If you’re planning a party of all appetizers and alcohol, you need at least one fried appetizer. Somewhere there is a written rule about this. Alcohol and fried food are a natural combination.
But fried food doesn’t have to be greasy or heavy. You need a combination of the right batter, the correct oil and a high enough heat for a perfectly fried tidbit.
This batter is similar to a tempura batter but it’s loaded with flavors from cumin seeds, mustard seeds and dried chilies and has a gorgeous golden color from the turmeric. The taste is reminiscent of what you might get at an Indian restaurant if you ordered pakoras. That’s why I added the Raita dipping sauce.
When I first made this recipe, before the party, I used a scant 1 1/2 cup water and made a fairy thick batter. I deep fried the cauliflower and you can see from the pictures how delectable they turned out.
For the party, I added a bit more water for a thinner batter and pan fried these so they could be made in the late afternoon and kept in a warming oven. The thicker the batter, the sooner you want to serve them or they risk getting soggy.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can tweak it to your preference. Make the batter, decide on your frying method and test one piece. You can always add a bit more liquid and thin the batter. And when you’re testing one piece, also test for flavor. Does it need more salt and pepper? Do you want more crunch? Add more cumin seeds. Play with the recipe and make it your own.
If your guests say, “I didn’t know you could make Indian food,” just smile and say thanks and send me an email and tell me about it.
EVENT: 2nd Annual Apps & Alcohol
YIELDS: 10 Servings as Part of Appetizer Buffet
1 head of cauliflower
1 3/4 cup self-rising flour
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, separated into 2 portions
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2-3 chile de arbol
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 cups cold sparkling water or beer (add more for lighter batter)
Grape seed oil as needed depending on size of pan used
Spice grinder or mortar and pestle
Deep fry thermometer or a few crusts of bread
Prepare the cauliflower:
1. Trim the bottom of the stock and break the cauliflower into bite sized florets. Season with sea salt. Set aside.
Prepare the batter:
2. Place 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, mustard seeds and chile de arbol in a spice grinder and grind.
3. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and mix with ground spices, remaining 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds and turmeric until spices are evenly distributed.
4. Add the liquid and whisk gently.
5. The consistency should be like heavy cream or lighter if you prefer less batter.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Pour grape seed oil into a deep saucepan. The oil should be 2-3 inches deep.
8. Heat the oil to 350 degrees on a thermometer. But if you don’t have a thermometer, drop a piece of bread into oil. When it floats to the surface and starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. You can also pan saute in a non-stick pan with 1/2 inch of oil.
9. One at a time, dip cauliflower pieces into the batter and place them into the hot oil. Do this in batches and don’t overcrowd the pan.
10. Fry the pieces, turning them with a slotted spoon. When they are browned and crisp, remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
11. Place on a wire rack on a baking sheet and keep in a 325 degree oven until ready to serve.
12. Serve with Raita dipping sauce on the side.