Category Archives: Side Dishes

Dahi Vada – Moon Bhajias

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

  • Servings: 15-20 dumplings
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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Dahi Vada

Dahi Vada – Deep fried, moon shaped dumplings made from urad dhal, slathered in yoghurt and spices

You’ll need

  • 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

  1. Soak the urad dhal in water for overnight or for a minimum of 3-4 hours
  2. Wash and drain the urad dal.
  3. Fill a wok halfway with the sunflower oil and set to heat on a slow to medium flame.
  4. Prepare a large platter with kitchen paper to drain off your vadas once fried.
  5. Prepare a large bowl of water for your vadas to soak in.
  6. Put the urad dhal, ginger and green chillies into a blender and grind to a smooth paste.
  7. 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.
  8. Take two spoons and scoop some batter into one. Using the other spoon make a quenelle or ball shape – this is your vada.
  9. Deep fry in hot oil on a slow flame till the vadas are golden brown, for about 10 minutes.
  10. Drain on the prepared platter of kitchen paper.
  11. Once all your vadas are fried, pop them into the bowl of water to soak for about half an hour.
  12. while they are soaking, prepare the yoghurt by whisking it together with some salt to your taste.
  13. Take your vadas out of the water and squeeze them so most of the water is out.
  14. Place a layer of yoghurt on your serving platter and then place all your vadas on top.
  15. 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? 

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The Perfect Homegrown Patra

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.

Patra

Gujarati Patra

Gujarati Patra – Perfect for breakfast with a cup of chai

You’ll need

  • 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

  1. 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.
  2. Carefully thin any thick spines being careful not to rip the leaves then set aside to dry.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Lay both leaves out on a flat work surface and divide the paste between the two.
  6. Evenly coat each leaf with the paste and then roll the leaf up so you have a long cigar shape.
  7. 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.
  8. Leave the cigars to cool completely otherwise you will not be able to cut them cleanly as the paste will be too moist.
  9. When cooled, slice them into rounds approx 1cm thick.
  10. 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.
  11. Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and sesame seeds in quick succession.  Be careful as they may spit at you.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?  

Green Tomato and Onion Curry

I’m very fussy about tomatoes.  I love the sundried variety but not in pesto.  I like the raw variety but only paired with basil and mozzarella and in a ‘cachumbar’ (salad) with sliced onions, red chilli powder and salt.  But I love cooked tomatoes.  Especially in curry.  It’s my go to dinner when I am ravenous but don’t have the patience to wait.  I usually eat this with some plain basmati rice or leftover boiled barley or kicheree.

I have used green tomatoes because I like the unusual.  You could use cherry tomatoes cut in half or the different coloured heritage tomatoes that can be found at farmer’s markets nowadays.  Which ever you choose, make sure they are lovely and firm so they will keep their shape when cooking.

Lovely Green Tomatoes

Beautiful green tomatoes

Tomato and Onion (Shak) Curry

Green Tomato and Onion Curry

Green Tomato and Onion Curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tsp small black mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 250g red or green tomatoes – it doesn’t matter as long as they are firm and tomatoey! Don’t buy the cheap economy ones
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp dhana jeeru (coriander and cumin powder)
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli powder – more as you wish
  • 1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder) – optional but adds a tangy twist
  • Handful fresh coriander – chopped

To make it 

  • Slice the onion and garlic and chop the tomatoes into nice large chunks.  About 1 inch is good.  Smaller will turn them to mush and you don’t want that. Set aside
  • Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan – not heavy bottomed. This is a stir fry type dish.
  • When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves in quick succession.  To test the oil you can pop in a mustard seed. If it fizzzles and pops then it’s ready.
  • The seeds will crackle and fizzle and spit up so be careful when you add the onions and garlic now.
Frying Onions

Frying onions is one of my favourite smells

  • Stir for a minute with a fork (not wooden spoon as this will absorb the spices you are going to add)
  • Add the tomatoes and then the rest of the spices and stir until all the spices are well combined.
Green Tomato and Onion Curry

And then the spices go in and the smell gets even better

  • Keep tossing the onions and tomatoes with the fork for a few more minutes to cook the dry spices out and prevent sticking.  If it does stick add a little more oil or water.
  • Do not overcook.  you want the onions to have a little bite and the tomatoes to keep their shape.
  • Pour into a serving bowl, top with the chopped coriander and eat straight away.  This dish does not keep well so try not to have any leftovers!

I served these on Clearspring Quick Cook 5 Grains but you could also go with plain rice.

Green Tomato and Onion Curry

Green Tomato and Onion Curry – A simple and speedy supper

What is your favourite way to eat tomatoes? 

More tomato inspiration here: