Zesty Orange Chicken

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Oranges taste great on their own; I hardly know anyone who doesn’t like them. They are a mind-blowing combination with chocolate, second only to mint, and are used extensively in desserts. But never in a million years had I expected to fall head-over-heals in love with oranges in an entrée. I’ve been obsessed with Orange Chicken ever since I tried it some four odd years ago at a Chinese Restaurant.

Like all recipes I’m obsessed with, I tried recreating this sweet and sour concoction with a hint (subjective) of spice last weekend. After some experimentation, I got the flavor profile I was looking for; in retrospect, I should have left out a few ingredients that gave the dish some outlandish undertones, a clashing after-taste, if you may. The recipe below doesn’t include those ingredients so you should be able to enjoy a mouth-watering Orange Chicken. I strongly recommend serving this gravy with Chinese Fried Rice (leave me a comment if you want me to post a recipe).

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Ingredients:

  • ½ kg chicken (cut into one-inch cubes)
  • ½ cup + ½ cup fresh orange juice (I used navel oranges)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1” cube of ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • I tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 5-7 dried red chilies (optional – I used African bird’s eye chili)
  • 1 tbsp peanuts (salted and roasted)
  • 2-3 spring onion stalks (one-inch pieces)
  • ½ green bell pepper (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • 1 onion (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • ¼ tsp MSG (a.k.a. ajino moto)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix chicken, black pepper and corn flour and set it aside
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in garlic and ginger
  3. After a minute or so, add chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  4. Mix in chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, MSG, and white pepper and let it sit for a minute
  5. Add in ½ cup orange juice and lemon juice and let it cook for 2 minutes
  6. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and vinegar to the chicken and cook on high flame
  7. Once the sauces have dried out a bit, add in peanuts, dried chilies and the remaining ½ cup orange juice to it
  8. When the juice evaporates again, add in Worcestershire sauce, chicken powder, green peppers, onions and the spring onion
  9. At this point, taste the chicken and see if you need salt (as the sauces used are already salty) or honey (if you feel the chicken is a bit on the sour side – mainly because of the oranges used)
  10. Give the chicken a good mix and turn off the flame
  11. Take out in a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh orange zest

Serve without waiting another second – make sure you have the Fried Rice ready beforehand. Any comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Enjoy!

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Chow Down Some Chicken Chow Mein

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We all love Chinese food and more often than not, rely on restaurants to satisfy our cravings. If I talk about myself, my Chinese experience is never complete without a serving of Chicken Chow Mein; it’s a no-brainer that this is one of the first things I order. This is also one of those things that most restaurants don’t get right.

My wife makes a mean Chow Mein which is universally loved by everyone in our family. If you talk about authenticity, this is a Pakistan-ized version similar to what’s served in restaurants across the country. I often hear people complaining why they are unable to prepare restaurant-style Chow Mein at home; well, here’s her secret. She cooks everything separately and assembles the Chow Mein towards the end; this not only keeps everything from turning into mush, but also gives a distinct flavour profile in every bite.

On those lazy nights when you don’t feel like going out or ordering in, what more could you want than a plate of piping hot stir-fried noodles? So here’s how you can prepare some in the confines of your own kitchen.

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Prep Time: 35 mins

Serves: 3-4 people

Ingredients

  • 300 grams egg noodles (or rice noodles, depending on your preference)
  • 150 grams boneless chicken (cut into 1 cm thin strips)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots (thin 1-inch julienne cut)
  • ½ green bell pepper (julienne cut – if red and yellow bell peppers aren’t available, use 1 green bell pepper)
  • ¼ red bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • ¼ yellow bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • 125 gm cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 2 spring onions (one inch pieces)
  • 1 medium onion (thickly sliced)
  • 6-7 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 4 tablespoon sesame oil (use vegetable oil if sesame is not available)
  • 6 tablespoon soy sauce with honey-like consistency (if using the watery version, double the quantity)
  • 6-8 tablespoon chili sauce (to taste)
  • 2+1 teaspoon salt (2 teaspoon salt required while boiling noodles)
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon chinese salt (Ajino Moto or MSG – optional)
  • A pinch of sesame seeds (for garnish)

