It’s Sharad Poonam (Full Moon). Look up right now and you’ll see nothing but an overcast sky but on Friday morning when we woke up my girls and I marvelled for a few minutes at the moon. It was like a huge golf ball in the sky shining so brightly in the crisp blue sky before the sun warmed up and shone it away.
Looking up at the moon in winter is a little custom for me and my girls when we wake up. We used to have a little song they still sing to their dollies now.
“Good morning Mister Sunshine. How did you wake so soon? You scared the little stars away and shined away the moon”
The moon also always reminds me of dahi vadas. It’s a random memory but when she was much smaller, my youngest daughter once called them ‘moon bhajias’ because they looked just like the moon. I suppose I see her logic. They are plump and round dumplings made with urad dhal and once smothered in yoghurt they do look a little moon like.
Full moon or no full moon, they are simple to make. Cooling in summer as a dish on their own and perfect in winter for accompanying heavily spiced or ‘garam’ foods to bring cooling balance to the body.
I’ve used cup measures here because it’s easier to remember the proportions of one cup urad dhal to three cups of yoghurt. The spice measures are also a guide.You should use more or less depending on your own palette.
Dahi Vada – Deep fried, moon shaped dumplings made from urad dhal, slathered in yoghurt and spices
- 1 cup urad dhal – white or split black urad dhal
- ½ inch piece of ginger
- 2 green chillies – optional
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- sunflower oil for deep-frying
- 3 cups plain yoghurt
- Salt to taste
- Handful chopped coriander
- 2-3 tsp garam masala
- 2-3 tsp red chilli flakes
To make them
- Soak the urad dhal in water for overnight or for a minimum of 3-4 hours
- Wash and drain the urad dal.
- Fill a wok halfway with the sunflower oil and set to heat on a slow to medium flame.
- Prepare a large platter with kitchen paper to drain off your vadas once fried.
- Prepare a large bowl of water for your vadas to soak in.
- Put the urad dhal, ginger and green chillies into a blender and grind to a smooth paste.
- Add the the bicarbonate of soda and salt to your taste and mix well till the batter is light and fluffy. It should be a thick puree the consistency of shop bought hummus. Add a little water if needed.
- Take two spoons and scoop some batter into one. Using the other spoon make a quenelle or ball shape – this is your vada.
- Deep fry in hot oil on a slow flame till the vadas are golden brown, for about 10 minutes.
- Drain on the prepared platter of kitchen paper.
- Once all your vadas are fried, pop them into the bowl of water to soak for about half an hour.
- while they are soaking, prepare the yoghurt by whisking it together with some salt to your taste.
- Take your vadas out of the water and squeeze them so most of the water is out.
- Place a layer of yoghurt on your serving platter and then place all your vadas on top.
- Ladle over the rest of the yoghurt and then sprinkle over the shopped fresh coriander, garam masala and chilli flakes.
Do you have any recipes that remind you of the moon?
Patra is one of my all time favourite Gujarati dishes. My Baa (maternal grandmother) used to make them for breakfast when I was little using fresh colocasia leaves and her own spice mix. I was too little to really appreciate her or her patra which makes me so incredibly sad. However, I wasn’t so little that I don’t remember the wonderful smells in the kitchen and the taste of this lovingly prepared dish. Though as a child I would ladle over copious amounts of plain yoghurt to stop the stinging of chilli on my tongue.
I have used homegrown colocasia leaves in the recipe below as I was lucky enough to find a bulb in Burford Garden Centre earlier this year and successfully grow it in my allotment. You can find the leaves in most Asian grocers in packs of 10.
Gujarati Patra – Perfect for breakfast with a cup of chai
- 2 large colocasia leaves
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1.5 level tsp salt
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp finely grated or minced ginger
- 2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
- 3 tbsp tamarind pulp
- 2 tbsp grated jaggery
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
- 4-5 curry leaves
- 1 tsp small black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 heaped tbsp freshly grated coconut
- fresh coriander to garnish (optional)
To make them
- Clean both sides of the colocasia leaf using a wet cloth. Just wipe carefully down all the spines to remove any traces of dust or dirt.
- Carefully thin any thick spines being careful not to rip the leaves then set aside to dry.
- Mix the chickpea flour, salt, red chilli powder, ginger, green chillies, tamarind pulp and jaggery together with a little water to give you a smooth paste which is the consistency of peanut butter. Beat to ensure all the lumps of flour have been removed.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your palette. If it is too sour, add a little more jaggery, if too sweet add more tamarind.
- Lay both leaves out on a flat work surface and divide the paste between the two.
- Evenly coat each leaf with the paste and then roll the leaf up so you have a long cigar shape.
- Place each cigar into a steamer and steam for 10 minutes. It’s fine to cut the cigar in two if your steamer isn’t wide enough.
- Leave the cigars to cool completely otherwise you will not be able to cut them cleanly as the paste will be too moist.
- When cooled, slice them into rounds approx 1cm thick.
- Heat the oil in a wok on a medium flame. You can test if the oil is ready by adding a few mustard seeds. If they fizzle and pop then it’s ready.
- Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and sesame seeds in quick succession. Be careful as they may spit at you.
- Carefully add the sliced steamed patra and stir fry gently until some of them start to brown and crisp on the edges. About 5 minutes.
- Stir through the coconut and if your are using it, add some freshly chopped coriander and mix well.
Serve hot with a side of plain yoghurt.
You can also buy tins of ready prepared patra in Asian grocers. If you prefer starting with those, here’s an easy recipe to prepare them.
Have you ever tried cooking with colocasia leaves? What do you use them for?
The best thing about Bank Holidays is a lazy breakfast. Who can pass up a lovely English breakfast buffet? Or lots of lovely baked breads and croissants from France with jams and honey. Perhaps Mexican is more your thing with Huevos Rancheros?
I would hold a lazy Gujarati breakfast high on the list. Lazy for those waking up to the smells of the dishes below maybe – not for those of us getting up early to prepare!
First on my list are ‘Poodla‘ – these are pancakes made from chickpea flour, spices and yoghurt. I eat them simply with a little yoghurt for dipping but they’re great with coriander, coconut and green chilli chutney too. You can also make baby blini sized ones.
- 1 small white onion
- 250g chick pea flour
- 50g fine semolina
- 4 heaped tbsp plain yoghurt
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1.5 tsp red chilli powder (or red chilli flakes for more heat)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp ajowan seeds
- half bunch fresh coriander – chopped
- Warm water – approx 100ml
- Vegetable oil for frying
To make them
Chop the onion finely and pop into a bowl. Mix the flour, spices and yoghurt in and mix well. Add some water to make a thick batter – as you would with crepes or pancakes.
Heat a flat, preferable non stick, frying/pancake pan with a little oil. I use about one teaspoon per pudla. Ladle in a few tablespoons or a soup ladle of the batter and then smooth over into a large round with the back of the spoon so you have an evenly distributed batter.
Leave to cook for a few minutes until the edges start crisping up and the surface starts drying out a little. Then flip over and cook the other side for a few minutes. You should have a golden brown colour and some little holes in the pancake.
Repeat til you use up all the batter. I like these with a little plain yoghurt for dipping but here are some alternative ideas:
- Layer them up with fresh chopped tomatoes, onion and a sprinkling of peanuts.
- Add a handful of finely chopped fresh spinach, chopped boiled potatoes, freshly chopped tomatoes, grated courgette to grated carrot into the batter.
- Serve with Indian lemon pickle or Mango chutney