Pakora Curry… a sublime buttermilk or yogurt-based curry sauce, simply and deliciously spiced, simmering with bite-size pakoras, served with Peas Pilau (Basmati Rice with Peas)…. Easier to make than you might think, and a pretty impressive addition to your table!
Ginger curry is the base, thickened with a little besan (pronounced BAYsun, this is essentially chickpea flour), and spiced just right with turmeric, cumin, poppy seeds, nutmeg, and cayenne. A small batch of plain pakoras (spoonfuls of seasoned besan batter, deep-fried) get added toward the end, and are simmered until they are soft and have absorbed some of the curry sauce.
I learned to make this dish back in the early 70’s when I was Yogi Bhajan’s cook. When his wife Bibiji was showing me how to make it, she told me it was one of his favorites. It became one of mine too!
It’s great served with basmati rice. Plain is fine. Here, it is served with Basmati Rice & Peas (aka Peas Pilau)… a little onion and cumin seeds are sauteed until the onions are browning, then you add the rice and fry till a bit toasty, then the water, salt, peas, and finish cooking. It takes all of a half hour to make and is a perfect side for any Indian meal. Sometimes I like to add some whole spices to the sizzling onions… like a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, peppercorns, and perhaps a black cardamom pod or two. These really contribute a lot of flavor, and are easy to pick out if you prefer.
Another great rice dish that goes really well with Pakora Curry is Lemon Rice. Similar to Peas Pilau, you start with sauteing some chopped onion, along with a few slices of lemon rind and turmeric, then add the rice, saute some more, and finally add your water (including some lemon juice in the measurement) and salt. I love Lemon Rice with Pakora or Ginger Curry. It is also super fabulous with black chana (black garbanzo beans).
But, back to Pakora Curry!
I made the dish over the weekend and took a bunch of photos, hoping some of the photos would be suitable for my new cookbook, From Vegetables with Love. It is just about ready to go to press, but I was hoping to get some nice shots of a few more recipes. However, without a proper camera, lighting, and photography skills, my shots fell a little short! They are perfect. however, for posting here and a great excuse to share with you one of my favorite recipes from the book!
Yield: 4 Servings
2/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1-1/2 cups oil for deep frying
3 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons ghee
2 cups chopped onion (1 large or 2 small onions)
1/4 cup finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
2 bay or curry leaves
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated best)
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1 tomato, blanched and chopped (or 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes)
1 2-inch stick cinnamon (or 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Pakora Batter: Combine besan and spices in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add enough water to make a smooth paste. Gradually add remaining water until it is the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Add ginger and mix well.
Fry the Pakoras: Heat frying oil in deep frying pan, kadahi or wok to 365°. Drop batter by the teaspoonful into the hot oil (do 5-6 at a time) and fry until golden brown on all sides. Be certain to maintain the correct temperature to avoid uneven cooking and oil saturation (so don’t cook too many at a time and be sure it’s hot enough before you start cooking more). Drain the browned pakoras on absorbent paper and set aside.
Curry Sauce Preparation: In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine besan with enough yogurt or buttermilk to make a smooth paste. Add remaining yogurt and 1 cup water, mixing well. Squeeze out lumps with fingers. Set aside.
Heat ghee in a heavy 2-quart sauce pot or sauté pan over medium-high flame. Add chopped onions and ginger and sauté until onions are golden brown. Add turmeric, bay leaves, poppy seeds, nutmeg and salt, and sizzle for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes (for easy peeling, first blanch in boiling water or roast over flame on gas stove) and stir. Add remaining spices. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until rich, thick, and tomatoes are dissolving.
Add yogurt-besan mixture and mix well. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the remaining water as needed for a saucy, soupy, rich consistency. Add pakoras and simmer 10-15 more minutes. The pakoras must be soft, like dumplings. Serve with Lemon Rice or Peas Pilau.