Monthly Archives: August 2013

When a Bhaji is a Pakora..or is that a Bhakora

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As your average western white boy, the language of Indian cuisine can only be described as confusing even at the best of times. What is true is that there appear to be very few firm rules, and any rules such as they are exist in a purely regional variation not to be confused with dialect, more about interpretation.

Let me explain, walk into any indian restaurant and you will find the ubiquitous Onion Bhajee on the menu often presented as something that is about the same size as a tennis ball and is usually made from finely grated onion dipped in a  batter, with a few spices, deep fried and simply delicious, usually  served as a starter which sort of begs the question.

So what is an Onion Pakora then?

Well from what I can see they are exactly the same but not formed into a ball shape but certainly onion in batter…..

To try and clarify this I spoke to an indian chef friend of mine and his teaching and wisdom is as follows.

Firstly that a Bhaji is any vegetable cut into small pieces and dipped into Gram (chickpea) flour and then deep-fried, and not forgetting that there is no spicing whatsoever in a bhaji…..Which sorta bears no comparison to the “Onion Bhaji of the restaurant, apart from the fact its onion….

Bhaji’s are also usually eaten with sambar or chutneys depending on what you prefer.

He went on to say that Pakora on the other hand is a much wider description and can include protein rather than just vegetable, meat, fish and shellfish, alongside vegetable, are all acceptable; as a general rule the Pakora also includes spices, chilli, turmeric, salt, pepper etc are all common, added to gram flour and a little water and sometimes an egg to create a thick  batter that is usually refrigeratated before use, and then mixed with the main ingredients, formed into a ball and then fried….. So there you have it an Onion Bhaji is therefore really a Pakora as they contain Turmeric, salt, pepper, chlli, etc

confused…. yeah so am I

Well to clarify a little as I understand it, in England  anything pretty much fried in Gram flour can be called what you want to call it Pakora or Bhaji, neither is incorrect or wrong!

Anyone out there with greater knowledge feel free to correct me…But at the risk of starting something new I am proud to present my attempt at being right I herewith present the  BHAKORA, in that it contains elements of the Pakora and bhaji bought together as one.

I am staying fairly traditional on the batter front using gram flour, but for the filling I have gone sorta fusion so onion and sweet potato as one of the main ingredients, and for the other, the truly delicious cheese Bhakora for which I used the same batter, but rolled them into a nice mouthful sized, just short of a golf ball diameter and fried them in my deep fat fryer at 180 degrees which seemed to do the cooking perfectly, not too fast and not too slow….

So Pakora Bhaji or Bhakora whatever you choose to call them I care not, just enjoy these little bundles of deliciousness

Onion & sweet potato “Bhakora”:)

Onion and sweet potato1 medium white onion

half of one sweet potato

Both grated and mixed roughly together or if you prefer some protein, 250 gms of Mature for that extra cheesy kick I used Canadian Cheddar grated  for

Cheese Bhakora

SAM_3369

The Batter

Whatever filling you choose to use for your Pakora, Bhaji, or Bhakora the batter is the key element get this right and pretty much everything else follows, feel free to adjust the seasoning and spicing on this recipe to suit your own taste just remember to stay loyal to the flour quantities and to mix it to a thick consistency. That is achieved by adding a little water at a time and mixing by hand though the lumpy stage and then the smooth stage that is perhaps just that little thicker that wallpaper paste:)…… now there’s an analogy. Also consider that vegetables like onion contain a lot of water which will further thin your batter so don’t worry if you think the batter is too thick when you add the veg it will thin further still…….so no worries there then

250 gms : Gram Flour

50 gms: Plain Flour

.5 tsp: baking Powder

1 Large green chilli Very Finely Chopped

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp salt

Enough water to make a thick batter

1tsp Salt

If your going for the cheese  Ball variety wet your hands before you roll them , as it makes it a bit easier…… that said enjoy !

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My Kofta period… a Load of balls really

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SAM_3366 Like artists, all chefs and cooks I believe have phases and periods in that at certain times they like to cook certain things. It is a way to learn and develop ideas and disciplines that assist in the greater understanding of the food we eat. Currently I am very interested in balls of whatever flesh in sauce, I have over the last couple of months done some lamb Koftas in a Green sauce(click), and most recently some chicken koftas (Click) in what could best be described as a masala sauce . Today I’m going for the Fish Koftas, or to be titled correctly as Machhalli Ke kofte, and like all kofta they only really come into their own if accompanied by a beautiful spicey  and unctuous sauce.

