Saturday, August 25, 2007

Recipe of the week, 1: Pakoras

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This week I chose two recipes as the recipe of the week. The first, Pakoras, I have already tested. The other I will try tomorrow. Here is the recipe:

Pakoras (vegetable fritters)

3/4 cup besan (chick-pea flour, also known as gram flour)
3/4 cup self-rising flour (or 3/4 cup flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
1 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
Approx. 1 cup water
2 medium potatoes
1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
1 medium onions
A few fresh spinach leaves
Oil for deep-drying

Mix together besan, flour (baking powder, salt), garlic, salt, garam masala, chilli and water and beat until smooth and light. The batter should be about the thickness of pancake batter. Cover the bowl and set aside for at least an hour (don't refrigerate).
Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Drop the slices into cold water so they will not turn brown. Remove and pat dry just before frying. Wash but do not peel the aubergine and cut into thin slices. If it's large, cut it into bite-size pieces. Peel the onions and cut in half lengthways. Then cut into thin slices lengthways, leaving a bit of root at the end to keep the slices together (looks a little like fan). Wash and dry spinach and tear into pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok, karahi, a deep frying pan or deep-fryer. Dip individual pieces of vegetables in the batter, let the excess batter drip off and drop into the hot oil. Only fry a few at a time to keep the frying temperature high (if the temperature is too low the pakoras will be tough and oily). Pakoras should be light and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper and serve warm with a fresh chutney or raita for dipping.

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Omissions and changes to the recipe: I used only half an aubergine and substituted the other half with half a zucchini, I only used half an onion, and no spinach, as I would have had to buy a huge packet in order to get the few leaves the recipe calls for. (Another time, I might use arugula instead of spinach).

Recipe review:
Most recipes for Pakoras I have seen instruct the user to make the batter and use it right away, with no standing time. I assume the standing time in Solomon's recipe is to give it time to start fermenting so it will puff up more.

The batter required more (about 1/4 cup) than the given amount of water to get to the right thickness. When dipped into the hot oil, it puffed up nicely and turned a lovely golden colour. Using the given amount of spices (garam masala, garlic and chilli) and salt, it has, when cooked, a mild spice flavour and could, in my opinion, use double the garlic and chilli and a little more salt, but of course I ate them without a dip and perhaps the recipe takes into account that they would be served with dip. I could not detect a difference in taste from a spiced Orly batter, meaning that I probably could have used double the given amount of flour and left out the besan.

I sliced the vegetables into slices about 5 mm (1/2 cm) thick, which turned out to be just right for the aubergine and zucchini, but too thick for the potatoes which were a little short of being al dente by the time the batter had turned golden. The onions were mostly perfectly al dente. It was difficult to slice a half onion into even-sized fan slices, and next time I will probably just quarter the onion and slice the quarters and when I'm done frying the other ingredients I'll mix the onion slices into the batter, give it a good stir and drop it into the oil by the spoonful.

The fritters were crisp and not too greasy, but as I mentioned before, the batter was somewhat lacking in flavour. The fritters are good cold as well as hot, but the batter loses it's crispness as they cool and the juices from the vegetables penetrate the batter. And while I didn't make a chutney or a raita or indeed any kind of dip, I think that when served as party snacks it would be best to serve these pakoras with a choice of several different dips, for example something sweet, something tart and something spicy.

I imagine it would be very good to chop all the vegetables into small pieces and mix everything together to make mixed fritters. This batter would, I think, be excellent for shrimp and fish fritters. I also think that bell peppers (capsicums), mushrooms, cauliflower and julienned carrots would make excellent pakoras, not to mention jalapeño peppers.

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Rebecca said...

My favourite recipe for pakoras comes from a cookbook by Julie Sahni, there are 2 versions depending on the printing. If you can ever track it down, you should give hers a try as well. The breading is less heavy and they are absolutely wonderful.

Bibliophile said...

Sounds good. I'm planning to buy Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking", as it is the best Indian cookbook I have read. I will definitely check out her pakora recipe. Thanks.