Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vegetable Pakora with Tamarind Chutney

In continuing the rundown of my Indian dinner, one of the appetizers I made were pakoras. If you're not familiar with pakoras, they are an Indian appetizer of vegetables such as cauliflower, onion, eggplant, potato, anything really, that are fried in a chickpea flour (besan) batter. They can also be made with chicken, fish or an Indian cheese called paneer. Basically the Indian version of a Japanese Tempura. AKA, deep fried deliciousness.

Pakoras are one of my favorite Indian dishes in particular onion and cauliflower but one of the best things about Indian food are the chutneys. There are many different varieties of chutney but my favorites are this tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney. I prefer the tamarind with pakoras and the cilantro with samosas. And you guessed it, look forward to samosas with cilantro chutney. But for today, go with the pakoras, you'll be happy you did.

Pakora recipe from Manjula's Kitchen:
1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
3 tablespoons rice flour
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
3/4 cup of water (Use water as needed)
Oil to fry
8 thin slices of cauliflower
1/2 of white onion, sliced into 1/2" pieces

1. Mix the dry ingredients together
2. Add the water slowly to make a smooth batter the consistency of pancake batter. You may need to add more or less water to achieve this.
3. Add the green chilies and cilantro. Mix well.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed deep skillet to medium heat or about 375 degrees. The skillet should have at least 11/2" of oil. To check if the oil is ready, put one drop of batter in the hot oil. The batter should come up but not change color right away. If oil is too hot the pakoras will not be crispy or if oil is not hot enough pakoras will be greasy.
5. Dip the vegetable slices in the batter one at a time and carefully drop in the skillet.
6. Fry the pakoras in small batches, turning occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until they reach a nice golden brown.
7. Remove the pakoras from the oil, drain on paper towel and serve hot. Note that pakoras are best served right away but can be made ahead and reheated on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

Tamarind Chutney recipe from All Recipes:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder (can substitute onion powder)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups water
1/2-1 cup white sugar, start with less and adjust to taste
3 tablespoons tamarind paste

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan with the cumin seeds, ginger, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, asafoetida powder, and garam masala. cook and stir over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes to release the flavors.
2. Stir the water into the pan with the spices along with the sugar and tamarind paste.
3. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer and simmer the mixture until it turns a deep chocolaty brown and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce will be thin, but it will thicken upon cooling.

Makes 1 1/4 cups

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