Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kerala Puffs (Savory Meat Stuffed Puff Pastries)

One of the best discoveries I made after moving to the U.S. culinary-wise, is undoubtedly Puff Pastries.
Born in Kerala, and growing up in its capital, Puffs as they were called were a treat for us kids, which would make us do our home works the speed of light, put us in our best-est behaviors and drooling every time we were near the bakery that sold these delicate pastries.
And the grown ups couldnt resist these either. The ones we bought were from a local city bakery, conveniently located near the bus-stand, and called "Eat-n-Joy". They sold puffs loaded with a hard-boiled egg and caramelized onion filling, a mixed vegetable filling or my favorite: a mutton or chicken spiced and cooked to tender perfection, layered in golden flaky piece of heaven!
The time we reached there also was critical. They were open in the mornings, for a couple of hours for the break fast crowd, and sold leftovers from the previous day. They were closed for the afternoon, while the baker made fresh batches of pastries and other goodies and sold them fresh in the evening. I have seen them open at around 3 and the line of peeps who would be waiting to buy from them would reach past the compound to the street. And for such a popular treat, they made it in limited quantities, due to its perish-ability or perhaps it tasted best, when fresh. So once it was sold out, it was gone! And so my Uncles and dearest Aunts  would go directly to this bakery from work before these goodies got over, and would get us the non-veg ones that used to sell like hot cakes (ok....bad comparison, but lets move on...) and bring it for us kids, home.
And we would gobble it up like no tomorrow and I remember it would never be enough! There was always someone asking if there was more and putting the buyer into guilt, but the way we behaved like we were indebted to them for life, would make that guilt go away. (Oh, we could never jeopardize the relations with the one who bought THESE to us!!!)
Just like a number of recipes I have shared on MMP, this one also was born out of a burning bout of homesickness. Craving these puffs were seriously getting to me, then...but that was when hubby bought some Apple turnovers for me, from the bakery right across our home in New Jersey. I tasted one of these and realized the pastry shells were the same as puffs. And the filling, I could always try to recreate. I walked into the bakery next day and asked the rude cashier there, if they actually sold the pastry dough there. She directed me to the baker, a charming lady and she was the one who told me that puff pastry dough was really difficult to make and it was better off bought from the grocery store. And she confided, she got hers made from another baking supply store, in bulk.
Allie, the baker and I became friends, and stayed friends until she moved back to her hometown, somewhere in the South. But her tips and informative chats had me totally enlightened about the way I saw baking.
But I didnt actually try making puffs until we landed in Georgia and I got access to a better oven and time. The first puffs I made were too soggy and didnt rise well due to the water content in the filling. And I didnt figure that out until I experimented making Jelly Puffs, which were puff pastries stuffed with rustic, chunky strawberry Preserves and cream cheese. They puffed up really well and flaky and sweet and then I figured out that it was my filling which was messing up my Puffs. .
I worked on my filling and figured out that if ground meat was used instead of cut up pieces, it would use hardly any water and cooking time was also minimal. And thus was born my Meat Pastry Filling.
This filling could be used for Cutlets, a quick Meat loaf , as crescent roll stuffing or even for meat Paranthas.
The only downside is the Fat Content in the filling, since you dont drain the fat, but cook it in the accumulated fat. So if you want it to be healthier, use a extra extra lean ground meat (any) with a fat percentage of 2-5 %.
As for the pastry shell, I rely on Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets. These things can be almost 3-4 dollars a pack, so its not viable if you want it every other day.
Make sure you brush the tops (and bottoms) with milk or eggwash, for that lovely golden color.
This recipe serves 6 peeps, 1 puffs each.
So without more blah, here goes Recipe for Kerala Puffs:-

1 lb of any lean or extra lean ground meat
1 large red Onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
2 -3 green thai/ Indian chilies---chopped finely
1 -2 tsp of fresh minced ginger
1-2 tsp of fresh/ frozen minced garlic
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp fennel powder/ crushed fennel seeds
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and clove powdered
salt and pepper

Other Ingredients:-
2 packs of Puff pastry Sheets---each pack 17.3 ozs or 500 grams roughly
1 egg (for egg wash: beaten with 1 tsp of water, lightly) or 1/4 cup of milk

In a nonstick heavy bottomed pan, gently brown the ground meat, without any oil. As it heats up, the fat in it will melt and accumulate. Sprinkle salt on top, to extract the maximum fat out. When enough moisture is accumulated in the bottom of the pan and the meat is sizzling, add the ginger, garlic chilies and onions. Keep stirring in med-high heat. The onions should be able to caramelize. As the onions turn tender, add the spices. Keep stirring occasionally taking care it doesn't burn. When everything looks fried, cover lid, reduce heat and cover. After 5 minutes, switch off the heat and check seasonings. Add salt if needed. Remove lid and let cool down.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thaw the pastry shell according to package instructions and lay out one,  in a clean, floured surface. If you need smaller puffs, cut into 6 squares or rectangles; else cut into 3 strips along the folds the pastry shell was packed in. Using a pastry brush, brush the insides of the pastry shell with egg wash. You could use a spoon's outside with a light hand if you dont have one of these pastry brushes. Use desired amount of filling, as per the size of the pastry dough cut. You might not want to overfill as it may end up in loose seams and hence a lot of spillage, while it bakes. Enclose the edges using egg wash at the seams liberally. Pinch them lightly to seal. brush all over with egg wash.
Repeat until filling and pastry dough is all used up.

In a pan lined with parchment paper, arrange the sealed raw pastries in a single layer and bake for 15 -17 minutes until golden brown. Take it promptly out of the oven, let it cool and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!!!


  1. Hey sis, these look fabulous...I will give them a try. HUGS ;-)

    1. They are pretty yummy...Let me know how it goes! ;-) xxx