If you’d read my About page, you’d know that I’m an Indian of mixed heritage – a happy mix of North & South India. I’m part Marwari, part Tam-Brahm and have been brought up on steady diet of fantastic food from both these cuisines. The two are unlike each other in literally every aspect – from the ingredients and staples to the techniques and preparation of the food. Marwari food is richer, heavier and uses copious amounts of ghee (clarified butter) in the cooking while Tam-Brahm food is mostly light, easily digested and uses ghee only to add flavour.
Gatta Pulao or Gatte ka Pulao is a traditional Marwari dish. Gatta are essentially boiled gram flour nuggets, which are popularly used in a yoghurt based curry or in a pilaf like this in Marwari cuisine. I also love them as a snack and almost always pop a few in my mouth while cooking.
I always try to cook something “special” on the days that Hubs stays home (this, credits to his lovely job, happens altogether too rarely and at short notice). There’s no time to run to the supermarket to buy ingredients for elaborate cooking and of course, it would be madness to slave away in the kitchen for hours in this horrid heat. A hearty meal minus the effort is the order of the day. And this meal is exactly that! It’s also a great dish to make when people come over for meals at short notice – minimum work, maximum impact! Contrary to popular perception, these are very easy to make and this dish looks and tastes like you’ve put in hours of effort, but really it’s quite simple.
I’ve only ever tasted gatta pulao at weddings and suchlike, as we never make it at home. My mother (who is Marwari) makes only the traditional yoghurt curry, so making this was a fun experiment for me! For my first time, I’m pretty thrilled with how this turned out – the pulao was fragrant and spicy, with the crumbly gatta adding a bit of texture. Since both the rice and gatta are flavoured with spices, I added caramelised onions (like they do in Hyderabadi biryani) to balance the spice out with some sweetness. And I’m so glad I did – it added that little extra something, so I’d strongly urge you to not skip this! I served this with a simple bhujia raita and papad.
I know that this recipe really needs step-by-step photographs, but I couldn’t do them this time around. Shall try doing it the next time I make this dish and update this space! Also, I’ve tried to write the recipe in the same order as I did things in the kitchen. It helps to multitask and get 2-3 things going on at once, so you can get to eating this delish pulao a lot faster!
As always, would LOVE to hear from you if you tried this out – especially if something in the recipe needs a bit of tweaking!
Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 30-35 mins | Yield: 2 generous portions or 3 medium portions
For the Gatta
- Put on water to boil in a large vessel
- Combine 1 cup gram flour (besan), 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (1 tsp if your chilli powder is medium spicy), 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi), 1/8 tsp carom seeds (ajwain) & 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds (akha dhaniya) in a kneading bowl
- Mix in 2 tbsp ghee to get a soft, crumb-like texture
- Add water cautiously and knead to a stiff dough
- Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and roll each part into a cylinder of ~1/2″. Make sure it’s of even diameter, otherwise it may break while cooking.
- Once the water on the stove is boiling, slip the three cylinders of dough in
- Cook for 10-12 minutes on medium-high and poke with a fork to see if it’s cooked through
- Fish them out with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a clean plate. Once cool, slice each cylinder into pieces ~1/2 cm thick – these are your gatta
- Heat enough oil to shallow fry the gatta in a pan. Chuck in all the gatta once the oil is hot and fry till golden on both sides. Drain onto a paper napkin and keep aside.
For the Pulao
- In a small fry pan, heat 2-3 tbsp of oil. Slice 1 large onion thinly and sauté it in the hot oil till caramelised & golden. Drain with a slotted spoon & keep aside.
- Combine these to a smooth paste in a blender – 1 medium onion, quartered; 2 medium green chillies, 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste. If you don’t have ginger-garlic paste on hand, use 3-4 cloves of garlic and 1″ ginger. Don’t worry if it isn’t super smooth, it won’t matter later.
- In a kadhai or deep cooking dish (this is where you’re making the pulao), heat 2-3 tbsp of oil (use ghee if you want to be a little indulgent). Once hot, add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds) & 1/8 tsp asfoetida (hing) and allow them to pop
- Then add 2 green cardamom pods, 2 cloves, 1 piece of mace and sauté till the oil becomes fragrant
- Now add the onion paste, 1/2 tsp of red chilli poweder, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala & salt to taste. Saute till the raw smell of onions goes away – about 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
- Meanwhile, wash and drain 1 1/2 cups of long-grain basmati rice
- Once the paste is cooked, add the rice and sauté for 15-20 seconds
- Add 3 cups of water, give everything a mix and put the lid on. Make sure the pan’s on medium heat, otherwise you’re going to have have sticky, burnt rice.
- Check after 5 minutes and you should find the water boiling. Now, add half the gatta and mix gently
- Keep checking the rice for doneness – this varies greatly, so I’m not putting a time on this here. But it shouldn’t take more than 10-12 minutes, tops.
- The right consistency is when the grains are still separate and there’s no extra liquid in the pan. Take it off the heat and mix in the rest of the gatta and the caramelised onions.
For the Raita
- While the rice is cooking down, combine 1 cup of fresh yoghurt (diluted with water if too thick), 1/2 tsp roasted jeera powder, 1/4 tsp aamchur (dried mango) powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder and salt to taste in a bowl and whisk till smooth
- Mix in 1/4 cup of bhujia (or more, depending on your taste) and refrigerate till you serve. I, however, prefer adding the bhujia just before serving so it retains some of its crunch.
ADAPTATIONS & HACKS
- Besides my simple accompaniments, you can also serve this with kadhi (a tangy yoghurt broth)
- This recipe makes a spicy pulao, but you can make it tamer by reducing the spice either while grinding the paste (make it 1 chilli, instead of 2) or while adding red chilli powder to it while it cooks (make it 1/4 tsp)
- I’ve seen recipes online that make this dish with cooked rice. Here, you pre-cook the basmati rice and add it to the cooked onion paste along with the gatta and caramelised onions, mix it so that the curry coats the rice well and serve immediately. I prefer my recipe for two reasons – cooking the rice along with the curry lets it absorb the flavours better and the dish is more coherent And second, this way, you’re able to control exactly how moist the pulao will be. With cooked rice, I suspect it will be far drier than this recipe. You can try both and let me know which one you liked better!