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Monday, November 14, 2022

Fritters, curry and almond sweets: Romy Gill’s chickpea flour recipes for a vegetarian thali feast | Food

Gram flour (AKA chickpea flour or besan) is the unsung hero of many Indian dishes. It has an earthy, nutty flavour that takes me right back to my mum’s veranda in West Bengal. This thali, however, is Punjabi-inspired, and showcases some of gram flour’s guises: it is used twice in the kadhi pakora recipe – both in the yoghurty curry and in the fritters – and it also makes appearances in missi roti, a regional flatbread, and ladoo, a spiced sweet treat served at celebrations.

Kadhi pakora

Romy Gill’s gram flour curry with pakoras.
Romy Gill’s gram flour curry with pakoras.

Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4

For the curry
50g gram flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tsp chilli powder
100g natural yoghurt

3 tsp ghee, or 6 tsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 large garlic cloves
, peeled and thinly sliced
15g piece ginger
, peeled and sliced
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small handful fresh coriander
, chopped

For the pakoras
75g gram flour
1 medium red onion
, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato
, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
2-3 green chillies
(I use bird’s eye), chopped
Ghee
, or sunflower oil, for deep-frying

First, make the curry. Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl, and add the salt, turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and yoghurt. Gently whisk in 900ml water to make a thick batter, then set aside.

Put the ghee in a deep saucepan set over a medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin and fenugreek seeds and, as soon as they start to sizzle, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a minute. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for six minutes. Add the curry batter and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for five to six minutes, until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Take off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the pakoras. Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients except for the ghee. Add 60ml waterbit by bit, gently mixing it in with your fingers until everything is coated: you’re aiming for a mixture that isn’t too runny and that sticks to your hand.

Pour enough ghee into a medium saucepan to fill it by half, then put on a medium heat until it’s about 175C – test by dipping in a tiny bit of the pakora mix: if it floats up immediately, the fat is hot enough; if it sinks, heat it some more. Carefully drop four tablespoons of the pakora mix one by one into into the hot ghee, and fry for two or three minutes, until golden and crisp. When done, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain, then repeat with the remaining pakora mix.

Once all the pakoras are cooked, drop them into the curry mixture, warm through on a low heat for 10-12 minutes, and serve hot.

Missi roti

Romy Gill’s gram flour roti.
Romy Gill’s gram flour roti.

Prep 20 min
Rest 10 min
Cook 10 min
Serves 4

150g gram flour
125g chapati flour
(extra-fine wholewheat flour), plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
2-3 green bird’s eye chillies
, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small handful fresh coriander, chopped
4 tsp sunflower oil
Ghee or oil, for frying

Sieve both flours into a large bowl, then add the salt, cumin seeds, ground cumin, chillies, onion, coriander and 130ml water. Mix, then gently knead with your knuckles for four to five minutes. Mix in the oil and leave to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Divide the dough into eight equal balls, then, on a lightly floured surface, carefully flatten each one into a 2mm-thick disc (if they stick, dust with more flour), and put on the lined tray.

Set a frying a pan over a medium heat. Once hot, dry-fry the roti one at a time for a minute or two on each side, until small blisters appear on the surface; with a cloth, press down on both sides so it cooks evenly. Remove, then apply a slick of ghee or oil and set aside on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Keep warm, either by wrapping the roti in kitchen paper or putting it in a very low oven. Repeat with the remaining dough balls and serve hot.

Punjabi ladoo

Romy Gill’s almond ladoo (almond balls).
Romy Gill’s almond ladoo.

Prep 5 min
Cook 25 min
Makes 10

100g ghee
200g gram flour
125g light brown caster sugar
8 green cardamom seeds, crushed
2 tsp toasted almond flakes

Heat the ghee in a frying pan over a low heat. Once melted, add the gram flour and, stirring constantly to combine, toast the flour for about 20 minutes – it’s important to make sure the flour is well-toasted to get the best flavour. As the mixture turns golden brown and starts to smell earthy, the gram flour will begin to release the ghee.

Off the heat, stir in the sugar and cardamom. When the mixture has cooled down a bit, form it into balls – golf ball-sized or smaller. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve as part of the thali, or just with a cup of chai, tea or coffee. The ladoos will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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