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Starter – Monica's Spice Diary – Indian Food Blog

Batata Vadas

Batata Vadas, Aloo Bonda, Aloo Vada, Aloo Chop – different names to describe one mouth watering street food snack now served all over India! Mumbaikers claim Batata Vadas as their creation and I believe them because their recipe is absolutely delicious. If you’re not familiar with this Mumbai street food snack – imagine spicy potato balls dipped in a gram flour batter which are then deep fried.

Spicy and soft, Batata Vadas provide joy and comfort with every bite. They’re utterly moreish on their own but are often served inside a fluffy white bun to transform them into a portable snack on the go called Vada Pav. To turn up the flavour volume, the inside of the bun is smothered with a fiery coriander & mint chutney, a roasted garlic & peanut crumble and any crispy bits of batter which may remain in pan once the vadas are fried. Talk about a (carby) sandwich of dreams!

Whether you relish these on their own or as Vada Pavs, I hope you enjoy them! Oh and if you have any leftover batter you can transform them into pudas. If you’d like to watch me make Batata Vadas, watch the cook-a-long from my recent Facebook live.

Batata Vadas

Servings 4

Equipment

  • Frying pan & wooden spoon
  • Mixing Bowl & whisk
  • Small wok & slotted spoon

Ingredients
  

For the Stuffing:

  • 2 tbsp oil of your choice
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 onion 40g, finely diced
  • 2 cms ginger grated
  • 1 large garlic clove grated
  • 15 fresh curry leaves completely optional. If using dry, soak in warm water for 10 minutes ahead of time.
  • 600 g potatoes cooked, peeled & roughly mashed with a fork ( I will cook mine in the microwave but you can also steam or boil)
  • 1 tsp salt or according to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp amchur/mango powder or juice from a lime
  • 1/2 tsp mild paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder or according to taste
  • 2 fresh chillies finely chopped
  • small handful fresh coriander stems finely chopped

For the Batter:

  • 200 g gram flour/chickpea flour sifted into a bowl
  • water (approx 250mls)

You will also need:

  • Oil for deep frying sunflower/veg oil work well

Instructions
 

  • To make the stuffing, place your mashed potatoes on a wide tray or big plate and spread the potatoes out. Now, heat oil in a frying pan. Once hot add the mustard seeds. When they begin to crackle, add the curry leaves as well as the onions and mix.
  • Cook the onions for a minute, then add the ginger and garlic. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat until light golden in colour then add to the potatoes. (If you find the pan looks dry during the cooking process, you can add a little more oil or a splash of water to ensure nothing burns).
  • Now add the salt and remaining spices as well as the chillies and fresh coriander. Mix well using your hand. Taste for salt and chilli and tweak according to your personal taste preference. Once combined, roll into balls. You can vary the size on your personal preference! Traditionally they are a little bigger than golf balls. Once rolled, keep aside.
  • Fill a small wok or saucepan with 4-5cms of oil. Place on your cooker on a low heat setting.
  • To create the batter, add 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4tsp turmeric powder and a pinch of chilli powder to the sifted gram flour. Gradually add the water and whisk simultaneously. Add enough water so you have a thick, smooth, lump free batter. It should easily coat the back of a spoon but should be a little thicker than pancake batter.
  • Increase the temperature of the oil in the wok to medium. To check if the oil is hot enough, add a little spoon of batter to the pan. It should float up to the surface and bubble within about 5 seconds. (If it is too cold it will stay at the bottom and if it is too hot it will come up to the surface immediately and turn brown).
  • Once you're happy with the oil temperature, place a potato ball in the batter. Spoon over the batter so the ball is completely covered in it. Now, pick up the bowl containing the batter and hold it close to the wok. Use the spoon to carefully transfer the battered vada into the oil. Repeat until you wok is full (being careful not to overcrowd).
  • After the vadas are sealed (take 10-12 seconds), use a slotted spoon to keep them moving. Cook on a medium heat for 4-6 minutes until golden and crisp to touch. They should stay yellowish – light golden in the 2-3 minutes and then eventually begin to turn completely golden in the final 2-3 minutes. Keep them moving in the oil to prevent any dark spots.
  • Once ready, use your slotted spoon to remove the vadas from the pan – draining as much oil as possible before placing them on some kitchen paper.
  • Repeat with the remaining potato balls. Serve with your favourite dipping sauces and chutneys!

Notes

The recipe for the green coriander chutney can be found here

Bengali Dal Pakoras

Yesterday’s live cookery class was a lot of fun. We headed over to the East of India and cooked up delicious Bengali style lentil pakoras.

Lentil pakoras are made all over India in a variety of ways. The types of lentil, spices and texture profiles are tweaked from region to region and they’re all absolutely delicious.

I made a couple of tweaks to the classic Bengali “Daler Bora” (sorry Bengalis – it’s the North Indian in me!) and hope you enjoy the recipe. If you are deep frying for the first time, have a look back at the live class as I broke down how to fry without fear! I also shared plenty of tips on how to ensure your pakoras are perfectly cooked on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside.

Do let me know how you get on with making these and how they turn out for you. Dipped into your favourite chutney or dipping sauce, they’re a hit with children and oldies alike!

Also, I am working on something *incredibly exciting*. I can’t say anything yet, however if you’re a spice lover and like the idea of mastering Indian cuisine you WILL want to sign up to my new exclusive mailing list. That way, you’ll be the first to know when I do make the grand reveal!

