Onion bhajis - onion pakoda to you and me - is probably the UK's most favourite starter before any British-Indian meal, as much as chicken tikka masala is its most favourite "Indian" dish. Serve this up to any normal British person who likes Indian food, and you will be instantly elevated to the status of "fantastic cook". I say this as a person who has earned the title from her friends and from her husband's friends and really anybody who's had onion bhajis at my place :)
After eating the much-touted bhaji from an "Indian" takeaway restaurant here for the first time, it wasnt exactly rocket science to figure out what went in it - basically gram flour, some crushed coriander seeds, some chilli powder and salt added to sliced onions and deep-fried. Served with the ubiquitous "mint raita dipping sauce" - which was a spoonful of ready-made mint sauce mixed with a cupful of yogurt. That was it. And honestly speaking, that IS it even when I make bhajis at home. Nothing more, nothing less. Make no mistake, though... the things are tasty and extremely more-ish!
When I duplicated the recipe at home for Pete's friends one evening, though, I was completely taken aback by how much they raved about it. I tried telling them that it wasnt difficult to make, far from it... but they just wouldnt have it. Faced with so much insistent praise, I decided to accept the inevitable and gracefully let myself be crowned the Queen of Bhajis. Okay, so it's a dubious title, but mine own!
Just dont forget to address me as Your Royal Bhajiness.
Recipe for: Onion bhaji - UK-style
3-4 medium sized onions, sliced thinly
About 1-1/2 cups gram flour/chickpea flour
1 tsp red chilli powder (more or less acc to taste)
1 htsp crushed or powdered coriander seeds
Salt to taste
3/4 cup water, more or less, as required
Oil to deep fry
1. Put the sliced onions in a big bowl and add the chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Mix with a big flat spoon till evenly distributed.
2. Add the chickpea flour a little at a time, stirring again to coat the onions.
3. Now sprinkle water all over this, adding just enough to make the flour moist and stick to the onions - and it WILL be sticky.
4. Heat the oil - it's ready when a bit of bread sizzles immediately. Drop in the bhajis by the table spoon or by hand in bite-sized lumps. Fry on medium-high until golden brown and crisp on the outside. The inside should be soft but not raw.
5. Serve hot with instant mint raita as a dip. These are also nice with tomato ketchup or other condiments.
Recipe for instant mint raita:
1 tsp ready-prepared mint sauce or mint jelly
1 cup yogurt, beaten lightly
1/4 tsp salt
Mix the ingredients well and serve with the bhajis.