Gurd Loyal’s chickpea dhokla with smoky bacon

by | Mar 2, 2023


Serves 4

For the dhokla 

  • 5-6 smoked pancetta or bacon rashers, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (optional) 
  • 200g gram flour 
  • 2 tablespoons coarse semolina 
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid 
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional), plus more for the tin
  • 2 tablespoons natural yogurt 
  • 1¼ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda 
  • coconut chips, to serve 
  • chutneys, to serve

For the tarkha  

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 20-25 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar  


Gurd Loyal, our brilliant friend, food writer and curator of Mother Tongue TV releases his first book this week. It’s a fresh and fiercely original celebration of British Indian cooking. Brimming with traditional Punjabi dishes and favourites from UK’s local curry houses, Gurdeep’s love and passion for food and cooking embraces and explores second-generation British-Indian identity, with mouthwatering results.

From Gurd – For many years, my mum hosted a weekly Punjabi chat show on a multilingual radio station, developing something of a cult following. It was called Gal Bhaat, which loosely translates as ‘boisterous banter’; her live phone-ins about kitchen mishaps, family cooking secrets and fastidious mothers-in-law really were. Over the years, she accumulated ancestral recipe wisdom for regional Indian chaats from her listeners. Khaman dhokla – a savoury Gujarati steamed lentil and chickpea cake – was discussed most often, with every caller sharing their family’s sworn method for reaching the zenith of light, tangy, sweetly spiced and fluffy all in the same bite.  Mum experimented with every variation, meaning we ate a new dhokla iteration every week. Fermenting the batter is traditional, but this is her go-to method for speed, ease and the joy of feeling the sour yogurty batter foam up as soda is added.  The bacon bits are a relic from my college hangovers, when crispy smoked bacon and something comfortingly Indian combined were the only cures for the after-effects of Malibu and Lilt. The dhokla-bacon sarnie became my restorative mash-up, and still is today.  

Tip: You have to have lashings of chutneys with this.


  1. If using pancetta or bacon, gently fry the cubes in a pan for 8-9 minutes. After 2 minutes, when the fat starts to render, sprinkle over the paprika, slowly cooking until crispy all over. Set aside. 
  2. Sift the gram flour into a large mixing bowl, then whisk through the semolina, caster sugar, turmeric, citric acid, salt, garlic powder and ground ginger. In a separate jug, whisk 250ml warm water with the vegetable oil, or 1 tablespoon warm melted bacon fat from the pan, and the yogurt. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking continuously for 5-7 minutes, until you have a smooth batter. Stir in most of the cooled bacon bits if using, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes. 
  3. Next, prepare a large steamer and an 18cm round cake tin that fits easily into the steamer basket. Fill the base of the steamer with boiling water and place over the hob to get the steam going steadily. Then brush the inside of the cake tin with vegetable oil. 
  4. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the rested batter and whisk swiftly in one direction for 30-45 seconds. The reaction between the citric acid and soda will cause it to froth up; this is exactly what you want to happen. Quickly pour the foaming batter into the oiled cake tin so it comes three-quarters of the way up and immediately place in the steamer basket. Securely cover with a tight lid; it’s important that the steam is fully encased so, if needed, use damp tea towels or foil to seal the lid down, trapping the steam in. 
  5. Steam over a high heat for 35-40 minutes, topping up the steamer base with more hot water if needed. 
  6. Whilst the dhokla is steaming, make the tarkha topping: heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan, then add the curry leaves and mustard seeds, crackling for 45 seconds. Next add the green chilli, sesame seeds and desiccated coconut. Cook for another 1 minute, before adding 75ml water, the lemon juice and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes. 
  7. Remove the dhokla from the steamer, ensuring with a toothpick that it’s spongey and cooked all the way through. If still wet in the middle, leave it in the steamer for another 3-4 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then drizzle liberally with the tarkha topping, reserved bacon bits, if using, and coconut chips. Leave for 15-20 minutes for the flavours to soak through, then serve. 

    RECIPE: Gurd Loyal from his new book Mother Tongue

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