breakfast treat: pakora and chole (WHB#141: green chili)

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weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchensummary: recipe for pakora (fried battered vegetables – batter made with chickpea flour); information on green chillies; click on images for larger views and more photos

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB)#141
Green Chillies (Capsicum annuum)

pakora We recently discovered the wonders of making our own pakoras.

The ultimate weekend breakfast!!!

Pakoras are insanely good. And they’re insanely easy to make. The batter is made with besan (chickpea flour), salt & pepper, chile flakes, and water. Some recipes call for baking soda. We did a taste test by making some batter with baking soda and some without. We discovered that the pakoras made with baking soda become a little spongy rather than staying beautifully crisp like the ones made without baking soda.

The remarkable thing is that the pakora stay crisp for at least an hour after they have been made. Perhaps longer too, if someone who but shall remain nameless (her name begins with E) hadn’t scarfed them all.

Our favourite vegetables to batter are onion, eggplant and green chillies. Zucchini works quite well too. Whole green chillies are great but can be a little overpowering (*cough*). Little green chilli coins are truly wonderful though. Even for chili wimps like me.

They are fantastic with puliyinji and chenna masala (aka chole, chickpea curry), plain yoghurt and a little coriander leaf to garnish. (I cannot believe I haven’t yet posted T’s recipe for this! I’m falling further and further behind. You wouldn’t believe the huge backlog of photos I have!)

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

pakora Pretty much any vegetable can be battered for pakora. We were going to try using halloumi (we didn’t have any paneer on hand) but realized we had already eaten the halloumi…. But back to the vegetables: I think that onion is the essential one. Eggplant is next. And of course the green chillies are a must. But do cut them into coins. Even T, who can eat the spiciest food, says he prefers the coins to the whole green chillies. Zucchini is good, though a little plain. Sweet potato was surprisingly disappointing. The potato got overdone and a bit mushy. And REALLY sweet. But that could be just us. Other people might adore sweet potato pakoras.

We haven’t tried it yet, but we think that cauliflower would be brilliant. Even though we don’t really want summer to be over, we’re really looking forward to cauliflower being in season!

The real revelation for us was the banana. Yes, you heard me. Banana.

I know. Banana is not a vegetable. It’s a fruit… The first time we made pakora, we had a little batter left over and no more vegetables cut up. I noticed that there was a banana that neeeeeded to be eaten. You know the look. The skin is speckled with light brown and you just know that it is going to be completely dark brown tomorrow.

I admit that it was with some trepidation that we tried this. But we decided we really didn’t have anything to lose. So we cut the banana in quarters, dipped it into the last of the batter and threw it into the hot oil.

banana pakora Oh My!!! Banana pakoras are phenomenal! The banana becomes a little caramelized.

The next time we made pakoras, we chopped the green chillies in coins and added them to the batter. Then we battered ever so slightly green bananas and fried them. And the result? Equally wonderful! Maybe even fractionally better because the banana stays a little bit firm, even though it is still sweet and caramel-like.

Banana pakoras are particularly good if there are a few chopped green chillies in the pakora batter. The chillies counter the incredible sweetness of the banana. We’re thinking that banana pakoras would be terrific for dessert. With maybe a little creme fraiche on the side. And a sprig of mint.

Here’s what T does to make pakora:

Pakora
Nope, once again, no measurements. You’ll have to wing it.

  • besan (chickpea flour)
  • seasalt and pepper
  • water
  • vegetable oil
  • chili flakes, optional
  • vegetables
  • banana, optional

preparation

  1. Add salt, pepper and chili flakes (if using), to basan flour. (When I say that the chili flakes are optional, I don’t really mean it. We think they are essential but we know that some people just can’t quite handle the fire.) Add just enough water to basan flour and stir til it is about the thickness of pancake batter.
  2. Wash and slice the vegetables (onion, eggplant, zucchini, green chillies, etc.)
  3. Heat the oil in a wok (about a half an inch deep) until the tip of a wooden spoon handle dipped into the oil bubbles furiously.
  4. Stir vegetables into the batter.
  5. Carefully add battered vegetables into the hot oil in a single layer. Turn once with a spatula so they are golden on both sides. Drain finished pakora in a wire basket hooked over the wok. If you don’t have a basket, just place the pakoras on a wire rack overtop a cookie sheet. Keep finished pakoras on their rack in a warming oven while the others are cooking.
  6. Once all the vegetables are fried, add the banana to the leftover batter. Fry it in the same manner as the vegetables.

