Every growing season, we tend to find a wildcard, which in our case refers to that one key produce that seems to fill our shelves and then some, two years ago it was the zucchini leading to recipes like my zucchini and lemon thyme flatbreads, last year it was the broccoli leading to recipes such as my broccoli Manchurian and this year seems to be the year of the green bean. Actually, to be precise the string bean, because right alongside the green, we have had the yellow, purple and red ones as well.
Which in some ways is probably a great veggie to have in abundance as it freezes beautifully, and is also great for pickling in fact, pickling the green beans has been my new adventure this year, along with some experimental salads. High in Vitamins C and K, minerals like copper, iron, potassium and manganese and rich in fiber, the beans pack a nutritional power house, but for me it is always about taste, or at least taste first.
But, let us talk taste and what I did last weekend. I took advantage of the cooler temperatures to make a batch of vada or vadai’s, a crisp and crunchy savory lentil doughnut that my kids like to call the Indian falafel. Along with the green beans I threw in a carrot, mostly because I had it around and I like the mix of colors. There are inherent similarities between both these variations of crispy, crunchy goodness the difference being in the spicing, a vada is seasoned usually with ginger, onions and some spicy green peppers such as jalapenos or seranos.
For the batter, the most common variety of lentils used are the white husked lentils sold in Indian stores as urad dal. Black eyed peas are used for a specialty version of these savory doughnuts and in this instance, I have suggested black eyed peas. While you can experiment with other lentils, folks, I am guessing there is a reason why these are the tested and tried varieties and no point in messing with something that has already been tried out for you. Before I move on to the recipe, I want to strongly warn you not to skimp on the soaking of the beans or lentils, that is what helps in softening them to the right texture for grinding and no, these cannot be made with canned beans. Enjoy these with a chutney, or try them as a vegetarian burger with a creative salsa or even just ketchup.
Then we move on to the shape, the vadas are loosely shaped with a hole in the center, much like a doughnut, the purpose of this shape is to offer room for more crisp surface area and quicker and even cooking. The key is to have a crisp dark golden exterior and a flavorful light tasting interior. These vadas are a specialty of Southern India, and this black eyed pea variation is usually served with saucy gravies, such as a chicken curry much like a crisp bread and of course served as a snack or meal on its own.
A savory black-eyed pea doughnut or crispy vada with green beans, that is a south Indian specialty.
- 1 cup of black-eyed peas (see notes on use of lentils)
- 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
- 2 green chilies such as a jalapeno or to taste
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¾ pounds of trimmed green beans
- 1 medium sized red onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
- Chickpea flour if needed for binding
- Oil for deep frying
- Soak the black-eyed peas overnight, and then drain well. Place in a blender and pulse a few times. Add in the ginger, green chilies and salt and slowly grind into a paste. It is important to avoid adding in water while doing this, it will take some focus between pulsing and grinding to get this down to a paste and depending on your blender you might want to first process in the food processor and then add in the blender. If you have to, add in a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Place the batter in a mixing bowl.
- Place the green beans in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Mix into the batter with the red onions and cilantro leaves.
- Heat the oil in a skillet or wok.
- Shape the batter into a small circle with a hole in the center, this can be done on parchment paper on your palm. If you have added water and the mixture is too wet, you can add a little chickpea flour, however, again this will make the mixture harder than you would like, when frying.
- Gradually lower the vada into the oil, the vada should hold shape and the oil should begin to bubble. If you are unfamiliar with doing this, it might be a good idea to test with a small bit of the batter, if your batter separates, you might have too much moisture in the water.
- Gradually shape and place about 3 or 4 of these and place into the oil. The pan should not be crowded you should have enough room to move these around. Let them cook undisturbed on one side for a good 4 to 5 minutes and turn and cook the second side. We are trying to get a rich and crisp golden brown color.
- Remove, place on paper towels for a minute or two and serve hot.
Most of the prep time includes soaking the beans overnight.