A Bengali Brunch: Koraishootir kochuri [Pooris stuffed with a spicy peas masala]

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R and I had been dating for many years before we got married. Our conversations used to revolve around our families, our lives together, our cultural differences, amongst many other things which young dating couples from different cultural backgrounds talk about.

R’s family is from West Bengal, a state in the Eastern part of India that is often known for its politics, literary history, culture, a daily diet that MUST include fish, and people who are extremely fond of sweets! My family, on the other hand, comes from the neighbouring state of Bihar, a state that is often the subject of conversation for its politics, lawlessness and poverty. The harsh reality is that we live in a world of stereotypes. The only silver lining is that we also live in a world where travel has become a lot easier and internet ensures there is enough information for people who seek out for it. This is definitely helping people to see beyond these stereotypes.

Before I got married, I was only worried about how I was going to deal with the sweet palate of the Bengali family and relatives because I definitely didn’t have one. It would be rude to refuse a sweet offered so lovingly and generously. Fortunately, it wasn’t really as difficult as I had made it out to be. Word spread about my love for fish and my lack of appetite for sweets.  The rest is history. I have been fortunate to have some of the best food in many Bengali homes. No restaurant can match up to that taste, variety and depth of flavour that is created in these home kitchens.

My Mother-in-Law is one of the best cooks I know. I owe a lot of my understanding of Bengali food to her. There are also a couple of other relatives and friends who have wholeheartedly welcomed me in their kitchen and given me the opportunity to watch, ask questions and learn. That learning over the years has given me the confidence to cook a lot of traditional Bengali food at home.

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Today, I am sharing my recipe of a traditional Bengali Brunch – ‘Koraishootir Kochuri’ or Pooris stuffed with a spicy peas masala. Do not confuse them with “Kachori” from North India. The two are quite different in texture, appearance and taste.

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Koraishootir kochuri is a popular homemade breakfast especially in the winter months when peas are in season. I didn’t have to wait for winters as I used frozen peas which are fortunately available year round! 😉 Koraishootir Kochuri is almost always served with some Indian pickles (aachhaar / achaar) and a spicy semi-dry dish made with potatoes called aaloo dom in Bengali or aaloo dum in Hindi. I promise to share a recipe of aaloo dom / aaloo dum very soon!

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The filling used here is a spicy mixture of peas dominantly flavoured by asafetida. Asafetida or hing, is a very strong and pungent spice. It is used quite extensively in a lot of Indian vegetarian dishes, especially for cooking where no onions or garlic are used. Most commonly available in a powder form, when fried for a few seconds in oil, it releases a very pleasant aroma and enhances the flavour of a dish immediately. A little goes a long way is apt for this spice. It is also an essential ingredient for flavoring many Indian pickles / achaar / aachaar.

Traditionally, Maida or refined flour is used to make this dish. I prefer to use wholewheat flour instead.

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To print this recipe, click here.

Koraishootir Kochuri or Pooris with a spicy Peas Masala filling:

Yield: About 18-20 pcs
These are quite heavy as they are thicker than the usual pooris and they have filling inside.

Things I needed:

A Paraath or a huge plate which is common in most Indian homes. It is used to knead dough.
A deep bottomed kadhai or Indian style wok or a deep pot for deep frying.
A Chakla
A rolling pin

For more information on the essential utensils for an Indian kitchen, you should check out the blog written by my friend, Nisha. She blogs at Spusht and has done a brilliant job of making an inventory for any one new to Indian cooking. Check this and many other interesting recipes and ideas on her blog, Spusht.

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Ingredients for the Dough:

Wholewheat flour: 2 cups [I used Aashirvaad Wholewheat aata]
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Carom seeds or Ajwain: ½ tsp
Warm water: ¾ cup
Salt: a pinch or to taste
Oil for deep frying

In a paraath or a big flat deep plate used in most Indian homes for kneading dough, add the flour, carom seeds (ajwain) and salt. Using your hands mix all the dry ingredients so that they are uniformly spread. Now add ghee (at room temperature) to the flour and rub it in between your palms. Repeatedly rub the flour and ghee mixture in this manner for 3-4 minutes to have the smell and flavour of ghee spread across the flour.

