Khaman Dhokla

Khaman Dhokla

Famous Gujarati Savoury Chickpea Cake

I first tried this savory snack in Southall, west London, an area famous for it’s sumptouous Indian textiles (my excuse) and the best curries outside of India, possibly in the world (my real reason)

Dhokla is a savoury snack made from fermented chick pea or yellow-split pea batter steamed into a cake, then garnished with an aromatic oil of mustard seed, curry leaf, dried red chilli and hing

My dhokla was light and airy with lots of body, a marvellous lactic tang, and a rounded sweetness. And it was wonderfully moist, a sharp-sweet fruity sauce of dates and tamarind rounding it off to perfection.

No wonder, then, that when I subsequently visited India I looked for this – far and wide, as it happens: dhokla is not ubiquitous in northern India. And when I did find it – in Delhi – I was rather disappoined! It was almost too light and spongy, and also dry, with little or no sourness. It did come with a great coconut and green chilli chutney, though, hot enough to make my throat burn, my nose run and my eyes cry. Marvellous

I learnt two hings from this:

  1. Indian cuisine is highly regional and to enjoy the best food it’s best to stick to the local fair
  2. Dhokla can be made the instant way with chickpea flour and citric acid without having to wait for an overnight fermentation. The result, though tasty and, with a little effort, moist enough, to my mind simply illustrates the vital importance of making dhokla the proper way

Method Summary

You’ll find the step-by-step recipe below. Here’s a summary of the main points of the dish. The spices mentioned are the most commonly used, but you’ll find plenty of variation with just a bit of research, and you’re always free to try your own

  1. chickpeas are soaked overnight then ground to a smooth batter with a drizzle of oil and only just enough water to allow the process of liquidizing
  2. spices can be added: try a pinch of fenugreek (dried leaf or seed), another pinch of hing and a quarter teaspoon of turmeric. A scan teaspoon of sugar, honey or maple syrup encourages fermentation and adds a hint of sweetness
  3. the batter is allowed to ferment for 12-36 hours, depending on the ambient temperature
  4. adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda at the last minute definitely helps the batter to rise and be fluffy
  5. the batter is steamed for 15-25 minutes in a cake tin of your choice, covered with a tea towel to stop water dripping onto your cake
  6. once done splash on some water with your fingers while still hot – this prevents the dhokla from feeling claggy and sticking to the throat
  7. cut the dhokla into squares with a sharp, wetted knive
  8. a tarka (aromatic oil) is prepared by popping black mustard seeds in hot oil, along with half a teaspoon of whole cumin, a pinch of hing, a handful or curry leaves, fresh or dry, and a couple of dry red chillies or some red chilli powder to your taste
  9. the hot tarka is poured over the still hot dhokla
  10. enjoy dhokla warm or cold as a snack or starter with some coconut, date-tamarind or other sweet-cour chutneys: try pommegranite-molasses with agave nectar and grapefruit. Be inventive. Have fun!

Khaman dhokla

A steamed savoury fermented-chickpea cake from Gujarat, India
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
presoak and fermentation2 d
Total Time2 d 40 mins
Course: any, Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Gujarati, Indian
Keyword: cake, chickpeas, fermented, pro-biotic, pudding, pulses, snack, steamed, vegan
Servings: 6


  • a round or square cake tin
  • a steamer with a well fitting lid


Dhokla Batter

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 level tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (optional)

Tarka (aromatic oil)

  • 3-4 tbsp neutral oil with a high smoking point
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 pinch hing
  • 1 handful curry leaves (10 - 15)
  • 2 whole red chillies, roughly torn
  • ground chilli powder to taste (optional)



  • put all the batter ingredients in a liquidizer with just enough water to make a thick batter, the thicker the better
  • transfer to a covered non-metal bowl and leave in a warm place for 12-36 hours, depending on the time of year, to ferment
  • The fermented mixture should be quite fluffy and pleasantly sharp to taste


