So Much Deep-fried Fun!

We've had two big snowstorms, exactly a week apart; the second bringing us 9.5 inches of snow. It was not as wet and heavy as the first but since my trees are still stubbornly holding on to their leaves, it does get a tad bit distressing. But, luckily, since my tree care guy had pruned all the wayward branches, my trees did not suffer any further damage.

Icy Maple
Icy maple

The fun class at the Denver Botanic Gardens seemed like it was such a long time ago!

The first evening was a lecture and despite the weather and several accidents on the freeways, there was a fairly good audience. I was a bundle of nerves because it isn't easy for me to talk about myself. It actually isn't easy for me to talk. I'm more of a listener. I listen, I simplify, I devise and implement solutions. It's always about my clients, never about me. That evening, I may have talked a little too much. I made the classic mistake of not looking at my start time and was therefore flustered when it felt like I was going on forever. I skipped slides and rushed to close. Luckily, my talk was sandwiched between three seasoned panelists, Jen Yu and Todd & Diane, who sprinkled the air with their magic dust, making my digression seem almost insignificant. But I knew. It was, however, too late to fix it as the deed was done.

What did help lift my spirits was the positive feedback from some of the attendees. Maybe there was something that I did do right, after all! The hard part was over. I couldn't wait to be in the kitchen the next day. That was not something I was afraid of. I did wish I had more time to spend at the lovely Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast in Denver but perhaps, another time, as I had a demo to prep for.

Charming Sarah
Sarah of the Botanic Gardens kicking off the 4 hour demo

I could tell as the participants trickled in that this was not going to be a dull crowd! They were enthusiastic and eager to learn; friendly and very receptive.

The class
Our fun and enthusiastic participants

Todd and Diane showed everyone how to make their Vietnamese spring rolls. Not only are they immensely talented, they are full of funny and interesting stories that add extra flavor to the food they cook. It was a treat to watch them in action, bouncing off and complementing each other. This is the second time I have had the pleasure of being with them and I am sold. I am a complete fan. This pair rocks. More so because they give from their hearts.

Todd & Diane of White on Rice Couple
The Wonder Couple

Want a roll?
Vietnamese spring rolls

Jen was up next with her amazing Chinese scallion pancakes. It's almost like an Indian paratha but the technique of rolling is very different. She held one side of the pancake up in the air as she rolled and stretched the bottom part. I've never rolled like that and I can't wait to give it a shot.

Jen Yu of Use Real Butter
Jen was full of amusing anecdotes about growing up Chinese in America

Making scallion pancakes
Making the pancakes

My lovely friend Dana
My lovely friend Dana tries her hand at Chinese pancakes

I was up next and for obvious reasons, I have no pictures! Given the increasing chill in the weather, I thought it would be perfect to teach some Indian finger snacks, deep-fried, of course! I taught how to make onion pakodas or onion bhajjis as we call them in my home state of Maharashtra, with masala chai. I had made two chutneys in advance but walked everyone through the recipe, focusing mainly on the ingredients. I based my recipe on Nupur's Onion Bhajji's with a small tweak.

I have Shankari to thank for all her guidance and expertise in figuring out the menu for the class. Of course, none of this would have even transpired had it not been for Celia, who used to work with the Denver Botanic Gardens until she started her own organic farm, and the ever-enterprising Jen. My Indian grocer, Krishna Grocery, helped a great deal by calling me to let me know that their delivery truck had arrived and I could wend my way to their store, just an hour before Jen picked me up. I was, and still am, so grateful!

Onion Pakodas

  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 3-4 minced green chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds) (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for deep-frying

Pakodas
Deep-fried and draining

  1. Peel and halve the onions, and slice them thin.
  2. Mix salt into the onions and set aside for about 10 minutes. This encourages the onion to release their juices, softening them in the process.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except oil) into the onions, adding water as needed to make a thick batter, and breaking any lumps of flour as you go along.
  4. Heat the oil in a kadhai to about 350F. You can test the oil by dropping a little bit of batter into the oil. If it floats to the top immediately and turns golden, the oil is ready for your batter.
  5. Drop small amounts of the onion batter into the oil, fry till the pakodas are golden.
  6. Drain on a cooling rack placed on top of paper towels, instead of cooling directly on paper towels.
  7. Serve with mint chutney or tamarind chutney.

