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)
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.
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.
Nope, once again, no measurements. You’ll have to wing it.
- besan (chickpea flour)
- seasalt and pepper
- vegetable oil
- chili flakes, optional
- banana, optional
- 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.
- Wash and slice the vegetables (onion, eggplant, zucchini, green chillies, etc.)
- 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.
- Stir vegetables into the batter.
- 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.
- 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!
Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB#141)
Green Chillies (Capsicum annuum)
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:
- Previous WHB posts featuring green chillies:
* green chili omelette (EoMEoTE#15, WHB#29: coriander leaf)
* Puliyinji (Ginger Tamarind Chutney) (WHB#69: curry leaf)
wikipedia – chili pepper
wikipedia – Scoville scale
- Plants For a Future (PFaF)
* PFaF – Capsicum annuum
* PFaF – Capsicum frutescens
- Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages (GKSP)
* GKSP: Chile (Capsicum frutescens L. and others)
* GKSP: Paprika (Capsicum annuum L.)
- Cook’s Thesaurus – cayenne
- Home Cooking – Chile Pepper Heat Scoville Scale
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?!