Khandvi deconstructed.. Chickpea flour Spaghetti & Pappardelle Pasta
Khandvi may well be my all time favorite noshing 'tiffin' tea time snack & quite possibly because it can be pretty intimidating at first sight. a beautiful, almost impossible vision to behold, gossamer thin, jellied strips of chickpea flour & sour yogurt, tiny miniature savory Swiss rolls that delightfully wobble in your mouth before delicately disintegrating & gliding down your throat, making way for... the next little morsel!
Of all the states in the Indian Union, the state of Gujarat is probably in the forefront when it comes to the most delectable selection of amuse bouches & snacks, referred to in the native Gujarati language as Farsaan. The cuisine is predominantly vegetarian and the dishes are characterized by the addition of sugar or jaggery (unrefined cane sugar with the molasses). This results in a perfect blend of savory & sweet with just the right touch of heat from a tempering of green chilli.
Of the long list of Farsaans in Gujarati cuisine, I'd definitely place khandvi at the top of the difficult list. Its a labor of love & boy does one have to toil to master it! & what for?, it practically disappears before you have a chance to arrange these gorgeous rolls on a plate.
The traditional version is made by cooking down a thin mix of chickpea flour with tart 'past its prime' yogurt and seasoning. (the trick here is to ensure that its absolutely lump free & silky with a flow reminiscent of those ultra slick commercials for wall paint. In other words, its easier said than done). This slick mix is then poured onto a greased tray and swirled around to get a thin uniform coating. Upon cooling, the layer is carefully rolled and cut into inch long pieces. The dish is finished with a tempering of mustard, grated coconut & sesame and garnished with chopped cilantro.
I still wince at the memory of my first attempts to 'Panfusine' the dish over a year ago. It was in those days when I believed that agar could solve all problems (as an insurance against my lack of 'khandvi rolling' skills). Blended the chickpea, yogurt, salt seasoning and added some dissolved agar to the mix and spread it out. The sheet set well & even rolled up beautifully. I should have quit while I was ahead, but NO, the Ferran Adria wannabe in me decided to try & toss it into a pappardelle like pasta with the tempering. So in went the strips of khandvi over the tempering in the hot skillet. A minute later, all that was left was this viscous thick sludge. The ^&%&^ agar had dissolved again, obliterating all traces of form.. Lesson well learned. And NO, I did not succumb to trying to incorporate meat glue for version 2.0 ( It was too expensive).
Of all my Panfusine dishes, this is probably the one that has undergone the maximum testing. I knew that the concept would work fine while working on another dish the Gatte ke pulao. I tried using an extruder press to squeeze out the gatta dough into the water and it worked great, held its shape w/o disintegrating. (the spaghetti & the thin ribbons passed. The star shape flunked the test).
|My antique bell metal extruder presses with the plates|
Next was to determine exactly how much time the pasta needed to boil for.. the optimal time for the spaghetti was 10 minutes while the ribbons cooked a bit faster at 8 minutes.
I tried to add lemon juice to the boiling water to see if it helped to hold up the delicate shape better. It definitely did, but the pasta became tough & chewy ( the surface proteins precipitated in the acidic medium & toughened up, preventing the interior of the pasta from cooking well), so that was a no no.
So, here it is, a westernized version of the traditional khandvi.
( If it weren't such a lame & politically incorrect moniker, I'd happily have christened it the 'Sonia Gandhi' Pasta.. ( the Italian- Gujarati connection.. get it?? AARGH fuhgged aboud it!))
Chickpea spaghetti / Papardelle pasta.You need:
1 cup Chickpea flour (besan)
a pinch of Asafetida
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon chile powder (optional, if you prefer an extra spicy pasta)
Salt to taste ( under salt the dough, the pasta will be boiled in salted water)
1 tablespoon Sesame oil
4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 pints water for boiling the pasta
1 tablespoon oil & a generous teaspoon of sea salt.
Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the oil and one table spoon of the greek yogurt. Using a silicone spatula, mix the ingredients together, adding the remaining Greek yogurt in installments. Fold and combine until the flour turns into a thick sticky, tacky dough (Use your hands to mix at your own risk. There will be more dough sticking to your fingers than the bowl). Heat the water & bring to a boil, adding the salt & oil. In the meantime, prepare the dressing as described below.
For the seasoning.
2 tablespoons Sesame oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1-2 green birds eye chili (as per personal preference) OR
1/2 jalapeno de-seeded & finely minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 an orange (optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoon fresh grated coconut
Combine the lemon & optional orange juice in a small mixing bowl. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet. WHen it begins to shimmer, add the mustard seeds & allow to sputter. Add the sesame seeds followed by the minced green chile. Once the sesame seeds begin to pop & just barely turn color, remove from heat & allow to cool completely. Add the sesame, chile & mustard oil to the citrus & whisk into an emulsion. add the cilantro and set aside until the noodles get done.
Using an extruder press, press out the dough directly into the boiling water. The dough will first sink & then float. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and allow the pasta to cook. (8 minutes for the pappardelle ribbons, 10 minutes for the spaghetti).
Remove the noodles with a spider skimmer & gently shake off any excess water. Add the noodles to a large mixing bowl and drizzle the citrus sesame dressing. Toss gently to coat the noodles. Transfer to a plate and garnish with the shredded fresh coconut. Serve immediately.