Pakoras (Traditional Indian Vegetable Fritters)

I first learnt how to make pakoras for the Sunday Feast at the Hare Krishna Temple in Cape Town. This little experience in pakora making got me recruited to make pakoras at the Grahamstown Festival in 1998. My experience was consolidated in Cape Town in December 1999 at the ‘Govinda’s Restaurant’during the World Parliament of Religions. The organizers asked the Hare Krishna’s to run the main restaurant since our food is compatible with the religious specifications of most religions. I was frying pakoras for 14 hours a day. By the second or third day I started to dream about the oil slowly starting to bubble in the wok! The following recipe is my version of Kurma’s pakora recipe from ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’.

Batter (for about 40 pakoras)

3 cups chickpea flour
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kalonji seeds
1 tsp hing
1 tbsp chilli powder

Mix dry ingredients. Then add 2 cups of water to the mix. Stir with an egg-beater.

Take brinjal slices, butternut slices, potato slices, cauliflower flowerets, spinach leaves, jalapenos etc., dip in batter, and add to boiling oil. Remove from oil when reddish-golden colour. Test to see if the pakoras are soft enough with a knife. If the batter is cooking, but the pakoras are too hard, reduce the heat of the oil. If the batter is too runny, add chickpea flour. If the batter is too thick, add water. If the pakoras aren’t crispy enough, add a pinch of baking powder.

Serve with chatni.

Black Forest Cake (Eggless)

This recipe is from Srimati Dasi’s ‘Srimati’s Vegetarian Delights’. I was based at ISKCON Cape Town for ten years. I have heard a lot of the glories of her cooking and appreciate her devotional nature.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups (625ml) flour
3 tsp (15ml) baking powder
1/2 cup (125ml) butter
1 1/2 cups (375ml) sugar
1 tbsp (15ml) lemon juice
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla essence
1 cup (250ml) carob powder
1/4 cup (60ml) hot water
1 1/4 cup (310ml) milk

Method:

Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Cream the butter, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Make a paste with the carob powder and hot water. Add to the creamed mixture, along with the milk.

Fold all the ingredients together to form a thick batter. Divide the batter into 2 lightly greased 20cm cake tins. Bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180C for about 30mins or until firm.

Allow the cakes to cook before removing them from the tins.

Decoration:

2 tbsp (30 ml) strawberry jam)
1 cup (250 ml) fresh cream
1 tbsp (30 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence
Red cherries or strawberries
Grated carob

Sandwich the cake with strawberry jam.
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla essence together to a soft peak stage.

Ice the cake with the cream. Decorate with red cherries or strawberries and carob as desired.

Panir

Panir is made when lemon juice or a similar ‘curdling agent’ (eg. tartaric acid) is added to boiling milk. The curdling agent curdles the milk, forming curds (solid, cheezy bits) and whey (a light green juice). Panir can be prepared in many ways – on kebabs, with spinach (palak panir) or a creamy tomato sauce (panir matar masala). Panir is considered a delicacy in India.

For every 2 litres of milk, use approximately 4 tbsp (60ml) lemon juice.
If you are using citric acid, use 1 tsp (5ml) in 1/3 cup (80ml) hot water.
1 cup yoghurt or 2 cup (500ml) sour whey.
Curd yield will be about 230g.

Method:

Bring the milk to a rolling boil. Slowly add the lemon juice. After a few moments the milk solids will start to separate. When the solids coagulate into a white cheeze and the whey can be clearly seen as a pale green liquid turn off the heat.

Line a colander with a cheeze cloth or a thin cotton cloth, and place over a large saucepan. Pour the curd and whey into the lined colander, and allow the whey to drain into the saucepan.

Gather up and twist the sides of the cloth containing the curd and place underneath a heavy weight. Press the curd for about 20mins.

Remove the cloth. Cut the panir/curd into small cubes.