Published October 28, 2018

Gram or chickpea flour, more popularly known as besan, is a highly nutritious food with lots of health benefits. Owing to its high protein content it can easily be consumed to meet your protein needs on days when you don’t feel like eating meat. Being a versatile item, the gluten-free besan has found a permanent place in our kitchens. Besan has fewer calories than wholewheat flour so it not only supplies you with a truckload of health benefits but also helps you lose weight along the way.

What could be better than a plate of steaming, creamy karrhi on fluffy rice for a vegetarian summer lunch? The most delicious karrhi I have ever eaten inspired me to share the recipe. This version was made by Sadaf from Sahiwal, according to her grandmother’s recipe. It is made with pure desi ghee, while lemon juice and tomatoes are added for the extra tangy kick. Instead of baking soda, yoghurt is added to the pakoras to make them soft.

Another favourite meat-free item made from gram flour is besan ki roti. This spicy roti, smeared with ghee, is delicious eaten on its own or served with raita, chutney or greens, such as spinach or mustard leaves. Dhokla — a light and healthy tea-time spongy and savoury cake made by steaming a thick batter of besan — makes a great weight-loss snack. It not only tastes delicious, the bright yellow squares, with a colourful tempering of  dark mustard seeds and green curry leaves, and a sprinkling of red chilli powder also looks beautiful.  

Chickpea flour or besan can be used to make a variety of dishes that are healthy and delicious



For the curry base
½ onion
2 tomatoes
6 Kashmiri green chillies
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
 For the gravy
½ kg yoghurt
4 cups gram flour
½ litre water
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon curry powder (roasted and ground coriander seeds, cumin and cinnamon stick)
3 curry leaves
Salt to taste
For the pakorras
1 onion
1 potato
2 Kashmiri green chillies
2 teaspoons yoghurt
1 teaspoon whole cumin
Salt to taste
Gram flour to make a thick paste
(Set this paste aside for half an hour before frying the pakorras.)
 For tempering
6 whole red chillies
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 stalk of curry leaves

For the curry base, cut the onions, tomatoes and green chillies in cubes and lightly brown them in ghee. (Be sure to use only half an onion, it’s enough to thicken the gravy. Any more will make the karrhi too sweet. Add ginger-garlic paste to this and stir fry till it becomes aromatic. Set aside.

 These four ingredients are the key to the delicious gravy: the onion gives it a rich texture, the tomatoes make it tangy, the chillies add spice, and the ginger-garlic makes it aromatic.   

 To prepare the gravy, blend all ingredients, except the curry leaves, till smooth. Pour this mixture into the curry base, and set to boil. When it starts bubbling, crush the curry leaves and add them to the gravy. If you want a more tangy gravy, add tamarind or lemon juice at this stage.

 After the first boil, add two litres of water to the pot and slow cook the mixture for an hour like a broth till it reduces to half and the ghee separates and comes up. This slow cooking emulsifies the ingredients of the gravy. “If the salt ratio in the karrhi is just right, it will never boil over,” Sadaf shares another tip.

 While the gravy is cooking, fry the pakorras. Chop the onion, potato and green chillies. Add the yoghurt, cumin and salt. Fold these into a thick paste of gram flour. Ladle out tablespoonful-size fritters of this paste into heated oil and deep fry till golden brown on both sides. When the gravy has cooked completely, add the pakorras to the karrhi. 

Fry the bhagaar ingredients in ghee to temper the karrhi, then sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and curry powder for garnish and fragrance.

Enjoy the karrhi with rice, chapatti, naan or dig into it with a spoon. Add kachumar, fried green chillies, achaar and paparr for added taste and effects.



½ kg flour
½ kg gram flour
4 tablespoon crushed anardana  
2 teaspoon achaar masala powder
2 teaspoon crushed whole red chilli   2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed kalonji seeds
1 teaspoon crushed ajwain  
2 chopped onions
8 finely sliced green chillies
1 bunch chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste


Place all ingredients together in a kneading bowl; knead the flour to a doughy texture and set aside in the refrigerator for half an hour before making the roti. Keep the roti slightly smaller and thicker in size than regular chapatti. After the roti has been cooked, smear a small knob of desi ghee on each side and cook for half a minute till the ghee covers the surface completely. Serve piping hot.   DHOKLA


For the batter
1 cup sieved gram flour
1/2 cup whisked yoghurt
1/3 cup semolina
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ginger-green chilli paste
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Eno or baking soda to help the batter ferment faster
Salt to taste
For the tempering
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
2 green chillies
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 dried whole red chilli

In a mixing bowl, add gram flour, semolina, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Add yoghurt and some water and whisk it to make a medium-thick smooth batter.

Set aside to ferment for three to four hours.

 When the mixture has fermented, add the oil, lemon juice and green chilli-ginger paste to it. Mix all the ingredients and let the batter rest for another 10 minutes.

Add some water to the Eno so that it becomes effervescent, and then pour this into the dhokla mixture and stir it in briskly to make the batter frothy.

 Pour the batter immediately into a greased pan and place the pan in a pre-heated steamer. Steam the batter for around 15-20 minutes on high flame. Insert a toothpick into the dhokla to check if it has cooked. If the toothpick comes out clean, the dhokla is ready. Let it cool, and then invert the dhokla onto a plate. Boil some water, add lemon juice, and pour over the dhokla.

Heat oil in a small pan, and add mustard seeds and curry leaves and fry till they start crackling. Add the whole red and sliced green chillies to the pan and fry for a minute. Pour this temper evenly over the dhokla. Cut into small pieces and serve with red or green chutney.

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 28th, 2018

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