Sunday, May 6, 2018

Going the faux meat way

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that soya chaap would feature in my shopping list. In fact, until very recently I didn't know soya chaap could be purchased raw. But like they say, you learn as you go along! 

Before I go on, a little back story.

It was one of those hot summer weekday nights, and the only thing I wanted was to get dinner ready, as quickly and effortlessly as possible. I had tummy cramps, and to add to my woes we had run out of vegetables and a lot of staples. There were five small potatoes in the vegetable basket and a bunch of spinach leaves in the fridge. I had to use them up. Needless to say, this was not a recipe I had planned to save, or blog about. 

But an unexpected compliment came my way from my father, with whom I shared some of this dish. He said that the gravy tasted like a Bengali mutton curry - he turned vegetarian a year and half ago - something reminiscent of the classic maangshor jhol he grew up eating. And, even though I am certain I did not feel the same way, I was happy enough to hear it :D What a surprise indeed! Anyhow, it got me thinking, and I decided to replicate the recipe using what is commonly considered vegetarian meat.

So, that's how it happened. And soya got ticked off my list of things to cook before I die :)

Now let me be honest. Soya tastes nothing like meat. It never can. Really, why should it? Its a legume and not an animal. The comparison is what chalk is to cheese. And, I don't see the merit in sticking an icecream stick through its centre - it does not make it look or taste like a chicken drumstick! Really, nobody is being fooled. But having said that it is pretty to cook, and does absorb flavours fairly well. So, if you look what goes in the gravy, there's a chance you will like the dish. I quite liked the texture too - soft and chewy at the same time. 

All in all, I'd say its worth a shot, and I quite liked how it turned out in the end. 

Soya chaap in a tangy spinach sauce

What you need

soya chaap sticks, or soya meat, cut into chunks
1 large onion, made into a paste 
6-7 garlic pods, made into a paste
1/2 inch fresh ginger, made into a paste
(The onion, garlic, and ginger can be ground into to a paste together)

300 grams raw spinach, roughly chopped
I large tomato and a small bunch of coriander leaves, ground to a paste
1/2 cup warm milk (substitute with a non-dairy milk for a vegan alternative)

1 black cardomom
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 garam masala powder
1 tbsp lime juice
A handful of black raisins
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp oil

How to

Gently wash the soya chaap in running water, and pat them dry. Sprinkle some salt and keep aside. In the meantime get the two pastes ready in a food processor. This just makes everything come together real fast.

In a pan, add two tablespoons of oil and pan-fry the soya chaap

Changing colours

When they are turn a pale gold colour, keep them aside on a plate.

Love that crisp outer coating

In the same pan, add the remaining one tablespoon of oil and the black cardamom. When the oil is fragrant, add the onion-garlic-ginger paste and fry till it begins to change colour. If it gets too dry, you could add a splash of water to keep the paste from burning.

Also, add turmeric and red chilli powder at this stage.

The tomato and coriander paste can go into the pan, along with the coriander powder. Fry till the mixture comes together. Add salt.

Then add the spinach leaves. Give it a good mix and cover the pan. The spinach should wilt completely and release water at this stage. If gets too dry, add a splash of water.

Add the soya chaap and mix. You could add the milk at this stage and let the gravy simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Simmer away

Finally, add the garam masala, lime juice, and raisins. Check for salt. 

Let the curry sit for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

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