Last week I posted a couple Indian inspired items on ye old blog, but my taste for Indian inspired cooking was not satiated yet. I needed some paneer pakora, and I needed it BAD! If you’ve never had paneer pakora before, it is the most amazing vegetarian source of protein all fried up crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside. I like to dip it in a plum chutney, but it goes well with a mint chutney or tastes just as good plain.
I’m lucky that there is a wonderful little Indian grocery store near my house, and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to find a hunk of paneer (Indian cheese — it has a tofu like taste and a low moisture cheese-like consistency), I happily made the trek. The store is amazing with rows of shelves from floor to ceiling with exotic ingredients I’ve never cooked with before. I grabbed a package of paneer from the refrigerator and a jar of chutney, but I was stumped as to the breading for paneer pakora.
The older Indian woman behind the counter led me to the back for a 4lb package of besan (chick pea flour) and instructed me to mix it with water, yogurt (to make it fluffy) and spices. I may have chick pea flour that will last me for the next five years, but I was making one of my favorite dishes that night!
I also had some beautiful Portobello mushroom caps marinating in balsamic vinegar and garlic ready for the grill and some fresh green beans ready for the steamer. A little basmati rice and I had a nice vegetarian dinner on the menu for the night.
Little did I know that Angie’s own Fiesta Friday #18 this week at The Novice Gardener was going to be just that — vegetarian inspired. Hopefully my meal can compare to her beautiful turmeric roasted cauliflower and lemon rice.
Ingredients for Paneer Pakora and Marinated Portobello Caps:
8 oz of fresh paneer, cut in 1 inch by 1/2 inch square pieces
1 Cup besan (chick pea flour)
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
enough water to make the mixture the consistency of a batter
1/4 Cup vegetable oil (or more if needed)
3 Portobello caps
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to season mushrooms
Remove stems from mushrooms and save for stock or using in another dish. Scrape gills from mushrooms with a spoon. You can leave them if you’d like, but I find they muddy up the mushrooms and they taste “cleaner” with them removed. Marinate mushrooms for at least 1 hour in vinegar, olive oil, and garlic adding a pinch of salt and pepper to each cap. When ready to cook, grill for 5 minutes on one side, then 5 minutes on the opposite side. Serve hot.
Mix up the batter for the paneer pakora using the besan, spices, yogurt and enough water to make a smooth batter.
Heat your vegetable oil over medium heat until a small drop of batter sizzles. Coat several pieces of the cheese in the batter and fry until golden on both sides. Let drain on paper towels as you cook the rest of the pieces.
I had a lot of batter left and fried up pancakes of this delicious chickpea mixture. It was absolutely delicious dipped in a bit of chutney. Even the kids loved it — and it tasted just like I remember it tasting at our favorite restaurant.
I served all of this up with some basmati rice and fresh, steamed green beans. There were no complaints. This will be in the rotation again (heck — I have a lot of chick pea flour to use!).