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Asma Khan’s Buttermilk Chicken Pakoras

In this recipe, cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin and chilli infuse the batter to create moreish deep-fried chicken pieces. Best served with a selection of chutneys.

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Asma Khan

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This is a halfway house between a chicken nugget and a spicy pakora, which is sold in dhabas, or roadside eateries, along the Indian highway. These are very delicious and can also be fried in a deep-fat fryer, if you have one. My boys use random dips with these pakoras, including mayonnaise. If you are serving this as a starter, it may be nice to serve it with the Coriander and Mint Chutney or the Raw Mango Chutney.

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1kg boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2.5-cm cubes
500ml buttermilk
2 cloves
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
3 tsp fennel seeds
3 green cardamom pods
2 tsp salt
150g rice flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp chilli powder
125ml full-fat Greek-style yoghurt
vegetable oil, for deep-frying

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Put the chicken in a pan with the buttermilk, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, fennel seeds, cardamoms and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and tender. To check, take out one piece of chicken and cut it in half to ensure it is no longer pink in the middle. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and spread out on a plate. Strain the liquid and keep aside; discard the spices.

Put the rice flour in a bowl, add the cumin, chilli powder and the remaining salt and whisk in 200ml of the strained buttermilk, followed by the yoghurt, until evenly combined.

Heat the oil in a deep pan over a high heat. Drop a little of the batter into the oil to test if it is ready – it should immediately start to sizzle and darken. If the oil is not hot enough, heat it for a bit longer and test again. Using a slotted spoon, remove the trial batter and lower the heat to medium. Do not fry pakoras over a high heat as the outside will burn and the inside of the batter will remain raw.

Dip the chicken pieces in the batter, ensuring they are totally covered, and then fry the pakoras in the hot oil in small batches. Do not overfill the pan as that will reduce the temperature of the oil and the pakoras will not get crisp. Drain on kitchen paper as you take each batch out of the oil. Serve hot.

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Inspired by the home cooking of Asma’s Ammu (mother), this collection of 100 recipes, from award-winning chef and food writer Asma Khan, celebrates the inextricable link between food, family, and love.

Available to download for just 99p for a limited time only, for UK customers.


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From the book: Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking To Nourish Your Soul

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