Friday, June 03, 2011

Chais and Fries Pakora recipes for the monsoons

Chai and Pakoras, the perfect monsoon comfort food? Image courtesy Soam Restaurant Babulnath

Yaaayyyy It rained! I was waiting to post this to celebrate the first shower of the monsoons.

Oh, I know that soon we will soon tire of the rains and crib about those days of damp when clothes don't dry, hair is damp and even the air is damp! (and redolent with the moldy smell of wildlife flourishing in sun deprived corners...). But monsoons in Mumbai bring their own magic.

Life as we know it is affected, the rush-rush-rush, run-run-run and stop-to-breathe-only-on-Sunday often comes to a standstill as the railway system that connects the city ---- comes to halt. Everywhere there is an air of resolution, "we cannot change it so let us make the best of it..." Slum dwellers will matter-of-factly elevate all their possessions from floor level as they leave for work in anticipation of flooding. Housewives will tuck in their saris and prepare for days when there will be no maids/vegetables/electricity or sometimes all of those together and make arrangements for the comfort of their families through the season. A season of unexpected guests knocking at your door dripping wet, stranded by rain. A season of budgets going out of the window (have to take a cab/ fix that leaking ceiling...)

But look on the bright side lucky people who have not left for work settle down to enjoy a sudden guilt free holidays with their families. Ever so often one will see urchins cavorting in the rain or a paper boat sailing by. Barriers will come down as people are forced to accept a helping hand from total strangers. And romance (like in the movies) wwill flourish under unbrellas all over.

The monsoons in Mumbai bring out the best and the worst in its citizens (cabbies that play on the misfortunes of commuters and double their fares). But .... Yeh mumbai hai ... (That’s Mumbai) and I would not want to be anywhere else.  And if all else fails, there are still Pakoras!
Something about the word fritters is there that does not do justice to Pakoras. "fritters' brings to mind insipid UFOs (Unidentifiable fried objects) whereas say "pakoras" and it brings to mind chunky, crispy, spicy .... I could go on and on .... But I have to go make some Pakoras, because my husband is home early from work thanks to the lure of Pakoras and Chai.

Some of my all time favourite Pakora recipes....

All the ingredients for Pakoras - the spiced batter, sliced onions, potatoes, and palak leaves

Dip the veges in the batter and drop them into hot oil.

Some Potatoes and some cauliflower go in.

Let them fry!

Remove as they are done.

Transfer to plate

Dip Palak, (spinach) leaves in batter and add to oil.

let them fry!

Here is the recipe for the simple Pakora (Recommended tea match Masala Chai)
Serves: 4; Time: 30 minutes

500 ml oil for deep frying
1/2 kg gram flour
1 c each onions, sliced, potato sliced, cauliflower florets
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. red chili powder
1 tsp. whole coriander
2 green chilies, fresh (chopped)
2 tsp. chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp. chopped mint leaves
Some water for making paste
In a bowl placed all the ingredients (except the oil for frying  and sliced vegetables) add some water and mix to a smooth paste. Dip sliced of vegetables into batter and drop into hot into oil, cook till golden brown and risen to top. Drain on tissue paper and serve hot with ketchup or chutney.

Kand Pattice at Soam

Vatana Patice (Potato casing stuffed with spicy pea filling) at Soam

Mixed greens Pakoras

Mixed greens pakoras (recommended tea match Suleimani Chai)
1/4 bunch Spinach (Finely Chopped)
1/4 bunch Dill (Finely Chopped)
1/4 bunch Methi(Finely Chopped)
1/4 bunch Spinach (Finely Chopped)
1 green onion (Finely Chopped)
6 stms green garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup Gram Flour (besan)
1 tsp.fresh turmeric grated
1 chilli paste
1 tsp. salt.
1/2 tsp Sugar.
Oil for frying


Mix thoroughly all the chopped greens and spices, besan, salt and sugar in a bowl. Leave for a few minutes so the salt and sugar draw out the moisture from the vegetables. The batter should be thick and sticky so if required add 1 or two tablespoon of water but avoid adding excess water. Heat oil in a deep pan. Shape small dumpling with fingers or a spoon and drop  in  hot oil. Deep fry them until golden brown in medium flame. Serve with a Spicy tomato Salsa (this will make them colorfull and the tomato will help the body absorb the nutrition of the greens.) Drain out excess oil and keep it in a tissue paperin order  to soak the excess oil.

Andhra style Pakoras

Surprise stuffed Arancini

Surprise stuffed Arancini (Serves 8; Time 40 mins)
This is my spicy, surprising take on a Sicilian Italian classic. In it I us a spicy pepperoni or even a chorizo in place of traditional ham.

