Chef Pallavi Nigam Sahay has spent seven years falling in love with Bhojpuri cuisine, and her culinary experiments have been documented in “The Bhojpuri Kitchen”, now available for purchase. As a young bride married into a family in Bihar, Pallavi was captivated by the vast array of dishes that came out of Bhojpuri kitchens.
Apart from popular delicacies like litti chokha, choora mattar, Bihari style mutton, fish and the unique parwal ki mithai, the book is also a wonderful introduction to the region’s festivals like Chhath. After all, festivals are the best excuse to binge on traditional treats in India.
Quick Five with Chef Pallavi:
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being easiest, how easy or difficult is it to cook Bhojpuri dishes?
Pallavi: I’d say 8.
How long did you take to source all the recipes and write the book?
Pallavi: I have been learning, collecting and trying recipes since the day I got married in 2011. However, the compilation for the book started in August 2016.
Is Bhojpuri your favourite cuisine? Do you think you'd have explored it to this extent if you hadn't married into a Bhojpuri family?
Pallavi: Absolutely, it’s my favourite cuisine.
Give us three reasons to try Bhojpuri cuisine.
Pallavi: a) It's a brilliant combination of flavours – it’s spicy, tangy and at the same time, well -balanced; b) It’s easy to make, with ingredients present in your cupboard and fridge all the time; c) The cuisine is very healthy- all the dishes if you will notice are a combination of fibre, protein and healthy carbohydrates. Also, there isn’t much usage of cream, ghee or makhni and all. So the dishes can be made on an everyday basis.
Please provide the recipe to one Bhojpuri dish we should try cooking on New Year's Eve.
Pallavi: New Year’s Eve has to be celebration food - I would say go for sattu ki kachori for a savoury option and for a sweet, try my favourite Thekua.
Recipe: Sattu ki kachori
Pallavi: Sattu in a Bhojpuri Kitchen is as readily available as coconut in a Malayali household. They are absolutely inseparable. No wonder that its abundance has given birth to many wonderful dishes. One such hot favourite of my family is Sattu ki Kachori. Once you start making it you can never see the end of it. All you will hear from the kids is “Ae Mami, e du go kachoriya se kya hoga. Giniye mat chhante jaiye”.
Prepared like pooris, the dough is stuffed with Sattu and then deep fried till golden brown. Sattu ki Kachori is the main feature of many festive meals and is also easy and light on stomach. If you prepare it as regularly as I do, you may also attempt to bake it in the oven.
For the dough:
Wheat flour 3cups
Ghee 2 tbsp.
Salt ½ tsp.
Water ½ cup
For the filling:
Garlic cloves, finely chopped 5-6 cloves
Ginger, finely chopped ½ inch piece
Green chillies, finely chopped 3-4
Coriander leaves, finely chopped 1 tbsp.
Ajwain or carom seeds 1 tsp.
Magraila or kalaunji or onion seeds 1 tsp.
Amchoor or dry mango powder 1 tsp.
Refined oil to deep fry.
Salt to taste
For the dough, first put the flour, ghee and salt in a bowl and mix with fingers, and then add little water at a time while kneading to make the dough.
Now to prepare a filling, put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix with fingers. Adjust the seasoning if required.
Now make balls out of the prepared dough, little bigger than the size of golf ball. Make a well at the centre and place the filling, then seal it properly, then roll in between two palms to make a smooth ball. Same way prepare all.
Now to roll out the kachori, dust the surface with little bit of flour, then with the help of a rolling pin, roll out the stuffed ball in shape of a disc.
Now heat the oil, to deep fry the kachori. While adding the kachori, initially the flame should be high, but then lower the flame and fry the kachori, 2 minutes each side or till golden brown.
Now in order to make the parathas till step 4 everything is same, just instead of deep frying we are going to cook it in a shallow or a flat pan. Heat a flat pan, add the prepared stuffed disc, cook for two minutes, then flip it, spread 1 tsp of oil all over the disc. Now flip it again, and spread 1 tsp of oil on this side of the disc again. Now again flip it and cook for two more minutes.
If you want to bake the kachoris. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes. Brush both sides of kachoris with oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, now put the tray inside the oven and bake the kachoris for 10-12 minutes, flip in between.
Pallavi: If I want to pamper my family so that in return I can get myself pampered, all I have to do is to go inside the kitchen and prepare some “Thekuas”. Sweet, crumbly, crispy “Thekua” is one of the most important parts of a Bhojpuri cuisine just like the legendary “litti- chokha”.
They are prepared in almost every festival or on special occasions, but in my house you can always find them lying in cookie jars. As they are made with whole wheat flour and no butter at all so I always prefer them with my morning tea over other cookies. Also, as a healthier option, you can also bake it sometimes rather than deep frying it.
Whole wheat flour 400g
Jaggery, broken into small pieces 250g
Grated coconut 150g
Green cardamom, coarsely grounded, 7-8
Fennel seeds 2tsp.
Oil to deep fry
Put water and jaggery pieces in a saucepan and bring it to boil, keep stirring so that jaggery gets totally dissolved.
Now in a big deep plate, add whole wheat flour, grated coconut, green cardamom powder and ghee, give it a good mix with hands.
Then knead it into a stiff dough with the help of jaggery water.
After the dough is ready divide it into small balls ( around the size of golf ball)
Now flatten them, if using Thekua mould, flatten it on top of the mould and press it gently so that it can get that impression, if not using the mould, flatten it with hands and then use fork to make impressions on it.
Now heat oil in a kadhai, to deep fry the Thekuas. Fry on low flame till brown.
Your Thekuas are ready, let them cool down a little before eating them.
Variation: To bake the Thekuas
Pre-Heat the oven at 180 degrees.
Arrange the raw “Thekuas” on a baking tray and brush little bit of oil, preferably sunflower oil, on both sides of it.
Then put them inside the oven to get baked for around 15- 20 minutes or till they are brown. Keep checking in between.
Excerpted with permission from “The Bhojpuri Kitchen”