I feel slightly embarrassed by the “new” ingredient I’ve chosen to showcase with this post. I always experiment with foods I’ve never prepared here, hoping that others will read about my concoctions and also become more experimental (or will at the very least laugh at my adventures). But last night I cooked with something new to me, but that might make the rest of the world turn away accusing me of being a lame loser of a chef. I used gram flour, which is made from chickpeas. I know what you’re thinking – before you know it I’ll be introducing you a new ingredient some people call “wheat.”
I had been sifting through recipes online to find an appetizer to bring to a Christmas party at my friend Jackie’s. At first I told her I would bring a veggie tray because she had been describing what last minute tedious tasks she still had to accomplish, and picking up veggies was one of them. But when she said, “Sure you can bring veg, but you’re capable of so much more,” I knew I had to live up to my culinary potential of weirdness. I have a reputation of oddity to live up to, after all.
So I was swiping my way through my iPhone drooling at food porn when I happened upon a potato latke topped with crème fraiche and caviar. Bingo. Except that despite being plugged into the rare food community I had no idea where to find crème fraiche in my neighborhood, and I thought that a latke might be kind of bland. So I switched it to a spicy pakora with sour cream, and bang – cool creation.
Funny how I wasn’t even going to write about this appetizer because I thought it was too boring, even though it includes both gram flour and caviar, neither of which I had ever used. I think camel meatballs and fish heads have made my standards of weirdness kind of high lately.
But back to the flour, which is also called garbanzo flour or besan. It’s high in carbohydrates, but also in protein, which is a bonus. It’s also gluten free. As I mentioned, most cultures other than mine eat it – it’s a staple in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but it’s also eaten in France, Spain, and Italy. I was shocked to have bought 3 cups worth and paid about $1. Loving it.
I also hadn’t considered the caviar very interesting, because everyone has heard of caviar. Especially after the movie Big.
But how much did I really know about the types of caviar? Nothing, truth be told. And I’m not so sure I would care about the difference in taste or price, since I even enjoy those crackly roe they put on top of sushi at the mall. I picked up this “caviar,”
from our local fishmonger for the bargain price of $10. And then I read this article about real caviar, now from farmed sturgeon rather than wild, ranging (in the article) between $75 and $275 for 30g. The wild stuff is rare because it was overfarmed and so is heavily regulated. It goes for $750. Mine came from smoked herring and mullet in Spain and I’m totally good with that.
Looked like the guests were good with that too, because the appys didn’t last long! They were a pakora-rific pleasure. Here’s the recipe – the straightforward pakora directions stolen from here:
Pakora with caviar (makes about 20 small pakoras)
- 2C Besan (chickpea flour, gram flour)
- 1Tbsp crushed red pepper
- 3/4tsp salt
- 1/2tsp baking powder
- 2 small red chiles, chopped (or other hot peppers. This amount gave low-medium heat)
- 1/2C cilantro leaves, chopped (plus more for garnishing)
- 1 onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
- 1C luke warm water
- 1/2C sour cream
- 30g container of caviar (only about three-quarters will be used)
- Oil for frying (canola or other light-tasting oil)
Directions: Fill skillet half-way with oil. Heat to 360-375 degrees (med-high heat for about 6 minutes, will sizzle when dough is dropped in). In a large bowl, mix together the flour, chili flakes, salt, baking powder, chili pepper, cilantro and sliced onion. Slowly add in the water, mixing well. The batter should be thick but still mobile (would drip from a spoon) with air bubbles throughout. When oil has heated, carefully drop tablespoons of batter into the hot oil. Allow them to brown, flipping once (about one minute per side). Drain on a cooling rack or paper towels. Repeat with remainder of batter.
Results: Delicious, with a tidy, pretty presentation. Four yums for this one. I’ll make them again!
Wine Pairing: Sparkling wine. A budget knock-off caviar deserves a budget knock-off Champagne! Winealign.com says the Kiwi Walk Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is a good one priced at $17.95 in Ontario.