Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eat What Your Mama Gave Ya

Oh, to be efficient! To be a multi-tasker! To be like Ree from The Pioneer Woman or Donna-FFW from My Tasty Treasures ... or any of you millions of superwomen out there (including my mom)! I admire thee. For the simple reason that I am sadly not like thee. Where many of you can juggle family, cooking, blogging, shopping, entertaining, and chores (while still looking fabulous) all at the same time, I fail miserably. I have one cat, one DH, and a small apartment - any sane person would think it would be a piece of cake to handle all three. For most of you it would be, but me, I let myself get bogged down by the details. And TV, I won't lie. But I think this month of Ramadan has thrown me off my schedule a bit - all that fasting from dawn to dusk has reduced my brain to a ... uhhhh ... hmm .. see what I mean?! I've run out of words just in my first paragraph *sob*.

To self: Pull yourself together, woman! You have a blog to write!

So dear readers, that ridiculous rant was basically my justification for not blogging as much as I've been wanting to this past week. There's been a lot of stuff going on. DH has been pretty busy with work-related issues, and when he comes home, we tend to discuss them over and over, because that's what we do. My little monster kitty Ozzy has been up to new tricks - he's figured out how to get
inside our living room couch, through the bottom. Y'know how they have this really thin cloth covering the part underneath your couch? Well, he rips a hole in one corner and slips inside, and basically runs around the inside of the couch ... and then forgets how to get out. *rolling eyes* Not the smartest cat in the world. In addition, I've been busy with a little experiment of my own, which I think has now come to an end, so I can get back to you all.

Today I have a recipe that's very specific to a region in India, called Hyderabad. My mum's entire family is very rooted in those Hyderabadi traditions (even though they're all now Pakistanis - it's confusing for some, I know, but just go along with me). Ever since I can remember, every Ramadan, my mum would make these amazing fried squares of dough, stuffed with a tangy, spicy mixture of ground beef called
lukhmi (pronounced look-mee).
This would be the treat my brother and I would look forward to every Ramadan, because that's what we wanted for Iftari (when it comes time to break the fast). And whereas I have moved forward, and expanded my repertoire of Iftari goodies, my little brother is still stuck in some sort of time warp, where he refuses to eat anything else but
lukhmi for Iftari. The boy can polish off an entire pile of these babies. These are my mom's specialty, and for some reason I never thought I'd make them myself, because they're just so Mom, y'know! This is what she does. And the good Lord has given me better sense than to compete with my mom. But, this Ramadan, I decided it was high time to tackle this recipe. For one thing, I had to share it with DH because he'd never had these lukhmi before, and secondly, I needed to know how to make these so that I can pass the tradition on - spread the love!

Lukhmi (Fried & Stuffed Parcels - the easiest recipe Mom's ever given me!)
Makes approx. 8-10 pieces

Click here for printable recipe

Ingredients for the dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 tbsp all-purpose white flour (maida)
1 tbsp course semolina (sooji)
Up to 1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp oil (plus extra for deep frying)

Ingredients for the ground beef mixture (my version):
1/2 lb ground beef
1-2 tbsp oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small chopped green chile
Ground black pepper
1-2 limes
Chopped cilantro


1. First make the dough: Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then add about half the milk, and start kneading the dough. Add more milk as needed. You should end up with a soft, pliable, but not too sticky ball of dough. Knead well. Pour about a tbsp of oil onto the dough and mix it in briefly. Prick the dough a few times with a fork, all over, so that the oil sinks in. Then put it in an airtight container and leave in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour.

2. For the beef mixture: Heat up the oil on medium-high heat and saute the onion till golden brown. Plop in the ground beef, green chile, salt, chilli powder, turmeric, ground cumin and black pepper, then cook this off. Brown the meat well, and make sure that you evaporate as much of the liquid as possible (stirring helps). Finish off with mixing in chopped cilantro and the juice of 1-2 limes (you want to really taste that tanginess in each bite). Mix, then turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

3. Start assembling the lukhmi about 45 mins before you need to serve them. The refrigerated dough needs to be kept at room temperature for about 15 mins before you start rolling it out.

4. Separate the dough into two pieces (easier to roll out). Dust your surface with some AP flour, and roll out the dough till it's this thin (see below!). Use more AP flour if the dough sticks to your rolling pin or your surface.
That battered old rolling pin is also something my Mom gave me - it's seen better days!

5. Place 1 heaping tsp of the beef mixture for each lukhmi (it's a bit like making fresh ravioli). Put this in the middle of the bottom-half of the dough you've rolled out. Then you use the top-half of the dough to cover these. Push out any air pockets before you pinch close the dough all around, tightly! Separate but cutting with a knife. Pretty it up all you want - I was lazy, so didn't. Set aside under a damp cloth, as you make the rest of the lukhmi.
6. Heat up your frying oil on medium-high till it's pretty hot (sorry, I don't have a thermometer). The idea is that as soon as you put in one lukhmi, it should start bubbling immediately and rise to the surface. Keep dousing the top that floats up with hot oil, so that it fluffs up. Once golden brown on both sides (about 1 min or less), drain on a paper towel and continue with the rest. Serve immediately with ketchup or your favorite chutney!

Verdict: Crispy on the outside, yet soft and chewy once you bite down, and bursting with flavor from that tangy, spicy ground beef inside. The key is to make sure it's not too full of the beef, because then they don't fluff up like this. DH and I open our fast every day with some luscious Medjool dates, a glass of cold milk mixed with rose-water syrup (called Roohafza in most Indian/Pakistani stores - that's what gives the milk that baby-pink color, but I assure you, it tastes nothing like Pepto-Bismol! It's really quite delicious), and sometimes a platter of these delicious fried lukhmi. I think they're relatively easy, and the best part is, they taste like Mom's! Mission successful.