Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Learning to cook with mom – Part 4, a touch complex

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Bengal gram cakes cooked in a ginger-garlic curry

Dhokar dalna: This is my dad’s favorite dish and I can understand why. It is complex in flavor (more that a dozen ingredients albeit simple), is complicated to cook (2 part) and has a ton of fat (~3 Tbsp per serving). In this two part recipe, the first part is making the cakes and the second part is making the curry. The word “dhoka” means deception. This complex dish hides its deceptively simple ingredients.

To blend: Chana daal, frozen coconut, ginger, red chili powder, turmeric; To fry: Asafetida, Mustard Oil

To make the cakes, start with soaking chana daal (bengal gram). The following proportion will make sufficient cakes for two batches of curry and each batch will make 4 servings. Soak 1 cup of chana daal overnight. In a blender, add the soaked daal, 1 cup of grated fresh coconut (can be found frozen in Bay Area Indian stores), 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp of dry ginger (or 4 tsp of grated fresh ginger), 2 tsp of red chili powder, and a cup of fresh water. Blend until a smooth and fluffy batter is formed. In a kadai, take 6 Tbsp of mustard oil and let reach smoking point, reduce heat to medium low add 1 tsp of asafetida and within a few seconds add the batter. Mix and keep stirring. The batter will start to form a dough and then start to fry a little. You may need to scrape the pan a little to avoid the dough from sticking. Keep stirring until the dough is no longer sticky to touch. Switch off flame. Oil a 9 inch cake tin (you guess it right, with mustard oil), and flatten the dough in the pan. If you feel a touch of OCD coming on, use a square pan. Cool the dough in the tin overnight. This is a bit like cornmeal cakes or teff cakes. It will solidify on cooling and will be pretty dense.

You can keep the cakes in the fridge for a few days. When ready, cut half the cake into 1 inch squares. Now we will work in the curry. You can set the rest of the cake aside for another batch of curry. In an iron pan, add 4 Tbsp of mustard oil, let reach smoking point and reduce heat to medium low. Then fry the chana daal square on low until each side is reddish brown. Don’t skimp on the frying. In the meantime, grate a large onion, a 2 inch knob of ginger, 4-6 fat cloves of garlic, 1 large tomato and set aside. Peel and chop a medium potato into 1 inch cuboids. In a kadai, add 4 Tbsp of mustard oil and let reach smoking point, lower heat to medium low, tear in half and add 2 red chilis, 1 tsp of jeera seeds and let splutter until the seeds take on a darker hue. Add the potatoes and continue to fry until the potatoes take on a golden brown color. Take the potatoes out and set aside. Add the grated garlic and cook for 30 seconds, add the grated onions. Continue to cook until the mixture is fried. Add the grated ginger and tomatoes, add 1 tsp of turmeric powder, 1 tsp of salt and continue to cook until the mixture is caramelized and nicely fried. Add the potatoes and 6 cups of hot water. Add 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp jeera powder, 1/2 tsp of sugar. the fried chana daal squares and cook for 15-20 minutes until the curry is thickened. Note that the curry will be absorbed a little more by the cakes so you might want to err on the side of more curry at this stage. Check salt and adjust. Switch off heat. In a small pan, take 2 Tbsp of clarified butter, warm it and add 1 tsp of garam masala. Release the aroma in the gentle heat and then add to the curry. Add 4 Tbsp of chopped cilantro leaves to the curry.

I make the curry in two batches because I don’t like overcrowding my kadai. I find that it is harder to mix gently with overcrowding. While the cakes are reasonably sturdy, I don’t like accidental breakage. I also struggle to blend things when the total amount is too small (e.g., 1/2 cup). But it is perfectly reasonable to make half the cake and only one batch of curry. It may also be possible to freeze half the lentil batter or use in other application like crepes.

Written by Som

December 10, 2021 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Recipe

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