Monday, 2 July 2012

Miniature magic!

Brussels Sprout Hemispheres

The first time I saw Brussels sprouts in a German cookbook at the Max Mueller Bhavan library in the late ‘70s, I thought they were baby cabbages. Years later I got to eat them and realised they were similar to cabbage, but not the same, and not necessarily better tasting! Yet they continue to fascinate me! I like the idea of cooking with Brussels sprouts only because they look so cute! There is something very appealing in the Lilliputian appearance of these sprouts that defies the distaste of the strong smell it emits when overcooked even ever so slightly!

I must confess I have a fascination for miniature models, people figures and toys. As a child I remember being totally besotted with the little old man who would come out of his hut in the clock and strike a gong at Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad. Every hour, the gnome like timekeeper emerged from the upper deck of the clock to strike a gong as many times as it is the hours of the day. As a precocious kid who could skillfully negotiate the fare with rickshaw pullers and auto rickshaw drivers and haggle with the bangle sellers of Laad Bazaar in the Old City, I got to accompany practically all house guests holidaying with us or visiting the city.  The first stop invariably used to be the museum, as yours truly would decide the guest’s itinerary. I used to make it a point to be there in time for the clock to strike twelve at noon, so that we could see the musical clock in action the longest! The museum also had other miniatures like dolls from many countries dressed in their national costumes, dolls houses, tiny kitchen sets, tea sets and miniature replicas of weapons, tools and implements and dioramas.

Talking of the miniature weapons, I remember how we used to make a fort out of mud, cardboard and upturned clay pots during Diwali. This was a tradition form Maharasthra to signify the victory of the great Chatrapati Shivaji over the Mughal and other dynasties on the occasion of Diwali. This was called a ‘Diwali Quilla’ and was as much a part of the preparation for Diwali as the sunning of the fire crackers, making of the paper lanterns, buying of new clothes and hogging of all the homemade sweets! The fort would be built over many levels, with toy soldiers posted strategically. The lawns of the fortress would be simulated with paddy husks died with green food colouring. In an innovative touch, a small hand mirror that Dad used while shaving would be embedded face up in the paddy to simulate a pond! A little string of miniature ducklings was the detail I proudly showed off one Diwali to visitors!  All other miniature toys from our collection had also vied for space in the display. Here one would find GI Joes rubbing shoulders with the Air India maharaja, clay dolls of a Marwari seth and his sethani and the South Indian dancing doll who moved her head. Plastic animals of various proportions, Kinder Surprise toys like little trucks and sand buggies that came in the imported chocolate eggs and Meccano robots stood incongruously next to Magic Sando men in their sleeveless vests and speedos!

To this day, I like to buy toys and miniatures from different cities, whether on family holidays or on business trips. I can recount, amid much eye rolling, how I tried to operate the trick miniature toys I had bought on the pavements of the Shanghai Bund, only to realise I had been tricked! It is a well known fact that  the first thing I unpacked on returning from my first business trip to South Korea to show eager family members, was not the amethyst sets I had got for the girls or luxury items from the duty free shopping, but the miniature dolls from Insadong, the traditional street market in Seoul. My doll collection requires a lot more space, so it will have to await its just tribute a little longer!

Don’t know why, but people like miniatures figurines or models and replicas of normal sized objects. Just Google this and see how people gush about anything miniature, from poodles and lap dogs, coca cola bottles, Bibles to little Baskin Robbins spoons!

How one thought sprouts so many memories and a bit of research! And talking about sprouts, I must tell you about the idea I had to cook the Brussels sprouts in the fridge that potentially had no takers.

Knowing my family’s weakness for cabbage coated with chick pea flour or besan, so I deviously made this dish to lure them into eating it! Here goes…

Brussels Sprout Hemispheres

As many Brussles sprouts as there are takers- I took 12

½ cup coarse chick pea flour (I found this flour called ladu flour at the desi stores)

1 tbsp bread crumbs or semolina, if you can’t get hold of granulated besan flour

1 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

1 tsp chili powder (or as much as you want!)

A pinch of oregano or ajwain powder

A pinch of hing (asafetida)

A pinch of turmeric

1 tbsp oil

½ tsp mustard seeds

Salt to taste

Wash the Brussels sprouts and trim the ends and outer leaves. Cut the sprouts along the length in halves. Blanch them in boiling water just for half a minute and cool and drain thoroughly. I nuked them covered in the microwave for 30 seconds and cooled them. Anymore and you will stink up the kitchen and the entire house!

In a bowl mix the besan flour (semolina or bread crumbs, if using) and the seasoning. Check the taste. You can make any suitable additions – you will need to jazz up the sprouts a bit!

Heat oil in a shallow frying pan and add the mustard seeds to splutter. Dip the flat ends of the Brussles sprout halves into the flour and spice mixture and press firmly. Shake off excess flour mixture and place the hemispheres face down on the pan into the oil. Shallow fry the halves on low flame, turning them around occasionally and flipping them on to the rounded side just once.  

Arrange in a serving bowl. These Brussels hemispheres can be served as starters with any suitable dip or as sides with a main meal.


  1. I am glad I finally found your Blog. You are a great writer. But you already know that. :-)

  2. lovely ideas shruti. ata pustak publish kar recipes che.

    1. Thank you very much, Anon. Pustakacha nakki vichar karen!

      Would love to know your name... :)


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