Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bajji - Vegetable Fritters

Dear Foodies,

The festive season has begun for some Hindu's with the onset of Sravana masam last Wednesday. My parents are here visiting and I get to experience firsthand again the various puja's and neivedyam that I very vividly remember from when I was home. The unmistakable aroma of ghee and cardamom from the kitchen, incense from the puja room, the melodious voice of M.S. Subbalakshmi or Sudha Ragunathan playing in the background and the whole house buzzing with energy. The entrance would have been decked with a fresh muggu (rangoli) and thoranam. Fresh flowers adorn the altar and all puja samagri cleaned and ready to go. I've tried my best to recreate these from memory in the last few years but its never the same. Having mom here has brought that all back. I've slipped naturally into my post as assistant along with my Dad.

Today is Garuda panchami, a puja performed by sisters for the well-being of their brothers. It is a special pooja in our home for both my mom and me - she has four brothers and I have one. This also signifies the start of a string of auspicious days for the season - Varalaksmi vratam is on Friday, followed soon by Avani avittam (Jandhayala pandaga/Rakhi), Janmashtami, Vinayaka Chavithi, Dasara and then Diwali.

Clockwise - peppers, green tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes
For a foodie though, all these festive occasions have one other important thing at their core - neivedyam. Each puja has its own set of customary dishes that make it special. Kozhakattai for one, kesari for another or bobatlu. But no special Andhra (/Telangana ugh) meal is complete with out bajji - fritters. Usually its thinly sliced potatoes dipped in a mildly spiced besan/chickpea batter and deep fried to puffy, golden deliciousness. Using just pantry essentials, these take no more than 15 mins, with prep time taking just as long as it takes for the oil to come to temperature. So no surprise then that these were perfect snack to offer to unexpected guests.

On Saturday, we spent all morning at Suzie's farm picking fabulous summer produce. We now have close to 10 varieties of peppers, lots of sun ripened tomatoes, beets, kale, chard, eggplant and squash. With all this fresh produce in hand we had no reason to stick to traditional potato alone. Instead we made a bajji sampler plate using sliced eggplant, padron peppers, unripe green tomatoes and potatoes. Onions are also great for bajji but since this was going to be offered as neivedyam we skipped it.

Bajji - Fritters with Potatoes, Brinjal, Green Tomatoes and Peppers 
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
  • 1 cup - Besan/Chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup - Rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp - Ghee or 1 tsp - Curd or 1 tsp - Rava/Semolina
  • 1/8 tsp - Turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp - Red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp - Ajwain (whole or roasted & powdered)
  • a pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
  • Salt to taste (~1/2 tsp)
  • Water, for batter
  • Oil for deep frying
  1. Prep veggies first - Scrub potatoes clean, wash all other veggies and pat dry. Peel potatoes if needed. Slice potatoes and eggplant thinly (1/8inch) by knife or using a mandoline. Cut stem end of peppers, de-seed and slice into discs. Green tomatoes sliced a little thicker than the rest.
  2. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a wide pan over medium heat.
  3. For the batter, combine all dry ingredients first. To make the fritters crispy add either ghee, rava or curd in the amount suggested. Add water to get the batter to a thick yet pouring consistency as shown above.
  4. Once the oil is hot (starts to shimmer and a small drop of batter falls to the bottom and rises up in a few seconds) dunk a few slices in batter and move them around to coat all sides. Pick up one slice at a time, allow excess batter drop, and gently slide it into the pan of oil from the side closest to you. Add a few more slices based on size of the pan making sure not to over crowd it.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, gently move the slices around 1-2 times, gradually spooning a little oil over them. Once the bottom part looks cooked (~ 1 min) flip over and cook until both sides are golden. 
  6. Transfer to a tissue lined plate for a few minutes to absorb excess oil. Move them to a serving plate or dish. They are great warm or at room temperature. Though they hardly need any accompaniments, a little Maggi sauce or mango avakaya on the side is wonderful.
Once you have the batter ready, you can experiment with almost all veggies. The tart green tomatoes were really good and so was the eggplant with a slight bitterness. Peppers (mirapakakya bajji) and potatoes (aloo bajji) hardly need any help in selling out. Cauliflower, cucumber, squash, spinach are all very good candidates. Last week we even saw someone on a cookery show dip rava kesari balls in this batter to make a hybrid snack! I may never go that far and plan to stick to just veggies.

We are busy making arrangements for Varalakshmi Vratam now and I hope to write another post this week about ourpreparations. My mom's Kozhakattai recipe now has new photos from today.

6 thoughts:

Gujarati Zaika said...

Tempting fritters and perfect for this monsoon ...send your recipe to my Ongoing Event:Cooking With Love - Sister Ongoing event- 1st Anniversary winner's choice giveaway

Pavani N said...

Yumm!! Perfect bajjis--crispy and crunchy.
My mom started making bajjis with wholewheat flour and she said you can't tell the difference. I've yet to try them myself.
Enjoy the festival season and the rest of the Summer.

Priya V said...

Pavani, WW flour sounds like a good idea, will make it feel at least a little healthy, hehe. I hope you are having a great summer too! :)

Gujarati Zaika, thanks for lettign me know, I'll check it out.

Hari Chandana P said...

Woww.. Perfectly made bajjis.. looks tempting :)

Sowmya Sundararajan said...

Nice and crisp looking Bajjis. Alternatively u can also use a round spoon full of idly/ dosa batter instead of the riceflourto make it even crispier. Try at leisure. Happy cooking.

Priya V said...

Sowmya, that's a trick I've never tried. Thanks for sharing it here!

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