Next, make a well and add 1/3 cup water in the middle. Knead the dough mixing the flour with the water, adding water a little at a time. You may not need to use all the water but Add another 1/3 cup warm water and continue kneading. If the dough is sticky, just add a little flour and knead it again until smooth. We are looking for a dough which is not too firm but not very soft either – somewhere in between!

Ingredients for the Peas filling:

Frozen peas: 2 cups
Regular vegetable oil: 2 tsp
Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
Grated ginger: 1 tsp
Asafetida powder (hing): approx. 1/8 tsp
Roasted cumin powder: ½ tsp
Garam Masala: ½ tsp
Aamchoor (Dry Mango) powder: ½ tsp
Salt to taste

Boil the peas in just enough water to wet the peas with a pinch of salt until they are soft. (About 5 mins).

Using a food processor, make a coarse paste of the peas.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a small kadhai / wok / skillet. Add cumin seeds, reduce heat and let it change colour without burning or turning black. Add grated ginger. You have to be careful to not let the cumin seeds burn otherwise it can add a bitter taste. Reduce heat or remove the pan from heat if needed. Add the asafetida and stir for a couple of seconds. Add the coarse peas paste, chilli powder and salt to taste.

Increase heat to medium, and continue to stir in order to reduce the moisture content of this mixture. When the mixture is almost dry (about 5 mins), add the roasted cumin powder, garam masala powder and aamchoor powder. Taste and adjust the taste to your liking. Continue frying for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
Spread mixture on a plate to allow it to cool completely. This step is important to help you roll the pooris and make sure the filling doesn’t come out when rolling.

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Assembling it all together:

Now divide the dough into about equal size pieces. You should be able to make around 18 – 20 pcs. These are rolled thicker than the usual pooris so each portion must be a little bigger than your usual Poori dough. To give you an idea, each pc weighed in between 20-25 gms.

Make a smooth ball with each pc of dough. Using your fingers and in a sort of pinching motion, press from the centre turning it around, creating a well to stuff the filling. Make sure you don’t spread it too thin as this needs to be rolled flat and the stuffing should not come out.

Stuff around 1 tbsp of the prepared filling as shown in the picture. Seal it well. Take out a tbsp of the oil in a small bowl. Put a few drops of oil on the surface of the rolling surface (Chakla) to ensure it doesn’t stick when rolling. We do not use flour to roll these as dry flour will burn very quickly [A tip I learned from my Mother-in-law].

Roll these into small but thick pooris about 10-12 cm in diameter, taking care not to let the filling come out. If the filling comes out, these will not fluff up as we want it to. This takes a little practice so don’t be disappointed if you miss a few. Keep trying:)

Test the oil by adding a tiny pinch of dough, it should sizzle immediately and float up in the oil. Remove the test piece or you’ll have a burnt piece of dough floating about.

Gently slide down the rolled koraishootir kochuri in to hot oil to deep fry them. With the back of the spatula, gently press these kochuris to help them fluff up. Once fluffed up, immediately turn them over so that both sides get cooked. Fry one piece at a time. You could roll a few and keep on standby while the oil is heating, but make sure you do not stack them. Instead, spread them on a plate separate from one another.

Keep adjusting the heat. If the oil becomes too hot, there are 2 things you can do:
– reduce the heat or remove from heat to gradually cool down the oil to bring to desired temperature.
– Add more oil. This will help to reduce the temperature of the oil.

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Spiced Raw Banana or Plantain Kofta | ..and a cup of joy!

Hello World!

Last week, my post on Avocado Chutney got Freshly Pressed! I was overjoyed and anxious, all at the same time. For all of you who visited this space and liked what they read, a BIG Thank You and a warm welcome!:-)

Starbucks: a cup of joy & a hint of guilt

I am not employed by Starbucks nor related to them in any form, living or dead. These are the personal views of someone who has spent a lot of guilt $ here over the past decade.

