August 7, 2011
If you’re always on the lookout for new recipes then you’ll no doubt have various scraps of paper cluttering up your house, each featuring a scribbled or printed recipe that you’ll just never get round to sticking or copying into that special dedicated notebook you got for Christmas (and the person who gave you that book is probably sick of the clutter too). Guilty as charged, over here.
The best onion bhaji recipe I ever found was printed on the back of a gram flour packet, and I’ve only gone and thrown it out. So last night I was forced to branch out and try a different recipe (as much as anyone can be forcibly compelled to make onion bhajis). I’ve made sweet potato bhajis to Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian recipe before, so I tried her suggested variation to make the more traditional onion version. It wasn’t wholly successful, as there didn’t seem to be enough gram flour mixture to hold each bhaji together; they worked better that I thought they would, though, and were light and crispy. The dried chilli gives just the right amount of kick, and I love that Rose Elliot includes fresh coriander. I’ll try them again soon to work out the optimum quantities, but please send me your tried-and-tested bhaji recipes! I’m desperate.
Onion bhajis (from Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian)
Makes eight, apparently. They don’t hold together too well, so smaller ones might be your best bet, in which case obviously you’ll end up with more than eight.
450g onions (red or white)
125g gram flour
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- Slice your onions. A straggly onion bhaji is a beautiful thing, so keep your slices longish rather than chopping them finely.
- Put the sliced onions in a bowl and add the gram flour, chilli flakes, baking powder, salt and coriander. Give it a really good mix – you can do this with a wooden spoon, but you might find it easier with your hands; I know I do. The moisture will be drawn out from the onions so everything should start to come together, but you can add a little water after a good mix if everything still feels dry. I find it easiest to form the mixture into lumps of whatever size you fancy (I wouldn’t go bigger than about a tablespoon of mixture) at this stage, laying them out on a chopping board ready for frying.
- Choose a medium-sized saucepan and pour in enough vegetable oil to half-fill the pan (you can always strain and reuse the oil afterwards, once it’s cooled down), setting it over a medium-high heat.
- Start adding your bhajis once the oil reaches 180°C, or when a cube of bread rises to the surface and turns golden brown in under a minute. To be honest, I just take a punt on it and start putting them in when it looks hot. Depending on the size of your pan, it’s probably best to only fry three or four bhajis at once, to prevent the oil cooling.
- After about four minutes, the bhajis should be deliciously golden and crisp, and cooked right through. Drain them on kitchen paper and keep them warm in a low oven while you fry up the rest.
For a really tasty sweet potato variation, peel and grate 350g sweet potatoes in place of the sliced onion in the recipe above, and add one very finely chopped onion to the mixture too.
January 10, 2011
Embarrassingly, a creamy, mild korma has always been my favourite curry. I know it has a reputation as a dish for people who don’t really like curry, and I suspect that my love of it has a lot to do with the cream content, dairy enthusiast that I am, but I maintain that a good korma, delicately spiced, is a thing of beauty and not a cop-out.
I’ve never made a korma from scratch before, but Nigel Slater’s recipes are generally very reliable so this root vegetable korma recipe from Tender: Vol. 1 seemed as good a place to start as any. None of the spices it includes are outlandish or difficult to track down, and it’s a great use of seasonal root vegetables. You could use a more varied mix of veg than I did, depending on what you can get hold of without too much hassle; Nigel recommends a mixture of swede and Jerusalem artichokes to make up 1.5kg along with the carrots and parsnips. Try throwing in some potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin, or sweet potatoes for a change, but sweet potatoes won’t need to be cooked for as long as the other vegetables so just add them for the last 20 minutes or so.
The finished result was a little on the saucy side so I’d recommend removing the lid from the pan for at least some of the time in step 4. Nigel reckons you can have this curry on the table in an hour, but allow an hour and a half from start to finish as there’s a bit of veg prep to do, as well as grinding the spices.
A root vegetable korma (adapted from Tender: Vol 1 by Nigel Slater)
2 medium onions
A fat, thumb-sized piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1.5kg root veg –
a mixture of parsnip, swede, carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes
6 green cardamom pods
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, or butter
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
a cinnamon stick
2 smallish green chillies, depending on their heat, thinly sliced
150ml single or double cream
150g thick natural yoghurt
fresh coriander, chopped
- Peel the onions, cut them into large pieces, then pulse in a food processor till roughly minced (not puréed). Peel and roughly grate the ginger, then peel and finely slice the garlic cloves. Peel and coarsely chop the vegetables. Roughly chop half of the cashews (the quickest way of doing this is to blitz them very quickly in a food processor).
- Now deal with the spices: crush the seeds from the cardamom pods to a gritty powder in a pestle and mortar. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds to a fine powder – ideally in a spice grinder, as you’re not likely to get a fine powder using a pestle and mortar.
- Put the oil or butter into a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and stir in the onions, letting them soften but not colour. Stir in the ginger and garlic, cook over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, then add the spices – cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and the cinnamon stick. Continue cooking, stirring for a couple of minutes, until the spices become fragrant, then add the chopped vegetables and the chopped nuts. Season with the green chillies, salt and black pepper.
- Stir in 750ml water, partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for forty-five to fifty minutes, till the roots are tender to the point of a knife. Keep an eye on the pan, stirring occasionally, and if it’s still looking watery towards the end of this time then leave the lid off for a bit to reduce the sauce down a bit. Toast the reserved whole cashews.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream and yoghurt. Put the pan back on a gentle heat to warm through without boiling. Should the mixture boil, it will curdle, and though the flavour will be fine the texture will be grainy. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if necessary. Scatter over the toasted cashews and some chopped coriander, and serve with rice or naan bread.