The train’s pulled in. Sandy and Peter, my hosts, have whisked me to their famous Froog-Moore Retreat here in Tamworth. I have snuggled into my luxurious room in preparation for the cooking weekend.
We’ve got pakoras on the menu, so this exchange is appropriate:
Received a letter from Emily who asks:
“How are you? I have prepared cauliflower pakoras several times, but the spicing of the chick pea flour is not to my liking – usually too mild, not in the chili area but just in the other spices, such as cumin, coriander, hing, salt. Can you advise me on a spicing mixture and proportions to 1 cup of besam flour? Also, should I use baking powder to ensure the dough cooks thoroughly? Sometimes if the batter is too thick, it will not be crispy. Should the batter be like cream or yogurt? I will cook them in canola oil. Thank you very much.”
My reply: “Hello Emily! Firstly read my recipe below for pakoras. I also don’t put many spices in, but there is no restriction. I usually serve them with a spicy chutney.
Note that I use three flours. Add extra rice flour to replace some of the plain flour for extra crispness. For super-crisp, add a tablespoon of oil to the batter.
Batter should almost drip off the veg, but not quite. I find Canola oil disgusting. Try anything but that. Ghee is my favourite! Hope all this helps! Oh – and below is my recipe.
Assorted Crisp Vegetable Fritters (Pakoras)
Pakoras are popular spiced, batter-dipped, deep-fried, vegetables that make perfect snacks or hors d’oeuvres. Ghee is the preferred medium for frying pakoras, although you can use nut or vegetable oil.
The tradition of frying things in batter is popular throughout the culinary world. In Italy, there’s the delicious Neapolitan fritters known as pasta cresciuta, comprising of things like sun-dried tomato halves, zucchini flowers, and sage leaves dipped in a yeasted batter and fried in olive oil. The Japanese dip all sorts of things, including zucchini, eggplant and carrot into a light thin batter and serve the tempura with dipping sauce.
In India, pakoras (pronounced pak-OR-as) are almost a national passion. Cooked on bustling street corners, in snack houses, and at home, the fritters are always served piping hot, usually with an accompanying sauce or chutney. The vegetables can be cut into rounds, sticks, fan shapes, or slices. The varieties are endless.
Try batter-frying various types of vegetables. Cauliflower pakoras <%KFC – Kurma’s Fried Cauliflowers%> are probably the most popular, but equally delicious are potato rings, zucchini chunks, spinach leaves, pumpkin slices, eggplant rings, baby tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red or green pepper slices, asparagus tips, and artichoke hearts. Cook pakoras slowly to ensure that the batter and the vegetables cook simultaneously. Makes about 2 dozen pakoras.
2/3 cup each of chickpea flour, plain flour and self-raising flour
2½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yellow asafoetida powder
1½ teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
2½ cups cold water, or enough to make a smooth batter
bite-sized vegetable pieces of your choice
ghee or oil for deep-frying
Combine the flours, salt, powdered spices, and green chilies in a bowl. Mix well with a wire whisk.
Whisk in sufficient cold water to make a batter the consistency of medium-light cream. When you dip the vegetable in the batter, it should be completely coated but neither thick and heavy nor runny and thin. Have extra flour and water on hand to adjust the consistency as required. Let the batter sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat the ghee or oil to a depth of 6 – 7 cm in a wok or deep-frying vessel until the temperature reaches about 180°C/355°F.
Dip 5 or 6 pieces of vegetable in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. Fry until the pakoras are golden brown, turning to cook them evenly on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Continue cooking until all the pakoras are done.
Serve immediately or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated cool oven for up to ½ hour.