Friday, 7 August 2015

Daal Potli (Stuffed Daal Dhokli/Gujarati Dumpling Soup)

Naturally one of my favourite things about travelling is discovering local foods and flavours, and within that the most wondrous part to me is the similarities in various cuisines around the world. It never ceases to amaze me that although the ingredients and of course the tastes are so different, the techniques used to create dishes and the composition applied to them are so similar.

On a recent trip to Italy I had the pleasure of partaking in an Italian cookery class where I had the opportunity to make ravioli. Italian food is one of those crowd pleasing favourites, recognisable around the world, loved by literally everyone I know. The characteristic combination of sweet tomatoes, fragrant basil, olive oil, breads, cheeses, and pasta, with onions or garlic, and roasted vegetables is unmistakable however, stood there in this Mediterranean haven, kneading dough, rolling it out, filling it with delectable stuffing, and then dropping it into a pan of boiling water, I was transported right back home to my family and typical Gujarati meal times.


The number of times I have been sat around the table with my Grandmother, Mum, and Aunts making various stuffed pastries - sweet and savoury, is uncountable, but for some reason making ravioli took me back to the classic Gujarati comfort food, 'daal dhokli'. The daal in question is toover daal or split pigeon peas which although popular all around India, the preparations vary and are specific to each region. Most often in Gujarat the daal is cooked down to a smooth soup and served as part of a 'thaali' with other vegetables, rice and chapattis, but sometimes it is transformed into a soothing, comforting one pot meal with the addition of wheat and gram flour 'pasta'. There are two kinds of this comfort daal - 'daal dhokli' where the pasta dough is rolled flat and cut into large pieces, much like 'pappardelle' pasta sheets, and floated in the prepared daal just so. The second kind which I am addressing today, is 'daal potli' where the rolled pasta dough is filled with stuffing, normally potato based, gently wrapped up to form a dumpling, and then submerged into the prepared daal.

Although daal potli is more similar in composition to an Oriental dumpling soup, the ravioli I was preparing in class reminded me so much of it that the daal immediately became top of my list of 'home food' I wanted on return from holiday. Normally, the potli are formed exactly like dumplings - a small portion of dough is rolled into a circle, the filling is applied to the middle and the dough is wrapped up around the sides and rolled into a smooth ball. Having just returned from my Italian adventure however I am feeling much more artistic than that and have chosen to wrap my potli like ravioli, it isn't necessary, but it just looks really pretty! I have also decided to fill my potlis with a potato and fenugreek mixture as I love this flavour combination as well as the pop of green among the red, orange, and yellow hues of the daal and pastry. Feel free to play around with the stuffing - I'd love to hear any suggestions! However you choose to enjoy this daal - as it is, as daal dhokli, or as daal potli in any shape or form, its zingy flavours are guaranteed to leave you with a warm comforting glow and I'm sure you'll make it again.


Daal Potli (serves 5)

Ingredients for the potli/'pasta' dough:

100 g chapatti flour/wholewheat flour
25 g gram flour
1 tsp carom seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
100 ml warm water

  • Measure both of the flours into a mixing bowl and add all of the seasoning.
  • Rub the oil into the flour mixture and then adding a little of the warm water at a time bind into a stiff but smooth dough (you may need more or less water but the dough should be smooth without being too wet or soft).
  • Knead the dough for around 5 minutes before leaving it aside to rest at room temperature for 1 hour while you prepare the filling and the daal.

Ingredients for the filling:

3 medium potatoes
A large handful of methi/fenugreek leaves
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp coriander and cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste

  • Start by peeling and dicing the potatoes, and chopping the methi up fairly finely.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and when it becomes hot add the cumin and methi seeds, allowing them to fizz in the oil.
  • Add the garlic and sate for a few moments before adding the potatoes to the pan.
  • Toss the potatoes in the oil before sprinkling in the coriander and cumin powder, turmeric powder, and chilli powder.
  • Add salt to taste, stir, cover the pan and allow the potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally until they just begin to soften - around 10 minutes.
  • Stir the chopped methi leaves into the pan and continue to cook until the potatoes are completely tender.
  • Leave aside to cool completely.

Ingredients for daal:

100 g dried toover daal/split pigeon peas
400 ml water
Salt to taste
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
7 curry leaves
2 cloves
3 cm piece of cinnamon bark, broken up
150 ml liquidised tomatoes (tinned or fresh)
2 'kokum' (dried mangosteen skin, can be substituted with 2 tsp tamarind concentrate or equivalent)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
2 tsp lemon juice
A small handful of plain peanuts
Jaggery or sugar as required

  • Wash the daal thoroughly and then leave to soak for 45 - 60 minutes in hot water.
  • After soaking drain the water, place the daal in a pressure cooker if you have one, and add the 400 ml water, a pinch of salt and boil for around 20 minutes or until the daal is completely tender - if you do not have a pressure cooker you can boil the daal loose but it will take longer and you will need to add more water.
  • Once the daal is completely tender leave it aside to cool slightly whilst you continue in another pan.
  • Heat the oil in a large, wide pan.
  • When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon - they should immediately begin to sizzle and release their aromas.
  • After sautéing the dry spices for about 30 seconds turn down the heat and carefully add the liquidised tomatoes to the pan - they are likely to splutter so take extra care when doing this.
  • Stir in the kokum, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder, and lemon juice. Allow these to cook in the tomatoes until the tomatoes begin to dry out slightly and separate from the oil in the pan.
  • Returning to the daal, use a hand blender or whisk to liquidise it until smooth, alternatively you can pass it through a sieve and mash out any lumps.
  • Add the smooth daal to the spicy tomato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Add the peanuts and season the daal with salt.
  • Now is the time to taste the daal - it will be really tart at this point so you will need to add some jaggery or sugar to balance it to your taste.
  • The daal needs to be watery at this stage - similar to a broth as it will thicken as it boils and even more so once the dumplings are added so if you feel you need to add some water, add it now and then slowly let the daal come to a boil over a medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat to as low as possible whilst you assemble the potli.


  • To make the ravioli style potli as I have done take a quarter of the dough and pass it through a pasta machine up until grade 4 - you should achieve a long strip of dough through which you can see your fingers (if you do not have a pasta machine roll the dough with a rolling pin until you can see your fingers through it).
  • Lay the rolled dough on a  flat surface (preferably wooden as this will prevent it from sticking) and place teaspoon sized balls of the filling all along the dough, flattening them slightly and leaving two finger spaces between each one.
  • Wet your index finger with water and carefully dampen the spaces around each ball of fingers - this will allow the top layer of dough to stick down.
  • Roll another quarter of the dough to the same thickness as before and gently place this over the ravioli.
  • Gently press the dough down around each circle of filling, try to ensure that no air is left inside between the filling and the dough.
  • Use a small fluted cookie cutter to cut each ravioli out from the dough and leave aside.
  • Repeat until you have used all the dough and filling.
  • Returning to the daal carefully place the prepared dumplings into the daal, at first they will sink and then slowly they will begin to rise to the surface - contrary to making pasta, this does not mean they are cooked!
  • When the dumplings rise you will notice that the colour has faded slightly and they look dull. Continue to cook the dumplings in the daal until the colour becomes strong again - this is when you know they are done. If unsure take out a dumpling and break it open, if the pastry is not cook through return to the pan and continue to cook.
  • Serve this daal hot, as it is or with some rice and/or poppadum for extra texture.

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