Palak Pakoras (Spinach, Onion & Potato)
From The Flavors of Asia
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes total (5-6 minutes per batch)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp fennel seeds
6 cups baby spinach, chopped and firmly packed
1 red boiling potato (I used a Yukon gold), peeled and finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 fresh hot green chili, very finely chopped (being wimps, I used ½ small Jalapeno pepper, seeded before chopping
1/3 cup cilantro/coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 cups chickpea flour (can be found at Asian, Middle Eastern specialty stores – worth the trip)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ - ½ cup water (enough to get the batter to stick together to form balls)
Canola oil, enough to deep fry the pakoras (I used a small saucepan and used about 1quart/1 litre)
1. Combine all the ingredients for the spice powder in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder (I use my stainless steel coffee grinder) and grind coarsely.
2. For the filling: In a large bowl, combine the spinach, potato, onion, chili, cilantro, chickpea flour, salt and baking powder. Stir until everything is uniformly coated with the flour. Don’t panic at this point….it really doesn’t look anything like the balls it’s supposed to form. Add water and stir to make a batter. (I didn’t think it would all stick together in the hot oil, but it did – don’t make it too soupy.)
3. In a deep sided saucepan (the book suggests large, but I don’t like to waste that much oil, so I used a medium saucepan (8in/20cm diameter-2qt/2litre) and enough canola oil to come about ¾ the way up the sides) heat the oil over medium-high heat to 360°F/182°C. I never used to own a candy/deep fry thermometer and just did the “throw a little of whatever and if it sizzles and bubbles, it’s hot enough” approach. Now that I have one, I love it and I never end up with burnt oil taste.
4. Use a scant ¼ cup measure or large soup spoon (about 3 tbsp worth of filling –not sure why it’s called filling, since nothing goes around it – so stop looking) and slide into the hot oil.
Note: I wet my hands to press the batter into a ball over the spoon. That way the batter didn’t stick to my hands
Immediately turn the temperature down to medium. My pot only held 4 pakoras without crowding. Cook for one minute and turn the pakoras over with a slotted spoon. Cook for one more minute and turn the heat back up to high. Continue cooking and turning several more times (total cooking 5-6 minutes per batch). They will be dark golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towel lined platter.
Repeat for the rest of the batter.
Note: They do taste best right out of the oil – the spinach gets crispy and just melts in your mouth. That said, I made them early in the morning for supper and just warmed them in the oven for a couple of minutes. Everyone still raved.
The book suggests serving with a Green Chutney, but we ate them plain.