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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why "Home" and "Food" are Synonymous....Aloo Poori and Gobi Pakora

After months of writing pages, rewriting pages, adding more pages, throwing away the pages I just added, curling into a fetal ball under pages, I emerged with a 6th draft of my script, which I submitted to NYU Grad Film's first ever notable screenplay list. If I get picked, I've been told my script gets a bit more attention (press releases, word-of-mouth, etc.). If I don't get picked...well I suppose something else happens. 

At any rate, I realized I needed a break. So where do I go? The one place I can completely regress and hide: home. Where my mom and I promptly proceeded to spend my entire vacation in the kitchen. Our first project were these beauties.

Aloo poori is essential a fried bread, but with cooked potato mixed into the dough. Think of it as gnocchi dough made into a disc and deep fried. But better. We followed my grandmother's recipe. Which is to say, my mom tried to remember what her mom did with no recipe whatsoever. 

I honestly can't remember the last time I had these. Seven years? Maybe ten. The thing is, my mother and grandmother are/were (respectively) the best at cooking Indian food. I am horrendously biased, but so what. This is my blog and I don't run a democracy. 

The last time I had aloo poori must've been when my grandmother made it, and she probably was last physically able to cook almost seven years ago. Food can really smack you in the face with hundreds of memories. The smell of these puppies frying up brought me right back to eight-years-old and watching my this old, squat woman deftly pulling a batch of pooris out of the fryer onto a paper towel. She might've been the crankiest person I've ever met but damn did she know her way around a kitchen.

And since we couldn't stop with just ONE fried food around the house, we decided to make a batch of gobi pakora, or cauliflower fritters. Probably one of my favorite snacks of all time, which is why I try to stay away from them 99% of the year. But this day was kinda like dominos. I mean, we've already got all this deliciously fatty fried bread...

Thing is, you're going to look at the recipes below and think "wow, these dishes are really simple". And they are...with a bit of practice. There's not much in the batter for the poori, but I actually think a few additions might not be a bad idea. If you're a cumin or coriander junkie, you could sprinkle some of that into the dough no problem. Personally, I think some dried fenugreek (methi) would be killer. 

Oh, and open a window, these things are going to stink up your kitchen like nobody's business. Another reason I went crazy eating up all this fried food at home: there's no way I'm going to try and make this in my windowless Brooklyn kitchen.

Notice the crazy blackened stains on the sides of our fryer. That's decades of love, my friends.
And just cuz I had made it earlier and there was one last piece sitting around, here's St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Seriously, if you have a bit of time, make this cake. It's amazing for the soul (which means it's a cardiac arrest in a pan).

Now I admit I am quite a homebody, but I have to imagine that everyone has some feeling of relief when they step back into a place where they used to run around barefoot (and sometimes pants-less) with sticky fingers and crayons. Every now and then you need someone to ask what you want for dinner (which they will make with absolutely no help from you), or if you want to bake cookies for no particular reason.

Alright enough of that, back to reality. But before I go, can I have a snack for the plane ride?


Note: apparently I didn't get my mom's pakora recipe before heading back to NYC. Will find it for you guys soon! I'd say start with the poori first. They're my favorite.


4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 ¼ cup atta (whole wheat flour)
¾ cup all purpose flour
Salt and red pepper to taste
Ground cumin, coriander, dried fenugreek (optional)
Enough water to make a sticky dough (approx. 2/3 cup water)

Mix flours, salt, pepper and spices/herbs (if using). Cut in mashed potatoes. Slowly add water till dough comes together and is a bit sticky.

Take small balls of dough (about 2.5” in diameter) and flatten with a rolling pin into discs about a half inch thick.

Set a pot with enough vegetable oil for frying on medium high heat. When it reaches about 375 degrees (at least that’s what it looked like) begin cooking the poori one by one by carefully placing the dough disc into the oil. Cook on one side till golden brown then flip.

Dry pooris on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately or at room temperature

Note: Your cooking time will depend on what type of pan you use. If you’re going with metal, make sure to continuously check the cake, as it will bake faster than if in a glass pan.
ST. LOUIS GOOEY BUTTER CAKE (from Smitten Kitchen)

For the cake
3 tbsp milk at room temperature
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the topping

3 tbsp plus 1 tsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. I’d switch to a dough hook at this point and beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away slightly from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes. Dough will still be soft.

Press, stretch and nudge dough into a 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread into an even layer. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

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