On those summer evenings, while we laid our folding beds in the veranda to prepare for a Â sleepover under the starry sky, in the kitchen, potfuls of kadhi simmered on one of the stove tops, rice to go along with it on the other. After filling up the waterÂ koolers to the brink and in anticipation that maybe light (electricity) will come back later in the night, we waited for supper as the whole house smelled of Â daintily spiced, turmeric loaded yogurt broth.
Depending on who cooked it, it would be sweet & tangy, thick or thin, spiced up or muted. My grandmother always divided the kadhi pot into two and added loads of sugar to one. Like many things, she was particular about the pakoras done right. Standing beside the sandstone countertop, her cotton saree tucked to the waist,she rigorously fluffed up cups ofÂ besanÂ with water, stopping every few minutes to drop the batter into a katori filled with water, if Â the batter drop rose to the surface, it was ready to fry up in the pungent smelling, hot mustard oil else more toil was needed. The pakoras came out perfect each timeÂ - gooey in the centre but retaining their shape in the warm broth. In those times, there were no stand mixers, hand beaters or french whisks but she had an out of the world devotion Â to make delicious food for her family - fresh and filled with love.
Summers in northern parts of India are harsh, unlike the western parts, monsoon are mostly a cycle of few days of rain followed by dry spells for weeks. There were long power outages and at least once in a while the area transformers conked off, overworked. Kitchen was the last place anyone wanted to be in on such evenings. When nobody in the house was in a mood to cook,Â kadhiÂ was made.It was a quick and easy dinner rescue.
KadhiÂ is basically a slightly sour, gluten-free yogurt based gravy which is thickened with chickpea flour.Â Fritters (pakoras) can be added to the broth or cut up vegetables (okra, spinach, aubergines) or sometimes it can served as it is.
These days, with a fussy, demanding little one around, I make kadhi quite more than often. It is an immensely satisfying meal. I like mine brothy, loaded with lots of cumin flavored ghee but this is optional. You can skip the garnish part from the recipe. Using pure mustard oil gives kadhi an authentic flavor, however any kind of oil can be used.
Note :- This recipe yields a soupyÂ kadhi, if you like yours thick, just add extra 1-2 tablespoon ofÂ besan.
For theÂ PakorasÂ
For theÂ KadhiÂ
NoteÂ :-Â It is very important that the yogurt is sour when you make kadhi, else t will not taste good. You can leave the yogurt overnight at room temperature or inside the oven to let it sour.Â Garnish
Making theÂ Pakoras
In a medium bowl, mix upÂ besan,Â hingÂ andÂ turmeric powder.Slowly start adding water and with the help of a handheld beater or whisk, whip up to make a thick batter. Once properly whipped the batter will be fluffy and pale yellow. Add more or less water as needed to make a batter similar to how thick you would make for dipping hot dogs when making corn dogs.
Meanwhile, heat sufficient oil in a wok or deep fryer.When you see ripples on the oil surface,mix the salt with the batter and drop small portions (about ½ tablespoon or so) of it into the fryer, either with a spoon or help of your fingers.Deep fry in small batches on medium heat tillÂ pakorasÂ are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
NoteÂ :- You can makeÂ pakorasÂ as big or small as you like. Just note that these expand a little once added to the warm broth.Â Chopped onions, par boiled potatoes or any kind of herbs can be added to the batter for extra flavor.
Making theÂ Kadhi
In a bowl, combineÂ besan, yogurt,turmeric & red chilli Â powder, kasuri methi (if using) salt to taste and water to make a lump free smooth mix. Let stand.
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat mustard oil to smoking point.Remove from heat and let cool for around 1-2 minutes else spices will burn. Add cumin, ajwain, fenugreek and coriander seeds along withÂ hingÂ & whole red chillies. Return to stove top. When spices begin to splutter and you smell the aroma, add minced ginger. Let cook for 10-15 seconds.
Next,remove the pot from stove again and slowly add theÂ besan-yogurt mixture and mix thoroughly. Return to medium heat and let theÂ kadhiÂ come to a boil. Dont be tempted to rush this elseÂ kadhiÂ will curdle. Once you see theÂ kadhiÂ starting to bubble, turn the heat to low, add the garam masala and let theÂ kadhiÂ simmer for 10-15 minutes till it thickens and is rich yellow in color.Let sit till ready to serve.
When ready to serve, warm up theÂ kadhiÂ on medium tillÂ you see bubbles on the sides of the pot. Add theÂ pakorasÂ and let simmer (not boil) for about 5-8 minutes.
In a small saucepan, warm up theÂ gheeÂ and add cumin seeds to it, when they splutter, take away from the heat and add sliced green chillies.
Top up theÂ kadhi-Â pakoraÂ with this cuminÂ gheeÂ just before serving along sideÂ rotisÂ (flatbread) or steamed basmati rice.