Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Argi Bhaji

Now customarily, these little mouthfuls of heaven are reserved for special occasions- parties, weddings, etc, but on a day like today when the weather is miserable to say the least, I say "bring on the bhajis!", I need me a treat!

My mum has been making these for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember I would stand by the frying pan and inhale the first batch as they came off the fire (yes, I was a chunky monkey child). The best thing about this dish is that it is so versatile and as it's completely dependent on what you like, you can just adjust the 'recipe' as you go along. My favourite kind of cooking.

Here's my spin on the classic onion bhaji: Spinach and broccoli bhajis with mint raita. 

1. Let's begin with the mint raita. This just consists of chopped mint, onions, and Greek yoghurt. Make sure you use a thick based yoghurt (at least 10% fat), and keep the mixture cool until ready to dish out. We really want the mint raita to be as cold as possible when we serve with these hot bites. 

2. Now for the fun part: the bhajis. So, these are so simple to make. To make the batter, you just need to finely dice some onions, garlic and chilli. I usually say cut as preferred, but these really do need to be fine as we are making tiny little fritters and there's nothing worse than getting a whole chunk of onion or ending up with a bad case of garlic breath. 

3. The next step is to add the vegetables. Quite frankly you can make bhajis with whatever you like- the usual marriage is onion or potato, but I think a bit of colour always looks delicious in a bhaji. I've chosen spinach and broccoli, but you could use peppers, aubergine, carrots or even sweetcorn. I then slice the stem of the broccoli (you can also use the florets as well, but I like the particularly crunchy part of the stem), and then some baby spinach. You can use fresh or frozen, but if you go for fresh, do not cook the leafs as they will cook in the oil when we fry them later, and if you use frozen, make sure you fully defrost and remove as much water as possible as this will cause the oil to spit during frying. 

4. Now for the aromatics. Add crushed fennel and cumin seeds. If you have a bit of extra time, you could roast these- the extra flavour is well worth the extra time. Also add chilli powder and ground coriander powder. Now add gram and self-raising flour and mix well before adding some water and mixing again. Here comes the science: you need the gram flour to keep the mixture thick, but never make a bhaji with just gram flour- I did it once when I was 11 and was like eating rocks! The self raising flour will act to keep the mixture light and fluffy, so you should be going for 1 part gram flour and 2 parts self-raising. After you've mixed this all together you should be left with a thick consistency, so don't go crazy on the water weight. 

5. Heat up a pan of oil and get to frying. Use a small tea spoon to transfer to the pan- and keep the bhajis as small and rough around the edges as possible- this way you will ensure that they cook properly in the middle and will have that killer crunch. 

I am yet to find a method of not eating while I fry, but I'll keep you posted.

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