Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Fryer's Remorse--Channa Batura

It must be the cold that makes me want to eat something fried. And I am not the only one who craves samosas, fritters, bhajias and papad. All requests made in that order. All these crisp brown tidbits do wonders for the mind but sadly not much else. This weekend I make fried fish, pork spring rolls and ardently start on Korean fried chicken wings. But a vestige of sense slithers into my brain and I decide to bake the wings instead. A much better option.. Healthier too!! And the wings taste just like the fried version according to Rehan!  And as Saturday winds down I put away the frying pan that has too much activity this week. 

Sunday morning brings ominous clouds, portentous signs of that dreaded white nemesis that has plagued us this winter. Shauna is loathe to leave a day earlier than she planned to. Safety versus snow isn't much of choice. So she sadly packs her bags. We are all disappointed, cheated out of twenty four hours with her. I quickly plan lunch. I know she wants channa bhatura, especially after seeing Nikita tucking into a plateful. It's not like she can walk into an Indian restaurant and order some, with her strong nut allergies and the inevitable cross contamination she has experienced on several occasions.  So like a good mother I aim to please.

I comb cupboards for a can of garbanzo beans with no luck. I have to settle for dried chickpeas that take an inordinately long time in spite of the efficient pressure cooker. Though that too-long interval allows me to put the bhatura dough together. The kitchen sings with spice. Chilies, cumin and dried mango flavor the chickpeas, along with one not-so-common ingredient. Bhaturas demand the frying pan, so out it comes from it's hiding place. I roll and Shauna fries big puffy pooris. Lunch pleases her!

Serves 4


4 cups cooked Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 small Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2 tablespoon Tomato paste
1 Teabag
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon Amchoor (dried Mango powder)
1/2 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup Water or more if needed
1/2 Onion, sliced thin
Cilantro to garnish


3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Yogurt
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons melted Ghee
3 cups Canola oil for frying 
Flour for rolling pooris

To make the channa, start by chopping the onions into fine dice.

Heat canola oil in a saucepan.

Add onions to hot oil and stir till they are golden brown.

Add ginger and garlic pastes and sauté well.

Drop tomato paste into onion mixture and sauté to incorporate. Fry well for 3 to 4 minutes.

Open chickpea cans and rinse under cold water. 

Add chickpeas and teabag to onions.

Sprinkle chili powder, turmeric, Garam masala, amchoor, roasted cumin powder and salt. Stir well so the chickpeas get coated with masala.

Add water and let the beans come to a boil. Lower flame and let the beans simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove the teabag before you serve the channa.

Bhatura dough can be made in a food processor. Put flour, baking soda and powder and salt in the bowl of the processor. 

Whisk yogurt, water and sugar in a bowl.

Start the processor and add the liquid to flour, pulsing often till the dough comes together. 

Take dough out of bowl onto a floured surface. Knead till dough is smooth.

Alternately if you do not have a processor, place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add the liquid and gently gather the flour together into a cohesive dough. Knead till smooth.

Cover dough with a damp cloth.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Knead melted ghee into dough one teaspoon at a time.

The dough is ready to roll into pooris

Take a knob of dough the size of a walnut. 

Flatten the dough and roll into a 4 inch size poori. Use flour as needed.

Roll out pooris in batches of 10 if you are a solo performer.

Set the frying pan with canola oil on a medium high flame.

Drop a tiny piece of dough into hot oil. The dough should sizzle immediately. If it takes a while then give the oil a few more minutes to heat up.

Add bhatura to oil and carefully bathe with hot oil. The bhatura should puff up like a poori. Fry on one side for 2 minutes. Flip and fry on the other side for a minute more. It will not be brown like a poori but take on a light amber shade.

You should have 25 to 30 bhaturas.

Serve bhaturas, warm channa and the sliced onions together.


I did not have any chickpea cans so I used dried ones. Cooking dry ones means soaking them overnight before cooking them. Since I didn't have that luxury, I used a pressure cooker. A pinch of baking soda along with dried beans, water and a long 30 minute cooking time was adequate.

Chickpeas soak up water so if the channa dries up just go ahead and add more water and adjust seasonings.

Amchoor is a dried mango powder available at most ethnic grocery stores. A large squirt of lime juice could suffice instead.

After all my recriminations, the return of the fryer causes much happiness. The bland, chewy bhatura is a perfect foil for the spicy channa. Cilantro and onion makes the perfect garnish, herbal and crispy. The heap of bhaturas is quickly demolished. Shauna loads her car. And the most important part of her baggage are two big freezer bags of leftovers!!!! I have happily emptied the contents of the fridge into those bags!! Before sheets of white coat the road, she is far away again. And the fryer goes into seclusion again.