I’m a keen home cook but I have say that I don’t usually experiment with recipes I know well. If an old favourite works, and everyone enjoys it, then it probably doesn’t need much improving on.
Sometimes though, there will be the odd one that I think could do with a bit of tinkering.
This recipe is an adaptation of Alastair Hendy’s sweetcorn and sweet potato bhajia (from his Cooking For Friends book). I’ve always found them not quite crunchy enough for my taste, so I’ve given them a bit more texture. The dip to go with them is another adaptation by mixing Indonesian and Burmese flavours.
Sweet vegetable bhajia. Serves 2.
110g/4oz tinned sweetcorn kernels
Half of a medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 small sweet potato, grated
3 tablespoons of plain white flour
3 tablespoons of rice flour
100ml/⅜ cup of water
Corn or groundnut oil for deep frying, enough to fill a deep fat frier
Drain the tin of sweetcorn and then slice, grate and chop the vegetables, adding them all to a mixing bowl. Whilst doing this, heat up the corn or groundnut oil in a deep fat frier to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F.
You can cook these in a deep wok or pan, but I’d recommend using a proper cooking thermometer for checking the oil temperature.
Add the tablespoons of plain and rice flour to the vegetables and then, a little at a time, pour in the water and stir the mixture. It may not need the full measure of water, depending on the flour you’re using.
What you should see is a thick paste beginning to bind the vegetables together. If it looks too thin and watery try adding more plain flour a dessertspoon at a time and stirring.
Once your oil is heated up; using either a metal slotted spoon, or other metal utensil, take about a tablespoon size of the veg mixture and gently slide it into the hot oil. Have another metal spoon handy, in case the vegetable mixture sticks on the holding spoon.
Fry, turning once, for 4-5 minutes a side, or until they go deep golden brown.You can fry two, possibly three, tablespoons of the mixture at the same time, depending on the size of your frier or pan, but don’t overcrowd them.
Once browned remove to drain on kitchen paper in a warm oven or on a warmed plate. Eat as soon as possible along with the dip.
Spicy kecap dip
This dip is entirely optional, you can just use your favourite brand of soy sauce, but it does compliment the sweet flavours of the bhajia. For vegans and vegetarians: the prawn balachaung can be left out, adding some dried red chilli flakes to give it a spicy kick would work.
100ml/⅜ cup of hot water with two teaspoons of tamarind paste or 200ml/⅞ cup of hot water with a dessertspoon of tamarind pulp
Half a teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons of kecap manis (I use ABC brand)
1 teaspoon of prawn balachaung (I use Chinthe brand)
If using tamarind pulp rather than paste: be sure to soak the pulp in hot water for 15-20 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon, before draining and reserving the tamarind flavoured water in a bowl.
Otherwise; stir two teaspoons of tamarind paste in 100ml of hot water, allow to cool a little and then add the ginger, kecap manis and prawn balachaung and whisk together with a fork.
This can be made ahead of the bhajia but keep it at room temperature rather than in a fridge.