Onion Bhaji

onion bhaji

We are all brought up with different ‘staples’ in our diet.  Indian food was never a staple for us, more a take away treat, like many children of my era.  However, as a nation, we seem to have completely embraced the delicately spiced nuances which are associated with asian cooking, although I would suggest that, in the main, it is still experienced via the restaurant or take away.  And I include myself in that category.

However, I am trying to conquer the art of cooking different cultural staples, if nothing else, just to see how easy it is.  Enter the Onion Bhaji, or as son #1 used to call them, Onions and Bhajis.

We are extremely lucky where we live, to be surrounded by different cultural food grocers, so finding all the ingredients is very, very easy.  I just pop down the local shop.  However, I am acutely aware that not everyone is as lucky, so, before I go any further I’d like to remind you all that recipes for savoury foods are just a guideline, nothing more.  If you don’t have it in, and cannot easily get hold of it, either miss it out or replace it with something you do have that is complimentary.  This may take a little research but trust me, it’s really not worth getting all hot and bothered because you can’t find fresh curry leaves …

Right.  So the ingredients I used are as follows:
60g gram flour, 30g rice flour – I used ground rice here as I didn’t have any rice flour and ground rice is just a more coarse version of the flour.  You could, should you so desire, just use gram flour in which case it is 90g (I know, mathematical genius…)
Juice of ¼ lemon, 1 tbsp ghee or butter, melted, or, in my case, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  It’s personal preference here, but I also use vegetable oil to cook the Bhajis in so it’s a win win for me.

½ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp chilli powder, 2 green chillies – the thin ones are better as they have more heat – 2 tsp fresh ginger and two cloves of garlic chopped together and 2 onions halved and sliced.  Small pinch of salt.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil, lemon juice and just enough cold water to make it into the consistency of Yorkshire Pudding batter.  Add all the spices, mix, then add the chopped onion.

At this juncture you may wish to add some fresh, chopped coriander, curry leaves or both.

Bring a deep pan of vegetable oil to a heat of 180C – now then, here’s a thing.  I had to look this up because I don’t have a deep fat fryer or a thermometer to test the heat.  I go by throwing a small piece of bread into the oil.  If it fizzles up and becomes a crouton in seconds, I know the oil is hot enough.  Not very scientific I know, but it’s the best I’ve got to give at present.

Anyway, when the oil has reached the desired temperature, take a dessertspoon of the mixture and drop it into the oil.  It should fizzle and rise to the top immediately, if it doesn’t, your oil is not hot enough, so whip it out and wait.  Keep turning the Bhaji until all areas are golden brown, then fish out and pop on a sheet of kitchen roll so that any excess fat is soaked up.

In my pan I use for frying, I can fit about 3 Bhajis in, so, prior to cooking, I put my oven on to keep already cooked Bhajis warm, whilst cooking the others.  This mixture makes between 6 and 8, so they won’t be in there long.

I then prepare a yoghurt dip by adding 1 – 2 teaspoons of mint sauce to 1 – 2 tablespoon of natural yoghurt.  Lush.

The first batch I made were not as delicious as I thought so I readjusted the balance of spices to the above recipe.  You, too, may have to readjust until you find the right spice level for your personal preference.  The other little tip I have, is, make sure that the batter is not too runny.  You can always add a little more water if it feels too stiff but it’s an absolute nightmare to readjust quantities if it’s runny.

Onion Bhajis.  Simple as.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mushy Peas on Toast

mushy peas on toast

Before you say anything, try it.  I know it looks decidedly vibrant and slightly unctuous, but you have to trust me when I say that warmed, tinned mushy peas on toast with a sprinkling of black pepper and a drizzle of mint sauce is one of the most comforting foods you could possibly wish to eat.

Obviously this comes with the caveat that you must love all the various ingredients in order to even attempt to put them together.  ‘It’s ok,’ doesn’t cut the mustard in this particular case.

However, if you have ticked all the criteria, then try you must, as there is something absolutely outstanding about this combination which will make you wonder why it hasn’t been in your life earlier.  A perfect lunch, a wonderful afternoon snack, and suppertime just will not be the same again.

