Have You Tried Kulcha? They’re Wild! (BBB September 2020)

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Sourdough September BBB September 2020 - Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for Wild Kulcha; playing with the recipe (as usual); once again wildly divergent; because they’re round, eggs are similar to matar (peas), aren’t they? …information about Bread Baking Babes; information about Sourdough September;

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Matar or Chola Kulcha

I can’t believe we forgot to get out our beautiful thali dishes!
– both of us, 14/09/2020

Chole Kulcha

Not long after we were married – way back in the last century, my sister took us to Indiatown to get us our very own thali dishes. She gave us four beautiful stainless steel thalis as well as eight matching katoris (two sizes) to go with them. We LOVE them. We often use the katoris. But the thalis are hidden under the salad bowl. But not THAT hidden.

I really don’t know what possessed us not to bring them out for this month’s BBB kulcha extravaganza.

Yes! Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen) chose not just Indian bread but also offered us wonderful savoury accompaniments for us to prepare this month. Apparently, Matar or Chole Kulcha is a common street food in New Delhi. And I gather kulcha is also often served for breakfast with chole (chickpea curry) in Amritsar.

Set in the interiors of Old Delhi in the labyrinth of tiny passages is a man sitting with an arsenal of masalas around him busy stirring his art in a cauldron surrounded by local crowd relishing every bite of it. He scoops out chole from a copper vessel, tops it with aloo and masala (the red spicy concentration with a choice of less, medium, or “at your own risk”). Then, he adds to it a spoonful of aamchur-chutney, a sprinkle of garam masala and a garnish of hara dhanya (coriander), mooli (white raddish) and finely chopped ginger to top it off, placed along side a pair of fluffy kulcha.
– Ankita Bindal,
NDTV Food | Lotan Chole Kulche: An Old Delhi Delicacy Cherished by Street Food Lovers

Amritsar’s narrow lanes are easily navigated on cycle-rickshaw, but can be extremely confusing for tourists. These lanes contain hidden gems, old stories and most importantly some amazing food. I remember my first trip to Amritsar was in 2011. I went straight to the Golden Temple, saw the amazing beauty of it, had the kada prasad from its massive kitchen and came out into the narrow lanes to explore the essence of Amritsar.
      Amritsar is, without doubt, the food capital of Punjab. One of the most famous forms of street food in Amritsar is the Amritsari Kulcha. These are stuffed mashed potatoes inside a naan, cooked till it’s crispy, enjoyed hot with LOTS of butter on top. […] It can simply be cooked on a tawa or a tandoor and perhaps this was the reason it was so famous from masses to classes. Other variants of this have fresh or dry fruits, with meat or gobhi (cauliflower). A modern day version also has soya powder stuffing. Kulchas are also famous in Peshawar, Kashmir and of course saddi Dilli.
      The history of kulchas goes back to the Mughals and Nizams. Khansamas during Shah Jahan’s time used to stuff kulchas with vegetables and they made it popular in the darbar. It was so tasty that it became the official bread for breakfast or lunch by the time Shah Jehan took to the throne.
– Sadaf, Food and Streets | Hidden Secrets of Amritsari Kulcha

When I asked T about kulcha, he was surprised to report that he didn’t remember ever having seen it or tried it in the ten years he lived in India.

Both of us adore naan. The difference between naan and kulcha seems somewhat similar to the difference between fougasse (baked on a stone) and focaccia (baked on a bed of olive oil).

Aparna informed us that kulcha not only contains butter, but is cooked on a bed of butter as well. Did someone say butter? Lots of butter?

We couldn’t wait!!

Here’s how things went with making August’s bread:

BBB Kulcha diary:

15 August 2020, 19:43 Kulcha! How fun!! But. I sure hope the heat has broken by the time we want to make these. I’m not sure I like the idea of standing over a stove!

12 September 2020, 13:17 It was beautifully chilly this morning, chilly enough for us to put on sweaters! We put coffee into thermoses, packed the back of our bikes with folding chairs and a little table, masked up, and rode the relatively short distance to the Saturday farmers’ market set up in the parking lot by the mouth of the Humber.

