February is Hot Breakfast Month, so chickpea fan Gita Malhotra’s whisked us up some Punjabi pancakes. Now if you’ll excuse us…
There’s nowt so tasty as hot Indian breakfast. So behold the besan ki cheela, a super-tasty, ridiculously easy Punjabi pancake made with chickpea flour (besan or gram flour). It’s delicious, nutritious, gluten-free and vegan, and as regular readers know I am a sucker for anything chickpea (aka food of the gods) so it’s an all-round winner.
The recipe below is for a basic cheela which is perfect for breakfast, but you can add, embellish and adorn as you see fit. For lunch or a light supper, I often add garlic and ginger and also some grated vegetables like carrots or courgette.
It takes around 20 minutes to make a stack of six cheelas. Eat them while they’re hot but they travel brilliantly for lunch on the go.
You can buy besan in any good ‘desi’ Indian store and plenty of supermarkets stock it too. (I use the superfine stuff and I also sieve it for a really smooth batter). Cheelas are a real hit with children but you might want to skip the green chilli.
150g besan (chickpea flour)
1 heaped tsp salt
1 green chilli, finely sliced
Some chilli flakes
1-2 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
A good handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Oil (rapeseed is my preference)
Sieve the besan into a big bowl. Add the green chilli, chilli flakes, salt and cumin and mix. Slowly add about 150ml water and whisk well, making sure no lumps remain, then keep adding a little more water to reach a nice smooth batter.
Warm a non-stick or pancake pan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Then add a little oil, just enough to cover the surface of the pan and let it warm up for a minute.
Add your first ladle (approx 130ml) of batter and work quickly using the back of the ladle to spread the batter mixture evenly and thinly, then hands off. You’ll see the edges start to crisp up nicely; take a peek to check the colour underneath. It should be turning a nice golden brown.
After two minutes you’re ready to flip it. You might want to brush a little more oil around the edges of your cheela at this point. Cook for another minute or two, turn it out onto a warm plate and then onto your next one. Keep repeating until all the batter is used up and then tuck in.
I love my cheela with a dollop of my tomato achaar and a glass of hot masala chai.
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Gita Malhotra lives in East London and runs Pukkah Preservation, making delicious small-batch preserves, marmalade and pickles, all with an Indian twist. She also works as a consultant in health policy within the NHS.