Our chef Sanjay recently introduced me to a different kind of pakora, which (for those who don’t know) is a vegetable fritter. His technique involved first deep-frying cauliflower in chickpea batter and then roasting it in a tandoor, the traditional Indian oven. To make it more accessible, my version bakes the cauliflower in an ordinary oven, then batters and deep-fries it. The finished pakoras taste really good, and even better if served with a goats’ cheese and beetroot chutney salad. The spice blend I’ve used is basically the Moroccan mixture called Ras El Hanout, to which I’ve added a bit of fresh garlic. I give the recipe for that too in case you wish to make your own. It will keep well if stored in a STERILIZED jar covered with warm oil, then cooled and refrigerated.
Cauliflower 600g (1lb 5oz), Cut Into Large Florets
Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil For Deep-Frying
For The Spice Blend
Cumin Seeds 3 Tablespoons
Coriander Seeds 2 Tablespoons
Ground Cinnamon 1 Tablespoon Or Cinnamon
Stick 7.5cm (3in) Piece
Finely Chopped Fresh Root Ginger 2 Teaspoons
Black Peppercorns 2 Teaspoons
Ground Turmeric 1 Teaspoon
Green Cardamom Pods 10–12, Lightly Crushed and Seeds Extracted For Use (Save The Pods For Flavouring Other Dishes)
Red Chilli Powder 1 ½ Teaspoons
Saffron ¼ Teaspoon Powdered, Or A Few Threads
For The Batter
Chickpea (Gram) Flour 150–200g (5 ½ –7oz)
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Fresh Green Chillies 2 Hot, Chopped
Chopped Fresh Coriander 2 Tablespoons
Lime Juice From ½ Lime
First make the spice blend. With the exception of the chilli powder and saffron, toast all the other ingredients in a dry frying pan over a low heat until you get a lovely aroma. Transfer to a grinder, blender or mortar, add the chilli powder and saffron and whiz or crush to a powder.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°C/Gas Mark 2.
Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower in a large pan of boiling salted water for just 3–4 minutes. Drain well, toss with the spice blend and transfer to a baking tray. Place in the oven for 10–15 minutes, then set aside to cool. When you’re ready to cook the pakoras, combine the chickpea flour and salt in a bowl and add enough chilled water to make a batter with the consistency of double cream. Mix in the chillies, coriander and lime juice.
Heat a 5cm (2in) depth of oil in a deep pan to at least 180°C (350°F), or until a few drops of the batter float in it instantly.
Dip a cauliflower floret into the batter, lower it gently into the hot oil and fry for about 2–3 minutes, until crisp. Taste to check that the flavour and consistency are as you wish, then fry the rest.
Serve the pakoras hot.
Recipe extracted from Mr Todiwala’s Spice Box by Cyrus Todiwala.