How to make Onion Bhajis at home is a question I get asked a lot! It’s one of the most common questions in my Indian cooking classes. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Onion Bhajis, with the exception of my mother in law, of course. And her brother in law it would seem.
Tomorrow is Eid ul Adha and I have an order for 200 of these for a celebration dinner from one of my clients, along with the usual bryani, naans and a couple of curries.
Eid ul Adha is also known as the festival of sacrifice. It is one of the two Eids celebrated by Muslims around the world, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in the name of God, only to be stopped by the Archangel Gabriel and told that it was the greatest test of his faith. We all know this story, don’t we? It would seem we are not so different after all. Eid ul Adha also celebrates the completion of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage by many to Mecca, one of the 5 pillars of Islam.
It is also a day to think of others and to transcend the needs of the self as those who can afford it will sacrifice a lamb or share in the sacrificing of one. One third of whatever you can afford to sacrifice is kept for the family, one third for the neighbours and the final one third to the poor and needy. A wonderful act of charity.
Cultural lesson of the day over! You’ll see from the recipe that onion bhajis are very quick and easy to make at home. And the best thing is, you can even make it ahead (see below). They make great lunchbox fillers too, for adults and kids alike. Onion bhajis are standard starters at Indian restaurants and you can serve them with any condiment you like, like the popular raita and and mango chutney. Take a look at the recipe for Za’atar Yoghurt for a different raita than you’re usually used to.
Make Ahead: You can even make them the day before, place them in the fridge, covered, and reheat in the oven at 200˚C/400˚F for 8-10 minutes when you want them.
Just a quick note on the recipe: make the bhajis hotter/spicier by using more chillies or chilli powder. If you’ve never made Onion Bhajis at home, now’s your chance, let me know how it goes!
- 90g/3 oz gram (chickpea/garbanzo) flour
- 60g/2 oz rice flour
- 1 tsp salt
- half tsp red chilli powder
- half tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp of butter, melted
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 white onions, finely sliced
- 1 - 2 green chillies, (to taste) finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2.5cm/1” ginger, grated or finely chopped
- Small handful fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
- quarter tsp fennel seeds
- quarter tsp cumin seeds
- 500ml/2 cups of vegetable oil, for frying
- Water as needed for the bhaji
- A bowl of water for your hands when frying
- Place the flours, salt, chilli and turmeric powders into a large mixing bowl and mix briefly, no need to sift.
- Add the melted butter and lemon juice and just enough water to form a thick batter.
- Now add the onions, chillies, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander leaves, fennel and cumin and mix thoroughly to get a thick mix. You might need a little more water to lighten it ever so slightly. It doesn’t want to be runny, it wants to be thick enough so that the batter clings to the onions and you can shape it into balls.
- Heat the oil in a wok, balti or deep saucepan over medium high heat. TIP: Drop a tiny bit of batter in the oil. If the batter rises immediately then it’s hot enough to fry.
- Place the bowl of water for your hands close to the wok. We are going to fry our bhajis in batches, how many at a time depends on the size of your wok/pan.
- Line a large plate with 2-3 layers of kitchen paper for the cooked bhajis, to soak up excess oil.
- Wet your hands and shape the bhajis. You could either shape them as balls or flatten them into patties, I prefer them flattened.
- Drop about 5 bhajis into the hot oil.
- Fry until they are a fairly uniform brown all over, about 3-4 minutes. Turn them around a little during frying to achieve uniformity.
- Place the cooked bhajis on the paper lined plate and continue cooking the rest.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.