All posts filed under: Gujarati Cooking

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Salted Caramel Mohanthal

Salted Caramel Mohanthal

My grandfather was a sweet maker. He had big, thick-skinned hands that were made for harvesting sugar canes using a machete and stirring giant pots of bubbling syrup. He never used a sugar thermometer. He could tell it was done just by looking at the consistency of the syrup, perhaps testing it using a little cold water to see if it had a “one-string consistency ” or what a western pastry chef might call the “soft ball stage”. Indian sweet making isn’t for the feint hearted, you see. It’s painstakingly long, laborious, hot and intense work. Stirring, stirring, all the time you’re stirring. No, don’t stop because it will catch on the bottom and your whole mixture will taste scorched. Some of the most revered and expensive ingredients in Indian culture: sugar, milk, ghee and saffron, all wasted. If it was your full-time job and you had a knack for getting distracted, you’d be out of the door faster than you can say, “Oh fudge!”. If you’ve ever stepped inside an Indian sweet shop you’ll be …

Vegan Khandvi (Indian Chickpea Pasta Rolls)

Vegan Khandvi (Indian Chickpea Pasta Rolls)

Hot, sour, sweet and salty; These are the characteristics of the Gujarati dishes I grew up eating. From spongy Khaman Dhokla, to Sev Tameta nu Shaak, chickpea flour plays an integral role in the make up of regional Gujarati food. It’s used for batters and bhajiya (across India), as the basis for Pudla (chickpea flour pancakes) and as a thickener for soups like the yoghurt-based favourite, Kadhi. One thing all of these dishes have in common is that each one is famous for being hot, sour, sweet and salty. Another savoury Gujarati snack that’s known for having these explosive and delicious flavours is Khandvi. It’s a village-style rolled pasta made with chickpea flour and yoghurt (in this case, soy yoghurt) which is always served with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies crackled in hot oil. The sound and smell of the smoking oil hitting the smooth surface of the pasta rolls gives me all the feels. The texture is soft, silky and it melts in your mouth, unlike the wheat pasta we’re …

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

The pregnancy cravings are real, people. Indian savoury snacks are my weakness. They include, but aren’t limited to: Dhokra, samosas, khichi, muthiya, idli, chakri, upma and bhajia. Simple things I’ve never made too often at home, but in the last 5 months I’ve taken the time to satisfy my cravings with the proper home-cooked versions. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Most of you will know that it’s been my long-term dream to have a surprise birthday tandoor at home. Well I still don’t have one. However, my parents bought me a ginormous and Indian-style stacking steamer for my 28th birthday and it’s the best! It’s not beautiful and fancy, it’s a commercial appliance that doesn’t quite fit in my kitchen cupboard unless it’s disassembled. But it’s quickly become my favourite thing. It has multiple layers, baskets and a tight-fitting lid that fluffs up dhokra, muthiya and khichi perfectly. Khichi, khichu, khichiya and papdi no lot are all names for one iconic Gujarati savoury snack made with rice flour and a few very basic …

Chilli Lime and Garlic Mogo

Chilli, Lime and Garlic Mogo

My favourite Sunday afternoon snacks consist of anything that goes with with a cup of masala chai. Whether it’s something deep fried and delicious like samosa or kachori, or a pile of fluffy steamed dhokra, I’m a sucker for savoury snacks. These East African-style Mogo Chips are a childhood favourite. It’s the kind of food we’d prepare if we have guests coming over because it’s so simple to throw together. I’ve also never met anyone who doesn’t love fluffy mogo. Mogo (a.k.a Cassava) is a staple carb in Africa, in many parts of South America where it is known as Yucca and of course, in my house. Countless Indian restaurants all over the UK serve it up in all kinds of ways, popular choices being Tandoori and Indo-Chinese style (with soy sauce). Personally, I think the simpler it is, the better. What I love about mogo is its earthy flavour, which truly comes to life when it’s gently steamed or boiled. It’s so distinct, you’d know within a split second that someone is making ‘bafelo …

Gujarati Rotli

Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli

The smell that floods a home when the first chapatti goes on the cast-iron hotplate surrounds me with comfort and joy I cannot even explain. It’s my most favourite smell in the whole world because it represents my childhood, my family and every moment (both happy and sad) in our home.Gujarati chapattis (rotli) are the glue that sticks everything Indian families eat together… or should I say the bread the scoops up all of our daals and curries. They’re an everyday staple and without them, a weeknight meal would be incomplete. I’ve known men who won’t touch their dinner unless there are hot, freshly-made rotlis on the table. Softer and smaller than your average Punjabi or Pakistani Roti (the kind you’d get in most restaurants), these Gujarati Rotli have oil in the dough and are cooked on a super-hot cast-iron tawa/lodhi, leaving them delicious and toasty. I don’t cook them on an open flame because they’re so soft, they’d just break. They still puff up like hot air balloons as they cook on the lodhi. They …

Aloo Stuffed Thepla

The love child of Gujarati Thepla and Aloo Paratha. If you’re looking for a flatbread with big, bold flavours, you’ve come to the right place. The traditional Thepla of my childhood are unstuffed and served spread with butter or ghee. Paired with Sukha Bateta nu Shaak (dry potato and cashew curry), it’s family comfort food at its best. My memories of eating Thepla made by the expert hands of my mum are ones I still treasure today. They would be smoking hot off the tawa, rolled up like a cigar and dripping with golden butter – and first thing in the morning too. Thepla are the ultimate breakfast bread and waking up to the smell of them toasting on a hot pan outweigh the feeling of hitting snooze on Sunday morning. Trust me. Packed with the smoky, slightly-bitter caramel notes of fresh fenugreek leaves, these turmeric-hued discs of fluffy bread are one of the most iconic recipes of Gujarat. Traditional Thepla are as I said, eaten with potato curry, masala chai, pickles and chutneys. Here, …

