Friday, 27 July 2012

Meat Cutlet

Celebrations in a Christian household in Kerala is never complete without the humble looking brown meat cutlets. Marriages, engagements, christenings, birthdays or even a gathering with friends - the meal always begins by nibbling on meat cutlets served either with Challas or tomato ketchup.

Origins for meat cutlets can be traced back to meat croquettes of the Western world. Westerners who came to Kerala for trade spread Christianity and also shared some of their recipes to the region. And our ancestors, from Kerala, added some spices found here, to add an "oomph" to these crumbed fried bites. (This story can be disputed by the fact that our cutlets also have a close resemblance to the Arabic Kibbeh. But I am not here to confirm history and so for the time-being let's just move on). Though there are several seafood and vegetarian varieties of cutlets prepared now, meat cutlets still remain the favourite among Kerala Christians.

The recipe here is inspired by my Mum's cutlet recipe. I will never be able to say that a recipe that I follow is my Mum's recipe, simply because she doesn't have a recipe to anything. "Add a little of this and a little of that" is what she has to say every time I ask her for a recipe. And then she concludes it by "just use your common sense to add more or less ... (of an ingredient) and the dish is yours".

What does she know of my "common sense"?

Makes: 16 - 18
Preparation Time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Cooking Time: 30 minutes + frying time

  • 500g lean beef mince (approx.)
  • 1 1/2 cup brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large green chilly, finely chopped (I use frozen green chilly available at Indian groceries)
  •  1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilly powder
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 9 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 6 tbsp warm water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup mashed potato
  • 1/2 cup smashed potato, with come chunky bits (optional)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • Bread crumbs, to coat cutlets
  • 2 tbsp oil + oil for frying
1. Cook beef mince with salt and water. (If there is excess water use it to cook potatoes). Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a shallow pan and saute onion and green chilly. When onions turns transparent add ginger, garlic and curry leaves and saute until everything is cooked well. Reduce flame to low and add coriander powder, chilly powder and turmeric and combine well. Saute till the spices are fried but not burnt. Add, cooked beef mince, vinegar, garam masala, salt and pepper and combine well. Close pan and cook for a few more minutes taking care not to burn. Switch of flame. Mix 9 tbsp of bread crumbs with 6 tbsp of warm water. Add this and mashed potato to minced meat mixture and mix well. Now add smashed potato until just combined (I add smashed potatoes to include some chunky potato pieces in between the meat mixture. You can choose not to add this). Leave mixture to cool.
2. Divide meat mixture into 16 to 18 balls and shape them into ovoids or any shape you like using your hands. Make sure the ovoids are sealed well without any cracks inside.
3. Place beaten egg and bread crumbs in two separate bowls. Dip each ovoids into beaten egg and then gently roll them in bread crumbs. Using your hands gently press crumbs to stick to the meat ovoids. Deep fry meat ovoids in hot oil over medium flame till they turn brown, taking care not to burn them.

Serve hot with Challas (finely chopped onions, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with salt) and/ or tomato ketchup.

Variation: For a crunchier coating on cutlets, mix 1 part of plain flour to 1.5 parts of water (4 to 5 tbsp of flour should be enough) to make a thick batter. Dip meat ovoids in this batter instead of beaten egg before coating with bread crumbs. Cutlets stay crunchier for longer as well.

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