Whilst I cook Indian meals on a fairly regular basis there are so many types of Indian foods I still haven't attempted to make at home. I generally rotate between vegetable based curries, several different dals, koftas and occasionally flatbreads. Apart from samosas and onion bhajis, Indian appetisers haven't really featured in my kitchen. Pakoras popped into my mind the other day when I was brainstorming something different to serve with my old favourite dal makhani. I have always enjoyed these spicy fried snacks in restaurants.
After flicking through my cookbooks I couldn't settle on a recipe so I searched around the internet as well. The common theme was a 1:1 ratio of besan (chickpea flour) to water, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice. The spices seemed to be the factor that gave these recipes their individuality. This research was quite interesting yet I still couldn't decide on a recipe. I ended up following one from an older cookbook of mine that has been a bit hit and miss at times and added a few extra spices I had liked the sound of in other recipes, kaloonji (nigella) seeds being one of them.
This pakora batter could be used with a variety of vegetables, at the time I had an abundance of cauliflower and decide to use that solely. Coriander and tamarind chutneys as well as raitas were mentioned as being ideal condiments. I enjoyed testing a coriander chutney for Terry Hope Romero several months ago and whipped up a batch to have with these pakoras, this was a perfect match. The three of us couldn't quite make it through the quantity in this recipe as we also had dal to eat. It was difficult to show restraint as the pakoras were incredibly tasty. I highly recommend eating these on the night they are prepared, reheating the leftovers in the oven crisped them up a little yet they weren't as fantastic as they were fresh from the wok.
Gobi pakoras (Cauliflower pakoras) (Adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
3/4 cup chickpea (besan) flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon kalooni (nigella) seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 - 1 cup peanut oil, for frying
Mix the chickpea flour, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, kaloonji, cayenne pepper, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a large bowl. Pour in the water and lemon juice and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
Heat some oil in a wok or deep sided frying pan. Drop a tiny bit of the batter into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the batter it's ready for frying. Dredge the florets in the batter, then place into the oil and cook in batches for about 5 minutes or until golden. Remove the florets and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve immediately with a chutney or vegan raita of your choice.