This is a fantastic dish for that Saturday supper.(click) You can pretty much use whatever fish you like or can get hold of but here in England Colley or Cod are two good suggestions I’ve also added some white crab meat  in for good measure for that extra texture , mainly because I like crab and that the crab will bring an additional sweetness to the dish.  Again I promise you a delicious dish that will light the table up as something that is that little bit different.

There are a complex list of ingredients , don’t be too afraid they are all pretty standard ingredients that you should be able to pick up in any good indian supermarket, and they are all ingredients that you will use again so don’t be scared get in there its a lovely dish that will make your taste buds Zing!

There’s enough here to feed two hungry people

Machhalli Ke kofte

What’s in them

240ml whole milk

2 cardamom pods the green lightly crushed

1 black cardamom

.25 tsp turmeric ground

.25tsp cumin ground

500 gm white fish

3 tbsp. white crab meat

1 large potato cooked and diced whatever is good for mashing in your corner of the world

2 tsp desiccated coconut

6 shallots

1 tsp roughly chopped ginger

1 large green chilli deseeded and very finely chopped

2-3 tbsp. chopped coriander

1 tsp roasted cumin seeds crushed

1tbsp gram flour

fresh ground black pepper

1 egg beaten

veg oil to deep fry!

The how to make them bit…

The first thing you need to do is gently poach the fish by placing the cardamom pods, turmeric and ground cumin in a saucepan with the milk and bring to the boil. Place the fish in the milk and allow to poach on a low heat for three minutes. Then Drain and discard the liquid and spices , place the fish in a bowl to cool and set aside, add 1 large tablespoon of the crab when cooled.

Blend the Shallots, ginger, green chilli, and garlic to a smooth paste in a processor with a tbsp. of water, then add this to the fish bringing it all together with the potato and coconut and finally the beaten egg and enough of the flour to bring the koftas together into  balls that are holding together in their own right. Use your hands for this part not a blender as your hands will bring the right texture to the Koftas  so knead all of the ingredients together and form into balls of fishy delight that are no bigger than a ping pong ball. If the mixture is overly sticky, moisten your hands a little with some water. Place the kofta’s  in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes to cool before frying.

You can choose to fry them off before you make the sauce or after the choice is yours; I chose to fry first and warm through in the sauce later as I wanted the Koftas to pick up some of the essence of the sauce.SAM_3364

Now is the time to fry you can deep fry or shallow it matters not just use  a medium heat and cook until they are a nice golden brown .  That’s Job done for the koftas you now need a lovely unctious sauce to go with them and that is for sure what follows….

The saucieness

1 large tbsp. Ghee or  veg oil

10 curry leaves

1 tsp Cumin seeds

3 cardamom

1 tsp brown mustard seed

2 medium red onions sliced

3 green Chillies de-seeded and rough chopped

4 plump Garlic cloves rough chopped

0.5 tsp Cumin Powder

0.5 tsp Coriander Powder

1 Tsp Garam masala

0.5 tsp Turmeric powder

Small tin chopped Tomatos( 200gm ish)

2 tsp Tamarind pulp

1 tbsp. white crab meat

1 Heaped teaspoon Jaggery/ or brown Sugar

200ml fish stock

200ml Coconut milk

A drizzle of yoghurt to finish

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in your chosen pan and add the brown mustard seed, Cumin seeds, cardamom, curry leaves, and fry until the mustard seeds are popping and a spluttering then add the onions and fry until they are a lovely dark golden brown this takes time at least ten minutes and in some cases more so be patient stirring often and don’t allow the onions to burn that patience should extend until the onions reach the browning level you desire  you can then add the ginger and the garlic, and never before as once you add the ginger and garlic all browning of the onions will cease. While you are waiting for the onions to reach that wonderful golden brown take all the spice powders that’s the Cumin ,Coriander, Garam masala and turmeric powders and add a little water to mix them to a fine paste and add them to the onions and when you do, keep stirring vigorously to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan, add a little water or stock f that happens, and that should loosen them off.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook on a low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, you can also add the tamarind and the jiggery; stirring from time to time before adding as much fish stock as to make a gravy slightly thinner than you would serve at…. This is down to you because it is at this  point you add the fish balls, and they will absorb the sauce they are in; then add  the last of the crab meat for the final couple of minutes of cooking just to heat the Kofta through and reduce the sauce down to how you like your sauces to be.SAM_3365

I’m serving this with some Red onion and Sweet potato Pakoras (recipe to follow) and of course Naan as is my want serve rice if you prefer…..

Murgh Kandhari Kofta… in Support of my favourite RANT!

