Monday 21 July 2014

Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal

Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Anyone else have a glut of zucchini in their garden right now? Yeah, thought so :-) I actually came up with this bhaji recipe last summer when we were in a similar situation and we just absolutely love these. They have great flavour and texture and best of all - they use up a LOT of zucchini! I made loads of these last summer and I suspect the same thing will happen this year. It's taken me so long to post them as I kept thinking I should blog them with something even though I usually just make these on their own to snack on, preferably with some mango chutney and a chilled beer! 

I decided they would be nice dipped into my tarka dal which is just a very basic version using common cupboard ingredients, probably not very traditional but certainly has far less fat than the versions you get in restaurants ;-) I keep my dal mild for my son but feel free to throw in some chillies, with seeds or not - up to you!
Zucchini Bhaji - vegan and gluten-free!
The bhaji's are good hot or cold so would be great to pack on a picnic and they are perfect with some mango chutney. They would also be good used like falafel in a wrap or a pitta with some salad and chilli sauce, lots of options! They also freeze and reheat beautifully, just defrost and lightly pan fry till warm :-)
Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Zucchini Bhaji

makes about 10 fritters.

500g grated zucchini (you'll need about 600g prior to grating)
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mild curry powder
1 fresh red chili, finely chopped, I de-seed mine, if you want them hotter leave them in.
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 
1 large onion, diced
1 “egg”:
     1 Tbsp cornstarch
     1/8 tsp xanthan gum
     1/8 tsp gluten free baking powder
     1/8 tsp turmeric
     1 tsp peanut oil (or melted coconut oil)
     50 ml water
80ml (1/3 cup) unsweetened soy, coconut or almond milk
140g (1 cup + 1 Tbsp) Gram flour*
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder 
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

*Gram flour is also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour or besan.

Top and tail the zucchini then grate, preferably in a food processor with the grating attachment. Tip the zucchini into a colander, sprinkle generously with salt and toss well, massaging the salt into the zucchini. Don't worry about the amount of salt as it will be rinsed off, this is to draw out the water from the zucchini so you don't end up with soggy bhaji! 

Leave for 20 mins then rinse under cold water. Now take handfuls of the grated zucchini and squeeze as much water out as you can then spread out on a clean dish towel. Cover with another clean dish towel and press down getting the zucchini as dry as you can. Tip into a bowl and separate it all with a fork.

Gently fry the chilli, garlic and onion in the coconut oil with some black pepper until soft. Add the curry powder and fry gently for 1 minute more. Set aside. 

Make the "egg": In a small bowl add the cornstarch, xanthan gum, baking powder and turmeric and whisk. Mix together the water and oil in a small glass. Slowly add the liquid to the dry whisking all the while until it is all added then whisk really well until the mixture is really thick and gloopy. This takes a little while - if your arms don't hurt, you haven't whisked enough! Now start whisking in the milk a little bit at a time again whisking really well after each addition so it stays on the thick side.

In a medium bowl add the gram flour, salt and baking powder. Add the zucchini, “egg”/milk mixture and fried mixture and stir with a fork until really well blended. There should be no more flour showing and you should have a thick mixture.
Preheat the oven to 120C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Pour enough peanut oil in a medium size fry pan to cover the bottom and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the pan. Flatten slightly with a fork and fry until golden then flip and fry the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up adding more oil if need be.

When the fritters are cooked transfer to the prepared sheet to keep them warm in the oven. I also do this to ensure the fritters get fully cooked in the middle. They will keep happily in a low temperature oven for even up to half an hour. I usually make the fritters first and keep them warming in the oven while I make the dal.

EDIT: I've since discovered that these can also be BAKED! Just line a baking sheet with baking paper and lightly grease. Preheat the oven to 200C and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the sheet. Shape and press down lightly with the spoon. Bake for 15 minutes or until fully cooked and lightly golden brown on top. They come baked really light and fluffy, like little bhaji clouds :-)
Zucchini Bhaji - vegan and gluten-free!

Tarka Dal:

serves 2 generously, 3 as a small side

240g (1¼ cup) dry red split lentils
250ml (1 cup) water
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp mild curry powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped 
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp vegan butter

Rinse lentils well, place in saucepan and cover with cold water (not the 1 cup listed in the recipe, just cover them with water). Bring to boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with hot water and place back in the pot with the measured water, turmeric and curry powder. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes adding more water a bit at a time if need be until the lentils are fully cooked and there is very little water left.

Meanwhile heat 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and fry the cumin seeds a few seconds. Add the onion and fry until slightly golden brown, about 10 minutes. With a few minutes left add the garlic (you can add a finely chopped chilli now if you want more heat, keep in mind this is a mild dal). Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.

Stir this into the lentils along with the garam masala, salt and 1 Tbsp vegan butter. Stir until the butter melts and everything is well blended. 
Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Nutritional Information:

For 1 Bhaji out of 10:
Calories: 103
Protein: 4.1g
Fat: 4.7g
Sat Fat: 1.2g
Fibre: 2.3g
Carbs: 11.7g
Sugar: 3.1g
Sodium: 138mg

For 1/2 of the tarka dal:
Calories: 300
Protein: 11.4g
Fat: 13.3g
Sat Fat: 7.3g
Fibre: 7.4g
Carbs: 36.6g
Sugar: 6.8g
Sodium: 904mg

Still have too much zucchini?? A couple of my favourites...
Zucchini, Lemon and Dill
Soup with Orzo
Beer Battered Zucchini Sticks
with Ranch Dip


  1. You know when they ask the condemned prisoner what they want to eat for their last meal? This is IT for me. Oh BABY these look great and when coupled with dal they would be sublime. I can imagine them wrapped up in a pita with salad and some kind of delicious vegan dressing and now I am salivating even though I just ate breakfast. Not a chance that I am not going to make these...aside from its the middle of winter in Tasmania and zukes are rapidly approaching the gold standard at the moment...maybe I will have to use something in season...hmmm...

    1. :-D haha, best comment ever! Thanks, hope you like them, would love to hear how you get on subbing the zucchini!

  2. We love dal and eat it regularly, but I never though of serving it with bhaji. Brilliant idea! A nice change from the wholemeal pitta bread we always have ours with.

  3. Hi, would the bhaji work using a regular egg and wheat flour? They look delicious but I would like to make them using things I already have around the house.

    1. Hi! I wouldn't be able to say for sure but I'm sure a regular egg would work just fine. As for the flour, you really need the gram flour for these to have the taste and texture of a bhaji, regular flour may very well work but I imagine it would be more like a zucchini pancake (not that that is a bad thing! ;-)

  4. I had never tried bhajis before and I must say I'm impressed... Those were so fun and tasty ! I baked them without any oil yet their texture was perfect. I'll be making the dal tonight. Thanks Debbie! :)

    1. So sorry for the late posting of your comment Myriam, this one missed me somehow! So glad you liked them and I hope the dal was enjoyed :-) Thanks for the comment!


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