Thursday, December 25, 2014

On Going Green

Weddings are usually associated with food. Okay so there may be a bride and a groom and talk of love and happily ever after. But let’s face, most of us are in it just for the feast after. It usually begins with the menu decisions, the binge eating to celebrate a wedding in the family, then the crazy diets to look adequately fabulous in everyone’s eyes (something that never works, because you are either too thin or too fat in your relatives’ eyes), and then, whoaaaaaa…the “salkaarams.” For the uninitiated non-mallus, salkaarams are when the newly weds visit every near relative’s house, and are force-fed more food than it is humanly possible to consume in a short span of time. There’s the pre-wedding meetings, then the mehndi dinner, then the wedding food, the reception food, the post- reception meal, the “grihapravesh Ji” meal, the bride’s treat, the groom’s treat, the groom’s brother’s treat, the bride’s maama’s treat, the groom’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s treat…yeah, well, the list might just cover the entire blog.
This wedding season, one of us (read Confused, because no one invites Crumbs to weddings any more) had a lot of eating to do, while trying desperately to watch weight. But then, that one realised that we have always lived by the motto, “Eat today, for we may diet tomorrow.” And so, bring on the treats, one said.
While binging on the yummy goodies, one also had to treat the bride and groom to delicious home cooked food, because well, one loves to cook and feed people. So then, for the first time ever, a vegetarian cutlet appeared on the menu of the “salkaaram” list. Yup, that’s right. Fully vegetarian. Nope, no cheating (except for the egg that is used to hold the whole thing together, but that’s so little, it is like the total vegetarian content of a chicken samosa, which you must know, is restricted to half an onion for about 50 samosas :P).
Vegetarian, it was. More surprisingly, all the ingredients were that beautiful shade that one of us thought should NOT be added in food—GREEN! (Note from Crumbs: Entirely Confused’s notion. I on the other hand LOVE green. It might even be my favourite colour :D) So, to cut a long story short, one was so surprised at the oddity, that one decided to revive a blog that’s been peacefully slumbering for more than a year.

Green, we tell you. It has that thing about it. Remember Green Goblin? Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Or even Green Lantern? (We won’t blame you if you don’t remember the last one, almost no one does!) Well, we have the ultimate supervillain for you if you are watching your weight, and the most amazing superhero, if you are looking to impress with your culinary skills. So, here’s presenting…
The “one-bite-and-you-are-lost” spaghetti cutlets, a.k.a. the 20-something Mutant Ninja Cutlet.
So, here’s what you will need
1 packet of spaghetti (used Bambino due to non-availability of other brands, but you could get any of those fancy brands, or stick to this one)
2 cups of white sauce (recipe and ingredients follow)
½ a cup- 1 cup of cabbage (Like you, we also were mildly shocked at the prospect of so much cabbage in cutlets, but hey, ate them, and loved them. These were so finely chopped, they looked like cabbage kheema, if you forgive the blasphemy.)2 handfuls each of finely chopped celery and spring onions (You could add more, depending on how much you like the taste. Since one was going green for the first time, one was quite unsure about how much of each to add. Be warned, spring onions possess quite the pungent taste, so you might want to reign in the go green enthusiasm a tad bit.)
One lovely green crisp capsicum, chopped finely.
One beaten egg and some bread crumbs to hold the whole thing together.
So, there are a few different steps involved in cooking this wonder cutlet.
First, boil the spaghetti in about a litre and a half of water. No, there’s no need to measure out the water. Simply take a big vessel that you know will hold all the spaghetti, fill three quarters or so with water, add some salt and a few drops of oil, wait for the water to boil, and drop in the spaghetti. Let it cook for about ten minutes, till the spaghetti is soft and easy to twirl.
Remove it from the boiling water, rinse it thoroughly in cold water to stop the residual heat from over-cooking it, and keep aside. You could add a few drops of oil to this so it doesn’t stick together, but this would be unnecessary if you add enough oil while cooking.
Saute all the chopped vegetables with salt. Add some seasoning and herbs, if you so desire. (Your options include oregano, rosemary, basil, freshly ground pepper). Keep aside.
Now for the basic white sauce. You will need:
6 tablespoons or around 100 gms of butter
6 tablespoons of maida
A litre of milk

About half a cup of cheese (grated cheddar or mozzarella is preferable, but if you are in a place that doesn’t sell either, go ahead and use the processed cheese cubes good ol’ Amul or Britannia makes)
Take a heavy bottomed pan, keep on a low flame. First, throw in the butter, wait for it to melt (only melt, not brown). Add maida, little by little, mixing it in completely. Wait for the maida to cook, carefully monitoring it to ensure that it does not change the colour. Now is the tough bit. Concentrating only on it, trickle in milk, stirring continuously, because you don’t want lumps forming in your sauce. If you have a whisk, use that. Even if you don’t have lower arm strength, use that! Keep whisking while slowly mixing in the milk. You will have a nice thick sauce by the time all the milk has been added. Your work is not over yet. If you are novice at this, switch off the heat. Add the grated cheese to this. Stir continuously so the cheese melts into the sauce.
Please make sure that the sauce is not so thick that it doesn’t fall easily, or thin enough to flow easily. The sauce is the binding factor, and if it is too runny, then you cannot fry the cutlets. If it is too thick, well, your cutlets will be difficult to shape.
Now, mix the spaghetti and sautéed vegetables in the white sauce. Check for taste, add salt, pepper and more seasoning, as per taste. If the sauce is not thick enough, let the pasta stay for a while so the cheese thickens.
Take small handfuls, shape them as well as you can. Take a steel tumbler or katora and invert it over the shaped lump so you can make it round. Coat with bread crumbs so it will hold shape. This is the final step before frying, if you are strictly vegetarian.
However, if you are one of those people who cannot eat a cutlet unless it has some bit of non- vegetarian food, like yours truly, you could dip this in egg white, after the initial crumb coating, and then, roll it again in bread crumbs.
The advantages, as always, with using eggs, is that the cutlet holds shape better because, egg, as everyone knows, is the strong hero who stays in shape, even in hot oil.
So, now that your cutlets are coated and ready to fry, fry them in hot oil, and serve hot with ketchup or mayonnaise.
Eat it hot because the cheese inside the cutlets is this amazing consistency of smooth and the spaghetti floats in cheesy glory before slowly gliding down your throat. We’ve gushed enough about it, so now stop reading and go try it. And they are ready, give us a shout, we will be there pronto.

<Posted on behalf of Confused by Crumbs. Sorry about the lack of pics, guys. Blame technology and sloppy memory!>