Urad dhal Puri (spicy balloon bread)

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These delicious flat breads are a lovely addition to any Indian meal. They’re deep fried so maybe not something that you’d want to serve as standard, but they are so gorgeous that it’s well worth adding them to your special occasion recipes. And hey, they’re made with lentils and wholemeal flour?

The dough is made with soaked Urid Dal (which are small, white lentils that you can buy from Indian shops or in some World Food aisles at larger supermarkets),  spices and wholewheat flour. When you submerge the rolled out dough under the bubbling oil, they puff up dramatically and because the outside cooks crisply, they don’t  deflate at all which make them quite spectacular to put on the table. They’re hollow inside, so the shell is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside – perfect for scooping up curries!

This recipe makes 8 large Puri or 12 small

1/4 cup of urid dal (or skinless, split moong dal) which you’ll need to soak for 4-6 hours in cold water (just remember to put them in water before you go to work or go out shopping if it’s the week end and they’ll be done when you get back)

Before soaking, left. After soaking, right.
Before soaking, left. After soaking, right.

1 cup wholemeal flour

1tblsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a pestle and mortar

1tblsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp asafoetida (aka hing)

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/4 tsp ground ginger powder

2tblsp oil

1/4 cup lukewarm water

Drain the dal and coarsely grind in a mini chopper/mini food processor. Scrape the bowl down as necessary, adding a tiny amount of water if necessary to loosen it up. You need to keep water to an absolute minimum.

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Mix the dry ingredients together – flour, ground coriander, ground ginger, fennel, asafoetida, salt and chilli flakes.

Add the dal paste and mix together with your hand, squishing everything together.

20150815_175434Add a 1/4 cup (60ml) of water slowly to bring everything together into a tough dough, then add 1 1/2 tblsp oil.

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Squish the oil through with your hand until it’s incorporated. Knead well – for about 5 minutes to make the puri light. Put in a plastic bag or cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Oil your palm and knead again for a couple of minutes before cutting the dough into the required amount of puri. Knead each into a ball to make them smooth.

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Lightly grease a rolling pin and the work surface where you’ll be rolling out. Roll out the balls until they’re quite thin, a bit thicker than a penny. Don’t stack them on top of each other because they’ll stick together.

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Put about 8-10cm of flavourless oil into a wok/medium saucepan and heat until a tiny ball of dough floats to the surface after a second or two (another way of seeing if it’s ready is to put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, if bubbles appear around it, it’s good to go).

Slide one of the rolled discs into the hot oil and immediately gently but firmly press in down with a slotted spoon. The disc should start to puff up in places or completely. Turn the disc over straight away to cook the other side. At this point the disc should have inflated completely. Cook for another few seconds until golden brown and transfer to kitchen roll to drain. If your puri don’t rise completely, don’t worry – they’ll still taste good. By the end of frying, you’ll get the hang of it for next time.

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Blurry action shots – they’re fast movers!
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They puff up very quickly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue until all of the discs are cooked. Serve straight away, or reheat in a hot oven for a couple of minutes (although they are better, fresh from the pan!)

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Halloumi and Sweetcorn Fritters

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I made these lovely fritters when I needed a new way to use up my halloumi. They’re super quick and easy to make – I had mine for tea with an avocado salad but I reckon they’d be great for brunch too!

You will need:

1 large tin of sweetcorn or around 275g frozen sweetcorn, left to defrost

Half a packet of halloumi, diced into small cubes

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

a small bunch of coriander/parsley/basil (I used half parsley/half basil)

2 eggs

90g plain flour

75ml milk (I used almond milk but whatever you have is fine)

 

Instructions

Pour half the sweetcorn into a food processor and whizz until combined (it doesn’t have to be smooth!)

 

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Combine the whizzed sweetcorn, the whole sweetcorn, cubed halloumi, chilli, spring onions and herbs in a bowl and mix until combined.

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In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and eggs, then gradually add the milk to make a pancake mix sort of texture.

