Try making these South Indian-style savoury fritters - similar to an onion bhaji - to serve before a curry.
200g/7oz channa dal (yellow lentils)
2 tsp urad dal (black lentils)
2 tsp basmati rice
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 fresh green chilli, chopped
4 fresh curry leaves
½cm/¼in piece fresh root ginger, peeled, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
vegetable oil, for frying
For the coconut ‘chutney’, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the channa dal, urad dal and green chilli and fry until they start to brown.
Transfer the ingredients to a spice grinder, add the asafoetida and coconut and grind the mixture to a fine powder. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a thick paste (you may not need to add all of the water). Stir in the soured cream until well combined.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a separate pan over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and fry until they begin to crackle and pop (keep your face away from the pan in case the seeds pop). Add the mustard seeds and oil to the coconut mixture and stir well to combine. Set aside.
For the masala vadai, soak the channa dal, urad dal and rice in water for 7-8 minutes, then drain well.
Grind the fennel seeds and red chilli powder in a pestle and mortar, then add the green chilli, curry leaves and ginger and grind again until the mixture forms a thick paste. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer the spice paste to a bowl and add the chopped onion. Add the drained channa dal, urad dal and rice to the bowl and mix until everything is well combined.
Half-fill a heavy-based frying pan with vegetable oil and heat until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden-brown when dropped into it. (Caution: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)
Roll small pieces of the mixture into balls and carefully lower them into the hot oil in batches. Fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Serve with the coconut ‘chutney’.
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