Method

  1. Set aside all ingredients before starting to work on this recipe
  2. Boil noodles as per the instructions on the box; add two teaspoon salt during the process
  3. Drain the water and let the noodles cool
  4. In a wok, stir fry all the bell peppers in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; take it out in a bowl once done
  5. Next, stir fry the cabbage in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  6. Stir fry the thickly sliced onion in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  7. Stir fry the carrots in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  8. In a sauce pan, add all the remaining sesame oil along with soy sauce, chili sauce, black pepper, chinese salt, salt, chili flakes, and half of the garlic; cook for 3 minutes till the consistency is thick
  9. Once all vegetables have been separately stir-fried, add half of the remaining sesame oil and the garlic in a wok
  10. After a minute, add the chicken and cook for 4-5 mins (or till the chicken is tender) with the lid on
  11. Add in the noodles to the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  12. Add in the stir fried vegetables one by one and mix well
  13. Add the sauce to the noodles and cook for 2 minutes
  14. Finally, add in the spring onions and turn the heat off
  15. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately!

Ciao (or should I say, Chow?)!

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Piri Piri Chicken Cutlets

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Ever since I first tried Nando’s some ten years back, I have been obsessed with the global phenomenon that is peri-peri; just thinking about the tangy-spicy flavor gets my mouth watering. I have been searching far and wide for the secret behind the peri-peri sauce, the infamous ‘African Birds-eye Chilies’ (a.k.a. piri-piri), so that I can try making the sauce at home, but until I do, I’ll have to settle for some store-bought (read uber-expensive) Nando’s sauce.

Ramadan is a time to thank Allah for all the bounties he has bestowed upon us; it is also a time for specially prepared feasts and platters full of delicacies to be shared with everyone (especially those less fortunate). After not having anything to eat or drink for almost fifteen hours daily, your mind naturally tends to think about food (a lot) and you cannot help but obsess over what needs to be cooked for the iftar (breaking of the fast at sunset). While fasting a few days back, I started lusting for some peri-peri goodness and thought of trying something new using the sauce as a key ingredient. Here’s what I came up with and believe me, it turned out fantastic; easy to make, perfectly crunchy, spicy and cheesy. It’s everything you’d want in a dish to satiate your Ramadan cravings.

This recipe here serves THREE people.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (cut horizontally into ½-inch thick fillets)
  • 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp Nando’s Hot peri peri sauce (you can choose to go for mild)
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 4-5 slices of cheese (alternatively, you can go for a shredded mozzarella + cheddar combo instead for that rich thready texture)
  • 3-4 cups oil (for frying)

Method 

  1. Put the chicken fillets along with THREE tablespoons of peri-peri sauce into a bowl and mix well, ensuring that each piece is coated perfectly
  2. Set it up in the refrigerator for TWO to THREE hours to marinate; this step can be reduced to half-an-hour too but two to three hours gives the best results (taste-wise)
  3. Whisk eggs and milk in a bowl to make an egg-wash
  4. Take two plates and fill one with flour (add salt and pepper as seasoning to the flour) and the other with the bread crumbs
  5. Take a piece of chicken and coat it with the flour; ensure to coat properly and remove any excess
  6. Next, dip the chicken into the egg-wash; ensure to coat properly and remove any excess
  7. Finally, take the egg-washed chicken and drop it into the crumbs; ensure to coat properly and remove any excess
  8. Repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 till all pieces have been coated properly
  9. Set it aside for FIFTEEN minutes to air-dry
  10. Here you actually have a choice: you can either (a) pan sear the chicken using a few tablespoons of olive oil or (b) deep fry it on medium heat till the chicken is tender and has a crisp-golden coat on either side – I prefer the deep-fried version
  11. As soon as you take the chicken cutlet out of the pan, add a slice of cheese (or the shredded combo) on top to allow it to melt
  12. In a separate bowl, mix two tablespoons of peri-peri sauce with cream cheese and mayonnaise to make the sauce; add some milk if you want to adjust the consistency
  13. Spread some sauce at the base of a plate and put the chicken cutlet on top
  14. Other garnish options include jalapenos, olives, spiced feta cheese, and even some tomato ketchup (if you’re really that into it)
  15. On the side, you can choose to add french fries or Peri Bites

All my Muslim readers will agree with me that coming up with something tantalizing (and different) for iftar each day is something we all fret over. Hopefully, this recipe will give you a much-needed additional option and will earn you some praise from children and adults alike. Enjoy!

