Onion Bhaji Butties - The Ultimate Comfort Food
Ending Veganuary On A High!
In all my years of catering dinner parties and teaching people how to cook South Asian food, there is one cheeky little snack that everyone just loves, the humble onion bhaji. I personally am a big fan and woe betide those who say they don’t like them - I can get quite defensive and end up playing ‘20 questions’ with them…”Well, where did you have them? Were they ready-made from the supermarket? Which recipe did you follow?”…The list goes on. Obviously, this is not something I enjoy really - well maybe just a little bit anyway, joking aside, I like to know the details so I can find out why they don’t like them and convert them to a lover not a hater.
In my experience, most people that don’t like onion bhajis have had a bad experience, i.e. bhajis that were too heavy, doughy, overcooked, dry, tough and tasteless...Whereas for a good onion bhaji, the adjectives that are used are polar opposite to the afore mentioned ones - adjectives like; crispy, light, tasty, flavoursome, aromatic and moreish. In fact, they are so good when made properly that they need to come with a health warning. NO, I don’t mean ‘deep fried’ which in my opinion is O.K. once in a while…They should come with the following warning ‘highly addictive, risk of over-eating!’
One of the best things about onion bhajis is that they are made from chickpea flour, also called gram flour or ‘besan’, and hence gluten-free. Not only are they gluten-free, but vegan as well, so they are perfect to end Veganuary on a high. Quick little bit of trivia for you - what is the difference between an onion bhaji and a pakora? Well, they are actually one and the same. Pakora is a Punjabi word and bhaji is Hindi/Urdu. My parents spoke Punjabi, so growing up and even now, I call them pakoras. Anyway, I digress - whatever you call them, I promise you that once you have had a well-made pakora/bhaji, you will be converted to a bhaji lover, just like me.
O.K. you have made your light and crispy bhajis, what’s the best way to serve them I hear you ask? You can go traditional with a mint yoghurt, spicy green dip or tamarind sauce and some minty onions. Or you could try my ‘East Meets West’ way and have an Onion Bhaji Butty…Oh my goodness!!...This is pure indulgence and the ultimate ‘pick me up’ comfort food, especially in these winter months, just ask James Martin, I made one on his Saturday morning show and he gave it a thumbs up and I’m sure you will too. This reminds me of one of my fondest memories as a child, coming home from school on a cold, wet winter’s day to a large batch of mum’s pakoras. The first thing we children would do is grab some Warburton’s white bread, spread with lashings of butter, add the hot crispy pakoras and finish off with a few generous dollops of ketchup. The heat from the pakoras would melt the butter making it all the tastier and we would wash our sandwiches down with hot sweet chai. Heaven!...Oh my goodness, writing this blog has just inspired me to follow my own advice. I will catch up with you next month - I am off now to make some pakoras and I know the first thing my son will ask is ‘Mum, have we got any bread?’
Onion & Potato Bhaji Or Pakora Recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes for batter to rest
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes
Makes 28 to 30 medium sized Bhajis.
- 250g gram flour
- 2 medium sized onions, halved & thinly sliced
- 2 medium sized potatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp coriander seed powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp pomegranate seed powder (optional)
- 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
- 3 tbsp of fresh coriander - chopped
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 litre of oil (for frying)
- Sieve the gram flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt, chilli powder, coriander powder, fenugreek leaves pomegranate seed powder and lemon juice.
- Add 130ml water to the gram flour and mix with a wooden spoon to make a batter. The consistency should be smooth and similar to cake mixture.
- Add the chopped coriander, potatoes and onion, mix well, making sure that all the potatoes and onions are covered in the batter. Cover and leave to stand for 30 mins. (The moisture from the vegetables will make the batter looser as it rests).
- Heat oil in a wok or deep-frying pan, drop a teaspoon of batter into the hot oil and fry. You can fry 6 or 7 at a time, depending on how large your pan is.
- Deep fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown – turning once or twice to ensure they brown and crisp upon both sides. Take out using a slotted spoon and metal sieve, give them a good shake and drain onto kitchen roll.
PARVEEN’S TOP TIP
The thinner the batter, the better the bhaji' - use it as a mantra, because it really works. Once the batter has rested, it will by much looser and the consistency of double cream. You can use other vegetables for bhajis/pakota. Try red peppers, cauliflower or just potatoes. Just thinly slice the vegetables, cover in the batter and deep fry as per recipe.
Happy cooking and please look after yourselves.
About the author
Parveen Ashraf is a passionate foodie, author, TV chef and entrepreneur and newspaper columnist. Her humorous and relatable writing style is always a winner with SaveCo customers and her recipes and blogs are amongst the most viewed pages.