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I wonder if I can take the liberty to say that Punjabi cuisine has certain gems that are loved by people not just across India but which has patrons across the world. To name a few dishes – Chhole, Chicken Tikka, Dal Makhani, Lassi, Butter Chicken, Sarson Saag w/ Makki ki Roti (Mustard Greens w/ Cornmeal Flatbread) are loved by many across cultures. When one thinks of Chhole, the picture that invariably comes to mind is a slightly sour semi dry rich & spicy chick pea curry served with poori (puffed deep fried bread made with unleavened dough) or bhature (puffed deep fried bread made with leavened dough).

Spicy and rich curries however, do not go down well with my family. When I use the word spicy on my blog to define certain recipes, I mean a mild to medium spiced curry since we do not like rich spicy curries like most other Indians do. Besides, my cooking mantra is that the core ingredients in any dish should be the star and its flavors should shine through the condiments and spices. Spices for me are just like an instrument, playing in the background, to accentuate the flavors of the star ingredient and not vice versa. It is common to see people using dry spice mixes such as chana masala powder, biryani masala powder, even garam masala powder in liberal amounts and sadly they kill the essence of the dish instead of enhancing its. All that one can taste is the over powering taste of the spice mix.

The recipe that I am sharing with you here has no oil, no rich masala or curry. This is the easiest Chhole recipe you will ever find. Since there is no oil, so it goes without saying that there is no sautéing or frying of onions, garlic or ginger which makes this a curry mild, easy on the tummy yet it does not compromise on taste one bit. It won’t be incorrect if I tell you that it is more like a stew. A Punjabi may cast a doubt upon this curry coz this one is made in the most unconventional manner in comparison to the usual Chhole recipe that one is bound to find around other blogs. But let me assure you one morsel of it and your taste buds will sing with joy.

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Since this curry happens to be such a healthy recipe, obviously serving it with a deep fried poori or bhature was an inconceivable thought. So the other significant companion of the Chhole was ushered in, which is the Kulcha (singular for Kulche). Kulcha is a flatbread like the Naan but the leavening agent used is either baking soda or baking powder instead of yeast which is used for making Naan. Here it is stuffed with onions and cooked on a skillet. You can use any stuffing of your choice such as boiled mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, cauliflower, etc along with the spices and other ingredients mentioned for the kulcha recipe here (scroll down).

For the Chick Pea Curry:

1 C (heaped) Chick Peas (dried)

2½ – 3 C Water (less if using pressure cooker & more if cooking the chickpeas in pot)

1 medium Onion (finely chopped)

1½ tsp Ginger paste

1½ tsp Garlic paste

1 large Tomato (roughly chopped)

¾ tsp Chili powder (adjust)

½ tsp Tea Granules

1 heaped tsp Coriander Powder

Salt to taste

½ tsp Garam Masala Powder (adjust according to the strength of the aroma of your garam masala)

¾ tsp roasted & ground Cumin Powder

¾ – 1 tsp Dried Mango Powder (adjust to taste) or Anardana (dried pomegranate powder)

Chopped Coriander to garnish

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Pick and wash the chick peas and soak them overnight in sufficient water. Drain the water and transfer the chick peas in a cooking pot or pressure cooker.

Add water and along with it, add all the ingredients except garam masala, cumin powder and dry  mango powder.

If cooking in a pot, let the water come to a boil and then reduce the heat and cover the pot. Let the chick peas cook till they are done. If cooking in a pressure cooker, cook till the chick peas are done (till two-three whistles escape). Then allow the pressure to escape on its own.

Add cumin powder, dry mango powder and garam masala. Stir the chick peas with a big spoon. Using the back of the spoon, squash the tomatoes against the inside of the pot. This will result in some of the chickpeas also getting smashed but that is okay. Cook further till the contents are well assimilated and the curry is no longer watery.  (The curry should be slightly thinner than the consistency you desire coz the chick peas will soak the liquid and the curry will grow thicker as it begins to cool)

(Serves 3 – 4)

Serve with Tawa Kulcha (Onion Stuffed Flatbread cooked on Skillet)

For the Flatbread:

2 C Maida (Flour) + extra for rolling

1½ tbsp Suji (Semolina)

½ tsp Baking Powder

¼ tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Salt (adjust to taste)

1 tbsp Ghee

2½ tbsp Yogurt

½ C Milk or as required (lukewarm)

Oil for shallow frying

Black Sesame Seeds or Nigella seeds , as required

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For Filling

2 medium sized Onions, finely chopped (adjust the amount as per need)

2 tsp chopped Green chillies

1 tsp finely chopped Garlic

1 tsp finely chopped Ginger

1 tbsp + 1tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped

1 tbsp Mint leaves, finely chopped

A generous pinch Ajwain (Carrom seeds)

1/2 tsp Red chili powder

Salt to taste

Mix the flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the ghee and yogurt to the flour mix and rub together the flour mix with fingers.

Using the milk, knead soft pliable dough. (Knead well for 5 – 6 minutes to achieve that)

Cover and keep aside the dough at a warm place for half an hour and then knock it down. Keep it covered again for rising for another half an hour – 45 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients for filling in a bowl except 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and make the balls using dry flour. Roll the balls into small disc shape and place 1 tablespoon of stuffing in the middle of the rolled ball. (Use more if you like) Bring together the edges of the disc and seal the edges by pinching the dough. (Check here how to do that) Stuff all the dough balls in the same manner and keep them aside on a greased plate.

Meanwhile place a griddle on medium heat. Using some flour, start rolling out the kulcha with a rolling pin to 6 inch diameter (approx) size. Moisten the rolled flatbread with a little water and sprinkle sesame seeds or nigella seeds and then some chopped coriander. With very gentle hands press it onto the flatbread.

Once the tawa is hot enough (not smoking), carefully transfer the kulcha, sprinkled side up, on it. In a few seconds the color of the kulcha will begin to change. Flip it over. Once the bottom side begins to change color and you see it beginning to rise slightly (bubble like), flip it over again and apply half teaspoon oil all over it (i.e. the side on which we sprinkled sesame/nigella and chopped coriander). Flip it and cook till it becomes golden or golden brown (whatever your preference). (You can apply oil on both sides but I avoid it) Remove from heat and serve hot with Chhole. Make more kulchas with the rest of the dough.

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Yield: 8 Kulche

Note: Add salt and other ingredients to the onions just before you begin to make the filling and roll the flatbreads. Else, the onions will release water.

Note: Feel free to apply some Ghee on the flatbreads before serving

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