Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cricket Fever

It's been a while since I stopped following cricket. Not that I was an avid fan, but you just can not escape the unofficial national sport of India growing up there. Kids play cricket in every 'galli-bol' (the smallest streets and lanes) breaking windows or hitting by-passers, people stop work and gather around a TV on a street shop to watch India's games, offices declare holidays on India-Pakistan matches, everyone talks about Sachin's batting as if they taught him how to play, and now India bleeds blue! Although I didn't keep myself updated of the latest happenings in the cricket world, India's World Cup matches send a surge of patriotism through me.
Being married to a sports fanatic, I'm catching up on all those lost years. We got the World Cup dish network package and I rediscovered my love for a good game of cricket. Our house turned into a 'Cricket Adda' (struggling with the translation here - a corner, a hub) during the WC series with friends lying on the living room floor all night cheering for the home team. And boy, did the home team play! We made it to the finals winning the semis against Pakistan, the biggest cricket rival of India.
India's entry into the finals definitely called for a celebration. Last night, as India took on Sri Lanka in Mumbai's Wankhede stadium, turned into a party in my house. The cricket fever really got to me and the outcome was something like this: food display of a cricket field and Tiranga rice to root for the Indian team.
The appetizers mainly consisted of Mediterranean items and the dinner had simple Indian dishes.

Hummus ground, cilantro grass, falafel balls, cucumber bat and Turkish cream cheese 'Cigarettes' stumps

Tiranga Rice - India's flag colors

The idea of having a cricket theme came from the super bowl game time recipes. It's interesting how people incorporate everything 'football' in their food. I was looking for some 'cricket match' recipes and apparently this is the only occasion Indians haven't come up with a feast for! I gave a little nudge to my creative side and started listing items that could make a cricket field. An appetizer I learned from my Turkish friend in college long ago gave me a start. Since I started off with a Mediterranean dish, I went along with the theme to create my cricket field. I made jalapeno hummus to create the field. You can use this recipe and use jalapeno for flavoring instead. The bat was made out of fresh cucumbers. I used store bought falafel mix to make the balls and used cilantro as the grass.
Apart from the cricket display, I made two additional appetizers. I'm sharing three recipes here.

Borek is a Turkish pastry made with phyllo dough with various cheeses, vegetables or meat fillings. The different shaped pastries have apt names based on what they resemble. The particular kind my friend taught us on a girls cookoff night is called Sigara Borek for its uncanny resemblance to Cigars. This appetizer, apart from being delicious, was perfect to be the stumps! It's a simple recipe that will definitely get you addicted =).

Sigara Borek

Sigara Borek

Phyllo Dough - 1 square per Borek approximately 8'x8'
1 Cup cream cheese - I used low fat
3-4 Springs of fresh dill
Clarified Butter/Ghee
Salt for seasoning
Olive oil
  • Mix cream cheese, chopped fresh dill and salt for seasoning. I personally love dill but you can substitute it with parsley. Feta cheese also works well but cream cheese gives a nice contrast to the crispy outside. This is the filling.
  • Separate the phyllo dough sheets and keep them covered in damp towel so they don't dry up.
  • Take one square sheet, fold it in a triangle and close the edges using clarified butter (you don't need to use a whole lot). Take a spoonful of the cream cheese filling and place it along the longest edge of the triangle. Tuck in the two ends and roll into the shape of a cigar. Close the loose end with some clarified butter.
  • These cigars can be deep fried but I chose to cook them in a saute pan using some olive oil. Heat a pan on medium and brush it with some olive oil. Place the cigars and let them brown. Turn and cook them from the other side. The cooking process hardly takes any time so keep an eye on them.
  • Once the pastries are crispy and golden brown, take them out in a plate, garnish with some dill and serve.  
I made another Mediterranean style pastry. I had some extra phyllo why not! This is a classic puff pastry with an Indian touch. The pastry was puffy and was gobbled up in minutes...pufff!

Spinach-Feta cheese pastry

Spinach-Feta Cheese Puff Pastry

1 Bunch fresh spinach - chopped
3/4 Cup feta cheese - crumbled
1/2 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 Teaspoon red chili powder
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt for seasoning

Basic prep: Preheat oven to 300F.
  • Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped spinach, spices, salt and saute for a few minutes until spinach is cooked. Turn the heat off Do not overcook as you'll bake the pastries later.
  • Add crumbled feta cheese to the spinach and mix well.
  • Fold the phyllo sheet lengthwise to create a strip of ~ 4inches wide. Place a couple of spoons of the filling on one end of the pastry and keep folding the sheet in triangles. Close the loose end with clarified butter. Brush some more butter on each side of the pastry. You can get creative and make any shape you like of the pastries - a square, rectangle, small pouches opening on top, bowl shapes open on top, anything you can think of really.
  • Place these pastries on a baking sheet and bake them for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. I didn't have to turn the pastries at all. 
Serve the pastries just out of the oven. They can get soggy from the spinach and cheese if you keep them for a long time. You can make the pastries in advance, wrap them in a damp towel and bake them just before eating!

The third appetizer I made was an experiment in my kitchen a year back. It reappeared after being successful. Among all the other items on the menu, this was the healthiest.

Beetroot Cutlets

Beet Cutlets

2 Beet roots
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon garam masala
2 Teaspoons red chili powder/Green chili paste - I used green chili paste the last time I made this. I preferred green chili over red.
Salt for seasoning
Bread crumbs
Vegetable oil
  • Cook the beet roots in boiling water for 4-5 minutes (only till they get tender - don't overcook). I simply put them in the microwave.
  • Peel the beets and shred them.
  • Add spices and salt to the shredded beet. Add all purpose flour (rice flour works well too) to slightly bind the beet. You don't need to add too much.
  • Make small patties/cutlets and pat them with bread crumbs on each side.
  • Heat a saute pan, cover the bottom with some oil (just so the cutlets don't stick) and cook the patties on each side till deep brown (~3-4 minutes on each side on medium heat). The outer layer will become slightly crunchy.
  • Serve hot with some ketchup.  
The beet cutlets were well received and devoured even by those who didn't like beet.

Phew! :D

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