Friday, 22 April 2016

Gobi pakora - Indian cauliflower pakoras with lime, jalapeño and coriander dip

Intia has taught me two things: to eat cauliflower and understand the genius of Shah Rukh Khan.

Before my first trip to India I didn't appreciate either. With cauliflower that is understandable to say the least: I mean, it does look like something out of the STD section of a medical encyclopedia (yes it does. I should know - those books were my main enterntainment when staying at one of my aunts as a kid). 

The over the top drama and overwhelming display of larger than life emotions that is Bollywood only made me break out in migraine. 

India changed both of these. That's where I got to know aloo gobi (how can something that simple be that good - it's just potatos and cauliflower, really) and Shah Rukh Khan - the biggest Bollywood megastar there is (well, not personally, I regret to inform you). The man has become a living legend because of his portrayals of characters whose luck in love is even more disastrous than mine. 

I don't think I've ever seen a movie where he'd actually get the girl of his dreams: in every single one of them either he or she dies, prompting another 15-minute scene that is the reason I keep going back for more: Shah Rukh Khan crying.  His absurdly over-dramatized displays of emotions are so incredible there are several compilations available on Youtube alone (don't believe me? Just check out this one). 

Each autumn Helsinki hosts an international film festival which invariably also features series of Bollywood films. Hoardes of Indian people turn up for them... just to laugh at these scenes. In my biggest Bollywood favourite, Om Shanti Om, SRK's (yes, that's how we aficionados call him) character explains to a journalist sent to interview him how the more he dies in his films, the more popular they seem to become. So, in this particular one the script has him die a whopping nine (!) times. 

Pakoras or bhajis, crisp veggie fritters coated in chickpea flour and then deep-fried, are a popular street snack in India. They're particularly popular during the monsoon season, which is when I went to India, too. As the long-awaited rains finally came, I had just(in the most dramatic manner possible - that's India for you...) broken up with my boyfriend and had loaded all my belongings into a rickshaw in the middle of the night. I was crying, the driver was crying... and soon the entire Indian sky was crying, too. (Though the reason for the driver's tears was the way I had furiously made him drive up the one-way street... to the wrong direction.)

These pakoras might not get anyone in tears (though I would love to see SRK do just that) but good they are nonetheless. Serve them freshly fried to guarantee maximum crunch.

Serves four:

Cauliflower pakora

1 cauliflower, cut into similar-sized florets

Pakora batter:

2 dl gram (chickpea) flour (available at ethnic shops), shifted
1 dl rice flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilipowder
1/2 tso turmeric
1/2 tsp bicarb
2 -2,25 dl ice cold (soda)water

For frying: 1 l oil

If you want the cauliflower to be really soft, blanch them in salted water for a couple of minutes. This is optional though, especially if your florets are on the small side.

Combine the dry ingredients. Then add water until you have a smooth, lump-free batter that thoroughly coats the florets.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot. Dunk the florets into the batter, fish out and fry, in batches, until golden and crisp. 

Drain on kitchen towels (replace the towel after each batch to keep it absorbent) and serve with lime, jalapeño and coriander dip.

Lime, jalapeño, coriander and garlic dip:

2 bunches of coriander
2 jalapeños
the juice of 2,5 - 3 limes
2 (large) garlic cloves
4 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

Measure the ingredients into a food processor and blizz until smooth. Add more oil if you want a runnier  consistency. Check the taste and adjust by adding salt and/or sugar.

Other dips worth trying with these are tzatziki, Indian raitha or this mango, chili and ginger dressing.






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