Surprisingly, there was zero line up!! We got lovely croissants at the Soul Bread Company table (did I say there was zero line up? Ha. There was a long snaking line inside the market area to get to Soul Bread Company), then sat in our chairs on the banks of the Humber, savouring good bread and coffee and watching the masked marketers and children and dogs and bicyclists enjoying the morning sun.

After breakfast, T stayed in his chair and I ventured back into the parking lot to see if I could get some beets. And rejected beet greens. I chose not to go to Nourished Roots Market Garden‘s stall, even though their vegetables looked fabulous. They had a snaking line of people all of whom looked distinctly like those who would take their beet greens home. Instead, I headed to the back of the parking lot to the vegetable vendor with line that had only 3 people in front of me. Their vegetables were just as beautiful and perhaps the line was shorter because they had a much longer table.

And they had stunning looking beets. I bought a bunch ($5) and asked if anyone had rejected their beet greens. The fellow unhesitatingly crouched down under the table and filled a large bag with stunningly beautiful red AND gold beet greens. Wow!!

Beets, Beet Greens and Cheese

I really do NOT understand why anyone would not want their beet greens! But bless them for their ignorance.

Also, bless the Cheese Boutique! We got beautiful cheese – Emmenthal, Stilton, and Fromage de Chaumes – from their “one for $13 or three for $30” fridge. (If we had paid full price, it would have been around $100!)

13 September 2020, 17:47 I was looking at the kulcha recipe today, and can’t get over how very close it is to our naan recipe (based on recipes in A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey and Entertaining Indian Style by Shehzad Husain).

Apparently kulcha is made as a quickbread or yeasted one. Aparna’s recipe calls for yeast and only white flour. But you know me. I can never leave well enough alone. I just had to alter her recipe. As it is Sourdough September, I decided I would use our Jane Mason starter, that continues to thrive.

We’re soaking chickpeas now to make chola for tomorrow.

21:16 I mixed the leavener together, feeling just a bit guilty about using whole wheat flour when not only Aparna’s but virtually all the kulcha recipes I looked at call for using only white flour. Although… there was one that called for using some atta. But I haven’t tested our Jane Mason starter with atta and don’t dare to have a failure tomorrow morning. (I HAVE tested feeding the starter with all purpose flour and it was a disaster – it didn’t move one iota in well over 12 hours.)

14 September 2020, 09:10 The leavener is floating!! Yay. (I was a little concerned that it may have overrisen in the night and I might have to give it a little more flour. Clearly, summer is ending. I think it went down to about 14C outside last night; with the kitchen window wide open, it was probably around 16C in the kitchen this morning.)

11:39 I have now mixed in the salt and initially was going to wait to mix in the butter. Because the butter was still hard.

Ha. I cannot NOT hear Grandpa intoning, “It’s harder where there is none”….

So I cut the butter up into little pieces and smeared it overtop. I’ll squoosh it in in about half an hour.

Then we’ll have to head over to the vegetable store to get some coriander leaf! Because we forget to get it yesterday. (Duh… I bet there was lots of beautiful coriander leaf at the market!) We do have dried methi onhand, but it really isn’t my favourite flavour, in spite of the fact that I love stir-fried fresh methi.

12:46 Well, I’ll be… instead of melting the butter and adding it at the beginning, waiting to smear in soft butter to the dough seems to make a difference! The dough was clearly started to rise. It has never been so quick to rise when I add the butter from the beginning!

15:27 I just turned the dough. It’s rising! It’s rising!

We combined chickpeas with some leftover grilled meat to make a chickpea and meat curry. T says it’s more of a rogan josh. Also, he keeps saying that he never came across any chickpea and meat dishes in his travels around India when he lived there. Lentils and meat in Dhansak, yes. But chickpeas and meat? No.

But does that mean they never go together in some Indian kitchens? Who can say?

18:42 About 2 hours ago, we made the kulchas. Wow.

Wild Kulcha

First of all: That is WET dough! But there were lovely bubbles as I rolled out the rounds.

After seeing Aparna’s note to sprinkle water around but definitely not on the kulchas in the first part of cooking, we decided to use our cast-iron frying pan, rather than the concave tava.

