In Praise of Pakora

22 April 2021

The anniversaries are coming thick and fast here at Knidos Cookery Club and to celebrate our 150th post we’re bringing you a hassle-free recipe for pakora, a spicy fritter from the Indian subcontinent, that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

Pakora are a great snack that you can eat at any time of the day and are easy to make – just coat vegetable or paneer cheese slices with a spiced chickpea flour batter and then deep-fry them. For a more user friendly and healthier take on this street food classic, you can bake them in the oven as we did with this batch.

We’ve used cauliflower to make pakora this time round, but you can use onion, carrot, potato, peppers, mushrooms or combinations of more or less any vegetable you have handy. Paneer cheese (or halloumi) also works well with this versatile batter. We like to serve the pakora straight from the oven with a yogurt-based cucumber raita to dip them into.

Ingredients (makes enough for 3-4 people)

  • 100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan)
  • 100 ml water
  • 250 g cauliflower broken into florets
  • One teaspoon each of: chia seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, chilli powder, black pepper

Method

  • Heat the oven to 200 c. Put the chickpea flour in a large bowl and add the seeds and spices. Slowly add the water and mix to form a batter that is neither too dry nor too runny. Stir in the cauliflower florets and coat thoroughly.
  • Place the individual florets on a baking tray and cook in the top half of the oven for 20 minutes or so – keep an eye on them and if they start to char a bit then they are ready.
  • Serve them straight away with a raita sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and mint.

Farinata Fiesta

12 November 2020

It’s time for a bit more armchair culinary tourism and we’re off to Genoa in northern Italy, birthplace of the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake that is a popular snack along the coast of the Ligurian Sea, where it’s known as fainâ, and down into France’s Côte d’Azur, where it’s known as socca.

With Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, coming up on 14 November this year, we decided to mark the occasion by topping our chickpea pancake with a dry, spicy Indian inspired combination of spinach, potato and roasted cauliflower.

These chickpea pancakes are usually baked in the oven but we didn’t have a suitable baking dish so we tracked down a recipe at Electric Blue Food for a pan–fried version. We replaced the water with aquafaba – the leftover liquid from cooking beans – to give the pancake a bit more oomph. This pancake proved really easy to cook compared with traditional ones made from flour, milk and eggs.

Farinata is often eaten plain with just a sprinkling of black pepper and rosemary, but it can also be served with other, more substantial, toppings. The taste of this chickpea pancake reminded us of a thicker version of southern India’s dosa, a much missed treat since the start of the pandemic. So we decided to top it with spicy vegetables to attempt an approximation of our favourite pancake.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the farinata:

  • 200 g chickpea flour
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 300 ml aquafaba

For the Saag Aloo Gobi topping:

  • 250 g spinach
  • 250 g cauliflower
  • 250 g potato
  • One onion 
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • One teaspoon cinnamon
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

For the farinata:

  • Use a wooden spoon to mix the chickpea flour with the oil in a large bowl and then slowly add the aquafaba and switch to a hand whisk and blend until smooth (you can use a blender or a stick blender for this).
  • Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a few drops of oil in a large frying pan (around 30 cm in diameter) and then pour in a quarter of the pancake batter. Swirl it around to distribute the batter evenly. 
  • The pancake will start to puff up – when this happens, slide a spatula underneath and turn it over and cook on the other side until it slides off the pan easily. Put on a plate and keep in a pre-heated oven (100 c) until ready to serve.

For the Saag Aloo Gobi:

  • Break the cauliflower into florets, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or until they start to char slightly.
  • Slice the potatoes into four or eight pieces depending on how big they are. Put in boiling, salted water and cook for five minutes.  Drain and put in cold water.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and then add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the chopped onion. Add the rest of the spices and stir well. After five minutes or so, add the potato and stir fry for five minutes. 
  • Now put the chopped spinach on top of the potatoes and add a few of teaspoons water. Cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir in the baked cauliflower and serve immediately on top of a farinata.

