With a large population of Scots Pakistanis and indeed Scots descendent from all over the sub-continent, pakora is very much a staple in Scotland. I’m delighted to welcome Sumayya here to share her childhood experiences of pakora and chai as the rain teemed down whilst growing up in Pakistan. The beauty of this recipe is that you can adapt for whatever vegetables are in season….
With my eyes half open after a long afternoon siesta I’d look above me to see the slow winding ceiling fan, hearing the monotonous humming of the air conditioner and lazily stretching as a loud crackle of thunder jolts me out of bed. Thinking back now I can almost smell the dusty humidity outside as I opened my bedroom window to be greeted by warm earthy Monsoon raindrops spitting at my face, gracing the room with a breeze alive with the aroma rising from the kitchen below – of Pakoras and sweet cardamom Chai. It was that time of year – when the Heavens’ descended and we finally had what Pakistanis like to dub ‘chickna mosum’ (translates: sexy weather!). The smell of rain, thunder and lightning is almost synonymous with that of vegetable Pakoras and a brew of cardamom tea. A match made in heaven.
A simple pakora batter can be used to adorn any seasonal vegetable of choice, traditionally made with thinly sliced potato, onion rings, aubergines or green chillis, whilst Pakistanis are known to enjoy Chai up to 10 times a day! You would think that in such humidity and heat a cold drink would be more forthcoming, but there is something rather comforting about the sweetness of cardamom and sugar against milk hot tea. It calms the senses as it brings a kick into your step. Refreshed, you awake from the deep coma of an afternoon nap ready to face the rest of the day. This combination of Pakoras and Chai is a real pick me up with a kick of chilli and a hint of spice. It is wonderful enjoyed in the winter as much as in the summer but to me it personifies the celebration of the joys of Monsoon season in Pakistan.
Cardamom and cinnamon milky Chai
Always served quite sweet which is meant to wake you up give you energy to face the day!
Ready in: 10 minutes
Serves: 2 people
2 tbsp strong tea leaves (Assam or Kenya)
½ pint water
½ pint whole milk
4 cardamom pods
½ cinnamon slick (2 inches)
Sugar to taste
In a saucepan, heat the water on medium flame until it boils. Turn down, add the tea leaves, cardamom and cinnamon and brew these on a low flame and keep on a low boil.
Once the tea leaves release their colour, add the milk and bring to the boil again.
When the milk has reached the boil once, strain and serve immediately. Add sugar if desired.
Assorted Seasonal vegetable pakoras
Fried until golden and crispy, these are healthy (slightly!) if shallow fried!
Ready in: 15 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
For the batter:
100 grams chickpeas flour
50 grams rice flour (not ground rice)
1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chilli powder
Vegetable oil to shallow fry
5-6 slices of aubergines, halved
4-5 okra, sliced into 4 pieces horizontally
Half a red onion, cut into thin rings
1 tsp finely chopped mint leaves
1 green chilli, sliced thinly
1 tsp chaat masala
Whip up the batter ingredients into a thick batter by adding water slowly.
Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan (use as much as you like, I prefer to shallow fry). Keep the oil on medium heat.
Dip each slice of vegetable in the batter until coated evenly, dip into hot oil and fry either side until light brown.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve garnished with chopped mint leaves and sliced green chilli and chaat masala (substitute chaat masala with a sprinkling of red chilli powder and ground cumin)
Sumayya Usmani is a Freelance Food Writer, Member of the Guild of Food Writers and Cookery Teacher. She writes about and teaches Pakistani and Muslim heritage food, sharing her passion for the distinct flavours of her country. Her first book, Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, will be published by Frances Lincoln in Spring 2016