I’ve been craving chips, which is unfortunate. I’m not a huge deep-fried food fan really, but sometimes you just want what you want. And of course, it’s all the more appealing when you know you can’t easily have it. There is a chippie in town that does a gluten-free night, but it’s right over the other side and opens just when my daughter is due to go to bed. So for many reasons fish ‘n’ chips and I are no longer compatible. Of course I can do it myself, but it is a bit more effort if you don’t have a deep fat fryer ready to go. Also this week it was cold again, although not the coldest it’s been this winter. I think the problem is that it got warm, you know? Last week we were out in the garden WITHOUT COATS! We were in double figures centigrade-wise, and now we’re back under zero. It could make a girl quite grumpy. So, how to satisfy a craving for things deep-fried, and grumpiness due to the weather? Two words. Pakoras. Dhal. Oh happy day. Get frying, get dipping. Cold weather blues evaporated in a puff of Indian spices.
Mixed vegetable pakoras with red lentil dhal
For the dhal
Prep time 10 minutes Cook time 30 minutes Makes 8 snack servings
- 200g red split lentils, washed thoroughly
- 750ml cold water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 bay leaf
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)
- ½ bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Place the washed lentils in a saucepan, cover with the measured water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum that floats to the surface, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and put to one side. In the meantime, finely chop the onion and soften in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and fry for another couple of minutes, without colouring, before adding the garam masala and turmeric. Stir well and let cook for another minute. Pour in the cooked lentils when their 10 minutes are up, including any cooking water, add the bay leaf and simmer gently for another 10 minutes. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, and the lemon juice, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Mix in the chopped coriander. Season with salt to your taste.
In the pan with a lid this dhal should stay warm enough while you prepare the pakoras.
For the pakoras
Prep time 10 minutes Cook time 10 minutes Makes 8 snack servings
Preheat oil to 190ºC (If you have a deep fat fryer, great! If not, 2″ vegetable or sunflower oil in your largest pan – I use a cast iron casserole dish)
- 100g gram flour
- 40g white rice flour
- 1 tsp medium curry powder (use your preference here, hot, medium, or mild!)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 125ml cold water
- ½ bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- your choice of two other chopped vegetables in equal volume to the onion – I used a small aubergine and a small head of broccoli
Mix together the flours, curry powder, salt and baking powder. Add the water and whisk to a thick batter. Leave to one side to thicken while you chop the vegetables (at least 5 minutes). Chop the coriander and dice the onion and the aubergine. I broke the broccoli into small florets. Stir the vegetables and coriander into the batter, making sure they are well covered. Check the temperature of the oil and when at 190ºC add dessertspoonfuls of the mixture CAREFULLY to the oil. Do not overcrowd your pan – you will need to cook in batches. After a few minutes flip the pakoras over to fry the other side, using a metal slotted spoon. Keep an eye on the oil temperature – it will drop when the pakoras go in, but you want to try and keep the oil at the correct temperature to ensure your pakoras are crispy. When brown on both sides remove to a warm plate with kitchen towel to help drain any excess oil. Make sure the oil is at the correct temp and add more spoonfuls of pakora, repeating the process until all your batter is gone.
Serve the dhal in warmed bowls, with the pakoras at the side on warmed plates so they stay crisp until you use them to scoop up the dhal. Yum!