Par-cooking kulcha
Par-cooking in dry pan
finishing in butter

Now that we’ve gone through the process, we both agree that the tava would have been just fine. We’ll use it next time.

It was very cool how the rounds puffed up in the initial cooking part. A couple of them even continued to puff in the second stage of cooking with butter.

We’ll reheat half the kuchas in the toaster oven for tonight’s dinner of chickpea/meat curry, oven roasted cauliflower/okra/potato, and stir-fried beet greens.

Is it time for dinner yet?

Wild Kulcha

What a feast we had! Of course we made Mint/Coriander Chutney, using our wonderful mezzaluna, and pretty much following Aparna’s recipe.

Making Mint Coriander Chutney

But then to add just a little colour, we threw in a little finely chopped red pepper.

Coriander/Mint Chutney
Beet Greens
Beet Greens

T also oven-roasted cauliflower and potatoes.

The next morning, T made green chili omelettes. Kulcha and green chili omelettes for breakfast is perfection!

Kulcha and Green Chili Omelette

Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – just as promised!

What a fun and delicious choice for this month’s project, Aparna! Thank you!

Here is the September 2020 BBB recipe that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Wild Kulchas
based on Aparna’s recipe for matar or chola kulcha that was in turn adapted from Ranveer Brar’s recipe for Matar (Chole) Kulche

There are different types of Kulchas, though all are flat breads. One is this type that is soft and spongy. Then there is the Bread Kulcha which has the texture of bread. The Amritsari Kulcha is a flat bread stuffed with a spiced potato filling. […] Kulchas are usually topped with Nigella seeds (Kalonji; you can use black sesame seeds also) and dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) or chopped fresh coriander/cilantro leaves before cooking. – Aparna, My Diverse Kitchen

makes 6 kulchas

khameer or leavener

  • dessert spoon (about 40 grams) Jane Mason whole wheat starter from fridge
  • 50 grams “no additives” 100% whole wheat flour
  • 50 grams water, at room temperature

kulcha dough

  • 260 grams unbleached ‘no additives’ all-purpose flour
  • 190 grams water at room temperature
  • 2(ish) dessert spoons (about 30 grams) plain yoghurt
  • 6 grams seasalt (The BBB recipe calls for only “1/2 tsp salt [3 grams]”. That seems on the low side to me….)
  • 18 grams soft unsalted butter (The BBB recipe calls for using “ghee (or soft unsalted butter)”.)

kulchas’ final stage

  • coriander leaf (aka cilantro), chopped
  • nigella seed (aka kilonji)
  • unsalted butter
  1. khameer or leavener: In the evening of the day before making the bread: Put the starter, flour and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is stirred in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on (or everything off if it’s particularly warm in the kitchen).
  2. Check the starter: In the morning of the day you will be making the bread: If a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of cool room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. (If it’s particularly warm in the kitchen, and the leavener does not float – because it has used up all its food in the heat of the night, stir in 10 grams each of whole wheat flour and water (ie: even amounts by weight) and cover with a plate and leave for another hour or so. Check to see if it’s floating. If it is not, wait a little longer. If it does float, proceed with mixing the dough.
  3. Mix the dough Sift the all-purpose flour into a large mixing bowl. Add all of the leavener, yoghurt, and 180 grams water overtop. Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
  4. Adding the salt and butter: In a small bowl, whisk the salt into the final 10 grams water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough. Smear the butter on top.
  5. Kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salted water and butter into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it’s coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  6. Stretching and folding the dough: Turn the bowl as you fold and re-fold the dough into the center. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Repeat the folding step about 3 times in all at 30 minute intervals. You’ll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. After the final time of folding, the dough is ready to shape.
  7. Shaping: Scatter a light dusting of all-purpose flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. It might be pretty sloppy. Just make sure your hands are either floured or wet. Use a dough scraper to fold the dough over in half, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Try to retain any bubbles that you see. Cut the dough into 6 even pieces.
  8. Preheat the pan: Put a cast-iron pan (or tava, if you have one – next time we’ll use our tava) on medium heat. Use a rolling pin to form the first piece of kulcha dough into a round that is about half a centimeter thick. Scatter chopped coriander leaf and nigella on top and spritz with tiny film of water. Give the round one or two more rolls with the pin to fix the leaves.
  9. Par-Cooking: Put the round leaf/seed side up on the hot pan. Sprinkle a few tiny drops of water around the edge of the bread, taking care not to hit the bread itself. Cover with a lid and cook for about a minute.
    • As the bread is cooking, roll out the next round, remembering to add coriander leaf and nigella seeds.

