Thursday, January 16, 2014

Luchi Cholar Dal Aloor Dum

Luchi Cholar Dal Aloor Dum 

Every region, culture which of course cannot be there without the cuisine has reasons for celebration be it the lazy Sundays, festivals etc etc. In Bengal a common celebratory combination is the puffed up deed fried breads with sweet pulse and a spicy dry gravy potato curry.

Now this is the most beloved meal and personally for me one cannot exist without the other. They are like the inseparable family. Of course there is the preference for a meaty curry with the puffed bread but the most easy and common items are the "aloor dum" and "cholar dal" . They are like a family.

So luchis might seem like puris served elsewhere in the country of India but it is in reality quite different. It takes a bit of skill to master the art of luchi making and it was last week that I finally perfected it and my joys knew no bounds. You see dont say this to everyone but not everyone can make luchis these days. You see they are either too crispy or too thick. A luchi's characteristic lies in its paper thin texture which is unbelievably soft at the same time. Of course what amazes me is how one food item can be amde in so many ways so you have the "phulko luchi" puffed up bread and the "kara luchi" the bread which is fried but not puffed up and is crispier , well "kara" means hard hence the name. Then I know people who like theirs "white" and people who love theirs reddish fried for a longer time at higher heat to produce  a warm tinge.

Now in my life I have only met one person who makes luchis the perfect way, my dear Mimi. She has carefully taught me the important factors such as the importance of "moyen" the ghee or oil used with the dough , the importance of properly making the dough , the control of temperature  yet my luchis were never good enough. They were thick or too crunchy and then came the day when I carefully gathered all the information in my mind and if I can make them anyone can. All you need is patience and hard work.

Now there are three golden rules

1. Measurement and Dough making

So start with the measurements
Lets say you are using 1 cup of all purpose flour then add 1 tbsp whole wheat flour to it, 1.5 tsp ghee and Half a cup of water to make the dough. Now feeding the dough this water is extremely important for the puffing up. Start when you are fresh, best time is after a nice nap. Work the water slowly and steadily into the flour to make the smoothest of dough. Take your time. It really helps. The dough must be super soft with a stretchy texture. Cover and leave for 1 hour with a wet muslin cloth.

2. Rolling

Now when you are making the balls to be rolled out with a rolling pin. Give the dough another round of pounding when ready to be rolled and then make a long cylinder and start taking out a bit of dough to be rolled in your hands to make a smooth ball and then roll out the ball in a nice round luchi. Now here is the thing about rolling, it takes practice is extremely crucial in deciding the fate of your luchi yet you cannot really give tips as to how one can roll it out. It cannot be too thin because then it becomes crispy and doesn't puff up, if one side is thicker than the rest even by a bit then only one side puffs up so practice practice practice. It took me 3 years to get it right

3. Temperature

Now for the temperature. Heat your oil but you see this is also a key factor in getting your luchi right. Too high a flame and it makes the luchi burnt out or well too crispy, too less a temperature and then it doesnt puff up and sits sadly in the oil. So throughout the process you need to keep adjusting the temperature.

I hope this helps you all. Now for the rest of the family members the cholar dal and aloor dum. Lets start with the pulse, now India is a land of pulses , the varieties will amaze you from watery to thick smooth delight from salty and spicy to mild and sweet. Now Bengalis especially the ones from the current state of Bengal from India the western half of erstwhile undivided India has a very delicate palate and the pulse has the beautiful aroma of ghee with the hint of spices and sweetness. What is most important is retaining the shape and size of the pulse when boiling it. It must not be a mushy lump.  While each family has a recipe of its own this is mine.

So here it is our cholar dal with raisins. You see we have two sweet pulse from Bengal the Mooger dal (Moong pulse) and Cholar Dal (Chana pulse) and both being special pulses we for some unknown reason add coconut to moong pulse and raisins to this one. Of course you might add both to both pulses but here is mine without coconut but yes adding coconut does make it delicious as well as I have tried as well.

What you need

1.5 cup of uncooked chana pulse
2 tbsp ghee
2 medium sized bay leaf
2 inch cinnamon
2 green cardamoms
2 dried red chili
Pinch of hing
2 tsp ginger cumin chili paste (I usually use 2 green chilies)
2 tsp cumin
Pinch of garam masala
3 tbsp tomato puree
Pinch of turmeric
Salt as per taste
3 tbsp sugar (Add more if you like it that way or reduce it to 2 tbsp if sweet pulse is not your bowl of pulse)
2 tbsp raisins
5 to 6 cups of water

Start by boiling the pulse with 4 cups of water and a bit of water. Since you need to make sure that the pulse retains the shape and size do not pressure cook but cook on open fire half covered. Check from time to time and when cooked start preparation your pulse.

Once your pulse is boiled start with the preparation of tempering. Heat the ghee and add the hing and then the cumin, when its spluttering add the dried chilies breaking them and then before anything burns add the ginger cumin chili paste and when its golden and the raw smell is no more there add the cinnamon and cardamom but after giving them a bit of pounding . Then add the bay leaves and finally the tomato puree and cook till the oil separates and then the pulse and the rest of the water and bring to a boil and add raisins salt , sugar and turmeric and simmer away stirring from time to time till you find a homogeneous mixture. It should be thick yet such that it can still move freely. Before you transfer this tot he serving pot add a pinch of garam masala.

Serve with luchi and do not forget the Aloor Dum

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