I read about Taste & Create last month on Columbus Foodie’s blog and thought that it sounded like a fun idea. Bloggers are paired up and have to make a recipe they choose from the other’s blog. I was excited to be paired with Bombay Foodie as I love Indian food but rarely cook it at home. Reading through the archives of Bombay Foodie make me nostalgic for the three months I spent in Northern India in 2000. I didn’t go to Bombay, but the diwali sweets, paranthas and pakoras brought back happy memories.
I was tempted by lots of recipes but it was the pakoras that most captured me:
The only thing I ever feel like eating when it rains are pakoras and chai. Vegetables, most likely onions and potatoes but sometimes paneer, dipped in a gramflour batter and deep fried. Warm and crisp – the most perfect antidote to grey skies there is.
We have had a lot of rainy days recently – and what better excuse to make some delicious deep fried food. I needed a little more guidance on the batter and so I turned to the authority on Indian cooking Madhur Jaffrey. I have a copy of ‘The Essential Madhur Jaffrey‘ and I would highly recommend any of her books. If you haven’t heard of her before, she is an actress and food writer and here is an NPR interview with her.
I decided to make potato and onion pakoras. I found gram flour (aka besan, aka chickpea flour) at Flavors of India at the North Market and was surprised (but pleased) to see that it comes from Ontario. Surprised because I had never thought about where chickpeas grow and pleased because I have a soft spot for Ontario. Madhur Jaffrey’s batter recipe also called for salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, baking soda, black pepper and cumin. It also takes a lot of oil – 2.5 to 3 inches deep – for my pan that was over 3 liters and I had to make an emergency dash to the grocery store for more oil.
These pakoras were different to the ones we had when I was travelling in India. I think the batter there was thicker and the pakoras were made of small pieces of mixed vegetables fried in clusters. These ones were very similar to the potato pakoras that we used to take-out from an Indian sweet shop – Natraj– in South Harrow near my parents house.
I was pleased with the results, a thin layer of tender potato inside a crispy, subtly spiced shell. I sliced the potato with a mandolin and sliced the onions by hand. The batter was really simple and you can use a drop of the batter to test the oil temperature. When it rises to the surface immediately and sizzles, it is time to get frying. Pakoras are a great snack or appetizer to share with friends. Simple to make (just keep a close eye on the hot oil) but something a little bit different and chutneys make a nice variation to the banal salsas and hummus.
I made two different chutneys, also from ‘The Essential Madhur Jaffrey’: fresh green chutney with coriander leaves and yoghurt and fresh mint chutney with fruit. The latter was an excellent way to use up some of the mint from my garden. It is mixed with an apple, an orange, some lemon juice and green chillies. Easy, fresh tasting and tangy. The fresh green chutney was the more popular with my guests. It is also really simple: fresh coriander, green chilli, yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and toasted cumin seeds.
Thanks Bombay Foodie and Taste & Create, I am inspired to make some more Indian food at home, but maybe first I’ll pop to the Banana Leaf for lunch!