Monica Bhide’s Chile Pea Puffs Recipe

Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puff recipe - crispy-skinned baked snacks stuffed with peas, paneer cheese, chiles, and garlic. From her new cookbook - Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen.

Monica Bhide’s Chile Pea Puffs

I have some special books to highlight in the next few weeks. As I'm sure you've noticed by now, my attention meanders when it comes to cooking. Sometimes weeks will go by when I'm focused on experimenting with my own ideas, then a book will catch my attention and I'll spend days cooking from that author's point of view. It's one of the great aspects of cooking - easily being able try on another cooks shoes and walk around a bit. I made Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs over the weekend - crispy-skinned baked snacks stuffed with peas, paneer cheese, chiles, and garlic. The recipe is from her new book, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, and representative of the type of recipes you'll find throughout.

Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs

So, the big turn-off when it comes to cooking Indian food at home is the expansive list of ingredients and spices required for many traditional preparations (I'm speaking v. broadly here). Or at least, that's the turn off for me. When I do Indian, it often ends up being more Californian than Indian - I bail out on a spice here and there, and often bump up the fresh vegetables. What I like so much about Modern Spice is the way Monica has turned a contemporary eye toward the Indian pantry and developed a collection of recipes that are mindful of tradition, but not afraid to build on it or break with it. What I'm saying is, if you're looking for a book full of traditional Indian standards, there are other books to buy - great ones. If you're looking for ways to integrate many of the alluring flavors and ingredients of India into your daily cooking, this book is packed with ideas for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs

To give you a better sense of the recipes in the book, here's a sampling of the ones that are top of my list: Kumquat and Mango Chutney with Onion Seeds, Peanut Tikkis with Tamarind-Date Chutney, Masala Omelette with Green Chile Chutney, Paneer with Orange-Apricot Chutney, Heirloom Tomato Salad with Chaat Masala, Indian Onion Rings, The Indian "Burger", Saffron-Cardamom Macaroon, Lychee Phirni. There are more than enough veg-friendly recipes in Modern Spice to make it a worthwhile purchase for vegetarians, and robust chapters on poultry, fish, meat, and shellfish for those who aren't.

Modern Spice is printed in black-and-white with a color photo insert and spans 265 pages. The recipes are fresh and vibrant, most span a single page or less, and (in many cases) feature concise ingredient lists. The Chile Pea Puff recipe I'm featuring today is a good example. I've done pea dumplings before, but I love the serrano and paneer twist on these. I made a double batch, froze half, and will make Monica's Kumquat and Mango Chutney to go with them the next time we have friends over.

Feel free to read more about Monica here, and you can stop by her blog as well.

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Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs

Heidi notes: If you have the time make a double batch of these, they freeze really well - a month or two double bagged. Bake straight from the freezer. You can get paneer at an increasing number of places now - at most Indian grocers, and some cheese shops. If you can't track down the paneer, no problem. You can make these dumplings with ricotta, crumbled tofu, or queso fresco. Vegans, go the tofu route, and seal the wrappers with water in place of the egg white. Monica suggests baking these (see photo), but also mentions they can be fried.

nonstick cooking spray (HS note: or a bit of olive oil)
1 cup cooked green peas, lightly mashed
1/4 cup crumbled paneer
2 small green serrano chiles, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat)
1/4 teaspoon salt to start
1/4 teaspoon red chile powder or red chile flakes (less to reduce heat)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
32 wonton wrappers
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray (HS note: or line with parchment paper).

In a bowl combine the peas, paneer, green chiles, salt, chile powder, and garlic. Mix well.

Place one teaspoon of the mixture into a center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly brush the sides og the wrapper with the egg white. Fold the wrapper over to form a triangle, or if you are using round wrappers, fold to form a half-moon. Press the edges with a fork, gently to secure the seam so the filling does not fall out. (HS note: I rolled them into mini-spring-roll shapes - see photo)

Place the puffs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Spray them lightly with cooking spray (HS note: or brush with a bit of olive oil). Cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are crisp and the skin changes to a lovely golden brown. Turn once, halfway through baking. Serve immediately with your choice of chutney.

