Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Non-Greasy, Non-Stodgy, Onion Bhajis with Spring Onion and Mint Raita

Onion bhajis have got to be the most bipolar of all foods.

On some days, they are sprightly, fresh, crispy and vibrant; on other days they are heavy, dull, bland and stodgy. Made properly, they can be a joy to eat, otherwise they are a nightmare - a greasy throwback to the days of the 'three-pot' tandoori restaurants of the late seventies/early eighties.

Today, I'm feeling rather sprightly myself, so it feels like an opportune time to share my own take on the ubiquitous Indian snack.

Ideally, you would use a bit of plain flour in the batter, alongside the usual heavier gram (chickpea) flour, but what you gain in lightness, you lose in authenticity. I simply opt to use a low-volume-of-batter-to-high-volume-of-onion ratio, and that seems to solve the 'cement-bhaji' problem quite nicely.

Gram flour can be bought in most supermarkets now, but feel free to use plain flour instead, if you can't get hold of it, or if you prefer your onion bhajis to taste like a spicy English breakfast muffin instead of the Indian street food that they were intended to be.

When frying these bhajis, make sure the oil is at a moderate temperature - 180c is best. You want to tread a fine line between overcooking the outsides before the insides have a chance to cook, leaving them raw within (oil too hot), and allowing the oil to penetrate the inner-workings of the bhaji, leaving them greasy and heavy (oil too cool).

The accompanying spring onion and mint raita accentuates the oniony theme very nicely, but a word of warning: This is not a first date recipe. (However, if you serve my Rainbow Raita instead, your end-of-the-date kiss may taste just a little bit sweeter...)

All-in, this dish is a cheap one. £1.50 per serving is all it will set you back.

Serves 4 (makes 12 bhajis)

Onion Bhajis


2 large onions, sliced paper-thin into half moons
100g gram flour
75ml water
1 teaspoon of black onion (nigella) seeds
1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander and ground cumin
Pinches of salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Mix the flour, water, onion seeds and spices together in a bowl and season generously. Add the onions to the batter, which should just coat them, with very little surplus. Heat a 10cm depth of oil, in a large pan or wok, to a moderate heat (180c). Using a tablespoon, plop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry in batches until all are cooked (8-10 minutes per batch approx). Serve with the spring onion and mint raita.


Spring Onion and Mint Raita


300ml natural Greek yoghurt
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until needed, to allow the flavours to develop.

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