YFC: Home-made Fried Chicken

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Be it in the form of KFC or a cloned recipe, Fried Chicken has literally taken this world by storm. What can we say? It is finger lickin’ good and we all love to indulge in some from time to time. For most of us though, we’d prefer making it at home.

I’m in love with the extra-crispy recipe that KFC has and have tried hunting for a good clone for ages. Unfortunately, all the recipes that I have tried so far don’t quite come up to par with the original. After all the experimentation with what works and what doesn’t (corn-flakes and a wet-batter are a definite No-No), I’ve come up with this one recipe, and even though it’s not as good as the original, it is pretty a decent version that is loved by kids and adults alike. I know it’s cliché but I decided to call this Yousuf’s Fried Chicken (abbr. YFC).

So without further ado, let’s get into the technicalities of what goes into making succulent YFC:

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (with skin) cut into 3 pieces each OR 6 drumsticks [TIP: You can choose any 6 medium-sized pieces for this recipe and remove the skin if you wish; the skin just gives support for the breading and gives the fried chicken a crispier cover]
  • 3 cups water with 1½ tsp salt (a.k.a. Brine)
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp MSG (a.k.a. Chinese Salt and Ajino Moto)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I have used Laban to achieve similar results)
  • Oil or Ghee for deep frying [TIP: Ghee works better]

Method

  1. Soak the chicken for about 8-10 hours in brine (ideally) and put it in the refrigerator. I have made the chicken after soaking it in brine for just half-an-hour and it gets good results too.
  2. In a bowl, add all-purpose flour, cornstarch, oregano, MSG, paprika, black and white pepper, and salt; mix in all the ingredients so that the ‘dry batter’ is nice and consistent.
  3. Take out the chicken from the brine and dry each piece using a towel.
  4. Dip a piece of chicken into the buttermilk (or Laban) ensuring all its sides are properly covered, take out the piece and let all the residue drip back into the bowl.
  5. Dip this piece immediately into the dry batter, making sure to coat all sides evenly; give the chicken a slight shake to remove the excess batter before setting it aside on a platter.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 till all the pieces have been coated.
  7. Let all the pieces air-dry for about 5-10 minutes so that the coating is hard and dry; this will ensure that the oil doesn’t splatter once you put the pieces in for frying.
  8. In a deep pan, add oil or ghee and heat it; the oil has to be just the right temperature and to ensure that, add a piece of bread into the oil and it should be brown in about 50 seconds. If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature has to be around 180° to 190° centigrade.
  9. Carefully start putting in the chicken pieces one at a time, skin side down (as it takes slightly longer to cook); make sure not to over-crowd the pan and leave some room for the pieces to breathe (or not – all pun intended).
  10. Flip the pieces half-way through the cooking process so that the other side gets some cruch and color too.
  11. Fry the chicken for about 7 to 10 minutes, till it has a crisp golden brown cover.
  12. Take all the pieces out on a paper towel to drain the excess grease.
  13. Serve immediately with a side of French fries, chili-garlic sauce and mayonnaise (that’s the way, ahan, ahan, I like it, ahan, ahan!!).

Please do try this recipe out and let me know how it was; I’d really appreciate your honest feedback. Also, I intend to keep trying to find ‘THE PERFECT FRIED CHICKEN RECIPE’ and once I do, I will definitely share it with you; till then, you’ll have to settle for this recipe.

Cheers!

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Stuffed Chicken Breast With Pineapple Sauce

SCBWPS (read the title, dude!), a dish served at Salt n’ Pepper (or SNP – one of the popular eateries) in Lahore (Pakistan), brings back a lot of fond memories from my post-grad days. I associate this phenomenal recipe with some of the happiest times in my life. I happened to visit Lahore a few months ago and luckily, SNP was just around the corner from where I was staying. Needless to say, SNP was my first stop after a long and tiring day of travel. As I took my seat in the restaurant, I couldn’t help but reminisce all the good times I had had with my friends. The table where we had sat numerous times, sharing jokes and jibing at each other, was empty, but I could clearly picture all my friends sitting around it as if it were only yesterday.

