Fresh spinach leaves coated in a batter made with chickpea flour and deep fried
Who would not know what pakoras are, especially if you are from India and/or familiar with Indian cuisine. It’s our very own form of tempura, and very versatile – paneer, chicken, fish, potatoes, onions, eggplant, cauliflower, even good ol slices of bread, dipped in a batter made with chickpea flour or besan in Hindi, and spices. Pakoras, are synonymous with deep fried, there’s no other way. It’s also synonymous with a rainy day, it’s our delicious, deep fried comfort food, accompanied with a cuppa chai. And also greatly relished during happy hour, with your favorite drink in hand :-)!
One of my favorite’s is spinach or palak pakora, certainly my daughter’s all time favorite. Fresh spinach leaves, one could even use baby spinach, coated in a batter made with chickpea flour and spices, and fried till golden brown and crunchy. I used fresh spinach leaves, which I picked up earlier from my veggie shopping spree at Chinatown. Of course, chickpea flour, mixed with water, and a dash of turmeric and red chilly powder. Many recipes these days, call for adding baking soda or even club soda, just to make the batter ‘fluffier’, maybe to get a more crisper and airier texture to the pakora. I think baking soda just soaks in a lot of oil while frying. I just stick to plain water, just like how it’s been made at home for years. Only extra addition, is a bit of rice flour to the batter, for a crispier and crunchier texture. Both chickpea and rice flour are naturally gluten-free, and this recipe is perfect for vegetarians, craving a deep fried snack.
Pakoras, are best eaten when accompanied with a simple green chutney, as a dip. I’ve included a simple coriander and mint chutney. Since, I had some really fragrant fresh mint lying around in the fridge, I also made a simple mint and yoghurt dip. Well, no meal is complete without yogurt, especially in our household.
Whether you are eating pakoras at a street side vendor in India, or a fancy Indian restaurant in San Francisco, there’s nothing to beat enjoying it, curled up on the couch at home, by a window on a cold and rainy day, watching the raindrops go pitter-patter….And not feeling guilty one bit 🙂
Fresh spinach leaves, washed and thoroughly dried – 20
Chickpea flour – 1 cup
Rice flour – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 3/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Chaat masala, to sprinkle. Generally buy it from the store, and is a tangy spice mix, with spices like cumin, dried mango powder, coriander, pepper, chilli powder and dried ginger.
Oil, to fry
For the chutney :
A couple big handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves, include the stems too, they are packed with flavour
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp dalia, or roasted chickpeas. Substitute with roasted peanuts, if you want. Gives a nice nutty taste and texture to the chutney.
1 tsp chopped serrano chile, or any green chile. Remove seeds for less heat
Juice of a lime
A pinch sugar
Salt, to taste
For the yoghurt dip :
Thick plain yoghurt or Greek yoghurt – 1 cup
Fresh chopped mint – 1/4 cup
Roasted cumin powder -1/4 tsp. To make at home, roast cumin seeds in a pan, for a couple of minutes, till fragrant. When cool, grind in a spice grinder, or crush coarsest with a mortar pestle.
Salt, to taste
Add chickpea flour, rice flour in a bowl, whisk in enough water to make a smooth batter, like that of a pancake batter consistency. It should not be very thick or dense, neither too runny, or it won’t stick to the spinach leaves. Add the spices and salt and whisk well, till light and airy.
Heat oil till hot. To test, drop a teeny ball of batter, if it rises to the surface, the oil is ready.
Place 2 spinach leaves, about the same size, together, and dip well in the batter till well coated.
Gently add to the hot oil, add a few spinach leaves. Lower the heat to low and fry till golden brown on both sides. The chickpea flour batter needs to cook too, that’s why lower the heat. Fry the remaining spinach pakoras.
Drain on paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle chaat masala.
Serve hot with chutney and/or yoghurt
For the chutney – Add all the ingredients in a food processor and grind. Add a little water. Grind to a smooth consistence. Set aside.
For the yoghurt dip – Whisk the yoghurt till smooth. Add the mint, salt and roasted cumin. Mix well and set aside.