The first month of this year is history already. How time flies!
After some fumbling this season, old man winter got into his groove here in Delhi. The weather has been at its frigid best for the past 6 weeks even though we celebrated Basant Panchami (the fifth day of Spring) last Saturday. I even poured myself a glass of kanji while preparing dinner the other day. But, the thaw has certainly started and if you blink the short Spring will be over.
In the fast pace of 2011 many celebrations got left out. No one got a birthday cake😯. The blog anniversary was overlooked since there was no time to come up with a theme, announce a party, or be a proper host to all of you. But, it is always party-time at A Mad Tea Party where we celebrate food as just that – nourishment; food that satiates, the kind that engages all our senses. Mindful eating without dissecting what is on the plate.
One-dish-themed blog-events are now commonplace. The poori-party might have been one of the first of that kind but it was quite by accident. None of the subsequent celebrations were a patch on that first party. From that party on, I have made a concerted effort to fry poories more often. Every time the son visits for holidays, poori-bhaji features on the breakfast menu on one of the days. Just the once maybe, but it is sure to be there. Then, for Ram Navmi I indulge the little girl in me who misses doing rounds of the neighbouring homes to
gather loads of prasad be part of the ritual to revere the goddess in all girls, by cooking poori, halwa, and kala chana. That adds up to at least three poori-frying sessions a year! And if there are friends or family visiting (and it is cool enough to fry in the kitchen) then it is likely they will get some deep fried love!
This holiday season the son was home for barely two weeks. This meant just two weekends to catch up with the aunt
s, cousin s, and grandparents. The best way was for everyone to get together at one place. I wanted to keep the food simple yet festive. I planned ahead. I did a test run of a special kind of poori, the Bedmi (pronounced bay-duh–me), a few weeks before the son arrived. This is no ordinary poori. It could be considered the healthier version of a kachori since it has the same urad dal stuffing, but uses whole wheat flour instead of maida. A friend had brought me some ready-to-use bedmi poori stuffing from her regular store in Old Delhi which had been on my to-try list for quite some time. The fact that the samosa man at the neighbourhood halwai, who was also the bedmi-poori cook, quit a while ago over salary issues may also have had something to do with this burning desire.
The few times that I watched the chap make bedmies I could tell that the dough was not the regular chapati type; I could see really coarse bits of grain in the balls of dough he would pinch off and stuff. Bedmi poori is always served with a very spicy potato curry, a tangy pumpkin bhaji, and methi chutney (made from methi seeds). I love the combination of the first three, but haven’t warmed up to the bland chutney. The Bedmi must be fried to a crisp medium brown colour. The reason it is a winner is that it stays crisp even after it has cooled. This means you can make the whole lot and join your friends or family for a sit-down meal (unless you are serving an army). Try these out-of-the ordinary poories while there is still some chill in the air. Eat mindfully, of course [I had no idea mindful eating was a serious Buddhist concept!].
For the trial, I used a mix of semolina and regular flour to prepare the dough. I had no recipe for the spicy potato curry that is served with it. It looks a lot like my regular tamatar-aloo subzi but is many times spicier and tangier. As you all know, I am not the best at deconstructing dishes (just watching those blind-fold taste tests on Masterchef Australia unnerves me), but I was very happy with the results of this first try. That makes this the second street-food recipe that I have been able to reproduce in my kitchen to great satisfaction. The first being the scandalously delicious Punjabi Chhole (but, of course!).
While the potato curry was spot on, the poori itself was not quite street-food quality. The right type of flour had to be procured for the party bedmi. My grocer was of help. Though he didn’t stock it himself he let on that he buys the specially ground coarse whole wheat flour from the atta chakki (flour mill) in the neighbourhood market across the street! The bonus from the same chakki was the best tasting makki ka atta I have eaten in my entire life. At Rs28/kg it was pricier than wheat flour but worth every rupee.
Ask your grocer/ neighbourhood chakkiwala for Bedmi poori flour; it makes all the difference to the texture of this poori. If you do not have ready-to-use stuffing, it is easy enough to make! Soak skinned urad dal for a few hours. Drain and grind it coarsely. Cook, in a little oil, with spices such as hing, red chilli, coriander powder, and a pinch of turmeric, till it is all dry and resembling breadcrumbs. Season with salt. That is all there is to it! This is the same stuffing that is used to make kachoris.
That was not how simple I kept it. For starters we ate chakli (got around it to it finally!), and there was gajar halwa for dessert, both prepared the previous evening.
For the dough:
3 C coarse ground whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C fine ground whole wheat flour*
1 T oil
1 t salt
water to knead
* It was my first time using such a coarse flour and I couldn’t but add some regular atta. It should be okay to use just the flour meant to make bedmi since it is only a matter of grinding the to different degrees of fineness!
