Seasonal Veg Pakora
With the new season's spring veg springing up in the garden and coming into the shops it's the perfect moment to make these delicious Seasonal Veg Pakora from Grace Regan's appetising new book, Spicebox.
"On almost every city street in India, you’ll find a food vendor tending to giant karahi of floating pakoras in bubbling oil" says Grace, who runs the Spicebox curry house in Walthamstow. "The battered veg varies depending on what’s in season but soft, faster-cooking vegetables are preferable, such as onion, aubergine and spinach."
Below she's listed seasonal veg and combinations that work well. "The harder the vegetable, the smaller you have to cut it. For root vegetables, grating works best." (There are some useful tips on cooking veg in the book which includes 100 spicy curry house recipes.)
"Traditionally, just gram flour is used but Grace finds that adding rice flour and baking powder makes for a crisper batter at home."
Serves 4–6 as a starter/side
For the batter
Veg oil, for frying, around 1 litre
100g gram flour
50g rice flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp ajwain seeds (also called lovage or carom seeds; swap for fennel or nigella (black onion) seeds if you can’t find them)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp tsp ground turmeric
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
A small bunch of coriander (stalks included), finely chopped
2 tsp garam masala
Put the gram and rice flours into a bowl, along with the baking powder and the rest of the batter ingredients. Slowly pour in 500ml water and whisk until a batter is formed – you’re looking for the consistency of a thin pancake batter.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan or wok – it needs to be 5–7cm deep – and place on a high heat.
Test the oil to make sure it is the right temperature by dropping a piece of batter into it. It should fizzle and turn golden in around 30 seconds. If you have a thermometer to hand, the oil should be 180°C.
Drop a small handful of your chosen veg (see below) into the batter and make sure it’s evenly coated. Allow any excess batter to drip off, then gently drop the veg into the oil. Fry until golden on one side and then turn over, using a slotted spoon (they will take around 1 minute 20 seconds on each side).
When the pakora is golden on both sides, lift it out of the oil and drain it on a piece of kitchen paper. Season with a generous pinch of salt on both sides. Repeat until all your veg are cooked. You can cook two or three pieces at the same time, depending on the size of your pan and the veg.
Grace recommends these with date and tamarind Chutney or green (mint and coriander) chutney, recipes for both of which are in the book.
Broccoli, thinly sliced
Spinach, roughly shredded or whole leaves
Watercress, roughly shredded or whole leaves
Aubergine, thinly sliced
Peppers, thinly sliced
Fennel, thinly sliced
New potatoes, boiled and sliced
Spring/summer veg combos
Fennel and spinach
Sorrel and onion
Broccoli and watercress
Chard and red pepper
New potato and watercress
New potato and sorrel
Cabbage, finely shredded
Brussels sprouts, finely shredded
Beetroot, grated raw, or cooked and sliced
Carrot, grated raw
Celeriac, grated raw
Butternut squash, roasted and sliced
Potatoes, boiled and sliced
Sweet potato, roasted and sliced
Cauliflower, cut into thin steaks
Kale, finely shredded
Leeks, thinly sliced
Onion, thinly sliced
Parsnips, grated raw, or roasted and sliced
Autumn/winter veg combos
Grated apple and beetroot
Grated pear and celeriac
Sweet potato and sliced spring onion
Kale and potato
Brussels sprout and beetroot
Cauliflower and leek
What to drink: Lots of possibilities here - a crisp dry Italian white like Falanghina, a fresh Provençal rosé, a dry riesling, a sylvanier, dry cider, a pilsner, a lemon or mango flavoured soda ...
Extracted from SpiceBox: 100 Fresh, Vegan Curry House Favourites by Grace Regan (Ebury Press £20). Photography by Joff Lee and James Lee
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