Yeeeeehaw! It’s spring. It’s called spring because it just kind of…springs on you. Among the signs of full-on spring at the markets are bundles of fat asparagus spears and fiddleheads along with bunches of chives and sometimes, teeny garlic greens. It was these things plus a bag of fresh greenhouse cilantro from The Rising Sun in Berwick that inspired a batch of scrumptious pakoras at our house this week.
Pakoras are chickpea flour and vegetable fritters that easily adapt to the vegetables of the season. Take this recipe as a formula for your own experimentation.
P.S. They are gluten-free if anyone is asking!
Asparagus and Herb Pakoras with Chili Pickle Mayo makes about 30
These fried Indian delicacies love being adapted to the vegetables of the season. Replace the asparagus with chopped cauliflower, fiddleheads, diced zucchini, broccoli florets, chopped garlic scapes, almost anything your garden or market can come up with. This is my adaptation of a recipe by my hero Mollie Katzen, in her latest wonderful cookbook, The Heart of the Plate.
One of my testers working on my new cookbook, librarian and kitchen adventurer Angela Reynolds, reminded me of this outrageous Chili Pickle Mayo recipe. It’s just the perfect accompaniment.
For the Chili Pickle Mayo:
¼ cup Indian Chili or Lime Pickle, chopped
½ cup Mayonnaise
For the Pakoras:
1 cup Chicke Pea Flour (sometimes sold as Besan)
½ teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cumin Seed
1 teaspoon Mustard Seed
½ cup Water
1 cup chopped Asparagus
1 cup chopped Chives or Green Onions
2 tablespoons chopped Green Garlic or 1 clove Garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
⅓ cup Canola Oil
To serve: Mango Chutney
To make the chili pickle mayo, combine the chili pickle and mayonnaise in a small bowl. This can be made weeks ahead if tightly covered and refrigerated.
In a medium bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, salt, cumin seed, mustard seed and water. Fold in the asparagus, chives, garlic and cilantro. Heat a heavy pan over medium heat and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot, add heaping tablespoonfuls of the batter to the pan. Don’t crowd the pan or allow the pakoras to touch. When they’ve browned on one side, carefully flip them over and brown on the other side. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a clean towel. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding a little more oil if necessary.
Serve the pakoras warm with a dab each of chili pickle mayo and mango chutney.
Note: Chili Pickle and Lime Pickle are mouthwatering Indian condiments found in the import section of your grocery store. If you venture into Halifax, check out the amazing 220 Volts Indian Food Shop on Robie Street. I think it’s called that because the selection of Indian specialties there will blow your mind.