These gently spiced, deeply crispy Indian bites are my kind of vegetarian food, and are a fantastic way to use up leftover vegetables rattling around in your fridge or pantry. They also make a really great kids’ snack – just leave out the chilli powder and carry on as usual. Plus they’re gluten free!
500g (1 lb) peeled, trimmed, mixed vegetables, cut into fine matchsticks*
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
250g (9 oz) besan (chickpea flour)
1 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
⅓ cup plain yoghurt
100ml (3½ fl oz) water
1½ tbsp vegetable oil
1½ packed cups coarsely chopped coriander (cilantro), including stalks
1½ packed cups mint leaves
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
3-4 small green chillies (or to taste), coarsely chopped
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
To prep, preheat the oven to 130C (260F), line an oven tray with several layers of kitchen towel, and heat enough vegetable oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan to 180C/350F.
For the batter, whisk together the besan, spices, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Combine the yoghurt, water and vegetable oil in a small jug. Make a well in the middle of the besan mixture, then pour the yoghurt mixture into the well. Using a whisk, gradually start to incorporate the yoghurt mixture to form a smooth, very thick batter. It’s a good idea to switch the whisk for the back of a large metal spoon when the mixture becomes too stiff to whisk (watch my video to see what I mean). It will be VERY thick but that’s exactly what we want! Set bowl aside for later.
For the green chutney, combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, then process until smooth. Transfer chutney to a serving bowl and set aside.
Add the vegetables to the batter then, using clean hands, work the vegetables into the batter.
Working in batches, take quarter-cupfuls of the pakora mixture (or smaller if you want to serve them as a party snack kinda size), forming each into a loosely flat fritter using your hands, then drop carefully into the hot oil. Cook for 6-8 minutes, flipping pakoras over about halfway through, or until deep golden and cooked through (it will probably only take around 3 minutes for smaller sized ones – keep an eye on the colour of the pakoras). Remove to the lined tray and sprinkle with salt, then keep warm in the oven while the remaining mixture cooks. Serve with the green chutney for dipping/slathering over.
– For the vegies, choose from cabbage, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant; nothing too ‘wet’ or the batter will become too sloppy. You can concentrate on just one veg if you prefer – make cauliflower pakoras, for example, or potato and onion ones, or sweet potato ones.