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Sunday, 18 September 2011

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My childhood and adolescence were defined by these puffs. If you think that's a sweeping statement to be making, well, lets just say that these puffs figured in, oh, 300 out of the 365 days for the first 20 years of my life. Yes, that's a lot of puffs, wouldn't you say? In all their varieties of course, meat, vegetable and eggs.

Puffs are very popular snacks in many parts of South India, particularly Mangalore and the south coast. They consist of a spicy onion masala, with either meat, vegetables or eggs encased in a light puff pastry. I am not sure how they originated or how they came to be such a such a staple. I suspect that they may have been part of the Portuguese culture that colonised Goa, and then been adopted by the Indians in their spicy avatar. Whatever the origin, these spicy snacks are ubiquitous everywhere, and an absolute favourite of every young child, teenager and adults too.

My enduring memory of these puffs is my dad chucking some money at us around tea time, and telling us to go and buy some 'meat or egg pups'. And I swear, for the first few years of my life, I actually thought that puffs were pronounced 'pups' :-) It led to a lot of hilarity in the house, and to this day I tease my dad and my aunts about their 'pups'!

So puffs, every variety of them, have a special place in my heart. When I lived in Mangalore, the only decision to make was whether we should buy the triangular puffs from Venus Bakery or the round ones from Cochin Bakery. I was a staunch supporter of the triangular ones, but my sister insisted that the round ones were better, puffier. As if! Either way, we had to get the puffs early in the afternoon, as soon as they hit the bakery shelves, and if we delayed, they would be all sold out before you could say 'egg puff'. And of course, that would never do! Puffs also were a siginificant source of lunch for me once I was old enough to buy my own, particularly in college. I used to joke that they contained all the food groups, from carbohydrates to vitamins and fat :-) That of course, is not true, but they sure did sustain me well enough during the afternoon classes!

So, when I moved to England, then subsequently to Canada, one of the things I really missed about Mangalore and India are these snacks. For some reason, I never really thought about making them myself, until a few weeks ago. I was talking to my dad, and he mentioned that he had just eaten some 'pups' (yes, he still says pups, despite all my coaching). This got me thinking, and I wondered why I didn't try making them. After all, I was lucky enough that I didn't need to make the puff pastry myself.

I browsed a few recipes online, but none really felt like they would taste like Mangalorean puffs.So, after a couple of chats with mum and my friends, I came up with this version. Now, strictly speaking, this doesn't taste identical to the puffs I grew up with, but I was delighted to realise that they came pretty close. Out of respect to my sister, I made both round and triangular versions of the egg puffs, but I still claim that the triangular ones are the better ones :-)

You can make these puffs with meat or vegetables, and not just eggs. For a meat version, just add about 1/2 a cup of shredded cooked meat of any variety, say beef or chicken to the masala at the end. For vegetable puffs, add a cup of steamed vegetables like peas, potatoes, carrots, peppers or beans to the masala at the end. Anyway you choose to make them, I hope you will enjoy the taste of these puffs like I did, because for me, they taste of home and family and that little small town of Mangalore that I love so much.

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Recipe:
(Printable Recipe)

1 large onion, diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
1/4 tsp pepper
3 flakes garlic, grated
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 green chilly
1 tomato, diced
3/4 - 1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light olive oil
Small handful fresh coriander
400 g or 2 large sheets bought puff pastry
2 eggs, hard boiled

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Hardboil, cool, peel and halve two eggs.

In a pan, heat the oil, and add the diced onion. Fry on a medium to high heat for about 7 - 10 minutes, until a light gold colour and very soft.

Add the ground coriander, garam masala, ground cumin, chilli powder and pepper and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the diced tomato and salt, and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the tomato is very squish and the masala comes together in a gooey mass. Stir in the fresh coriander, and take off the heat.

Leave to cool completely.

Roll out the pastry into sheets or, if using premade sheets, unroll them, and dust liberally with flour.
  • If making round puffs, cut out 2 rounds of pastry, one round slightly bigger than the other. Using a tablespoon as a measure, gently place some masala on top of the smaller round. Put an egg half on top of the masala, and then put around 1/2 tbsp of masala on top of the egg. Moisten round the edges of the pastry with water, and place the other round of pastry on top. Seal the edges, and place on a greased baking sheet.
  • For triangular puffs, cut the rolled pastry into squares. Place some masala, just off centre, then place an egg half on top of it. Add some more masala on top of the egg. Moisten all the edges using water, then fold over into a triangle. Seal and place on a greased baking sheet, as above.
Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 - 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden. Serve warm with a hot cup of chai.

This recipe makes 2 round and 2 triangular puffs.

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8 comments :

  1. Yum! My thoughts drifted to the Vas Bakery puffs that I used to buy so frequently :) I've been trying to make puffs Michelle, but I couldnt find puff pastry anywhere :( Do u have a recipe to make my own puff pastry at home?

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  2. Nice to meet another mangalorean!!!! Puffs look fab & mouthwatering!!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

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  3. Lovely post and pictures - so evocative, but I sadly note that we have moved on to "1/2 a cup of" - it's only to be expected that you embrace yet another new culture! Great recipe.

    I've just read backwards through your posts and note your Zucchini glut (see, it's infectious) which reminded me of a joke about a spate of car break-ins in Chicago, the punchline was that the criminals were dumping bags full of courgettes on the back seat!

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  4. What a great story Michelle!
    Why was your dad speaking English to you when you lived in India? That was the first question - the "pups" story is so cute!
    I had no idea you came to Canada so late in your young life... I am truly surprised. These look absolutely gorgeous - the pastry, divine.
    :)
    Valerie

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  5. I can see why these would become addictive. Great idea for a snack that's also a treat.

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  6. i love your story about the "pups" they sound SO good. Great pics!
    Mary

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  7. @Shireen, Aayi's Recipes has a recipe. I am too lazy to make it all from scratch, especially puff pastry which is easily available here.

    @Prathima, thank you... I do miss puffs a lot, I must say.

    @Chumbles, haha, yes I am adapting to the new culture. Its easier to measure in cups than in scales, but I still use my scales pretty frequently, especially since a lot of my cookbooks are British :-) You've been MIA, glad to see you back :-)

    @Valerie, thank you :-) We talked both in English and Konkani (my mother tongue) in India. Most people in India speak English quite fluently, and its quite a popular language there, especially as it is seen as the ticket to social mobility. I only moved to Canada last year, and before that I was in England for around 10 years... so not that young :-))

    @Phil, yes, they are certainly addictive :-) Especially when you don't have to make them though!!

    @Cuisinero, thank you.

    @Mary, I know, I still tease my dad :-) And yes, they are pretty good snacks. I was totally addicted when I used to live in India.

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