I should preface this note with a disclaimer: I’m a firm believer in deep frying food, at least periodically. Mark Bittman wrote this beautiful piece in the NY Times food section last fall about how deep fried foods can be good for you, and, yes, it inspired me. 🙂 When it comes to Desi cooking, well, there are plenty of opportunities to bust out the kadai and to do some deep frying.
Now, to the point: Kale. It’s wonderful. It’s healthy. Let’s deep fry it! It was my idea, but the husband brilliantly executed it and takes all of the credit for this blog (Isn’t he handsome?).
Bhaji is essentially a mix of Indian gram flour and rice flour with a few spices (varies depending on which aunty you ask). You can make your own bhaji mix, or buy a ready-made mix from your local Indian market. We find the ready-made mixes work pretty well, but I’ve included a bhaji recipe here that was in The Guardian last fall.
60g gram flour
30g rice flour
1 tbsp ghee (or butter for the weak of heart)
Juice of ¼ lemon
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1-2 hot green chillies (to taste), finely minced
About 1 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Small bunch of danya (coriander), chopped
Some fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional)
Your vegetable victim of choice (kale, onion, potato, sweet potato, you choose it)
Vegetable oil (we use Canola), to cook
Sift the flours into a mixing bowl, then stir in the ghee and lemon juice and just enough cold water to bring it to the consistency of double cream. Stir in the spices, aromatics and herbs and add salt to taste. Coat your kale, or mix in your onions until they are well-coated. With kale or spinach, you can lightly coat them and you end up with a beautifully crisp veggie, the true secret to the palak chaat at Rasika (though they garnish it with a tamarind chutney and some plain yogurt).
Heat the oil in kadai (or safe pan of your choice used for deep frying), – a drop of batter should sizzle as it hits the oil, then float. Meanwhile, put a bowl of cold water next to the hob, and a plate lined with kitchen paper. Put the oven on a low heat.
Once the oil is up to temperature, dip coated vegetable into the mixture. Drop into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, then stir carefully to stop them sticking. Cook kale for 30-60 seconds, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, then drain on the paper and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the next batch.
Voilà! Serve with chutney or pickle. The Guardian article notes how these are a “fabulous tea time treat.” I love the Brits. Bhaji are splendid with chai, or just about anything else.