I know there are lots of people out there who’ll probably stop reading this post right about now as they are about to realize: I  ♥ my latte! What’s the fuss about anyway? Could it be that extra buck I spend here vs. the not-so-glitzy local café? Or is it that bright smile from the lady over the counter at 9 am, when you wish you were in your pajamas snoozing but you’ve just about managed to drag yourself to work? Or that extra attention you get when they know exactly what you want from a mile away?  Perhaps, the warm and earthy ambiance draws me to itself, giving me a dreamy sense of ‘coffee in the woods’. Or their effort to more than make up for something they’ve grossly messed up! I don’t have the answer, but there’s something about that cozy space which gives me a cup of joy!

I am not all that naive. I do a reality check every now and then. The verdict is out. One latte a week. Two, if I’ve done a good deed during the week.

But, how do I avoid the other twenty seven times I see the twin-tailed mermaid looking back at me? Inviting me for my cup of joy? I am determined. But, as days go by, my determination fades. I miss the Siren and the warmth and joy she brings…

I give in.

And history repeats itself… 🙂

Today’s recipe is a traditional recipe made in many homes across India – mainly in the states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal. I have made a couple of versions of this curry at home but this is my favorite! Raw Bananas / Plantains are boiled, mixed with spices, and made into table-tennis ball like shapes which are then deep-fried (known as kofta). Alternatively, they can be made into patties for a less-oil version. The curry is made with a combination of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and dry spices together with almond paste for a subtle sweetness. The koftas are then soaked in the curry and with a little garnish, this dish is all yours to enjoy.

Raw Bananas and Plantains are used interchangeably by many. Both belong to the Banana family, though plantains are generally tougher and therefore take a little longer (up to 10 mins extra) to boil. I have used both and both work just fine.

Spiced Raw Banana Kofta (Kache Kele ka Kofta / Kachkolar Kofta):

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click  here.

There are 3 steps to this recipe –:

I – Raw Banana / Plantain balls (koftas) OR raw banana patties/tikkis – The choice is YOURS!
II – Preparing the Curry
III – Serving this dish

Serves: 4
(Makes about 10-12 koftas/tikkis/patties)

Step I – Raw Banana / Plantain Koftas / Patties:

Ingredients:

(Makes 10-12 pcs)

Raw banana or Plantain – 2 pcs
Potato – 1 small-medium sized
Onion: 3/4 cup, finely chopped
Ginger: Grated 1 tbsp
Green chillies: 2 – chopped fine (adjust to your own spice tolerance level)
Chilli powder: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder : 1/2 tsp
Aamchoor powder: 1 tsp (available in Indian stores)
Coriander powder: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Regular cooking oil: for deep frying koftas (a lot!) OR pan-frying patties/tikkis (2-3 tblsp in a non-stick pan)

How I did it:

  • Cut each raw banana or plantain into 3 pcs – roughly 1.5″ – 2″ per pc, with the skin intact. Throw away the edges.
  • Boil the raw bananas in a pot of water, almost covered with water. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric while boiling. Cover and let it boil on low-medium heat until done. Boil for approximately 25 mins and check. Pierce with a fork to check if it has softened. When it’s done, the fork should go through easily.

Plantain usually takes about 35-40 mins to boil as they are tougher whereas medium sized raw bananas should be done in 30 mins. They should be cooked soft but not mushy / overcooked.

  • When done, run it through tap water so that it cools down. Remove skin. It should come off very easily.
  • Meanwhile, boil 1 potato. Peel and keep it aside.
  • In a deep bowl, mash the raw bananas using your fingers or a spoon. Add the boiled potato and mash it too. Ensure it is mashed well.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and combine together.

I love this dish and can’t wait for an occasion to have it! At the same time, the koftas are traditionally deep fried and that doesn’t suit my every day cooking. So, I make patties when I have it for regular meals. On special occasions, I make the deep fried koftas.

For Koftas:

  • To make the koftas, take table tennis ball sized portions of the above mixture in your palm. Give it an even round shape. Depending on the size of the bananas / plantains used, you can easily come up with 10-12 pcs.
  • Next, heat sufficient oil in a deep dish or kadhai to deep-fry the koftas.

