Wednesday 5 January 2011

Onion Bhajis and Spicy Tamarind Chutney

C's folks have the best neighbours ever.  The next door neighbours are a family from Fiji who are always super warm, kind and generous.  Need a cup of sugar? Of course!  Need someone to feed the cat while we're away? Not a problem.  AND we often get to scoff absolutely delicious plates of indian cooking brought around by the ever-smiling Pawati.  Talk about neighbourly perks.

The latest dish we sampled was Pawati's spinach pakoras with tamarind chutney.  Ah-mazing.  They literally flew off the plate.  They were so good, we almost coming to blows fighting for the last couple.

Of course, what does ever good cook do after tasting amazing food? Why, google some recipes of course!  I have yet to interrogate Pawati for her fabulous pakora recipe (all in good time my friends) but I did try my hand at some google researched recipes for Onion Bhajis with Spicy Tamarind Chutney.

Normally pakoras or bhajis are deep fried.  Since I don't have a deep fryer, I found a recipe by Chef Jeena that were baked.  The end result were delicious little morsels of indian spiced onion fritters.  When coupled with the spicy, sweet and sour tamarind sauce the combo was absolutely dynamite.

Did baking them make any difference?  I have to say yes it did.  The fried pakora definitely had a better texture.  The baked bhajis fell apart a little as you picked them up. I have since made them by shallow frying the bhajis then baking them, which improved the falling-apart-ness (but then burnt easier so until I work out the optimal frying temperature it's much of a muchness really).

The tamarind chutney flavour was spot on.  Tangy with a bit of kick, I could eat this stuff on anything!  Steak, potatoes, with chips, everything tastes better with tamarind chutney.  Which is probably why it's known as indian ketchup.

Onion Bhajis with Spicy Tamarind Chutney

Onion Bhajis

adapted from Chef Jeena

Makes around 30-35 fritters

8 brown onions
75 g salted butter
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp chilli powder
canola cooking spray

15 Tbsp chickpea flour/chana flour/gram flour (you can buy this from indian stores - you can use plain flour but it won't taste quite the same)
1 1/2 tsp black salt (also from indian stores. You can substitute normal salt)
1 1/4 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
3 heaped Tbsp tomato paste mixed with 9 Tbsp water

Spice mix
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ginger

1. Preheat oven to 180oC and line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut onions in half, remove the skin and then slice into ~ 0.5 cm slices.

2. Heat butter and oil in pan over medium heat till melted.  Gently cook the sliced onions until soft and translucent but not brown.

3.  Sprinkle over chilli powder and mix well.  Then sprinkle the spice mix over the onions and mix till well coated.  Take the pan off the heat.

4.  In a bowl mix the chickpea flour, salt, cumin and coriander.  Then tip over the onions and mix well to coat onions evenly.

5.  Then pour the tomato paste mixture over the onions and mix to make a batter.

6.  If baking only:  Spray the lined baking sheet with cooking spray and place 1 tablespoons of bhaji mixture per fritter.  Space them around 1 1/2 inches apart.    Bake for 10 minutes then spray the tops with cooking spray and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown.

If frying then baking:  Heat 1 inch oil in a pan over low-medium heat.  Fry 1 tablespoon of the onion bhaji mixture per fritter.  The batter should sizzle when it hits the pan but not spit furiously.  Space the bhajis out in the pan around 1 inch apart.  Brown each side and transfer to a plate with kitchen paper to soak the oil then place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes either side until golden brown.  Be careful as the mixture can burn easily, you should keep an eye on the temperature of the oil.

Spicy Tamarind Chutney

adapted from recipe by One Tribe Gourmet
makes around 2 cups

~200 g tamarind
12 dried dates, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp black salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garam masala
5 Tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
pinch asafoetida powder (optional)

1. Place block of tamarind in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let it sit for around 30 minutes them mash with a fork.

2. Place the mixture in a saucepan with dates and simmer over low-medium heat for around 30 minutes until it looks like a thick paste, stirring occasionally.

3.  Pass mixture vigorously through sieve to remove seeds and pith but get most of the tamarind and date puree.

4.  Place the mixture back into the sauce pan, add sugar and spices and heat gently until the sugar has melted.  adjust sugar and salt to taste.

5.  Store in an airtight jar and will keep for around 3 months or freeze for around 6 months.


  1. Yum I'm glad the chutney recipe makes a big batch coz I looove the tang of tamarind. You can buy sugared tamarind in some asian stores, SO good. Thanks for sharing these recipes, I'm so stealing them. :P

  2. Thanks Linno! I loved the tamarind chutney...sooo good on everything! I marinated some steaks in olive oil and a tiny bit of cumin then slathered the chutney on top...ah-mazing! :)



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