Maslenitsa Pancake Special: Hoppers Mad

27 February 2020

We are currently in the middle of Maslenitsa, a week-long festival in which Russian Orthodox believers take the opportunity to indulge in rich foods like eggs and milk, personified by blini, pancakes, and some hard partying before the 40-day fast for Lent begins – this year on 2 March.

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Here comes the sun – a KCC egg hopper

Maslenitsa is based on a Slavic pagan sun festival that marked the coming end of winter. Pancakes were seen as an image of the sun and were prepared to help banish the winter gods and bring on the warmer days of spring. There are more nods to paganism with Maslenitsa week ending with the burning of an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, whose ashes are then mixed with the snow to fertilise the soil.

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Hopper mix bubbling away

To mark the festival, this year we’ve gone for a non-traditional take on the pancake front with egg hoppers, fermented Sri Lankan rice flour and coconut milk pancakes with an egg in the middle. Spring is coming! The word hopper comes from appa, the name given to these pancakes in Sri Lanka and southern India.

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Egg hoppers – the real McCoy from Sri Lanka

Ingredients (makes 4-6 hoppers)

  • 100 g rice flour
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • One teaspoon dried yeast
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 60 ml warm water
  • Oil for frying
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander

Method

  • Mix the yeast with the warm water and sugar. After a few minutes it should start frothing. Add to the rice flour in a large mixing bowl and stir. Now add the coconut milk stirring until the batter has a consistency that is not too runny and not too thick – it should pour easily. Cover the bowl and allow to ferment in a warm place for a few hours. The mix should double in size.
  • To make the pancakes, heat a few drops of oil in a small (6-7 cm), high-sided frying pan. Wipe with kitchen towel and pour in the batter, swirling it around the pan so that a thin layer coats the sides. The pancake should be thicker at the bottom. Crack an egg onto the pancake, cover and cook over a low heat until the egg is cooked. Serve with fresh coriander or a grating of black pepper (or both, if you wish).

 

 

Battered Halloumi = Pakora Paradise

5 December 2019

Over the last few days, we’ve been experimenting with perfecting a batter to make pakora – a deep-fried snack from the Indian sub-continent. After testing a few recipes we’ve hit on a formula that can be used to coat a variety of vegetables from cauliflowers to carrots, parsnips to peas, and also cheese!

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Halloumi pakora with potato wedges and peas

While on a recent visit to the UK, we came across battered halloumi on many menus – the squeaky cheese from Cyprus that stays firm when cooked. We’ve discovered that it makes a perfect partner for our pakora batter when deep-fried.  We recommend you try it with this spicy Yemini sauce, zhug.

But you’ll need to be quick, as halloumi has been a victim of its own success. Severe global shortages of this versatile cheese are predicted as demand far outstrips supply. Luckily for us here in Kazakhstan, a local producer has started making a version of this cheese. We’re pleased to report that it tastes pretty good, so for now the crisis has been averted in our winter base.

Ingredients (makes enough batter for a  sliced up 250 g block of halloumi)

  • 100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan)
  • One small onion
  • 1 cm knob of ginger
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • One tablespoon of fresh coriander
  • 50-100 ml cold water

Method  

  • Mix all the ingredients together with a fork or a whisk, adding water until you get a smooth consistency that is neither too runny not too thick with no lumps. Cover the batter with clingfilm and let it stand for an hour or so before using.
  • Heat a litre of cooking oil, we used sunflower oil but any will do, in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat until it reaches 180 c. To test the temperature, dip a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if the oil starts to bubble vigorously,  then it is at the right temperature.
  • Slice a 250 g block of halloumi into eight pieces. Coat the halloumi slices in the pakora batter and drop into the oil. When the pakora rise to the surface and are a golden-brown colour, remove with a slotted metal spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
  • Serve hot with potato wedges or roast potatoes and minted peas. The pakora goes well with a coriander and coconut chutney – this site has a good recipe for this sauce, or with our zhug sauce.

 

 

Nauryz Spring Cleaning: Mung Bean Detox

14 March 2019

With another Nauryz, the spring equinox, just around the corner, we’re looking at this turning point of the year as a good place to start some spring cleaning for the body.

