Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Spring's First Asparagus

One of the things that's great about having a veggie garden is that come spring, you get to start collecting the fruits (and veg) of your labour, after a long winter of garden inactivity.
Sometimes, I haven't made room in my menu for veggies that seem to suddenly be ready to harvest and I find that I have to quickly find something to do with a crop of peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and so on. Of course much can be blanched and frozen or preserved in other ways, but I prefer to eat things right away, as having freshly picked veggies was part of the reason for growing our own in the first place.
Yesterday, I realized that we had quite a bit of asparagus that needed to be harvested before it got too big and tough and I wanted to try to incorporate them into the Indian meal I had planned for our supper.

I decided to make some pakoras, a popular Indian snack or starter, which are made with chick pea (garbanzo bean) flour and some subtle spices.

Served with a dip of cucumber mint raita, they're a lovely accompaniment to a curry or as a starter. Other veggies like cauliflower, potato and onion are common ingredients in traditional pakoras. If you're in need of ideas for party nibbles, these are brilliant made bite-sized, you just need to cut the veggies a little smaller.

Asparagus Pakoras with Cucumber Riata
Makes 4 (serves 2) takes 25 minutes

6-7 stalks of asparagus
1/2 a medium onion
6 tbsp gram flour*
6tbsp cold water
a couple of pinches of salt
1/2 tsp ajwan seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp baking powder
Veg Oil for frying

For the Raita:
1 cup natural yoghurt
2 tsp mint sauce
salt to taste
1/2 a cucumber, (English/hothouse) grated
handful fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, rouhgly chopped
1 sprig fresh mint, chopped

Mix together the gram flour, baking powder, water, salt and spices so that you have a mixture about the consistency of pancake batter.
Slice the onion half into thin half-moon slices and add them to the batter. Trim the woody bottoms off the asparagus and slice about 1/4" thick on a sharp diagonal then add the pieces to the batter, mixing the whole lot well to coat well.

Add oil to a skillet to fill about 1/4" deep and heat over a medium heat to 160C (320F) which will drop slightly when you add the pakora mixture.

Use a large spoon to scoop loose piles of the veggie/batter mixture into the hot oil and allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom before carefully turning over and cooking for a further 2-3 minutes on the second side. Remove the pakoras to a plate with some paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

If you make a large number and are cooking in batches, keep them hot in a warm oven while you finish subsequent pieces.

For the raita, simply mix all the ingredients together well in a bowl. Serve on the side of the pakoras.
Mixed Vegetable Pakoras on Foodista

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