When I was pregnant with my first daughter, there was one food that I craved above everything else. Kichee. It makes no sense as to why I was craving this. It’s simply a rice flour dumpling flavoured with cumin, black pepper and green chillies. I think it was the sticky, comforting consistency that gave me so much satisfaction.
It’s not something I could make for myself at the time because the smell of green chillies would send me into a long coughing fit and give me nausea. My Aunt Sushila would see my car pull into my mother’s driveway and within 30 minutes she’d bring over a plate of steaming hot kichee for me. Handy having her live just across the road!
It’s been a favourite ever since and I’ve never really experimented with the recipe until now. I’m finding that black peppercorns aren’t settling well with me at the moment so I’ve been making kichee with just the green chillies and cumin. But last week I picked a very large bunch of wild garlic. There is a place I fell upon by chance which seems to have remained hidden from other foragers and I got a little carried away with my picking. It works very well chopped into dhal but as I had an inkling for kichee yesterday I thought I’d try it out with that too. It worked a treat! There is a very nice, subtle wild garlic flavour but it’s the colour that most impressed me. The dough was a vibrant green which wasn’t impacted by the steaming process.
The recipe is incredibly simple so these are a wonderful item in your Biting Biting repertoire.
Wild Garlic Kichee
- 50g wild garlic leaves plus flowers for decoration
- 3 small green chillies – mine were about 2 inches long
- 2 cups/480ml water
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1.5/2 tsp salt to your taste
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cup/160g rice flour – must be the fine flour and not ground rice
- red chilli flakes to garnish
- olive oil for dipping
This recipe makes about 16
- First pound the green chillies and wild garlic leaves in a pestle and mortar and you get a nice paste with no lumps.
- Bring a pan of water to come to the boil. You need a pan which has room for the rice flour to expand so use a large one.
- Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and then add the wild garlic and chilli paste, cumin seeds, salt and bicarbonate of soda and stir through so they are all evenly combined into the water.
- Add the rice flour and let it simply soak into the water for a few minutes. Once it’s all absorbed stir the mixture with a wooden spoon on the very low heat to bash out any lumps. You’ll now have a soft dough with a mashed potato like consistency.
- Turn the dough out onto a flat plate or chopping board and leave to cool so it’s comfortable to handle.
- Divide the dough up into 16 portions. I find the easiest way to do this is to roughly roll a sausage shape, divide it in two and then again and again til you have 16 portions.
- Take one portion and roll it into a ball. You may find it’s easier and less sticky to work with if you lightly oil or water your hands. You can knead it lightly in your hand to get rid of any more lumps.
- Once you have a ball, flatten it slightly into a disc and then pierce a hole in the middle. I do this by dipping the end of a wooden spoon in some oil and then using that to make the hole.
- Once you’ve done all the portions in this way, put them into a steamer for 15 minutes to cook. Leave them to cool slightly once cooked and then serve with some red chilli flakes and olive oil for dipping.
Biting Biting – Wild Garlic Kichee with Red Chilli Flakes and Olive Oil for Dipping
More wild garlic recipe inspiration from blogs and websites I like..
There is a term we Gujaratis use often and do far too often. It’s called ‘biting’. It means snacking, eating little Polpo-esque portions of something to tide you over to the next biting or meal. When you are visiting relatives the first question you’ll be asked will be if you’ll partake in some ‘biting biting’. If you are going anywhere, then you must taking ‘biting biting’ with you or at least have some ‘biting biting’ before you go.
In my family biting takes the form of muthiya – little steamed dumplings of vegetables, chickpea flour and sometimes leftover rice which are eaten dipped in yoghurt or oil or stir fried to get a little crunch and burn on the skin and then eaten with chai. Patra and dhokra would be other examples of biting. Something substantial that involves just one plate.
What I love about muthiya is that you can really adapt the recipe to suit whatever is in your fridge that needs using up. On my allotment I have a bounty of beetroot and I hate to waste their vibrant leaves so I used them in this recipe with some red cabbage. You could also use grated carrots, marrow or courgettes, shredded spinach or chard – any hard vegetable that grates or a leaf that can be thinly chopped.
Muthiya – a great way of using up leftover vegetables
Beetroot Green and Cabbage Muthiya
- 250g cabbage, shredded
- 300g beetroot greens or spinach, finely chopped
- 250g gram flour (chickpea flour)
- 250g chappati flour
- 2-3 tsp salt – I know it sounds a lot but the steaming process removes a lot of the salt flavour
- 3 tbsp dessicated coconut
- 1 inch ginger, finely crushed
- 5 small green chillies, finely chopped
- red chilli powder to your taste
- Juice of a lemon
- 3 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 5 curry leaves
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- chopped fresh coriander – to your taste
To make them
- Mix the cabbage, beetroot greens, flours, coconut, spices, ginger, chillies, lemon and salt in a large mixing bowl and then using your hands add enough warm water to form a stiff dough. You need to be able to make small round balls that will hold their shape so add the water a little at a time.
- Once you have the right consistency form balls about the size of a golf ball. My mother makes sausages but I find that the balls are easier to fit in the steamer I have.
- Steam the balls for 30 minutes and then leave them to cool completely. You can eat them as they are dipped in a little oil or with plain yoghurt or follow the next steps to stir fry them.
- Chop the dumplings in half and pop them into a bowl.
- Heat the oil in a wok and add the sesame seeds and curry leaves. When they start to fizzle, add the chopped dumplings and toss together so they are all evenly coated. It’s ok if they stick a little and get crispy.
- Add the fresh coriander and serve with plain yoghurt or a cup of chai.
What kind of ‘biting biting’ do you have in your family?
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?