  • Prepare a steamer or put a trivet or saucer in a pan with water and bring to the boil
  • Oil a square or round cake tin
  • Add the bicarbonate of soda to the batter and stir lightly so you don;t lose the air (CO2)
  • Put the batter in the cake tin, place in the steamer and cover with a well fitting lid
  • Covering the pan with a teatowel will prevent water from dripping on your dhokla, but this is optional
  • steam on a low flame for about 20 minutes
  • Remove from the steamer and immediately splash on some water. This stops the dhokla from sticking in the throat

Make The Tarka

  • Heat the oil in a small pan
  • Add the chillies and allow to just darken. Follow with the mustard seeds until they begin to pop, then add the cumin and curry leaves, letting them sizzle for a few seconds. Finally add the hing and extra chilli powder to taste. Remove from the flame immediately
  • allow to cool and enjoy with a sweet chutney such as tamarind and date sauce, or coconut-green chilli and corander chutney
Easy Aubergine Pickle

Easy Aubergine Pickle

If you like your recipes quick and simple but tasting great here’s a variation of the previous recipe. Just for you

Simple Aubergine Pickle

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Cuisine: British, Indian
Keyword: aubergine, chutney, pickle


  • 1   good glug of oil
  • large  aubergine
  • large  onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • salt to taste


  • 1 tbsp garam masala ground
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
  • red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin whole or ground


  • slice the onions and chop the aubergine into fairly small pieces
  • heat some oil in a pan: if you're using whole cumin seed add this to the hot oil, let it sizzle for a few seconds (without burning) them add the onions
  • cook the onions for 5 minutes, then add the sliced garlic. Continue to cook gently for another 5 minutes
  • add the aubergines, tossing them to cover in oil. Sauté for a few minutes to slightly brown them
  • add the vinegar, sugar, powdered spices and salt plus enough water to cover; bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or longer until the liquid is absorbed, the aubergines are soft and you have a deep dark, shiny finish. You may need to add more water and stir the mixture during this time to stop it from sticking
  • cool and store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks
  • great with pappadams or cheese or as an alternative to ketchup. Enjoy

Sweet Aubergine Pickle

Sweet Aubergine Pickle

I’ve just finished my precious jar of brinjal pickle from London. Trouble is it was so packed full of sugar I only dared enjoy it very occasionally with a morsel of cheese. Now that I have to make my own I’m back in control. And to celebrate I turned to my equally precious stash of pappadams with absolute lashings of pickle!

There is no end of varieties of aubergine pickle recipes. Some use sugar, others not. Many Indian recipes use tamarind for sharpness, vinegar being alien to their cuisine bar in Goa, where the Portuguese introduced it in dishes. Curry leaves feature quite a bit, as does mustard. Onions always. Spices vary hugely

Based on availability of ingredients I’m going for the sweet, sticky variety using wet tamarind and vinegar with a sweetener. And here I have to tell you that sugar is an essential part of the pickle’s sticky, syrupy texture. There’s no getting round a big, generous spoonful (or four) of sugar: I used honey. The rest I made up for, quite happily, with ground stevia leaf. The amount of stevia I put in verged on scary. And it still wasn’t as sweet as the shop bought version. Good

For spice I wanted sweet warming spices like cinnamon, clove, black cardamom and black pepper. Garam masala (literally “warming spices”) fits the bill. This unctuous mix is most often added towards the end of cooking as a garnish of fresh perfume. Here it penetrates deep into the dish, rounding off the primary flavours. The sharp sweetness is further balanced with fenugreek for a hint of bitterness, salt adding the final flourish

Sweet Aubergine Pickle

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: British, Indian


  • 1 good glug of oil
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece ginger root
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1-2 generous tbsp raw brown sugar, honey, agave nectar or maple syrup double it if you're not using stevia
  • non-sugar sweetener such as stevia or xylitol to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • salt to taste

Whole spices

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)

