This recipe is lazy for a few reasons. First, I adapted it from a recipe for Mushroom Pakoras that I found in Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Adventures Through the Great Subcontinent, the great cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, a husband-wife team responsible not only for this tasty offering, but a whole bunch of award winning cookbooks. Considering that the price, at about $40.00, is almost as weighty as the big hardcover tome itself, you know I am not going be to recommending it lightly. I almost didn't buy it myself, except that I read an excerpt online and was hooked. The book is attractive and has nice pictures, but the real lure is that the recipes are authentic and were collected personally in Asia by the authors and then brought home and tested in their kitchens here. It makes for recipes that are simple to make, and extremely tasty to eat. Every recipe I have tried has been very good. When you find a cookbook like that, you know it's going to become a cooking touchstone. This book has extended my knowledge and palate of the foods of Asia, and I thank the authors heartily for it. Now if only it came in a slightly less pricey and lighter version. But in the end, if a cookbook is a true standard and you use it many times for meals that you happily share with friends or family, then it actually becomes worth its price, and maybe even its weight.
These vegetable pakoras are also lazy because I discovered that chopping the vegetables in a food processor would considerably speed up the preparation time. This counts when you are tired after work and want something you can prepare quickly. The recipe makes quite a lot, to so it can serve as the main dish, easily complemented by a side of rice or mashed potatoes. There are so many vegetables in there you won't need anything more, though a few slices of tomato or cucumber on the plate are okay, too. Love the easy cucumber wedges I learned to make from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. Just cut a cucumber in wedges and arrange them on a plate ( I like to make a wheel-spoke design), sprinkle with salt and a bit of cayenne pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice over them. Delicious, especially now with cucumbers in season-- sweet, mellon-y and crunchy. If the cucumber is a bit more mature , you could de-seed it with a spoon, just scooping along the length of the halves before you cut them into wedges.
The third lazy thing about these is that I pan-fry them in a lot less oil than the traditional deep-frying they usually get. That's a good way to save on the extra oil and the mess of cleaning it up. And because they are fried that way, the pakoras take on a kind of lying-down shape, more of a flat, slightly-puffed pancake shape, and have a chewy texture that seems sort of relaxed.
These are good, vegan, and a fantastic way to get vegetables into the kids. Served with ketchup they are quite a treat, but then I like ketchup. If you want a more sophisticated sauce, have a look at the cookbook and try the mint chutney or pick out another green chutney with just a hint of spice.
These are best when just fried, but if, by some remote chance, you have some leftovers, I doubt anyone will be throwing them out to the birds.
Lazy Vegetable Pakoras
Have ready: (The vegetables)
Chunk (for the food processor)or shred (for the hand-cut method) all vegetables.Feel free to try your own combination of vegetables, but at least some mushrooms really makes for a good texture.
1 medium carrot
1/2 medium onion,
2 green onions, if you have them on hand
Good large handful any mushrooms, from button to shitake
half a green or red sweet pepper
half a fresh seeded jalapeno pepper, if you have it
For the batter:
1 and 1/2 half cups besan (chickpea) flour - sourced from an Indian grocery or health food store
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (instead or in addition to the jalepeno)
1 cup warm water
Enough vegetable oil (I use olive oil) to cover a the bottom of your frying pan about 1/4-1/2 inch deep; replenish as necessary during frying.
Put the flour in a medium deep bowl, stirring in the salt and baking powder. Add the water, warm from the tap, all at once and mix it in. I use a fork. Process all your vegetables, either by pulsing in the food processor until they are shredded or by dint of a bit of hand chopping and shredding. I always mix them all together with the fork before I add them to the dough so they are evenly spread around, which makes it easier once added to the batter. The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter. If you need to add just a few tablespoons of warm water or chickpea flour to adjust the consistency. Don't worry, these are hard to ruin and you will easily catch onto how thick you like the batter after making a batch ortwo.
Cover your pan with the oil and warm it up. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter in the oil in an oblong oval shape, distributing them around the pan, about 5 at a time for a medium-sized pan.
The trickiest part of these is to keep the temperature hot enough to cook them without burning them before they can cook in the centre. I usually adjust the heat from medium high to medium as they cook. They need more time on the first side than the second, just like pancakes. When you see little open holes (bursting bubbles) in the dough you can turn them over. I usually drift a little salt and pepper on the first side, as they need seasoning to be good.
Remove them as they are done to a basket or plate lined with some absorbent paper. I like brown paper or coffee filters rather than paper towel. In any case, have a little plate ready with condiment of your choice for dipping and eat them as soon as you can for the best flavour and texture. Leftovers can certainly be heated or put into a wrap with some mayonnaise, mustard, and veggies for next day's lunch or dinner.
Update: These days I add from 1-3 cloves of garlic for some extra lip-smacking flavour. I now use just 2 tsp of oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan and thin the dough with a bit more water to the consistency of pancake batter. With 6 spaced around the pan and a small one in the middle the calorie count is around 167 for the pan.