Growing up, whenever we had guests, my mother would offer a plate of hot kachori or samosas along with a cup of masala chai, instead of the cookies or cheese and crackers my American friends' mothers would offer when I was a guest in their home. Similar to samosas, kachori are small fried balls filled with either a spicy pea mixture or a spiced lentil mixture. In our house we would make both, but the pea filled kachori was my all time favorite.
Like most kids, I wasn't crazy about peas, but there was something magical about the way my mother transformed the peas into a wonderful mixture infused with more spices than I could name. As a child I would always ask my mother to make "purses", my word for kachori,and pani puri on my birthday.
She would tell me repeatedly that I should pay attention to how she makes the dough as it wasn't something you could read in a book. Sometimes I would stand next to her and help make the purses and dream about the day I would make kachori for my own family.
Years later, when I would visit home during college and later graduate school, my mother would ask me what I wanted to eat and kachori always made it to the top of the list. Even after all those years, I would sit at the breakfast bar and watch her painstakingly prepare each kachori with a smile on her face.
8 oz frozen peas, rinsed
1 green chili or jalapeno, halved, seeded and deveined
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
pinch of hing
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 garam masala
2 tsp fresh lemon juice or 1/2 tsp dried mango powder
pinch of sugar
Combine jalapeno and peas in blender or food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
In a heavy bottomed, lidded saute pan, heat oil over moderate heat. Add mustard seeds, sesame seeds, and fennel seeds and saute until fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop. Add a pinch of hing. Reduce heat to low, add chopped peas and jalapeno mixture, cook for 1 minute, stirring. Cover and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and all spices except for garam masala, and lemon juice. Stir for 30 seconds. Taste and add a pinch of sugar and more lemon juice or salt if needed. Stir in garam masala and remove from heat. Let cool.
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup cold water, may not use all of it
Combine flour and salt and drizzle with oil. Gently mix together well using your fingers and add cold water a little at a time to moisten the dough. It should be soft but not sticky. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 15 minutes. Once the dough has rested, lightly knead it and divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Cover with a clean towel so it does not dry out.
Take one piece of the dough and roll it into a ball and press down to flatten. Roll into a small circle about 3" in diameter.
Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough. Bring the sides of the dough up towards the center above the filling, pinch the edges together so the dough forms a little purse. Pinch off the extra dough at the end and gently pat to evenly distribute filling. Set the kachori aside, cover with a clean towel to avoid drying out. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Heat about 1 1/2" oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil is ready, add a few kachoris to the oil, do not crowd, and fry about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Do not fry at a high temperature or they will be soggy instead of crispy. Repeat with remaining kachori.
Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve hot with cilantro garlic chutney and tamarind (brown) chutney.