Monday, September 10, 2007

Chhole bhaturey

This weekend was a very foodie one. It was A's birthday so we went out to a new French restaurant, Terroir, for dinner on Friday. Then Saturday, his parents were coming over so I enjoyed cooking up a special meal for them. Finally, on Sunday, despite a rather hearty lunch at the club, I made Ali's favourite food - chole bhature for dinner.

It's a little weird that I should enjoy cooking so much, given that as a youngster, whenever my mom tried to teach me how to cook, I'd shrug it off as a 'girl' thing in my feminist avatar. Maybe it's the appreciation hound in me:)!

Anyway, I have always loved the chhole made at Bengali Sweets in Bengali market. There really is something special about those, and when A and I used to work in CP, it used to be a regular haunt for us and our gang of friends from office. A would always unwaveringly order the chhole bhature, and I always made him ask for a second bowl of chhole for me. Some years later, I discovered a recipe for Pindi chana which recreates the same taste, except, of course, that I'm not quite so liberal with the oil as the Bengali Sweets cook.

Pindi Chana
1 cup chhole ( chick peas)
2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
1 inch ginger, cut into thin slices
1 tbsp tea leaves
3 tbsp besan ( chickpea flour)
Black/ rock salt to taste
1 tsp anardana ( pomegranate seeds)
1 tsp Amchoor ( dried mango powder)
4 cloves
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves ( Kasoori methi)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chilli powder ( or to taste)
5 tbsp oil

Cook the chhole using the quick-soak method - soak the chick-peas for one hour. Then cook them in the pressure cooker for 1 whistle. Let them soak again for an hour. Then cook them with 1 tsp of soda-bicarb and 2 tbsp oil for 2 whistles, along with the tea leaves, cloves and ginger tied in a thin muslin bag. They'll come out soft, dark and mushy and the soda bicard reduces the 'gassy' quality of chhole. Discard the muslin bag. Reserve the liquid in case it is needed later.

In a wok, put the rest of the oil and heat on medium flame. Put in the ajwain seeds and stir.
After half a minute, put in the besan. Let the besan roast until it starts giving off a warm aroma and turns marginally darker.
Add the rock salt, amchoor, anardana, chilli powder, dried fenugreek leaves, pinch of turmeric and stir to mix.
Add the cooked chhole to this and stir. add a little of the reserved liquid in case the chhole turns too dry.
Garnish with sliced onion rings, tomato rings and slit green chillies.

This chhole has a tendency to keep drying out unless you add heaps of oil, which I don't dare to do, so I add the reserved water every time I re-heat it.

It tastes wonderful with bhaturey of course, but also goes well with rotis.


2 cups plain flour (maida)
1 cup semolina/ cream of wheat ( sooji)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sour plain curds ( yoghurt)
Pinch salt
Pinch sugar
Warm Water

Soak the sooji in just enough water to cover it and keep aside for 10 minutes.
Separately, mix the salt, baking powder, baking soda and plain flour together.
After ten minutes, sift these ingredients into the sooji mixture.
Add the curds and just enough warm water to make it into a pastry/ roti type dough.
Put into a greased polythene cover and keep aside for 3-4 hours in a warm place.
Make 8-10 balls out of the dough.
Roll out into either an oblong or round shape (I prefer round because I have a small wok), approximately the diameter of the palm.
Deep fry by sliding gently into hot oil, then pressing down until it puffs up.
Serve hot.

I like a vegetable to join us for every meal, so yesterday I made some Indonesian eggplant to go with the chhole Bhature, and it accompanied the dish really well. This is from one of my favourite food authors, mMdhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook.
4 long, slim purple eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
4 shallots
5-6 dried red chillies
3 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Grind the shallots, garlic, ginger and red chillies together.
Fry the eggplant - I prefer shallow fry though it tastes even better deep-fried.
Heat the oil. Add the ground paste to it and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the fried eggplant and the tomato puree and stir to mix.
Cook for 2-3 minutes so the paste infuses the eggplant.
Add salt to taste.
Serve hot.

This tastes great with rotis, puris, even crusty bread. It also provides a hot and spicy contrast to bland, creamy curd rice.

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