Welcoming monsoon with assorted pakoras and spicy cardamom chai

Published: June 23, 2015
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This combination of pakoras and chai is a real pick-me-up, with a kick of chilli and a hint of spice. PHOTO: SUMAYYA USMANI

With my eyes half open after a long afternoon siesta, I’d look above me to see the slow winding ceiling fan, hearing the monotonous humming of the air conditioner and lazily stretching as a loud crackle of thunder jolts me out of bed.

Thinking back now, I can almost smell the dusty humidity outside, as I opened my bedroom window to be greeted by warm monsoon raindrops falling on my face, gracing the room with a breeze alive and the aroma rising from the kitchen below – of pakoras and sweet cardamom chai.

It was that time of year again – when the Heavens’ descended and we finally have what Pakistanis like to call chickna mausam (sexy weather). The smell of rain, thunder and lightning is almost synonymous with that of vegetable pakoras and a brew of cardamom tea. This is truly a match made in heaven.

A simple pakora batter can be used to adorn any seasonal vegetable of choice, traditionally made with thinly sliced potatoes, onion rings, aubergines or green chillies. While Pakistanis are known to enjoy chai up to 10 times a day, you would think that in such humid and hot weather, a cold beverage would be more craved for, but there is something rather comforting about the sweetness of cardamom and sugar with hot milk tea.

It calms the senses as you start your day. You awake from the deep coma of an afternoon nap, refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day. This combination of pakoras and chai is a real pick-me-up, with a kick of chilli and a hint of spice. It is enjoyed in the winter as much as in the summers, but to me it personifies the joys of the monsoon season in Pakistan.

Therefore, the following is the recipe of assorted vegetable pakoras and sweet cardamom and cinnamon chai, to compliment your taste buds as we welcome the monsoon season.

Assorted seasonal vegetable pakoras

Fried until golden and crispy, these are healthier (a bit) if shallow fried!
It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and the recipe below should be adequate to serve two to three people, depending on their appetite and hunger level.

Ingredients:

Batter:

Chickpeas flour- 100 grams

Rice flour – 50 grams (not ground rice)

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp (dry roasted)

Salt – 1 tsp

Turmeric – ­¼ tsp

Red chilli powder- ½ tsp

Tap water

Vegetable oil to shallow fry

Aubergines – 5 to 6 slices (halved)

Okra – 4 to 5 (sliced into 4 pieces horizontally)

Red onion – ½ (cut into thin rings)

To garnish:

Mint leaves – 1 tsp (finely chopped)

Green chilli – 1 (sliced thinly)

Chaat masala – 1 tsp

Method:

1. Whip up the batter ingredients into a thick texture by slowly adding water.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan (use according to preference, I prefer shallow fry). Keep the oil on medium heat.

3. Dip each slice of vegetable in the batter until coated evenly.

4. Dip into hot oil and fry each side until its colour changes to light brown.

5. Drain on kitchen paper and serve, garnished with chopped mint leaves and sliced green chilli, along with chaat masala (substitute chaat masala with a sprinkling of red chilli powder and ground cumin).

Cardamom and cinnamon Chai

Commonly served sweet which is meant to wake you up and give you energy to face the day!
It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and the recipe below should be adequate to serve two people.

Ingredients:

Strong tea leaves (Assam or Kenya) – 2 tbsp

Water – ½ pint

Whole milk- ½ pint

Cardamom – 4 pods

Cinnamon – ½  slick (2 inches long)

Sugar to taste

Method:

1. In a saucepan, heat the water on medium flame until it boils.

2. Turn down the flame and add tea leaves, cardamom and cinnamon, and brew on a low flame.

3. Once the tea leaves release its colour, add the milk and bring to boil again.

4. When the milk has reached the boil, strain and serve immediately.

5. Add sugar if desired.

All photos: Sumayya Usmani

This post was originally posted here

Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani

She is a writer and cookery teacher based in London, UK, specialising in the cuisine of Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She blogs at www.mytamarindkitchen.com/ and tweets as @MyTamarindKtchn (twitter.com/MyTamarindKtchn) She is also the author of a cookbook, Summers under the Tamarind Tree.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.