Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #1 Balti Onion bhajis with cucumber mint raita
A succulent spice sensation – fabulous flavours in these vegetarian onion bhajis complemented with rich cucumber and mint raita.
Balti is derived from a Pakistani (Baltistan) style of cooking, whereby the meat or vegetable is marinated and then fried with spices over a high flame. The word balti literally means "bucket" in Punjabi and describes the dish (a small, flat-bottomed, two-handled “wok”) in which the food is both cooked and served. The fast cooking and immediate serving ensures that the full flavours of all the spices are retained.
Bhajis come from Maharastra and are normally served as an entrée. They are not normally particularly spicy – that is reserved for the Pakora cousins.
As a complement to the spices, cucumber and mint raita (also originating from Maharastra) is served with the bhajis.
You may also like to add a garnish of green lettuce / rocket leaves and a slice of lemon to bring out the flavours of the bhajis.
Spice spotlight: Curry leaves
Curry leaves come from the curry tree (Murraya koenigii) and should not to be confused with the curry plant (which itself has no South East Asian culinary uses). The leaves to the curry tree are the shiny, dark green and aromatic and release a nutty aroma when fried in hot oil. The leaves are used extensively in South East Asian cuisine, and are equivalent in use to that of bay leaves in Western cuisine.
Ingredients (for the Bhajis)
- ½ tsp mustard seeds, crushed
- 4 dried curry leaves, crushed
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 3 green chilies, seeded & chopped
- 2 green cardamom pods (seeds only), crushed
- 2 tbsp coriander (cilantro), chopped
- NON SPICE INGREDIENTS :
- 4 – 10 tbsp Groundnut oil
- 2 (large) onions, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 cm fresh root ginger, peeled & grated
- 2 tbsp Plain or gram flour
- 1 Egg (optional), lightly beaten
Instructions (for the bhajis)
- Heat a frying pan over a high heat then add 2 tablespoons of the oil.
- Add all the spices (not the coriander (cilantro)) and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the onion, garlic and ginger stirring all the time.
- Once the onion is translucent, take off the heat.
- Stir in the flour and coriander (cilantro) and allow the mixture to cool.
- Add the egg (if using) and enough water to make a dough-consistency (that holds together but does not stick to the side of the pan).
- Put the bhaji dough ball onto a floured surface and break large walnut-sized chunks off. Roll into ball shapes then slightly flatten.
- You can choose to shallow or deep fry. For shallow frying, use 2 tablespoons of the oil. If deep frying, use enough to cover the bhaji balls.
- Heat the oil to a high temperature, then carefully place the bhaji balls into the pan (taking care not to splash hot oil).
- Cook both sides until browned.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place bhajis on a kitchen-towel lined plate or dish to drain the excess oil. (Keep warm)
Cooking technique: chiffonade
Ingredients (for the raita)
One large cucumbers– peeled, seeded, then grated
2 cups Greek yoghurt
10 large mint leaves, thinly sliced*
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
* For ease, slice the mint leaves by stacking them on top of each other; rolling them up; and slicing. (Known as chiffonade.)
Instructions (for the raita)
1. Put the cucumber in a sieve and press down with a spatula to squeeze as much of the water out as possible.
2. Add all ingredients to the yoghurt.
3. Stir well then chill.
When ready, plate the bhajis with the raita and optional salad garnish.
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