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Spice Mama · Potato Vadas, Onion Bhajis and Chutneys

This afternoon we’ve got a recipe that will transport you to the busting streets of Mumbai.

Perthite Shaheen Hughes of the beautiful blog Spice Mama lets us in on her tasty family recipe for comforting street-side snacks: potato vadas and onion bhajis, served with a duo of vibrant chutneys.

14th November, 2017

Spice Mama’s Potato Vada, Onion Bhajis and Chutneys. Photo – Dion Robeson, and assistant – Anna Flanders.

Photography – Dion Robeson. Styling – Anna Flanders.

Hot and crispy potato vadas and onion bhajis epitomise Mumbai street food, and must be one of the most perfect Indian snacks, served with fresh chutneys and cold beer or hot chai. While these are deep fried and usually not an everyday treat, there are many ways you can make them healthier: use a good quality, minimally processed oil (coconut oil, ghee and peanut oil all have a high smoking point); and only use the oil once.

The chutneys can be used a number of different ways and are worth making on their own, oil free and packed with fresh ingredients.  The green chutney in particular makes a great curry base (fry up some prawns in coconut oil, curry leaves and add chutney, coconut milk and lots of lemon), but my favourite way to eat it is like my Nana did: dainty triangles made with white bread and the crusts cut off, slathered with chutney, cucumber slices and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Perfect with a gin and tonic on a hot afternoon.

FOR THE BATTER

Ingredients

To make the batter for your onion bhajis and batata vada, you will need:

1 cup of besan (chickpea flour)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of red chilli powder
3/4 teaspoon of turmeric
Fresh lemon juice to taste
A pinch of bicarb soda or a teaspoon of Eno’s fruit salts

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add luke warm water, a little at a time, to form a cream like consistency (like pancake batter).  If you can, make the batter the day before and leave it in the fridge.  Just before cooking, add a pinch of soda bicarbonate or a teaspoon of Eno’s fruit salts to the mixture (this is key to a light, aerated batter).  You can also mix the flour and spices with cold soda water to make the batter, but do this just before cooking.

FOR THE BATATA VADA

Ingredients

Batata vadas are spicy potato balls dipped in chickpea flour batter and fried, one of the tastiest street snacks in India.  Serve them with fresh green chutney, and you are in for a treat.

4 large potatoes, diced and boiled
2 tablespoons of oil or ghee
1 stalk of curry leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 green chilli, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon of turmeric
Salt to taste
Fresh lemon juice to taste
1 portion of chickpea batter (recipe above)

Method

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and let them pop and splatter.  Add the finely chopped green chilli and then stir fry the potatoes, turmeric and salt to taste.  Finish off with a good squeeze of lemon juice, then mash the mixture and set aside to cool (make sure you are happy with the taste, adjusting salt and lemon to your preference).

When the potato has cooled, form into small, tight balls, around 1 inch in diameter, and place in the fridge for half an hour.

Heat a couple of inches of good quality oil in a frying pan.  The oil is ready when you drop in a little batter and it sizzles.  Dip each potato ball into the batter until coated, and drop into the hot oil.  Fry 3-5 balls at a time for a few minutes until golden. Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with more fresh lemon to squeeze over them and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

FOR THE ONION BHAJIS

Ingredients

1 red onion, thinly sliced in rounds (or you can use a number of veggies like capsicum, zucchini, silverbeet and cauliflower to make a tempura style bhaji)

1 portion of chickpea batter (recipe above)

Method

Slice the onion or any vegetables you are using into thin rounds or slices.  Heat a couple of inches of good quality oil in a frying pan.  The oil is ready when you drop in a little batter and it sizzles.  Dip a slice of onion or veggie in the batter to coat, then drop it into the oil and cook for a couple of minutes until golden.  Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with more fresh lemon to squeeze over them and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

 

Spice Mama’s Potato Vada, Onion Bhajis and Chutneys. Photo – Dion Robeson, and assistant – Anna Flanders.

Shaheen’s two aunties. ‘Shireen is my granny Aziza’s sister and Sara my granddads sister,’ she tells. Photo – courtesy of Shaheen Hughes.

Sultana at around five-years-old at her grandfather’s house in Jabulpur, India. He ran a grocery shop selling tea and biscuits to the local British garrison pre-independence. Photo – courtesy of Shaheen Hughes.

A serve of delicious street-eats for one. Photo – Dion Robeson, and assistant – Anna Flanders.

Photography – Dion Robeson. Styling – Anna Flanders.

FOR THE GREEN CHUTNEY

Fresh green chutney is an essential addition to your Indian cooking repertoire.  It’s easy to whiz up and versatile to serve with Indian food or use as a dip, spread or curry base.  You can use a mix of mint leaves and coriander leaves, add some fresh ginger or garlic, and top with roasted cumin seeds.

Ingredients

1 large bunch of coriander, washed, with roots cut off  (a supermarket sized bunch is fine)
2-3 green chillies (depending on your heat preference)
1/2 a cup of coconut cream
1/3 cup of dessicated coconut
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of raw sugar, brown sugar or jaggery
Juice of half a lemon

Method

Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend till smooth.  Taste and adjust ingredients until you are happy with the flavour and texture.  If the chutney is a bit runny, it will set like butter in the fridge (making it the perfect spread for toast or sandwiches).

FOR THE BEETROOT CHUTNEY

Ingredients

220 grams of cooked beetroot (boiled, roasted or tinned is fine)
1/2 cup of dessicated coconut
5 red chillies, 2-3 of them deseeded depending on the heat level you prefer
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Method

Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend till smooth.  Taste and adjust ingredients until you are happy with the flavour and texture.  If you are using tinned beetroots, reserve a little of the liquid in the tin to loosen the chutney and add a little vinegary bite.  Otherwise you can also add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

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