BAIGAN BHAJA

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These pakoras are spiced with nothing other than salt, turmeric and chilli, yet the flavour is outstanding, no doubt due to the beautifully tender aubergine encased in a crisp, tasty coating. Pair them with Coriander and Spinach Chutney or Tomato Chutney.

Serves 4
1 aubergine
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chilli powder
sunflower oil, for deep-frying
sea salt flakes
Coriander and Spinach Chutney and/or Tomato Chutney, to serve
For the batter
150g (5½oz) gram (chickpea) flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
about 300ml (½ pint) water

Cut the aubergine vertically into thin slices with a thickness of no more than 5mm (¼ inch). Rub the flesh with the salt and chilli powder leave to stand for 10 minutes. (This helps to release excess moisture in the aubergine flesh.) To make the batter, combine the gram flour, salt and spices in a bowl, then gradually add just enough of the measured water to form a smooth batter with a thin coating consistency.
Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a deep-fat fryer or large saucepan (ensuring the pan is no more than one-third full) to 190°C (375°F). Line a plate with some kitchen paper. Working with 1 slice of aubergine at a time, press it between 2 sheets of kitchen paper to extract excess moisture, then dip the slice in the batter, add it to the hot oil and fry for 1 minute on each side, until deep golden brown and crispy. Transfer to the paper-lined plate and leave to drain excess oil while you fry the remaining aubergine slices. Season with sea salt flakes and serve hot with your preferred chutney.

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