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SAM_3358Ok I admit it I have been a little quiet recently and I haven’t posted much…. Not all my fault as I have been doing other things, you know getting on with the life that is mine and not eating that much Indian food; well no, that’s a lie because I have.

I’ve been getting my fix from the chilled counter at ASDA, a large supermarket chain for those that don’t know. That said their curries are a little better than passable as only a Daag based ubiquitous common curry can be , but that being a given they are also very tasty and full of everything you would expect to see in a good curry.

I have also underpinned that with a number of dishes from my local curry house, and again as Daag based  ubiquitous common  curries go nothing to complain about, other than the usual standard menu that frankly after twenty or more years of eating local indian restaurant food bores the arse off of me.

My problem now is the same as it has always been why oh why do restaurants not actually think beyond that same o’ same o’ menu that is the right of passage for pretty much every Indian restaurants I have ever been in been in?

Conversely…..

Take a trip to a French or Italian eatery and in nine cases out of ten there is a specials board offering a daily something or other that isn’t on the menu.

Someone please tell me why the Indian restaurant can’t do that?

If the French restaurant can grill some fresh  fish and add a sauce why cant the Indian eatery the principles are the same…??….

No come on I really want to know….

As someone who cooks curry I suggest that they just cant be bothered and wish to be just the same as the man who owns the eatery next door. I know there are some eateries that operate at a slightly higher level offering westernised Haute cuisine dressed up as Indian , but I challenge you to point me to any restaurant in my city of Nottingham that offers any regional dishes whatsoever.

So frankly I am bored to death and now cook my own to get that variety.

and say “Restaurateurs you should be ashamed of yourselves”

Tell me there’s no demand if you like, but I reckon that in a country where Indian food is pretty much the national dish, and I will tell you that is not the case “I demand it”.

Tell me that it cant be cooked in a time that the customer is prepared to wait, I say that’s rubbish and I use this dish as an example!

Yes it needs a little preparation, but no more than any other dish and there are many that fit into this category.

All you need to do is just find a chef with a little more imagination than the Korma, Vindaloo, biryani and Pasanda toting cooks that seem to be in the majority; work out a standard menu and a daily special then advertise that fact that you are offering something a little different and sit back and watch the tills ring with joy!

You don’t need to be Atul Kochar but you do need to be able to aspire to seeking to offer something different at a fair price, and by that I mean in England £6 to £8 for a main course do that and the people will come!

This following dish I would suggest could fit easily into this category, being very easy to prepare for both the home and the restaurant chef, simple to cook as the sauce could be varied to using a Daag if you insist, and there are of course plenty of others that could slip into this realm….. so go restaurant owners tickle my taste buds with something different!

Murgh Kandhari Kofta

The Whats IN The Kofta’s

½ kg chicken mince

1 Egg White1 Slice Stale/dry white bread CrumbedSAM_3351

3 small Shallots chopped finely

1 slice bread crumbs

1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts

½ tsp salt,

1 tsp red chili powder,

1 tsp Garam Masala

2 tsp coriander powder½ tsp cinnamon powderSAM_3355

The how to for the koftas

To  ½ kg chicken mince, add the salt, 1tsp red chili powder,  the bread crumbs, shallots, and egg white.

½ tsp Garam Masala, ½ tsp cardamom powder, ½ tsp cinnamon powder and 1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts in it and mix/blend together to a coarse paste then roll into bite sized  balls, place in the refrigerator until required….

Fry the Kofta’s to add a little colour to them before you start making the sauce and set aside until required

,SAM_3356

The Whats in the Sauce

1 Siced  onion

1 small tin tomatoes

2 Tbsp oil/Ghee

1 tsp ginger Paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp  Salt

1 tsp red chili powder

1tsp Turmeric

1 tsp garam Masala

1 tbsp. Tamarind paste

1 inch sqr jaggery

200ml Chicken stock

The how to for the Sauce……

Heat oil/Ghee in a pan ,and fry the onion until dark golden brown adding the garlic and the ginger, and after a further minute or so add 1 tsp chilli powder, ½ tsp salt, Garam Masala, and turmeric powders and cook for a further 5 or ten minutes

Add the tinned tomatoes and tamarind and bring to the boil then add the meatballs, and the 200ml chicken stock or enough to barely cover the meatballs, cover and cook on a low heat until the meatballs are cooked through and the gravy has reduced to a thickish consistency!

Finally just before serving add the Jaggery and  add ½ tsp garam masala and sprinkle with some chopped coriander,

finish off  with a tablespoon of cream or yoghurt. then eat and enjoy……