    Remove the lid from the pan, turn half-cooked bread over. Replace the lid, and cook the other side for about a minute. Be excited that you saw some puffing. Remove the par-cooked bread to a plate to rest. Repeat this step until all six rounds are par-cooked.

  10. Finishing: Brush the pan with butter and place the first par-cooked round leaf/seed side up to cook over medium heat until it is “golden brown and crispy”. Turn it over to make sure the other side gets equally crispy. Remove to a rack placed on a cookie sheet and put into the toaster oven to keep it hot. Do NOT cover, or the crispiness will disappear. Repeat until all six kulchas are done, placing each finished kulcha in its own spot on the rack. (ie: no stacking, please)

Serve the kulchas hot with coriander/mint chutney, chole, stir-fried beet greens, oven-roasted cauliflower, etc. etc. Aparna suggests making a tamarind chutney as well. Here’s one we really like: Puliyinji (Ginger Tamarind Chutney) – our recipe doesn’t contain golden raisins and dates like Aparna’s, but it’s really really really good!

Kulcha can be re-heated in the toaster oven the next day. They are delicious with a green chili omelette.


Leavener: The leavener is made with a 100% hydration starter. It takes about 5 days to create. (See our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.) Please note that the BBB recipe calls for using commercial yeast in both the khameer (pre-ferment) and the actual dough. Yeast is still not all that easy to get at the supermarket. However, even if it were, I’m not sure that we wouldn’t be translating the recipe into one using wild yeast anyway.

Sugar, or lack thereof: The BBB recipe calls for “1 tsp sugar [4 grams]”. I’m afraid I just couldn’t bring myself to add any sugar at all.

Pan: A cast iron frying pan works really well. But next time, we will use our tava. Why not, if we have one? :-)



It’s Sourdough September

It's Sourdough September

This post is to “share the delicious delights of genuine sourdough” and “encourage more people to bake genuine sourdough”.

Wild thing, you make my loaf spring
Since 2013, the ninth month of the year is when the Real Bread Campaign goes on a mission to help everyone discover that: life’s sweeter with sourdough!
The aims of #SourdoughSeptember are to:
    ▪ Share the delicious delights of genuine sourdough
    ▪ Encourage more people to bake genuine sourdough
    ▪ Celebrate the small, independent bakeries that bake genuine sourdough
    ▪ Help people to say no to sourfaux and avoid paying a premium for something that simply isn’t the real deal
In 2020, a special focus is helping more people to discover that a sourdough starter is a gateway to every type of bread on the planet. This year we’ve welcomed many #LockdownLoafers around the world starting (or resuming) love affairs with sourdough bread, some baking or buying it for the first time.
– Real Bread Campaign, Sustainweb.org | Sourdough September


Bread Baking Babes BBB September 2020 - Let's Keep BakingMoroccan Ksra

Aparna is the host for September 2020’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

The recipe might seem involved and lengthy but I promise you it’s not. […] I have provided the recipe for Kulcha (flatbread) and a dried white peas or chickpeas based salsa-like accompaniment. You can try making a curry of your choice instead, if you prefer. […] Matar or Chola Kulcha actually is a meal that is the combination of two dishes – a flatbread and a spicy salad of sorts with well-cooked white peas or a cooked curry.
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make Matar or Chola Kulchas too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the buns in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 September 2020. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ September 2020 Kulchas.


See? We really should have used the thalis!

Our Thalis – this photo was taken in 2006….

