Madhur Jaffrey’s Besan, or Polenta with an Eastern Flair

By the time the end of the workweek roles around the two of us are often too tired to do much of anything other than eat dinner, relax, go for a walk, and then go to bed.  This Friday night we decided to spice it up and head down to Whyte Ave for a short walk and a trip to Chapter’s to browse the bookshelves.

Lucky for me EPC wanted to head over to Planet Organic to pick up a snack from the deli.  That meant we could also pop into Greenwood’s Bookstore (they have a much better vegetarian cookbook selection than the Whyte Ave Chapter’s, at least in my opinion).  Tonight turned out to be my lucky night!

At Greenwood’s I found a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking discounted 50%!  The front cover was slightly creased at the corner, but other than that it was completely intact.  This cookbook gets such favourable reviews that I had been contemplating picking it up for a few months now, but figured I really could not justify buying yet another cookbook.  However, at 50% off how could I refuse? I was so excited with my new discount purchase that I decided to make Sunday’s dinner from its pages.

While flipping through the Beans and Dried Peas section and I came across an intriguing dish the likes of which I have never seen before.  Madhur coins it a Savory Chickpea Flour Quiche, but take a look at the recipe.

Cook the chickpea flour with onions and seasonings, pour into pan, cool, cut and serve.  The instructions read like polenta, not so unfamiliar after all, so I figure this dish can be coined polenta with an eastern flair.

It turned out fantastic.  EPC and both loved it.   I served it alongside Rasam, which Madhur describes as a tomato, tamarind and dal broth.  This sour spicy soup is one of my favourite South Indian dishes.  Although I really enjoyed the soup, I think that next time I make the Besan (and there will be a next time -it was delicious and not much work at all) I will serve a vegetable curry or two on the side instead.


2 1/2 cups of chickpea flour sifted
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 -1 teaspoon of cayenne
1 medium onion, sliced in half and then into fine half rings
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 dried curry leaves

2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
1 hot chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut

  • Put the sifted chickpea flour in bowl.  Slowly add 4 1/2 cups of water, breaking up the lumps as you go.  When all the water has been added, pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the lumps.
  • Combine the garlic ginger, cumin, turmeric and cayenne in a small cup with 1/4 cup of water.  Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot (I used an enameled Dutch oven) over medium heat.
  • Add the curry leaves and stir.  Then add the onions.
  • Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
  • Add the spices in the cup with the water and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the chickpea flour mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Turn the heat to medium low and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pot.  This should take about 20 minutes
  • Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
  • Put the mixture into a 9 X 9 cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle the cilantro, chilies, and coconut and let cool.
  • Slice into 16 squares.

Click to print


One response to “Madhur Jaffrey’s Besan, or Polenta with an Eastern Flair

  1. What an amazing combination of flavours. It has to be yummy. Always nice to please the hubby, too!

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