Route 79 : Pakoras

The effects of feeling hungry on the way home

April 9 2004


Stuck for cooking ideas on a Friday or Saturday evening? Got bits of vegetable in your fridge that aren't quite enough for a proper cookout? e.g. bits of green or red pepper - or some mushrooms. Or maybe you've got some frozen fish in your freezer that you haven't done anything with for weeks?

Why not try pakoras? This is a great afternoon snack sort of thing - that I remember for many years as a child we would eat as a full meal on occasions. And we still do this today in the Route79 hosuehold. It's basically deep-fried anything in a gram-flour batter - but is especially delicious when using sliced potatoes, onions, muchrooms, peppers - or even chunks of frozen (but thawed) fish fillet.

It is traditionally a Punjabi snack - and is almost always served in addition to things like samosas, kebabs etc. when you are entertaining visitors (or being entertained round someones house) - or attending a wedding. Be aware - if you you are ever visiting a Punjabi household - you will be obliged to eat your fill and drink lots of tea - or else your hosts will be offended. Never *ever* just "pop around" and expect to get away without spending at least an hour - and having a plate full of samosas or pakoras put in front of you.

Pakoras are delicious served with mint or imli (tamarind) sauce - or both.

What you will need is the following ingredients:

Some vegetables - e.g. 4 or 5 potatoes - or some chopped bitesize peppers) or whole or halved mushrooms.
1 or large onions chopped into long thin strips
A packet of skinless, boneless frozen fish fillets (e.g. cod) - thawed about halfway
A pot half-full of sunflower oil.

For the batter:

6 tablespoons of "gram flour" - which is chickpea flour (sometimes called "besan")
Chunks of frozen, pre-pulped garlic, ginger and green-chillie
Spices: Turmeric (haldi), Garam Masala, Ground Coriander, Salt, Chillie powder
Some cumin and ajwan seed (ajwan seed is like carraway - or oregano seed - you don't have to use it you cannot find it - but it does impart a nice flavour)

First prepare the flour mix. Sift the besan flour into a large bowl.

Also slice the potatoes from the long-end of the potato - into 0.5 centimetre slices. Fish chunks if you are using them should be bite-sized - e.g. size of small mushroom say. Mushrooms should be whole or halved.

Here is a picture of all the other spices. Look how wonderful and tempting they all are when they are gathered together like this on your worktop!

Now add the spices to the gram flour bowl:

4 heaped teaspoons of garam masala
2 heaped teaspoons of salt
3 heaped teaspoons of ground coriander
2 heaped teaspoons of red chillie powder
all the pulped ginger, chillie and garlic
3 teaspoons of haldi (turmeric)

Basically - you have to use more spices than you normally do for a curry because these will only be in the batter - and you will probably not use all of the batter anyway - as there might be some leftover that you have to throw away.

Then add about a tall glass of water to the flour/spice mixture - stirring all the time with a large spoon (or your hand) until you get a thick-soup style consistency - with no flour lumps in it. Add a few dashes of lemon juice to it at this point too.

Then - if you have some - throw in some chopped coriander leaf too. We have a bag of frozen chopped coriander in our freezer - and we just throw in a large chunk straight from the freezer - as it thaws pretty much instantly. Then stir in all the vegetables and/or fish chunks. It doesn't matter if the fish chunks are still half-frozen - as this is probably better - because it's easier to cut and handle - and it cooks in no time at all anyway.

OK - once all the stuff is mixed - put the bowl to one side and heat up the karahi of oil until the oil is very hot. You will know when it's done by dropping a little of the batter mix into the oil and if it solidifies instantly and floats on the top of the oil with lots of bubbles - then you know it's hot enough for deep frying. At this point lower the flame a little - and then add the potatoes etc using your hand - scooping up some of the batter around it - and drop gently into the hot oil. Do the frying in 4 or 5 batches - making sure you turn up the heat to keep everything bubbling and floating on the surface for around 4 or 5 minutes at a time - and using a metal utensil like the one in the picture to turn over the frying objects.

After a few mins of frying (when the batter coating has gone golden brown) scoop out the fried onjects and drain well on absorbent kitchen paper before putting into a foil-lined dish - which you can keep in a low-temperature oven to stay warm whilst you cook the rest. When it's all done - turn off the heat to the oil - and keep covered - as you can reuse this oil - but you must strain it first using a funnel and strainer - but only when it is fully cooled! If you have used fish - then you might not wish to use the oil - as it will have a fishy smell that you may not like when you are using the oil again in any other cooking!

Pakoras! Ready to eat.

Here is a close-up picture of the fish pakora - look how the lovely and crisp golden brown spicy coating is on the outside - with a heavenly soft, flaky, tasty white fish on the inside! Simply delicious!


Have you tried this? Even if you haven't - let me know what you think!
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