In My Indian Kitchen. December 2016

Curries, dhals, chutneys and spices are often present in my kitchen. Inspired by a new cookbook, Spice Kitchen, by Ragini Dey, I’ve been making a few onion Bhajees and curries of late. I borrowed this book from the library two months ago, and as I found it difficult to return, I realised I needed my own copy. Libraries can be dangerous like that. Unlike many of my other Indian cookbooks, this one doesn’t list too many ingredients. It also has that Indian- Australian modern touch.

Spice Kitchen
Spice Kitchen by Rajini Dey. Published 2013, Hardie Grant Books.

Every time Mr Tranquillo opened the spice drawer, millions of little packets of seeds and spices threatened to tumble out, assaulting his senses on the way. He called it the Dark Arts drawer, so I was forced to sort it out. Below is my orderly spice drawer: now all the spices are fresh and some even have labels. The freshest spices in Melbourne come from BAS Foods, Brunswick, where they pack spices weekly in their warehouse next door.

Dark arts drawer.
The Dark Arts drawer.

An old Tibetan Bell with Dorje lives near the kitchen. I was so devoted to my first Dorje bell, bought in India in 1978-9, that I called my youngest son Jack Dorje, a name that really suits him.

Tibetan Bell reminds me of India and my son Jack

I found some good quality green prawns yesterday so the Bhajee recipe was given another trial, this time with prawns. I added some cumin seeds and chopped spring onion to the batter. I’ve always had a stand-by pakora batter recipe but this version is sensational. The key is the addition of white vinegar to the batter mix. (recipe below). Served with a mango chutney for dipping and a crisp wine, we watched the sunset highlighting the ridges along the horizon, our own Von Guerard view, a reminder that life is good.

Prawn pakora or Bhaji.
Prawn pakora/ bhaji.

Two days ago I made the Rajma Curry from my new book. Such a simple version and so easy to whip up. Have you noticed that curry tastes better when left for a day or two? The Rajma ( red bean) curry turned into this morning’s baked beans and poached egg breakfast. A breakfast fit for an Indian Queen, especially with a cup of Chai.

Rajma ( red bean) curry with poached egg and yoghurt.

This year I am attempting a Christmas free December, but I couldn’t resist this little Indian ornament from Ishka. I love the half price sales at Ishka. Going there allows me to openly embrace my inner hippy. Although that’s not too difficult.

Ishka bells, Ishka bells....
Ishka bells, Ishka bells….blah blah all the way. Oh no, those songs are back.

And now for Spice Kitchen‘s recipe for Onion Bhajees. ( photo for these are on the header at the top of this post ). Pop on an evening Raga or a famous Bollywood playback singer to get into the mood. Eat them with the setting sun.


  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 55 gr besan ( chick pea ) flour
  • pinch of chilli powder
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • vegetable or canola oil for deep-frying.

Mix together the onion, besan, chilli powder, turmeric, vinegar and salt in a bowl.

Add 1/4- 1/2 cup of water to the mixture gradually, and mix together until the besan coast the onion. There should be just enough besan mixture to hold the onion slices together. The amount of water required to achieve this consistency will depend on the type of besan you use as some besan flours retain more liquid that others.

Heat the oil in a wok to 180c. Deep fry a few Bhajees at a time for about 6-8 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels and serve hot.

My Notes.

I prefer to mix the batter first then add the onion rings to the batter. Mix the batter to a custard like consistency for onion Bhajees or thicker for pakora coating. The batter must be thick enough to hold the onion rings to it.

I don’t use a kitchen thermometer. I test the oil by immersing a chop stick and if the oil bubbles around the stick, it’s ready.

Make the batter a little thicker to coat prawns. I doubled the amount of batter for 14 large tiger prawns.

I add other things to Indian frying batters, such as cumin seeds or nigella seeds, just for fun and flavour.

My onion bhajees cooked much faster than the time suggested in the original recipe above. They really don’t take more than a minute or two. Many are eaten by kitchen hoverers and never make it to the plate.

prawn pakora
prawn pakora with mango chutney.

