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Gatte ke pulao - Sahara Desert version

Q. How do you know when you've completely morphed into a true full blooded Foodie?
A. When you look forward to making something from your native Indian cuisine as a special treat, and when you begin, you can't, just cannot refrain from reaching for those spices that normally have no connection with Indian food.

My traditional Friday evenings for the longest time, have involved making dinner from different cuisines and in the process, its been a great way to master some favorite classics from all over the world. Of late, its become pretty ingrained to whip up Thai curry rice or a Mediterranean Pasta with such ease that I've had to pause & think when it comes to traditional Indian  food . So when the other half suggested North Indian, I set out resolutely to make some traditional Rajasthani dishes. Determined to keep it authentic, I decided on making Gatte ke pulao (using a link from the late Jayashri Satish's blog Kailas Kitchen ) & a 'launji' from bell peppers.

My attempts at 'mise en place' (every thing measured & set in place) began with the chickpea flour...
and ended with it.  Dinner was technically Gatte ke pulao, a classic rice dish made with deep fried chickpea nuggets blended with rice & caramelized onions from the Thar desert. &  the spicing?? definitely arid origins, but from a continent away, from the Sahara Desert!

Gattas are steamed & fried nuggets made from spiced chickpea/garbanzo flour bound with sour yogurt. In the arid regions of the Thar desert, fresh vegetables are a rarity, and hence the regional cuisine relies a lot on dried beans & legumes as a valuable source of protein. These steamed nuggets can be dried & stored for long term use and revived simply by frying them in hot oil.

The spicing I chose for my version was  the Algerian spice blend Ras el Hanout, traditionally used to season cous cous. Combined with a Harissa spiced blend used to season the rice, the final dish is exquisitely delicious, and leaves you surprised at the difference in flavors while reveling in the familiarity of a comfort food.

Gatte ke Pulao, Sahara desert version (technique adapted from Tarla Dalal, via Kailas Kitchen)

You need:

2 cups Chickpea flour (Besan)
2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout spice blend
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2/3 cup greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 a lemon
A Large pot of  boiling water
3 cups olive or canola oil  for deep frying

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the  ingredients except the yogurt & thyme and combine well using a whisk. add the thyme mix to distribute evenly and add the yogurt and lemon juice. Fold in & knead to make a stiff dough. Divide into golf ball sized portions. using a smear of oil to grease your palms roll out each portion into a 'snake' about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the ropes of dough. Boil for about 10-12 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into small pieces as shown below.

Heat the oil in a  cast iron pan. When the oil is smoking hot, fry these nuggets in batches until golden brown. remove and place on paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Set aside. (you're forgiven if you succumb to popping a couple or more of these down the hatch. they're delicious!)

For the Rice

2 cups cooked Basmati Rice, fluffed to separate the grains
2 large onions
1 tablespoon cumin
4 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt to taste
1 table spoon Tomato paste
1 large knob of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Harissa spice blend
2 cloves garlic
2-3 shallots
2-3 sprigs finely chopped flat leaf Parsley for garnishing

Combine the ginger, garlic, shallots,  and the Harissa spice blend and blend to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

Cut the onions into half and then further into thin slices.

 In a  large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and add the onions. Fry until soft and almost caramelized. Set aside. Wash the skillet and return to the stove, adding the remaining oil.

When the oil begins 'shimmering', add the cumin, when the seeds sizzle & split, add the paste and fry on a low flame until the water evaporates. Add salt and the tomato paste and cook down until the paste loses its 'raw' smell (you may sprinkle some water to de-glaze if the pan gets too dry.). Add the caramelized onions along with the fried nuggets. Add the rice and fold to combine all the ingredients well.

Transfer to a serving dish and  garnish with chopped parsley.

Serve warm with a side of cucumber mint raita.

  Cucumber - Mint Raita.

 You need:

2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 cup shredded English cucumber (water squeezed out)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves.
1 small green chili, finely minced.
 Salt & pepper to taste.
1/4 teaspoon dried pomegranate powder.

Combine all the ingredients well. sprinkle with the pomegranate powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bon appetit

(Sharing this recipe with Girlichef and the well seasoned cook as part of the MLLA (My Legume Love Affair) event # 45.)


  1. Niv I am way tooooooooo tempted. what else I can say ? I love gatte ke subzi a lot and so this comes under my favorite too.. yumm :)

    1. Thanks Pavithra.. Had you been living around here, I'd be out delivering some of this to you!..

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. How can it be Panfusine if you had followed the traditional all the way?
    The spices are unique to the Western Mediterranean region and to have added them in a traditional north Indian dish and blend them so well....only you might think of that1 I am floored!

    1. I'm desperately in need of traditional food.. I just mosey over to flavors & tastes!

  4. very delicious pulav..I m very tempted to eat this now..:)

  5. Wow! This is a very cool process - I love those little nuggets. Thank you so much for sharing this delicious dish with MLLA this month :D

  6. Oh I am so loving this. Bookmarked and on my list:)

  7. what a fantastic recipe! i live in texas and have never seen anything like those chickpea nuggets- so very cool!

    1. Thanks Arielle Clementine.. I Love your Feast series on Food52. Its spectacular!

  8. Pulao looks soflavourful,,with the raita,,,

  9. Niv Mani, The dish looks lovely and gatte ka pulao is my fav, Wish even i could get access to so many diff spice blends. The Flavor must have been gr8 with the addition of harissa. I hav not tasted harissa or have spotted in here, but someday would love to try it at home.

  10. Marvelous…..

  11. I never had this before. Should definitely give it a try. The husband loves anything with chickpea flour in it :)

  12. Very new to me...looks extremely yum....


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