As Winter comes creeping up, I thought the time has come to share with the world the joy of cheese pakoras. Or, as my father likes to call them, “Not Really Pakoras” – a sentiment shared by the entire male sex according my very informal poll. Ingrates.
However, they’re delicious, hot, comforting, easy to make, very forgiving of adaptations, and quite filling for a snack. In short, they’re perfect!
Other than those pesky health issues they’re bound to give you, but who cares about a heart attack tomorrow when you can eat yummy pakoras today, right? Right!
(serves 2 – or 1 greedy person like myself)
Cheese – a handful grated or two slices. (You can use any melty cheese although the more fancy ones are really wasted here. Just go for your usual cheddar or Velveeta or similar local variant for best results. And you can adjust the amount of cheese up or down as you prefer too)
Flour – three heaped tablespoons
Egg – one, beaten.
Onion – one half, chopped fine but not minced. (You could substitute one leek or four spring onions, less if you’d rather)
Chillies – One or more, according to taste, red or green, minced is good but not necessary. (You could substitute with jalapenos or even crushed black pepper. I prefer red chillies because those little flecks of red look great in the batter)
Milk – cold, three tablespoons or more, enough to bind without turning the batter into paste. (Substitute with cold water if you’d rather. Do not use hot water because it will melt the cheese and turn the batter runny)
Salt – a pinch. (Seriously, a pinch – because the cheese and egg will make it salty)
Oil – enough to deep fry
First off, if you’re using cheese slices because you haven’t got anything better (ah, college! OR ah, laziness!) in the fridge, then go ahead and dice it up by running a fork lengthwise and widthwise. Use a knife if that works out better for you. If you’ve got grated cheese, then good for you, you’re ready to start.
Beat the egg till frothy with the salt, add the onions and chillies and beat till incorporated. Now add the flour and mix. Tumble in the cheese and give it a couple of turns so everything comes roughly together. Next add three tablespoons of milk to the mixture.
Use the same tablespoon for the flour and the milk if possible so that the measure is consistent. Add more milk if necessary. You don’t want the batter as runny as your usual pakora mix, but you don’t want it to be a sticky dough either. Too runny and the milk will overwhelm the egg and the pakoras will lie limp on the bottom of the pan like octopi suffering from ennui; too sticky and your pakoras will just taste of flour, a gluey warmth that sticks to the roof of your mouth in a decidedly uncomforting way. Your ideal batter should easily flow off the spoon but still roughly hold its shape for a few seconds when it plops back into the bowl.
Don’t stress if your first effort isn’t perfect though – the point of the cheese pakora is for you to relax, make stuff out of things that are already in your fridge and scarf it down (preferably with ginger chai) before you notice anything about it other than its guilty deliciousness. Once you’re hooked and experimenting with these once a week to your doctor’s horror, you’ll soon figure out your sweet spot.
Now as this involves melty cheese, I strongly recommend a nonstick pan. But go ahead and use the sticky kind if the nonstick is still in the wash. Pour tablespoons (yes, the same one with which you measured out your flour and milk) of the batter into the hot oil. Since these are made with egg, they’ll puff up to twice their size, so you’re not being mean with the portions.
Cook on medium-low heat. Stand back because these will spit and spatter as the cheese inevitably comes into contact with the oil. A minute on either side. Remember these are made with ordinary flour and contain cheese, so you don’t want them to turn that reddish brown of your usual pakoras. They’re cooked on one side when they puff up and are ready to be flipped over; take them out when they turn a gentle golden brown all over.
Yields about 10 pieces, crispy on the outside and melty on the inside. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce. I prefer Sriracha or Maggi Hot & Sweet. It goes great with leftover Taco Bell sauce too.
If you share my father’s exacting standards and would rather eat something more traditional, check out the video above. That looks crazy good.