Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aaloo Chaat

If there was one person, other than my family, I miss terribly from India, that would be  my sis from another Mother, my childhood friend, Ayesha. We were eternally broke, and saved every meager penny from our pocket money for two things we were real crazy about... Alpenliebe caramels and Chaat. There was almost 5 years of age difference, between us but I was a little naive for my age and she was a little wiser and we got along just fine. We rode our bicycles early in the summer mornings to a nearby hill top to see the sun rise, we raced each other in monsoon rains, just for the addictive combination of speed and warm torrents of rain. And we have shared countless plates of chaat, the most favorite roadside snack.
And to this day, I miss her terribly and dedicate this recipe to all the endless talks and chaats we shared.

Aaloo Chaat:--serves 4
In case you want to make this recipe from scratch, you better make a meal of this because there are too many things to be done. But once preparations are done, the actual chaat can be put together in less than 5 minutes. Feel free to throw in pomegranate kernels, chopped drained tomatoes, raw mango pieces and also swap various channas (of course, soaked and boiled) with the potatoes.
I personally prefer everything homemade but making the puris and sev at home can be a greasy affair. The commercially fried, ready made puris and nylon save are more economical and time saving and if you buy the large packs and refrigerate then its actually a lot cheaper than making at home. And the chutneys, are something everyone has a personal recipe for. I have never seen two cooks share the same recipe. So I get a feeling a chutney changes from every individual to individual. Well, that's a different story altogether...maybe on a later day!
And all that is worth it, and so wholesome, believe me, you would want to make it as a meal too!

2 large or 4 medium potatoes----boiled, peeled and cubed into small pieces
1 cup of pigeon peas/ chhole---soaked overnight, and boiled under tender or if available one can of pigeon peas, rinsed
1/2 cup of finely chopped onions (mild ones)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 lemon
4 or 5 chopped green chillies
Puris/papdis  ----about 6-8 per person
Nylon sev--- 2 cups
chaat masala---2 tsp
Chutneys: Green chilly chutney, tamarind and date chutney, and garlic red chilli chutney (recipe follows at the bottom)

Method of preparation:
1. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the chopped onions and leave it for 10 minutes. This step is especially important if you live in cold climes and the onions you get are pungent. If you use mild or sweet onions, you can skip this step and use the onions directly in the chat.
2. In a medium size bowl, mix the cooked chhole and the cubed potatoes and sprinkle the chat powder over them and stir gently until seasoned well. Add a little salt if needed. Keep aside.
3. Take a slightly 8inch diameter plate or one of those plate-like soup bowls and layer 6-8 puris edges slightly touching each other. Now add a spoon of potato-pea mixture on each puri and gently flatten the top so that other toppings don't roll down.
4. The chutneys are the main part of any chat. They customize the chat for the individual. The green chutney or the green chilli chutney is what determines the amount of heat in the chat, whereas the tamarind chutney balances the sweet and tang. The red chilli garlic chutney or the topper is something that makes the chat smell wholesome and adds another layer of heat and flavor. Most vegetarian households skip this sauce.
So add the green and brown chutneys according to your personal tastes.
5. Now add a layer of onions, green chillies or any special ingredients that you want to add like pomegranate kernels or raw mango. Sprinkle a little pinch of salt if you use any of those.
6. Next comes a generous layer of nylon sev. A rule of thumb is to cover the previous layer evenly with the sev, when it comes to how much sev.
7. Top with garlic chutney and sprinkle some more onions, chillies and the chopped cilantro.
Use a good sturdy spoon and dig in! Enjoy!

1. Green chutney: Take 7-8 green chillies, one small bunch each of cilantro and mint, and clean them. Remove the stems from mint and cilantro. Take a 2 inch piece of ginger, skin it and slice it. Grind them all with a little water, salt and a spoon of sugar until smooth. If too thick, add water by the drops until its smooth.
2. Tamarind Date chutney. Soak a lemon sized ball of tamarind and 7-8 seeded dates. Meanwhile melt a lemon sized piece of jaggery in a tablespoon of water. Squeeze the tamarind pulp out. Now grind the pulp, the melted jaggery and the dates finely until smooth. Add salt, a tsp chat masala and 1/4 tsp pepper powder. If you want better shelf life, boil it and cool and refrigerate. Stays good for a month.
3. Garlic Red chilli chutney. In a tsp of oil, saute 4 garlic cloves. When they are tender, grind them with a tsp of red chilli powder and 2 tsp of white vinegar, until smooth.
All the above chutneys can be bought in Indian stores or can be made ahead and frozen except the green chutney. Green ingredients after a couple days, lose their aroma and taste stale, so its recommended that you make it fresh if you need that authentic taste.

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