There is nothing quite like a hot puri, straight out of the kadhai and on to your plate. Puris are deep fried but surprisingly non-greasy as they do not asborb a lot of oil. They are popular all over India and are usually eaten for breakfast or as part of a festive meal. A typical accompaniment for puris in North India is a sloppy potato curry; quick and easy to make and really satisfying. Kala Chana or brown chickpeas are also often eaten with puris, especially in Uttar Pradesh.
I like to make my puris with flour and water and nothing else although you will find recipes that recommend the addition of salt and ghee or oil to the dough.
For the Puris
You will need:
- Chapati flour – about 500 g to make enough puris for four hungry people
- Water – enough to knead a medium dough i.e. not too soft or too hard
- A rolling pin – you can use a conventional rolling pin or an Indian one
- 500 ml oil for deep frying – I recommend sunflower or groundnut oil
- A kadhai or wok for frying – I am afraid this cannot be done in a deep fat fryer so do this only if you are a confident cook!
- A slotted spoon with a long handle (these can be bought in Indian shops)
Use only recently purchased flour because flour that has been stored for a long time will go slightly bitter. Put the flour into a mixing bowl and adding a little water at a time, knead a medium strength dough. Cover this with a lid or kitchen towel to prevent drying out and let this sit for about 10 minutes. If you do not do this then the edges of the puris will crack when you roll them out.
Break off a small lump of dough and roll it between your palms to form a sphere, roughly 3 cm in diameter. Try to form a perfect ball because imperfections will affect the shape and inflation of the puris when you fry them. Make several balls of the same size and place them near the surface where you will roll out the puris. Take a few tablespoons of the oil in a bowl to use for rolling (will explain how). Put the rest of the oil in the kadhai or wok and heat on a high heat.
Start rolling out the puris by dipping one side of the ball in the bowl of oil so that you have about a quarter of a teaspoon on it. The reason for doing this rather than rolling them with the help of flour is that the flour burns when you are frying the puris. You will find that it is a little difficult to roll out the puris with oil on them but you will get the hang of it. Roll them out evenly to form a round of about 10 cm and 2 mm thick. It is important to roll them out evenly because they will not inflate while frying if they are uneven and this will affect the cooking and the taste.
Test whether the oil is hot enough to start frying by dropping a tiny ball of dough into it. if it sizzles and rises to the surface immediately, the oil is hot. Now pick up the rolled out puri and gently slide it into the hot oil. DO NOT DROP IT FROM A HEIGHT BECAUSE HOT OIL WILL SPLASH ON YOU. The puri will start to sizzle immediately and will start to inflate after a couple of seconds. Turn it over on the other side and cook for a further 3-4 seconds until it goes a nice golden colour. A golden colour means that the puri is well cooked. Ideally, you would be rolling out the next puri while you are frying the first one but if this seems too complicated, you can roll a few out before you fry them or ask someone to help you with the frying. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb any oil. The puris are ready to eat.
Dahi Ke Aloo
I am not sure exactly where this dish originates in North India but I am guessing it is Punjab because I learned how to make this from one of my Punjabi aunties. It is a delicious and moreish curry that is quick, easy and cheap to make.
You will need:
- 1 kg potatoes (I like using Maris Piper)
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- a pinch asafoetida powder (I prefer SSP asafoetida as it has a lovely aroma)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp of stem ginger, finely chopped
- 2 hot Indian or Kenyan green chillies, slit lengthways
- 4 very ripe tomatoes chopped (I do not recommend tinned tomatoes for this dish so do try and find ripe tomatoes at your local veg shop)
- 4 tbsp yoghurt
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- small bunch of coriander, chopped
- salt, preferably sea salt
Boil the potatoes in their skins until soft. Boiling them in this way ensures that the flavour is locked inside. Peel and slice the potatoes. Heat the oil in a kadhai and when hot, add the cumin seeds. The seeds should start to splutter. Add the green chillies and ginger and stir around in the hot oil for 2-3 seconds. Add the turmeric and asafoetida, stir and immediately add the tomatoes. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes on medium heat until the tomatoes look mashy and skins separate from the flesh. Now add the yoghurt and simmer the sauce for a further 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and mash 2-3 of the slices with a potato masher as this will yield a thicker gravy. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, salt to taste, the chopped coriander as well as the cumin and coriander powder. Simmer for five minutes and serve.
This is the variety of chickpea that is indigenous to India and it does taste more nutty and quite different to standard Turkish or Kabul Chana, as they are known in India. This is a recipe for the “dry” kind of Kala Chana as it goes well with puris.
You will need:
- 500 g kala chana (available as brown chickpeas in Asian shops)
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
Note: you can substitute the ingredients below with 2 tsp of Deccan Tiffin Chana Masala. Available to buy here.
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 tsp nigella seed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp dried mango powder
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
Soak the chickpeas for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Pressure cook with a teaspoon of salt – or cook in a slow cooker or low heat with a tight fitting lid until the chickpeas are soft. This should take about half an hour in a pressure cooker. It is important that they are completely soft and easily crushed between your finger and thumb, otherwise they will not taste good. Mix all of the spices together, heat the oil in a kadhai or a wok and add the spice mix to the hot oil. Let this sizzle for 1-2 seconds (not more as it will burn) and add the cooked chickpeas to this frying mixture. Stir so that the chickpeas are evenly coated with the spices. Kala Chana is ready to serve.