I’m quite surprised at how little we use puffed puris apart from chaat. Millions of these hollow, spherical shells are consumed every day as paani puri, gol guppas and dahi puri. But not in any other form.
Which is quite remarkable considering that it’s the perfect container for any bite-sized filling; you could stuff it with baked beans, grilled vegetables, chicken in a cream sauce or even salmon and cream cheese. Okay, so maybe not the salmon and cream cheese, but a lot of other foods. If you think about it, it’s the Indian equivalent of a French vol au vent (a short crust pastry shell). And yet, I’ve never seen it being used at banqueting functions or even at restaurants.
What got me thinking about these spherical shells was the popularity of my recipe for Sweet Corn and Prawn stuffed Pani Puris It’s a recipe I find myself returning to often and one which I’ve received many compliments for by people who’ve read it on the blog and those for whom I’ve prepared it.
While the combination of prawns and sweet corn is pretty unusual, what excites most people is the puri. We’re so used to eating it in the context of chaat that this comes as a delightful innovation.
For this particular recipe, I substituted the spiced paani with another liquid: soup. I wanted something with more body that wouldn’t make the puri soggy quickly. (Unless you’re happy to have your guests lining up in the kitchen, of course.) This also allows you to arrange all the components on the table and your guests can fill up the puris themselves, without making too much of a mess. A Mexican tortilla soup was a perfect fit since the soup is traditionally served garnished with strips of crispy, fried tortillas. I thought using the crispy puris as containers for the soup turned the idea on its head. Also, this is bhutta season and roasted corn fits in nicely with both the Indian and Mexican elements.
I should warn you, though, that while the dish seems quite light, the cream cheese filling makes it quite heavy. About 6 filled puris are equal to a heavy snack
1½ tsp garlic, minced
50 gm onion, minced
400 gm slightly soft tomatoes
35 gm green capsicum, minced
180 ml tomato purée
250 ml chicken/ vegetable stock
200 gm cream cheese at room temperature
½ ear of corn, roasted
1 tsp coriander root, chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp tomato ketchup (optional)
½ tsp sugar (optional)
a few fresh coriander leaves for garnish
1 tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
Roast the tomatoes on a gas flame till the skin blackens. Cool and remove skin. Chop the flesh and keep aside.
Heat oil in a saucepan.
Add the minced garlic and fry on low heat for 30 seconds.
Add the onion and continue frying, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes till starting to brown.
Add the chopped capsicum and fry for 2 minutes.
Stir in the chopped tomato with the juices. Raise the heat to medium and stirring regularly, break up any firm or hard bits. Cook for another 10 minutes till it has a pulpy consistency.
Add in the tomato purée, stock, coriander root and chilli powder. Continue cooking on medium heat for another 10 minutes. It should have a thick, soupy consistency. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, remove the corn kernels from the ear of corn. Keep aside.
Once the tomato soup has cooled, pour into a blender or food processor and purée till almost smooth.
If the soup is too tart, add tomato ketchup and sugar.
Pour back into the saucepan, add salt and pepper, and heat on a low flame.
Meanwhile crack open the top of the puris. In each puri place about 1-1½ tsp of cream cheese and 4-5 corn kernels. Top with the warm tomato soup.
Garnish with whole or chopped coriander leaves and some more corn kernels.
If you’re making this for a party, prepare the soup the day before. Prepare the puris with the corn and cream cheese filling about an hour in advance. Pour in the soup and add the garnish when you’re ready to serve.
Preparation Time: 40-45 minutes
Makes about 30-35 puris