Try as I might, I couldn’t shake off the nostalgia even after my return to Karachi, so I coaxed my wife into attempting this feat at home; what can I say? A craving’s a craving. So what makes this recipe so special? Well, for starters, the pineapple sauce on top is divine, not to mention the crispy deep-fried chicken breast with stuffed-cheese that just oozes out as soon as you slice it open. I’m not a big fan of the pureed spinach on the side, but the fries and the coleslaw take the dish to an entire new level. Most of all, it’s the surprisingly refreshing sweet-tangy taste that blows your mind, a combination that you never-in-a-million-years thought would work with chicken, but it somehow does.

The Original SCBWPS

This one goes out to all my friends who live in and around Lahore for all the heartache your incessant gloating has caused after you’ve been to SNP for your SCBWPS fix; “Suck it people; I can have SCBWPS whenever I want!”

Apologies for taking some time out to get my gloat on (Oh it’s on, like Donkey Kong), let me dive straight into the recipe; but before I do, I’d just like to mention that I did spice things up a bit by adding some chili components to the chicken. So if you’d like to stick to the original recipe, you can leave the optional ingredients out of the recipe.

Ingredients

For Chicken Breasts

  • 2 chicken breasts complete with wings (do not debone it)
  • 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp cheddar cheese
  • a pinch of oregano
  • ¼ tsp + ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce (optional)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp mustard sauce
  • ½ tsp MSG (ajinomoto or Chinese salt)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup corn flour
  • ½ tsp chili flakes or paprika for a milder flavor (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying

For Pineapple Sauce

  • 1 can of diced pineapples (Del Monte works best)
  • ¾ tsp corn flour
  • ½ cup water
  • 8-10 carrot shavings (thinly-sliced squares)
  • 8-10 cucumber shavings (thinly-sliced squares)
  • ½ tbsp corn (optional)
  • 1 stalk of spring onion (finely chopped)
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp honey
Sidelines
  • French fries
  • Coleslaw
  • Pureed spinach seasoned with some salt and pepper

Method

For Chicken Breasts

  1. Clean and wash the chicken breasts; add ¼ tsp black pepper, chili sauce, soy sauce, mustard sauce, some salt and MSG and marinate it for 6-8 hours
  2. Mix the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses with the oregano and set aside
  3. Take each breast and make a small slit along the plastic bone (see drawing – stop judging me, people; I got my point across, didn’t I?)
  4. Carefully stuff in the cheese mixture into the chicken cavity and press it all the way in so that it doesn’t run back out during deep-frying
  5. In another bowl, mix in the all-purpose flour, corn flour, ¼ tsp black pepper, chili flakes (or paprika), and some salt to make the dry batter
  6. Take each stuffed breast and coat it properly with the dry batter
  7. Deep fry the chicken pieces in oil on medium-high heat till they are nicely crisp and golden; using a deep fryer here yields better results; set aside after frying
For Pineapple Sauce
  1. Boil the carrot shavings as well as the corn to tenderize them
  2. Take a saucepan and add in all the liquid content of the pineapple can to it; let it simmer on a low-medium flame
  3. In a bowl, take the corn flour and water and mix it well
  4. Slowly add in the corn flour mixture to the pan, stirring it all the while to avoid lumps
  5. Cook it for a few minutes until the sauce thickens and the whiteness of the corn flour vanishes completely
  6. Add in the black pepper, salt and honey
  7. Add in 8-10 chunks of crushed pineapple to the sauce
  8. Let it cook for 3 minutes and then add in the carrots, corn and thinly-sliced spring onion
  9. Add in the cucumbers last and take it off the flame immediately
  10. In a plate, take one of the chicken breasts, top it off with a generous serving of the pineapple sauce and serve immediately with french fries, coleslaw and spinach puree

Here are the finished results.

Burgers with crispy Potato Wedges

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Mr. Anonymous, the first person to actually think of putting a meat patty and a compendium of assortments (cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions being the most common) between a bun (Genius!). Little did he know that what he had just created, would end up being a global fast-food phenomenon. Beef or Vegetarian, Tofu or Chicken, the options are endless. Here’s a time-tested recipe that will make you forget all about the famous Big burger you get at McRonalds (yes, the spelling mistake is deliberate).Unlike the aforementioned Big burger, this patty has a rich flavor and the tartar sauce gives your sandwich the extra kick.

