• Chef Dylan

BABY SPINACH PAKORA



These vegetarian light bites are delightfully crispy and incredibly addictive. Not only do they always go down a treat, but they’re quick, easy, and cheap to make.

A traditional Indian snack or appetizer they can be shared as an entree before a nice curry, served as a canapé at a dinner party or even prepared as an after-school snack for hungry little people. Once you get the hang of them then, you can really start to get creative. You can choose to add all sorts of ingredients to the batter, such as steamed cauliflower, broccoli and potato, roasted eggplant or crispy onion.


Did you know? The word ‘pakora’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pakvavata’, a compound of root words ‘pakva’ meaning cooked and ‘Vata’ meaning cooked in lumps.


Chef Dylan's tip: Use vegetable oil like canola, coconut or even avocado as they have a high smoke point. Other oils such as olive oil should not be heated in such a way and should instead be used for salad dressings or as a garnish. For perfectly crisp pakora, cook over medium heat to ensure that the vegetables are well cooked. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the pakora will absorb too much oil and be greasy. Alternatively, if the temperature is too high, the pakora will darken on the exterior but may not adequately cook on the inside. To check if the oil is ready for frying, add 1 to 2 small spoonfuls of batter. The batter should sizzle and come up to the surface quickly, and your oil is hot enough to begin frying.


Agra, India 2013

Standing on the rooftop of our hotel, far from the crowded streets and chaos below, the cool air on my skin, I feel a certain calm and peace as the twilight before darkness descends. In the distance, the cloudless sky is turning a pale pink and orange after the sun creeps below a thick band of smog and dust. I gaze towards the marsh-lined foreground and behold the jewel of Northern India, the majestic Taj Mahal. A sparkling ivory-white marble mausoleum nestled on the banks of the snaking Yamuna River.


Turning to my darling, I say, "I can’t wait to see you in your sari when we visit tomorrow”. “Yes, I can’t wait to wake up and see it up close in real life”, she replies. “I still can’t quite believe we’re here. It seems so surreal”, I say now, pointing. “Just there. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world”. “Marvellous, isn’t it?” I hear a voice say behind me, and I turn and see Sanjib, the young hotel manager smiling broadly, showing off his iridescent smile. He continues, “It’s a declaration by the Emperor Shah Jahan to immortalise his most loved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She died tragically during childbirth, and it’s a monument of his love, isn’t it”? “It’s an incredible story”, I say, impressed.


“Please follow me,” he asks as he makes his way poolside, arriving with arms wide. He proudly states, “Your table is ready," whilst simultaneously pulling out a chair each and gesturing for us to sit. “Will the Doctor and his wife be joining you this evening, sir?” He asks. “Yes, but not for another half an hour”, I reply. “No problem”, says Sanjib wobbling his head from side to side in agreement. “May I suggest you start with a snack while you wait? It’s one of our specialities, a plate of pakora perhaps?”. “That sounds like a splendid idea Sanjib. Thank you”, I reply. “Can I also order two ice-cold Cobras to accompany it?”. “It will be my pleasure, sir”, as he turns to make his way back inside, head still wobbling.


Moments later, he returns with the two beers and glasses, open and ready to pour at the table. “Enjoy, sir, madam. I’ll be back with the food in a moment. They are preparing it now” he winks and disappears. I hold up my beer and say, “Cheers!”. “To living the dream!" declares my sweetheart. The two glasses clink, and whilst the ice-cold nectar of the gods quenches my thirst, I delight in seeing Sanjib coming towards our table. He’s holding a plate of small spicy fritters accompanied by some irresistible Indian accompaniments: “You enjoy them very much”, he tells us.


The very best way to enjoy this pakora is fresh. I personally love them with my Shaka Zulu sauce but any kind of Indian condiment such as a chutney will add some extra flavour.


PREP TIME: 10mins

COOKING TIME: 20 mins

SERVINGS: 2-4


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup besan flour

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped

  • 1/2 onion, diced

  • 2 tbs garam masala

  • 1 tbs sesame seeds

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 ltr Canola oil (for deep frying)

  • 2 tbsps SHAKA ZULU PERI PERI sauce


MAKING THE BATTER

  1. Rinse the spinach leaves very well. Drain the excess water in a colander or strainer. Finely chop the spinach leaves.

  2. In a bowl, add the finely chopped spinach leaves and chopped onions.

  3. Add the garam masala and the sesame seeds.

  4. Next, add besan and salt to taste.

  5. Mix all the ingredients very well and set aside for 5 minutes.

  6. First, add ½ cup of water in parts. Remember the spinach and onions will leave the water once they are mixed with salt and the spice powders. So be careful while adding water.

  7. If the batter is still thick, then add some more water.

  8. Mix very well. Add water as required to make a medium consistency batter.

FRYING

  1. Heat oil in a large pot. When the oil is medium hot, drop spoonfuls of the pakora batter in the oil (to test).

  2. Fry the pakora in batches until they become pale golden. Then turn over and fry the other side.

  3. Turn over a couple of times and fry all the pakora until they are crisp and golden.

  4. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Drain them on kitchen paper towels to remove extra oil.

METHOD

  1. Heat oil in a large pot. When the oil is medium hot, drop spoonfuls of the pakora batter in the oil (to test).

  2. Fry the pakora in batches until they become pale golden. Then turn over and fry the other side.

  3. Turn over a couple of times and fry all the pakora until they are crisp and golden.

  4. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Drain them on kitchen paper towels to remove extra oil.

TO SERVE


Serve up with a bowl of dipping sauce. Use my SHAKA ZULU peri peri sauce, Indian chutney and yoghurt or any sauce of your choice.