Every year, when the monsoons set in, I have this urge to pick up the old, dusty copy of Pride and Prejudice that sits in the library upstairs and get involved in the dramarama of the Bennet girls once again. In the interest of trying to widen my horizons, however, I’ve been resisting this urge for the past two years and trying to read other books instead; maybe one that I haven’t read ten times already.
So last week, when I I found myself thinking, ‘Gee, you know what would be great right now? Sitting outside while it rains, drinking coffee and READING PRIDE AND PREJUDICE!’, I knew I had to work quickly — before that precious, extremely rare urge to read passed, I purchased an e-copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I haven’t met a single person who didn’t fall asleep reading this book, but I love period novels, and for some reason, I also only seem to enjoy novels that have female protagonists, and The Signature of All Things ticks both these boxes. It also has the added bonus of having an adventure on the high sea, plus a house with a really great garden, both of which I find irresistable.
But don’t worry, I am still reading cookbooks like I’m about to write a thesis on them. Recently, I’ve been trying to organise my collection and bookmark the recipes I want to try from each, because invariably when I’m looking for a recipe to cook from, I can’t seem to find any that appeal.
While doing so, I found a recipe for apple pakoras in Summers Under the Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani. And it was one of those rare recipes that got mum excited as well, so we got right down to it. However, we’ve changed the batter recipe a bit — we’ve added baking soda for some extra lightness and crispness, drastically reduced the amount of gram flour and left out the cumin, because hell will freeze over before I voluntarily add cumin to anything I’m cooking. But we haven't messed around with the secret ingredient that really makes this recipe tick — chaat masala.
I know chaat masala is one of those things that people have strong feelings about, but even if you have previously turned up your nose at it, you’ll have to trust me, the combination of fried apple with a sprinkling of the powder is inspired. The sulphuric saltiness of the chaat masala really teases out the flavours of the apple and brings it to the forefront in what is otherwise a rather pleasant, but bland affair.
Although it is purely coincidental, it also happens to be the sort of snack that’s perfect for when you’re stuck indoors, and whiling away time, reading a book, perhaps Pride and Prejudice, even?
Green Apple Pakoras
(Adapted from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree)
2 green apples, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 cup gram flour
1/2 cup rice flour
2/3 cup water (or enough to make a thick batter)
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp chaat masala
1/4 tsp baking soda
A bunch coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Mix the gram flour, rice flour, chilli powder, coriander powder, 1/2 tbsp chaat masala in a medium sized bowl. Add the water, and mix until the batter is smooth.
If the batter is still very thick add another tablespoon of water. As Sumayya mentions in her recipe, you want a batter that ‘lazily slides off a spoon.’
Heat oil in a kadai or a deep-bottomed pan.
Meanwhile, add the baking soda and coriander leaves to the batter and incorporate.
To check that the oil is at the right temperature, add a drop of the batter into the oil — if it is heated to the right temperature, it will sizzle and rise to the top.
Add a tablespoon of hot oil to the batter and mix well.
Dip the apple slices in the batter and gently lower into the oil. Fry in batches, and transfer to a kitchen towel-lined plate to drain.
Sprinkle with the remaining chaat masala and serve hot.