It’s easy to see why a Besan Cheela often gets called a vegetarian omelet, especially in Indian vegetarian restaurants that serve up this lipsmacking dish. This chickpea-flour pancake from north India resembles its egg-containing counterpart so closely, you might think they were separated at birth.
But the resemblance is entirely skin-deep, because they taste outrageously different and weigh far apart on the health scale. While the traditional omelet is packed with cholesterol and reeks with that awful egg smell, the Besan Cheela (also called a Chilla) is nuttily fragrant and can be made fat-free if you just spray your skillet with one of those oil sprays instead of using real oil. And because chickpeas are packed with protein, you will definitely not miss out on your protein in this vegan omelet.
Another thing I love about the Besan Cheela is that it can be pretty much toyed around with to suit different tastes. You can change the veggies you add to it: I added mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes, but you could add zucchini, carrots, or spinach (I usually cook the spinach in one of my tiny saucepans with a little bit of water to soften it, then drain thoroughly before adding).
Or you can add herbs: coriander, sage, parsley, basil, all add different but delicious flavors that make the Cheela just that little bit extra-special each time you make it.
Here’s one tip: to make your Besan Cheela extra-crispy, add a mashed potato to the batter. Or just add half a cup of rice flour (preferably brown rice flour to keep it healthy).
On with the recipe. Enjoy, all!
- 1 cup besan (chickpea or garbanzo bean flour)
- ½ small onion, minced (make sure all your veggies are uniformly and very finely cut because you don’t want the Chilla to lump up with big chunks of vegetables)
- ¼ medium tomato, minced
- 3 button mushrooms, miced
- ¼ green bell pepper, minced (use other-color peppers if you prefer)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped really fine
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to suit your tastes)
- ¼ tsp turmeric (optional, but great for color)
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves (I didn’t add any this time because I didn’t have any on hand, but I strongly recommend adding them)
- Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir them together. Set aside for about 15 minutes. I strongly recommend this because some of the vegetables will express water when mixed with the salt, and this will give you a better idea of how much water you need to make the batter.
- Add water (I usually add around 2 cups to make a batter slightly runnier than a pancake batter, but temperatures in your home and the climate could cause this amount to differ in your kitchen, so always make sure you add water slowly, mixing as you go. There is no gluten in this batter so you don’t have to worry that it will toughen up with too much stirring, the way a traditional pancake batter would)
- Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or non-stick skillet and spray lightly with oil.
- Pour about half a cup of the batter in the center with a rounded ladle and spread slightly with the bottom of the ladle to get an even-looking round, about five inches in diameter.
- Cook on medium heat until the sides dry up and the bottom of the Besan Cheela turns richly golden-brown.
- Flip over and cook until the other side turns golden-brown.
- Serve hot with an herby coconut chutney.
We are hoping to start Pubm on chemotherapy this week. She is still refusing to eat more than a teaspoon or two of food each day because the cancer has wrapped around her colon, making it difficult for her to defecate. As a result she has been losing weight rapidly. But I don’t think she’s ready to give up the fight, and we certainly aren’t going to give up on her.
Please keep those blessings coming.