Add this to the bowl with the sweetcorn and cheese mix and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add a tbsp of oil into a frying pan on a medium/high heat, swirl the oil round in the pan until it’s coated then pour a ladle of the mixture into the pan (if you want large fritters it will make around 6, or if you want smaller ones it will make about ten)

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Cook for 2-3 minutes until dark brown underneath then turn over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and repeat the process for the others.

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Crunchy Samosa

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I love samosa, but they’re one of those things – if you have an amazing local Indian shop that sells them hot and crispy for breakfast (can’t recommend Harguns in Caldmore highly enough!) and you can resist buying more than 2 at a time, then why make them yourself? I’ve dabbled before when I have enough people at my house to warrant making a whole batch, but the pastry is something that I can’t seem to get right. It’s crispy when it’s just out of the frying pan, but starts to go soggy straight away. They taste good, but ‘not quite right’. Stef makes them with samosa pastry/spring roll pastry which you can buy in frozen sheets from Indian/Asian shops and bakes them in the oven. They’re good too, but I’m a sucker for doing things in the traditional way!

I’ve tasted a good few samosa that have been home made and they all seem to be different – some crunchy inside from whole seeds, some rich and meaty, some have pastry flavoured with ajwain or onion seed, but not all of them don’t have the lovely crunchy pastry that comes from the ones that you can buy. The crunchy pastry seems to come from experience, from making them each and every day in large quantities. I’ve had crisp samosa in Sikh temples for breakfast, which again says that making lots of them gives you the experience you need.

I’ve been on a mission to find out the secrets to good samosa pastry for the past couple of months, I’ve spoken to people, read lots about the traditions of samosa and watched people making them and I think I’ve come up with a couple of top tips to make crunchy samosa! I made them last night and was really pleased with the result. We served ours with a Chana Dhal to dip in to.

The filling is really tasty and can be used to fill this pastry or if you want to use it with samosa/spring roll sheets, you can.

Potato & Pea Samosa (makes around 16)

Filling

4 large potatoes, boiled until tender, chopped into chunks

2 handfuls of frozen peas

2″/5cm ginger, grated

2-5 green chillies chopped finely (you can substitute 1/2 – 2tsp chilli powder)

1/2 tsp cumin seed, 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp amchoor, 3/4 tsp ground cumin, a good pinch of asafoetida (if you haven’t got all of these, miss out the ones you haven’t got) (buy any of these spices from our Ebay shop here)

Salt to taste (I used about 2tsp, but I like salty things!)

Fresh chopped coriander and a squeeze of lemon/lime juice to add just before filling the samosa

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In a frying pan, heat a glug of flavourless oil. Add the cumin seed and when they start crackling, add the green chilli. Stir around for a minute before adding the ginger and rest of the spices. Stir for a few seconds and then add the potatoes. Stir with a large wooden spoon and if you like a more mashed potato texture in your samosa, crush the potatoes with the back of the spoon while mixing. Add the peas. Taste for salt and chilli. Add more of both if needed or add chilli powder. Set to one side to cool completely.

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Dough

Put 4 cups plain flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt into a large shallow bowl and mix together. Add 1tblsp ghee (if you have any, if not, use flavourless oil) and 2tblsp oil and rub everything together. This is the important bit – even though you can’t really see the oil, you must make sure that it’s completely distributed through all of the grains of flour. The best way to do this is to scoop it up in your hands and rub your hands together.

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Do this with all of the flour. You may need to add more oil into the flour, the way to find out if you already have enough is to squeeze a handful of the flour together and when you open your hand, the flour should stay clumped together in a ball. If it doesn’t, add another tblsp oil and repeat the rubbing in process.

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If it does, crumble it back into the bowl and add water a little at a time until a tough, tight dough is formed. You don’t want it to be soft or sticky, so go carefully with the water – around 1/2 a cup should do it.

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The dough should come together but still look quite dry

Knead for a couple of minutes and then put in a plastic bag to rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, knead for a few more minutes until the dough looks smooth. Rest for another 15 minutes. When the dough comes out of the bag, it should be quite springy when you prod it.

