Spinach And Nasturtium Kachori Chaat
 
 
When we first arrived in Kathmandu, it was a full-frontal assault on all the senses. At first it felt like going back in time in Northern India (at least how I imagined it). Fortunately, we were greeted by new friends who, despite only knowing me professionally (and online at that), were waiting in the arrivals hall to drive us into town. Biz and Parin helped us rent an apartment in Lazimpat, a residential suburb of Kathmandu, so we could immerse ourselves in local life and join in the fun of electricity bingo (usually meaning each area received only a handful of hours of electricity each day, although I’m sure our fancier apartment block got more than its fair share). We also had a roof garden, where we appeared to be the only residents wanting to spend time up there, along with the building’s resident dog, a Golden Labrador called Honey. The roof of any tall building in Kathmandu is one of the best ways to see the city and surrounding mountains on a clear day, but more often smog or clouds get in the way of this. On days like these, it’s easy to forget that this bustling city is surrounded by impressive Himalayan peaks. I grew very fond of our neighbourhood over the weeks. I would stop off for momos in a sidestreet café, pick up fresh samosas and kachori from the little local shops to take home, stock up on western treats in Blue Moon Grocery Store (along with local embassy staff) and admire the tiny allotments slotted in-between buildings, filled with cauliflower, beans and spinach. Nepal is primarily still a subsistence country, and even in the cities this remains important for many. But this comes into its own high in the mountains, where natural bounties of nettles or nasturtiums are made into delicious curries. Our Sherpa Pasang’s nettle curry, gathered from around Rimchi guesthouse on a former trek route in the Langtang valley (since devastated by the 2015 earthquake), was truly an outstanding food moment in Nepal. Kachori hail from Northern India, and are usually filled with a mixture of spiced black gram lentils or sometimes peas. I grow both spinach and nasturtiums in my garden, so this seems a fitting tribute to my Nepali friends and my Kathmandu kachori. You can eat them straight up (Kachori make a great portable snack), but I like to serve them chaat-style at home, with toppings, as it reminds me of Indian and Nepali festivities and celebrations. If there are sprinkles, it must be a party.
Glamorous Glutton:
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: North Indian
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 2 green chillies/chiles, finely chopped
  • 2 plump garlic cloves
  • 6.5-cm/2 ½ -inch thumb of ginger, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon ginger paste)
  • 400 g/14 oz. fresh spinach, lightly wilted, or frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
  • 200 g/7 oz. fresh nasturtium leaves or chard (or use extra spinach)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 generous teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon chilli/chili powder
  • 1–2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • pinch of asafoetida (hing, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (gram flour)
  • To make the pastry
  • 300 g/2. cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 175 ml/ ¾ cup warm water
  • To make the toppings
  • handful of sprouted beans or lentils (optional)
  • chutney of choice, such as coriander ‘green’ chutney
  • handful of thin sev (little fried gram sticks)
  • handful of fresh pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ red onion, finely sliced
  • pinch of chaat powder (optional)
  • drizzle of plain vegan yogurt
  • drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional)
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC (325ºF) Gas 3.
  2. Using a hand blender or a food processor, blitz the chillies/chiles, garlic and ginger to a paste. Set aside. In the same processor, blitz the spinach and nasturtium leaves.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a small frying pan/skillet and fry the mustard seeds until they start to splutter, then add the chilli/chile, ginger and garlic paste and fry for a few minutes. Add the spinach mixture along with the cinnamon, garam masala, turmeric, chilli/chili powder, salt and asafoetida, and simmer on a low-medium heat for 15–20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (gram flour). Mix well and set aside.
  4. To make the pastry, add the flour, salt and oil to a bowl and rub together with your fingers. Add the warm water so the dough comes together, and remains quite firm. Knead well for a few minutes.
  5. Pour a little oil into your hands and rub it all over the dough ball.
  6. Take a large pinch of the dough and roll it into a golf ball-sized ball. On a floured surface, roll out the ball into a 10-cm/4-inch circle. Place a spoonful of the filling in the middle, then bring up the edges over the filling to the centre and pinch to seal the top, removing any excess pastry if necessary. Using the palm of your hand, gently flatten the filled dough slightly to make a thick circular disc. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. (You can also roll them into ball shapes, but this is less effective for chaat-style serving.)
  7. The kachori can be fried, but I prefer to bake them for a slightly lighter snack. Using lightly oiled hands, coat the outside of the kachori a little with oil, or use an oil spray. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisped.
  8. To serve, lay the kachori onto a serving platter in a single layer, and using a knife, make a circular hole in the top of each one, about 2.5 cm/1 inch wide. Be sure to cut only the top layer of pastry. Next add some sprouted beans, if using, into the hole, along with a little blob or two of chutney.
  9. Then sprinkle the top of the pastries with strands of sev, pomegranate seeds, chopped red onion and chaat powder, if using. Drizzle with vegan yogurt and pomegranate molasses, if you like.
Recipe by Glamorous Glutton.com at https://www.glamorousglutton.com/cookbook-review-and-giveaway-my-vegan-travels-and-wine-lovers-kitchen/