Sitting on one side of the cold mosaic floor of the kitchen I shelled peas, the split green pods piled on the kulo – the winnowing tray. The pale yellow sweater had a hole on one arm, near my wrist, the yarn had started to come out from loops. The stem of the pods kept getting caught on it as I kept shelling, the steel bowl on my right slowly filling up with the tender peas. Old memories are like that frayed yellow sweater, hugging me with soothing warmth…
The fresh peas in the pods are a prologue to the story of an Indian winter.
How is it that after decades I still remember the wee details of these days? The entire scene spread out in front of me as if it just happened. The gunny bag from the bazaar holding the peas. The basket from which the little potatoes with peeling skin spilled out. They are going to be prepped soon too. The already flaking peels will be rubbed off and they would soon be simmering on the stove top to be served with the kochuris.
The peas in pods signalled the advent of the cold. Juicy and neatly lined pods were the ones that serenaded images of prelude to winter time.
One of the strongest food memories of my Indian winter is the Koraishuti r (or Motorshuti r) Kochuri…deep fried bread filled with spiced peas. One of the times where I really wanted to be involved in the process from the beginning to the end. The Kochuri was almost always accompanied by the Notun Aloo r Dum. Newly harvested potatoes were cooked slowly in a ginger heavy sauce. Or there was Cholar Dal. The leftover Kochuris (if there were leftovers! ) were as delightful as next day’s breakfast. This could be called a winter tradition in every Bengali home.
The distinct taste of the fresh peas is what I miss here, as I reluctantly pick up that bag of frozen peas. Every single time. The smell of winter. The air hung with the chill and sound of rustling leaves. The aroma of ginger and hing that clinged to the filling of the Kochuri, making the air sticky with warm spices.
I remember the way I stood beside my ma to scoop a teaspoon off the pan every few minutes to “try” it out if the “Pur” or the filling was done. O! how I loved watching the way the Kochuris bobbed in the hot oil, round and puffed ready to be scooped out and drained on towels in a few seconds. That was when I swiftly tapped the Kochuri to pucture the top layer and let the hot steam out… impatient to take a bite.
A memorable meal of winter would be Korashuti r Kochuri with Notun Aloo r Dum, ending with a chutney or the sticky dripping nolen gur, the sappy date palm jaggery, on the side!
Out of the blue one day I found fresh crisp peas. Memories surged like tides on a full moon night. Once I got back home, I had T help me shell them. She stuffed a lot in mouth in the process just like I used to do. All I could feel was this heart melting tenderness as I watched her. Her excitement in examining the orientation of the peas in every pod took me back a thousand miles away to those fulfilling winter nights.
We may move across continents, but the essence of home never leaves us. It never should leave us I suppose. We moved here almost devoid of any physical baggages, but what we carry with us is precious and inseparable. They are a part of us, driving and inspiring when we need it. All these memories are so intense a part of me that I would be quite lost without them. I would not be me!
The peas are pureed coarsely and cooked with spices until they are dry enough to clump. The cooking time will depend on how much water the pureed peas have, so the less water you use while blending, the better.
Dough is made with maida or all purpose flour. This gives the Kochuri the glistening whitish appearance with a tinge of green. I have used whole wheat as the all purpose flour tends to get too stretchy here.
The dough is divided, rolled out and filled. The filled balls are then flattened and carefully rolled out. They are are deep fried and served right away. These Kochuri (Kachori as it is also called in the northern regions of India) are not the ones with a crusty outer shell like the Khasta Kachori. This is more like a stuffed Poori.
With the big Indian religious festivities merging with the cooler weather, the Bengali homes start looking forward to the season and the food, this being a good part of the Bhoj or the feast. Make some and share some…Best (belated) wishes for a Subho Bijoya and Happy Diwali to all!!
Koraishuti-r Kochuri: Peas Stuffed Fried Bread
Ingredients: (makes 20-25 kachoris)
- oil to deep fry
- 24 oz shelled peas (or frozen)
- 2 inch piece of fresh young ginger
- 3-4 green hot chilli pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1 dry red chilli pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon oil or ghee
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
- a teaspoon of sugar (optional - not required if the peas are naturally sweet.It is more for the balance of taste than to make it sweet)
- salt to taste
For the Dough:
- approx. 3 cups (250 ml measurement) Maida (milled bleached and refined flour) or a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour (in an approx. proportion of 3:1) or whole wheat flour or Atta *
- 1.5 tablespoon ghee or oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- approx. 1 cup water
- (My mom using a couple of tablespoon of yogurt with the flour to make the dough softer. If you wish, you may try this.)
* Traditionally in Bengal, these Kachoris are made with Maida. The result is a whitish non elastic dough which are easy to roll and they are light once fried. However they can be made with the other options I have mentioned here without too much differences.
Combine peas, ginger green chilli pepper and a red chilli pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and coarsely grind with as little water as possible. The more water you use the longer it will take to cook and simmer it down. Other than that there will be no difference in taste or process with the extra water. With the pureed consistency as shown in the photo above, it took to about an hour to dry it out. So try to grind the peas with the least amount of water!
Heat ghee or oil in a pan. Add the hing/asafoetida, and the cumin seeds. When they sizzle add the pureed peas, salt and the cinnamon powder and sugar and partially cover it. With more water the mix will bubble and splatter so please be careful. Ocassionally stir it to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When it dries out a bit, uncover and cook at medium heat, until the mix has reached a paste like texture. It will be slightly sticky but not wet and not completely dry enough to crumble. Adjust salt and set aside to cool. It will dry out a little bit more when cooled.
To make the dough:
(traditionally maida is used, which makes the kachori light and also a of a pale whitish hue. In the States, the all purpose flour has a different texture and it is very stretchy once the dough is made. I usually avoid using all purpose flour as it is very hard to roll. Any of the above flour or the combination may be used. )
Combine salt and ghee or oil with the flour until the flour starts to have a slightly crumbly texture. Add water a little at a time to make a tight but soft dough. It should not be sticky. Divide the dough in about 20-25 parts.
Roll each dough into a ball and slightly flatten it. Roll it out a bit to form a small circle and place about a tablespoon of the peas filling in it. Hold up the ends of the rolled our dough and squeeze it to close, like a pleated purse. Slightly flatten it. Place the squeezed thicker side on the bottom and with a dusting of flour gently roll it out to 4-5 inches diameter, making sure there are no air pockets, tears and no filling spills out.
Don’t worry if it is not a perfect circle. The shape will not interfere with the taste. Repeat the same process for each of the balls you have made. But do this only a few at a time, or keep them covered to prevent the dough from drying out. I usually roll out five of them, deep fry them and start over again.
To fry them:
Heat plenty of oil in a kadhai/wok until very hot. To test if the oil is hot enough, pinch a small piece of dough and drop it in the oil. If the dough rises up to the surface right away the oil is ready to start frying the kochoris.
Put in a kochuri in the hot oil and immediately start flickering hot oil over the top of it with a spatula.
Gently press down on the kochuri with the back of the spatula, and you will see it start to puff up. (If the kochuri turns dark in less than 30 seconds, the oil is too hot. Reduce the heat of the stove. ) Gently press down with the spatula, without resisting the puff and wait till it puffs completely, it should take only few seconds.
Flip the kochuri over and cook the other side until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. They will deflate gradually, but the top layer is going to be paper thin.
Serve hot. Dum Aloo makes perfect accompaniment to this!
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time: one hour
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Serves/Makes: 20-25 Kachoris