Pakodas with chutneys
funky shaped onion pakodas

Notes:

  • I don't roll the onion mixture into a ball before dropping it into the oil as I like the funky spider-like shapes that these pakodas take.
  • The chutney I taught in class had more cilantro than mint because the mint available was not as fresh as I would have liked it to be.
  • This recipe is but a guideline for making pakodas. You can make very simple pakodas with onions, besan, green chiles, and cilantro.

It was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful lecture-demo at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The entire event was managed smoothly and professionally by Sarah, who also kept up a supply of water for this ever-thirsty Indian girl! It was a treat to have Celia there as a TA for the demo. All in all, it was an enriching experience for me as I hope it was for everyone who came out to see us!

17 comments:

Happy Cook / Finla said...

Wowo wish I had a group who does same so I could go and join up to make different food too.
I do love you funky pakoras. I think it is atleast 2 years ago I amde pakoras. Should make them once.

Madhuli said...

Bahji ekdam masta distay!and I too like the 'spider' like shape as you mentioned for onion bhajji. Great post!

Anita said...

I am sure the lapse was history after a bite of these onion bhajjias! Deep-fried love triumphs every time!

Kudos to you for a successful lecture, and wishing many more such events to share and learn.

GB said...

Oh those crispy bits of fried onion........sinfully tempting!

TheCooker said...

Love them khekda bhajjis.

Now that this lecture is under your belt, wish you many more. One in NorCal, maybe!

tadkapasta said...

A really perfect snack to share. Enjoyed your post, the demo looks like it was great fun!

Niv Mani said...

You've got me craving onion pakoda now... Love it when that happens since its hard to stop with just one variety!

TKW said...

Soooo delicious! Everyone at the class was RAVING about them!

Soma said...

Yummmmmm. with ibuprofen and abowl of mushroom soup, i really wish I could have someone make these for me. I do the spider legs too :) like it that way and more fun biting on each end.

What a happy wonderful group! and I am sure you did really good!

Priya said...

Its raining here and we are all craving garam chai & pakode :) Your photos have made the craving stronger...

Would have loved to be there and learn from the four of you Manisha! You guys are fabulous! I'm sure they'll be a next and hope I can make it :)

Priya's Feast said...

I am carving for some pakoda now..hope u had gud time with ur team..Congrats.

Miri said...

It is definitely difficult to stick to timing when you are preoccupied with speaking and showing slides- but NLT you would have known so don't worry- sounds like it was a fun lec dem! Wish we had snaps of yours as well! Love the onion bhajjis!

What is Curry? said...

I am so proud of you. Your pakodas look fab

Indu said...

Lovely crispy looking bajjis...Looking forward to the recipes the others shared as well

notyet100 said...

It's been so long since I had this,..:) I luv them with cilantro chutney

Alpana said...

Beautiful post ......Love it.

Manisha Pandit said...

Finla, I consider myself very lucky! Make pakodas for Hans; I'm sure he will like something savory with his tea!

Madhuli, thank you! They are perfect for this weather!

Anita, you are the best!

GB, true! I make a small amount so that portions are rationed, making it a treat we don't regret!

TheCooker, khekde?! And from you, Ms. Vegetarian! Next time I am in your neck of the woods, we should do something together! It will be fun!

tadkapasta, Thank you! Btw, have I told you that I am guilty of adding tadka to leftover pasta? It was delish!

Niv, small amounts is the key! I hope you've dug yourselves out of the snow by now.

TKW, you are a girl's best friend!

Soma, I hope you're feeling better!

Priya, I'll settle for you making a trip out here that is not a fleeting hello-goodbye!

Priya's Feast, I hope you got some pakodas to satisfy those cravings!

Miri, you are way too kind! But no, I should have been on top of things!

Shankari, you are full of surprises! I would have never done it without you! Hugs!

Indu, you will find the recipes on their respective blogs. I will update the post to link to their recipes so that you can find them easily.

notyet100, yes, me too!

Alpana, thank you!