Last Night’s Dinner: Onion Bhaji and Chili Pea Puffs

by marilynk

Ok, so these were more appetizers or sides, but they were still delicious, so I’m sharing the recipes.

I really like the nutty flavour of buckwheat flour, but haven’t found much variety in the recipes that use it. I wanted to see what else was out there and with a little Googling, I came across this recipe for a baked Onion Bhaji. My family loves Indian food (my parents met and married while working in Hyderabad in the 70’s), but I’ve only ever had deep-fried bhaji that, while always delicious, can be very greasy. I was intrigued by how these baked ones would work and how switching out the channa (chickpea) flour for buckwheat would affect the taste.

The other recipe came from my playing around on Pinterest*. I’m finding it’s becoming a major distraction when I’m on the computer, but I love that I can easily pin pretty or delicious-looking things wherever I happen to be online. Muttar Paneer (peas with cheese) is one of my favourite Indian dishes, so when I saw these bite-size pea and paneer bites, I knew I would like them. I also really liked the modern take on a classic dish.

With recipes in hand, my sister and I did some shopping on Monday, then got together yesterday afternoon to cook. I was surprised at how quickly both these recipes came together – we were finished in about 2 and a half hours, including prep and cooling time to pack everything up.

Onion Bhaji (adapted from Jeena’s Kitchen) – Yields 12 Bhaji

  • 5 small onions
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (this is NOT mexican chili powder – use cayenne or another ground red chili)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 Tbs buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs water
  • olive or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the onions in half then cut into slices about 1/4 inch wide. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions on medium approximately 10 minutes, until they start turning soft and translucent – do not brown them. Take the onions off the heat, add the chili powder, tumeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger. Mix well.

The fixin's for onion bhaji

1/4" slices...give or take

The Spice!

The spices make it so good!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, salt, cumin, and coriander. Add the onion mixture to the flour and stir to coat the onions in the batter. In a small glass, mix the tomato puree with a bit of water to thin it out (I used about 2 Tbs). Stir the tomato paste and water into the onion mixture. The mixture should be wet and easy to stir, but not watery. You can adjust the flour and water to get the right consistency, but be careful not to add too much extra batter or the bhaji will become cake-like.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or drizzle some oil onto your  pan). Place 2 Tbs of the onion mixture onto the pan per bhaji and flatten a little with the back of your spoon. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and drizzle a little oil over the tops of the bhaji. Bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with your favourite chutney.

Waiting to be baked

2 Tbs per bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Chili Pea Puffs (adapted from 101 Cookbooks) – Yields 32 Puffs

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked green peas, lightly mashed
  • 1/4 cup paneer, cut into pea-sized pieces (the original recipe says to crumble, but…paneer just doesn’t crumble!)
  • 2 small green chilis, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat) (I used jalapenos, the original recipe calls for serranos)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or red chili flakes (less to reduce heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 32 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or lightly grease with olive oil).

In a bowl combine the peas, paneer, green chiles, salt, chile powder, and garlic. Mix well.

Chili Pea Puffs

All the fixin's for Chili Pea Puffs

Place one teaspoon of the mixture onto the center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly brush the sides of the wrapper with egg white. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling, fold the ends in and roll to the opposite corner (think burrito wrapping – this led to a few minutes of hysterical laughter over the fact that we were making tiny Chinese-Indian burritos…I think you had to be there).

Making the Puffs

1 tsp on a wonton wrapper

Rolling the burritos

The beginning of the roll

Puffs ready to be baked

One layer on the baking sheet

Place the puffs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove the pan, turn the puffs and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown (Note: I’ve increased the baking time significantly from the original recipe. We followed the times from the original, but the puffs were barely baked. You may need to just watch them and turn them when they’ve browned). Serve immediately with chutney or raita.

Bite-sized Chinese-Indian Burritos!

Finished Chili Pea Puffs

Michelle and I actually made a double batch of the puffs. We baked half, put the other half in a single layer on a baking sheet, then froze them unbaked. Once frozen, I packed them into a plastic container and threw them back in the freezer. They’ll be quick to bake from frozen when I’m ready to have them, but I’ll likely increase the baking time again.

Indian dinner

Masala dosa, onion bhaji, and chili pea puffs.

We decided to share our treats with Mom and Dad, so we let everything cool, then packed them up and picked up Masala Dosa for four at one of our favourite local places, Savoy’s Health Cafe. The onion bhaji, even reheated, tasted exactly like fried bhaji (I think the nuttiness of the buckwheat helps get that fried flavour), but without the super greasy feel. I will definitely be making these again. The chili pea puffs were the standout though. Light, crispy, fresh tasting, and the heat of the chilis was balanced very well with the paneer – even people who don’t like spicy would like these little guys, I think. They’ll definitely make an appearance at my next party. It was a pretty spectacular dinner, if I do say so myself.

*If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, let me know in the comments.


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