Indian Cuisine: Vegetable Pakoras

Pakoras.

When I signed myself up for a cooking class in Jaipur, I did not know what to expect. It’s difficult to imagine clean, gleaming kitchen surfaces in the dust and confusion of India – and that’s not what I got. I found myself in an Indian family’s home, taking notes as a seemingly endless stream of relatives poured into the house, introducing themselves over a cup of chai.

One of my favourite discoveries at this class was pakora. Usually eaten as a starter or snack, these beauties are essentially deep-fried vegetables (or cheese, if you’re feeling really decadent). They’re basically bhajis, but if you make them yourself, they’re nowhere near as greasy as the ones you get at Indian takeaways.

Pakoras are useful for using up any odd bits you’ve got lying about – pretty much everything can be deep-fried.

Here’s what you’ll need for the batter:

  • 1 cup gram flour (chickpea flour, so this recipe’s great for the gluten-intolerant. You can get this in larger supermarkets, like the big Tesco out in the wilds of Gilesgate).
  • ½ teaspoon each of cumin, thyme, turmeric and chilli powder.
  • 2 chopped green chillies (the big finger chillies)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (or a teaspoon of the dried stuff, if you must).
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water (as needed)
  • Oil (for frying – bog standard veg oil is fine)

Ideas for stuff to put in them:

  • Thinly sliced potato/onion/aubergine/courgette
  • Slices of halloumi/paneer
  • Florets of cauliflower/broccoli
  • Slices of pepper/carrots/chillies (for the brave)
  • Bits of chicken, sausage – whatever you’ve got lying around that needs using up and might taste good in batter!
  • Banana slices or pineapple chunks for dessert, served with syrup á la Chinese restaurants.

Here’s what to do:

1. Mix the flour, salt and spices together.

2. Add the water slowly until it’s like pancake batter.

3. Add the chillies and coriander, mix well.

4. Heat the oil in a pan – at least 1 ½ inches

(N.B. – if the oil is too hot, the pakoras won’t crisp. If it’s too cold, they’ll be greasy. The way to test if it’s the right temperature is to drop a tiny bit of batter in. It should rise up, but not change colour immediately).

5. Dip the veg/assorted fridge pickings in the batter, one at a time, and then lower them into the oil.

6. DO NOT just drop them in, unless you’re particularly fond of first degree burns.

7. Fry them in small batches, for about 4–5 minutes, turning them occasionally ‘til they’re golden brown.

8. Take them out and rest them on kitchen roll to get rid of the grease, then enjoy!

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