The First Ever Upar Wali Chai

So this is Laura and I at the start of our first ever  ‘Upar Wali Chai’ (def: n. tea, high – decadent tea-time treats served with no restraint whatsoever) which was held at Gunpowder Restaurant in Hauz Khas Village last weekend. Thirty guests, a mountain of cakes and the sun setting over the lake made for a winter afternoon to remember.

Here’s a selection of pictures taken by the lovely and super-talented Tom Pietrasik

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Home Made Chana Bhatura

close class bhature

There are some Indian dishes which I  assumed would be impossible to recreate at home unless you’ve spent half your life sitting behind a giant karhai somewhere in Old Delhi.  One of these is Chana Bhatura, that meltingly more-ish chick pea and deep fried bread combo that can make me weak with longing.

Then I met cookery teacher Anita Dhanda, who runs a class at the American School here in Delhi.  Over the course of 10 weeks she unlocks the mysteries of  parantha, palak paneer, halwa, kheer, keema, dal makhani and much more.

One of the many splendid things about Anita, apart from her winning pinny and kurta combos, is her ability to make it all look so simple. She was also generous with her time-tested family recipes including this, her mother’s recipe for Chana Bhatura.  I’ve made this a few times at home and it’s a winner and I’m always instantly transported back to  Sita Ram Diwan Chand – the only thing  missing is the flies.

So here is Anita’s  mum’s easy peasy, home kitchen-friendly, 100% pukka Chana Bhatura – guaranteed to make you feel as if you’re sitting cross-legged at a kharai:

anita

Chana Pindi

Ingredients

1 and half cups chick peas (chana)

1 tbs chopped ginger

1tsp each coriander powder, roasted cumin powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, mango or ground pomegranate seed (anardana) powder, cumin seeds

2tbs ghee

salt, bay leaf,bicarbonate of soda.

Method

Wash and soak the chick peas overnight.  Drain then add 5-6 cups fresh water.  Add the bicarbonate of soda,  bay and ginger and boil, covered, until very soft. When the chick peas are ready – this will vary according to the freshness of the peas – add coriander, chilli, garam masala, mango or anardana powder, and roast ground cumin powder. Bring back to the boil and stir well to blend all the spices.

chaunk

chaunk

In a small pan or ‘chaunk’*, melt the ghee until smoking. Add the cumin seeds and let them crackle for a few seconds. then pour over the chick peas.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.  If the mixture is too watery, mash some of the chick peas into the liquid to thicken. Check seasonings, add a few pieces of cooked potato if desired. This next bit  requires restraint but the Chana is even better if left for a few hours to let the flavours meld before devouring greedily with fresh  bhatura.

*My ‘Chaunk’, also known as a ‘Tarka’, is  a new favourite piece of kitchen equipment.  It’s like a small frying-pan on the end of a long handle  and is used for  ‘tempering’, just before a dish is served: oil or ghee is melted until smoking then spices like whole cumin, or mustard seeds are added and left to sizzle for  a few seconds.  It fills the kitchen with the most intensely inviting smells before adding that final flourish to a dish.  According to Anita, it’s a process which many modern cooks  don’t bother with but I’m a convert – it gives the food a freshness and pep it wouldn’t otherwise have.

The Bhatura is a little trickier and you may not get that magnificent balloon shape first time, but the ones in the picture were made by us first-timers in the cookery class and they tasted delicious.

Purists be warned – Anita’s recipe contains non-traditional mashed potato.  She says her mum always puts it in for extra crunch.

class bhatureBhatura

Ingredients

1 cup plain flour (maida)

1 cup semolina (sooji)

1 potato boiled and mashed

2 tbs yogurt

2 tsp oil

half tsp salt

extra oil for deep frying

Method

Mix all the ingredients together and bind to a soft dough with water. Leave to ferment for 5-6 hours.  Break off pieces of dough and roll into balls.  Dip each ball into oil then roll out thinly.  Heat oil in a karhai until really hot – to test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a small amount of dough – it should instantly rise to the top. Carefully put in one of the rolled out discs. With a metal slotted spoon, press the bhatura down in the centre of the oil and it should instantly puff up.  Quickly remove the bhatura to drain on kitchen roll. The cooking process takes only a few seconds.  If your first bhatura is very oily, it means the oil wasn’t hot enough.

As well as slices of onions, Anita had also prepared a ‘Sonth’, a sweet and sour dip which complemented the other savoury dishes perfectly

Sonth

Ingredients

1 tbsp dried mango powder (amchur)

3 tbsp sugar

half tsp roasted cumin powder

quarter tsp each of red chilli powder, salt, garam masala

quarter cup water

Method

Mix all ingredients and cook on low flame till thick and syrupy

‘Sonth’ is also good with snacks like samosas and pakoras

Chana Bhatura at Sita Ram Diwan Chand

chana

When conniving Mughal upstart Aurangzeb imprisoned his father, Emperor Shah Jehan, in Agra Fort in 1657, he told him he could choose just one thing to eat every day for the rest of his life. The old man chose chick peas because the prison cook told him he would be able to make something different every day of the year.

Until recently, I would have snorted in disbelief in this  – chick peas?  Synonymous with hairy hippies in bedsits and tubs of slimy supermarket hummous?  Then came ‘Chana  Bhatura’ and I discovered  I could actively crave something involving chick peas.

There are very few deep-fried foods I can resist and I admit what first attracted me to this dish, in places like Evergreen in Green Park and Nathus in Bengali Market, were the magnificent balloon-sized puffed-up ‘bhatura’.  In the early days the  accompanying chana was just a sloppy, sludge-coloured distraction.  I used to dip the bread but I’m ashamed to admit the chick peas often went back to the kitchen barely touched.

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