6 responses to “Have You Tried Kulcha? They’re Wild! (BBB September 2020)

  1. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

    Wow, look at that wonderful inside shot! Love all your sides as well. So cool that you made it sourdough.

    edit 17 September 2020, 11:52: Thank you, Kelly! I was ridiculously pleased with myself for managing to a.) remember to have the camera at hand, and b.) get a photo sort of in focus. -Elizabeth

  2. Cathy (Bread Experience)

    Good for you making these with sourdough. I almost did that being that it utilizes a fermented dough, but I chose to use yeast at the last minute. Your Mint/Coriander Chutney looks really good. I need to try that next time.

    edit 17 September 2020, 11:53: You do, Cathy. You do. Mint/Coriander chutney is good with everything! (We ran out of mint in the garden (!!!) to go with last night’s leftover chickpea curry – the mint is still growing but we’ve cut so much that we have to let it grow back before taking any more. Luckily, we were able to substitute the mint/coriander chutney with chimichurri….) -Elizabeth

  3. Karen (Karen's Kitchen Stories)

    What a lovely interior on your kulcha! Good for you for totally going for it and using sourdough! And I’m jealous of your cheese purchases.

    edit 17 September 2020, 11:58: Thank you, Karen! We were quite excited about how much the kulcha puffed.
    We also cannot believe our good fortune with that cheese store. Aside from the incredible bargains in the sale refrigerator, they always have really good cheese at full price (that they are quite happy to offer small samples to taste – or at least in non-COVID-19 times, they offer samples; they are also very happy to offer advice about what cheese(s) to purchase to go with a specific dinner and/or wine). Additionally, they have the coolest (no pun intended) walk-in lightly refrigerated room where they age giant wheels of Parmiggiano, Cheddar, Gouda, etc. etc. They sell the most fabulous aged Gouda (5 years at least) that is never in the bargain fridge, because it sells out at full price. The aged gouda has those little crystalized shards. -Elizabeth

  4. Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups)

    Mint/Coriander Chutney, I’m with you on that!
    Those stainless dishes are WOW!
    I’ve got to try again for puffy and the chickpea salsa.
    Totally blow me away!

    edit 17 September 2020, 12:12: Mint/Coriander chutney really is the best, isn’t it, Tanna? And yes. You must make chickpea curry. For our chickpea curry, we took Aparna’s words, “but do not puree” to heart. We didn’t do any mashing at all, because we love whole chickpeas. -Elizabeth

  5. Katie Zeler (Thyme for Cooking)

    You take a table and chairs to the market? On your bikes? I want to go to the market with you. My bike has been misbehaving. Just got it back from the shop as V was unable to fix it – so that it stayed fixed. I hope the pros were successful. I like my bike.
    As to your bread – yum! With beet greens – double yum!

    edit 18 September 2020, 18:49: We take a table and chairs (on T’s bike – I carry the purchases on mine) to the market because there are only two smallish tables available for the public – plus a large expanse of grass. We can’t stand sitting on the ground, wondering how many 6 legged creatures are wandering around. We know it’s a little strange, but it’s SO much more comfortable! (Ha. Watch: next time I’ll bring a table cloth and vase of flowers.) -Elizabeth
    I hope your bike is fixed properly soon, Katie! (I’d be lost without my bike.)

  6. Aparna Balasubramanian (My Diverse Kitchen)

    I never thought of Kulcahs as wild. :D
    Love your take on it and all those accompaniments. Yes, I think they would have been perfect in the thalis but then the Kulchas were more important so any plate was good enough.
    I’m surprised that people discard beet greens! Here we use them in all kinds of ways.
    Also Puliyinji is very different from the Tamarind Chutney with raisins though both are good with Kulchas. The chutney is North Indian like the Kulchas whereas Puliyinji is from Kerala where Kulcha is not traditional there. :)

    edit 25 September 2020, 17:22: I knew that Puliyinji was from the south (curry leaves…) but didn’t pay proper attention to the fact that it is quite different from the tamarind chutney you showed us, Aparna. (Ha. We’re in Canada, and we are quite casual about mixing and matching – or not matching – various cultures’ foods on the same plate.) We really must make your Tamarind Chutney with raisins though. Next time!! -Elizabeth


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