Friday, February 26, 2016
Hard Boiled Eggs in Rich Moghlai Sauce with Basmati Rice & Spicy Cucumbers for Food 'N Flix February: 'The Lunchbox'
It's Food 'N Flix time again. The monthly event where we watch a film, then head to the kitchen to make a dish inspired by our viewing. This month we are watching a foreign foodie film (yes, that means subtitles) ;-) called The Lunchbox.
I saw The Lunchbox when it came out and really enjoyed the story of two lonely people who get to know each other over letters sent in a lunchbox, so I was happy to see that Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla had picked it as our February movie. (See her announcement post here.) Since it had been a few years, I added it to my Netflix queue and squeezed in a viewing before the due date, paying more attention to the food this time.
The story is about a mix-up in the famous "dabbawala" daily lunch delivery system in Mumbai India, where hot food in lunchboxes is collected from the residences of workers or restaurant services in the late morning and delivered to the workplace at lunchtime via bicycles and the railway, then the empty lunchboxes are returned to the residence or restaurant they were sent from that afternoon and the process repeats the next day. According to the dabbawalas, Harvard (who did a study), and most people in Mumbai, mistakes do not happen--but of course, the whole plot of the movie is based on a mistake. Saajan Fernandes is a widower who works in a government office in the claims department and gets his lunchbox from a local restaurant. Ila is a young wife who makes lunch daily for her distracted and distant husband, trying new recipes to entice him. One day the box for Ila's husband goes to Saajan by mistake and the pattern repeats itself. Ila realizes the mistake, but appreciating that someone actually "licked the lunchbox clean," she writes a letter in the next lunchbox. The letter sparks a correspondence between these two lonely people and changes their lives. It is a sweet, somewhat bittersweet film and well worth a watch--so I won't go into more detail about the plot or subplots--get over any subtitle issues you might have and watch it. ;-)
There is food aplenty in The Lunchbox, although not everything is named or easily identified. Some dishes that caught my eye or were mentioned --paneer (Indian curd cheese) in a red sauce, a dal with flatbread--probably roti, cauliflower, aubergines in a sauce, paranthas, Kheema Pao (a spicy minced mutton or chicken dish), chai, and what appeared to be a tomato rasam (spicy broth soup) being strained in a glass and sipped by Ila. In the end, I decided to go with what I might want in my own Indian lunchbox. (Sadly, I have no multi-layered metal "tiffin" lunchbox as in the movie, although I have long coveted one, so I had to settle for a few little dishes and plates for my meal.)
I can eat all varieties of curry at all times of the day. but there is just something about a curry with hard boiled eggs that seems perfect for lunch. I went to the master for my recipe--Madhur Jaffrey, who offers multiple variations of egg curries in her many cookbooks. The rich sauce mentioned in the recipe for Jaffrey's Hard Boiled Eggs in Rich Moghlai Sauce caught my eye. Moghlai or Mughlai cuisine has origins dating back to the Moghul Empire and the food is often characterized by its richness and distinct aromatic flavors. Since the sauce is so rich, I decided to go with plain basmati rice and a spicy but refreshing crunchy cucumber side.
I made a few changes to the recipe--mainly replacing the chicken stock with low-sodium veggie stock and the dairy cream with coconut milk to make a veg-friendly, dairy-free version. Also, the cookbook, 100 Weeknight Curries by Madhur Jaffrey, is a tiny pocket book with itty-bitty fonts. Tiny fonts + a distracted Deb = an error in the amount of tomato paste added to the recipe. It was supposed to be 2 teaspoons and I thought it was 2 tablespoons. Whoops! ;-) So my curry has a darker color than it should have, but it was delicious so I don't feel so bad about the mistake.
Jaffrey says, "This can be whipped up quite quickly. Here the sauce for the eggs is rich and creamy--hence the 'Moghlai' in the title (in other words in the style of the Moghlai court). Serve with rice or any bread. I even love these eggs with toast."
Hard Boiled Eggs in Rich Moghali Sauce
100 Weeknight Curries by Madhur Jaffrey
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 (medium-sized) onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp tomato puree/paste (I accidentally used 2 Tbsp--whoops!)
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used veggie stock)
1 cup single cream (I used coconut milk)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander + more leaves to garnish
6-8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
Mix the cayenne, cumin, garam masala, coriander, lemon juice, salt and some black pepper with 1 tbsp of water in a cup, stir to make a smooth paste and set aside.
Heat oil in a large frying pan and set it over a medium high heat.When oil is hot add the onion and stir fry until it turns brown at the edges. Add the ginger and stir for 10 seconds, then add the paste from the cup and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in tomato puree, broth, cream or coconut milk and fresh coriander and bring to simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.
Lay the egg halves in the sauce in a single layer and spoon the sauce over the top. Cover and simmer very gently for another 2-3 minutes, then serve garnished with whole coriander leaves.
Spicy Cucumber Wedges
100 Weeknight Curries by Madhur Jaffrey
Jaffrey says, "These wedges are refreshing and deliciously crunchy and may be served with any Indian meal. It's best to prepare them at the last minute, just before you sit down to eat."
1 cucumber (10 oz) (I used two 'mini' cumbers with peels left on)
1/3 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
juice of 1/2 lemon
Peel cucumber and cut into half crossways, then cut each half into four lengthways. Arrange wedges on a plate. Sprinkle the salt, cayenne, pepper, cumin seeds and lemon juice over them and serve immediately.
Notes/Results: I realize that not everyone is a hard boiled egg-in-their-curry fan but if you are or you love hard boiled eggs and curry separately, this is a lovely dish. The sauce is rich with delicious flavor from the spice and a slow building heat from the cayenne. It is also very quick to make (especially if you boil your eggs ahead of time) and with a well-stocked spice rack, it's an easy pantry meal. One note on the hard boiled eggs, I am always looking for the easiest way to peel them and this method of bringing the water to a boil, then carefully lowering the eggs in and cooking them until desired 'doneness'--then putting them in ice water and back in the pan to crack against each other, resulted in the easiest peel eggs of my long-standing egg peeling attempts. I will definitely use it again. The cucumbers were simple, crunchy and spicy and went well with the richness of the curry. I was very happy with both of these dishes and will make them again.
In addition to being my entry for Food 'N Flix, I am linking this post and its Madhur Jaffrey recipes to Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--our chance to make any recipe form the current chef Ellie Krieger or any previous IHCC chef like Madhur Jaffrey. You can see the chefs and dishes that everyone chose for February's potluck by checking out the picture links on the post.
I am sliding in close to the deadline of Sunday, February 28th for this month's Food 'N Flix fun. Camilla will be rounding up the film-inspired dishes on her blog, shortly after the deadline. If you missed out on this round and like food, films, and foodie films, join us for March and A Walk in the Clouds hosted by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.