During the early years of my marriage when we used to live with my husbands’ parents, these Curry Puffs were was a recipe I earned brownie points with. Prior to my arrival, these were not made at home. For me these curry Puffs were a staple for Iftar, growing up, especially when we had cousins over. For this reason, these were one of the first recipes I could make from scratch independently. Cubed chicken is marinated briefly with spices and a dash of lemon and cooked and shredded. Onions are caramelized alongside garlic and ginger paste, chillies for heat and a little more spices are added before the chicken is mixed in for the filling. It has all the ingredients you would use in a good chicken curry except for whole tomatoes to keep the filling dry. With the notion of the table has to be filled with favourites when entertaining for Iftar, these would almost always by my contribution.
When I would go back to Kerala for the summer holidays, we were (literally) dragged to visit endless family members. My father actually had a plan in writing with dates against each area and the number of houses we were to visit in the span of two weeks he would be in Kerala. One of the things that made it less daunting for my 8 years and older self, was the prospect of being offered tea. After the customary chit-chat including weather, date of arrival and departure and exchanging notes of milestones from the year gone by, we would be called into the dining room which would have at least four, if not more, plates of nibbles waiting. Some houses knew we would be arriving beforehand and the spread on the table would be more elaborate with piping hot fried snacks which almost always included Pazham Pori, Kerala’s household Plaintain fritter. Some of the things you’d find on the table would be peanut and pea laden fried mixture, Jackfruit or Plantain chips, (orange) sweet cream filled biscuits accompanied with glasses of Tang for the children. This was easily close to two decades ago where most snacks were still made from scratch in every household and very few people bought form bakeries. In fact, ‘bakery items’, as they’re referred to, were mostly found in houses where a family member either worked or owned a bakery. On both my parents side, there were relatives in the immediate family that did so which meant these were the houses were one could expect flower shaped Tea cakes and Chicken Puffs. I distinctly remember that they’re referred to in plural. ‘Puffs idukku’ meant help yourself to a piece. Kissan ketchup, which was a shade brighter and much more sweeter than what we had in Dubai, would be squeezed on to your plate and I’d slowly break it apart with my fingers and making sure I didn’t drop pastry flakes on to the tabletop.
Back in Dubai, close to my teenage years, frozen puff pastry started appearing in the frozen section of the supermarket. There was one particular year that they were seen at every Iftar we were invited to and would be made at ours. Slowly, chicken made way to meat, fish and even sweeter fruit fillings.
In all honesty, I prefer Egg stuffed ones to Chicken. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, this was a constant craving in the second trimester. More than the egg, the satisfaction was when flaky pastry would crumble and melt in your mouth and the butteriness slowly appears. Making Puff Pastry has been on my list for a very long time. But until, then store bought works just as well. Given they are very common, I underestimate how much they are appreciated and am proven wrong every time they are served. This is one of the dishes where there is a polite hustle and back and forth for the last piece remaining. Don’t tell anyone, I always keep a few hidden in the oven for later.
Curry Chicken Puffs
Chicken breast - 500 g
Ginger garlic paste - 1 Tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric Powder - ¾ tsp
Garam Masala - ¾ tsp
Ground pepper - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Lemon juice - 2 tsp
Onions - 2 medium
Ginger Garlic paste - 2 Tbsp
Green chillies - 2-3 to taste
Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric Powder - ¾ tsp
Garam Masala - ¾ tsp
Coriander leaves - a fistful
Boiled Potoates - 1 (optional)
Butter - 1 tbsp, cubed
Salt - to taste
Coconut Oil - as needed
Frozen Puff Pastry squares - Thawed for 30 minutes
Egg - 1
Cut the chicken breast into cubes and wash thoroughly.
Mix all the spice powders, ginger garlic paste, pepper, lemon juice and salt together.
Rub the above mixture into the chicken cubes and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
Heat a little coconut oil on medium-high heat.
Fry the chicken cubes stirring frequently.
The water from the chicken will start releasing.
Continue cooking the chicken till the water has evaporated.
Using a spatula, shred the chicken in the pan while it is still warm or once it is completely cool, shred the chicken in a blender with not more than 3 second pulses.
Thinly slice onions and green chillies.
Chop coriander leaves finely.
If adding potato, cut the boiled potatoes into small cubes.
Heat coconut oil on low heat.
Fry the onions till they start turning brown.
Add ginger garlic paste and sauté well for a minute.
Add sliced chillies and sauté again.
Add the spice powders and mix well.
Add coriander leaves and sauté again.
Add in chicken mince and mix making sure the caramelized onion and spice mixture blends well.
Add half a tablespoon of melted coconut oil and mix well.
If adding potato, tip in cubed potatoes and sauté gently so that the potatoes don’t mash and break.
Turn down the heat to simmer and put the cubed butter on top of the mixture.
Cover the saucepan and let the butter melt. This should take about two minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.
Prepare a sheet pan or a baking dish with Parchment paper.
Beat the egg well.
Take a pastry square and spoon mixture on one half.
Fold the empty pastry side through the middle over the mixture.
Using light pressure, press the edges together using your finger tips.
Using a fork tip, press the edges lightly to seal it completely.
Brush egg wash over the top part of the pastry.
Place on the parchment paper leaving an inch between each filled pastry.
Bake the pastry for 25 minutes.
Check if the top has turned golden. If it hasn’t bake till it does checking in 5 minute increments.
Once they’ve turned golden, flip the pastries very carefully (don’t burn your hands!).
Bake for an additional 10 minutes and then switch off the oven.
Let it rest inside for 10 minutes before taking out.
Serve warm with ketchup.
NOTES ON VARIATIONS:
Egg: Prepare the Onion filling according to recipe above. Add boiled eggs that have been halved through the middle and gently toss till its coated in the Masala. It needs extra care while folding because it is bulkier.
Fish: Substitute chicken for canned tuna or Kingfish fillet in the recipe for chicken filling above. Proceed with the remaining recipe.
Red Meat: I would recommend cooking red meat either in a press cooker or slow cooked till the meat falls apart from the bone. Chunkier meat would make folding thawed pastry a bit difficult.
Have a good food day.