Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Onion Bhaji with Cucumber Mint Raita

A classic Indian snack, Onion Bhaji are absolutely delicious and completely addictive little deep-fried fritters made with a fragrant combination of chopped red and yellow onions and a selection of aromatic spices and fresh herbs bound together with a thick gooey batter of water, chickpea flour and rice flour. I also like to throw in a handful of kari leaves and a chopped seeded hot green chili for extra flavour. Shaped into loose dumplings or patties, the bhaji are flash fried in a deep saucepan of hot vegetable oil until they're crispy and golden brown all over. Served with a bowl of Cucumber Mint Raita, or your favourite chutney, these delectable little darlings can be enjoyed as an appetizer with cocktails, or as a starter before an Indian inspired meal.

Onion Bhaji with Cucumber Mint Raita
Makes 10-12 appetizers

1 medium yellow onion
1 medium red onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp Tikka Masala paste
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
kosher salt, to taste
1 green chilli, finely chopped and de-seeded - optional
10-12 kari leaves, also known as curry leaves - optional
6 oz besan flour, also known as chickpea flour
2 oz rice flour - makes the fritters extra crispy!
1/4 cup water, or as required
Vegetable oil for frying

Cucumber Mint Raita:
1 cup natural or Greek yoghurt
1/2 English cucumber, grated
1 bunch mint leaves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 lemon, zested
1 green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped - optional

For the raita, wrap the grated cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Mix together with all of the other ingredients in a small bowl and chill until needed.

Cut the onions in half and finely slice into half-moon shapes, separating each individual slice. Place in a large mixing bowl, and add the garlic, ginger, spices, lemon juice, cilantro (plus the green chilli and kari leaves if using) and salt to taste, and mix gently until combined. Add the chick pea and rice flour and water, a little at a time, until all the onions are coated well. The mixture should not be a batter but thick enough to hold it's shape and hold together well — like a thick gooey paste. 

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium, or use a deep fat fryer. Once the oil reaches 350°F, or a cube of white bread browns after 40 seconds, it's ready to use. You can also check the temperature by dropping in a small spoonful of the mixture - it should sizzle and float. Taste the bhaji and adjust the seasoning if required.

With moistened hands, make a loose dumpling or patty with the onion bhaji mixture and gently drop into the hot oil, about 5 at a time. Stir gently and fry until evenly golden brown all over. Remove the bhaji using a slotted spoon once they're done, and drain on paper towel. Repeat the process in small batches until all the mixture is used up. Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature if you prefer, and accompany the bhaji with cucumber mint raita or coriander mint chutney.