Winters in Charlotte were not exactly bliss, not to me at least. It wasn’t cold enough to be covered with snow so that one could sneak out every now and then with a snow sledge. Neither was it cozy enough for you to be able to walk down the streets without freezing yourself into a popsicle. It was our first few months in the city, far from all our friends and of course the family. Only two things that kept us company were empty frozen roads and my cooking marathons. That’s exactly when nature decided to give us the happiest news any couple would ever hope for! The moment we heard we just looked at each other and cried. Him with joy and me, I am still not sure but I think it was a combination of fear and anxiety.
Fear of the unexpected and the anxiety to see it coming. Joy came in, but later, much later! After the alcohol aversions and me gaining a dog’s ability to smell. Ability to smell everything bad and even the smell of good felt bad. Then came mood swings and lethargy. Weeks and months passed of me being miserable and I realized this was the worst decision I had ever made. Cursed the ones who had made it before me, pitied the ones who were going to make it after me and potty mouthed the ones who talked me into it.
Then on a clear spring afternoon while Oprah was on TV and me on the phone talking to, god only remembers who, it happened. It was either a series of bubbles bursting in my belly or maybe she kicked. My feet went numb and words got stuck in the throat. Waited for a few minutes and then she kicked again. Right at that moment, with her miniature feet she kicked out all the fear, every bit of anxiety and told me its gonna be ok and SO worth it!
She only came in my arms a few months after that day but gave birth to a new me right at that moment. That’s when joy came in. It came later but was SO worth it! It has been more than three years since then and those miniature feet inside my belly have grown bigger, stronger, naughtier and has a personality of its own. And the scary part, that personality is a lot like mine and has turned me into a lot like my mother. I never would have imagined I would admit this but its true.
I have no idea why I am telling you this today out of the blue but these memories just stormed in today while I was making these Khasta Kachori and fingers just started typing these words. During my pregnancy food craving and happy eating days spicy Khasta Kachoris with hot cilantro chutney, a drizzle of tangy tamarind chutney, a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle of chopped raw onion were always in my mind. And trust me finding it in Charlotte where there was just one dingy Indian restaurant in a 10 mile radius, was not a cake walk but the husband proved to be very resourceful back in those days. So along with those most treasured memories also sharing a recipe for a Khasta Kachori.
I also wanted to tell you about this challenge that Andrew Wilder started in 2009 and which is gaing more and more fame every year. He named it October Unprocessed. As you might get the idea by the name, its a challenge where if you take part you pledge to go (or try to go) for the month of October without involving or atleast reducing the amount of processed food in your diet. I was determined to participate in the challenge last year but then I caved. This year I convinced myself that its not gonna be as tough as it seems and any attempt in the direction is a good attempt. So if you are eager to participate or learn more head over to Eating Rules and check out the details. More than 4700 people have taken the challenge this year and I am excited to be one of them.
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups Durum wheat flour (or mix whole wheat and all purpose flour in 1:1 ratio)
1/3 cup oil/or melted ghee
1 tablespoon salt
Water as needed
Oil for deep frying
For the filling:
2 cups boiled potatoes (roughly mashed)
1 cup frozen medley of green peas and carrots (thawed) You can also use fresh if you want. It will just ask for longer cooking time.
3/4 cup onions (chopped)
1 1/2 cups green chili pepper (minced)
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 1/2 teaspoon dried mango powder
1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
Salt to taste
I used one of the most common and traditionaly used filling here but you can use just about anything. Minced meat, any vegetable, cooked lentils or beans(with minimal water used to cook it) or even fruits of your choice.
For the dough:
Mix salt into the flour. Add oil into the flour and mix it all very well together. To mix the oil well into the flour, take flour in small portions in your hand and rub it between your palms. To make sure that the oil is mixed well, hold the flour in your fist, press tightly and open the fist, the flour should still hold itself. The process of adding oil/ghee into the flour helps making the pastry flaky.
Now add water into the flour, salt and oil mixture mixing it with hands carefully putting it all together into a dough. Trick to kneading perfect dough – always add water in small portions. Dough for pastry should be a little tougher. As a test, when you press your finger into it, you must have to apply a little pressure and it should not stick to your hand when you pull your finger out.
Work the dough for about 5 minutes and bring it together into a smooth ball. Wrap with a plastic wrap or damp cheese cloth. Set aside for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds. As they sputter add onion.
Saute for a couple minutes and then add all the dry spices, turmeric, coriander powder, mango powder along with minced chilli.
Stir it all together quickly and then add peas and carrots. Mix everything together. If using fresh peas and carrots then turn the heat to medium, sprinkle some water and cover and cook until the carrots are tender.
Add potatoes. Add salt to taste. Mix everything together scraping the sides and the bottom. Mix corinder powder into the mixture. Let it cool down.
Making of Khasta Kachori:
Divide the dough into balls about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough in each ball.
Set some oil aside to oil your hands before rolling the balls. Now roll the balls into 3-4 inch circles. You can either use the tips of your fingers and start by pinching and flattening around the edges leaving the center thicker than the edges or you can just use a lightly oiled rolling pin.
Fill the center of the flattened dough with the filling. Lift up all the edges and join them all together at one place. Press it down and flatten it between your palms making sure you do not leave any air pockets or cavity.
Follw the same steps for all the dough balls. Cover the ones ready to be fried with a damp cheese cloth so that it does not dry out before you finish filling and start frying.
When all the kachoris are filled. Deep dry them.
There are three important things to be kept in mind when making a flaky Khasta Kachori or samosa for that matter.
There should be just the right amount of oil mixed to the flour
Dough should not be loose or sticky &
The oil should neither be very cold or very hot.
I gave you the tips on the top two factors above. Now the last factor which probably is most important is how to check if the oil is hot enough and still not cold. To do that I start my heating the oil on medium heat then to check the right temperature I take a small ball of dough, almost the size of a small pea and drop it in the oil. If the dough first sinks to the bottom and then after a 3-5 seconds sizzles its way to the top then the oil is ready. If its just sinks to the bottom and doesn’t come up, its too cold heat up a little longer. If it sizzle right away then it is too hot, turn the heat down and let it cool down a little.
You can either hot kachoris with tomato ketchup, some chutney or traditionally as we do in India by breaking it into two parts and drizzling some tangy tamarind chutney, hot cilantro chutney, a dollop of spiced yogurt and some fresh salad of pickled onions or radish. Enjoy with some hot spiced tea!