A quick tea time snack that has been my favourite for as long as I can remember. Cooked to perfection by my Mothi Aji (great grandma) as well as my Aji (gran), it always reminds me of summer holidays and our afternoon tea.
Biscuits, crisps and store-bought munchies were a rarity. Snacks were home-made, usually on the day and just in time for tea.
A large part of the day would be spent exploring the rather limited collection of books in our local library. The afternoons were spent at a friend’s place, devoted to inventing and playing crazy games indoors to beat the heat. But come four o’clock, all merriment and diversions were abandoned to head home in anticipation of the surprise that awaited us. (I don’t think the surprise element was intentional. Ingredients available in the store cupboard or fridge were used up to create some clever dishes. Call it frugal living or inventive cooking, it was always delicious.)
Bhanavle is one such example – traditionally, it is a cabbage and shrimp pie that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds. This is a vegetarian version with the shrimps omitted. Whether you like the crispy edges or the squidgy pieces in the centre, it is sure to have you licking your fingers.
Time: 30 minutes + 25-30 minutes baking time
1 medium cabbage, shredded (about 1.5 cups)
2 onions, chopped fine
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
3/4 teaspoon sambhar powder (or garam masala)
2 cloves and a 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon, powdered fine
10-12 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
1 teaspoon baking powder
salt to taste
a few pats of butter
1 tablespoon bread crumbs (optional)
1/2 cup cooked shrimps (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (Gas mark 6 or 400 F).
2. In a large casserole or baking dish, mix the onion, cabbage and coriander leaves along with the spices. Keep aside. (Add the shrimps at this stage, if you are using them.)
3. Make a thick batter with the besan, salt, baking powder and a little water.
4. Pour the batter over the cabbage mixture. Mix well and smoothen the top with the back of a spatula.
5. Add a few pats of butter over the top.
6. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs (optional) and pop the casserole into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. It is baked when the edges and top are slightly browned.
Serve warm. Ketchup, napkins, good manners – all optional.