Saturday, 23 February 2013

(W)hole foods


Clearing out the cupboards the other day, we discovered at least 8 empty shoeboxes occupying precious real estate. Did we throw them away?  Well, only the one without a hole. 

You see, Shadow our cat loves cardboard boxes and if they have those little portholes, he goes berserk with the suspense and thrill, attacking the hole, ambushing it or pushing his paw gingerly into it – as his mood dictates. Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat –au contraire, it’s the key to a happy and healthy mog!

That makes me think - what is it about negative space that attracts all living creatures to voids ranging from peepholes to black holes ! From cats to guerilla marketers to artists to media people, everyone is exploiting negative spaces and gaps, for they arouse curiosity for the invisible by placing more attention on the obvious.  The absence of content doesn’t mean the absence of interest.

So is the case with voids in other areas- I have always found holes in certain foodstuff very interesting. The holes in the cheddar cheese wedges that Jerry mouse nibbled on was a mouthwatering sight, a far cry from the dense tinned block of Amul cheese we used to get in those days. The doughnuts that Jughead hogged looked more interesting when he jestingly skewered them on his nose – (I would say eww if I saw it now) and Polo- the mint with the hole was not only to be relished for the flavour, but for that experience and anticipation when the tip of the tongue widened the hole in the fast dissolving candy and the thinning circle gave way to its fate. 

Wadas with holes have continued to fascinate me, with the thrill and challenge of the unattainable – when will I ever be able to make a perfectly shaped round wada with a perfectly bored hole, like those we got in Venus restaurant in Muscat or Sagar Ratna in Delhi?

Holes in thalipeeth are quite another story, for as kids Mother used to make individual thalipeeths and we felt privileged to be served with a thalipeeth with the most number of holes. Her culinary theory may have been that the more the holes in the thalipeeth, the more oil they will be able to bund, making the cake crisper.

But like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn showing off their bruises, we kids believed the more holes our thalipeeths had, the more dangerous and macho they looked.  We would pester Mother, jealously asking her to punch more holes in our respective thalipeeths, until Mother shooed us away exasperatedly, “If I punch any more holes, there will be no thalipeeth left!”

The thalipeeth, however, is a lasting and wholesome dish with a lot of staying power. That makes it a very popular Maharashtrian breakfast dish, a pancake or roti of sorts- a very filling snack or a complete meal in itself!

The most popular version is made of ‘bhajani’- a mixed flour made with mixed dry roasted cereals, dals, legumes and spices like coriander and cumin. Bhajane means bhunoing or roasting. Mother used to make the bhajani mix and send it to the local flourmill to be milled into this very fragrant, spicy flour.

In the absence of such facilities, I have come up with a trick to mix different flour and roast them in the microwave. It gets almost the same results! Alternately, mix all the flours, place it on a tea towel or muslin cloth, tie it up in a bundle and steam it for 10-15 minutes. When cooled, break the lumps and add water and other ingredients to make a soft dough.

You can add vegetables like palak or methi, grated mooli or yellow cucumber, cabbage and carrot, making it a complete meal comprising wheat, jowar/bajra, rice, dal, vegetables, spices and oil/butter and yoghurt!


½ cup wheat flour
½ cup jowar/bajra flour
½ cup rice flour
½ cup besan
1 cup chopped onions/green onions
1 tablespoon chopped coriander (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon ajwain powder (optional)
½ teaspoon hing
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or more)
1 tablespoon oil
Salt to taste
Oil to shallow fry the thalipeeth


Mix all the flours in a microwave proof bowl and cover and roast it for one minute. Remove, mix the flour and roast again for another minute, taking care not to burn the flours.

If you don’t want to microwave the flours, you can dry roast them in a pan.

Alternately, mix all the flours, place it on a tea towel or muslin cloth, tie it up in a bundle and steam it for 10-15 minutes.

When cooled, break the lumps and add water and other ingredients to make a soft dough.

Add all the spices, salt to taste and the chopped onions and dhaniya and a tablespoon of oil and knead it with water or whey into a soft dough.

With oiled hands make tennis ball sized balls and press them onto a generously oiled tava, shaping into a circle as in the photo and making a few holes in the thalipeeth. Pour a few drops of oil into the wholes. Place the tava on high heat and cover it with a lid with a handle.

When the steam from the cooked thalipeeth rises and condenses on the lid and falls back on the tava it makes a hissing sound. This is an indication to reduce the heat. Cook it for a few more minutes and remove cover to check if the bottom is done and flip it to cook the other side with or without cover till it is nicely browned on the flipped side as well.

Serve hot with dollops of sour cream, yoghurt or white butter.

A simple salad of onions, tomato, finely chopped green chillies and salt and sugar tastes the best with this, but I served the featured thalipeeth with some coleslaw without mayonnaise. 

Did I tell you I am linking this as my fourth entry to my friend Preeti Deo's Ruchira Giveaway Event.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Anonymous ! Perhaps I can thank you better if I know who you are ... :)

  2. Beautifully written. Khoop chaan explain kela aahe..:)

  3. I really enjoyed your post. You write beautifully.

    On every trip to India, 1kg of my precious limited baggage weight gets reserved for home made bhajani. Last time mom couldn't make any at home so I bought some from a store - blah! So now I use a little bit of that bhajani and mix other flours like you did to get a better tasting Thalipeeth. In goes any leftover bhaji or amati. Yum.

    1. Thank you Snehal - I am glad you enjoyed reading the post! Do drop in again.

      You have to have home made bhajani or equivalent for the best thalipeeths...either for the purity and freshness of the bhajani, or the ingenuity of the ingredients of the "equivalent"! :)


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