This is a classic homemade Indian tea time treat and every generation of Indian will surely have their own hand me down recipes, each tweaked with a special ingredient to make them uniquely their own. Crisply fried in a spicy batter with soft centred, thin potato slices…these moreish bites are completely addictive – be warned you will be making them time and time again!
Tea time is quite an important part of Indian culinary culture and my favourite childhood memories are filled with afternoons where my mother would invite her closest neighbours and a few friends to come over for a ‘special’ tea. These were quite the affair and I must share the story of those wonderful get togethers that will forever remain unique and special to that generation of incredible homemakers.
Now, tea time entertaining could translate to a nice hot cuppa with a few nibbles …but no.. in Kenya we do things a little differently. In true domestic goddess style, my mother would wake early to start her preparations and the kitchen became a heated flurry of activity with baking, frying and an assortment of other culinary genius taking place for much of the day. The scents wafting through the house were intensly delicious and we were constantly shooed away from the kitchen parameters as our imaginations ran wild of the treats we would find within. By 3pm, once she had time to freshen up and transform into a lovely stylish afternoon outfit, my mother, beautiful and smiling as always, was ready to receive her guests and start an afternoon of entertaining .
The food that she managed to produce that day is quite extraordinary and I find so much comfort and memories of homely bliss when I think back to those balmy happy, laughter filled afternoons of my childhood. It is truly extraordinary how such happy moments are smudged softly into one’s memory and I find it so easy to reach to those feelings whenever I need to – memories that are overwhelmingly emotional and brings a bright tug to my heartstrings…. Back to my mothers tea time extravaganza…Once all the guests had arrived and the women were settled – the result of a entire morning of cooking is finally presented.
It is quite a sight and only what I can truly describe as culinary magnificence. An enormous, pretty lace covered table would be typically heaving under masses of glorious, strawberry cream filled – vanilla scented cakes, hearty baked vegetable layered dishes with melting cheese toppings, slices of wonderfully crispy home made pizza, sizzling hot spicy samosas, fresh kiwi and mango fruit filled pavlovas, freshly fried and delicately iced doughnuts, perfectly formed scrumptious scotch eggs with all the mustard and tomato ketchup dippings, homemade ‘dokra’ ( a childhood favourite of mine and a recipe for another day!) and at least four varieties of mouthwatering bhajias. All this glorious food was displayed amongst crystal vases set with fat, freshly plucked roses from my mothers countryside garden – every dish placed in a specific order in a grand buffet style. All this copious fare was accompanied by a continuous stream of steaming aromatic masala infused tea, served in the most intricate dainty china cups for the elegant ladies to sip from. It was a display that could take your breath away!
These occasions are truly what defines ‘high tea’ for the Asian community and were such memorable affairs. Such effort was made to attend these tea parties, the ladies all dressed in beautiful casual Indian outfits accessorised with pretty delicate jewelry and the afternoon with pass with hoots of laughter coming from the sun basked verandahs.
Those were the days where food and socialising in a polite environment is where friendships were truly maintained..stories of each other’s children exchanged, housekeeping tips and conversations around the price of this or that were debated, all amongst a few stories not meant for the ears of little wondering children that would produce a fit of giggles amongst these close friends.
These were the times where women – the truly perfect homekeepers, would have their few hours away from all the worry of running their homes and managing their families and revel in each others company…and it is what kept communities close and connected in a soft web of friendship. The afternoon would pass with children being REAL children….running around the sunshine filled gardens and playing on swings or climbing frames and as the evening would approach, hugs were exchanges and the next grand tea party organised at the next friends house.
I long for those days of innocence and true courting of friendships – an age where such mutual respect for each other as women was never limited and an honest respect for each others lifestyle choices was paramount. It is with such courtesy that relationships were maintained and a memorable era where food and entertaining in the home was done from the heart….a hope that I may continue this into another era with the love of cooking and a fondness of friends and family to share it all with..
- 3 large white potatoes
- 3/4 cup finely sieved gram flour
- 1/2 cup self raising flour
- 1/4 cup cornflour
- 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp finely minced ginger
- 1 tsp finely minced green chilli
- 3/4 cup very cold water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbs freshly chopped coriander
Oil for Deep Frying
For the chutney
- 3 ripe tomatoes
- 1 carrot grated very very finely
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tbs freshly chopped coriander
- 1/2 tsp freshly minced green chilli
- Salt for seasoning
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- Wash and peel your potatoes. Slice them to around 1/4 inch thickness, not too thick or thin. Set in a pan of cold water.
- Start to prepare your chutney. Grate the tomatoes in a large bowl, add the garlic, finely grated carrot, lemon juice, chilli, garam masala, salt and fresh coriander. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
- Just ten minutes before you want to serve, prepare your batter. Combine the gram flour, the self raising flour, the cornflour, the cumin and coriander powder along with the salt and turmeric. Now add the ginger and garlic, the green chillies and the coriander. Slowly pour in the cold water and start to combine with a fork very gently. Keep pouring until you reach a medium thick consistency. Not too thick or thin. Do not overmix.
- Heat your oil in a large wok, until hot but not smoking.
- Drain the potatoes and wipe dry.
- Dip each slice individually, letting any excess batter drip off.
- Fry in batches of 6-8 bhajias as too many in the wok and they may start to stick together. The trick is not to touch them or flip them for the first minute, then gently flip them over. This is so that it allows time for the batter to crisp up and stick. Fry only until slightly golden brown – not too brown please as the batter will taste bitter.
- Drain on a paper towel and serve absolutely piping hot along with the chutney and slices of red onion.
Recipe and Food Styling by Sandy Thethy ; Taste Safari
Photo credits to Vanessa Knight Photography, specially comissioned for Taste Safari