Make sure the oil is hot before you start frying. You may need to heat the oil on medium heat for up to 2 mins. Put only 1 pc at first to make sure the koftas don’t break while frying. If you feel that the banana mixture is too mushy, you can add 1-2 tbsp of besan (chickpea flour) in the mixture to bind it. To avoid the koftas from sticking to one another, space out putting the koftas by 30 seconds so that they are a little fried before the next one comes in. Do not overcrowd the kadhai / frying pan.

For Patties (Tikkis):

  • To make raw banana patties, take the same portion of the banana mixture as for the kofta (a table tennis ball size). Make a nice round at first and flatten it. Use your palm and fingers to give it an even patty-like shape.
  • In a non-stick pan, heat 2-3 tblsp of oil. Add the patties and let it cook on low heat until cooked. Turn over to make sure it is cooked / browned on both sides

This can also be served as an appetizer along with some coriander & mint chutney. I’ll leave the chutney recipe for another day.

Step II – Preparing the Curry:

Ingredients:

Cinnamon : 1 thin stick
Bay leaves: 2 small
Cardamom: 2-3 (pods only)
Whole black pepper: 6
Any cooking oil: 2 tblsp
Almonds: 7-8 pcs soaked for at least 10 mins in hot water. Remove skin. Add a little bit of water to grind to a thick but smooth paste.
Onion: 1 cup – Finely  chopped (1 medium sized)
Ginger paste: 1 tblsp
Garlic paste: 1 tblsp
Tomatoes: 1 medium sized – Ground to a paste.
Green chillies – 2 whole (optional)
Salt: to taste

In a bowl, make a thick paste of the following dry spices by adding very little water:
Coriander powder: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder (optional): 1/4 tsp

How I did it :

  • Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom pods and whole black pepper. Fry for about 30-40 secs on low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Add chopped onions. Fry on low-medium heat until brownish.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste. Fry for another 1-2 mins, until combined well. If it starts to stick on the bottom, sprinkle a little bit of water and scrape it off, blending it into the masala.
  • Add the thick spice paste prepared with coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric & chilli. Continue frying for another 2 mins.
  • Add the tomato paste and salt. Fry until the tomatoes are fully cooked and the masala becomes a lumpy mass, darker in color than how it started. It should also look glossy as the oil starts to surface on the masala. (approx 12 mins on low heat).
  • Add the almond paste and continue for another 5 mins. The almond paste should have combined well with the rest of the masalas and the favors integrated well to make our curry.
  • Once you have achieved that, add about 400 ml of water (preferably, boiling water as it speeds up the cooking process). Once the curry starts boiling, cover and let it boil on low-medium heat for another 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Check for salt and spices. At this point, you can add the whole green chillies, if you wish. The curry should be thicker in consistency at the end of this process.
  • Turn off the heat.

Step III – Serving this dish:

Ingredients for Garnishing:

Red chillies: 1. Remove seeds and cut in thin strips
Fresh cream: 2-3 tsp
OR
Coriander leaves chopped: a handful

How I did it:

    • Start preparing to serve this dish about 10-15 mins prior to actual serving. Use a serving dish that is flat so that the koftas can be placed without overcrowding.
    • In the serving dish, place the koftas/tikkis/patties.
    • Heat the curry prepared above to make sure it is piping hot! Turn off the heat.
    • Pour the hot curry over the kofta. Be careful not to spill over as the curry should be very hot at this point. Make sure that the koftas are almost submerged in the curry. Let the koftas soak for at least 10-15 mins, covered.
    • If you find the dish is not warm enough when you are ready to eat, microwave it for 1-2 mins immediately after soaking.
    • Once the soaking is complete, garnish with fresh cream and thin strips of de-seeded red chillies. Alternatively, you could garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
    • Enjoy the koftas with steamed rice.

Too little soaking and the curry doesn’t go inside the koftas. Too much soaking and you’ll have very crumbly koftas. Therefore, the process of serving this dish is very important to make sure you serve the the koftas that you’ve worked so hard to make!

If the bananas were boiled nice and soft, soak them for 10 mins before serving. If bananas feel hard after you’ve mashed and made your koftas, soak for up to 20 mins before serving.