Happy 2014! It’s a new year and time to start getting excited about the adventures ahead. This year I get to marry my best friend and biggest supporter in all my work and passions. I have never felt so excited and nervous in my whole life.
I thought it would only be right to begin the year with a recipe that’s close to my heart; one which combines my love for Gujarati and East-African food in a beautiful way. Traditional Gujarati Daal Vada are crunchy, spicy and perfect for dipping into yoghurt. My East-African version incorporates bananas to add a hint of sweetness against the intense chilli and lemon heat. The magical thing about adding ripe banana to the batter is that it reacts with the lemon and baking powder, creating a puffy, fluffy-in-the-middle fritters that still have an incredible golden crunch on the outside because of the ground mung daal, urad daal and rice.
For me, rice is an important addition to any Daal Vada recipe because it ensures the fritters are crispy on the outside – essential when you’re craving a crunchy deep-fried starter to begin an Indian meal. But my favourite way to enjoy crispy Daal Vada is with hot, sweet masala chai and great company.
Remember to wash your daal and rice thoroughly and soak overnight for easy grinding and beautifully-textured vada. The frying process is a little tricky – and utterly frightening for the first few vada, but go carefully and you’ll get the hang of it in no time (I say as my finger throbs with pain from the oil splash I got from frying these vada an hour ago). Totally worth it though.
Think crunchy, fluffy, deep-fried pancake bites with a touch of sweet banana, a zip of fresh lemon and a punch of chilli heat (hence the ‘Bullet’). Serve immediately after frying with lemon wedges and fresh coriander and yoghurt chutney.
Coriander and yoghurt chutney is my go-to dip for any Indian starter because of it’s amazing power to perk up any dish from samosas to tikkis and of course, these Daal Vada. All you need to do is open your blender, throw in a washed bunch of coriander, a few dollops of yoghurt, a peeled clove of garlic, green chilli and lots of lemon juice, salt and sugar. Blend until smooth for the ultimate dipping, dunking or drizzling experience.
75g mung daal
55g urad daal
35g basmati rice
1 ripe banana, peeled and broken into large pieces
2 hot green chillies, stems removed
2 hot red chillies, stems removed
3-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
250ml warm water
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
140g gram flour (chickpea flour)
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp asafoetida
2 tsp baking powder
Juice and zest 2 lemons
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Oil for deep frying
1. Pick through your mung and urad daal to ensure there are no stones or other foreign objects. Place the daals and rice in a sieve and wash them until the water almost runs clear. Soak them in cold water overnight.
2. Once soaked, drain the daals and rice and wash again until the water runs almost clear. Place in a blender or food processor and grind with 250ml warm water until you get a smooth paste. Place the paste in a large bowl and rinse the blender as you’ll need it again.
3. In your blender or food processor, add the chillies, ginger, banana, salt, sugar, ground coriander seeds, ground cumin seeds, ground fennel seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh coriander. Blend until you get a smooth, but not entirely uniform paste. Add this to the daal and rice paste.
4. Next, whisk in the gram flour and 1 tbsp oil, ensuring there are no lumps.
5. Heat the oil in a deep, non-stick pan or wok. You’ll know the oil is ready when a cube of bread browns all over in 50 seconds.
6. Quickly whisk the baking powder into the vada batter, ensuring it is mixed in thoroughly. It should resemble pancake batter.
7. To fry the vada, dip your fingers into a little water and shake off any excess. Now, make a ‘cup’ with the four fingers on your dominant hand and scoop enough batter into your fingers to come up to the first line on your middle finger, using your thumb as a stopper. Gently drop the batter into the oil, ensuring your hand is close to the surface of the oil but not touching it on so close, the batter splashes back when you drop it. Use your thumb to push the batter down into the oil. You will almost certainly get smaller blobs of batter in your oil but don’t worry about this – you can scoop them out and scoff them later. Do about 8 vadas at a time and don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry until puffed up and crispy all over. Remove the vada and drain in a colander lined with kitchen paper. Repeat the process until you run out of batter.
Serve hot with lemon wedges, cooling coriander and yoghurt chutney and a cold beer.
Here’s to a spicy, sweet and utterly heavenly New Year.