osteo-veggie-blog

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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 Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
presoak and fermentation 2 d
Total Time 2 d 40 mins
Course any, Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Gujarati, Indian
Servings 6

Equipment

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

Ingredients
  

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)

Instructions
 

Batter

  • 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

Steaming

  • 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
Keyword cake, chickpeas, fermented, pro-biotic, pudding, pulses, snack, steamed, vegan