Nigella seeds, or kalonji, have a peppery lemon flavor and are widely used in Bengali cooking, on their own or as part of the five-seed spice blend known as panch puran. Unfortunately, they are sometimes called “onion seeds” in Indian grocery stores, even though they nothing to do with onions. The nigella seeds should be left whole, so if you make the batter in a blender or food processor, stir them in after you transfer the butter to a bowl. Yellow, red or green bell peppers can be used with this pakora batter.
Preparation time (after assembling ingredients): 10 minutes
Resting time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
• Sifted chick pea flour (sifted before measuring) – 1 ½ cups (135 g)
• Salt – ½ table spoon (7 ml)
• Melted ghee or vegetable oil – 2 teaspoons (10 ml)
• Hot green chilies, seeded and minced – 1-2
• Nigella seeds (kalonji) – ½ table spoon (7 ml)
• Turmeric – ½ teaspoon (2 ml)
• Cold water, or enough to make a medium-consistency batter – 9 table spoons (135 ml)
• Baking powder (optional) – 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml)
• Long strips or rounds of seeded Bell pepper (3 medium-sized peppers) – 25-35
• Ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying
1. Combine the flour, salt, melted ghee or vegetable oil, green chilies, nigella seeds and turmeric in a bowl and mix well. Add ½ cup (120 ml) of water slowly, beating with an electric beater or wire whisk until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Slowly add the remaining water until the batter consistency is similar to cream and easily coats a wooden spoon. Alternately, place the above ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or a blender, adding the nigella seeds after the mixture is transferred to a bowl. Cover the batter and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
2. Again beat with an electric beater, wire whisk or your hand for 2-3 minutes to further lighten the batter. (Check the batter consistency: if it is too thin, moist foods will spatter as they fry; if it is too thick, they will not cook properly. Add more flour or water as necessary). Stir in the baking powder at this time if you prefer a cake-like crust. Set the bell peppers to be fried next to the stove. They should be patted dry and at room temperature.
3. Heat 2 ½ -3 inches (6.5-7.5 cm) of fresh ghee or vegetable oil in a karai, wok or deep-frying pan until the temperature reaches 355 F (180 C). Dip 5 or 6 bell pepper rings in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. The temperature will fall but should maintained at 345-355 F (173-180 C) through out the frying. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until the pakoras are golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately, or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated 250 F (120 C) oven until all the pakoras are fried, for up to ½ hour.
Serves: 6 as a snack or 8 at a meal