Among the many influences, left behind by the British Raj on its former colony —– India —– one of the most endearing one perhaps is the tradition of Anglo Indian Cuisine.
Spices, ingredients and their style of cooking were seamlessly married with the very ‘propah’ British pies, roasts and puddings to CREATE A WHOLE NEW VISTA.. With dishes like Jalfrezi, Chingree Samosa and Railway Pudding, a whole new cuisine and culture emerged with the Anglo Indian community. It was curious yet wholly inspiring —– a mix of Brit and Indian cuisine together. Perhaps, more popular in parts of India that had British settlements namely Bengaluru, Kolkota and Mumbai, where Anglo Indian communities live, the cuisine has core spices that lend the dishes an unusual flavour that set it apart from typically Indian. And the Anglo Indian cuisine stand apart.
Some of the regularly used meats were chicken, beef, lamb and mutton. And while they were not big on vegetables, the two dishes that featured in most households were daal and cabbage. Coconut rice, breads and a varieties of pulaos acted as accompaniments. Cumin, red chillies, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and ingredients such as coconut, almonds and yogurt added a whole new dimension too. Thus, soups tempered with spices, roasts marinated with whole spices and traditional dishes served with sides like coconut rice have become a legacy. Each family has its own recipes that have stood the test of time and have been passed down generations with utmost pride.
Anglo Indian Cuisine takes tenets from Indian Cuisine and adds the very ‘propah’ touch to it. Here are some ‘classics’ with a swirl of modernity that can be tried out.
(1) CHINGREE SAMOSA : Easy to prepare and serve up, samosas were a common tea time snack among the Anglo Indian community members. The typical Anglo Indian samosa filling was a simple prawn and onion mixture. Here the traditional filling has been replaced with a spicier Prawn Balchao, a famous Goan prawn pickle, and then stuffing it into a ‘puff pastry’ instead of the ‘short crust pastry’.
Ingredients : 1.5 kg. prawns (shelled, deveined and cut into 1/4 inch cubes), 6 medium onions ( sliced), 3 red tomatoes (deseeded) and cut into juliennes 120ml coconut vinegar, 1tsp ginger-garlic paste, 3tbsp red masala, 1tbsp ghee.
Method : Fry onions in ghee till golden brown. Remove half and drain on a paper towel. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for a minute. Add masala and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes and cook till the remains of the masala are cooked. Add stock or water, if required. Once the masala is cooked, add the prawns and cook for another minute. Finish with coconut vinegar and the balance fried onions. Season mixture and allow to cool. Roll out the ‘puff pastry’ to 1mm thickness. Use 50 grams prawn mix and mould into desired shape. Brush samosas with egg wash and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or till golden brown. Serve with sweet and sour mango chutney.
(2) JALFREZI : Jalfrezi was a traditional Anglo Indian dish made re-using the previous night’s left-over meats. This was mixed with a bunch of vegetables and served the following day as a side dish to accompany a curry or as a main dish with rice and mango chutney. The dish was fondly referred to as YMCA (Yesterday’s Meat Cooked Again). Here is a twist to the traditional recipe —— fresh tenderloin is used instead of leftover meat —— which results in something just as delicious.
Ingredients : 150 grams tenderloin, 100 grams onions, 100 grams baby potatoes (boiled and halved), 2 green chillies (slit into 4 inches lengthwise), 1/2tbsp ghee, 2tsp curry powder, 1tsp chilly paste, salt and pepper to taste.
Method : Cut the tenderloin into 1/2 inch slices and marinate in the chilly paste for 3 to 4 hours. In a cast iron pan or wok, sear one side of the meat, remove and keep aside. Add ghee and onions and cook till onions are translucent. Add potatoes, green chilly and curry powder. Add half cup stock or water and cook for a minute. Add seared beef and stir with the curry. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and freshly chopped coriander. Serve hot with paratha or rice.
(3) RAILWAY PUDDING : After the French, Portuguese and Spanish invaders, the British were the last to colonise India. They brought a variety of delectable ideas and influences during their colonial rule, and one highlight was the different kinds of puddings —– plum, bread, vanilla, Yorkshire, Railway pudding etc. During the British Raj, the main mode of transportation was the railways. In order to cater to the passengers in the dining area of a train(hence the name Railway Pudding), a version of pudding was created. Chef Girish Nayak, pastry chef, took this as an inspiration and created a quirky version. We have layered the sponge cake with fresh home-made strawberry jam and vanilla cream and topped it with fresh chopped strawberries. When you slice the cake, the layers of strawberry jam between the vanilla sponge cake reminds one of ‘train tracks’.
Ingredients : 250 grams Vanilla sponge cake, 70 gram cream (whipped and chilled), 200 gram home-made strawberry jam.
Method : Cut the vanilla sponge cake into 4 layers. Apply 100 grams strawberry jam to the bottom layer. Sandwich this with the second layer of sponge cake and cover the second layer of sponge cake with whipped cream. Add a third layer of cake, apply remaining strawberry jam. Put the last layer of cake on top of it. Wrap the cake and freeze. Before serving, bring the cake to room temperature and slice neatly. Top with chopped fresh strawberries.
—— Chef Varun Pereira (Monkey Bar, Bengaluru)