My mouth waters just typing the title of this post. I fondly recall my childhood days on the islands around Divali (I was told it’s Diwali by and Indian programmer who works for me) time when we would go down the road to my mom’s cousins’ house for goodies on Divali night. I grew up in a Catholic home, but as the norm in Trinidad and Tobago we celebrate everyone religious festivals equally. How I wish the youths of today could experience that oneness and innocence I enjoyed those years ago. Back in those days all I looked forward to was the roti, curry channa with potato, pholourie and of course, saheena. I was never into the “sweets” , but my brother and sisters did do some damage when the sweets tray came around.
Here’s a simple recipe for making saheena, but not in the traditional size it’s usually made into. I refer to these as saheena balls and they work great as an appetizer or quick snack when you’re looking for something a bit different to munch on.
1/2 cup split peas powder (like flour)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 bunch spinach (see note below)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon roasted geera powder (cumin)
1/4 teaspoon amchar massala (optional)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (aka saffron on the islands)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 clove of garlic
2-3 cups vegetable oil for frying
For the mango chutney
1 green mango
4-6 leaves of shado beni
1 hot pepper (scotch bonnet or habanero)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Note: I used baby spinach in this recipe, but traditionally dasheen leaves (young or soft ones) are used. It’s almost impossible to source those in my location.
Let’s get the dough ready as it needs about 2 hours to rest before we can starting frying. Rinse the spinach leaves and roll into little bundles and slice very thinly. As thin as you can. Then I put about 3 cups of water to boil in the kettle and sort of blanch the spinach to somewhat pre-cook it. I put the thinly sliced spinach in a strainer and pour the boiling water over it and allow it to drain off.
Then in a large bowl, place the flour, split peas powder, salt, turmeric, geera, amchar massala, flour, grate or crush fine – the garlic, baking powder, instant yeast and squeeze out as much liquid you can from the blanched spinach and add it to the bowl as well. Then add the water and mix into a smooth dough. After everything is fully incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the kitchen counter for about 2 hours.
After the 2 hours of resting, the yeast will activate and the dough will double in size. Now heat the oil in a deep pot or pan on medium/high heat. Traditionally your hands are used to scoop and drop the dough balls into the hot oil, but here’s a safer method. Using 2 table spoons, scoop out a spoon full of batter and then using the second spoon as a sort of scraper, scrape off the dough into the hot oil. If you find that the dough is going brown fast, turn down the heat a bit as you want it to cook for about 4-5 minutes, so the insides cook evenly as well. Be sure the pot or pan you’re using is not too wide, so the oil is nice and deep – will allow for even cooking and nicely shaped saheena balls.
After 4-5 minutes (I move them around while frying) I place them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil from the frying process. You may be tempted to eat a couple as they come out of the pot, but I would advise against doing so. They will be piping hot!
Here’s a very simple recipe for a quick mango chutney to use as a dipping sauce for these wonderful saheena balls (you’ll notice that it’s very similar to the original mango chutney recipe I posted a while back)…
In a food processor or blender place all the ingredients I mentioned above and puree into an even consistency. Make sure you get a green mango (one that’s not ripe) and then remove the skin, then remove slices of the flesh to use. Discard the seed.
Do taste for salt at the end and if you find that it’s still sour or tart, add a dash of sugar to the mix to help balance it off.
This chutney can remain for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge, in the event you’re wondering. What are you all waiting for? Give this one a try, it’s very tasty and I’m sure your friends will be amazed at how appetizing these are at the next staff pot luck. Don’t forget to leave me your comments below – even if it’s just to say hello. It’s appreciated. And while you’re at it, why not join us on facebook? Click on the image below.