“We are having chole bhatura for dinner today,” declared Agastya, early this morning at breakfast. I had just dragged myself out of my warm bed, cranky because I had to be fasting before my annual physical and the accompanying blood test. The nurse could only fit me for a 9.30am appointment, which seemed hours away at 7am. My cup of tea sat in my white and blue patterned d mug twinkling at me in the morning light, sadly out of reach today.
Normally, I would have protested. “No fried food, and besides I don’t even know how to make bhature!” Our nanny Tashi looked at me – “What do you think, can we do it? Agastya has been asking for this.” I sighed. Well, I had practically the whole day, my cookbooks were out of storage, it was still early evening in India (mom would be awake) and if all else failed, Sanjeev Kapoor on YouTube. Plus Tashi knew how to roll dough – a skill that had eluded me. I weakened. “Well, okay….just this once.”
First, mom. She broke the recipe down for the fluffy deep fried bready bhature, step by step, precisely and in gram measurements. I was amazed: how did she remember? My mom grew up cooking, but that was fifty years ago. Since then, she has had a string of cooks. This time when she visited, I confronted her – “I’ve hardly seen you cook,” when she made yet again perfect, to-die-for stuffed pea parathas that dissolved in your mouth with the heady aroma of fennel and ghee, encased in a tender dough. She chuckled, “You don’t know how much I cooked when growing up,” and “it’s all a step-by-step process”. There’s something scientific yet terribly creative about her methods. My husband, thoroughly spoiled by one mom, and now another, remarked “Your mom’s food is always so perfectly balanced for flavor.” Now even the boys have learned to say it. “Mom your food, you know, lacks balance,” says ten-year old Vasisht in his cute lisp, every now and then.
From mom, on to Sanjeev Kapoor for additional data. Tashi and I stared at the screen and watched the one and a half minute video a few times over, telling ourselves that this was going to be straightforward. Kapoor’s instructions were a bit different than mom’s but Tashi, expert cook, assured me that a little here or a little there would make no difference.
In the end, we added more yogurt (as per mom), used Kapoor’s flour, oil, baking powder and sugar/salt proportions, skipped the pinch of soda (Kapoor) and set the dough aside for 3 hours (mom). The circles of dough puffed up as they touched the hot oil and emerged golden with a thin crisp layer on the outside, soft on the inside. I could see Tashi puffing up with pride.
At the table, we gobbled them up with an aromatic chickpea curry, with bites of raw onion, green chilli and a squeeze of lemon. Our dog Bruno waited patiently by our legs, waiting for the crumbs to drop. Around the table floated “My menus are the best, you should listen to me!” “Reminds me of my home growing up!” and the final word from my husband “Make this every week”!
Makes 16-20 medium size bhature
3.5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole milk yogurt
3/4 tsp baking powder, aluminum-free
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
A few pinches of salt
Enough water to make a pliable dough
Enough peanut oil to fry in
- Mix, and knead dough – put aside for 3 hours covered with a damp muslin cloth
- Knead the dough again until smooth and divide into 16-20 small balls. Roll out into circles with a little oil only (no flour)
- Fry in peanut oil over high heat until puffed up and golden (should take no more than several seconds)