Back in the early 90’s, I came across this Gujju recipe* from Yamuna Devi’s Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. (I don’t actually own this book, instead I have the “best of” abridged version that was published a few years later, but that big, out-of-print classic is still on my want list). I recall that I didn’t have any besan the first time I made this, so I used corn-meal as a substitute as the recipe suggested (it was still very good!), but if you have access to besan, do use it as the aroma of it roasting is pure heaven. Actually, this dish is pure heaven: greens and plantain (cooking banana) are steamed separately first, then combined with a lightly-sweetened, besan-infused masala to form a dry dish which is topped with roasted almonds and served with lime wedges to squeeze over at will. Using utensils for this dish is out of the question; only by eating out of hand is true justice served!
Kacha Kela Sak
(Unripe plantain vegetable dish)
2 lbs. fresh or frozen greens (the original recipe asks that one of these pounds be spinach, but truly any green of choice or mix of greens can be used successfully)
1 large unripe or semi-ripe plantain (2 firm, green bananas would probably work as well)
5 T ghee or oil (I was able to reduce this to about 3 T)
3 T besan
1 t black mustard seeds, coarsely-crushed
1 t cumin seeds, coarsely-crushed
1 t salt
1 t gur, jaggery
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t (or more to taste) ground red chiles
3 T almonds, toasted and slivered or sliced
1 lime cut into wedges
1)Steam the greens just until tender- about 10-15 minutes; remove and allow to cool, then place in a piece of cloth (I used cheesecloth) and wring out as much liquid as you can. Save this liquid (it is rich in vitamins) to use as stock for another dish; chop the greens finely.
2)Peel the plantain, then shred coarsely or chop into 1/4″ dice. Steam these as well until soft- about 10 minutes.
3)Heat the oil in a kerai or wok over medium-low heat; add the besan, mustard-seeds and cumin; stir and fry until the mixture turns a few shades darker and is very fragrant.
4)Add the plantain and fry 2 more minutes.
5)Add the salt, sugar, turmeric and chiles; stir once, raise heat a bit and add the greens. Stir gently until fully heated.
6)Remove from heat and place the mixture into katoris or onto a serving platter. Sprinkle over this the almonds, and serve with lime-wedges on the side for each diner to sour as they please.
*Thanks for being my dictionary Mispa!
Well, on the third day of trying, I finally achieved fully-inflated puris! Yay!
The day before, I finally had the oil hot enough; apparently puris shouldn’t sink to the bottom of the oil when frying- they should immediately rise up to the surface and start inflating. I then took another tip from a learned commentator: don’t roll them too thin… so, I backed off from the rolling-pin a bit and voila! I had balloon after balloon floating in the oil. Let me tell you: that was a thrilling moment for me! A BIG thank you to everyone for helping me out! I now know exactly what thickness they should be and how they ought to react in oil at the proper temperature, and that’s a lovely feeling, knowing that I can “whip these out” at whim now. And, perhaps most of all, thank you Anita for suggesting all of this puri-making madness in the first place! What a fitting way to celebrate 60 years of Indian Independence!
Here’s a thought: I used the same dough, prepared on the first day and stored in the refrigerator, for all of three days of trials. So, I’m not sure about that fear of letting the dough rest too long; the final puris seemed to be very nice and soft, but really I wouldn’t be a fair judge, because I’m new to puris, and also those I made on the first day were most definitely like cardboard- edible and tasty cardboard though! 😉
Sunday- yesterday- was overcast and drizzly here in the bay of green, a day for sane people to stay indoors (which is why I had urges to slip on my rain-coat). I called up my friend James, and told him about my struggles with this fried flat-bread, and my eventual success. James is not terribly interested in the details of cooking… however, his curiousity about how they might taste was; a half-hour later found the two of us sitting at the table, stack of banana puris on one plate, a large bowl of freshly-made pineapple stew in a nearby bowl. My mother kept coming in and of our conversation to tear and swipe puri-halves and bits of pineapple from the bowl with her fingers. I kept offering a katori and thali, but she insisted that she was just nibbling. James had his own thali and katori, but got up and reached for himself a fork when he realized that flatware was absent from our casual coffee-meal. [sighs] One person doesn’t sit down to eat by hand, the other sat, but preferred to stab his food. Oh well… Umrikans.
