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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Mmm, love paneer. Substituting spinach for peas would probably be our route, but this still sounds really good.

Wow this looks fantastic! I have to say, the one big thing that reading your blog is making me do, is want to buy more and more cookbooks! That, and I've been meaning to start poking at Indian food... So this looks delicious, doesn't look too complicated, and with the recipe for Paneer as your first comment, this looks like a fun project to work on! Thanks for this new direction to work in! Tegan


These are soooo getting made. Except not until finals are over...


Heidi, I am so happy that you featured an Indian recipe. I agree that the ingreidient list in a typical indian recipe could look daunting. However, introducing just one or tow ingredients like cumin, turmeric, or garam masala might lend that Indian flavour. abt this recipe: Thanks for the inspiration. I was looking for a healthy snack recipe for my toddler, and this looks like a winner. I am thinking of using a pastry from jamaican veggie patties recipe for the cover.


I love anything that you can pick up with your hands and eat, I am very primal that way. I think I can smell the aroma. delicious!

Perfect timing for our dinner party :) Can't wait to try these!


I love peas. I think these would also be great with lentils, and I agree, Heidi--about why home cooks would be intimidated by Indian cooking. And though my spice cupboard is filled with many Indian spices, I know I'm lacking many, so I do the bail-out thing, too. I appreciate someone making it a little more accessible for the home cook--I love naan, but don't exactly have a tandoor in the backyard! Also. Baked, not fried? Hooray!

I taught a cooking lesson at an Indian home this past year and was astounded by the size of the spice pantry. I too like to take shortcuts and feel that if you can capture 3-5 of the key ingredients of a certain ethnic cuisine you can capture the essence of that food and still be able to whip something up with what's on hand easily on a weeknight.

Oooh that looks delicious! In my experience it's absolutely fine (and easier) to leave the paneer out. Just make sure to add 2 tablespoon of some other (veg) binding agent (chickpea or corn flour). Heidi, I made green peas kabab from the following website and it turned out phenomenal. Just wanted to share it with you: But the most traditional use of green peas paste in my part of India is a filling in puri. Here is one example: As usual, love your blog!


Hooray for peas! Paneer is also really easy to make -- you just need fresh whole milk, lemon juice, and cheesecloth, and it's SO satisfying to use the homemade stuff! (If you can keep from devouring it immediately, that is.)


The book sounds fantastic, and your review was really thorough, giving me a good idea of all it offers. I also think this was an excellent recipe to show us. Sounds great! I wonder if you could substitute medium tofu for paneer?

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I CANNOT WAIT to make this for summer sunset concerts!!! The perfect snacking treat to get us energized for dancing on a hot & humid southern Illinois summer night! Thank you again, Heidi, for keeping it fresh, fun, tasty & healthy!!!


I agree, the long list in Indian recipes seems daunting. My husband goes for it though, and it's worth it every time! These look delicious, similar to something he made recently. Boy I'm a lucky girl to have him! Looks like we'd both love this book.

Love that these are baked not fried. Any recipe that includes peas is always a hit at our table.

I love little finger foods like this, and it's got endless possibilities. Indian cooking is one of my favorites, but yes it is extensive. The results can be well worth it.

What an unusual recipe!! I love peas so this will be perfect for me.

For me, it's not so much the expansive spice list that puts me off of Indian cooking - it's the time investment. I have a lot of the odder things in my spice box(es) but there often seem to be 37 steps in any Indian dish. This one looks mighty manageable -- and tasty. I also love the idea of freezing some for another meal or two. I'm not experienced with paneer, though I've eaten it. What makes it distinct from the other cheeses?

I am so hungry now! These look great and I would like to check out the rest of her recipes- thanks for sharing.

We made Indian food yesterday at school (I'm a culinary food student). How I wish I had had this recipe to play with. Ah well. Cheers!

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