Ground spices

  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder


  • Season the oil: heat some oil in a roomy pan and add in the whole spices, letting them pop and splutter for a few seconds. Finish with a pinch of hing
  • immediately add the finely sliced onion and sauté till soft, translucent and golden (about 10-15 minutes)
  • in a mortar and pestle make a paste with the green chilli, garlic and ginger and add to the softened onions and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • add the thinly cut aubergine, stirring well to coat with the spiced oil
  • sauté at medium heat for 5-10 minutes to partially brown the aubergine - add a little more oil if necessary to avoid sticking
  • now add the vinegar, tamarind, sugar / honey, stevia if you're using it, ground spices and some salt. Add water to cover, bring to the boil, then put on a lid and cook on medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until the aubergine is completely soft and the mixture gloopy and sticky
  • check for sticking or burning and add more water as needed
  • cool and store in a jar for up to 3 weeks in the fridge

Spiced Smoked Aubergine Curry – Begun Bharta

Spiced Smoked Aubergine Curry – Begun Bharta

The versatile aubergine or eggplant takes pride of place in our kitchen. And having shared one aubergine recipe this excellent vegetable surely deserves a bit more attention before we get side-tracked

Here large plump aubergines are roasted over a naked flame, sweated and scooped from the charred skin. The pulp is then seasoned with long-sautéed onions, garlic, chilli, coriander. a little turmeric and salt

Deeply smoky and creamy began bharta is great warm with flat-breads, a yoghurt cooler and a fresh crunchy salad. Eaten at room temperature it makes a delicious spread for a slice of good crusty bread

This recipe was given to us by our dear friends Shams and Alan on a visit to us in Spain a couple of years back. In fact cooking curry throughout was the condition for Shams even contemplating a visit.

Shams retired from her day job as head pharmacist for Redbridge trust in south-east England to devote herself to cooking.

She’s ubiquitous at festivals, weddings and other events She runs a private restaurant and cooking school where she teaches Pakistani and Indian cooking.

At the moment she and her husband Alan are doing takeaways – as well as distributing food to people in their Walthamstow community vulnerable to Covid-19. They were vegan when we last met just a few weeks ago. Are they still? Check them out at Sham’s kitchen

Smoked Began Bharti

A creamy flame smoked aubergine dish with onions, chilli and coriander. Simple but deep
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Cuisine: Indian, Pakistani
Keyword: aubergine, curry, spice, vegan


  • 3 large aubergines
  • 4 large onions
  • 3 cloves  garlic  minced or crushed
  • 2 tsp  ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp  ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp   red chilli powder
  • 1 bunch   fresh coriander  roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil I'm afraid I use extra virgin olive oil with everything - but you might prefer a more neutral tasting oil such as rapeseed / canola


Prepare the aubergines: You can do this in various ways

  • Place the aubergines directly over a gas flame - my personal wont
    smoked aubergines
  • Place over charcoal or a wood fire - for the best taste
  • Put into a very hot oven -
  • Turn the aubergines as necessary to get them evenly charred.
  • Place flame-roasted aubergines in a sandwich bag wrapped in a tea towel, letting them steam until cooked through. 45 minutes minutes is about right for me. The longer you leave them the smokier they'll taste. But be warned, they can taste too smoky and rather bitter if you leave them over-long
  • Simply rest oven-roasted aubergines until they are cool enough to handle
  • Peel away the skin, leaving bits of charred skin here and there and finely chop or mash the flesh with a fork. Set aside

Transform the onions: this stage is crucial to the flavour of the dish

  • While the aubergines are cooling gently sauté the onions in a a couple of tablespoons of any neutral-tasting oil. After 15 minutes add the garlic and a large pinch of salt. Continue cooking for further 10-15 minutes, splashing in a little water as necessary to stop them from burning. This step is crucial to the flavour of the dish. Don't lose patience. The final rich sweetness of the onions will blow your socks off. It really is worth it
    onions and spices for Indian food
  • You're on the home run: stir in the powdered spices and salt and sauté for a minute or two, stirring continuously
  • Add in the chopped aubergines, season with salt and warm through. Sprinkle on some chopped fresh coriander and serve
    smoked aubergine curry with roti and yoghurt raita

Brinjal Curry Recipes: Bengali 5 Spiced Aubergines

Brinjal Curry Recipes: Bengali 5 Spiced Aubergines

Love Aubergine 1: Brinjal Curry

Fruit and vegetables from the nightshade family are highly nutritious staple foods for many people around the globe

Nightshades include potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos and all members of the chili family, including bell peppers, which are simply chilies that have lost their heat (Spanish: morrón)

Perhaps because of their association with Mediterranean vegetables courgettes or zucchini are sometimes taken for nightshades, but take note: zucchini are not nightshades

Neither are sweet potatoes (ipomea batatas) which are related to the morning glories and not at all to the potato


Do Aubergines Provoke Inflammation?

