Butternut Squash and Onion Bhajis
Butternut Squash and Onion Bhajis

Butternut Squash and Onion Bhajis

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    Serves 6 as a starter or serves 8–10 as a snack
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These little numbers are great fun and utterly delicious. I love pumpkin and as expressed in previous posts and in my cookbook, it’s the kind of food I was brought up eating. Lin Carter brings me the most wonderful array and varieties of squashes and pumpkins that give me great pleasure to cook wonderful and tasty recipes with.

This is a classic recipe that should not be messed about with too much, but I have added one of my favourite ingredients to make it extra fun, that is the pumpkin, of course.

We serve these bhajis at the restaurant with a bowl of Madras Spiced Pumpkin Soup. They make a delicious starter or they can also be served as a snack at a drinks party. Make the madras spice mix up to 1 month in advance and keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry cupboard until needed.photo of Butternut Squash and Onion Bhajis

Ingredients & Method

For the madras spice mix

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon each cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, yellow mustard seeds, black peppercorns and ground turmeric
  • 4cm piece of cassia bark
  • 5 whole dried Kashmir chillies
  • 12 whole green cardamom pods
  • 10 fresh curry leaves

For the pumpkin bhajis

  • 1 large egg
  • 25ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus extra for deep-frying
  • 100g (prepared weight) pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and coarsely grated
  • 50g (peeled) onion, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Madras Spice Mix (see above)
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

First, prepare the madras spice mix. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the mixed seeds, black peppercorns, turmeric, cassia bark, dried chillies and cardamom pods and dry-toast for 1–2 minutes or until the spices are lightly toasted and their aroma wafts up from the pan, shaking the pan regularly to ensure that they do not catch and burn. Remove the toasted spices from the pan to a plate, then briefly toast the curry leaves in the same way – as they toast they will dry out and become crispy. Let the toasted spices cool and then grind them all together to a fine powder using a spice grinder. Keep the ground toasted spice mix in an airtight container or jar in a cool, dry cupboard for up to 1 month. The leftover spice mix can be used for homemade Madras curries and soups.

Prepare the pumpkin bhajis mixture. Whisk the egg, milk and 1 teaspoon oil together in a mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, onion, spice mix and salt and pepper and mix lightly to combine, then add the flour and stir to mix.

Heat some vegetable oil in an electric deep-fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 160°C (or until a small piece of bread browns within 20 seconds in the hot oil). Once the oil is hot enough, place teaspoonfuls of the bhajis mixture into the hot oil and deep-fry for 4–6 minutes or until cooked, crisp and golden brown – you will need to deep-fry the bhajis in two or three batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the cooked bhajis on kitchen paper, season with salt, then keep warm while you cook the remainder.

Serve the hot or warm bhajis as a starter with mango chutney and minted yoghurt, or serve as a fun accompaniment with pumpkin soup. As a snack, they are great for a drinks party – simply pile them into a bowl and serve warm.