Recipe Source: Westrip, Joyce. Moghul Cooking. Serif Cookery, London, 2005 p. 38
I've already mentioned the event I catered during the August non-vacation this year. The theme was supposed to be the Silk Road, with cuisines and treats from cultures that were involved with the medieval silk trade. India was certainly part of the silk trade in those days, but I haven't found a good source for medieval Indian recipes. (If you have a good source, could you please pass it along? I'm not kidding.) The event was a cocktail party, meaning that the food needed to be things people could a) eat with their fingers and b) just kind of graze on while socializing and drinking. It also needed to be relatively "neat" food – food that people could eat without fear of dripping on some very expensive and elaborate costumes. I was flipping through the book cited above when I found this recipe, and I immediately said, "A-ha!"
What is it about this dish that so piqued my imagination? It's the cumin, of course. Cumin is one of my favorite flavors in the whole world. It's the spice I'm most likely to increase when using a recipe. I don't know why it's my favorite spice these days but it is and I simply cannot get enough of it. It's got a nice, pleasant flavor, warming and enticing. It was clearly perfect cocktail party food. I did have to make a few changes. Since this was an ostensibly medieval event (I couldn't get actual medieval sources for some of the recipes) I couldn't use chili powder. (Chiles existed in period, but not in India.) I also had to tweak my usual garam masala mix. One of the changes I made to that mix involved turmeric – I figured that it would give the finished product a pleasant color, which could be problematic given that a) I was not deep-frying the pastries and b) I was going to have to freeze them and bring them from Boston. I also used olive oil for the ghee to keep costs down and because that's what I keep on hand.
Personally, I was delighted with these little pastries. My husband and child were equally enthusiastic when I did the test run. I will say that these were at their absolute best fresh from the oil, but they survived being frozen and re-heated in the Big Green Egg very well indeed.
Nimki (Makes enough for about 6 people; approx. cost per serving not available)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup water
Vegetable oil for frying
- Mixing bowl
- Rolling pin
- Pizza cutter
- Large skillet
- Slotted spatula
- Paper towels
- Combine the flour with the spices and salt in the mixing bowl.
- Add the oil and combine well.
- Add the flour gradually and mix to form a firm dough.
- Knead 10 – 15 minutes.
- Allow to rest, covered, at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough very thin. Use the pizza cutter to cut out roughly diamond shapes. (Freehand cutting is not my strong suit, but that did not affect the flavor!)
- Heat the vegetable oil in the skillet.
- Working in batches, fry up the pastries. Do not overcrowd the pan. As the pastries become brown, evacuate them to a plate covered in paper towels with the slotted spatula to drain off the excess oil.