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Bring out your cooled filling and add a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh chopped coriander. Set next to where you’ll be rolling out. You’ll need a dessert spoon.

Divide the dough into 8 balls and place 7 in the plastic bag so they don’t dry out. Roll out the ball into about a 6″ (12cm) circle. Cut the circle in half. You want the dough not to be too thin, but mine was a little thick, so just a little thinner than mine in these pictures.

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Take one half of the circle and using your finger, moisten all around the edges with a little water. Bring up both edges to the middle, overlapping slightly and press gently to seal (not so much that you make the inside stick together, though!). Pick the dough up and hold it in your hand like a cone. Fill the cone with a couple of tablespoons of filling and push it down with your finger.

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You want to expel as much air from the filling as possible, otherwise it will balloon up when you fry. Make a little pleat opposite the join to allow for expansion and then pinch together sealing right up to where the filling ends. Sit the samosa down so that the sealed end is bent.

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Carry on with the rest of the dough and filling until you have used it all up. Line them up on a tray.

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The last secret to crispiness is to not have the oil in your pan too hot. This will cause the samosa to darken too quickly while the filling doesn’t heat up. You need to look for when you put the handle of a wooden spoon in the hot oil, little bubbles form around it, or a cube of bread goes golden brown after 60 seconds.

Gently slide 3 or 4 into the hot oil (depending on the size of your pan) and keep the heat on medium to high so that they’re cooking very gently. Turn them frequently.

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Let them go as deep a golden brown as you dare before they take on a burnt colour. You want them deep golden, not brown. The longer you cook them, the crispier they will be.

Drain on kitchen paper and repeat with the rest of your uncooked samosa. Best served straight away, but you can heat them up in the oven if you leave them to cool.
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Authentic Mexican Nachos

Nachos are one of my all time favourite meals. Served with chilli, topped with lots of guacamole and cheese. On my recent trip to Mexico I tried ‘PROPER nachos’ – they’re not really nachos as they are more of a baked tortilla in a sauce (called Chilaquiles) but they are just so good! You can make this dish using flour tortilla wraps,corn tortilla wraps (homemade or shop bought if you’re short on time – flour tortilla recipe here) or if you’re even more short on time you can use shop bought tortilla chips but for best results, make it all yourself!

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You will need:

3-4 tortillas cut into 8 triangles per wrap

5 tomatoes

1 onion

1 small chilli

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tbsp oil

Cut the onion into quarters and prick the chilli with a knife. Put the onion, chilli, tomatoes and unpeeled garlic into a dry frying pan (no oil) and turn the heat up to high. The aim of this is to char the outside of the vegetables so move them around so they cook evenly. You won’t eat the skins so don’t worry if they look a bit black! Once cooked, leave to cool for 5 minutes.

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Tip all of the veg into a blender (skins and all). Whizz until combined. (1-2 minutes). Tip the contents into a sieve placed over a bowl so the bowl will catch all of the liquid. Push the contents of the sieve with the back of the spoon to try and push more liquid into the bowl.

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Put a small saucepan on a medium heat and add 1/2 tbsp oil. Once hot,, add the sauce from the bowl and a pinch of salt and simmer until thickened, stirring regularly. (around 15 minutes)

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If using tortilla wraps for your nachos instead of pre made tortilla chips, you will need to fry these now in plenty of oil until golden brown all over. Drain on kitchen paper.

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To assemble the nachos, place half of the tortilla chips into an oven safe ceramic dish. Spoon over a couple of tablespoons of the salsa from the pan andsprinkle with cheese (I use half mozzarella and half cheddar). Layer the rest of the tortillas on top and sprinkle with the salsa, (use sparingly here or the nachos can get quite soggy) soured cream and more cheese.

