Punjabi Kadi and Pakoras

The Punjab is a hugely fertile part of India.   Outside the big cities of North West India, Punjabi families are typically engaged in landowning or farming.   This connection to the land influences what people eat, when and how.  

Punjabi food tends to be seasonal.   The style of cooking and depth of flavour varying according to the season.   Families which are part of the Indian disapora (like mine) have adapted food styles according to the climate they find themselves in and local produce.   This dish however transcends geography.

Kadi (pronounced Kard-Hi) is, well, a curry.   At it’s heart is yoghurt.   Now how can you cook yoghurt and prevent it from curdling?   That’s what I’m about to share with you.

Kadi - A curry made with yoghurt, vegetables and Pakoras
Kadi – A curry made with yoghurt, vegetables and Pakoras

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • A 500 g pot of Yoghurt (NOT Greek style set yoghurt)
  • 3 tbsp Gram flour (don’t substitute other flours)
  • Half a litre of water
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • A 1inch piece of fresh Ginger
  • Half a tsp of Salt
  • 3 tbsps Mustard Oil (avoid Olive Oil, it kills spices)
  • You can also add any additional vegetables you like, potatoes and red capsicum work well, as does cauliflower.   If you prefer, add a dressing of fried salted Okra at the very end.

Spices

  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • Half a tsp Fenugreek seed
  • 2 tsps of Nigella
  • 1 tbsp of Coriander seed
  • 1 tsp of Cumin seed
  • 2 fresh Green Chillies
  • 8 – 10 curry leaves
  • a pinch of Ajwain
  • a handful of fresh Coriander
  • 1 tsp of Turmeric

Method

This recipe will only address making the Kadi – Pakoras are a whole other ball game which I’ll explain another time.

In a blender, paste together the onion, ginger and garlic.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a pan, turning often.   As soon as your first coriander seed pops, whip the seeds out of the pan and into a mortar, using the pestle to grind down the toasted seeds into a fine powder (add a little salt to aid the grinding) – toasting these seed spices releases oils and adds a depth of flavour.   Set aside.

In the oil and on a high heat, add the rest of your seed spices (Mustard, Fenugreek, Curry Leaves and Nigella).   As the mustard seed starts to pop, whack in the onion, ginger and garlic paste, turn the heat down, mix and cover stirring occasionally to avoid burning.   After around 4 minutes, add the ground cumin and coriander.   You can also add any vegetables you choose at this stage.   If I’m using a red capsicum and potatoes I tend to add them at this stage and coat them in the spices.   You can par boil your potatoes before you add them, or as I do, add them raw but make sure they are cut small enough to cook reasonably quickly.

In a bowl, vigorously mix the yoghurt, gram flour and water with a balloon whisk.   Gram flour binds the two other constituents.   Once mixed, add this to the pan.   Make sure you stir the pan often as in the early stages the gram flour will sink to the bottom.   If you don’t keep stirring there is a danger that the dish might separate.   Yuk.

Now, add chopped green coriander stalks, the chillies sliced open lengthways, the turmeric, a pinch of Ajwain seed and any remaining salt.   Reserve the coriander leaves as a flavoursome garnish (with additional chopped green chilli and salt if you like).

Keep stirring.

As the mixture starts to bubble – keep stirring.   Cover the pan, set on a low heat.   Keep returning to the pot and stirring to ensure there is no separation.   Do this repeatedly.

I cannot stress this enough – keep stirring.

After about 20 minutes – and if you have been stirring assiduously – you should find that the Kadi coats the back of your wooden spoon readily.   Check that any additional vegetables you may have added are cooked through.   Taste for seasoning – if you’ve followed my suggestions it should be fine.

You can serve this dish in bowls with rice.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves (add chopped green chilli and salt to taste at this stage).

Eat and enjoy!