On those summer evenings, while we laid our folding beds in the veranda to prepare for a 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 water 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 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 of besan with water, stopping every few minutes to drop the batter into a katori filled with water, if 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 time – 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 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, kadhi was made.It was a quick and easy dinner rescue.
Kadhi is basically a slightly sour, gluten-free yogurt based gravy which is thickened with chickpea flour. 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 soupy kadhi, if you like yours thick, just add extra 1-2 tbsp of besan.
For the Pakoras
For the Kadhi
Note :- 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. Garnish
Making the Pakoras
In a medium bowl, mix up besan, hing and 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 1/2 tbsp or so) of it into the fryer, either with a spoon or help of your fingers.Deep fry in small batches on medium heat till pakoras are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
Note :- You can make pakoras as big or small as you like. Just note that these expand a little once added to the warm broth. Chopped onions, par boiled potatoes or any kind of herbs can be added to the batter for extra flavor.
Making the Kadhi
In a bowl, combine besan, yogurt,turmeric & red chilli 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, fenugreek and coriander seeds along with hing & 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 the besan-yogurt mixture and mix thoroughly. Return to medium heat and let the kadhi come to a boil. Dont be tempted to rush this else kadhi will curdle. Once you see the kadhi starting to bubble, turn the heat to low, add the garam masala and let the kadhi 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 the kadhi on medium till you see bubbles on the sides of the pot. Add the pakoras and let simmer (not boil) for about 5-8 minutes.
In a small saucepan, warm up the ghee and add cumin seeds to it, when they splutter, take away from the heat and add sliced green chillies.
Top up the kadhi- pakora with this cumin ghee just before serving along side rotis (flatbread) or steamed basmati rice.