There’s never been a cold, rainy day when I haven’t yearned to cuddle up in my cozy comforter gazing out of the window while sipping a cup of chai generously laced with ginger and munching on crispy home-made onion fritters aka pakodas.

Although quite a rare occurrence these days, especially with a busy schedule and our untimely rain, I considered myself extremely lucky to be home on one such afternoon when it rained generously. Just as monsoon does to every romantic’s heart, it brought out the poetic, creative side of me—a side very willing to experiment.

I raided my refrigerator and came across a piece of beet lingering in a forgotten corner of my fridge drawer. As I stared at it for a brief moment, the only thing that popped into my head was “vegetable chops.”

I must confess that I have always had a love-hate relationship with beets. The few times I’ve had the courage to experiment with this vegetable, it turned out to be a messy, bright magenta blob that tasted a bit too earthy for my taste. So yes! I am guilty of using this vegetable minimally. In the vegetable chop something really magical happens with beets and that which I detest ends up becoming the star ingredient of this favorite recipe.

Vegetable chop (as we Cuttackis call it) is actually a vegetable croquette, distinctly characterized by the presence of brightly colored beets in a medley of vegetables.

On an unrelated note, we Cuttackis, should really think about copyrighting the word “chop” since it seems very native to Cuttack and I am often meted a blank stare the moment I mention it to any non-Cuttacki. So to an average Cuttacki, “chop” refers to any battered and fried vegetable stuffed croquette—be it the aloo chop or the vegetable chop.

Jagruti Vedamati is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University.


The Dainty Vegetable Croquette

These crispy rolls, made of sautéed veggies wrapped in a spiced potato mixture, rolled in bread-crumbs and deep fried till golden brown, get their additional punch from the occasional sweetness of the raisin and the freshness of mint. Most aptly described as the Odiya version of the dainty croquette.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1-2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
2 tbsps of beetroot, chopped
½ cup of carrots, chopped
½ cup of beans, chopped
1 cup of onions, thinly sliced
2 cups of cabbage, thinly sliced
3-4 nos. of green chilies, chopped
1 tbsp of raisins (optional)
1 tbsp of mint leaves, chopped
½ tbsp tomato ketchup
¼ tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp black pepper powder
½ tsp chaat masala
1 pinch of garam masala (optional)
Salt to taste
4 boiled medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp of cornstarch
1 tsp of black pepper
½ teaspoon of amchur (dried mango
powder)
To taste–Salt
1 cup of bread crumbs
oil for frying

recipes_vegetable_chops_copyMethod
For the filling:
In a pan over medium-high heat, add three tablespoons of oil and let it heat up. Add the garlic and stir till fragrant. Now add in the raisins, beets, carrots, beans, chilies, onions and cabbage in that order. Sauté the vegetable mixture for about 3-4 minutes In a separate bowl, mix in the tomato ketchup with one tablespoon of water along with red chili powder, pepper powder and salt. Mix well to form a smooth paste. Add this paste to the vegetable mixture.
Keep stirring till the vegetable filling looks glossy. Add the mint leaves and garam masala while the filling is hot and keep aside.
Mash the cooled, boiled potatoes to a smooth paste along with cornstarch, red chili powder, black pepper powder, amchur and salt. Taste and adjust if necessary.

Making the croquettes:
Make equal sized balls of the potato mixture. I used the ¼ cup scoop measure to measure out equal amounts.
Flatten the potato balls and add in 1 tablespoon of the filling in the middle. Gather the potato mixture from the sides and form an oblong shaped croquette. You can keep it round too if you like. I preferred it oblong since that’s how its originally made.
Now, roll the prepared croquettes in seasoned bread crumbs till well coated.
Wrap up the croquettes and refrigerate for at least half an hour to make them bind well.
Heat up oil in a pan and fry till golden brown

Notes:
1. Before frying, the croquettes can be stored covered in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours in advance. Fry the croquettes when you want to serve them.
3. If you don’t have any bread crumbs on hand, toast some thin poha (flattened rice) on the stove (~1-2 minutes) and crumble them. This makes the crust extra crunchy.
While it takes time to fry, don’t forget to put your teapot to work, too. There’s nothing more surreal than the heavenly combination of vegetable chops and ginger tea.
Don’t forget to thank me later when you are done enjoying this blissful combination! n

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