The Story Behind the Bhaji
I lived in London for eight years in my twenties and remember going to the best curry houses in Brick Lane, East London and beginning a meal with onion bhajis, or fritters. Bhajis found in Brick Lane are much spicier than this version, which we served as part of our very first monthly menu at my restaurant, Maude – we toned down the spice to avoid blowing everyone’s palates out on their first bite of a nine course tasting menu. It’s those fond memories of my time spent in England and those delicious, crispy onions that inspired this moreish dish.
The layers of Indian spices make this dish super tasty and interesting. We toast fennel and mustard seeds then grind them to get all of those fragrant oils going, and mix the ground seeds with chilli powder, fresh turmeric, ginger and garlic. We are talking about some pretty intense flavours here but together they work harmoniously with the strong and naturally sweet onion. The mouth cooling lime crème fraîche with mint and cilantro wipes through the rich, spiciness of the bhaji.
I am excited to share my special restaurant recipe with you, which I’ve tailored for the home cook. It’s a fancy little starter dish and I really hope you find a nice occasion to cook this up for your friends and yourself! It has WOW factor on the plate and palate. Enjoy guys.
Onion Bhaji with Lime Crème Fraîche
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
Make-Ahead: The lime crème fraîche can be made up to 8 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Lime Crème Fraîche:
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 serrano chile
- 1 lime, finely grated and half juiced
- Grapeseed oil, for deep frying
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh turmeric
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- 1/4 cup rice flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds, toasted, coarsely ground
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted, coarsely ground
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 small red onion (8 ounces), very thinly sliced
To make the lime crème fraîche:
- In a food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth. Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate.
To make the onion bhaji:
- Into a large heavy saucepan or deep fryer, pour enough grapeseed oil to reach a depth of about 3 inches and heat the oil to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, mix the cilantro, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. In a small bowl, mix the potato starch, rice flour, chili powder, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt. Using your hands, mix the flour mixture into the cilantro mixture. Add the iced water and stir just until a thin batter forms and some small lumps remain. Stir in the onion slices.
- Working in batches and using about 1 tablespoon of the onion mixture for each bhaji, drop the mixture into the hot oil and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bhaji to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle with salt. Serve the hot bhaji with the lime crème fraîche.
As served at Maude: On each serving plate, smear a spoonful of the crème fraîche mixture across the centre of the plate. Place the hot bhaji on top and serve immediately.