Two holiday Recipes by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
(1) How to Prepare Packaged Papadams (also called Papads)
Papadams, crispy, chip-like crackers, are a popular snack in India. Papadams (also known as papadas) are made from black lentil flour, oil and spices. The very stiff, papadam dough is rolled into paper-thin discs, dried and packed to sell. Most households in India do not make papadams from scratch but buy them packaged from grocery stores as making papadams is time-consuming process and done by skilled people, in factories. In fact, one of the oldest papadam factory, Lijjat Papad, is a cooperative that was started by a few Mumbai women with a shoe- string budget in the ‘50s and now employs thousands of women who share their profits. They make millions of papadams daily to sell in India and to export them abroad.
Packaged Papadams are sold in the US at ethnic food markets and in some health food stores, along with other wheat-free products. However, unlike a bag of potato chips, packs of papadams are not ready to eat. They have to be roasted or fried before you eat them. Here are 3 methods of preparing the papadams.
After you purchase the package of papadam from a store, do not refrigerate, instead stock them in a pantry. Before serving, cook them using one of the three following methods.
Roasting on a skillet: Open the package and place one papadam at a time on a heavy skillet (such as an iron pan) that has been preheated at a high temperature, very hot. The papadams will begin to form blisters. Press the papadam with a kitchen cloth all over its surface so that it cooks evenly forming blisters all over and changing color. Turn the papadam a few times and cook until it is crisp. Repeat the process to cook more papadam and stack the cooked papadam on a platter or a basket.
Roasting in a Microwave Oven: Like cooking popcorn, a microwave does this job quickly and effectively. Cut each papadam into two pieces. Adjust the oven temperature to popcorn setting. Place one or two pieces in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds. Flip over and cook on the second side for 20-30 seconds. Store cooked papadams on a plate or in a basket.
Deep Frying: Although this technique is not preferable by some, deep frying is is a practical method when serving papadams at a later time after preparing. To deep fry: heat a cup of oil (or less for just a couple of papadams) in a wok or a small frying pan. Slide a papadam into the oil. Turn the papadam using a tong as soon as it comes to the surface. Cook on the other side for a minute until light brown. Remove it from the oil, allowing excess fat to drain back into the pot. Serve the papadam hot or at room temperature with a chutney. (Cranberry chutney recipe to follow.)
Chutneys are a spicy condiment and they are an essential element in an Indian menu. Chutneys are served, in a small portion, with a meal or with a snack. At many Indian restaurants, chutneys are often served with papadams, before the rest of the meal arrives.
Freshly made chutneys are not to be confused with the preserved pickles that take many steps to make. Pickles are usually put away for weeks or even months before serving. In contrast, fresh chutneys are made quickly with fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds. Ingredients for chutney are often mixed raw, but some chutneys are made by cooking the ingredients, as in this cranberry chutney.
I had never seen cranberries before coming to the US from India. When I was served cranberry relish at a Thanksgiving dinner, I was enchanted by its color and aroma. I decided to spice it up to make the chutney.
2½ cups cranberries
1 cup water
¾ – 1 cup sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cardamom and cinnamon
Few pinches of ground cloves
Few pinches of cayenne powder (or to taste)
First, chop the cranberries coarsely using a food processor or a blender. If you are using a blender, add the cup of water to the berries when you blend them (which you will be adding to cook them with). The water helps facilitate blade movement in the blender. For the food processor you don’t need to add water when chopping the berries. You can also use a wide-bladed knife, but the electric gadgets make the task easier.
Next, transfer the chopped cranberries to a saucepan. Add water and cook the berries covered at a moderate heat for ten minutes to soften them.
Then, add the sweetener, ginger and powdered spices. Stir to mix and cook without a cover for 15 to 20 minutes. Check every few minutes and stir the berries to make sure that they do not stick at the bottom. When done, the chutney turns into a jam-like consistency and it looks shiny and deep purple in color. Allow the chutney to cool for a few minutes, but while it is still warm, pour it into clean glass jars. Close the jars tightly. The chutney is ready to be served hot or cold. This chutney keeps for up to two months, if refrigerated. This chutney makes an attractive and healthy holiday gift!
Makes 3 ½pint jars of chutney
Chutney Recipe modified from Cooking Together; a Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
Shanta is a writer and creates recipes. Shanta makes chutneys for the holiday months of November and December to sell at Other Avenues. You can find them refrigerated near the beer and wine section.