This is a specific pakora recipe using cauliflower, but almost any vegetable (or even chicken or paneer) can be used.
This is one of my favourite dishes; it can accompany a meal or make a nice supper snack. Everybody I have ever served this to has thought it was really special and I have an abiding memory of serving this to my mother, a woman of plain tastes who 'hated' curries (never having tried one in earnest) - I didn't tell her it was Indian and she adored it.
A pakora is a battered, deep fried snack that is eaten across all of India (and most of Southern Asia).
In Southern India they are usually called bhajji (or some similar spelling). Also confusing is that there is a specific Southern Indian dish called pakoda which is very similar but is specific to onions and prepared in a specific way.
Whilst this pakora recipe is for cauliflower, any number of other vegetables can be substituted. (See options and other pakora recipes at the end of this page)
Notes on Ingredients
Gram Flour. Also called besan, basoon, beshon and garbanzo flour, this is flour made from chickpeas. We are making a batter here rather than a dough so a breakfast cup should make enough batter to 'pakora' a medium sized cauliflower.
Spices. Above are suggestions and they work well for me - see options below. I go for about ½ teaspoon of chilli but you can adjust to suit.
Salt. Usual comment - it's not essential in this but a little if you like, leave it out if you are worried about salt.
Oil. Rapeseed (canola) or sunflower oil will do fine for this. Mustard oil is really good.
Break the cauliflower into florets
Mix all the powdered ingredients together.
Add water to make a batter; not too thick but not watery.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan, a saucepan or a wok.
Dip a number of the florets into the batter making sure they are coated well. You will probably need to do a few batches.
Fry in hot oil until a golden brown colour.
Remove with slotted spoon onto kitchen paper.
Notes on Method
Cauliflower. Break into florets and I cut the stalks quite short as the stalks take longer to cook; if you like your veg really crunchy then you can leave them longer.
The thickness of the batter is partly personal taste but some vegetables, particularly onions, need a slightly thicker batter. (see Onion Bhaji) as a rule of thumb it should just about drip from your finger but mostly stick to it.
Make sure the oil is hot - particularly if you are doing several batches, make sure it gets back up to temperature. If using mustard oil then it must be just starting to smoke before frying.
There are lots of variations on pakora recipes.
Obviously you can use all sorts of different vegetables. You need to chop them to an appropriate size so that they cook in roughly the same time as the batter. It is best to parboil potatoes and other root vegetables. I particularly like mushrooms cooked like this. You can also cut up pieces of pre-cooked chicken and these are also really yummy.
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