Welcome to the first recipe post in our new blog series. Over time we'll be sharing some of our best local travel tips, along with delicious healthy recipes to help you recreate nutritient dense food at home, and tales from the hillside as we build our new life here in Liguria. So I'm kicking off the recipes with one of my all-time favourite bhaji recipes. Mostly because it's made with beetroot which are simply one of the greatest vegetables. I think I've always loved them but then fell for them even harder after reading Tom Robbins' ode to their secrets of immortality in one of his weird and wonderful books Jitterbug Perfume... "The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious."
These healthy baked Indian-style crispy pakora are gently spiced with cumin and fennel seeds. You can substitute the beetroot for other veggies, like aubergine, lightly cooked sweet potato, courgette or simply more onion, if you prefer. Did you know fennel seeds have many exceptional health benefits, including regulating digestion, blood pressure and appetite, so it’s worth getting hold of some for this recipe. Although it’s still delicious without them.
I serve these with a veggie-packed yoghurt raita, generously spiked with sharp and tangy pomegranate seeds making the perfect flavour pop, especially alongside the beetroot. This dish is jam packed with healthy nutrients, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. You can make this raita with any tender raw veggies, or simply choose one.
The raw veggies, natural yoghurt and pomegranate serve up a big helping of prebiotics and probiotics, which support a healthy gut. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that the human body cannot digest. They serve as food for probiotics, which are tiny living micro-organisms that form our healthy gut bacteria. Pomegranates are also jam-packed with antioxidants, up to three times more than green tea or red wine. It's these antioxidants that protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation and the effects of aging.
Ingredients- Serves 2 / 30 mins. prep
To make Baked Beetroot/Beet Pakora:
1 tbsp unflavoured coconut oil
1 small/med brown onion, peeled & finely sliced
1 large or 2 small cooked beetroot, diced into 1-2cm cubes
1–3 small green chillies/chiles, finely chopped, or 1⁄2 tsp dried chilli/chile powder or flakes, adjust to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1⁄2 tbsp fennel seeds
50g chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (gram flour)
80 ml / 1/3 cup of cold water
Large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
To make the veggie raita:
6-8 large tbsp / approx. 160ml unsweetened coconut or plain yoghurt
1⁄2 small carrot, peeled & grated
1⁄2 small red onion, peeled & finely diced
1⁄4 green or red pepper, finely diced
1⁄4 cucumber, deseeded & grated
2 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
Large pinch of cumin powder
Small handful of fresh coriander and/or mint leaves, finely chopped
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4. Heat the oil in a small frying pan/skillet or wok and sauté the onion gently for 5-7 minutes until well softened. Add the cooked beetroot, chopped fresh chillies/chiles or chilli/chili powder, cumin seeds, fennel seeds (if using) and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Sift the chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (gram flour) into the pan and add 80 ml of cold water, coriander/cilantro and salt. Mix well.
Line a baking with parchment/baking paper and drizzle/rub with 1⁄2 tbsp coconut oil. Use a dessert spoon to drop spoonfuls of the pakora mixture gently onto the tray. Flatten slightly to create 4-5 small fritter shapes, ensuring the pakora are well spaced apart. Place in the oven at 190C fan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
Prepare all the veg for the raita. Squeeze out the excess water from the grated cucumber. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and/or cumin if preferred. Serve in bowl with extra sprinkle of cumin powder. This raita will keep in fridge for 3-4 days.
Serve the hot crispy pakora with a big dollop of raita on the side. Enjoy :)