In the mean time, happy cooking! The next live is on 10th July! x

Bengali Lentil Pakoras

Servings 20 pakoras (approx)

Equipment

  • small wok or wide sauce pan
  • slotted spoon
  • Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup approx 165g masoor/split red lentils washed 3-4 times & soaked for 2 hours in water
  • 2 cms ginger grated
  • 1 large clove garlic grated
  • 1-2 green chillies finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt or according to taste
  • 2 tsp whole coriander seeds coarsely crushed in a pestle and mortar (you can also use coriander powder)
  • 1/2 tsp amchur mango powder optional
  • 1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes according to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 1 small onion (90g) finely diced
  • Oil for deep frying sunflower/vegetable oils work well

Instructions
 

  • Soak the lentils in water for a couple of hours. Then rinse well and drain.
  • Measure 1/4 cup or 40-50mls of water and keep aside. Add the lentils to a blender along with half the amount of the water. Blend together. Then scrape down the sides of the blender jug and a little more water and blend again .You may need to repeat this once again.
  • Aim for the dal paste to be the consistency of a thick hummus. It can be a little grainy but should hold its form.You may need to adjust the water amount to achieve this so judge accordingly.
  • Heat oil in your pan (small wok work best) on low/medium heat.
  • Using a spatula, remove the lentil paste from the processor and add to a mixing bowl. Then add the ginger, chilli, salt, dry spices, fresh coriander and using your hand mix well. Finally, add the onions and mix again.
  • When the oil is hot, place 1 tablespoon of the batter into the oil. The pakora should come up to the top of the oil. Carefully shape and add more pakoras to the oil. Cook in small batched being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. Use your slotted spoon to gently turn them over every 10 seconds or so. When you see them turn light golden in colour, increase your heat setting to high and cook until fully golden. (It should take about 5 minutes in total).
  • Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Allow the oil to drain off the pakoras fully. Then place on kitchen paper. Lower the heat and allow the oil to cool sightly before you do the next batch. Repeat and enjoy with your favourite dipping sauce!

Notes

Tip!
When making the dal paste, if you do find you have added too much water in error and it is too wet, you can add a little gram flour and a pinch of salt to help thicken. You should be able to spoon the mixture into a roundel.
 
 

Keralan Fried Chicken (or Cauliflower) #KFC

They say you shouldn’t mess with a classic and don’t get me wrong, the colonel’s recipe is good – I regularly crave it. But, in my very humble opinion..injecting the classic with some spice and heat takes it to another level! My Mum introduced me to the idea of an “Indian-ified” KFC. When my brother and I were kids, she used to make it for us on birthdays or special occasions.

I originally created my own version for a web series I did with Tastemade a little while back (video below!) a couple of years ago. It has wonderful Keralan/South Indian flavours which add depth, aroma & heat. The chicken is first marinated in coconut milk, curry leaves, ginger, chilli n garlic. Then coated in coconut & plain flour and deep fried until golden and crisp. It also works incredibly well with cauliflower if you want to make a veggy/vegan version!

I hope you like this recipe! Let me know your thoughts on on InstaTwitter or Facebook.

Oh and don’t forget to join me next Friday on 29th May for my next live cook-along class. Keep posted to my social media over the next few days to see what we will be making.

Happy cooking y’all x

Keralan Fried Chicken (KFC)

Ingredients
  

  • 4 chicken thighs skinless. Use cauliflower florets for a veggy/vegan version.
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ” fresh ginger root
  • 2 birds eye green chillies
  • 4 stems fresh coriander washed
  • 2 stems curry leaves, de-stemmed & washed optional
  • 1 ½ – 2tsp salt according to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • sunflower/vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 100 g coconut flour If you don’t have this, just use 200g plain flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp onion powder optional
  • 6 stems curry leaves washed, dried and de-stemmed for garnishing (optional)

Instructions
 

  • In a blender, blitz coconut milk, garlic, ginger, chillies, coriander and curry leaves and empty into a bowl. Add the chicken along with salt, garam masala, coriander powder, paprika and turmeric. Cover & refrigerate for as long as possible (24 hours is best) but at least a couple of hours.
  • Place the plain flour, coconut flour, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and onion powder in a shallow bowl and combine.
  • Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before cooking. Place enough oil in a pan so it is about 4-5" deep and place on a low/medium heat. I like to use a small-medium sized wok.
  • Now shake off any excess coconut milk marinade from the chicken and dredge each piece in the flour and evenly coat Then place the chicken piece back in the marinade, shake off any excess and dredge in the flour once again. (I like to use one hand for placing the chicken in the marinade and the other hand for placing the chicken in the flour as it is less messy this way!).
  • Very carefully place into a medium pan of oil at 180ºC. Repeat with the next piece. Cook 2 pieces at a time to keep the temperature from falling.
  • Cook for 8-9 minutes. Then use a pair of tongues to carefully turn each chicken piece once golden. Cook until golden brown on the other side. The chicken should be cooked and white in colour internally. You can also use a thermometer probe to check the internal temperature is 75 ºC.
  • Remove chicken pieces from oil using a slotted spoon and then place on a wire tray/rack to drain.
  • Now, place the curry leaves into the same hot oil. They may splatter slightly so be careful. Deep fry for 5-10 seconds. Remove and drain using a slotted spoon and then place on kitchen paper. Allow them to cool slightly until crisp, then crush the curry leaves with your hands and sprinkle over fried chicken.
  • Serve with your KFC with your favourite dipping sauce/Indian chutney!