Friday, October 28, 2011

Khasta Kachori: and our Diwali memoirs!

The other day, a friend and I got talking about traditions - especially surrounding our festival season. We reminised about all the preperations that went into Diwali celebrations back home; and then about all the short cuts we take trying to celebrate this huge day after work; in the US.  Kind of sad, but true.

I loved Diwali back home. I can still relate to the excitement that preceeded the days between Dussehra and Diwali. School life came to a virtual standstill; as we were too excited to be learning anything. So instead, we had a week of talent shows, fancy dress competitions, traditional wear days, and arts day where we created numerous rangolis, kandils (paper lanterns) and diyas for our home. Mom got busy with superloads of laundry that included everything from drapes to bed covers. She was a good
seamstress; and for many years, she spent hours in the weeks preceeding Diwali creating a lovely dress for me to wear on D-day. I was her super helper selecting all our Puja needs- kheel (sweet, beaten puffed rice), batashe, khilone (crystal sugar shaped into flowers and animals), the fruits and flowers, new torans for the entrance and garlands for my grandparents' pictures.  And dad's job was to stock up: decorations, patakhas, sweets and fruits for the Puja plus haggling with our neighborhood's lone kumhar for the hatari, diyas and karwas. I particularly loved soaking the clay diyas in water and then drying them off a couple hours before sunset; and watching my mom cook an elaborate Diwali dinner. 

Baby P mixed up all the colors to get this gray Rangoli on the left.
And Anya's colorful flower Rangoli on the right. 

Now, I rush back home after work and just about manage to cook a somewhat-special Diwali meal. We light a few candles and tealights, rush through the Puja because it's way past the girls' bedtime and by then, I've started to fret about getting them out of bed in the morning. When I talk about torans and mogras, my girls look at me like I come from another planet. The most I can get them excited during Diwali is about dressing up in Indian clothes. So this time, when my MIL decided to stay with us for the festival, I had a huge big list of things I wanted her to expose the girls to. We did the Rangoli, and kandils, hung up those shiny garland decorations that I remembered from my childhood and tried to make dinner more special than the one I cook for them every year: a dinner with Khasta kachoris and aloo-tamatar-ki sabzi amongst other things!!

Khasta Kachori

Lentils, snacks, appetizers

For the filling:
Split, Urad dal 3/4 cup
Salt 1Tbsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 Tbsp
Dhania/coriander powder 1tsp
Amchoor/ dried mango powder 1/2tsp
Poasted Jeera/ cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Hing/ asafoetidia a pinch
Oil 1- 2 tsp

For the dough cover:
AP flour 1 and 1/2 cups
Sooji/ Semolina 1/3 cup
Oil 3/4 cup
Salt 1 tsp
Warm Water to knead a few Tbsp, as required.

Oil for deep frying
  1. Soak the urad dal for 6hrs. or more (I do overnight), and grind it up into a coarse paste with minimum amount of water.
  2. Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed pan and then add a pinch of hing to it.
  3. When the hing gives out its aroma, add the dal paste and all the spices. Stir continuously for it tends to stick to the bottom. Roast the dal paste till it starts leaving the sides. Turn off heat and allow the filling to cool enough to handle.
  4. Mix the AP flour and semolina together. Add salt. Then incorporate all the oil till the flour resembles wet sand. Now start adding the water, 1Tbsp at a time till it all comes together into a soft pliable dough. Cover with a wet paper towel and allow to rest for at least 30 min.
  5. When the dough is ready, and the filling has cooled down, start making the kachoris. Knead the dough a few more times before you begin.
  6. Tear off a ping pong ball sized piece of dough, and roll it into a circle between your palms. With a rolling pin, roll out a circle approximates 4inches in diameter.
  7. Finally time for fireworks!!
  8. Place about 3/4Tbsp of the filling in the middle (I eyeball it, whatever fits in your circle of dough comfortably), then bring up all the sides together and pinch them in the middle.
  9. Flatten the circle again (I just use my palms for flattening it; my MIL used her rolling pin and rolled the entire thing again into about a 3 inch circle). Repeat till your dough/ filling runs out.
  10. Fry all the Khastas on medium-high heat till golden brown. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers for upto 2 weeks.
My two cents: For me, this Diwali was a success. I got most of what I wanted- including friends to share this all with. The reaction from my girls....that's a different story. The biggest question for them was; 'why are we doing all this when the neighbors aren't?' But I bribed them into making rangolis with their grandma with a promise to carve their pumpkins as a reward!! And little P kept wondering why we were 'putting fire' in every room of the house.....

These Khasta Kachoris come out really well. This was my third time making them. I usually make a few, and we eat them as tea-time snacks. But this time, with my MIL's help; I had a relatively larger batch. Aloo-kachori is a popular street-food in Old Delhi, and I have fond memories of eating this when I was my kids' age. I relived those memories. Given a choice between kachoris, and moong-dal halwa, my daughters opted for the later (obviously), although the adults all liked kachoris. Given that they're both time-consuming, once-a year dishes for me, I'm not going to complain. All in all, a very satisfying Diwali....meal.
Linked to:
Dish Name starts with a K on Akila's blog