How I learnt to love the chickpea: pakoras
Chickpeas and I have never had a fantastic relationship. It’s not one of those hate foods, simply a meh food that is all very acceptable in falafel and hummus but but otherwise does not induce excitement. However, my quest to make things that my flatmate Olly could potentially eat (although we don’t cook together…he’s allergic to a lot of things) for some reason seemed like a fun, challenging puzzle that would force me to finally try new things and hopefully stumble across more diverse frontiers of taste. So far, I have not looked back.
The idea to make pakoras came from The Natty Cook, and I knew upon looking at the ingredients that I would have to make these sometime soon. These babies are like a meal in pattie/ball form: chickpea flour for protein, vegetables, and grated potato. I made a zinggy spiced tomato sauce to go with them and zomg, it was one of the best vegan meals I have ever had. I didn’t even find myself dwelling on the lack of potential cheese. Or egg. It was brilliant. Absolutely try these, because I promise you will not miss a thing. Plus I even adapted it to use carrots in place of baby spinach to make things super cheap.
By the way, chickpea flour can be purchased at some supermarkets, Piko, or Indian and sometimes Asian supermarkets. I don’t think the coarseness of the grind matters too much for these. Chickpea flour is also good for coating wedges in (with some spices and oil and maybe an egg or something) to create a super crispy outer layer.
makes enough for 3 to eat for dinner on their own, with sauce.
2c chickpea flour (250g)*
2 large potatoes, grated on a medium fine setting (about 600g)
2 large onions, sliced thinly
1 medium carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli (I used 1/4tsp but you can’t really taste any spice…fine by me!)
1 tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp baking powder
handful chopped mint, flat parsley or coriander leaves
oil for shallow frying
*when measuring flour, pour flour into cup rather than scooping it out.
Mix all veges together in a very large bowl. Scatter chickpea flour and spices over veges. Drizzle over water, and mix together with your hands, squeezing the veges a little to bring those juices out.
Optional step: Let sit for about 10 minutes to let the juices of the veges come out and all the flavours to combine. Hey, you can prep sauce ingredients during this time, no one here is advocating standing around!
Mix the juices that have separated out back in so everything is an even consistency. The mixture should be quite wet, like a pancake batter with grated veges in, and make schlop schlop squelch noises. Don’t smell the mixture at this stage, it may put you off my smelling beany but this smell with somehow magically turn into a totally not-beany taste after cooking.
Heat a lot of oil on medium/medium high heat in the largest non stick frypan you can find (actually I may try baking them next time in ridiculous amounts of oil and then grilling, because I am all for shortcuts and not standing over a hot, greasy pan in summer). You want the entire pan coated generously with oil. Now get a dessert spoon (as in, a metal eating one, not the measuring one), grab a heaping spoonful of pakora mixture, and place into hot oil (must be hot unless you want them to stick). Flatten a little with the back of your spoon if you want them sort of circular. Fill the whole pan. Let cook until undersides are golden brown, then flip. I suggest using tongs for this.
To keep patties hot while you’re cooking subsequent batches, turn oven to 100C (200F) and place cooked pakoras on a baking tray.
Alternatively, deep fry balls of the mixture until golden brown.
You can make these bigger or smaller if you want – they would be awesome made into bite size bits and skewered with a cherry tomato as an appetizer!
Zingy spiced tomato sauce
makes about 1c
1 can crushed tomatoes (plain)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp rock sea salt or 1/4 tsp regular salt
juice of half a lemon
*only add ground spices in the second addition if using ground rather than whole alternatives.
Heat about a Tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Add onions, cumin seeds, cloves, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until onions brown. You may want to add a splash of water every now and then to prevent onions drying out. Add garlic, and cook another minute or so. Add tomatoes and the rest of the spices. Reduce the mixture by half (let cook until halved in volume), stirring occasionally.
Stir in lemon juice, and serve (you may want to remove the whole cloves before serving). Can be used cold or warm.