The other thing in it’s favour is the speed with which it delivers.  For me, at the moment, this is crucial.  I am, as some of you may be aware, not a fan of the bought sandwich, which flops, unenthusiastically out of it’s packet like a wet dog’s ear, although I understand completely why it is so popular amongst the busy.

That said, barring the odd occasion where needs must, I just cannot bring myself to dine on the mass produced, cold, and unfulfilling.  However, if you sashay to the left, just a little, in your thought process, the light bite medium that the sandwich has dominated for so long can be easily replaced by something much more enjoyable.

Invariably, but not exclusively, on toast.

Meanwhile this week’s shenanigans have flown by.  The highlight?  My wee boy became a knight.  Oh yes.  In the glorious place he attends, along with his two friends, they held a ceremony with a story created just for them, telling about their heroic actions in order to help others, culminating in them all being deigned worthy of being knighted with the wooden swords they had spent months making.  I cannot tell you just how much this makes my heart glow from the inside out.  Every nuance of translation touches my soul, but perhaps it is the mantra they were asked to learn which transcends into everyday life the most.

I have strength and courage

to do what is right,

To protect those in need,

For I am a knight

Slow Roast Lamb

Slow Roast Lamb

Hurrah, it’s March!   Although I am a little concerned at the speed of where the months are going and have a sneaking suspicion that someone is playing with time itself, I am still delighted that we are here.

But what is it with all this ‘Meteorological Spring’ stuff, eh?  Trying, all of a sudden, to convince us that Spring starts on 1 March.  Balderdash.  Spring starts on the Spring Equinox and I will hear no more about it.

Meanwhile, I am embracing the Spring-like weather and have hung out my washing for the first time this year.

Did you know that 80% of people in the UK no longer hang out their washing, but tumble dry it?

We don’t have a tumble dryer, so during the cold months we make use of our central heating and a clothes dryer.  You know the one, where you hang everything on it, it takes up a huge amount of space, and everything takes an eon to dry?  Yes, we have one of those. So March is when I breathe a huge sigh of relief, as it is warm enough to start hanging out, and therefore I spend less time tripping over the clothes dryer.  And anyway, I love the feel and smell of washing dried outside. Although I may not be quite as keen if I lived next door to a motorway.

All that aside, March also reminds me of lamb so have plumped for slow roasting a leg of it for our dinner.

Cut up a few fresh carrots, a chunk of swede, a couple of onions and place them all with the lamb in a casserole dish that has a lid.  Add freshly ground pepper, salt, and a good dollop of mint sauce. Then cover almost all of it in just boiled water and pop into the oven, gas mark 3.  Leave for a few hours.

When you can stand it no longer, drain the juices from the pot, place in a pan and taste.  If you’d like a stronger taste either add a stock cube or more mint sauce.  It’s a personal thing.

Thicken up the gravy and pour over the resting lamb.  Put the lid back on and leave for 10 minutes.  If you can resist.  The smell of it is divine.

I serve with new potatoes and something like sugar snap peas, green beans or mange tout.

Gorgeous.

Pie and Peas

pie and peas

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I see of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot

– Traditional rhyme

And so it is that every 5th November we make our way to a local, beautiful park where a bonfire is lit and fireworks are set off to a rousing soundtrack provided by a local radio station, the baseline of which resonates through your whole body, starting from your feet and moving to the top of your head, eventually exploding out of your bobble hat.

I absolutely love it.

Alongside this communal sharing of sparkle, there are certain foodstuffs which compliment being out in the November chill.

Different regions have different versions of a traditional bonfire night supper.  When we were growing up it was jacket potatoes, since meeting my beautiful man, we have pie and peas.  But hang on there, it’s not any old pie and peas.  Ohhhh, no.

To do it correctly, you must buy a pork pie and warm it up in the oven.  You then open a couple of tins of mushy peas and warm in a pan.  Put the two together then, and this is the crucial bit, add mint sauce.

Now by this time I’m guessing there will be a few of you thinking, ‘What the bally heck is appealing about that heart attack concoction?’

I am saying nothing except, try it.  You may like it.  I love it.  And what’s more for me, it’s part of the autumn season of foodstuffs which, eaten at any other time of year, may just not hit the spot.  Eaten at the right time of year and as a compliment to a cultural tradition, transmogrify into the most wonderful dance partner imaginable.