The kind of holiday I really like is the one where I am the only one on holiday and everybody else is busy. Kids are at school and very important – husband is working too and not from home. Others at home are away too. I am at home, I am alone and I am free. I can watch TV but I’ve lost touch. I don’t know what I’d like to watch. I can sleep but I am too excited to. I can read. Aha, What a pleasure! Which among all those “first chapter alone re-read several times to get back into context” books do I read now – “Sita’s Ramayana”, “Interpreation of Dreams”, “Hegemony or Survival”? Or should I write? Should I read or should I write?
I am not making the de facto lunch of the house. I am not making rice, sambar, varuval and poriyal for lunch. I am not making dosai for those who won’t eat rice. I am not making an extra poriyal for those who won’t eat kezhangu. I am not making omelettes to order during lunch hour. I am not making an extra portion of rice just to be on the safer side and then deal with the leftover rice. I am not cooking at all. I am making a bad-ass shortcut bhel puri.
I am going to lounge in my shorts, have some friends over – no mommy friends I need to behave with, where I need to be at my best. Note to me: There aren’t any such.
It’d have to be lazy-ass friends who’ve seen worse, who can be just as bad. +Sangeetha, +Lakshmisri Gopalan come to mind. We’d eat extra large portions of bhel puri for lunch, watch a dabba Tamil movie on K TV, talk and gossip uncensored, uncut and unthinking.
My shortcut bhel puri is truly shortcut. And you know how fond I am of shortcuts however long they may be. I had to visit 4 grocery stores this week to get all my ingredients in place, not that they’re difficult to find. But I just couldn’t find the one ingredient that I wanted in the store that I had gone to. Happens to me all the time.
I make a simple sweet and sour sauce with tamarind and jaggery and that is by far the only work in this recipe. I have to say this but I am not a fan of the traditional bhel puri that is served in chaat shops. It’s far too heavy, wet and sloppy. My shortcut bhel puri is light, crunchy and bursting with hot, sweet and sour flavours. The textures are fantastic – crunchy sev mingled with the slightly softened, but not soggy puffed rice, crispy mixture and the onions offering bite and sharpness. The shortcut Bhel puri is the only version I’ll be making ever.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking time: nil
Puffed rice/Pori – 500 gm
Sev/Oma podi – 250 gm
Savouries Mixture – 250 gm (easily available in sweet shops)
Onions -2 large chopped fine
Carrots – 3 grated
Coriander leaves chopped fine – 1 cup loosely packed
Kashmiri Red chilli powder – 3/4 tsp per serving
Sweet and sour sauce – 3 tbsp per serving (recipe below)
Ingredients – sweet and sour sauce
Tamarind – 1 small marble sized piece
Jaggery – 3-4 tbsp
Salt – ¼ tsp
Water – 2 cups
1. Prepare the sweet and sour sauce first. Soak tamarind in 1 cup water, squeeze and extract juice. You can run it in a mixer to help extract the juice faster. Discard the pulp. Add jaggery and salt to the tamarind juice and blend well. Again you can use the mixer to blend the tamarind juice and jaggery. It will be a watery sauce. Set aside. You can pre-make this sauce days ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
2. Bhel puri needs to be made then and there and eaten right away so that all ingredients are at the right texture. So prepare all the ingredients, transfer to convenient containers with spoons each and line them up before you start making bhel puri.
3. A long deep, not too wide stainless steel vessel with straight sides is ideal as you’ll need to mix up all the ingredients in a few quick, brisk stirs and you don’t want the ingredients spilling out. You’ll need a long handled karandi/spoon too.
4. For one serving, add in 2 cups of puffed rice into your mixing vessel/bowl, about ¼ cup of savoury mixture, 2 tablespoons of onions, 2 tablespoons of grated carrots, 3/4 tsp of Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1 tsp of chopped coriander leaves and 2-3 tbsp of the sweet and sour sauce. Use your karandi/spoon to give the bhel puri mixture a few brisk stirs to mix them all up. Pile the bhel puri mixture on to a plate. Sprinkle the top with 3-4 tablespoons of sev/oma podi. Serve immediately. You could add more of one thing and less of another. It is totally customizable and easily correctable. Make it as you wish.