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Silverbeet pakora

Servings: 18 pakora
If you’re thinking “these look like bhaji”, you would be quite correct – because the name is regional (Bhaji in the West of India, Pakora in the North), and the appeal is universal. I savoured a scrumptious rendition of just such a pakora, using spinach, at Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in London recently, and it prompted me to bring the flavours home to you.
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Ingredients 

  • ¼ bunch silverbeet makes approx. 2 cups shredded leaves & 1 cup finely sliced stalks
  • 2 brown onions peeled and finely sliced into half-moons
  • 1 cup chickpea besan flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp mild madras curry powder
  • 1 garlic clove peeled and finely grated
  • Pinch of chilli flakes or powder optional
  • Oil for deep-frying I like grapeseed or rice brain oil

Minted yoghurt

  • 1 cup natural or greek yoghurt
  • ¼ cup fresh mint finely chopped

Instructions 

  • Wash your silverbeet well from root to stem. Remove the leaves from the stems by tearing from the top of the glossy leaves towards the stem (surprisingly satisfying).
  • Finely slice the leaves and stems, and combine in a bowl with the sliced onion. Add a pinch of salt and massage together for a minute to help soften.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the chickpea flour and baking powder. Add in spices, garlic, a teaspoon of salt flakes, and half a teaspoon of pepper (and chilli, if using), whisking to combine. Add 1 ¼ cup of cold water and whisk again to make a smooth batter. Your batter should be the consistency of thickened cream. Fold the chard and onion mix into the batter using a wooden spoon.
  • Heat oil to 160℃ in a wide and high-sided saucepan for deep-frying. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, test the heat by gently blobbing in some batter - if it sizzles and starts turning golden quickly, you’re good to go.
  • Grab 2 soup spoons and scoop up some batter. Using both spoons, push together to form a grassy golf ball, and gently lower into the hot oil. If the pakora falls apart in the oil, it can also mean that the oil is too hot. To resolve this, turn the oil down and wait a few minutes before adding another tester in.
  • Once you get the heat right, add in 4-5 pakora to shallow-fry at a time, as you don’t want to overcrowd your pan. Check that they aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan, by agitating with a spatula, and then keep frying until golden brown, flipping about until golden all over. Drain on a wire rack or absorbent paper towel. Finish with a sprinkle of salt flakes.
  • For the minted yoghurt, mix the yoghurt and mint together and taste for seasoning.
  • Serve warm with minted yoghurt on the side.

Notes

If you’re doing a big batch, keep the pakora warm while frying by turning your oven to 100 (80fan) and loading pakora onto a baking tray once drained.
I’ve offered ‘mild madras’ as your curry powder prompt (and even a tin of Keen’s would do it), but if you’d prefer to make up your own mix, go right ahead.
If you’ve got English spinach or rainbow chard instead, they would be welcome here too. 

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