Serve immediately with sweet mango chutney or puliyinji. Chickpea curry, yoghurt and coriander leaf are also wonderful accompaniments.

Mmmm!!! Let’s have pakora again soon!

While I don’t really consider chilies to be strictly herbs, many people do, even though it is not the leaf of the plant that is used (that would be dangerous… it’s a nightshade; as far as I know, the leaves are poisonous). So I hope this post will qualify for

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB#141)
Green Chillies (Capsicum annuum)

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchenGreen Cayenne Chillies These are storebought Cayenne (I think) chillies. As far as I can tell, most of the green chillies we buy are Thai (aka piripiri) chillies. These are the slender small chillies that are ridiculously hot. But addictively so.

And then there are the slightly larger green chillies like these in the photo. The smae kind of chili as the whole dried chillies that we buy in Indiatown. From what I understand, they are most likely Cayenne chillies. These are a little longer than the Thai chillies and almost, if not equally, insanely hot. Also addictively so.

Chili heat is measured on the Scoville scale. Cayennes are apparently about 7 on the scale of 10; Thai chillies are around 8 on the scale. We have found that our garden grown chillies are hotter and sweeter than most storebought green chillies.

Please! If you taste a chili and find that your tongue is on fire and your eyes are tearing uncontrollably, quickly take a spoonful of plain yoghurt. Or some plain rice. Or a piece of bread. This will alleviate the pain much more quickly than gulping water. Water will just make you full. Then your mouth will be on fire, your eyes will be tearing uncontrollably and your stomach will be distended from being overfull. Oils from the chili float on water and no matter how much you drink, the chili will still keep burning you until its fire dies down on its own.

Chillies, in the nightshade family, are very easy to grow. They just need lots of sun. And of course, make sure they are watered. It’s nice if the soil is rich too.

In fact chilies are so easy to grow that even one of our cayenne chili plants has a beautiful long curvy fruit almost ready to be picked now for using as a green chilli OR we can let it stay on the plant to ripen and turn red. (Did I take a photo? Of course not. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the plant is fruiting.)

In the Harrowsmith Illustrated Book of Herbs Patrick Lima wrote:

Starting [chili] plants from seed – easy in any warm, bright indoor spot – opens the door to garden-grown fire. Hot peppers grow just like sweet ones, except that they produce more prolific crops of smaller fruit on somewhat larger plants […] large perennial shrubs in their warm and native lands, can be disappointing as garden annuals in short-season areas, especially if a gardener is after ripe fruit.

Lima goes on to describe the cold frame he uses to encourage his peppers to ripen, as he is uninterested in green chillies, claiming that they are tastefree. We disagree. The green chillies we grow are wonderfully sweet, with a hint of citrus flavour, as well as being very very hot.

In The Encyclopedia of Asian Vegetables by Rosalind Creasy wrote:

Peppers are tender perennials, usually grown as warm-weather annuals. Start and grow them as you would eggplants, but give them less nitrogen, as too much favors leaf growth over fruits. […] Once peppers get full size, you can pick them at any color stage, but they have mor flavor after they ripen. Cut rather than pull, the peppers.

[…]

Eggplants tolerate no cold; […] Grow eggplants in full sun in rich, well-drained, feritle garden loam. Work a balanced organic ferilizer for vegetables into the soil before planting. […] To increase yield and to keep the plants healthy, feed them wth fish emulsion twice during the summer. If you are growing eggplants in a cool climate, cover the soil with black or red plastic to retain heat. Eggplants need moderate wtering and should never be allowed to dry out.

Having said that chillies are easy to grow, allow me to add one cautionary note: they are susceptible to tobacco mosaic and should not be in contact with nicotiana.

Note that chilis are usually grown as annuals, but they are tender perennials. I have successfully overwintered chili plants under lights in the basement. Amazingly, one winter, the chili plant was attacked by vivid red aphids! Who would have thought that there were chilihead aphids?!

