We have eaten more than our fair share of meat in this household this week so last night I wanted to do something meatless. I have posted onion bhajis before, but last night I didn’t feel like deep-frying. I wanted something a little bit healthier. So I decided to give cooking the bhajis baked in the oven a go and they taste just as good as the deep-fried variety.
I served them with a cauliflower curry, rice and a cucumber and yoghurt dip. Very tasty it all was too, except I might add more spice to the cauliflower next time as a cauli can soak up a lot of flavour. So I will work on that before I post it here.
I used the same batter as last time, but because they were going to be oven baked I sweated the pepper and onion slices before putting them in the batter. Then I could be sure they would be cooked through.
Gram flour is made from ground chickpeas and imparts a delicious nuttiness and a beautiful yellow colour.
1 small red pepper, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 heaped tsp crushed chillies
100g gram flour
100ml warm water
salt and pepper
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and sweat the onion and pepper until the onion is translucent and the pepper is tender. They shouldn’t brown. Leave to cool.
Place the coriander and cumin seed in a dry pan and heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until their scent is released. Tip them into a mortar and pestle (or use a bowl and rolling-pin) and grind them finely.
Sieve the gram flour into a bowl and add the coriander, cumin and crushed chillies and stir well. Pour in the warm water and whisk until smooth. Add freshly ground pepper and salt. Leave the batter to rest for 30 minutes.
Put the pepper and onion into the batter and mix well. Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 15 minutes until golden and crunchy.
Regular readers will know that I went a bit crazy in the flour aisle a few weeks ago and bought lots of different flours, including gram flour (ground chickpeas). Onion bhajis are, of course, the perfect way to use gram flour and as I had never made them I thought it was time to give them a go.
I am in no way claiming authenticity with this recipe as I read a few and made up my own on that basis, but these bhajis were very good, so do please give them a go. I think next time I will add more than 1 tsp of crushed chillies as they were fairly mild; necessitating Mr OC to chomp on a raw chilli to make up for it – but then he is addicted!
They went perfectly with the cucumber and cumin dip that I made to go with them.
100g (4 oz) gram flour
1 tsp crushed chilli (or more if you want a greater kick to your bhaji), or you could use 1-2 fresh chillies chopped finely
1 heaped tsp cumin seed
1 heaped tsp coriander seed
1 tbsp oil
100ml warm water
salt to taste
Put a frying pan onto a medium heat until hot and then add the coriander and cumin seeds and cook until they release their scent. Pour them straight into a mortar and pound them to a fine powder with the pestle (or a bowl and a rolling-pin will do the job just as well).
Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl. Add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt. Pour in the oil and water and mix to combine to a smooth batter. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Cut the onions in half and slice thinly. Add the onions to the batter and mix well.
Heat 4-5 cm of vegetable oil in a large pan until it reaches 170°c on a kitchen thermometer (or until a cube of bread turns golden brown in a few seconds).
Add spoonfuls of the batter, and you will need to do this 2-3 at a time or you will overcrowd the pan and they won’t cook properly. Remove as soon as they turn a golden brown and drain on crumpled kitchen paper. Keep warm until all the bhajis are cooked and serve as soon as possible.
I was inspired to make this because I was watching the Good Food channel (of which I watch far too much I admit!) and Rachel Allen made a version in her Favourite Foods programme which was followed shortly after by Market Kitchen and the chef in the market made a very similar version. I took it as a sign!
I served it with a roast chicken last night and it was good, although it might have been better if I had reduced the tomato sauce a bit more so it was less of a soup and more of a sauce. You can cook it to the consistency that you think you may prefer by just simmering it for longer if you want it more sauce-y than soupy.
You could substitute the chickpeas for butter beans and the kale for spinach or any other Brassica you have in the house.
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
A good-sized chunk of chorizo, cubed (I used about 100g)
1 410g tin of chickpeas in water (no salt added) drained of most of the liquid
1 400g tin of tomatoes
kale ( I used about 100g), shredded
feta cheese to crumble over the top
Heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and fry the chorizo until it begins to leach its golden fat, add the chilli and garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, add the chickpeas and a little bit of the water from the tin. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or longer if you would prefer a thicker consistency. Add the kale and cook for another five minutes until the kale is tender. Scatter cubes of feta over the top and serve with lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices.
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