Punjabi Buttermilk Stew with Spinach Dumplings

September 18, 2014


Author Notes: Growing up, this was my favorite weeknight dinner on my mother's normal weeknight rotation The best part was that she would make an enormous pot of it so I knew I could enjoy it for days later. Similar to chili, it tastes better as the days go by and the flavors develop. It has a rich, tangy taste thanks to the buttermilk, punctuated by the sharpness from the garlic and ginger. The mustard seeds also add a distinctive flavor. The dumplings, which are essentially just little fritters or pakoras made out of spinach, become super soft -- they're fabulous just straight from the pan and there are always a few that never make it into the stew -- they end up in my tummy first! Essentially a one-pot meal, it is perfect served over simple basmati rice. Whenever I make it for my family now, I always look forward to having it for lunch the next day!Shveta Berry

Food52 Review: WHO: Shveta Berry lives in the Bay Area where she cooks Indian food for her blog, Samosa Junkie.
WHAT: A vegetarian Indian meal you'll want to eat all week.
HOW: Form the spinach into dumplings with onion, coriander seeds, and herbs, then fry them in vegetable oil until golden. To make the stew, combine buttermilk, gram flour, seeds, garlic, and ginger in a Dutch oven. Allow the mixture to reduce, then add the spinach dumplings and cook for another 15 minutes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We knew we'd like this dish after reading the long ingredient list of flavorful Indian spices, but we didn't anticipate how delicious the spinach dumplings would be. Even after they're added to the stew, they retain their golden crispiness. The best part? The stew tastes even better after a few days -- it's the ideal make-ahead dish for weeknight dinners.
The Editors

Serves: 6
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 20 min

Ingredients

For the dumplings:

  • 2 10-oz boxes of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2/3 cup gram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon amchur (sour mango powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala
  • 4 cups vegetable oil for frying (up to 5 cups, if needed)

For the stew:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 quarts buttermilk (low-fat or full-fat is fine)
  • 1/3 cup gram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger, crushed to a paste
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced into half moons
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • Basmati rice, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe

Directions

For the dumplings:

  1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. In a medium mixing bowl, add the spinach and the remaining ingredients listed, except for the oil.
  2. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven until it is shimmering over medium-high heat.
  3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dumpling batter into the hot oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  4. Flip the dumplings over and fry the other side until golden, about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove dumplings from oil and drain on paper towel-lined plate.

For the stew:

  1. Blend the buttermilk, gram flour, turmeric, and salt in a blender until combined. If some of the buttermilk doesn't fit, it is okay to use 1 quart of buttermilk, then add the rest of it during step 6, as instructed
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds pop, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the serrano chiles and sauté for one minute.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  5. Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes in the vegetable oil, until softened but not brown.
  6. Add the chile flakes plus all of the buttermilk (blended and, if not all of it fit in your blender, plain). At this point the mixture is a pale yellow color. The color will intensify and become bright as the gravy cooks.
  7. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat to low and cook the stew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add dumplings and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  10. Optional: Serve over basmati rice.

More Great Recipes:
Stew|Indian|Buttermilk|Vegetable|Coriander|Mustard|Spinach|Cheese|Fry|Vegetarian|Entree

Reviews (54) Questions (1)

54 Reviews

Hana June 28, 2018
Made this tonight: delicious. I didn't have fenugreek seeds but threw in some Garam Masala to my dumplings and the stew. Other than that I followed the recipe as written. Flavors were complex and interesting. Thanks for the recipe!
 
Erin S. May 23, 2018
I've made this recipe a few times now and it. is. fantastic. So delicious! I grind the coriander seeds or use pre-ground as I don't like to chomp on a whole seed.
 
vijender A. January 4, 2018
I make it differently as I make dumplings using Small dice potatoes and diced onions and mix it with chick pea flour and batter is thick fry in oil ( you do need to add spices to the batter : my spices include salt,coriander powder,cumin powder,ginger powder,garam masala,black pepper,asfaetida powder,chilli powder to taste ). At times if buttermilk is not available I will use yogurt ( older the better as will be more tangy. I will also add diced poatoes and long sliced onions for more substantial taste. I will usually cook large batch and freeze part of it.
 
chandinid February 25, 2017
I enjoy seeing more Indian recipes but why call this a dumpling stew? Its name is Kadhi Pakora. No need to change the name of a traditional Indian Dish.
 