Please read more about chillies:

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WHB is on the road again and this week’s host is Simona (Briciole). The deadline for entering WHB#141 is Sunday 13 July 2008 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). Please note that there is a recent change in the rules; for complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging (“recipes or informative posts where people can learn about cooking with herbs or unusual plant ingredients“), please see the following:

 

edit 14 July 2008: From what I’ve read about peppers, almost all of the peppers we eat are in the Capsicum annuum family; this includes sweet red peppers too. An alternative to the really hot green chillies like Thai or Cayenne would be jalapeno or Ancho… for options, take a look at Cook’s Thesaurus page on peppers. Each chili is handily labelled with a rating of “mild”, “moderately hot”, “hot”, “very hot”, or “extremely hot”. And of course, regular bell pepper slices would be delicious as well. But personally, I really do like the kick of the hot peppers. Who would ever have thought I would turn into a chilihead?!

This entry was posted in crossblogging, food & drink, posts with recipes, side, spicy, vegetables, vegetarian, WHB on by .

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  • I’m afraid I’m one of those chili wimps. But I would certainly try the little green chili coins, although I bet my favorite would be onion or eggplant. It sounds delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten this.

    I’m sorry to report that the mint is not looking good. However I’m not giving up hope yet. I know mint roots can sprout new green shoots when you’re least expecting it!

  • I have never used chickpea flour. However, your pakora remind me of fried vegetables my mother makes. No bananas in her repertoire, though.

  • ejm

    I’m sure that any green chili would work, Kalyn. You could try using one of the milder ones – like Annaheim, banana or jalapeno. And too bad about the mint! If there is no sign of growth, we’ll try again in late September or October.

    Your mother makes something like this, Simona? Lucky you! And yes, these ARE quite similar to battered fried vegetables made with wheat flour batter. But there is a slight difference in flavour. And with puliyinji, they’re sublime! (I think we might have to have pakora for lunch! :-))

    And as for the bananas, EVERYONE has to try the bananas! And make sure that you put chiliflakes into the batter when you do.

    -Elizabeth

  • I just tried making panisse (or panelle in Italian); it’s the same besan batter used in pakoras. Great minds think alike!
    Mats

  • Mrs Mats

    The pakoras look like the batter would be crispy all the way through. The panisse was very crispy on the outside, but as the recipe advertised, it was custardy in the middle. Urghh, “custardy” and me don’t get along. Double urghh.

    Onion and cauliflour both sound ideal for pakoras. I was looking around the net and found one recipe for bread pakora. Yep, slices of bread. Sounds much odder than banana.

    I can’t wait to try it with onions.

  • ejm

    Wow, that’s really fascinating, Mats. I just looked up panisse and see that it is quite similar – except that the final result appears to be more like polenta made with chickpea flour instead of cornmeal – cooked into a cake, sliced and THEN deepfried. (or am I wrong about that?) Pakoras are more like tempura: vegetables, etc. dipped into batter and then deep-fried til golden.

    Pakoras are definitely not custardy inside (as long as there is zero baking soda in the batter), MrsMats. And they are crispy all over. The onion ones are best. And surprisingly, eggplant is second best – just make sure the eggplants are very very thinly sliced so they can’t be mushy. (We like to use those little round eggplants that look very much like large purple chicken eggs.)

    I bet bread pakoras would be kind of good…. I still want to try paneer pakoras – they’re supposed to be fabulous.

    But banana pakoras are fantastic. Did I remember to say that EVERYONE has to try banana pakoras?

    -Elizabeth

  • Insanely delicious AND easy to make? That’s all I need to here. I’ve got to try pakoras, banana pakoras, to be exact. :)

  • These sound great! Why have I naver made them before?

  • ejm

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of them, Susan.

    We asked ourselves the same question, Brilynn – not about why you hadn’t made them before, of course, but why we hadn’t.

    Do let us know how your pakoras turn out! -Elizabeth

  • This besan batter is just too cool, Elizabeth! Made to a medium consistency with any spice or herb you like, just about anything can be coated and fried quickly. The lightness and crispness is wonderful. I sliced cauliflower pieces and put blackberries in the batter; sounds odd, but the result was great!

  • ejm

    Blackberries!! Cool. I bet the sweet/sourness of the blackberries works really well. Glad to hear the cauliflower worked well too. Thanks for the report, Mats. -Elizabeth

  • Wow – these look amazing. I am such a frying wimp – I think it’s time to get over that and try something like these babies. As for being behind with posts… I hear you, I hear you!