Is Poori Bhaji everyone's weakness? It is in this house atleast. My 5 year old loves her puris....Hubby too goes weak in the knees when he thinks of a plate of poori aloo - yes the bhaji in Poori Bhaji is all about the potatoes isn't it! I don't make it that often because of the deep frying involved - but it usually finds its way to our table about once in two months and especially when we have guests staying with us over the weekend. It is wonderful to have a leisurely breakfast, one puri after the other, ladling some more of the silky, potato gravy to finish up the "last" piece of puri and then having one more puri to finish the "last" portion of gravy! The puffed up puris are light as air and that lulls you into a false sense of comfort; till suddenly you discover you've eaten so much you can't even move from the table! So, you roll over to the couch and lie there in a sleepy torpor.
The winter months are especially nice to have steaming hot puris straight from the kadhai, along with the carb comfort of potatoes cooked in a mild gravy. Add a the weekend edition of your favourite newspaper and you have the recipe for a perfect Saturday morning. I must say this though - having help in the kitchen to make the puris for you so you can have it piping hot (without getting annoyed about how this one turned out flat and that one didn't puff up) is a luxury. I am definitely enjoying it while it lasts!
The potato gravy though I like to make myself - I keep changing the dish depending on what I feel like eating that day. One version is the Tamil one we have grown up eating - a tempering of chana dal, urad dal, green chillies, asafoetida (hing) and ginger. Followed by crumbled, boiled potatoes mixed with turmeric and simmered in water till the starch in it breaks down to make a slightly thickish gravy.And a squeeze of lemon at the end. Then there is the dry bhaji which you get at railway stations and which is what we ate in BB Dadar in Mumbai, growing up - I can still taste that amazing combination of sunshiny yellow potatoes mixed with green chillies and coriander.
The one I made this weekend is a recent favourite - its modelled on a dish I had at my SIL's place - which in turn had been made by her neighbour who is from Bihar. I didn't meet her and my SIL didn't know the recipe, but the version I make now is an approximation based on how it tasted. In this venture, I was helped by Tara - my girl Friday - who is from Jharkhand (the state which was carved out of Bihar). So there is tamarind juice, red chilli powder, dhania powder, onions and kasoori methi. The tempering however, remains the same as the Tamil recipe since we like the crunch of the dals. The gravy turns out with a nice tang to it and the lovely flavour of kasoori methi underlying everything. The tamarind juice melds with the starch in the potatoes and the gravy thickens up quite quickly. It takes just 20 minutes of simmering and its done.
Atta (wheat flour) - 2 cups
Oil - 1 tbsp to knead,
salt - a biggish pinch
Water - about 3/4th of a cup to 1 cup
Oil - 1.5 cups to fry the puris
1. Mix the atta with the salt and oil (1 tbsp) and then add as much water as needed to fashion a dough which is a little firm. Firmer than the dough for rotis (Indian flat breads).
2. Rest the dough for about 10-15 minutes. It is preferable not to knead the dough too much in advance, it may dry out and absorb too much oil.
3. Pour the oil into a kadhai (wok) and heat - but not till smoking, else the pooris will brown too fast before being cooked and become crisp.
4. Take a small piece of the dough (the size of a small lemon), roll into a smooth ball and flatten with the rolling pin. Roll out to 2.5 to 3 inch disc dabbing a little oil on first - it shouldn't be too thin, but not too thick as well.
5. Slide the poori into the kadai - it should rise to the top - if it doesn't, the temperature of the oil isn't right and it may need to heat up some more.
6. Carefully splash a little of the oil with a slotted spoon, on top of the poori and it will puff up. Turn it over once it is golden brown (about 3 minutes) and then cook the other side as well till it is brown.
7. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some tissue paper to absorb the excess oil.
8. Repeat with the rest of the dough - serve piping hot with Aloo Bhaji.
Potatoes - 5-6 - boiled, peeled and crumbled roughly into medium sized chunks
2-3 tsp oil
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Hing - pinch (asafoetida)
Green chillies - 2
1 onion chopped
1 tomato chopped into 6 pieces
red chilli pd - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Kasoori methi - 1/4 tsp
Tamarind extract - 1 marble sized ball soaked in 1 cup of water or 1 tsp tamarind paste
salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the tempering ingredients. When the dals turn light brown, add the onions
2. Saute the onions till translucent. Add the red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and kasoori methi and fry for about a minute.
3. Add the tomatoes and fry for half a minute. Pour in the tamarind extract, add salt and the potatoes and bring to boil. Add half a cup more of water and continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes till the gravy thickens, the tamarind loses its sharpness and the potatoes thicken the gravy.
4. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve hot with pooris.