For the arancini
1 box Arborio rice, cooked
1 c white onion, finely chopped
1 c mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c fire spice cheese, grated
1/2 c parmiggiano reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 c Italian pork spicy pepperon, finely chopped

For the egg mixture
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk

For the coating
Flour to coat
1 pkt panko bread crumbs

Mix all arancini ingredients in a large bowl and divide into hand rolled even round balls. Roll each ball in flour, and then dip into egg mixture. Then roll each ball in panko, coating evenly. Fry until golden brown. Serve.

Rajashree Bhabhis Rice Pakoras

Rajashree Bhabhis Rice Pakoras Serves: 4; Time: 30 minutes
This is a recipe I picked up from my bhabhi Rajashree Dave Ghildiyal. It is a great way to use up leftover rice...

1 cup cooked leftover Rice
Red chili powder
Garam masala
1-1/3 cup chana flour (besan) mix with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup rava (fine)
1-2 chillies finely chopped
1 onion (finely chopped)
Oil for frying

To make, sprinkle little water on the rice and heat it through in the microwave. Cool. When rice has cooled add the yogurt and leave to soak up for 30 mins. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, shape into balls and deep fry. Serve with Green Chutney.  

Felafels and Hummus

Mamak Rojak

Mamak Rojak
I had the good fortune of tasting this addictive, don’t-stop-till-you’ve-licked-the-plate –clean dish with Dr. Seetoh, owner of Makansutra food website and ambassador of Singaporean cuisine. Rojak is a Malaysian term for “mixture”  and there are two kinds of Rojak, a fruit Rojak that is like a spicy peanut flavoured fruit and vegetable chaat and Mamak Rojak which is a popular  street snack that fuses Malay and Indian culinary influences. Also called Indian Rojak, this dish is made by Indian Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore and is a spicy hot mixture of fried things such as vegetables, tempeh, seafood, sausages, topped with hot chillies and served with a signature sauce or gravy that is made with sweet potato.
100g small prawns
100 g sausages
4 eggs
3 potatoes boiled with skins
1 tsp ground chilli paste
1/2 tsp salt
Oil for deep-frying

For Garnishing
1 cucumber, shredded
150g bean sprouts, scalded
Hard fritters
For the batter
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chicken stock
1/2 tsp of pepper
1/2 cup water
1 egg
For the Fritters
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
120ml water
1 green chilli, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped

For the Sauce
450g sweet potatoes
5 cups water
4 tbsp oil
1 ½ tbsp tamarind juice in water
100g sugar Salt to taste
6 shallots, pounded finely
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp chilli paste
1 tsp Chicken stock
100g toasted peanuts, pounded
1 tsp salt
A little dark soya sauce (for colour)
Peel potatoes, toss with ground chilli paste and salt and then deep-fry. Cut each into wedges. Quarter the hardboiled eggs.
To make battered prawns and sausages, combine all of the ingredients except the egg, in a bowl and adding water gradually, mix them into a smooth paste. Set aside for 40 - 50 minutes. Just before using the batter add the egg and stir well till smooth. Dip prawns and sausages in and deep-fry in hot oil until golden and crispy. Cut to bite size. 
To make the fritters, combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and water in a bowl. Mix well and reserve covered for 30-40 minutes. Just before frying add in the chopped onion and chillies. Shape into a cylinders using flour to keep hands dry if dough is sticky and deep-fry the fritters in oil until golden brown. Cut each fritter into 4-5 bit sized pieces.

To make the sauce, boil the sweet potatoes then blend in batches with half the water. Heat oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and chilli pastes and the chicken stock. Add the sweet potato puree and the remaining water and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the tamarind juice, palm sugar and salt. Keep flame low and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add the peanuts and a few drops of dark soy sauce for colour.
To serve, arrange all the ingredients in a platter, top up with the chillies and onion and either pour over the sauce or serve on the side.

My friend Kim’s (of the blog Jhovaan)_ Prawn Bajjes (Pakodas/Fritters) Serves 3 hungry people, Makes about 40 pakodas, Time 30 mins

This was Kim’s prize winning entry for a Pakora recipe contest I had on my blog a few years ago. Kim sent it in with the note “Coming from a Coastal town, Prawn bajjes were an evening treat we relished.” I loved them from the moment I tested the recipe, and they quickly became a regular on the Ghildiyal family menu. Aman can go through a whole batch of these in one sitting!

