|a pakistani chicken patty with sriracha|
chicken patties always remind me of the monsoon in pakistan. it is a memory of grey skies that burst into heaving showers. the earth would release trapped heat, allowing it to waft up in warm steam laced with the smell of earth. in one of the houses where we lived, i had a monsteria plant outside my window. during the monsoon it would grow threefold, its large waxy green leaves balancing fat raindrops. i have a memory of a weekend, in which i am curled up on my beanbag, reading fiction. as the breeze cooled, baba opened the doors and windows, and the house came alive with the sound of rain. you could feel the warm air moving out on a cooler current. reshma’s husky voice serenaded the breeze.
and soon after there was the call for afternoon tea.
it seems that the monsoon gives one an affinity for savoury snacks. at weekends during the monsoon (if we were all at home), baba would always ask for something salty. sometimes there would be pakoras fresh from their karahi of hot oil, with chilli garlic sauce on the side. at others it would be samosas from the nearby bazaar. but mostly it would be chicken patties. it seemed to me that mama always had a dozen of these in the fridge in anticipation of unannounced guests and monsoon showers.
|a cross section of the chicken patty|
we would take our tea on the sturdy wooden table in the lounge. i still remember our pistachio coloured enamel teapot filled with a brew fragranced with cardamom or a tablespoon of earl grey. it was always dressed in a thick woollen tea cosy. the milk and sugar were accompanied by a jar of ‘everyday’; a creamer that is much loved in pakistan but was banned from our table very soon after it came out (baba said it was artificial and too sugary). and to eat there would be samosas or chicken patties warmed in the oven to revive their crispness, the moisture and humidity of the monsoon often making such savouries go limp.
the chicken patty is essentially a disc of puff pastry encasing a heavily peppered chicken filling. it is a teatime institution in the sub-continent. vegetarian patties are larger in size and are almost always triangle shaped. both kinds of patties are standard bakery items and are very rarely made at home.
such is the affection for this tea-time snack that we over look the sparseness of the chicken bulked with softened onion, the uncomfortable levels of pepper or that most often the patty has a soggy bottom. this is because the chicken patty, with a smear of mitchell’s chilli garlic sauce is what nostalgia tastes like. this is what explains why r and i spent a saturday afternoon on ‘bari eid’ making chicken patties in my kitchen.
this recipe is recreated through taste. i did refer to some pakistani recipes but found that they were peculiar, with some calling for the addition of mayonnaise and others a roux. having eaten my fair share of patties i knew that what was needed was shredded poached chicken with plenty of onion softened in oil. the seasoning is dominated by pepper and some salt. i used boneless chicken thighs because i find breast meat to be dry. there is not much to making the filling aside from a little patience in sweating the onion. this is a slow process because what is needed is for the onion to soften and not change colour.
|the filling for the chicken patties|
when it comes to assembling the patties, i would encourage you to set up your work surface in an organised fashion, placing the filling in the patties after cutting out the puff pastry and crimping and sealing before the egg wash. the step-by-step process means that you will be less likely to get flustered and cleaning up will be relatively straightforward.
three boneless chicken thighs
a bay leaf
three whole peppercorns
a fat pinch of turmeric
two stalks of coriander
two tablespoons sunflower oil
two medium white onions
coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste
five hundred grams rolled puff pastry
place the chicken thighs in a small pan along with the whole spices. cover with water at least half an inch above the level of the chicken. place on medium- high heat and allow the water to come to a simmer. when the water comes to a simmer reduce the heat to medium and allow the chicken to poach for twelve minutes.
remove the pan from the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the broth. when cool take the chicken thighs and shred the meat. then pulse the shreds briefly in a food processor so that it breaks down further. do not over process. the chicken should be roughly shredded into tiny pieces. it should not be minced completely.
process the onions until finely diced. place them in a pan with the oil and sweat them over low heat. this will take approximately fifteen minutes. i find it helpful to place a lid on the pan in the initial stages as this quickens the process. the onions will turn pale and translucent but must not change colour. they are ready when the moisture in the pan has evaporated and the onions are soft and loose their rawness.
now add the shredded chicken to the mix and season with plenty of coarsely ground pepper. salt the mixture generously. i would say around one heaped teaspoon.
this makes more filling than required. you can use the remaining filling to make chicken corn soup or simply mix in mayonnaise and sandwich it between slices of soft white toast. also repurpose the stock for soup.
put the filling aside and prepare for assembly.
beat the egg and keep a pastry brush handy.
preheat the oven to two hundred degrees. line a baking tray with baking paper or grease it.
roll out the puff pastry to half a cm thickness. stamp out rounds of puff pastry using a two and a half inch cookie cutter. you will need two rounds per patty so make sure you have an even number of discs.
place a heaped teaspoon of the chicken filling on half the discs making sure to leave a half a cm border. this will be brushed with egg to seal the pastry.
the next step is to run an egg wash around the border of the pastry with the filing. then take a disc of pastry and align it over the one with the filing. press down on the edges applying a little pressure so that the egg wash creates a seal. use the tip of the fork and press down on the sides to create a final seal.
liberally brush the surface of the patties with the egg wash and then place them on the baking tray. bake for fifteen to eighteen minutes until they puff up and the tops are golden brown.
serve them warm with a squiggle of sriracha or chilli garlic sauce and large mugs of tea.