It may not have been the centerpiece, but bhoondi raita was the definitely keystone to our Indian meal—a perfect counterpoint to cafreal chicken and curried butternut squash and chickpeas.
In other (immortal) words, it really tied the room together.
Cucumber Raita with Chickpea Puffs
Adapted from One Spice, Two Spice, by Floyd Cardoz
If you don't feel like frying up chickpea flour dumplings (what??), the cucumber raita is delicious on its own. But seriously, make the bhoondi, if only for snacking’s sake.
For the bhoondi:
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 scant tablespoon minced mild fresh green chile
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 scant tablespoon minced cilantro
2 cups canola oil
For the raita:
1/2 pound cucumbers, preferably seedless or Kirby
2 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon lime juice
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, chile, and water. Whisk in the spices and cilantro. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a heavy in a heavy 2-quart pot over moderately high heat until the oil shimmers.
Whisk the batter and pour a small amount through a slotted spoon into the oil. The bhoondi will bob to the surface almost immediately, but continue to fry them until they are golden and crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer the bhoondi with a slotted spoon to paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining batter. [Bhoondi keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks.]
If using Kirby cucumbers, peel and grate them into a medium bowl. If using seedless cucumbers, leave the peel on and grate into the bowl. Squeeze excess moisture out of the cucumber with your hands and discard the liquid. You should have a packed 2/3 cup grated, squeezed cucumber
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over moderately low heat until they turn a couple of shades darker, about 3 minutes. Coarsely crush them with a mortar and pestle.
Whisk the yogurt into the cucumber. Add the chile, cumin seeds, cayenne, lime juice, sugar, and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to two days. Just before serving, adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in the bhoondi and serve.