Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dahi Bhalay - Pakistani style Fried Lentil Cakes in Sweet Yogurt Sauce

Peak summer and Ramzan are a rather challenging, patience testing combination. But never even once it falters the resolve of a believer when it comes to fasting. For people who fast away from home and in non-Muslim countries, things are even tougher. The work hours don’t change meaning even when your energy levels are dwindling and eyes are droopy due to sleep deprivation one still needs to keep on marching. This also means that the expatriate families hardly have time to prepare the elaborate iftar we are accustomed to while living in Pakistan or any other Muslim country. 

I personally enjoy a fuss free iftar with a simple meal accompanied by a hydrating drink. But those who can’t settle for fuss free iftar, prepping ahead is a viable option. I am sharing the recipe for Dahi Bhallay (as we Punjabis call it). I prepare everything in advance and freeze them. The assembly takes very less time. I made these for Ammi and MIL on my last trip to Pakistan in April this year and both of them loved it.

Phase 1 : Make sweet Tamarind chutney
Wet Tamarind – 300 gms
Water - 3 cups
Sugar - ¾ cup
Salt – ½ tsp.
  1. Soak the tamarind overnight in 3 cups of water.
  2. Next morning mash the tamarind with hand and separate pulp and seeds. Strain the liquid.
  3. Boil the tamarind liquid with salt and sugar till it reduces to about a cup. Cool and refrigerate.

Phase 2 : Make the Spice mix
Whole Cumin – 1 tbsp
Whole Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Dried chilies – 4-5
Whole Black peppercorns – ½ tsp
Dry roast all the spices in a frying pan. Once cooled, grind it to make a powder. Store the spice mix in a sealed bag or container in the freezer for later use.

Phase 3 : Make Bhalay – Barray – Lentil Cakes
Maash Lentil – 1 ½ cup (Soaked overnight)
Baking powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 ½ tsp. adjust to taste
Freshly ground black peppercorns – 1 tsp
Oil – for deep frying the daal bhalay – Lentil Cakes. I prefer sunflower oil.
  1. Using a liquidizer, make a thick paste of the lentil with all the ingredients. I find it easier to divide the lentil in 2 or 3 portions and then grind. This yields a finer paste. Mix all the batches thoroughly.
  2. Heat the wok with 1-2 cups of sunflower oil. Once the oil is boiling hot, add heaped table spoon of batter each in the wok in a quick succession. Do not crowd the wok as this will suddenly cool down the oil and deflate the bhalas. Fry to a gentle golden color. Once crisp, take them out on a kitchen paper. Repeat the process till all bhallas – Lentil cakes are fried.
  3. I am using about a dozen bhallas for now. Soak the bhallas in boiling hot water for about 15 mins. Drain water, let them cool. Then press each ballah – Lentil cake between palms of your hands to squeeze the water out. Be careful not to break them. Put aside.
  4. The remainder can be frozen in a sealed container for later use.  

Phase 4 : Make the Yogurt sauce.
Yogurt: 2 cups
Sugar – 3-4 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Water: ½ cup
Homemade dahi bhalla spice mix – 1 tsp (adjust to taste if you need more)
Chaat Masala – 1 tsp (adjust to taste if you need more)
  1. Mix all the ingredients to make a thin yogurt mixture. Keep aside.

Dahi Bhalay Assembly
  1. You can assemble them in individual serving dishes or in a large casserole style dish.
  2. Cover the base of the dish with spiced sweet yogurt.
  3. Add a few dollops of Sweet Tamarind sauce.
  4. Place the (water soaked and squeezed) lentil cakes on top of it.
  5. Top the lentil cakes with the remaining of the spiced sweet yogurt.
  6. Put a few swirls of sweet tamarind sauce. 
  7. Add a dusting of chaat Masala and fresh mint or coriander.
  8. Let it sit for 10 mins before serving. Happy Fasting!