Posts Tagged ‘Diwali’

Pilgrim Pakoras

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

          This coming Tuesday, October 28, marks the beginning of the Hindu festival of Diwali, a cross between the Jewish Sukkot and the Chinese New Year, with a bit of Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and July 4 thrown in for good measure.

          Diwali is the Indian festival of lights, a time of harvest but also a time of preparation for the New Year. It is both spiritual and rowdy. When I was a teenager living in New Delhi, fireworks filled the sky every Diwali. I found the holiday exciting if a little daunting. The fireworks were unregulated, and timid souls like me huddled close to home, fearful of being burned. I preferred the Diwali tradition of lighting candles to the fireworks, although my mother and brother were (and still are, for that matter) firecracker aficionados.

          My neighbors in Delhi shared sweets and snacks on this holiday. Pakoras are a typical Diwali snack. I adore these spicy vegetable fritters encased in dough made from besan, or gram (chickpea) flour.

          Unfortunately, we don’t have any besan in rural Massachusetts. Today I decided to make a local version of this Indian treat using materials I had at hand. My neighbor (and photographer) Peter dubbed them “Pilgrim Pakoras,” blending my New England ingredients with my Indian inspiration. We ate our pakoras with applesauce, which Peter calls “Yankee Chutney.” They would also be lovely with Indian chutney or with pork or lamb.

          Feel free to experiment with flavor—to add more cumin or chili powder, or to mix in some garlic, ginger, and/or curry powder. Happy Diwali!



Pilgrim Pakoras


6 tiny new potatoes

2 carrots

1 smallish onion

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cumin (either ground or seeds; if seeds, try toasting them first for added flavor)

1 teaspoon chili powder

3/4 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sweet butter, melted

extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying


          Wash the potatoes and carrots, and discard any stems and spots. You won’t have to peel the potatoes if they are fresh. Grate both vegetables coarsely. (I used a box grater for this.) Wrap the shredded potatoes and carrots in a dishtowel, and leave them to dry out for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

          Peel the onion, and chop it finely.

          In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, and chili powder.

          In a 2-cup measuring cup, beat the milk and egg together; then stir in the melted butter.

          Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones, and stir in the potato, carrot, and onion pieces. This combination is your pakora batter.

          Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a nonstick frying pan, and place it over medium heat. You will have to test your pan for heat; it is ready when a little bit of the pakora batter bubbles around the edges when placed in the hot oil.

          Spoon generous tablespoons of batter into the pan, keeping them separate. Do not try to heat more than 4 to 6 pakoras at a time. When your pakoras brown gently but crisply on one side, flip them over and cook them on the other side. Check for doneness after a couple of minutes on each side. Add a bit more oil if needed. Drain the cooked pakoras on paper towels.

          The pakoras are best when served immediately. In order to have them all ready at once, you may want to place some of them in a 225-degree oven to keep warm. Makes about 2 dozen pakoras.