Carey L. November 10, 2016
I have fallen in love with this recipe - curious to try steaming the dumplings instead of frying? They end up in the sauce anyway, so the crispness isn't really important I wouldn't think. Anyone else out there ever try a different treatment of the dumplings?
 
Sue November 21, 2016
I got very lazy and used a package of store made falafels for the dumplings! I got them in the deli section of the grocery store where they sell the tofu. I made the sauce as in the recipe, but did make my own buttermilk with 4 cups of whole milk and the juice of one lemon. I added the falafels after the 30 minutes of cooking time for the sauce, and gently heated them thru. It was delicious!! I've never made the dumplings in the recipe, so maybe they are even better but for the cooks out there that might not have the time for dumpling making, try this, I think you will like it. <br />
 
Erin S. April 9, 2018
I've baked them in the oven with great results! It dries them out slightly, but as you say, they end up in the sauce anyway.
 
SeasonToTaste July 19, 2015
Wow! I made this for the first time tonight, and it is my new favorite dish. Unique, exotic, and comfort food, all at the same time!
 
Adriana P. March 15, 2015
Thank you Sandra! Looking forward to the chaat masala recipe!
 
Sandra N. March 15, 2015
Hello Shveta!<br /><br />Yesterday I made this amazing recipe! My family liked especially the stew! The first batch of dumplings holder up in the frying oil. But most of the second one started to fall apart! Is it right that the dumplings look more green than cream, right? Cause I cou spoon them into the oil! I first formed them to walnut sized balls and after that fried them!<br />Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe with the food52 community!<br /><br />And I found this link to make your own chaat masala mix<br />http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/13813_Sanjeev_Kapoor_Chaat_Masala_Spice_Mix/<br /><br />
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. March 16, 2015
Sandra, I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe! The batter for the dumplings should be more green. It generally falls apart if it is too wet. Make sure you throughly squeeze the spinach or you can add an extra tablespoon of the chickpea flour to make the batter stiffer. Let me know if that works!
 
Adriana P. March 13, 2015
hi shveta, thank you for this beautiful recipe and all the comments and tips. i am inspired to try and am interested in what brand chat masala to get? thank you!
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. March 16, 2015
If you decide not to go the homemade route (which is very cool btw) I like the MDH brand for chaat masala. Enjoy!
 
BaliThai March 9, 2015
What brand of amchur do you or others buy on Amazon? I ordered some awhile back and it wasn't sour at all (tasted like flour with a vague hint of sour), whereas the small bottle I bought on a trip to San Francisco was sour and divine! I love amchur, but am wary of buying it online unless it's from a good vendor! Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. March 11, 2015
I like to buy either the Deep or MDH brands online. But if it all possible I like to go to my local Indian market where I know turnover is high so the spices are pretty fresh. The longer it sites the more sourness it loses which is totally a bummer.
 
BaliThai March 11, 2015
Thank you! We dont have any Indian markets within 4 hours of us, so it is likely going to be Amazon for me! Thank you!
 
Georgetown-DC March 3, 2015
Is it possible to make this ahead and freeze? Or, perhaps if I could make the spinach meatballs ahead and only freeze those? I'm just thinking of a long girls weekend I'm planning and trying to have interesting food but with little to no prep time and making whatever I can in advance. Yes, I understand that this can be made several days in advance but knowing what I have on my plate not sure it's something I can do that week. If freezing will alter the flavor too much then I won't risk it and will figure out how to have it done that week. Thanks you this sounds like wonderful comfort food.
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. March 3, 2015
You can absolutely freeze this. You can either freeze the dumplings only or freeze the finished dish. My mom would freeze individual portions of this stew for me to take back to college back in the day. Sometimes a bit of separation can occur if you freeze. To remedy just heat on the stove and simmer gently. If the stew gets too thick for your liking add some water from a freshly boiled kettle. Let me know how everyone likes it!
 
thebreukelenlife February 17, 2015
Made this this weekend and am surprised to say how easy it really was! All the unusual (to me) spices made things seem much more complicated but it was delight to make! I ordered most of the spices from amazon. I fried half of the dumplings and baked the other half (as per instructions below) just to see how the difference was. Both are great! Thank you - I'm looking forward to checking out your blog!<br />
 