500gms shelled prawns (any size) cleaned & deveined
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
half a lemon (or 1 teaspoon vinegar)
1 medium size onion
4-5 green chillies
10-14 sprigs corriander (cilantro) leaves
250gms besan (chickpea flour) - moderate the quantity as needed.
1 tsp finely chopped ginger (or 1/2 tsp ginger paste)
pinch of soda bicarbonate
salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Clean and devein the prawns thoroughly. Coat them with the turmeric powder and juice from half a lemon and keep for a while. This helps get rid of the strong fishy smell. Add some salt to the prawns to flavour them. Finely chop the onions, chillies, ginger and coriander leaves. You can use less or more chillies depending on your love for spice. Mix all these chopped ingredients into the prawns and mix well. Slowly add spoons of besan to the prawn mixture and moderate the water to get a batter of dropping consistency. Add a pinch of soda bicarb to give the pakodas a bit of crispness. You can add some salt at this stage too, in case you haven't added too much salt to the prawns. Heat oil in a pan (at least 1 inch of oil in the pan). Since the oil is going to be constantly heated at a high temperature, use an oil which does not go bad on long exposure to high heat. Corn oil or sunflower oil are good options. Form the mixture into balls with your hand. (For those not familiar with this Indian technique, you can use the 2 spoons technique used for choux pastry: Take a tablespoon of the mixture, and using another tablespoons, spoon it from one to the other to tighten the ingredients and drop it in the hot oil). Fry them for a minute or so before turning them over. Fry on the other side for a minute so till they turn deep brown. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them. Serve hot with a spicy and sour green chutney.

Tip: Sometimes there may be a bit of batter and chopped non-prawn stuff left in your vessel. Cut a slice of bread diagonally in half. Dip the bread into that batter and deep fry in the same oil.

Icli Kofte (recommended tea pairing Turkish (Cay) or Tea or Oregano tea)
700 g minced meat
300 g fine bulgur (cracked wheat) or Daliya
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
50 g crushed walnuts
1 tsp cumin
20 g pine nuts
1 tsp cayenne pepper
20 g currants
1 bunch parsley
3 onions
20 grams margarine
220 grams vegetable oil

Boil bulgur in plenty of water until soft. Drain and set aside. Melt margarine and lightly brown chopped onions and pine nuts. Add 350 grams of meat and saute until juices evaporate. Remove from heat. Add pepper, salt, cumin, crushed walnuts, currants and chopped parsley. Mix. In a large bowl, combine the remainder of meat with the bulgur. Add cayenne pepper and egg. Mix and knead well. Take a large walnut sized piece of mixture and roll into a ball. With index finger, make a hole and push the inside, making a large cavity. Stuff the cavity with the meat mixture,press hole with fingers to close. Lightly press meatball in palm of hand to shape like an egg. Repeat procedure, making as many meatballs as possible. Add meatballs to salted boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Heat oil in frying pan and lightly fry meatballs until golden brown. Drain and serve.

Japanese Tempura (recommended tea match Japanese Sencha from Chado tea)
1 egg
1 cup ice water
1 cup all purpose flour
Vegetable oil to deep fry
Assorted vegetables cut into batons and/or seafood like shrimp or prawns

Beat an egg in a bowl. Add ice water in the bowl. Be sure to use very cold water. Add sifted flour in the bowl and mix lightly. Be careful not to over mix the batter. Heat oil in a wok. Lightly dip the vegetables/seafood in the batter and deep fry immediately till crisp. Drain on kitchen towel. Serve hot with salt or a light dipping sauce.

Silken Tofu Fritters (Recommended tea match – Japanese tea from Chado)

1 block Silken tofu
Mix of plain flour and cornflour in the ratio of 1:1
Sichuan Pepper & Salt
Oil to fry
Spring onion leaves

Drain tofu and wash well. Cut into cubes and coat with flour. Meanwhile heat oil in a pan. Deep fry Tofu chunks untill golden brown. Remove and drain on paper. Sprinkle with crushed Sichuan pepper and salt. Garnish with spring onion leaves.

For Dipping sauce – Combine Soya sauce, Plim sauce and toasted sesame oil with finely sliced spring onion greens and crushed pepper.

Greek Domatokeftethes (Tomato Fritters) (typically served with Sideritis (Greek Mountain or Shepherd tea a.k.a Ironwart but I recommend Tulsi (Holy Basil tea)

4 ripe medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 medium onion, grated
1 1/2 - 2 cups of self-rising flour
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh mint or fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

Combine all ingredients except flour in a bowl. Add enough flour to make a thick batter.
Heat 1/2 to 3/4 inch of oil in a nonstick frying pan. When the oil is hot, drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the oil and fry until browned. Turn once to brown on both sides.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper towels.


Biny Anoop said...

wow so so many versions of pakora...i think i am tempted to make it for eveng tea

Mee said...

What a delightful post. Unfortunately am running fever, so not hungry-ish. But most definitely plan to try out a couple of these goodies from here! Thx:)

Alka said...

Now it feels like Monsoon! Though chai samosa will remain all time favorite of my family, but yeah, rains bring along a craving for crispy pakoras (fritters? Naaah!)
Have you ever tried Sanna pakoras?the double fried highly addictive devils? Super crisp these are.
Also I can see that the batter doesn't ask for the rice flour or Mithi soda.We use either club soda or mithi soda almost always for any type of pakora batter.Could it be excluded and yet give the pakoras a crunch?