If ever there was a region in India that is a classic example of adapting to its surroundings, frugal cooking and focussing largely on local produce with seasonally offerings of meats and vegetables; Rajasthan undoubtedly comes to mind. Not only do rajasthani folk cook with what’s available; but even in extreme weather the meals and dishes are traditionally cooked to last several days. See back in the day most homes didn’t always have the luxury of refrigerating food. So cooking dishes with flavours that help preserve food for days like Achari Chicken; cooked in pickling spices or even Theplas; an Indian bread that can be eaten without reheating were ideal for most families. Deciding on what to include in this repertoire can be a mean feat to achieve though with the array of dishes available in regional rajasthani cooking; it’s a classic example of why Indian vegetarian meals are a delectable addition to the food in country and are some of the most delicious meals I have eaten. I have family relatives and friends who hail from the Marwari community (Jodhpur region of Rajasthan) which over the years has given me an amazing insight into their lifestyle and cooking which encompasses wholesome, fresh and diverse food.
Getting together with family and friends over a meal is very much part of the culture. Thalis serves with variety of curries, raita, salads and pickles. Freshly cooked bread served out whilst the meal progresses and small portions of desserts served out to accompany the meal. The experience reeks of royalty & grace just like the people from region.
A very popular addition to this north indian menu is Gatta ki Sabji. Bite size gram flour dumplings simmered in a tangy yoghurt curry. Bengal gram is widely use in Indian cooking and flour made from it is used for bread, curries and to thicken sauces as well.
Eaten with traditional Indian bread or even plain steamed rice. It’s a hearty dish with the addition of dumplings but the lightly spiced yoghurt curry more than balances it out. I add fresh fenugreek leaves to the dumplings which lend a really delicious flavour. Cooking the dumplings in boiling water followed by frying them off gives a nice crispy edge. Simmering them gently in the bubbling curry only at the last minute. Though a lot of people tend to steam them and add them straight to the curry. With gram flour working like a thickening agent; the longer you leave the dumplings in the gravy the thicker the gravy becomes so if you make this dish a tad bit in advance its best to have a runny consistency for the yoghurt curry.
For the dumplings/ gattas;
150gms Besan or gram flour
1 ½ tbsp yoghurt
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika
Pinch of turmeric powder
Pinch of baking powder
Salt to taste
80gms fresh fenugreek leaves roughly chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Oil for deep frying the dumplings
For the curry;
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion ground down to a paste
3 heaped tbsp yoghurt
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp mango powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp roughly chopped coriander to garnish
Mix together the gram flour, yoghurt, chilli powder, turmeric, baking powder, salt, fenugreek leaves, grated ginger and 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil to form a sticky dough base. Heat up water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Oil your palms and divide the dough into 5 thin cylindrical portions not any wider than the width of your finger as they tend to expand once cooked.
Tip the ‘gattas’ (dumplings) gently in the boiling water a few at a time and cook them for 10mins. They will start to float once they are nearly done. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Don’t discard the water you can use the water to make the curry.
Cut the gattas into small pieces. Heat the oil for deep frying and fry the dumpling pieces in batches until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside while you make the curry.
Whisk the yoghurt with the coriander powder, chilli powder & turmeric powder and set aside. Heat oil in a heavy based sauce pan and add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Let them sizzle in the oil for 20 seconds or so. Now tip in the onion paste and fry on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Lower the heat and tip in the yoghurt mix stirring continuously making sure it doesn’t split for 2-3 mins. Now add the leftover dumpling water to the pan to form a runny gravy. Bring the curry to a simmer and add mango powder along with the gattas to soak in all the spiced goodness. Cook for 5 minutes on a low heat stirring half way through. Turn the heat off, season to taste and garnish with fresh coriander. Serve with fresh rotis or steamed basmati rice.
Note: Leave the gattas to soak in the curry for a few hours. If the gravy is quite thick add a little more water to get it to a lighter consistency.