The banana puri decided, after fully-blooming into maturity, that she would have nothing more to do with her promised peanut-y husband. He was too complex, he totally outshone her, cut off her sentences mid-stream to babble in unrelated topics and generally made her feel withdrawn and invisible. So, she dumped him entirely… and her kind parents then introduced her to a swarthy, passionate, Karnatakan dish called Coorg Pineapple Curry (at least it said so on his ID card). This man from Madikeri could finish her sentences, and she his. They were able to walk down the street with neither stepping on the other’s toes. He soon felt so close to her that, after a particular afternoon together by the sea, the air dappled by gentle breezes, he found himself whispering his true name softly into her ear. Bedazzled and star-struck, she blushed a darker shade of turmeric, looked into his pineapple-eyes and gave him a warm banana-scented embrace.
The dish with peanuts sat quietly nearby, watching for a bit, then shrugged his shoulders and strolled away. Before long, he found himself a quiet bowl of plain rice sitting with head on hands: downcast, because that groovy-gravied pineapple had cast her aside. With so much already in common, she sat quietly, content to let Mr. Peanut prattle. He beamed as she listened to his every word.
(Yeah, Gopi-inspired… 🙂 )
Coorg Pineapple Curry
(from Premila Lal’s Indian Recipes. Ingredients followed with a “P” are my additions, compiled over dozens of times of preparing this dish- do try them!)
1 T ghee or oil
1/2 t mustard seeds
1 large onion, minced very finely
1 t ginger paste (P)
1 large ripe pineapple, peeled, cut into eighths lengthwise, then across in 1/2″ wedges
1 t coriander seeds, ground
8 dry red chiles, ground- or to taste
1/4 t ground black pepper (P)
2 tej patta or a small piece of Chinese/cassia/hard cinnamon(P)
3″ of whole true/Ceylon cinnamon (P)
8 whole cloves (P)
1 egg-sized lump of jaggery/gur (3-4 pieces)
1 pint or so of water
salt to taste
1)Heat the ghee or oil, add the mustard seeds and onions and fry, stirring continuously, until the onions are lightly-browned. Add the ginger paste and fry 30 seconds more.
2)Add the pineapple pieces, the dried spices, gur, water to almost cover and simmer, uncovered, stirring every few minutes, until the pineapple is tender and the gravy reduces. Add salt to taste. Serve with puris or rice.
Before I opened my own blog, I had sent this recipe to Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes to try. I was very honored and suprised when she posted it exclaiming her enjoyment- as well as her commentators- of this dish as well. It is quite delicious, and popular with everyone I know who has tried it.
(from Premila Lal’s Indian Recipes as well…. with a few changes in procedure)
–makes about 18-20 puris
3 ripe bananas
1/4 t gur/jaggery or sugar
3/4 t whole cumin seeds
3/4 t ground red chiles
1/2 t turmeric
1 T ghee or oil plus more for deep-frying
a pinch or two of salt
1 C maida/all-purpose white flour
3/4 C besan
1/2- 1 1/2 C or so of ata (Indian whole-wheat flour), plus more for dusting
4 green chiles, seeded and minced finely
1)Mash the bananas with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in the dried spices, 1 T ghee/oil and salt.
2)Sift and add the maida and besan; stir well, then add enough ata to make a stiff dough. Knead for several minutes, adding more ata as required. (I used about 1 1/2 C, but it totally depends on the amount of banana paste)
3)Incorporate the green chiles into the dough.
4)Divide the dough into small balls- about the size of key limes- and roll each into 5″ rounds, dusting top and bottom with ata as necessary.
5)Fry in hot ghee or oil on both sides; drain and serve immediately.
Trust me, the combo of these two are unforgettable!!!!!!!!!