Wild Green Fritter

7:10 PM

Wild greens pakoda...am in love with how pretty this platter looks

One of the fondest memories of my childhood was to wander around the paddyfields. People say that I spent hours jumping from one place to another chasing the crabs, insects or birds and watching small fishes swimming between the paddy seedlings. That love is still there. Whenevr I go home to Midnapore or 24 parganas,  I get up early and take a walk around the village and deep inside the fields looking for those familiar sight and smell. It is here that I learnt how paddy fields provide a nutritious meal even to the poorest of the poor people. The small mud crabs, even smaller fishes along with the numerous greens growing as weeds come together in a simple curry to provide all the required protein, vitamin and micro nutrients prescribed by dieticians.
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Foraging sure is an art and science of knowing what to collect and how to prepare them as food. And our ancestors had no dearth of this knowledge. The human race started its journey as hunter gatherers. For hundreds of years they lived off the land, on the generosity of nature not only for food but also to cure their ailments. . With time the need for foraging to sustain had faded away. Yet there are tribes, nomads and people living in the rural areas who still holds on to this ancient knowledge. How much of it is out of nessecity or passion is a pertinent question but it sure connects us to mother nature, teaches us to slowdown and be mindful to see the cycle of life and season surrounding us.

 Foraging is something very close to my heart. I grew up with it and find immense joy in stumbling upon food that grows in the wild. This love increased manifolds when I started studying books on plant medicines and the amazing medicinal properties of these so called weeds possess. Over the last few years I have tried to collect, identify and cook with such plants whenever time permitted. I even collected a few rare ones and presently trying to grow them in container.

After attending the beautiful session of Soppu story by Edible Issues, I was very inspired and wanted to showcase my prized garden possession in an exciting manner. Since it’s monsoon,  I borrowed Priyanka's idea of a pakoda grazing board and prepared pakodas or fritters out of them. The following greens were available within the 300 meter radius of where we live.

From Left, Lau pata, Shiuli pata, Joan pata, Kana shak, Hingche shak, Kanta note

(English and scientific names given below)

Shiuli pata (Parijat/ Nyctanthes arbor-tristis)

Bhumi Amloki (stone breaker/ Phyllanthus niruri)

Helencha pata (Enhydra fluctuan)

Kanta note (Amaranthus viridis)

amrul shak (Indian Sorrel /Oxalis corniculata)

Katowa data (Amaranthus Dubius)

Kana shak (Bengal Day flower)

Sojne shak (Moringa greens)

Pui shak (Malabar spinach/ basella alba)

Lau pata (Bottle gourd leaves)

Lal note (Chaulai)

Joan pata (Indian borage)

Pat pata (Jute leaves, from my house help)


While cooking this I was reminded of my favourite tempura joint in Tokyo (
RECIPE here). And how they would top the Tempura bowl with a crisp fried shisho leaf, coated only one side of the leaf with batter- for the customer to enjoy the real taste of the green. Following that I kept my batter quite thin. The leftover leaves were chopped up and mixed with some masur dal paste to make some mixed pakoda. 

There honestly is not much to these recipes. rather a few tips and tricks that will help you to make a lightt crisp pakoda which will not go soggy quickly.

Use some part of rice flour in your batter to make it crispier.
While preparing the batter first add very little water just to dissolve the flour. Always use your hand and when the thick batter looks smooth add more water to thin it down.

Add the bi-carb of soda just before you start frying.

Once your oil for deep frying is hot mix a teaspoon of it into the batter. It helps in keeping the pakoras crunchy for some time.

Heat the oil to smoking if using mustard oil, then put the flame down. Fry the pakoras on medium flame. Make sure the oil is hot enough to make that light sizzling sound when you add your pakora into it.

For light pakoras like these leafy ones, I prefer not to add any salt to the batter. Salt brings out the liquid from the vegetables. Once fried you can always sprinkle salt or chat masala from top, that's what the roadside bhajia stalls do too. They very lightly salt the batter and sprinkle more when they are fried.

Last but not least, after frying drain the pakoras on a wire rack or traditional bamboo or cane baskets. That way the bottom of the pakoras won't get soggy.

Edible wild greens fritter


Ingredients:

Besan/ Chickpea flour: 1/2 cup

Rice flour: 2 tbsp

Chili powder: 1/2 tsp

Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp

Bi-carb of soda: 1/3 tsp

Salt

Mustard oil: for deep frying

Any green leaves of your choice. I took Joan pata (Indian Borage), Parijat (Shiuli) leaves, Hingche/helencha stalks , Chnapa note (Wild Amaranth), Pui Shak (Basella alba/,malabar spinach), Kana shak (Bengal Dayflower), Pat shak (jute leaves), Lau pata (Bottle gourd leaves), Sojne shak (Moringa leaves).

Method:

Wash and pat the leaves dry. Keep them on a piece of kitchen towel.

In a big bowl take the two flours, chili powder and nigella seeds. Add 1/4 cup of water and using your hand mix it in any one direction. If needed add little bit more water and make a smooth thick batter. Now gradually add more water to make a semi thick flowy batter. To check if your batter is of right consistency dip a spoon in it and it should nicely coat the back of the spoon in a thin layer.

Heat the oil preferably in an iron kadhai. Make sure there is at least 3" oil in the pan. I prefer to use a smaller kadhai (4.5" ) for this purpose.

Once the oil is hot take out a spoonful of it and mix in the batter.

Add the soda and mix.

Keep the heat at medium.

Holding the little stem attached to the leaf dip it in the batter. MAke sure to coat both sides nicely. Hold it over the bowl to drain the excess batter and carefully place it in the hot oil. Repeat with other leaves but do not crowd the pan. Using a spoon dredge the hot oil on the top part of the leaves to cook it. after a minute carefully flip it and fry till both the sides are golden in colour.

Using a slotted spoon take out and place them on an wire rack and immidiately sprinkle some salt on top.

Serve hot.

 

Mixed green Piyaju



Piyaju is basically a Bangladeshi fritter made with dal batter and finely sliced onion. Here I made it with mixed green.


Ingredients:

Masoor or red lentil: 1/3 cup 

Besan / chickpea flour: 1 tbsp

Onion: 1 medium (Finely sliced in half moon shape around a handful)

Chopped mixed green: 1.5 cups

Green chillies: chopped finely: 2 or as per your heat tolerance

Nigella seeds: 1/2 tsp

Chili powder: 1/3 tsp

Turmeirc powder: 1/3 tsp

Salt

Bi-carb of soda: 1/3 tsp

Sesame seeds: optional but gives a nice crunch


Method:

Soak the lentil for 2 hours and then make a smooth paste without using any water. If you are doing it in the mixie add as little water as possible.

Place the onion, greens and chopped chilly in a big bowl. Add salt and other spices. mix while lightly mashing the veggies.

Tip in the dal paste and mix.

Add the besan to bind it all together. The end result should be a mixture that you can roughly shape in your hand.

Heat enough oil and following the method descrived in the previous recipe prepare it for frying. 

Add the soda just before you are ready to fry and also add a tsp of the hot oil. Mix and keeping the heat at medium start placinf small balls of the batter. Do not over crowd the pan and fry them on medium till all sides are golden in colour (around 3-4 minutes).



Serve hot.


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