Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wheat Berry Bhel



India has this whole culture of chaat that is hard to explain to anyone outside. After all, chaat's not a meal in itself. It's not even a tea time dish or an appetizer. It just is a category of food by itself - eaten by the roadside, or at local restaurants, eaten when mood or opportunity strikes rather than at lunch or dinner. Chaat varies considerably across the country. In most of North India, crispy fried stuff is laced with spicy tamarind chutney and loads of yogurt. Fried potatoes count as chaat in Delhi, doused with tangy spices. But in Bombay, it changes its form again. There are still fried flour puris and papdis, but everything gets a generous sprinkle of fried gramflour vermicelli called sev and yogurt only makes an appearance in some specific varieties, not everything.

One chaat that is native to Mumbai is the bhelpuri. It starts with puffed rice (the same as rice krispies) and then gets loaded with fried sev, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and all sorts of chutneys and masalas. One of the most delicious mish-mash dishes you can find anywhere I think. But bhelpuri disintegrates soon, the puffed rice getting soggy within minutes of making the dish so I have often wondered if you can make the bhel with a sturdier base. It turns out you can. My version, made with roasted wheatberries is more toothy than the regular bhel but no less delicious. It also packs in so much fibre and because I left out the fried sev, you can even count this one as health food.

A typical bhel recipe calls for two chutneys - the sweet tamarind chutney that you can buy in a bottle and a green chutney, typically made from cilantro, that I recommend you make fresh. Once you have the chutneys and some boiled potatoes, it's just a question of mixing everything up.

Ingredients
1 cup roasted, salted wheatberries
1 potato, boiled and chopped into small cubes
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp green chutney (see recipe here)
2 tbsp tamarind chutney (look for bottled date tamarind chutney)
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt, just in case

In a bowl, mix together wheatberries, potato, onion and half the coriander. Add chaat masala, cumin powder, chilli powder and 1 tbsp each of both chutneys. Taste and add more chutneys, spices or salt if you need it. Top with the reserved chopped coriander to serve.

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