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Bake in the oven at 200C for 8-10 minutes until melted and browned. Add any other toppings such as guacamole, fried onions and peppers, spring onion, coriander, refried beans etc…the options are endless!
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Flour Tortillas

You will need:

280g strong white bread flour (or plain flour)

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, sunflower)

180ml water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the oil and stir. Add 3/4 of the water,stir, then squeeze the dough with your hands to form a rough ball. If the dough seems dry, add some more of the water (and more if you think it needs any) You need a pliable dough but not sticky. Knead for 2 minutes to combine. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel for a couple of minutes.

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Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and put a frying pan on a high heat to get nice and hot.

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Split your ball of dough into two, then split each of those pieces into 4, to make 8 pieces of dough. Roll one of the pieces into a ball shape in your hands, then put on your floured worktop and squash slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll your piece of dough out as thin as you can get without it tearing. You might need to sprinkle some more flour on the dough as you work if it starts to stick. Put your rolled out dough into the pan and turn the heat down to medium.

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Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles have formed all over the surface of the tortilla. Have a look underneath the tortilla to see if there is any colour appearing. When slightly browned, turn the tortilla over to cook the other side. Bigger air bubbles will start to appear. With a spatula, push down on the air bubbles gently to push them around. The idea is to get the whole tortilla to puff up!

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After 30-40 seconds check to see if the other side of the tortilla has browned. If one side has browned more than the other, you can flip them back over to cook the other side for another 30 seconds. Put the tortilla to rest on a piece of foil and cover to keep warm. If you’re tortilla didn’t puff up a lot, they may not be thin enough so you may need to roll the rest a little thinner. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

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Lentil and Spinach Pakora

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Pakora (aka Fritters) are a fantastic addition to any Indian meal or perfect to serve with drinks. As with all Pakora, they use only a few fresh ingredients, making them a great, cheap choice for parties.

Because they’re made with lentils, they are light and fluffy inside and crisp and golden on the outside. Filled with spinach, coriander, spring onions and chillies (if you ignore the fact they’re deep fried…) they’re a health food!

Spinach & Lentil Pakora – makes around 24

186g Moong dal (these are skinned, split mung beans and are available from supermarkets in the World Food section, or Indian stores)

100g pre-washed and dried, finely shredded spinach (I grab a handful and roll it up into a cigar, then finely slice my way along)

4 spring onions, washed, dried and finely sliced

Small handful of washed and dried coriander leaves, roughly chopped (you can use parsley or any other mild tasting herb, if you prefer)

2 green chillies (you can use more if you prefer, or leave them out completely)

1/8tsp (pinch) of baking powder

1/2 – 1 tsp salt

Soak the Moong dal for 4 hours in water.

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Drain, rinse and put into a food processor with 4fl oz water and whizz together until smooth, light and fluffy. This should take about 5-6 minutes in 1 minute bursts. Each time, scrape down the sides of the processor before whizzing for another minute.

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Mix in the other ingredients with 1/2tsp of the salt at this stage. Don’t be tempted to add any more spinach, coriander or spring onion than stated above in the recipe, if you overload the mixture the pakora will turn out to be heavy and chewy instead of light and fluffy. Taste and add more salt or chilli if it’s needed.

Fill a pan no more than half full of oil and heat to 190C, or set your deep fat fryer to 190C. You can tell when it’s ready by dropping some bread into the oil – it should turn golden brown in 10-15 seconds. Another way to find out is to put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil – little bubbles should appear around it.

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Gently slide small dessert spoons of mixture into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan because it will make the pakora soft instead of crisp. You may be able to get around 8 pakora at a time into the pan. They should have lots of smaller bubbles around them. The photo below is of the first four pakora going into the pan which means there are a lot of larger bubbles around them. Turn your heat down slightly so that the bubbles are smaller than this, otherwise the pakora will brown too quickly.

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Using a slotted spoon, turn the pakora over so that they cook on both sides and fry until golden brown. Lift out onto kitchen roll to drain. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

You can cook the pakora in advance and then reheat, covered at 180C for 10 minutes, although they won’t be as crispy as they are when served fresh from the pan.

A dip would be great with these, such as raita.

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