Homemade onion bhajis’ are well worth the effort, they’re great as a starter for an Indian feast.
The good old onion bhaji made its way from India to the UK, but its unclear as to when this happened and how.
It is thought that the word “Bhaji” originally meant a vegetable curry. In the Gujarati language “Bhaji” means spinach. The very slight difference of “Bhajiya” means a fried fritter. The Hindi name for a fried fritter is Pakora. Also called pakoda, pakodi, fakkura, bhajiya, bhajji, bhaji or ponako and is a fried snack (fritter), originating from South Asia
Whatever its name, it has the sweetness of the onions covered in subtle spices, a kick of chilli, in a smooth batter. This crispy moorish snack with a side of dipping chutney is as undeniable as Pringles.
White, brown, yellow, red or sweet onions? The most frequently used household onions are white. To be honest the type of onion you use is completely dependent on your preference and availability. Especially as this is a great way of using leftover onions. If you are after a particular flavour check out this blog that identifies the types and their flavours
There are many recipes out there that use different flours. In my opinion, a bhaji is not a bhaji unless it’s made with gram flour (chickpea flour). Adding rice flour makes the bhaji more crispy, whilst maintaining its gluten free status.
The spices added to bhaji’s or pakora’s are fairly agreed upon. Turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander, ginger and garlic. Depending on your threshold level you can add red chilli powder or fresh green chilli. Then I tend to add ajwain/carom seeds to give it that earthiness, but if you don’t have any, cumin seeds can easily replace them. Don’t forget the salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Fried or baked?
It isn’t called fritter for nothing and its like the difference between fried chips and oven baked. Nothing quite beats the frying. However, having said that I have tried and tried to get the crispiness by oven baking and failed. I haven’t given up and when it works I’ll of course share this with you. The thought of using all that oil, makes this mouthful of heaven a “once in a while” kind of snack.
Ingredients (makes 8-12)
- 2 medium onions sliced
- 100 g gram flour
- 50 g rice flour
- 2 tsp ajwain seeds OR cumin seeds
- 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
- 1 ½ tsp grated ginger
- ½ fresh green chilli chopped finely (optional)
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp of ground cumin/coriander
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp sugar
- 20 ml lemon juice
- 180-200 ml water
- 20 g chopped fresh coriander
- about 400 ml of vegetable oil in a frying pan or use a deep fat fryer
Planning & Preparation
- Slice the onions
- Crush the garlic
- Grate the ginger
- Chop the chilli
- Wash and chop the coriander, leave to dry on a paper kitchen towel
- Squeeze the lemon
- In a bowl, mix all the flours, dry spices, including ajwain together.
- Add the lemon juice
- Now add the water gradually whilst continuously whisking.
- Ensure the batter is lump-free and add more or less water. The consistency you need is to that of cake mixture.
- Next add the garlic and ginger, fresh chilli & coriander and mix
- Now add salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, taste and more salt or sugar if needed.
- At this stage you may want to add more water to get the right consistency
- Once the batter is done, transfer to a bigger bowl.
- Add the onions to the bowl and coat all of the onion in the batter (use your hands if needed)
- Heat the oil in the frying pan (fat fryer to 180c)
- With a large spoon grab the onion mixture and gently and carefully lower into the hot oil
- Allow to fry for first 30 seconds even if its touching the sides, then with a slotted spoon push it away from the sides
- Turn as and when required so you have a lovely golden coloured bhaji
- Take out and drain on a paper kitchen towel to remove the access oil.