Almost bhaji on the beach

Yesterday I had a hankering for chocolate and Indian flavours. Here are the Indian dishes I made; chocolate to follow in a future post. The chilli in these dishes adds only flavour and a little warmth, so add more or less as you please. You can also substitute cayenne pepper.

what a meal: chickpea & eggplant curry with onion bhaji

Oh, and these recipes are 100% vegan. You can add meat to the curry if you like – after the onions & garlic have sweated, then continue as per the recipe.

Recipe #29: Onion bhaji. Onion fritters. Ideal as an entree or as a side dish to a main meal. Makes around 12.

You will need:
• 200g chickpea flour [aka ‘gram flour’ or ‘besan flour’]
• 2 tbsp cornflour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp cumin seeds
• ½ tsp coriander seeds
• 1 large onion, halved and sliced finely
• 1 small handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 100-150mL icy cold soda water
• vegetable oil for frying
• salt

Start by preheating a pan filled to 3-5cm with vegetable oil over medium heat while you are making the batter.

Smash the cumin and coriander seeds together in a mortar & pestle. Measure the flours and baking powder into a mixing bowl and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and other spices. Ensure the dry ingredients are combined thoroughly then add the onion and coriander leaves. Pour in a little soda water and mix [hands are best!]. Keep adding soda water a little at a time and mixing until a thick batter forms around the onion slices.

Check that the oil is hot enough by introducing a drop of batter; if it sizzles straight away, it’s hot enough. Carefully spoon tablespoons full of the batter into the hot oil, ensuring that the blobs don’t touch one another. Once they have sizzled for a few minutes on one side, turn onto the other side with a slotted spoon and repeat. When each side is golden brown, remove the bhaji with the slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle salt over the bhaji while still very hot.

sizzling bhaji

You can vary this recipe by adding other spices, such as sliced chilli, and I think I will add finely sliced carrot to my next batch. Actually, scratch that. Next time I will batter the onions in rings rather than slices and use them as a garnish for harissa-spiced lamb cutlets – or as a beer snack on their own.

Recipe #30: Chickpea and eggplant curry. Serves 6.

You will need:
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• 1 tsp black mustard seeds
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• 1 large onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat part of a chef knife and peeled
• ~2 cups cooked chickpeas [= soak a cup of dried chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight, replace the soaking water with fresh water, then simmer for around half an hour]
• 1 handful fresh curry leaves [or a few pinches of dried ones]
• Stalks and roots of 2 bunches of coriander (use the leaves in the bhaji, above)
• 6 baby eggplant, diced [you can use a large eggplant instead – just ensure you salt and sweat it over the sink for about half an hour before using to ease any bitterness]
• ½ tsp salt
• 1kg tomatoes, diced [or you could substitute with 1 large tin diced tomatoes]
• ½ glass wine – your choice
• 1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
• 1 tsp garam marsala

Start by adding the oil and spices to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir them until they are super-fragrant, then add the onion and garlic. Sweat the mix for a few minutes, stir and repeat until the onion and garlic start to colour. Add the chickpeas, curry leaves, coriander and eggplant, sprinkle over the salt and stir well. Replace the lid for a few minutes, then stir again. If the mixture is looking dry, add a handful of tomatoes and stir well. Leave to soften for a few minutes.

Add the rest of the tomatoes. Once the pot starts simmering, pour in the wine and sprinkle over the stock. Stir well. Continue to cook on low heat for around an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes. When the eggplant pieces are very soft and the sauce is thick, it’s done! Remove the coriander stalks, stir in the garam marsala and turn off the heat. Let the curry sit for 15 minutes, lid on.

Serve simply with the onion bhaji and some pappadums for a very satisfying meal. There is something so comforting about Indian food. I think it’s the heaviness of the finished product, the warmth of the spices, the exotic aromas that envelop your very soul…


Addendum: Here is what I did with the leftover curry, to eat during tonight’s Eagles game:

a little too good - I didn't feel like dinner afterwards!

A couple of quick bursts from my blender converted last night’s curry into a dip, which was complemented by hot bhaji rings. The perfect football snack.


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