Small Plates for your Summer Fete by Indian Superfood chef Gurpareet Bains
Like many of us, I too adore a few small plates with a drink. It always feels soothing to wash down appetizing and savory morsels of good food with a chilled cocktail. It’s the spa day equivalent for our taste buds. Utter indulgence.
I’ve selected just a few of my finest small plates recipes that demonstrate to our taste-buds, just how varied the tastes of the Indian kitchen really are. You will find here bitterness, saltiness, sourness, sweetness and even Umami.
I recommend that you dish up up these treats with a fresh coriander raita, sweet chili sauce – try adding some freshly grated ginger and chopped coriander leaves, soy sauce seasoned with a dash of sesame oil and freshly chopped chillies (Umami), as well as bowls of hot and cold salads, to give your small plates a real sense of occasion.
And as they say in England “Bottoms up!”.
Recipes extracted from Gurpareet’s debut recipe book, Indian Superfood. For more information, visit www.indiansuperfood.com
Sweet Potato and Pea Fritters
I’m not a huge fan of potatoes, and consequently I’d never been a devotee of the aloo tikki either. That was until I used sweet potato in the recipe. It was as if an Indian fairy had transformed, with a wave of her wands, the aloo tikka into something stupendously good. The natural sugariness of the sweet potato draws out the flavors of the superspices more so than regular potato.
These fritters have an irresistibly crispy and almost caramelized exterior which contrasts wonderfully with the rich, ‘creamy’ and spicy core. I once served them at a dinner party in London, overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral, to dinner guests who had requested minimal use of spicing; and much to my surprise these highly-seasoned nibbles were gobbled down within seconds!
If you need justification to indulge in starchy foods, I will have you know that sweet potato will help keep your tummy feeling fuller for longer by stabilizing blood sugar levels and, also, caraway has long been recognized as an appetite suppressant.
Serve as pre-dinner canapés with drinks.
1lb 2oz sweet potatoes, peeled and cut large bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for frying
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon ground cilantro
1 teaspoon each turmeric and chilli powder
7oz fresh or frozen petit pois, defrosted if necessary
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons gram flour
1 ½ oz dried breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated (peeled) fresh root ginger
3 spring onions, finely chopped
¾ oz bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 egg yolk
Sweet chili sauce, to serve
Cook the sweet potatoes in a deep pan of boiling water for approximately 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, then rinse the sweet potatoes under cold running water until cool and drain again. Place in a mixing bowl and set aside. (To minimize the loss of nutrients, the sweet potatoes may be steamed or cooked in the microwave, instead of boiling.)
Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a deep saucepan, add the cumin and caraway seeds and cook over a medium heat until the seeds begin to pop – this will take no longer than 2–3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the ground cilantro, turmeric and chili powder. Mix well.
Add the cooked sweet potatoes and petit pois to the spice mixture and mash well. Mix through the salt, gram flour, breadcrumbs, ginger, spring onions, chopped cilantro and egg yolk until thoroughly combined.
Divide the mixture into 16 equal portions. Shape each portion into a small round patty.
Heat some extra olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the patties in the hot oil until they are golden brown, turning once – this should take about 2–3 minutes for each side.
Remove with a spatula and drain well on kitchen paper. Serve with the sweet chili sauce.
Fish pakoras are typical of Punjabi roadside dhaba fare and are the Indian answer to the Turkish mezze – savoury morsels of food to be appreciated with a cold drink. They are also cherished by many Indian ‘vegetarians’, who see them as a way of bridging their love of meat with their ethical lifestyles.
At wedding parties, I often share my portion of fish pakoras with the older Indian ladies who are somewhat reluctant to eat meat in public, afraid of being labeled by ancient Hindu social custom as heathen carnivores from kala pani. Or, perhaps they just don’t want to share something that tastes so damn fine, confining me to the more carnal pleasures of meat kebabs.
So, make plenty to share with your friends. If my experiences are anything to go by, they will go down a treat. If you do happen to have one drink too many and behave like a junglie, it’s also good to know that Ajwain is used as a hangover remedy. Salmon adds another superfood pirouette to these Amritsari-style pakoras with a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Serve with a cilantro raita.
1lb 2oz salmon fillets, skinned and cut into large bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons tandoori masala powder
1 onion, cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon grated (peeled) fresh root ginger
2–6 green chillies
7 tablespoons gram flour
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ajwain
1 teaspoon cilantro seeds
olive oil or vegetable oil, for shallow frying
cilantro raita, a few lemon wedges and salad, to serve
In a large mixing bowl, rub the salmon pieces in the tandoori masala powder and set aside – all of the masala should stick to the salmon and there should be no excess spices at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
To prepare the pakora batter, place the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, gram flour, salt, garam masala, ajwain, cilantro seeds and 4 tablespoons cold water in a food processor and blend until you have a batter that resembles a runny porridge – to get the right consistency you may need to add more cold water or gram flour.
Pour the batter into the large mixing bowl containing the salmon and mix, making sure each piece of salmon is thoroughly coated.
Pour enough oil into a deep saucepan so that the oil is at least 3cm deep, then heat over a high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Reduce the heat to medium-high.
Take the salmon pieces out of the batter individually, shaking off any excess batter mixture (discard any leftover batter). Fry in small batches in the hot oil for 3–4 minutes or until the salmon pieces are floating near the top of the oil. Remove with a spatula and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the salmon pakoras immediately with the cilantro raita, lemon wedges and salad.
These are best served as nibbles with drinks.
Baked Spicy Passion Fruit Chicken
We grew up munching on tandoori-flavored baked chicken pieces that would be served uniformly to us at nearly every social gathering, lock, stock and barrel, from weddings to Christmas Day lunch. In fact, if we ever caught ‘wind’ of baked chicken not being on the menu, possibly because the function was being hosted by a vegetarian family, it would be enough for us to try and wean out of the event.
The love affair started out in the 1980’s when people served chicken joints. In the 1990’s, and well into the new millennium,
this preference metamorphosed into tender breast fillets, and recently it has started reverting back to a trend in jointed chicken pieces – thank you, Anjum. The only thing that hasn’t changed over all of this time is the basic marinade recipe. And that’s until now. This recipe is something that you must try at least once.
Passion fruit not only imparts an exotic flavor but also acts as a souring agent and super meat tenderizer, as well as adding as much potassium as a banana to the already healthy low fat pieces of chicken. Marinate the pieces of chicken overnight so that the superspices and passion fruit enzymes can work their magic and simultaneously flavor and tenderize them right down to the bone. For even more scrumptious pieces of chicken, try using smaller joints which pick up the flavors intensely.
1lb 9oz chicken joints, skinned and pierced randomly with a sharp knife
3 passion fruits, cut in half and pulp and seeds scooped out
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons grated (peeled) fresh root ginger
4–6 green chillies, finely chopped
3 ½ fl oz plain yogurt
1 tablespoon ground cilantro
1 teaspoon tandoori masala powder or garam masala
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing
¾oz bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
salad and raita, to serve
Place the chicken joints in a bowl and set aside.
Place all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture over the chicken joints, mixing well. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature setting.
Oil a baking tray with some extra olive oil. Place the chicken pieces on the baking tray in a single layer, shaking off any excess marinade. Discard any leftover marinade.
Lower the oven temperature to 390°F/fan 350°F/Gas Mark 6. Bake the chicken in the centre of the oven for 35–45 minutes or until tender and cooked to your liking, remembering to turn over the pieces of chicken once, halfway through cooking.
See the recipe for a Mango Chili Margarita