Grilled Indian yogurt sandwiches offer a cooling crunch and creaminess in each bite

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – When Chetna Makan was growing up in central India, one sandwich showed up more often than any other in her and her classmates’ lunchboxes: dahi toast, a grilled number filled with cabbage, bell pepper and more, bound in yogurt.

“Also, it’s so hot in India, it’s quite a cooling sandwich,” she said, adding that it gets its creaminess from yogurt (dahi) rather than “mayo, which is completely unhealthy. You can add vegetables, and it’s just crunchiness you can taste”.

Makan has written several cookbooks since making it to the semifinals of The Great British Bake-Off in 2014 and winning a holiday version of the show in 2016, and the most recent is Chetna’s Healthy Indian Vegetarian. Her father turned vegetarian a few decades ago, her husband comes from a vegetarian family, and so the couple and their two children might have chicken a couple times a week, but “mostly eat veg”.

“People think vegetarian is boring, the same old beans, the same old cauliflower,” she said. “But it’s much, much more.”

These sandwiches prove her point, and also show that flavourful vegetarian cooking doesn’t need much effort, either. You chop the cabbage and bell pepper, plus a chilli and some cilantro, grate a carrot, and stir in thick yogurt, salt and pepper.

Dahi Toast (Grilled Yogurt Sandwiches). PHOTO: TOM MCCORKLE

The crowning touch is in the skillet, where black mustard seeds sizzle in the small bit of butter you use to fry the sandwiches, adding another pop of flavour to the creaminess and crunch of my new favourite lunch.

DAHI TOAST (GRILLED YOGURT SANDWICHES)

20 minutes

Four servings

These sandwiches, a childhood staple in India, are simple to prepare yet make a stunningly delicious lunch, snack or party nibble. Serve with ketchup or Indian chilli sauce, if you like. They don’t have to be eaten hot, but they are best the day they’re made.

INGREDIENTS

One cup finely chopped green cabbage

3/4 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

One small green chilli, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

3/4 cup plain whole milk Greek-style yogurt

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Eight slices white sandwich bread

Four teaspoons butter (preferably salted)

One teaspoon black mustard seeds

Ketchup or Indian chilli sauce, for serving (optional)

STEPS

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, chilli and cilantro. Stir in the yogurt, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.

Place four slices of bread on your work surface and divide the yogurt mixture evenly among them. Top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread.

Heat a medium frying pan or griddle over medium heat until hot. Add one teaspoon butter and half a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, then place two sandwiches in the pan and cook until golden and crispy on the bottom, one to two minutes. Turn them over, add another teaspoon of butter, and cook until golden on that side, one to two minutes.

Transfer the sandwiches to a plate and repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Serve them whole or cut into triangles, with ketchup or chilli sauce, if desired.

NUTRITION

Calories: 299; Total Fat: 8g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 15mg; Sodium: 616mg; Carbohydrates: 31g; Dietary Fibre: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 9g.