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The Mighty Mung Bean

You can detox your digestive system by utilising the mighty mung bean, considered by both traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurvedic medicine as an effective aid to remove toxins from the body.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s Mung Bean Detox Soup

When combined with spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and black pepper, the mung bean can do a lot to help flush out unwanted material from your body.  While some practitioners recommend following a detox diet based on mung bean soup for 7-10 days to really cleanse yourself, it’s quite a powerful process so we’d recommend a bowl or two every week as being beneficial to your general well-being.

Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g mung beans
  • One carrot
  • One courgette
  • One stick of celery
  • 1 litre water
  • Four tablespoons tomato paste
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1cm fresh ginger
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Wash and then soak the mung beans for at least four hours (the longer you soak them, the quicker they’ll cook). Then put them in a pan, cover with the water and add the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and chilli powder.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, add the tomato paste, grated carrot and courgette, the thinly-sliced celery and the minced ginger, stir well and simmer for another ten minutes or so. The mung beans should just be beginning to go soft. Pour into bowls and serve with a generous grind of black pepper.

 

Say Aloo to Broccoli

28 February 2019

After touring through North America and Mexico, we’re finally back at KCC’s winter HQ in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We’ve been craving for something spicy and Asian and, with broccoli in season, decided on this take on the Indian classic aloo gobi.

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Aloo broccoli, rice and dal

You’ll probably be familiar with aloo gobi, which combines potato and cauliflower in a spicy sauce, if you’re a fan of food from the Indian sub-continent. Having eaten the cauliflower version numerous times, we started to wonder why we’d never come across the dish made with broccoli instead.

It turns out that broccoli is a fairly recent arrival to the tables of India – it was first brought to the country in the early 1990s by a farmer called Jitendra Ladkat, according to this article. So, therefore, there’s no great surprise that it does not feature as a mainstay of Indian cooking.

We served up our aloo broccoli with a split pea dal, brown rice and some flat bread and can thoroughly recommend it as an alternative to the tried and tested aloo gobi.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

  • 400 g small potatoes
  • 400 g broccoli florets
  • One small red onion
  • 200 g tomatoes
  • 50 ml cooking oil
  • Spices: one teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander, chilli powder, turmeric, six cloves, one star anise.

Method

  • Cut the potatoes into quarters and put into a pan of boiling water and simmer over a low heat for five minutes, then add the broccoli, cover the pan and cook for another five minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. After five minutes add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat. Add the coriander, chilli powder and turmeric and mix well.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes over a low heat and then add the cooked broccoli and potatoes. Mix well and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve with rice, dal and flat bread. The dish tastes even better if left overnight and reheated as this allows time for the flavours to blend.

A Spicy Finger in Every Pie

18 August 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is cooking with okra, another vegetable that arouses strong emotions in the love it or hate it camps.

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Okra – washed, dried and ready for action

Many are put off this green pod, also known as lady’s fingers, for its tendency to taste a bit slimy at times. This sliminess can be avoided by making sure that after washing, the pods are thoroughly dried before being cooked. Stir frying can also help retain okra’s natural crunchiness.

The origins of okra are unclear – South Asia, West Africa and Ethiopia all make claims to be the home of this vegetable. Okra was brought to Turkey by Arab merchants and is known by its Arabic name, bamya.  It’s often cooked with olive oil and tomatoes and served as a side dish in Turkey.

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Bhindi bhaji – dry okra curry

Our favourite recipe for okra is to prepare it Indian-style, stir fried with spices to make a dry bhindi bhaji, which works as a standalone dish or can be accompanied with a lentil dhal and rice combo.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

500 g okra washed and dried

250 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One clove of garlic

1 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin

One teaspoon dried coriander

One teaspoon cinnamon

One teaspoon turmeric

One teaspoon chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

Method 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the diced onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or so until just starting to brown. Add the spices (ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and chili flakes) and stir well.

Throw the tomatoes into the spicy onion mix and cook for another five minutes or so until the tomatoes begin to break up. Now add the okra and stir fry for ten minutes, making sure the okra are well-coated with the curry sauce.

Serve immediately with a lentil dhal and basmati rice or chapatis, or both if you’re feeling famished.