Deliciously simple appetizer (who am I kidding…I eat this as a meal!), pakoras are quick and easy to throw together with simple ingredients and minimal work, particularly if you use a food processor. It’s a very forgiving recipe, thankfully! Feel free to experiment with spices…I used ones had around but the traditional carom seeds would be a welcome addition, but something I don’t routinely have on hand. You won’t believe that this recipe is entirely free of animal products, and gluten! I am a huge fan of pakoras, but these tasted even better than the restaurant. If you only make one dipping sauce, let it be the raita I improvised. I haven’t had it in so long, because usually it’s dairy based, but my dairy-eating mum thought it was delicious, and actually we had to make more in-between pakora batches!
I realized after chopping the onions and spinach that we didn’t have an chickpea flour, and proceeded to panic! I first tried grinding dried chickpeas in the spice grinder, which almost broke the machine (don’t try that at home!). In desperation, I ground up some orange lentils into flour, and crossed my fingers. The result was an even more flavourful pakora, with tons of protein and a beautiful orange color. I don’t think I’ll make them with besan (chickpea flour!) again, and hope to experiment with other lentils and vegetable combinations (pumpkin? Sweet potato? Green lentils? Black lentils and cauliflower? Oh my!)
Spinach Pakora Ingredients – inspired by IndianAsApplePie’s recipe
2 cups packed, chopped spinach
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated/minced
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño or Serrano, de-seeded
1 cup orange lentil flour (instructions below, or sub chickpea flour (besan) )
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chile powder or cayenne
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaping teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon garam masala, opt.
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon egg replacer, opt. (Ground flax could be a good sub)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
oil for frying (coconut oil is perfect)
1. Mix spinach, chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and jalapeño in a separate bowl. Place aside. (*labor saving tip: I use the food processor to chop all 5 ingredients, adding the spinach, last and just pulsing*)
2. Grind orange lentils in a spice or coffee grinder until a fine flour (there will be some mealy bits). Measure out a cup. Add spices and egg replacer to lentil flour.
3. Add warm water and stir until forms a thick paste. It shouldn’t be too watery.
4. Refrigerate while you make the sauces (see below). This helps them firm up before frying or baking.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a frying pan and on medium heat. Wait until the pan is nice and hot, and then drop tablespoon-sized (we like them smaller and crispy!) dollops of the pakora mixture into the pan. Let fry until they are crisp on the bottom, then flip ( you made need to add more oil ).
6. Pat dry on paper towel before serving.
Quick Raita Dipping Sauce – you’ll probably want to double this recipe, right off the bat. it’s mad tasty!!!! It’d be great to dip veggies or crackers in too.
1 cup vegan sour cream ( recipe follows), or vegan yoghurt
4-5 green onions, chopped
4 inches of diced English cucumber ( if using another kind, dig out seeds first)
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, or a generous handful
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Fresh black pepper
1. Mix all ingredients and voila. Magic. The sauce should be chunky and very green! Add more cucumber to taste – and believe me, you’ll want to taste it!
Tofu Sour Cream
1.5 cups silken tofu, drained/crumbled (one box)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup, agave, or honey
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Blend in food processor or feisty blender until smooth and creamy.
Tasty Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Inspired by Dassana Amit recipe for saunth chutney on VegRecipesIfIndia blog
1/4-1/3 cup seedless tamarind
1 and ¾ cups boiling water
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp red chili powder, or cayenne
4 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 tsp oil, I love coconut oil
Salt, to taste
1. Soak dried tamarind in water for 30 minutes. Break up mixture with fork. Better yet, soak overnight if you have time/patience.
2. Time to squeeze out the juice, and discard the pulp. Strain the mixture in a sieve, and press out all the liquid with a fork, or squeeze the pulp from the tamarind with your fingers (this is the fun, messy option!)
3. Set aside the tamarind liquid.
4. Heat coconut oil in pan.
5. Lower heat, and add the cumin seeds and let them crackle, for 30 seconds.
6. Add other spices. Stir. Add tamarind.
7. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add sugar.
8. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
9. Cool and refrigerate. Can keep for several months.
Put all of these fabulous elements together and you have the plate of perfection. Happy Solstice, beautiful people.