Everyone digs a decorated starter now and then, so here’s where my Green Envy or Palak Chaat joins the conversation. This one’s as colourful as they come, simple to put together and tastes as good.
If entertaining a large group, you may want to do with an extra hand. One hand for the chopping, batter-dipping and frying. The other for the arrangement and topping. Avoid the ‘more the merrier’ idiom, remember that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’!
Here’s a step by step guide on how to get this green creation started, single-handed or together with another hand.
2 to 5 tablespoons finely chopped cabbage
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow bell pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
A half teaspoon grated ginger
1 or 2 finely chopped green chillies
A medium-sized finely chopped onion
A teaspoonful of mixed herbs
A fourth of a teaspoon of chaat masala
A half teaspoon of black pepper powder
A teaspoon of schezwan chutney
How to get the veg chaat topping together
Lightly mix the chaat ingredients and keep aside. That’s about all.
Economical Tip: If you don’t wish to stock your larder with a large jar of schezwan chutney, note that it is available with local grocers in small sachets.
The fringe ingredients
Palak leaves (washed, dried and stems snipped off)
Tomato (chopped fine and added when just about to mix and serve)
Grated cheese, for the topping over the topping
Ingredients for the coating paste
5 to 6 tablespoons maida (for binding)
3 to 4 tablespoons cornflour (to give the leaves a crispness)
1 to 2 tablespoons rice flour (to give the crispness an edge)
A fourth of a teaspoon of ajwain
A fourth of a teaspoon of apple green food colour
A half teaspoon of salt, or as you deem fit
How to coat the palak
- Mix the ‘coating paste’ ingredients in a bowl, adding water till a runny consistency. Keep it neither thick nor thin.
- Just before deep-frying, dip the palak leaves into the green paste. Dunk the leaves one by one and well enough to coat the leaves thoroughly.
Watchout Tip: Take care to use very little food colouring lest the leaves emerge looking like a garden lawn. My dining table once resembled a meadow from my first time experience 🙂
How to fry the palak
- Pour oil in a kadai, enough for deep frying. Heat the oil on high, using the palm test* to check for the right amount of heat.
- Just before dipping into the oil, ensure that the palak leaf is fully opened and not folded. Shake off the extra paste if any.
- Fry until crisp. Use pincers to gently pry out the leaves from the oil.
- Place the leaves on a platter, lay over the chopped veg chaat neatly over the fried spinach not letting it lie scattered around the dish. Follow this with a sprinkling of grated cheese and voila, there’s your spinach blast all ready to be served!
Watchout Tip: Remember to add the chopped tomatoes last, lest you run the risk of watering down the veggie chaat mix if it’s added far ahead of serving time.
How does it look
A unique, colourful, peppery and cheesy surprise! Green, red, ivory combination. A colour riot.
How many can be served
4 vegetarians. If your guests don’t look twice at the creation, don’t invite them over again.
Turn them green. Neighbour’s envy, maker’s pride.
*Palm test – explained in my previous blog post on Veg Starters (Cheese Balls)