Spiced Pakoras with Coconut Raita

This Indian-inspired recipe for Spiced Pakoras from The Chickpea Cookbook makes a brilliant vegetarian snack or starter. The kick of chilli is perfectly balanced with the cooling coconut raita, resulting in a truly irresistible dish.

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Introduction

In India, chickpeas are ground into warm, earthy-flavoured flour and used for making these little spicy, deep-fried savoury bites. Not only is the flour gluten-free but it is high in protein and minerals, too. These days, most large supermarkets and health food stores sell chickpea flour - it's also known as besan flour, garbanzo flour and chana or dal flour.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the pakoras:
300g/10oz (4 cups) gram flour (chickpea flour), sifted
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for deep-frying
300g/10oz potatoes, diced
300g/10oz red onions, diced
A handful spinach leaves, trimmed and chopped
1 small red chilli, shredded
1 small bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 tsp fine sea salt
Spicy mango chutney, to serve
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
For the coconut raita:
100g/3½oz (scant ½ cup) thick Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp coconut milk
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cucumber, halved, deseeded and finely diced
1 small bunch mint, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Essential kit

You will need: a deep fryer or wide heavy-based sauce pan or deep frying pan (skillet), and a sugar thermometer (optional).

Instructions

Prep: 30 minutes    Stand: 15 minutes    Chill: 1 hour (for best results)

1. Make the coconut raita: mix together the yoghurt, coconut milk and cumin in a bowl. Stir in the cucumber and mint, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight if wished.

2. To make the pakoras, mix together the flour and spices in a large bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and sunflower oil, then add enough tepid water in a thin stream, stirring all the time, to make a smooth, thick batter that will coat the back of a spoon. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.

3. Stir the vegetables, chilli, coriander and sea salt into the batter, distributing them evenly throughout, until everything is well coated.

4. Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep fryer or a wide heavy-based saucepan or deep frying pan (skillet) until it reaches 160°C/325°F. If you don't have a sugar thermometer to measure this, just drop a small piece of bread into the hot oil - it's ready when the bread sizzles and turns golden brown.

5. Add tablespoonfuls of the vegetable pakora batter to the pan, in batches of a few at a time, and fry for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the batter is really crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper (towels) and keep warm while you cook the remaining pakoras.

6. Serve immediately with the coconut raita, mango chutney and lime wedges.

Or you can try this...

- Vary the spices in the batter: experiment with chilli powder, ground cumin, grated fresh ginger and garlic. 

- Instead of the red onion, mix in a bunch of chopped spring onions (scallions).

- You could use a packet of ready-diced frozen vegetables from the supermarket - peas are traditional and very good.

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