Tasty cauliflower pakoras, inspired by the one pakora which is widely available and I’m sure that everyone is familiar with: the onion pakora, or onion bhaji as it’s also known. Growing up, whenever I was lucky enough to get to an Indian restaurant or get to Tesco’s as an adult who could buy what I wanted, onion bhajis were first on my list.
Crispy lightly spiced slices of creamy onion twisted together, and dipped in thin coriander sauce, absolute bliss. I still love onion pakoras and will put up an onion pakora recipe later, but when I was fortunate enough to spend two years in India, my pakora world opened up.
Just about anything can be made into a pakora (even sandwiches). Some I liked more than others. Some were covered in thick shells of batter, while others had a light thin crispy coating that melted in the mouth. I’m more partial to the thinner coating, as can be seen in the photos, but you can make it thicker by decreasing the amount of water in the batter.
I love cauliflower and I love pakora, so cauliflower pakora should have been my bestie in India. But it was not to be. Much like my uneasy Indian relationship with aubergines (read about it in my aubergine dip recipe post), my cauliflower love also went on hiatus for the two years I lived in Bangalore, due to some cauliflower-party-crashing worms.
“Just boil the cauliflower, that will kill them!”laughed my Indian friends. No. And no. And no again. Nothing will kill my appetite faster than insects and food combined. I can’t even comfortably sit down to eat at picnics for fear a stray fly will land on my sandwich.
Hence while I longingly cast glances at the trays of crispy fragrant cauliflower pakora that passed me by in India, I very rarely partook. When I returned to a fairly worm-free Spain,surrounded by high quality economically priced vegetables, I set to it.
It took me three tries to get these cauliflower pakora right, but they are exactly what I was looking for. One of those tries involved frozen cauliflower – I DO NOT recommend using frozen cauliflower. I’m normally a fan of frozen vegetables, but frozen cauliflower is not suitable for pakora. Once defrosted or cooked they are too mushy and release too much water into the batter.
I served these with a quick coriander chutney. I’ve included the recipe below. But – and trust me on this – they are also amazing with ketchup. Ketchup is EVERYWHERE in India. I was really puzzled by it’s presence on the side of plates everywhere there, even with sandwiches, until I realized that it was used as a kind of chutney for dipping everything in. I was finally converted when on a cinema trip I had some of those fabulous Indian samosas – REAL Indian samosas, the large thick flaky buttery crust type, not the smaller paper thin type triangles. Egged on by my friend but with misgivings, I dipped it in ketchup, to discover that samosas are even more AMAZING with ketchup.
So please, by all means serve it with coriander chutney, but also try ketchup!
In the interest of less calories and my waistline, I have tried baking these – and in a word, DON’T! You need to fry them. One day I hope to have an air fryer and try them out in that (handsome husband if you’re reading….a perfectly acceptable Christmas or birthday present!).
- 1 scant half cup chickpea flour
- 1 scant half cup rice flour
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp Garam masala
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Turmeric
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- Pinch asafoetida
- ½ - ⅔ cup water - I added ⅔ cup, reduce for a thicker batter.
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- Sunflower oil or canola oil for deep frying.
Quick coriander chutney
- 20 g coriander
- ½ inch grated ginger
- 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Half a green chili pepper, deseeded and chopped finely
- ½ tsp roasted cumin
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 100 ml heavy coconut milk
- Break the cauliflower into bite size florets and either steam over boiling water or microwave in a large tupper with six tablespoons of water, in two minutes bursts until they are fork tender but still retain a slight bite (or until theý’ve reached your favoured consistency).
- Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add all the ingredients except the water to a mixing bowl and mix well.
- Slowly add in the water in increments, mixing with each addition (to prevent lumps), until you have a smooth batter.
- Heat a two inch layer of oil in a deep pan or fryer to a medium high heat. Drop quarter teaspoon of the batter in the pan. When it rises to the top and starts to bubble, you’re ready to make tasty pakora….
- Quickly dredge florets in the batter, shake off the excess, and drop in the oil. DOn’t overload the pan. It normally takes me about three batches.
- When the cauliflower pakoras are orange heading towards brown, it’s time to remove them with a slotted spoon or fish slice to drain on some kitchen roll.
- Serve hot with chutney or ketchup for dipping.
Quick coriander chutney
- Chop and prepare the ingredients.
- Half a chilli makes this quite spicy but as it’s a thin dip, you can take it (I know you can!) - but if you really can’t, reduce tp ¼ chilli or omit altogether.
- Roast the cumin by heating a small frying pan to medium and then adding the cumin powder. Stir often until uniformly toasted (normally when you can smell that rich toasted cumin smell) - but don’t allow to darken too much, and remove from the pan straight away and add to a blender.
- Add all the other ingredients to the blender.
- Blend and either serve straight away, or time permitting, chill for at least thirty minutes.