Nightshades contain the compound solanine which some believe exacerbates inflammation and should be avoided if you suffer from any kind of inflammatory arthritis

While a lack of evidence is not evidence of lack, there is nonetheless no evidence that solanine or indeed any other component of nightshades increase inflammation

The US arthritis foundation certainly takes this view, recommending foods that positively reduce inflammation rather than avoiding those that likely don’t aggravate it in the first place

As always, you’ll want to go with your own experience

Essential Nutrients In Aubergines

Aubergines are an excellent source of vitamins B1 and B6 and potassium. The latter is essential for healthy cardiac function

Other minerals found in healthy quantities include copper, magnesium and manganese

Bengali Brinjal Curry

Complex and varied as they are two essential flavours stand out in Bengali dishes: mustard and the unique five-spice blend panch-phoran.

Whole or ground fennel, fenugreek, nigella, cumin and lovage (or sometimes black mustard) seeds are used at the beginning of cooking to season hot oil, in the middle for depth of flavour or towards the end for a fragrant top-note

This simple aubergine dish combines slow cooked onions, ginger and aubergines with five-spice, chili and turmeric

To illustrate a point five-spice is first used whole to season the oil, then ground along with the other spices

Don’t be tempted to cut short the onions’ cooking time. This step transforms the sugars for a magic alchemy which your nose will surely thank you for


Bengali Five-Spiced Aubergines

Aubergines, onions and ginger are slow cooked with whole and ground Bengali five-spice, turmeric and chilli.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Bengali, Indian
Keyword: aubergine, bangali, indian, spice


  • 2 large aubergines cubed. I like to peel mine with a carrot peeler
  • 2-3 medium onions sliced
  • 1 inch piece ginger root pounded to a paste
  • 4 fresh plum tomatoes liquidized quartered and unpeeled in a blender - or you can use a tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp whole panch phoran (Indian 5-spice)
  • 1 tsp ground panch phoran
  • 1/3 tsp ground turmeric root
  • red chilli powder to taste
  • salt to taste


  • Season the oil: add whole panch phora to oil just hot enough for the spices to sizzle and pop whithout burning
  • After a few seconds add the onions, coat them in the spiced oil and cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes
  • Add in the ginger paste and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Add a few drops of water every time the mixture looks dry or like it might burn
  • Add the cubed aubergines and toss for a couple of minutes, coating them with the spiced oil while you gently brown them - you may want to add a drop more oil
  • Add the puréed fresh or canned chopped tomatoes, ground panch-phora, chilli, turmeric and salt to taste
  • Bring to a boil then simmer, covered with a well-fitting lid, until the aubergines are tender but hold their shape (start checking after about 20 minutes). Add a little water as needed
  • Adjust the seasoning and garnish with chopped coriander or mint. Serve with your favourite flatbread and a lentil dish

Panch Phoran – Bengali Five-Spice

Panch Phoran – Bengali Five-Spice

An essential aroma in cooking from the Bengal in Northern India and Bangladesh this spice blend can be used whole or ground at different stages of cooking

Whole spices are used to season hot oil at the start of cooking. Whole or ground spices are added later to be either incorporated into the dish or to offer an aromatic top-note. Five spice also makes a fragrant rub for roasted vegetables (and meats too, I hear)

Panch Phoran

5 spices from India's Bengal
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: all
Cuisine: Bengali, Indian
Keyword: bengali, curry, indian, masala, spice-blends, spices


  • 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbsp lovage seeds (AKA wild celery seeds)
  • or black mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp nigella seeds (AKA black onion seeds)


  • Put the spices in a dry jar with a tight fitting lid and give them a good shake
  • That's it!