces. Reduce the flame and cook covered till the meat is done. Stir occasionally, adding water if the dish starts to dry. Slurp it like stew, soak it with bread or serve up with some steamed rice.