Keema Chops

Chops
Chops mean something very different in India than they do in the West (and when I say India I mostly mean Bengal). They do not refer to a particular cut of meat; in fact, they don’t refer to any cut of meat at all. Chops can have meat in them, they can have fish in in them, and they often have vegetables in them. By “chop” you see we mean what people elsewhere refer to as croquettes. How it is that we came to call them chops I don’t know, and I have no idea why other people didn’t start calling them chops either. Indian English is generally better when it comes to food names: brinjal is a much better word than eggplant or aubergine; and you would have to be mad to think that okra is a better name for that vegetable than lady’s finger (oh the confusion when Indians first see ladyfinger on menus in the West). Anyway, just so you know, a chop is made by taking mashed potato, stuffing it with a savoury filling, breading it and deep-frying it. You can eat them as snacks or as accompaniments with dal and rice. Continue reading

Quick Bites: Honey-Chilli Cashews

Honey-Chilli Cashews
A while ago I posted a recipe for simple spiced cashews; here is a stickier, sweeter take on the same. All you need is unsalted cashews, honey, chilli powder/cayenne, salt and ghee/peanut oil. How hot you make it is entirely up to you. I don’t overdo the chilli powder or the honey because what I fundamentally want is the taste of cashews—just fringed by some other flavours. This is my problem with most store-bought flavoured cashews/nuts: they tend to be overly seasoned. Anyway, this is easy and quick (well not that quick: you do have to spread the cashews out so that they don’t form one giant ball when the honey dries). If you’re as cashew-crazed as I am you’ll go through all of this in one sitting with a cup of tea. Which is as it should be. Mother always said you shouldn’t trust a person who doesn’t eat cashews a hundredweight at a time. Continue reading

Simple Tamarind Chutney

Tamarind Chutney
Like most Indians, I have a long history with tamarind (imli in Hindi, tetul in Bengali). As kids my friends and I would pick the pods right off the trees and eat the mouth-puckering contents, straining the hulls and seeds out with our teeth, till our lips burned and our stomachs hurt. When not eating it off the trees tamarind candy, coated in chilli powder and about as addictive as crack, was the next best thing. Then there were and are the myriad pleasures of tamarind chutney, sour-sweet-spicy, as a dipping sauce for samosas and pakoras, in chaat, over chhole etc. Here in Babylon there are no tamarind trees (my kids instead go berry picking and to apple orchards). You can get tamarind pods in Asian markets but it’s not quite the same eating them straight out of the packaging.  Continue reading

Quick Bites: Spiced Cashews

Spiced Cashews
Those who know me know I have a bit of a cashew problem. I eat them compulsively and can go through a large jar in an implausibly short amount of time. I like them salted and unsalted but my favourite version is lightly spiced cashews. Many commercial versions are available but none quite satisfy. They’re either too salty, too overloaded with spice, too overloaded with non-complementary flavours (garlic) or all of the above.

Luckily, it’s very easy to make spiced cashews at home and get them just how you like them. This recipe is for how I like them: just a bit of heat, a little bit of savoury tang, all allowing the cashewnewss of the cashews to come through clearly. The spices set off the cashews, the cashews are not a delivery mechanism for the spices. Continue reading