Monday, March 28, 2011

Fried Squash Blossoms- Doesn't that sound sophisticated and exotic?

Bangalis have been called great gourmet critics. They are supposed to know the subtle differences in flavor and can tell what spices you have tempered your dish with. I personally am of the opinion that Bangalis love finding faults in every experience, the main one being hospitality. We love visiting our relatives and finding fault in how they have taken care of us. We are invited to someone’s home for dinner and we surely will come back and have opinions on whether the chicken was spicy or the dal was sweet or the nalen gurer payesh (rice pudding made with date molasses) did not really contain the flavor of khejur gur but was just substituted by brown sugar. We may pride ourselves to be great cooks, but we get apprehensive when we are asked to bring a dish to a Bangali potluck party lest someone finds fault with the dish that we have painstakingly spend hours to make.
This brings me to a legendary story my Baba happens to tell all the time. Once there was a rich man in a village who had to organize his daughter’s wedding. He wanted to prove all his critics wrong and made every arrangement so that his guests would not find fault in anything. The food catered to every type of diet, the hospitality was impressive and every ceremony and meal was on time. When the guests left, they did not have anything to criticize. Addicted to their habit of criticizing, someone said “Oto bhalo o bhalo noi (So much good is not good either)” and everyone seemed to agree. At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to keep them from finding faults when there is fine dining involved.

Bhaja (fried food) is one thing that everyone loves and it is not very easy to ruin a bhaja. You put oil in the kadai (wok), mix some batter (or not), dip (take) whatever you want to in it and fry it crispy brown. No, we can even find faults in our bhajas, if it was brown or raw or burnt, if it was crunchy or soggy or if it was salty or spicy. Last summer, the husband decided to plant some kumro (pumpkin squash) seeds in the garden. Based on the short summers that we have, we did not get any kumros but we enjoyed a bunch of squash blossoms (kumro phool) and the leaves and branches ( kumro sag). The easiest thing to make with dal and rice was batter Fried Squash Blossoms(Kumro Phool Bhaja) . Since the mater was in town, the choicest fluffy ones always went to the dear son-in-law. So when she left, I made them one day and had the lion’s share :). Even my picky eater daughter took a few bites and enjoyed them.

Squash blossoms (Kumro phool) - 8-10
Chick pea flour (besan) - 1 cup
Oil- 1tsp to mix and rest to fry
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder - 1tsp
Turmeric -1/2 tsp
Baking soda- ½ tsp
Water- as needed

• Wash the blossoms and flatten them so that you can dip it in the batter.
• Mix chick pea flour, salt, oil, chilli powder, turmeric, nigella seeds and baking soda.
• Add water and use a whisk to mix it as it adds air to the batter for a fluffy and crunchy fry.
• Heat oil in a wok till you see fumes rising ( buying a thermometer for frying is a waste of money)
• Dip the flattened blossom in the batter and coat it well on both sides.
• Carefully drop a few blossoms in the oil. (Do not drop too many as it brings down the temperature of the oil.)
• Turn the stove to a low setting. Otherwise the batter will burn and the blossoms will remain raw.
• Flip the blossoms half way through so that that they are light brown on both sides.
• When they are cooked, place them in a dish covered with paper towel so that it soaks up the extra oil.
• Enjoy it with rice or dal or as a snack with your evening tea.
This is like any other pakoda you would make so it’s not rocket science. Make sure they are warm and crunchy when you serve them .Remember when you are reheating them, DO NOT USE the microwave. Microwave makes any fry soggy. Heat it in a convection oven or stove top on a flat pan. I am hoping to be regular on this blog with the other million things I have on my to do list. My target is one recipe per week which seems to be a piece of cake or in this case a bit of a crunchy fry. Bon Appetit!

Continue reading: Fried Squash Blossoms- Doesn't that sound sophisticated and exotic?...