Ramadan Recipes: Chicken Box Patties

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Ramadan is finally upon us, and with it, the culinary experiences we typically associate with this holy month. The activity in and around the kitchen increases significantly, owing to the maddening aromas emanating from the kitchen right around iftaar (time to break the fast). Family members who usually don’t even bother with the food-prep start hovering around to see what’s on the menu.

I belong to a family of food-lovers. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my mother planning her iftaar menu weeks before Ramadan. I still remember how she wrote everything on a wall calendar; everything from appetizers to desserts. She made rainbow-colored jelly eggs and lip-smacking kukray (D-shaped samosas with mung daal and minced meat filling),  always on the hunt for new recipes to try. Watching her make those things was the highlight of my day and I have only her to thank for my culinary passion.

The Ramadan dastarkhwan (floor mats/carpets on which food is served) is empty without a selection of appetizers. I know of some families who absolutely positively need to have samosas and pakoras at iftaar, whereas others try different things. Luckily, I belong to the latter group. For me, an appetizer is the most important course, as it is the first thing you attack after breaking the fast. Thinking about first impressions, it can make or break your entire dining experience.

This Ramadan, I shall be sharing with you some appetizers handed down to me and others acquired along the way. The first entrant in this series is Box Patties. These perfect squares, created using samosa strips, are filled with a savory shredded chicken mixture that instantly satiates your spice cravings.

Prep time: 35 minutes for the filling and the box patties + 4 minutes for frying (per batch)

Yields: 18-20 patties

Serving size: 2 patties per person

Ingredients

  • 250 grams chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon green chili paste
  • 1 tsp salt (for chicken)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium potato (boiled and diced)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper (capsicum – diced)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (stirred in with 1 tablespoon water – for filling)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (for filling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for paste)
  • 1 cup water
  • 40-50 samosa pastry strips

Method

  1. Add chicken, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chili paste, salt (for chicken) and water to a pot and cook it till the chicken is tender and the water has dried up
  2. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and keep it aside
  3. Heat butter in a pan and add the green bell peppers to it; stir-fry for 1 minute
  4. Add soy sauce, salt (for filling), black pepper and red chili flakes to the capsicum and stir for a minute
  5. Add potatoes and the shredded chicken and mix it well
  6. Finally, add the flour and water mixture to the chicken; mix it immediately to prevent the flour from turning the filling too sticky
  7. Cook for a minute before turning the stove off
  8. In a bowl, mix the flour (for paste) in water; microwave for 40-50 seconds to get a thick glue-like consistency
  9. Fold the box patties as instructed in the video
  10. Deep fry in hot oil till the patties are crisp and golden-brown
  11. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

Note: Ramadan is an ideal time to get in touch with your spiritual self, but sometimes, we just get too fixated on food and what to make for iftaar. I prefer making these appetizers in a larger batch and freezing them; they can be used for up to 15 days. This will give you plenty of time to reflect on yourself and significantly lessen your kitchen workload.

Please remember me in your prayers!

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The Peace of Paper

Floral Kirigami Ball

Look around you: there’s despair everywhere. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be back in the good old days. Watching television is like taking a depressant; a pill that drags you down into the abyss of melancholy, draining out all your optimism and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. Same is the situation with other entertainment media; be it a viral Youtube video of two brothers being mercilessly beaten by a heartless mob or a newspaper article tallying the number of buses burned in the previous night’s riots. Sure, there are a few avenues promoting light entertainment, but invariably, you end up tuning into one of the news channels to verify whether there’s a strike tomorrow or not, or how many lives were extinguished in the city of lights today. We are so wrapped up in this entertainment (seriously?!) revolution that we fail to recognize a multitude of activities that can help nurture our constructive side and even introduce a degree of calmness in our otherwise chaotic existence.

Paper is perhaps one of the most readily available materials on earth and believe it or not, can be used to make beautiful creations. The various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and textures of paper make it a unique medium to work with. As kids, most of us would have folded a boat using a sheet of square paper; that’s Origami! Origami (meaning ‘paper folding’) is an ancient Japanese art-form that can be traced back to 17th Century AD, but was popularized outside of Japan in the mid 1900s [1]. The main idea behind Origami is to take a flat sheet of paper and fold it into a finished sculpture using basic folding techniques. The use of any glue, threads or scissors to create/stabilize the sculpture is a taboo for Origami practitioners. A variation of Origami called Kirigami (meaning ‘paper cutting’) allows the use of scissors to create your sculptures [2].

Origami is universally associated with peace. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand Origami cranes shall be granted a wish by the crane. A little girl named Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) contracted leukemia after being exposed to the radiations from the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945 [3]. She was only 12 when her disease progressed to a terminal stage. It’s an age where you still haven’t let go of the possibility of a miracle, so on the insistence of a close friend, Sadako started folding paper cranes with whatever paper she could get her hands on. Unfortunately, Sadako could only make 644 before meeting her maker. Her friends and classmates finished folding the remaining cranes after her death. Now every year on August 6, while Hiroshima conducts a Peace Memorial Ceremony, people from around the world send paper cranes in batches of 1000 to commemorate the child’s tragic death and her words:

“I will write ‘Peace’ on your wings and you will fly all over the world”

I started practicing Origami in1998, but went on hiatus from 1999 to 2007.  It all changed in 2008 when I was inspired to fold a single paper crane after watching a TV show; and I haven’t looked back since. I started working on more complex and challenging designs and in most cases, finished off the models. Once I start working on a model, I lose all track of time. An unnatural calm surrounds me; the only thing I focus on are the folds, taking each step carefully, making sure I don’t make any mistakes. I’ve made stars and center pieces, cubes and cranes, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons, arabesques and florals; I just can’t seem to get enough. Sparing free time gets increasingly difficult but I find an hour here, a minute there to work on my latest project. The video below shows images of some of the models I’ve made:

Origami’s many positive attributes have been researched for quite some time now. A brief list follows [4]:

  1. Nurtures creative, inventive and constructive abilities
  2. Develops motor skills
  3. Helps your visual and spatial co-ordination
  4. Explains geometric and angular relationships elegantly
  5. Makes you more patient and attentive
  6. Instills a sense of pride and joy when you finish a model

In this uber-destructive world we live in, we should promote constructive concepts. Origami is just one road that can lead to inner peace and tranquility; there are other art forms that help take your mind off the current state of affairs. I think it is high-time we started talking about something other than all the bad things happening around us. I don’t want my daughter to come up to me one day and say, “Papa! I want a gun that goes bang-bang-bang”; I’d rather want her to walk up to me and say, “Papa! I’m out of paper.”

Note: ‘Peace’ in this article refers to peace within as well as peace in general, because we cannot attain global peace unless we have inner peace. 

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami
[2] 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirigami
[
3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki
[
4] http://factoidz.com/why-you-should-adopt-origami-for-skill-development-among-children/