REGION: Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal

Across the subcontinent it is common to hear or smell something sizzling in oil by the side of the road, usually at a bus stop or somewhere busy, where the vendor will skilfully scoop up a little bit of batter, containing anything from onion to cauliflower or broccoli, and swirl it around in the hot oil. Their crispy pakoras hit the spot every time. Served with a dip of some sort, I’ve included the recipe for tamarind chutney and yoghurt dipping sauce below, they are filling and delicious — and coming out of that hot oil they are generally safe, too.

Making them at home is easy. Just be sure to cut the vegetables to the same size, so they cook through evenly.

REGION: Pakistan

Used in cooling drinks and refreshing dipping sauces such as this, as well as for marinating meats for the tandoor, yoghurt has long been an important part of Pakistan’s cuisine, thanks to its centuries-old Mughlai influences. The tandoor oven was in fact invented in Pakistan, so feel free to also serve this refreshing sauce with anything pulled out of the tandoor’s fiery depths.

REGION: Sri Lanka

Tamarind chutney is like the subcontinent’s Vegemite – delicious as a condiment and great when added to a curry to thicken and enhance the flavours. Sweet but tart, and sometimes very sour, the fl avour of tamarind is potent, so a little goes a long way, which is why it is often mixed with sugar, and/or diulted, to mellow its strong taste. Tamarind makes a great base for sauces, marinades and stews.


Serves: 4 | Preparation: 30 mins | Cooking: 5 mins per batch | Skill: Easy

• 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) rice bran oil or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
• 40 g (1½ oz/1 cup) chopped spinach or kale
• 125 g (4½ oz/1 cup) chopped cauliflower
• 60 g (2¼ oz/1 cup) chopped broccoli
• 1 onion, cut into rings
• black sesame seeds, to garnish
• coriander (cilantro) sprigs, to garnish
• Tamarind chutney (page 220), Yoghurt pakora dipping sauce (page 252)

• 100 g (3½ oz) chickpea flour (besan)
• 100 g (3½ oz) tempura flour
• ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, dry-roasted and ground, or ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
• ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
• a generous pinch of salt

Makes: 1 x 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) jar | Preparation: 15 mins | Skill: Easy

• 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
• 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
• 250 g (9 oz) plain yoghurt

Makes: 2 x 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jars | Preparation: 30 mins | Cooking: 1¼ hours | Skill: Easy

• 450 g (1 lb) tamarind pulp
• 150 g (5½ oz) ghee
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 5 garlic cloves, crushed
• 10 cm (4 inch) knob of fresh young ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
• 650 g (1 lb 7 oz) raw sugar
• 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
• 350 ml (12 fl oz) white vinegar
• 2 fresh curry leaf sprigs, leaves picked
• 2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
• 1 teaspoon salt



For the batter, place all the ingredients in a bowl, add 200 ml (7 fl oz) water and whisk together until smooth. The mixture should be like a thick pancake batter.

Heat the rice bran oil in a sturdy wok or heavy-based saucepan to 180°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 15 seconds.

To make the pakoras, take either individual pieces of your chosen vegetable, or a combination of them, and place into the batter to lightly coat. Carefully add a few pakoras to the hot oil, allowing them to clump together. Don’t put too many in at once, or the oil will cool, and the pakoras will be limp and soggy. Cook for 3–5 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown, then remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve warm, with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, coriander sprigs and a dipping sauce of your choice.


Using a mortar and pestle, mix the garlic and ginger together. Transfer to a bowl, add the yoghurt and mix well.

Use straight away, or spoon into a sterilised jar, seal and refrigerate. This sauce will keep in the fridge for 2 days.


Soak the tamarind pulp in 350 ml (12 fl oz) warm water for 5 minutes, then push through a fine sieve, into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and discard any fibres.

Heat half the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over medium–low heat and cook the onion, garlic and ginger for 3–5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, stirring regularly.

Add the reserved tamarind water, the sugar, chilli flakes and vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 hour, or until the mixture has reduced by about three-quarters and is thick and pulpy.

Heat the remaining ghee in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds and shake the pan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, then immediately add to the tamarind mixture with the salt, stirring well. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Spoon into two hot sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. Store in the fridge, and allow to settle for a week or two before using. This chutney will keep in the fridge for up to 1 year.