For the stuffing:
3/4 C ready urad dal stuffing for Bedmi poori
(or make your own; instructions in text above)
Measure out the ready-to-use stuffing into a bowl. Pour enough water so that it just covers it. Leave it to soak for a couple of hours.
Knead the flour with a little oil and salt into a medium stiff dough. Cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Knead for a few minutes till the dough is smooth. Pinch off small pieces to make lime-sized balls (about 3/4″ dia). Press in the middle with your thumb to make a depression. Place about a teaspoonful (or less) of the prepared stuffing into this and pinch the dough over to seal and roll into a ball. Flatten between the palms of your hands and roll out to a thickness of about 1/8″ (3mm); not too thin being the point. Pat with a little oil as you roll to prevent the dough from sticking, as you would for regular poories.
Heat oil in a karahi. Test the temperature of the oil – if a pinch of dough dropped into the hot oil sizzles and rises to the top (without changing colour immediately) the temperature is right for frying. Slip a poori (always one at a time, unless you are using a halwai-size kadahi!) into the hot oil. Wait for it to rise to the top, then press down lightly with the slotted spoon. Watch it puff up! When the underside has browned, flip it over and allow to cook on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drop the next one in.
Rolling out and frying go in tandem; do not roll out all the poories beforehand. It is easier if two people work together, one rolling and dropping the poories into the hot oil and the other in charge of frying. If it is a single person operation, then it helps to stuff, roll, and fry in small batches; standard procedure if you have ever watched anyone make poories!
Aloo ki subzi (Bedmi ke aloo)
6 large potatoes, boiled, peeled, and crumbled into smallish chunks (use your hands!)
3-4 tomatoes, chopped fine
pinch of strong hing
1 t cumin seeds
1/2 t methi seeds, ground coarse
1 T ginger paste
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 T coriander powder
2 t red chilli powder
2 t amchoor (sour mango powder)
1 T mustard oil
salt to taste
1 t cumin powder
1/2 t garam masala
New kitchen acquisitions: on left the cutest 2l anodised pressure cooker from Prestige, bought after first erroneously replacing the old handy 3l aluminium one with a 5l stainless steel one! On right: I finally found the mortar I had been searching for for years – on our way back from the road trip to Narkanda in November – it is the perfect size for everyday use and makes quick work of ginger and garlic; the pestle is from an older set. I have since picked a 2kg cast iron beauty from the market street in Mandawa (Rajasthan), my only shopping there, to add to the growing collection.
In a pan heat the mustard oil. Just as it starts to smoke add the cumin seeds and hing, followed by the ginger paste. Stir till fragrant (30 seconds). Add the coriander and turmeric. Give it a stir and add the chopped tomatoes. At this point add a bit of salt to help the tomatoes sweat faster. Stir till the tomatoes have turned to mush and you can see some of the oil surfacing. Stir in red chilli powder and cook for a minute or two. Add the remaining spices, the prepared potatoes, and a generous amount of water. Give it all a good stir. Adjust water and seasoning. There should be a good amount of water at this stage (very soupy). After it has simmered for 10-15 minutes it will thicken. The finished curry should have a thick gravy and not be dry. Finish with a garnish of chopped fresh coriander leaves.
Mrs. Mithilesh Goyal’s
Kaddu ki Subzi
Tangy Pumpkin curry
(serves 8-10 as a side)
750gms pumpkin, the riper the better
1 T ginger (grated or paste)
1/2 t methi seeds
1/2 t turmeric
lime sized piece of gur (jaggery), optional
1/2 t garam masala
1 t amchoor (sour mango powder)
1 t ghee
pinch of hing
salt to taste
Rinse the pumpkin well. Peel and dice. Shred the peels.
In a pressure cooker heat the ghee. To the hot ghee add methi seeds followed by hing. Add the ginger and stir to mix. Add turmeric and the shredded peel and stir for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin pieces and stir fry, about two minutes. Add salt and gur, and about half a cup of water. [You may cook this in a pan/karahi, covered with a lid, with no addition of water.] Stir to mix and pressure cook for 2 whistles or about 7-10 minutes. Once the pressure has subsided, open the lid and stir in the garam masala and amchoor gently, mixing it all in so that the pieces of cooked pumpkin break only to the point where they don’t hold their firm shape but do not look like mush either (personally, I don’t mind if they do look mushy). Transfer to a serving dish. Serve with regular poories, bedmies, or aloo-poories (poories that have cooked potatoes in the dough!).
Mithilesh Aunty, our neighbour in IITD and my mum’s best friend, would serve this subzi with poories. I love the simplicity of this dish. Whenever I cook it, I remember her. See, how food is so much more that just fuel for the body? Mithilesh Aunty passed away last year after fighting cervical cancer for many years. She was a kind and wonderful woman. She was also a brilliant cook. Even into her last days she would make gulabjamuns with khoya she had made herself, a treat you were sure to be served anytime you visited. Every now and then, I think of her.