Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Magical Monsoon....

A Platter of Pakodas!

The Rain Gods are here! Let's say good-bye for a while to summer salads and tall coolers and welcome crispy pakodas washed down with endless cups of piping hot masala chai.

Pakodas and rains have the most amazing synergy and there is that something special about not just eating but even frying batches after batches of pakodas when it’s pouring outside. Everybody starts to feel good long before tasting these delicious goodies as the aroma spreads through the house...a perfect way to enjoy a wet rainy day with the family.

Different kinds of pakodas are relished all over India. Plain pakodas are deep-fried pieces of flavoured batter like dal vadas, bondas etc. Veg pakodas are pieces of vegetables or fruit coated with a batter and deep fried.

Almost any vegetable can be made into a pakoda - though potatoes, onions and chillies are generally preferred. Yam, raw banana, ajwain leaves, spinach, ripe bananas, mangoes, bread fruit, capsicum etc make terrific pakodas too. Nowadays, pakodas made of vegetables like broccoli, babycorn, zuccini etc are the rage. The batter is usually made of spiced up besan (bengal gram flour) though rice flour, cornflour, urad dal, chana dal etc are also used. Adding a small proportion of rice flour or maize flour to the besan batter helps to make crisp pakodas.

Here we bring to you a selection of delicious recipes that are easy to rustle up in a jiffy, ensuring that you spend more time enjoying the weather than in the kitchen. They’re sure to make those rainy days something to really look forward to! It is hard to describe exactly what is so irresistible about a perfect pakoda…but when you make them with the recipes given here you’ll know!

Ajwain Patta ka Pakoda

Tender ajwain leaves are dipped in a besan batter and deep fried. They add a great ‘digestive’ element to a plateful of sinful pakodas.

Makes 20

20 whole ajwain leaves
Oil for deep frying

For the batter
1 cup besan (bengal gram flour)
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
2 pinches asafoetida (hing)
1 tbsp hot oil or a pinch of soda bi-carb
salt to taste

For the batter
Mix all the ingredients together with a little water to make a thick batter.

How to proceed
1.Dip each ajwain leaf in the batter.
2.Deep fry in hot oil until golden in colour and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve hot.

Onion Pakoda

An all-time favourite, known in western India as ‘kanda bhajia’. The trick to making crisp onion pakodas is to refrain from adding any water to the mixture. The water released by the onions after applying salt is enough to bind the ingredients together.

Makes 24

2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 to 2 green chillies chopped
¼ tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
¾ cup besan (Bengal gram flour)
2 tbsp hot oil
salt to taste
oil for deep frying

1.Cut the onions into thin slices, apply salt and keep aside for 10 minutes.
2.Sprinkle besan and add all the remaining ingredients except the oil for frying, and mix well.
3.Divide this mixture into 24 equal portions. Form small, uneven clusters and drop each portion into hot oil.
4.Deep fry in till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.

Kand Na Pakoda

Thin slices of purple yam coated with a gram flour batter and deep fried makes for unusual and subtle-flavoured pakodas. The crushed coriander and peppercorns sprinkled on the batter coated slices of kand impart a nice crunch and flavour as you bite into the pakoda.

Makes 20

250 grams purple yam (kand)
a pinch black salt (sanchal)
a pinch asafoetida (hing)
½ tsp chilli powder
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp coriander (dhania) seeds, crushed
¼ tsp black pepper, crushed
oil for deep frying

For the batter
¾ cup besan (Bengal gram flour)
¼ cup rice flour (chawal ka atta)
¼ tsp asafoetida (hing)
¼ tsp chilli powder
a pinch turmeric powder (haldi)
a pinch of soda bi-carb (optional)
1 tbsp hot oil
salt to taste

For the batter
Mix all the ingredients together with a little water to make a thick batter.

How to proceed
1.Wash and peel the purple yam. Cut into 50 mm thin slices.
2.Sprinkle the black salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and lemon juice on the yam slices and keep aside.
3.Dip each slice of yam in the batter.
4.Sprinkle a pinch of crushed coriander seeds and pepper on top of the batter-coated kand slices.
5.Deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.

Masala Wadai

Crisp on the outside and soft inside, these authentic South Indian wadai are also known as dal wadas in the west. Served with coconut chutney, they make a delicious snack. While frying the wadai you have to start with hot oil, and then reduce the flame in order to cook the dal without over browning the outer surface.

Serves 10

1 cup Bengal gram dal (chana dal)
2 whole dry red chillies
2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
½ cup finely chopped onions
4 tbsp chopped coriander
½ cup grated fresh coconut
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
salt to taste
oil for deep frying

1.Pick, wash and soak the dal overnight. Drain.
2.Grind the dal with the dry red chillies, green chillies and cumin seeds and a little water to get a thick coarse paste
3.Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
4.Shape into small wadais and deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Ensure that the wadai are cooked in the centre.
5.Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot with coconut chutney.