Typical Christmas eve in Spain: meet frineds for drinks around eight, home for family dinner at ten, out again by two (am), breakfast in the town square, bed, then . . . that was last year.
This year we’re experiencing reduced staying-power and early nights, the effects of not drinking since before Easter. Even so, I set the alarm to be up in time to prepare Christmas brunch – just in case.
- air-fried onion and purple potato pakora
- sweet tomato and black mustard relish
- salted cucumber with dehydrated fermented persamons
- south Indian sambhar
- two poached eggs on buttered rye sourdough toast
- with alcohol-free lager
- and chocloate brownies. It is Christmas
Pakora and her cousin the bhajee have much in common – cut vegetables, sundry spices and gram (chickpea) flour. But there is a difference:
- vegetables are dunked in a batter of gram flour and water for the soft and fluffy bhajee.
- pakora uses no water except that drawn from the vegetables by salt. The moisture is then absorbed by dry gram-flour to create crisp perfection.
I was aware of the difference, but the fact was brought home by Shams Mir, the curry queen of Walthamstow, who fed us these beauties at our pre Christmas get-together. Speechless (or talking too much?).
Shams also re-connected us with the Himalayan sulphuric black salt which gives our pakora wings. If you’ve never inhaled the vapours from an active volcano, now’s your chance. Really, you gotta try it!
Potato & Onion Pakora
- 2 large potatoes julienned or coarsely grated
- 2 large onions thinly sliced
- 1/2 - 1 tsp salt (to taste) black rock salt is especially good here - grind a little in a mortar and pestle
- 3-4 heaped tbsp gram (chick-pea) flour
- a few drops of water if needed
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional) for a soft, fluffy centre with all of the outer crispness
- oil for frying or invest in an air-fryer
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 5-6 black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
- 1 large pinch of hing (asafoetida)
- 2-3 fresh bird's-eye (Thai) chillies thinly sliced, de-seeded or whole (optional)
- Use the coarse grater or julienne attachement of your food processor to process the potatoes. I keep the skins on.
- OR manually grate or julienne the spuds with whatever implement you have to hand. Shams used a spiralizer for her pakora. Brilliant!
- Thinly slice the onions either by hand or in your food processor
- Mix the onions and potatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle on the salt
- Leave to stand for 5 minutes for the salt to draw out some of the juices
- Taste some of the onion. If it's too salty run a handful of the vegetables under the tap. Or add a little more salt to get the seasoning to your taste
- Add the chillies, cumin, fennel and hing. There's no need to pre-roast the spices as they'll release all their flavour in the frying process
- Add in the gram flour a spoonful at a time, mixing it in well with a spoon or your free hand until the mixture just holds together. If the mixture looks dry use splash on a few drops of water witth your fingers
Fry The Pakora In Oil
- Add tablespoon of the mixture to medium hot oil. Your pakoras should start to sizzle immediately, otherwise the oil is not hot enough. Conversely, If the oil is smokling wildly, turn down the flame and wait for it to cool
- Fry, turning occasionally until golden on all sides
Air-Fry The Pakora
- Placing the raw pakora directly on the wire trays will not work. Use lightly oiled greasproof parchment cut to size or silicon mesh over the trays
- Drop tablespoon-fulls of pakora mix on the trays and "fry" at 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes in total.
- After 5-7 minutes turn the pakoras over carefully, Discard the baking parchment at this stage so both surfaces are exposed to the drying heat.
- Swap the bottom-most and top-most trays over as needed half way through cooking