Makes 32 puffs.

Reprinted with permission from Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen by Monica Bhide. (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Neat find! I've been experimenting a lot with paneer lately and this seems like a perfect fit. It's easy to make at home for those who can't find it in stores - all you need is a gallon of whole milk and a few tablespoons of lemon juice.


this look WOW! i must say this is a great side dish or veggie main dish thanks

Recipe man

I often find Indian recipes intimidating but this one looks like a great recipe to start with.


Paneer is so easy to make at home! And so delicious! Everyone should try it.


Perfect...Thanks ;-)

Mark Wisecarver

I might just pick this up. I, too, find the spice list in traditional Indian cooking daunting. As busy as I am, I don't cook as often as I'd like, so it's hard to justify stocking up on spices and ingredients that will likely go bad before I can use them up - or even a second time.


Another cookbook along these same lines is Ruta Kahate's 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. The recipes are really fine-tuned. I'm a veteran recipe-tweaker, and there weren't many changes or improvements I felt a need to try.

Mary-Claire van Leunen

This recipe looks wonderful! I absolutely adore Indian food, but agree that the amount of spices (and having them in the pantry) turns most people off from trying these recipes. It's good to know there's a cookbook out there that is cognizant of that, while still trying to highlight Indian traditions. I love your blog and can't wait to read each new post.

Cookin' Canuck

This sounds really good, although I would have to reduce the spiciness to please a certain husband of mine! I am not sure whether I can get wonton wrappers where I live - I probably can - but would filo pastry make a good substitute? Paneer, oddly, is much easier; our local supermarket sells it.

Mrs Redboots

The recipe and the cookbook look great. I also make my own paneer but with a little twist. I add some garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns wrapped in cheesecloth (like a boquet garni) to the milk when I'm gently bringing it to a simmer. Then I get flavored paneer - it works brilliantly.


Sounds like a great book with great recipes. And those puffs look and sound delicious. I love that they're made with wonton wrappers. So easy!


This looks like a great recipe for an appetizer - perfect for a dinner party. And I like that it makes so many (32) too. Can't wait to try it!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Thanks for the recipe -- I'm compiling a list of appetizers to make, my friend has asked (drafted?) me to cook for her birthday dinner party. The fact that these can be prepared and freezed ahead of time is definitely a plus! They're all big on meat, so I'm going to do all vegetarian, and see if anyone notices. Thanks again, keep up the fantastic work!


Wow, these look delicious, almost like an oblong samoosa…


wow it's sounds great, I really would like to try it. I discover you today, my compliments, your blog is wonderful. Marie

Marie_I Calicanti

I made the pea dumplings a few weeks ago and LOVED them. Will definitely try the indian version!


I love the picture of the peas, they're so green, and the puffs sound absolutely wonderful!


Beautiful colors: I love peas and looking for new recipes to cook them. Thank you for this one...

Dominique (de vous à moi...)

oh those peas look like a hit!


Hi Heidi - I love the look of this recipe, thank you! Making your own paneer is simple if you have time to plan ahead. Just bring a litre of full cream milk to the boil, reduce to a low simmer, add the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime, stir til it separates or curdles, and keep stirring for a little while til it stops separating and you have curds and yellow liquid in your pan. If you aren't getting the separation, add more juice. Put a fine cloth (muslin is good) inside a colander and drain the contents of the saucepan through the cloth. Tie the cloth at the top and hang over the sink or a bowl for around an hour to remove more liquid. I tend to flatten mine then pop it onto a cutting board, and leave it under a weight for a few hours to drain off even more. You get a lovely fresh tasting paneer. The more you press it, the desner the texture so if you want crumbly paneer for a filling, it is quicker. If you want dense paneer that will hold its shape for a dish like palak paneer, press it more firmly for longer.


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