Ingredients for Patty

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 kg beef, chicken or mutton
  • 3-4 bread (soaked and drained)
  • 3-4 tbsp BBQ sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp mustard sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Ingredients for Tartar Sauce

  • 2 tbsp pickle relish or pickled cucumber (chopped)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp mustard sauce
  • salt to taste
  • lemon or vinegar 1 tbsp

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the patty and divide the mix into 2-inch balls
  2. Pat each ball into a circular disc abut 4 inches in diameter
  3. Fry these patties in a pan (you can also choose to grill them) until they are cooked to your desired consistency
  4. Place each patty in a bun and make sure you apply the tartar sauce on both sides
  5. You can additionally garnish it with cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, and BBQ sauce

Yikes! I almost forgot about the crispy wedges. So here’s how you make these:

Ingredients for Wedges

  • 3-4 medium potatoes (parboiled)
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1/4 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch wedges
  2. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients into a powder and sprinkle it evenly over the potatoes, making sure you coat all the sides properly
  3. Deep-fry in oil (you could try baking them but I’m not sure whether it will work or not)
  4. Serve without delay

Hope you like this!

Chicken and Vegetable Patties

Puff Pastry is very versatile and is used to make sweet and salty biscuits, patties and pies. Popularized as 24×7 snacks, 70% of the people I bump into the bakery come in there to by at least one puff-based item. My wife and I tried making these patties at home for a friend’s get together and they turned out real nice, just like the ones sold in the bakery. For some people, making the puff can be quite a chore since it requires a lot of kneading and rolling, so it’s better if you get some (uncooked) from your local baker. If you still wish, I will post the recipe for you.

Vegetable Patties
Vegetable Patties

Ingredients

  • 3 medium Potatoes (boiled)
  • 1/2 tsp Blackseeds (kalonji)
  • 2 tbsp Peas (boiled)
  • 1 medium Onion (thinly chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder (haldi)
  • 8-10 Mint leaves
  • 5-6 Coriander leaf stalks
  • 4-5 Green Chilies
  • 1/4 tsp Coriander seeds (coarsely chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp Red Chilies (coarsely chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin (zeera)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Egg

Method

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add the chopped onion to it; fry the onion until translucent – don’t let it change color
  2. Now add Kalonji, Turmeric Powder, Coriander leaves, Mint leaves, Green Chilies, Coriander seeds, Red Chilies, and Cumin seeds to the frying onion
  3. After about a minute, add little chunks of the boiled Potatoes and the peas to the mixture and cook until everything is properly mixed
  4. Add Lemon juice to the mixture and take it off the flame – let it cool before making the patties
  5. For making the patties, roll the puff to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut in square pieces
  6. Fill the center of the square with some filling
  7. Beat egg and apply a little along all the sides of the square using a pastry brush
  8. Fold the diagonal sides to make a triangle and press along the edges
  9. Brush a little egg on the top of the patty
  10. Put all patties in a pre-heated oven at 350 °C for about 20 minutes or until nice and orange

Chicken Patties

Chicken Patties

Ingredients

  • 1 Chicken breast
  • 5 Green Chilies (thinly chopped)
  • 4-5 medium Onions (cut into rings)
  • 4 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp MSG (Monosodium glutamate – Ajinomoto)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Corn Flour
  • 4-5 tbsp Oil
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Boil Chicken Breast in water with 2 thinly chopped Green Chilies and some salt
  2. Once boiled, take out the chicken, shred it and keep it aside
  3. Put Oil in a pan and saute the onions until translucent; don’t let it change color
  4. Add to the onions, Soy Sauce, Black Pepper, MSG, the remaining Green Chilies and some Salt
  5. Now mix the shredded chicken to the onions
  6. Finally, sprinkle the corn flour to give it a creamy texture (just like the bakery filling)
  7. For making the patty, roll out the puff pastry to a 1/8 inch thickness
  8. Using a cookie cutter, cut the pastry in circular shape (3-inch diameter)
  9. Take one pastry circle, put the mixture in the center, and cover it up with another pastry circle
  10. Firmly press down the edges and apply egg on top of the patty
  11. Put all patties in a pre-heated oven at 350 °C for about 20 minutes or until nice and orange

These patties stay good for a day. If you wish, you can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and in the refrigerator. Microwave to serve.

Happy eating! 😀
Yousuf

Vegetable Patties