Starting from the second half of the year, we have a succession of special occasions one after another, including birthdays, anniversaries and many festivals, that end finally with Valentine’s Day in February. I consciously make an effort to be especially careful during this time about our diet. With all the festive eating happening at almost regular intervals, I need to fill the gaps in between with lots of soups and salads.
I try to create interesting variety with everyday ingredients while staying close to what our taste buds like – spicy, salty, tangy food. We Punjabis are used to eating okra either in onion and tomato masala or crispy fried in a gram flour batter. Crispy fried okra becomes a great finger food/snack. Taking inspiration from that I tried to create a chaat like salad with chickpeas and pomegranate seeds. For those who are not familiar with the word, ‘chaat’ is a popular savoury snack/street food in South Asia, a mixture of fruits, vegetables, crispy fried dough bites and various chutneys.
In my Crispy Fried okra salad I use mint and coriander chutney as a low calorie salad dressing. I’m not very fond of sweet salad dressings, except for in some creamy salads where I mix tahini or yogurt with honey. I think herbs and lemon make the most refreshing dressing for almost all sorts of salads. You can spice it up with green chilli peppers, red chilli flakes, black pepper or even chaat masala (special spice mix for chaat) OR you can keep it mild because it will still have loads of crunch, munch and juice from crispy fried okra, chickpeas and pomegranate.
My husband and I eat it for lunch as main course, but if you are serving it as side, the given quantity is enough for 4-6 people. It’s pretty and yummy enough to adorn a festive table and perfect for taking to potlucks and picnics.
1 kg okra
3/4 cup gram flour
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
A pinch baking powder
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
A small bunch mint leaves
A small bunch coriander leaves
1 green chilli pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
This Is What You Do:
Mix gram flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder in a big bowl. Gradually add water to make a pancake like batter.
Add okra to the batter, mix to coat all pieces with the batter.
Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium low heat. Fry okra in batches for a crispier finish till done.
Meanwhile, mix boiled chickpeas and pomegranate seeds/pearls in a serving bowl/dish.
Add coriander leaves, mint leaves, lemon juice, green chilli pepper, black pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the blender. Blend to make quick salad dressing.
Pour over chickpeas and pomegranate seeds, toss to mix. Add fried okra right before serving so that they don’t get soggy.
Check for seasoning and garnish with some more mint leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.