Trains have always been a part of middle class Indian Life.They are the ones that bridge the vast distance between South,the North,Central and the West.Right from installation of the first passenger train between Bori Bunder Thane in Bombay, till now they have been the major source of travel for people.The long waiting list,the reservation to be done prior to months if we are planning a vacation,er the dirty railway station and er the stinky loos (unbearable) and the mass of people (we feel the whole India is waiting for a train) and the variety of foods - especially these days where we have special trains with their own restaurant compartments- endear the trains to us.It has become a part of life that we want to avoid but we find itself in it.It is also a place where we meet different kinds of people,share food and stories especially if it is a long distant train that spans several days.Ladies Coupe or Ladies Compartment has been associated with a train - passenger as well as long distant trains -a compartment specially for ladies or "Ladies Only" has been a good idea especially in a place like India where several atrocities has been committed against women and are still rampant.It has become a place where ladies sit and talk together share stories and food,and even chop veggies.
Ladies Coupe,a novel by Anitha Nair, tells us the story that happened in a ladies compartment of Bangalore Kanyakumari Express about six ladies who met for the first time and shared their life stories.Sometimes we feel perfectly normal when we share our fears,life and secrets to perfect strangers.The story begins with ,Akhila,who forgot to live her life for the sake of siblings but was left alone when the siblings flew away to their own nests.She starts the journey from Bangalore and meets up Prabha Devi,Janaki,Margret Shanti,Marikulanthu and Sheela and opens up her mind and listens to them.Each feel their is a sad story till they hear the other. Akhila searchs within herself and others whether a woman needs a man to feel complete.While reading the story we feel we can identify with these characters.Foodwise there are some references and recipes but the general railway food comes into our mind.FYI,the author talks about Appam and stew when the train stops at Palakkad.Appam and Stew is one the signature dishes of Kerala and has been a popular food from Palakkad (erstwhile Palghat)railway station.
Anyway the novel full of food reminds me of the cutlets that I used to get while travelling on the Southern Railways.A mix of several vegetables and batter fried(shallow or deep) it is a perfect example of different classes and mindsets sitting together and travelling to a common destination,er stomach in case of cutlets.The greasy cutlets with in Southern Railways were always a popular evening snack though I prefer much healthier shallow fried version my mom makes.The ingredients are basically potato,carrots and beets,though we can add whatever leftover veggies we like or cooked beans cheese(paneer) etc.
Ingredients:Potatoes,Beets and Carrots(cooked,peeled and mashed/grated) : 1-2 cups
Onion: 1 small,finely chopped
Green chillies: 1-2 as per taste,chopped into long pieces
Ginger: 1 small piece
Pepper & Red chilli powder : pinch (optional)
Tomato: 1 small finely chopped
Semolina/Bread Crumbs: 1/4 cup +/-
Bread Crumbs : 1/4 cup + (Breading)
Vegetable Oil: for shallow frying
Cook the potatoes,carrot and peeled beets.You can cook them altogether or separately or can even grate the carrots and beets.Chop the onions,tomato and green chillies and grate the ginger.
Heat little vegetable oil in a pan,add the chopped onion and grated ginger and chopped green chillies and cook till soft.Add chopped tomatoes,little salt ,optional pepper and chilli powder and saute for a few minutes.If you are using any uncooked vegetables or even grated beets and carrots then you can add at this point and saute till they are cooked.
Add the mashed potatoes and semolina/bread crumbs,mix well and cook for a few more minutes.The semolina is used as a thickner or it absorbs any extra liquid in the mix of vegetables keeping it moist at the same time.Check for salt and add more if needed.Let the mix cool till it can be shaped into balls.The potatoes also act as a binder.The quantity of spices and chillies is guestimate and adjust as per your taste and choice of vegetables.Chilli powder and pepper are completely optional,but if you do not have/like chillies then you can use this more.Crumbled paneer can be added as well.Tomatoes can be replaced with tomato paste/puree as per availability.
Once cooled the veg mix which looks rose in colour due to beets can be shaped into balls or kababs.
Bread the balls in bread crumbs or matzo meal or crushed oats.I have used cheesy bread crumbs. Shake off the excess if you like.
Shallow fry the cutlets on a non stick pan for a few minutes on both sides adding a few drops of oil.If you want to deep fry these,then you can first dip them in yoghurt or a thin batter made of all purpose flour and water and then dip them in bread crumbs and deep fry.But,give me shallow frying anyday.
The cutlets will have a brownish crust when cooked.Serve with spiced yoghurt and or tomato sauce and optionally with salsa cruda as in train.
The cutlets are hearty and perfect snack for everyone.Lets see who all boarded the Ladies Coupe in the BookClub train and are travelling to the perfect destination - "Climbing the Mango Trees ' by Madhur Jaffery next month.
*BREAKING NEWS *- I am at present on a vacation and has neither been able to visit yummy blogs nor comment on the wonderful dishes.I was a bit busy earlier and could not even inform about this thanks to limited net connection.The current situation will continue till the first week of Jan 2010 though some of my scheduled posts will appear if blogger works properly ie. :D
ADVANCED NEW YEAR WISHES TO ALL THE WONDERFUL PEOPLE WHO TAKE TIME TO VISIT THIS BLOG.
!! HAPPY NEW YEAR & HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!