Gujarati Mohanthal

Okay, round two. Not only is this our second Diwali sweet of the week – it’s also my second time making this Gujarati favourite for my blog. Mohanthal  (pronounced: moHanTHaal) are squares of mace-laced butter fudge made with chickpea flour. A staple in homes during festivals, these sweet pieces of fudge are studded with crunchy pieces of chickpea flour ‘crumble’ or ‘dhrabo’. Mohanthal can be served in two ways: In pieces like the kind here, or loose as a lava-like liquid gold you scoop up with a spoon and nothing more. There’s a time and a place for both. Pieces of Mohanthal are perfect for gifting to friends and family during Diwali. The loose kind is more of a hot dessert served after a traditional Gujarati meal. My favourite way to have it is right after a meal of Aakhu Shaak (whole vegetables stuffed with peanut masala), daal, rice, rotli and sambharo (stir-fried cabbage and carrots with mustard seeds). Heaven. Shop-bought Mohanthal will often be brown in colour but I like my mine to be bright …

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 4

Melt-in-the-Mouth Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry

I live and breathe Gujarati food. Simple vegetarian dishes we’d eat every night when I was young are what have inspired my love of cooking today. Oroh was one of those dishes mum would cook as a midweek dinner after our evening swim at our local leisure centre. Oroh is simply a name for smoky aubergine cooked with garlic, onions, tomatoes and chillies. If you’re a fan of North Indian food, you’ll probably know it as Baingan Bharta – the Punjabi version. Oroh is the Gujarati name for it and here’s how we cook it at home. It’s really easy to be afraid of overdoing it with this dish. You might think it’s mad to add as much garlic as my recipe calls for but please do stick with it. The burnt aubergine needs flavours that can stand up to it so that the result is smoky, spicy, punchy and tangy. I learnt to cook this when I was 12 years old and it blew my mind. I thought it was insane to cook aubergines on …

Daal Vada

Bullet Banana Daal Vada

Happy 2014! It’s a new year and time to start getting excited about the adventures ahead. This year I get to marry my best friend and biggest supporter in all my work and passions. I have never felt so excited and nervous in my whole life. I thought it would only be right to begin the year with a recipe that’s close to my heart; one which combines my love for Gujarati and East-African food in a beautiful way. Traditional Gujarati Daal Vada are crunchy, spicy and perfect for dipping into yoghurt. My East-African version incorporates bananas to add a hint of sweetness against the intense chilli and lemon heat. The magical thing about adding ripe banana to the batter is that it reacts with the lemon and baking powder, creating a puffy, fluffy-in-the-middle fritters that still have an incredible golden crunch on the outside because of the ground mung daal, urad daal and rice. For me, rice is an important addition to any Daal Vada recipe because it ensures the fritters are crispy on …

Mombasa-style Kachori

Mombasa-style Daal Kachori

Spiced Daal and Green Mango in Flaky Pastry Deep fried starters; once you eat one, you’ll always go back for a second. Fact. Kachori are like the forgotten little sister of samosa – the underdog starter that accidently slipped through the fingers of Western restaurateurs. I cannot emphasise enough how good lentils are with sweet, hot and sour flavours. The addition of sour green mango cuts through the richness of the daal and spices and balances the deep heat of the chillies, ginger and cinnamon perfectly. These kachori are inspired by those sold at the famous Bhagwanjis sweet mart in Mombasa, Kenya. My entire family raves about Kenya-style kachori and these, along with Bateta Vada, are guaranteed to put a smile on my dad’s face. And I can vouch that he has great taste. Kachori come in all flavours, shapes and sizes. You can stuff the classic flaky pastry with crushed green peas, urad daal or even potatoes. They can be made into UFO-like patties and topped with yoghurt, chopped onions and tomatoes to make …

Peanut Masala Stuffed Aubergines

Baby Aubergines Stuffed with Peanut Masala

Stuffing baby vegetables with spicy, nutty masala can be a beautiful thing. It’s nothing new, Gujaratis have been popping a tray of them onto their dinner party tables for years. Stuffed vegetables are, and always have been the ultimate show-off dish – the more extensive the variety of veggies you manage to wangle into the dish, the more fabulous you are. I remember when I was little it was just aubergines, potatoes and onions in our family kitchen. As I grew, we became more and more adventurous with what we put in; it all began with bananas (my granddad used to add these back in Mombasa), then we added peas to the sauce, stuffed baby courgettes, okra, paneer (you didn’t really think I’d miss that one out did you?) and no matter what it was, it still tasted amazing. Go ahead, be fabulous and experiment with your stuffed veggie curry. Today I’m downsizing. Not because I can’t be bothered, but because I know these fresh baby aubergines I got from the market (no lie, I …

Crispy Potato Bhajia

Served in paper cones with fried green chillies for that ‘bhajia on the beach’ feel I’ve always been a sucker for ordering too many starters in restaurants, especially when it involves Crispy Potato Bhajia (paper-thin potato slices coated in a bespoke spice blend), Hara Bara Kebabs (pea and cauliflower cakes) and Daal Kachori (spiced daal in semolina pastry). I’m told my eyes are bigger than my belly and I’ve never been one to argue with legitimate allegations. Although I love eating out as much as I love home cooking, there’s always one question lingering on my lips as I attempt to make a choice of which restaurant to spend my Friday evening in  – do they serve decent starters? In all honesty, I think I can judge an Indian restaurant menu by the starters they have to offer. If the vegetarian appetisers are limited to samosas and onion bhajis (to this day, I still don’t understand onion bhajis – what are they and where did they come from?) I know I’m not going to be …