OK, I’m going to be the first one to call myself out on this. This recipe is not a salad at all. It’s not even particularly healthy. BUT, it is a healthier version of an unhealthy treat. It’s what I make when I am just dying for the savory moreishness of pakoras – when nothing else will do.
Pakoras originate from South Asia. They’re spicy fritters made of chickpea batter (gluten-free) and studded with onions, coriander leaves and fresh green chillies. If you buy them off the street, more often than not they have been fried to within an inch of their lives and are really greasy and often too spicy. Home-made versions tend to be less greasy so if you’re lucky enough to be offered pakoras at someone’s house, be sure to try them (you won’t be able to stop at just one).
I’m really not a fan of deep-fried food, but this is my one weakness. A traditional pakora is mostly made up of fried batter. To make it healthier, my version of pakoras uses thick chunky seasonal vegetables coated lightly in a thin layer of batter. I tried baking them – it didn’t work out. They really do have to be fried, but since the batter is so thin they only have to be in the oil for a few moments until the batter is cooked through. You can use any vegetables which can be eaten raw or only need a little cooking (ie. zucchini, spinach leaves, carrots, onions, bell peppers, caulifower florets, etc…). Best served with some spicy green coriander-mint chutney and a hot cup of tea (I will get the recipe up for the green chutney soon!).
SEASONAL VEGETABLE PAKORAS
(Serves 8 as a snack)
700g / oz seasonal vegetables (You can mix it up with whatever vegetables you have in the house or use just one type of vegetable – as long as it’s a vegetable which requires little or no cooking. Potatoes will not work with this recipe because they require too much cooking.)
2 cups / 200g / 7oz chickpea flour (also called gram flour)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4-1/2 tsp red chilli powder or some sliced fresh chillies, according to taste (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda or bicarbonate of soda
1 & 1/2 cups / 300mL water (you will need to add it slowly to the dry ingredients)
Sunflower oil or some other oil for deep-frying (yikes!)
- Prepare the batter by combining the dry ingredients (chickpea flour, coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder, salt, and baking soda) in a bowl. Mix with a whisk until the ingredients are evenly dispersed.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add about half the water in the center. Whisk the dry ingredients into the water. Whisk in more water as necessary, taking care to avoid lumps in the batter. You are looking for something which is the same consistency as pancake batter – it should lightly coat the seasonal vegetables. Set the batter aside while you prepare the vegetables.
- Wash, dry and cut the vegetables into chunky pieces. To test the batter consistency, take one vegetable piece and dip it into the batter. You just want a light coating – you should be able to see the vegetable underneath. If it is too thick, add a little more water.
- Prepare a plate with two paper-towels on it to drain the fried pakoras after cooking them.
- Now, get ready to fry. Take a small or medium pan and put in about 2 inches of oil for deep-frying. Heat the oil on medium heat until it is hot enough to cook the batter quickly. You can check this by dropping a small dollop of batter into the oil. If the oil immediately starts bubbling around the batter, then it is ready. You will need to adjust the heat as necessary while cooking.
- Take your chunky vegetables and toss them in the batter.
- Using tongs, lift the vegetables one by one, letting some batter drip off.
- Carefully place them in the hot oil and let them cook just until the batter is cooked through. Only put in as many pakoras as will fit comfortably in the pan.
- Once cooked, remove the pakoras with your tongs, place them in the plate with the two paper-towels and allow them to drain.
- Repeat until all the pakoras have been cooked. Eat immediately.
- Pakora batter stays nicely in the fridge for at least 24 hours, so you can use half today and half tomorrow.
This recipe can be made year-round with any seasonal vegetables, but in July one of my favorite vegetables to use is courgette! I am happy to have submitted this recipe to Ren Behan’s ‘Simple & In Season’, hosted this month by My Custard Pie.