Three vegan Indian dishes to try from chef Romy Gill's new cookbook, Zaika

Turmeric pancakes, jackfruit sabzi and poppy seed cakes: these are the flavour-filled vegan bites inspired by West Bengal.Friday, 20 December 2019

Posto boras (poppy seed cakes)

Posto boras is a white poppy seed dish that is cooked in Bengali households. Also known as poppy seed cakes, these small round bites can be served as a side dish with a main meal, but I love them as a snack.

Serves: 8-10
Takes: 50 minutes

For the pastry

100g white poppy seeds
4 green chillies, finely diced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger 
1 tsp cumin seeds 
6 tbsp mustard oil or rapeseed oil 
sliced shallots, to serve 
mint and coriander chutney, to serve

Method

Soak the poppy seeds in cold water for 30 mins. Drain, then tip into a blender and whizz to a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl with the chillies, onion, ginger, cumin seeds and 1 tsp salt. Mix well.

Add the oil to a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. While the oil is heating up, use the poppy seed mixture to form 8-10 golf ball-sized spheres, then flatten them out form discs with a thickness of 1cm. Once the oil is hot, cook the balls in batches, frying them for 4-5 mins per side until golden and crispy. 

Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Serve hot with the sliced shallots and mint and coriander chutney.

Read the interview with chef Romy Gill on her new cookbook, Zaika

Jackfruit sabzi 

Growing up in Bengal, we were fortunate to have a number of fruit trees — one of which was a kathal tree, from which we picked sweet jackfruit. My mum would use some for making sabzi and some for pickling, and she’d leave a few on the tree to ripen. Jackfruit is such an underrated fruit; when I first saw it tinned in the shops, it gave me so much joy. I bought it immediately, then called my mum to ask for this recipe so I could make it the same day. It’s a dry dish that’s great with a wrap, pitta bread or roti, or served as a side with rice and dhal. 

Serves: 4
Takes: 15 minutes 

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower oil 
1 tsp black mustard seeds 
6 curry leaves 
2 small onions, sliced 
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped 
½ tsp ground turmeric 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp garam masala 
1 tsp mango powder (available from Ocado) 
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder 
400g tin jackfruit chunks, drained

Method

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add the mustard seeds. Once they start to pop, add the curry leaves and onions and cook, stirring continuously, for 5-6 mins until the onions are golden brown.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and cook for a further 3 mins. Stir in the turmeric, coriander, garam masala, mango powder, chilli powder and 1 tsp salt and cook for 2 mins.

Tip in the jackfruit, stirring to ensure it’s fully coated in the sauce. Cook for a final 4-5 mins.

Gram flour turmeric pancakes 

These pancakes have a silky texture and are much enjoyed by my family and friends. I discovered this recipe while on my travels to Gujarat, but I’ve adapted it slightly by using coconut milk yoghurt and adding different spices to change the flavours. These pancakes are delicious served with some coconut milk yoghurt or your favourite chutney.

Serves: 8 -10 
Takes: 1 hour

For the pastry

150g gram flour 
½ tsp baking powder 
1 tsp nigella seeds 
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed 
1 tsp ground turmeric 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder 
1 handful fresh coriander, chopped 
150g coconut milk yoghurt, plus extra to serve 
sunflower oil, for frying 
chutney, to serve

Method

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add all the spices, the coriander and 1 tsp salt. Mix well. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the yoghurt with 100ml water, then pour in to the spiced flour mixture. Slowly add another 50ml water, stirring to blend. Leave to rest for 20 mins. 

Place a non-stick pancake pan or small frying pan over a medium heat. Brush evenly with oil, then pour in half a ladleful of the batter, immediately spreading with the back of the spoon to form a pancake. Cook for 2-3 mins, then brush a little more oil on top, flip and cook for another 2-3 mins. It’s done when the pancake is fluffy and cooked on both sides. 

Repeat with the remaining batter, then wrap the cooked pancakes in a muslin to keep them warm. Serve with a dollop of coconut milk yoghurt or chutney.

Zaika by Romy Gill is published by Orion. RRP £20.

Published in Issue 7 of National Geographic Traveller Food

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