Lots and lots of mini onion bhajis! (RECIPE)

Today, the children’s school were having a party in their classroom to celebrate Eid – and somewhere last week in a fit of madness, I’d enthusiastically offered to make something savoury for them to take in to share with their class, like samosas or something. That enthusiasm had wilted by half past seven this morning, as I realised I hadn’t done it, and there was no space in the morning uniform-teeth-breakfast flail to start mucking about stuffing tiny little triangles of filo pastry with whatever bits of veg were in the fridge. So. A quick root around in the bottom drawer yielded a world of onions, and a batch of little onion bhajis. These have no chilli in, as I was making them for a class of 4 and 5 year olds, but feel free to add one or two finely chopped red chillies for a bit of spice. I also used a mix of red and white onions, for extra sweetness. And Allegra tossed some cinnamon in at the eleventh hour, for even more sweetness. Most cooking exploits are a joint effort these days! Makes 30 mini bhajis:

100g gram flour
50g plain flour
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
A pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter, melted
Juice of a lemon (or 3 tbsp bottled lemon juice)
2 tbsp mango chutney
3 large onions
Oil, for deep frying.

First weigh out your flour and tip into a large mixing bowl. (If you’re in a rush or don’t have scales, 1 rounded tbsp of flour is equal to around 15g, so you want about 7 rounded tbsp of gram flour and 4 rounded tbsp of plain.) Add the fennel, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, grate in the ginger, and finely chop the garlic and add to the mix. Give it all a good stir to evenly distribute the spices so you don’t end up with one seriously interesting bhaji and 29 slightly boring ones…

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and pour into the middle, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Mix well, and add a splash of cold water to loosen the mixture until it resembles a thick batter – it should stick to your spoon but be loose enough to stir.

Peel and halve the onions, and slice very finely. Add them to the bowl with a couple of tablespoons of mango chutney and give it all a good stir, until the onions are coated in your spicy yellow batter. Take a teaspoon of it and dollop it into your palm – if you can form a loose ball with it, it’s good to go. If it’s too sloppy, add a tablespoon or two of flour, and if it’s too tight, add a small splash of water.

Fill a saucepan a third full with oil for frying, and place on a medium-high heat. When it starts to gently bubble (that’s little tiny bubbles sizzling to the surface, not great big rolling scary oil bubbles), drop a blob of batter in. If it sizzles and floats, turn the heat down a little so it doesn’t get carried a away, and you’re good to go. Dollop a teaspoon at a time into the oil, shaping with your hands if you want neat little rounds ones. Each mini bhaji takes around 4 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them – when they’re golden brown and floating, lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on some kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Repeat until all the batter is used up.

I let the oil cool on the back of the hob, then strained it through a mesh sieve, poured it into a bottle, and labelled it ‘Frying – Spicy!’ – I figured I could get another turn out of it. When I was writing my first cookbook I included this as a tip in one of my recipes, and was told by my publishers that for health and safety reasons they had to take it out. Obviously I’m not making any recommendations here about cooling and reusing oil, I’m just telling you what I did, wink wink. (And what most restaurants, fast food joints, and fish and chip shops that I’ve had the pleasure of working in do too. Honestly, the world has gone health and safety mad.)

Anyway. BHAJIS! Allow them to cool, then nosh on. Or send them into your children’s class in a Tupperware and wave them sadly goodbye…

Jack Monroe (with a starring role from Allegra McEvedy!)

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack



  1. I love that you explain exactly HOW to cook them. I like the addition of mango chutney and cinnamon :0) Do you think this would work with just gram flour? I’m gluten intolerant you see.

  2. I tried the courgette loaf and it was marvellous so I tried it again, 5 times in all. :I’ve sent the recipe to my diabetic brother, cake veteran extraordinaire!!! IT IS A HIT WITH OUR FAMILY!!!!

  3. I agree with manchesterflickchick – the method is so clear. Bhajis are new to me, but look and sound wonderful and I feel confident giving them a try. Thank you, Jack!

  4. My mum used to keep the chip pan of dripping going for a couple of weeks! (The dripping was poured into a pudding basin and stored in the fridge, to be fair. And no, none of us ever suffered! Good for you.

  5. I’m going to have to try these. Your peach, tomato and chickpea curry has become a staple in our house and these would go great with it.

  6. Love this recipe. I will try this with my Year 9 students in a Food Tech. Love the book. Looking forward to your new one.

  7. If like me, you need a gluten free recipe, these work using all gram flour but with the addition of one egg white. They may work without the egg but I was unsure about getting them to stick together without the gluten in the plain flour.

  8. We filter the oil through a coffee filter paper too. It takes a little longer but filters it cleaner. I’ll definitely be trying these bhajis, thanks.

  9. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  10. sounds good,

    some versions use a mix of gram flour and rice flour – for crispness or texture, i think.

    If you’ve no onions, just make them without, just gram flour, spices, then mix it with water, yoghurt, lemon juice,
    And deep fry. If mixed thick, it makes balls that take a few minutes, or mix it thin and it makes a stringy type of thing, which cooks almost instantly, a bit like the stuff in Bombay mix.

    ( I’d add a bit of salt too, but that’s just personal preference).

  11. My grandmother kept her chip pan in the porch. She blithely scraped the mouse pawprints out before frying chips. I am still going strong at 62!!

  12. You made this BEFORE school? With 2 little people to get ready? Amazing, I can barely manage to make my little person’s sandwich for daycare in the morning.

  13. It works really well with leftover mashed potato and bombay mix added in as well (from a pakora recipe by Pat Chapman – Curry Club) although mashed potato in our house is an alien concept

    The mashed potato makes it extra fluffy and the bombay mix adds in a nice crunch from the peanuts and the sev crunchy noodles

  14. Delicious and so simple to make – I decided to make them flat, as fritters instead of the usual bhaji shape, and they turned out perfectly crispy and spicy (with the addition of a couple of chilis). Great recipe!

  15. I have just made these as a trial run for vegan friends coming over on Friday. I loved buying the gram flour from friendly local store, and – they are delicious! I was worried about deep frying, but coped well. Thank you for this great resource of excellent recipes! Kathrynxx

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