When I was in college I spent some time in India. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Over the months I was there, I met a lot of wonderful Indian families, all eager to share with me the secrets of their cooking. In India cooking is seen as an art form and a divine experience, one which is taken very seriously. In some families you must bathe before you even enter the kitchen. New wives will serve these elaborate multi-coarse meals to all visitors, constantly making sure that their guests are enjoying all of it. I am so fortunate to have learned so much about cooking and hosting while I was there. There is truly nothing more delicious than an Indian celebration. Talk about gastronomic paradise.
One of my all time favorite snacks, or appetizers in an Indian restaurant, is Vegetable Pakora. Pakora are delicious vegetables dipped in a spiced batter made from garbanzo bean flour, much like Tempura in a Japanese restaurant. These tasty little fritters are then deep fried and served with a dipping sauce of some sort. Often a sweet sauce made from tamarind and a spicy one made from mint and cilantro. The combinations are endless. I got a wild hair the other night while looking at a head of cauliflower in my fridge, and I just had to whip some up. It had been years since I made these at home, and by the end of dinner I was wondering why? They are so easy and so delicious, I will definitely be adding these in to my meals more often.
1 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
peanut oil or other high heat oil
salt and pepper to taste
To make the batter combine all the dry ingredients and then stir them up a bit with a spoon or a whisk. You can find garbanzo bean flour
at almost any health food store and at all Indian Markets. It comes in a plastic bag, the brand I bought was Bob’s Red Mill. You usually see a display of these flours in the baking aisle. Add the water, in a few batches, and stir until you have a batter the consistency of pancake batter. Let the batter sit for 20 minutes if you can spare it. This makes it set up a little better.
You can use any combination of vegetables you like. I love cauliflower pakora. Love love love it. Usually at an Indian restaurant the basket is a combo and there are only a few cauliflower pakora mixed with other things. I have been known to be very selfish with the cauliflower pakora. I truly feel that any on the table should be mine, since I care the most.
For my Pakora night I prepared some bite sized cauliflower, some slices of fingerling potato, and then little nests which were made from sliced onions, collard greens and grated purple potato.
Dip the vegetable into the batter and then place a few pieces on a plate. Make sure the oil you are using is very hot. I used peanut oil about 2″ deep in a pot. More would have been better, but that was all I had left. Ideally you want the oil to cover the vegetable without having to turn it. Mine went about 3/4 of the way up, but I just flipped the vegetable as the bottom turned golden to cook all sides. For the nests I combined all the ingredients in my hand and rolled them together, then used a slotted spoon to dip them into the batter, then they went right into the oil. Make sure not to crowd the vegetables or they won’t cook right. When I did nests I only did two at a time. With the cauliflower I did about 6 pieces at a time, you will have to judge based on your pot. (if you have a deep fryer, even better!)
Drain on paper towels. If you are making a few batches, put the finished pakora on a baking sheet in a 350º oven to keep warm while the rest cook. I would say these took about 5-7 minutes per batch.
I served mine with a cilantro mint sauce. You basically use twice the cilantro to mint, add juice of a lemon and thin it with water or plain yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste. If you want it spicy add a seeded jalepeno. I use a Cuisinart Mini Prep
, but a blender works well too.
A votre santé!