There’s never been a cold, rainy day when I haven’t yearned to cuddle up in my cozy comforter gazing out of the window while sipping on a cup of chai generously laced with ginger and munching on crispy home-made pakodas. Although quite a rare occurrence these days, especially with our busy schedules and untimely rain, I considered myself extremely lucky to be home on one such afternoon when it rained generously to my heart’s desire. Just like rain does to every romantic’s heart, it brought out the poetic, creative side of me very willing to experiment.
So on that occasional rainy afternoon, in a quest to celebrate the downpour as I raided my refrigerator to cook up something delish, I came across this half-a-piece of beet lingering in the forgotten corner of my fridge drawer. As I stared at it for a brief moment, the only thing that popped up distinctly was the "vegetable chop". While I am at it, I must confess that I have always had a love-hate relationship with beet.The very few times I had the courage to experiment, it turned out to be a messy, bright magenta blob that tasted a bit too earthy for my taste. So yes! I am guilty of using this vegetable minimally and the only recipe that really motivates me to use it is in its transformed version i.e. in a vegetable chop.In the vegetable chop something really magical happens and that very beet I detest turns out to be the star.
Now having mentioned the term “vegetable chop” so many times, it would be unfair if I don’t introduce it to you soon. Well, vegetable chop (as we Cuttackis’ call it) is actually a vegetable croquette, distinctly characterized by the presence of bright colored beet in the melee of vegetables within. On an unrelated note, we Cuttackis' for that matter should really think about copyrighting the word “Chop” since it seems very native to Cuttack and I am meted with a blank stare the moment I mention it to any non-Cuttacki. So to simplify, in an average Cuttacki's vocabulary, the word “Chop” is very generally used to refer to any battered and fried vegetable stuffed eatable – be it the Aloo chop or the Vegetable chop.
These crispy rolls, made of sautéed veggies wrapped in spiced potato mixture, bread- crumbed and deep fried till golden brown, get their additional punch from the occasional sweetness of the raisin and the freshness of mint. Most aptly described as the Odia version of the dainty croquette.
1-2 Cloves of thinly sliced garlic
2 T Beet (Thinly sliced)
½ C Carrot (Thinly sliced)
½ C Beans (Thinly sliced)
1 C Onions (Thinly sliced)
2 C Cabbage (Thinly sliced)
3-4 Chilies (Thinly sliced)
1 T Raisins (Optional)
1 T Mint leaves (Chopped)
Red Chilli powder
Black Pepper powder
Pinch of garam masala (Optional)
Salt to taste.
4 Boiled Medium Sized Potatoes
1 T Cornstarch
1 tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Amchur (Dried Mango powder)
Salt to taste
1 C Bread crumbs for coating
Oil for frying
For the filling:
1. In a pan over medium-high heat, add oil and let it heat up. Add the garlic and stir till fragrant. Now add in the raisins, beets, carrots, beans, chilies, onions and cabbage in that order.
2. In a separate bowl, mix in the tomato sauce with one tablespoon of water along with red chili powder, pepper powder and salt. Mix well to form a smooth paste.
3. Sauté the vegetable mixture for about 3-4 minutes and then add in the sauce.
4. Keep stirring till the vegetable filling looks glossy. Taste and adjust if necessary. Add the mint leaves and garam masala while the filling is hot still and keep aside.
For the outer covering:
Mash the cooled, boiled potatoes to a smooth paste along with cornstarch, red chili powder, black pepper powder, amchur and salt. Taste and adjust if necessary.
Making the croquettes:
1. Make equal sized balls of the potato mixture. I used the ¼ C scoop measure to measure out equal amounts.
2. Flatten the potato ball and add in 1 T of the filling in the middle. Gather the potato mixture from the sides and form an oblong shaped croquette. You can keep it round too if you like. I preferred it oblong since that's how its originally made.
3. Now, roll the prepared croquettes in seasoned bread crumbs till well coated.
Optional: After this stage, these can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hrs in advance. I keep them at least for about 1/2 hour to make them bind well.
4. Heat up oil in a pan and fry till golden brown.
1. The croquettes can be formed almost a day in advance and kept well covered in the fridge. Fry it up the moment when you want to serve them.
2. Tip: I suggest preparing the croquettes and keeping them in the fridge at least half an hour before frying. This binds the balls better and they do not break up while frying.
While it takes time to fry up, don’t forget to put your teapot to work too. There’s nothing more surreal than the heavenly combination of vegetable chop and ginger tea. Once you make it, chai and pakodas might seem a little bit outdated to you. Don't forget to thank me later when you are done enjoying the bliss.