My Mother having grown up in the mofussils, where everything from rosogolla to chingri'r chop(shrimp cutlet) was made at home, had an uncanny fear of Kolkata street food. Actually any street food.
All through the 80's, she stymied my attempts at street food with a vengeance that matched a NRI mother who washes her hands with Bisleri and rubs Purell before a meal at Flury's. She thought anything cooked and served along the streets could bring nothing but cholera, jaundice and disaster. My school days were thus spent, longingly watching the alu-tikki and chole chaatwala serving myriad of school girls in badly washed steel plates. All I was allowed to buy, once a month, was a packet of spiced up potato chips in a transparent plastic packet or a bar of Golden ice cream from the yellow ice cream cart.
It was her good fortune that we did not live in Kolkata or its suburbs where phuchka and telebhaja(fried stuff) by the road side was easier to find than a S23( a bus) in service. On our annual visits to my Dida's home in Kolkata, my Ma would ease a little and allow an alur chop here and a phuchka there. Those brief sojourns were so rare that the taste of those treats ached my memory until we came back to visit Dida next year.
My Ma however compensated for this behavior of hers by cooking a lot of those things which we were denied outside at home. She would make shingara, dim er devil, khasta kochuri and bhejetebil chop all through winter.
Once the Northern winds started blowing and it was time to take out the napthalene scented hand-knit sweaters and Kashmiri shawls; the deep red beet, flame orange carrots and green peas flooded the vegetable market.Those were the days my Mother made vegetable chop, lots of it. With the freshest and sweetest of beet and carrots, those chops would be delicious. If I am allowed to be totally honest, I will say that I still missed the chops fried in stale oil, dusted with grime and carrying the germs of cholera but my Mother's vegetable chops were the best you can do in a clinically hygienic condition.
Now while I had the vegetable chop down to the last peanut theoretically, I have always made it when my Ma is visiting us. Only that means she cooks the beet, the carrots, the potatoes, makes the stuffing, fries the chop while I eat them. My Ma thinks they are good for the kids, a good way to make them eat veggies she will say and so makes them quiet frequently while she is here. Once she had boarded her flight, I just make a stew with the same vegetables.
Last week however I made vegetable chops just by myself. I did not even think "kids", I only thought about myself and okay a little about the husband and how it will be nice to have some vegetable chops for breakfast for a change.
It is pretty easy and though involves some frying in gallons of oil is not too bad for you. You are eating vegetables you see. Yeah, keep chanting that. With some planning you can cook the vegetables beforehand and make the croquettes and refrigerate them for 4-5 days. That way you can fry up some as needed and enjoy them with a cup of chai.
I think this recipe made about 24-30 vegetable chops but I can never be sure. Also my chops were smaller in size than standard
First lets make the Bhaja Masla
Cumin Seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Corriander seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Clove -- 6
Green Elaichi -- 3
Cinnamon -- 1/2" stick
Peppercorn -- 12
Red chili -- 2-3
Bay leaf -- tiny
Roast the above on stove pop, cool and then grind to a fine powder. Do not char. Note: If you are feeling extremely lazy pop in toaster oven instead of stove top roasting. You can store this powder in a air-tight jar for months.You can use it to sprinkle on chutneys and make more chops.
Second --- We will work with the veggies, good stuff here.
Now we will chop the following vegetables in chunks
2 medium beet ,
2 carrot (if carrot is the thin kind use 4 else 2 should be fine),
2 large potato
Cook the above vegetables till they are mash-able. I usually cook them in the pressure cooker.
Once cooked, drain water and mash the vegetables. It is okay if the texture is little grainy and not totally smooth
Note: My Mother used to have her veggies a bit coarsely mashed, there shouldn't be any bite-able veggies but they can be a notch lower smooth.
Now heat a little oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan
Roast 1/4 cup of halved peanuts, remove and keep aside
In the same oil add
2 tbsp of minced or grated ginger
3-4 green chilli chopped in rounds
the mashed vegetables,
3 tsp of Bhaja masla,
1/4-1/2 tsp of red Chili Powder,
salt to taste
sugar if needed
Saute the mashed veggies, mixing with the masala till the excess water dries up and the veggies come together, leaving the sides. Add 1 tbsp of finely chopped coriander leaves/dhone pata if you wish.Also add the roasted peanuts. Check to see the spices are right.
Note: If needed add 1-2 tbsp of besan or maida for binding. If adding besan, cook till smell of besan is masked.
When this mixture cools, grease your palms and fashion croquettes out of them. Add a golden raisin to each.
The usual shape is oblong or oval but I have made small slightly flattened balls.
Third -- Lets do some Coating
Make a batter of 1/3 cup of chickpea flour/besan + 4-5 tbsp of water. The batter should be thin, thinner than the pakori batter.
Dip the croquette/chop in above Besan mix, roll in seasoned breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the croquettes/chops for an hour. You could refrigerate these for about 4-5 days in a closed container. Only don't forget about them and go on a vacation. They need to be used sooner than later.
Finally -- Now is the Frying Time
In a Kadhai heat enough oil for frying. Once the oil is hot, check if it is right temperature by putting a tiny piece of bread in it.
Roll the croquettes lightly again in seasoned breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil till golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and keep aside in a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
Note : If you had added besan as a binder you might get a scent of besan in the chop. In that case fry a little more at medium heat till it is cooked through.
Sprinkle some chat masala or beet noon and serve with some ketchup and a salad of onion, cucumber.
Notes: First time Vegetable chop makers please read the note
1. There is two kind of Bhaja Masla that Bongs make. The one in the recipe is how my Ma, her Ma, me etc. does it. The second kind is one where Cumin Seeds + Dry red Chili is roasted on stove top and then grind to a powder.
2.The besan coating for the chop should be a VERY thin coating. It SHOULD NOT be thick as in a Alu Bonda/Vada.
3. If you do not like besan coating you can make a thin batter of white flour + water. You can also do dip in egg wash and then roll in breadcrumbs like here in Maacher Chop
4.My Ma-in-law grates the beet instead of boiling and mashing all veggies, that gives a nice texture to the chop.
5.Many people say that drying the mashed vegetables takes considerable amount of time. To avoid this, drain the carrots, beet and potatoes well and only then mash it when they cool a little
Updated on May15th, 2013: -- Recently I made a version of this same chop where I deviated from being completely niramish. To the mashed veggies I added some crispy fried onions(from a box). Also for the coating I dredged the balls in all-purpose flour, dipped them in egg wash(2 eggs beaten with a tsp of water) and rolled them in bread crumbs. I then refrigerated them for a few hours/overnight before frying. I clearly prefer this method.