Thanks Liz, once again, for hosting this amazing series. While IMK may seem to have a life of its own, it flounders without someone organised like Liz, from Good Things at the helm. By opening the link, you can discover other kitchens from around the globe. Why not write one yourself?

33 thoughts on “In My Indian Kitchen. December 2016”

  1. Francesca, I love your bells, darling friend. And I, too, did a tree-free Christmas last year. Not sure how we will fare in 2016. Time will tell. Thank you for the very kind words and a happy December to you and yours XXXX


  2. This sounds like my kind of December! I must see if my library has a copy of that book. I am currently salivating my way through Tasting India by Christine Manfield. It’s a hefty tome, way too gorgeous to take into the kitchen, but totally droolworthy. We declare our house a turkey and pudding free zone every Christmas, just can’t avoid the “C” word altogether. How do the grandkids let you get away with it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have that Chris Manfield book too- more of a coffee table read. Love it. The 6 grandchildren don;t know yet that Nanna is on strike. I’m nit having Christmas here, not my turn, but plan to avoid most of the larger gatherings in my search for a meaningful event. It has become too large and annoying.


  3. Just when I tell myself I don’t need another cookbook, this looks and sounds intriguing. The thought of that batter on prawns is very tasty indeed. We had some veggie pakoras last night at an Indian restaurant and some of my friends having never tried them we most impressed. (Hard to believe they got to their mid 40’s having never tried them.!) Good luck with a peaceful December with a touch of your inner hippy.


    1. It is hard to imagine your friends have never eaten pakoras. They have been on the scene in Australia since the 70s. But then some folk don’t really like/ eat Indian food. Pakoras and Bhajees are our home junk food. Watch them fly off the plate. Pity the poo cook ( me) at the frypan….
      My inner hippy is always close by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love a good Onion Bhajee (and other bhajees as well). Thanks for the recipe! I had all my spices in labeled jars on a shallow bookshelf shelf back in the UK, but here in Athens I am trying to convert a pile of packets wrapped with rubber bands into a more systematic system in jar, labelled in both Greek and English. I’m sure that this is very anal, but it drives me crazy otherwise! I like that term ‘Dark Arts Drawer’!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had that same problem with cookbooks at the library lately. Some I just don’t want to return and feel the need to get them for myself. That book looks incredible. Good Indian food is hard to find in my small city to cooking it myself seems to be the answer. I wonder if we have that book here somewhere, something to look into. I must confess I’ve never had pakoras, again lack of good restaurants. I must change this soon and cook some.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love indian food – especially bhajis, but they don’t love me back. Or maybe it’s just that I eat too many in one sitting! It’s lovely to see that you are enjoying Ragini’s book – she is one of Adelaide’s true treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mmmm I love a good spice drawer and am happy for my olfactory senses to be assaulted thus! And Indian flavours-food. On my To Cook list.
    Christmas free December is wonderful. Ours is Christmas lite. Had to do some on-demand gift buying but via the internet. We’re visiting my family this year so no decs or tree for us. Only the essence of Christmas, baking a few nice things and burning my Crabtree & Evelyn Noel oil for festive fragrance.
    Wonderful bells… treasure.


  8. that Tibetan bell is a thing of beauty. yes curries always taste better the day after after melding together in the fridge.:) we are having a “small” xmas as we will be away but still there are 2 trees up and lots of lights…have a wonderful festive season.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I do love a good onion bhaji. and these look well tasty. I have not heard of the cookbook and like you love to frequent libraries until of course i have to buy the book that i have been hogging for way too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A well stocked spice drawer makes me very happy 🙂 Your onion bahjees look very good… in fact, everything in your post looks amazing. I have a hankering for Indian now! This year is the first year in about four years that we have gotten the tree out. I didn’t trust my children when they were small, and they’re probably still a bit too young to leave it alone. I’m constantly cleaning up ornaments they’ve pulled off the tree. I will have to re-evaluate next year (also, I hate tidying it away!)


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