Monday, 13 May 2013

Recipe - Baby Vegetable Pakora

Robert Florence is an accomplished Scottish comedian, video game journalist and now wrestling star.  This week, via his Twitter account he suggested something which I think we can all get on board with, namely #PakoraWednesday .

His idea (which I personally think is a fantastic one) is that his followers should all place an order with their local takeaway for vegetable pakora, taste and photograph the results and review said pakora for posterity and for the good of future generations.

As someone who's not averse to the idea of ordering takeaway food (and indeed photographing and commenting on that food), I was of course immediately taken by his idea and decided that #PakoraWednesday couldn't come quickly enough.  I am very much looking forward to seeing the pakora delights that Scotland has to offer.

I suggested to Robert that we might follow up on his idea by then inviting people to have a go at cooking their own pakora at home.  To that end, this recipe is designed to encourage and assist you in doing exactly that.  The recipe started life in my first book (The Takeaway Secret) and detailed below is a slight variation of it, this time with the added instruction of making much smaller, bite sized pieces of pakora.  I first came across 'baby' pakora thanks to Kebab City, a decent little takeaway situated in the south-side of Glasgow.  They're kind enough to offer a small portion of this free with orders over £5 and I knew as soon as I tried it that it was miles ahead of the more common and typically larger offerings which you'd usually expect to find.

When you make your pakora smaller, you get more crunchy bits per serving and as far as I'm concerned, that's a very good thing indeed.  It also has the added bonus of being slightly easier to cook, the worry of hard potato pieces in the middle of your home-made pakora being rendered a thing of the past.

So, let's make some pakora.

Baby Vegetable Pakora
  • 3 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 small handful of fresh coriander (stalks included), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of garlic & ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of natural yogurt
  • Around 15 tablespoons of gram flour (chickpea flour, also known as 'besan')
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • Oil for deep frying

In a large bowl, combine the onions, potatoes, spinach leaves and fresh coriander.  Mix thoroughly.

Add the dried fenugreek leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric,  salt and garlic & ginger paste.  Mix thoroughly.

Set the mixture aside for at least 1 hour.  During this time, the salt will encourage the onions to leach water and the mixture will become wet.  This step avoids the need to add too much water to the mix and delivers a far superior final flavour.

After 1 hour, add the tomato ketchup and natural yogurt.  Mix thoroughly once again.

Add the gram flour a little at a time, mixing thoroughly as more flour is added.  The amount of gram flour / water required will vary greatly and so it's difficult to advise a precise amount.  The final mixture however should be thick and sticky.  Try to avoid adding more gram flour than is necessary otherwise your pakora will be 'stodgy'.  Nobody likes stodgy pakora.  If the mixture falls off the back of a spoon in one lump, it's ready to go.

Heat the oil in a large wok or fryer over a medium heat.  When the oil is hot, slightly dampen your hands and pick up small amounts of the mixture at a time.  A spoon can be used to drop the pakora into the oil, however using your hands will ensure more jagged, crispy edges on the finished pakora.

Carefully drop small pieces of the mixture into the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Fry the pakora over a medium-low heat for around 4-6 minutes, or until cooked through and crispy.  The pakora will become more crispy and more coloured after it leaves the oil so be sure to remove it from the pan just before you think it looks ready.

If desired, the pakora can be removed from the oil half-way through cooking and allowed to rest for a few minutes before being finished.  This twice-frying process will ensure that the pakora is soft and fully cooked inside whilst being extra crispy on the outside.

When the pakora is cooked, drain any excess oil and arrange the pieces on a plate (or ideally, in a takeaway container!).  Garnish with finely sliced onions, fresh coriander and lemon slices.  Serve with pakora sauce (see below) and beer (optional).  This recipe will make anything between 30-50 pieces of pakora for yourself and your guests, depending on how big your pieces are and how much of it you eat whilst you're cooking it.  Any leftovers can be reheated in an oven at 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4 for around 10 minutes, or refried in hot oil for 1-2 minutes until crispy.

Pakora Sauce

2 tablespoons of natural yogurt
1/2 teaspoon of mint sauce
4 heaped tablespoons of tomato ketchup
generous pinch of chilli powder
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
semi-skimmed milk or water to dilute
pinch of cumin powder / cumin seeds (optional)
Dash of lemon juice (optional)

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, mint sauce, tomato ketchup, chilli powder, sugar and salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Add milk until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.  If desired, add cumin powder or cumin seeds and blend the sauce until smooth.  Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before use.


If you'd like to have a go at making other types of pakora (chicken, mushroom, haggis etc), you can, of course, find recipes in both The Takeaway Secret and More Takeaway Secrets.

Robert Florence appears with Greg Hemphill and a host of wrestling stars at Kelvin Brawl on Friday 21st June 2013.  It's sure to be a night of utter hilarity until someone gets seriously hurt.  You can follow him on twitter and remind him that #PakoraWednesday is something which should arguably be a weekly event.

Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. Im gonna try this tomorrow too mate but so far my veggie Pakora has bean a bit hit and miss sometimes great some times to stodgie ie not right going to try let you know how it goes