Kitchen C. February 10, 2015
I want to really thank you for this recipe. Making it became a real odyssey for me and I ended up actually blogging the experience. :) https://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/bu/
 
Diane Z. February 3, 2015
Everyone liked this including the two teens who love Indian and tangy. The spinach dumplings were fabulous but I need to practice so they don't break up so much. My only comment is that the weeknight lead-in comment on this was slightly misleading. Granted I am not that familiar with Indian cooking but it took just over two hours with a good bit of attention to make. So maybe weeknight for some...not us.
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. February 4, 2015
Glad to hear it was a hit! And yes, I totally agree that this is not a typical weeknight dish. For my mother, who would get home around 4pm and then happily cook for two hours it was totally do-able. But for me, it is definitely a weekend endeavor! One way I save time is make the dumplings while the gravy is simmering. Thanks for your comment!
 
jenny February 1, 2015
Can one sub fresh spinach for frozen? And if so what would be the quantity? I also imagine the moisture from the frozen spinach helps the dumplings hold together, is there any need to add water when using fresh spinach?
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. February 2, 2015
Yes, you can use fresh spinach instead of frozen. About a pound of fresh spinach should do the trick. You will need to chop it very finely and also add some water to the dumpling batter wet enough. You want it to be thicker than pancake batter. Let me know how the dish turns out!
 
Diane February 1, 2015
This is absolutely wonderful, and the dumplings.... wow. My husband requested I make those an as appetizer to just eat by themselves! I do have a question, I found the broth too tangy and overpowering. It could very well be the local buttermilk in my area. What would be a good substitute for the second carton of buttermilk? I think whole milk would break, heavy cream would be too rich, and coconut milk would change the wonderful flavor entirely. Any suggestions? Thank you for a wonderful recipe, it's going into the permanent rotation!
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. February 1, 2015
I am so glad you enjoyed it! And the dumplings are enjoyed as a appetizer or tea time snack all over India. They are actually one of Dad's favorites and he often gets just those for dinner on his birthday. Instead of buttermilk you could use yogurt that is slightly thinned with milk to give it the same consistency as the yogurt. The more sour the yogurt or buttermilk the tangier the resulting gravy. So opt for something with a milder flavor if that is your preference.
 
Diane February 2, 2015
That helps, I can't wait to make it again! Thanks!
 
Chocolate B. January 30, 2015
For the dumplings, what type of green chile do you use? "2 green chiles" is too vague for me, since our local grocer carries at least ten different kinds of green chiles, ranging from tiny little Thai birds-eyes to pretty big poblanos. Thanks in advance for answering this question.<br /><br />I have the buttermilk mixture gently simmering on the stove as I write--smells and tastes divine--and am about to embark on the dumpling mixture, using one serrano and one Anaheim.
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. January 30, 2015
Excellent question. I generally use serranos or jalapenos. I always taste a little piece of the chili so I don't get more heat than I want. Let me know how your stew turns out!
 
Chocolate B. January 31, 2015
The stew was excellent! I'm sure with the Anaheim it was a bit different than with a couple of jalapeños or serranos, but there was a nice complexity about the dumplings which we enjoyed. <br /><br />Thanks for this recipe, which is now in my files for future pleasure. I've visited your website briefly, and will back for a more thorough perusal for sure.
 
Chocolate B. January 31, 2015
Also, many thanks for introducing me to amchur, a flavor I instantly perceived will be valuable in so many other dishes!
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. January 31, 2015
So glad to hear you enjoyed the stew! And I love aamchur as well. Another recipe that showcases its flavor beautifully is my tangy peas.<br />http://samosajunkie.blogspot.com/2014/07/tangy-peas-with-onion.html<br />It is fast and so tasty!
 
Kitchen C. January 28, 2015
What is your oil of choice for frying the fritters?
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. January 28, 2015
Something that is relatively flavorless but with a high smoke point like grapeseed. Vegetable oil is also a fine option.
 
placidplaid January 26, 2015
And fennel seeds instead of fenugreek?
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. January 27, 2015
Nope, those are totally different flavors. I would leave out fenugreek if you can't get your hands on it. If you are comfortable buying spices online, you can also buy fenugreek on Amazon.
 
placidplaid January 26, 2015
Amchur, can I substitute citric acid or is that in no way the same?<br />
 
Author Comment
Shveta B. January 27, 2015
Aamchur is pretty different from lemon juice. i would recommend sumac if you have that.