Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for cauliflower bhaji chaat | Vegan food and drink

Chaat means to lick in Hindi but, really, it’s a byword for something that’s so tasty, it’s properly addictive. It’s a genre of food in India, rather than a particular dish, but, broadly speaking, you can expect your chaat to be crunchy, fresh, hot, sour, salty and sweet all at once. In India, the street is the place to go for excellent chaat, but for Indians in Britain, chaat masala, an easily available spice blend made up of unripe mango, ginger and black salt (among other ingredients), can transform all sorts, including the baked cauliflower bhajis and chickpeas in today’s recipe, into a truly lip-smacking dish.

Cauliflower bhaji chaat

I use MDH’s chunky chaat masala blend, because it’s reliably excellent (you can buy it online and in Asian supermarkets), but if you can’t find a chaat masala, you could make your own. The cauliflower is best eaten fresh and hot out of the oven for maximum enjoyment.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

For the chaat
3 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus 1 tbsp extra for the batter
1 x 400g tinned chickpeas
, drained
1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
200g courgette, halved lengthways and cut into 1cm-thick slices
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 tbsp chaat masala
15g mint leaves
, chopped, plus extra to decorate

For the cauliflower
2 medium cauliflower (1.2 kg)
180g chickpea flour
1½ tsp kashmiri chilli
⅓ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Fine sea salt
100g vegan yoghurt

To make the chaat, put the oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and when it’s shimmering hot, add the chickpeas, and cook, tossing regularly, for three minutes. Add the onion, courgette and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, for three minutes, until the tomatoes start to wrinkle and the onions slump and lose their shape.

Mix in the mango chutney, chaat masala and six tablespoons of water, leave to bubble for a minute, then take off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, stir in the chopped mint.

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9 and line two large trays with (ideally reusable) baking paper. Cut the leaves and base off the cauliflower, but leave the core intact. Cut across the head in 1cm-thick slices, so you end up with several large slices and lots of bits.

Put the chickpea flour, chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander and a teaspoon of salt in a large bowl, then slowly whisk in 250ml water and the tablespoon of oil until you have a smooth batter. Dip the larger cauliflower slices into the batter to coat, firmly shake off any excess and arrange in a single layer on the trays. When you get to the smaller bits, toss them in the batter with your hands, to coat, and put them on the trays, still keeping everything in one even layer.

Roast for 20 minutes. In the meantime, mix the yoghurt with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and set aside.

Tip the hot cauliflower into a large bowl with the chaat salad, mix and tip out on to four plates. Dollop or drizzle the yoghurt over the top, liberally sprinkle with the remaining mint and serve immediately.

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