We joined a Flatbush Farmshare this Spring! Vegetables from the Farm at Miller’s Crossing, fruit from Hepworth Farms and eggs from Brookside Farm farm are delivered to an old Church in the middle of our bustling, crowded Brooklyn neighborhood. They also have milk, yogurt and beef, but I did not decide to buy those. I know what your thinking. “How dull. Another Brooklyn foodie/artist in her up and coming neighborhood trying to fulfill her rural fantasies.” Well, the rural fantasies part…yes totally…but my neighborhood is REALLY not gentrified. No fancy coffee, no boutiques featuring tasteful local designers, no farm to table restaurants, no stores where you can buy overpriced toys that you will like more than your kids do, no ironic bars…none of that. My neighborhood does have a Save-a-thon where a crafty girl like myself can buy puppet making supplies for hundreds of public school students on a very tight budget. Also, the most of the folks who live here are from the Caribbean and there are enough Rastas to support a couple of decent health food stores (that sell gluten-free flours). SO my needs are pretty well met.
But back to the farmshare. Basically, the way it works is that you pay up front for an entire season of food and then pick it up once a week. You volunteer a couple of times to help with distribution. It’s a way of supporting local farmers directly and sharing in the risk they take in order to produce high quality organic food. I am pretty excited to discover that Flatbush has one, and I am also fairly annoyed with myself for not finding it sooner. I have lived in the same apartment since 2007 and I think that the Farmshare started in 2009. Oh well, better late than never.
I ordered one share of vegetables, one share of fruit (although that won’t start until week 3) and 18 eggs. I know, I eat a lot of eggs. Here is what we received and made from the first two deliveries…
- Mesclun and arugula- Eaten for lunches with walnut vinaigrette, boiled eggs bacon and radishes.
- French breakfast radishes- eaten in the salad above and as a radish snack with spicy pepita powder and avocado crema.
- Spinach and Radish tops- sautéed and eaten for breakfasts with eggs
- Lettuce- eaten for lunches with an orange vinaigrette (fresh orange juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne), feta cheese, cilantro and spicy pepitas
- Kale- sautéed and served with Salmon Marinated in Spiced Yogurt with rhubarb chutney.
- Spinach, Turnip Tops and the green parts of spring onions- sautéed and eaten for breakfast with eggs
The turnip tops were from Hakurei Turnips (sometimes called Japanese turnips). They are small and white and very, very pretty. I want to like turnips, but I do not. I have written about this before. I even made up a nice chicken and turnip tagine with green olives and preserved lemons a few years ago, but a good chicken was not in my budget for this week, so I had to come up with something else.
I also had the bulbs some of the greens left from a huge bunch of spring onions. Spring onions deserve high praise. They make every savory thing they come near taste better. Also, so many spring foods are delicate, rare and expensive. I spend stupid amounts of money to eat things like nettles, asparagus, wild mushrooms and tiny strawberries each spring. Of course if I lived in a rural area I would just go forage for these things, but since I am an urban dweller I need to pay for the rural fantasy. Spring onions are cheap and full of flavour.
I made turnip and spring onion pakoras sprinkled with chat masala and they were excellent. I know what you are thinking “Pakoras are deep-fried! Anything will taste good deep-fried!” That is true. I do not usually deep fry things. I pan fry kofta, bake falafel and bake samosa and oven roast my Brussel Sprouts with Honey Lime Sriracha Sauce, all to avoid deep-frying. For some reason though this pakora recipe, which originally used brussel sprouts has always worked out for me. I like to think it is because of the magically good recipe writing at the food blog, The Patterned Plate, where I found it.
The chat masala is my addition. Typically Pakora would be eaten with raita or chutney, but with the chat masala it requires no other condiment. Part of the pleasure of this treat is that you can really taste the spring onion and the turnip and it would be a shame to drown that out with a sauce. I do not think that pakoras are usually sprinkled with chat masala, but they should be. Chat masala is a spice mix that is used for savoury snacks like Aloo Chat. It is different from other masalas because it has a bit of tang to it. I use mango powder for tang, but I have also heard of ground dried pomegranate seeds being used. I think that sumac with a little bit of sugar would be an acceptable substitute as well. Mango powder is not that hard to find if you have access to an Indian grocery, where you will find it under the name “Amchur”. You can also mail order it from Kalustyan’s.
I have made a few batches of these pakora now with as many variations. I ran out of chickpea flour and used garfava flour instead. Garfava flour is mix of chickpea and fava bean flour that is useful for making gluten-free cakes because it creates a moist and fluffy crumb. The bean flavour is tricky to mask in baking but is very welcome here. Fava beans are a classic spring flavour and go well with japanese turnips and spring onions. The garfava flour produces a more cakey and less crispy fritter than straight up chickpea flour. Just use whichever flour is easiest for you to acquire. I also ran out of coriander seed and so I tried one batch with (less) fennel seed. It was delicious! I have been lucky enough to be swimming in Spring onions, but if you cannot find them scallions would work just fine.
I use an asparagus steamer with the metal basket removed. I have this contraption, because it is really useful for small batch canning. It is also useful for deep-frying. It is very narrow, so you don’t have to use so much oil to make it deep and the high sides prevent oil from spattering all over the place. You just have to have a long handled metal slotted spoon for fishing the fritters out when they are done.
TURNIP AND SPRING ONION SPROUT PAKORA adapted from the Brussel Sprout Pakora recipe on The Patterned Plate
* Since making this the first time I have received more turnips and spring onions in my farmshare, along with shell peas which are also fabulous in these pakora (added July 13)
- 1 small bunch of Hakurei Turnips (about 4 oz with the greens removed), coarsely grated
- 1 cup spring onions (whites and greens), thinly sliced
- 1 large handful of chopped fresh cilantro
- a handful of freshly shelled peas (optional)
- 2 green chilies, chopped (seeded if you don’t want heat)
- 1 cup chick pea flour or garfava flour
- 3 tablespoons rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 rounded tablespoon of ground coriander (or 1/2 tsp fennel seed)
- 1 rounded teaspoon of ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- about 1 cup of water
- mild oil for deep-frying
- In a large bowl mix the turnips, spring onions, chili, fresh cilantro and shell peas (if using).
- In a medium bowl, mix both the flours, baking powder, and spices together.
- Gradually add enough water to make at thick but pourable pancake-like batter. It may be a little more or a little less than a cup. Whisk to get all of the lumps out.
- Add enough oil to a saucepan that it is 3-4 inches deep. Start to heat the oil on a medium flame.
- Mix the turnips, chilies and fresh cilantro with the batter and season with salt and pepper.
- Using two spoons, drop about 1 Tablespoon of batter into the hot oil. It should be very hot but not smoking. When you drop the batter in it should sizzle. If it sinks and gets stuck to the bottom of the pan, just nudge it will a spatula. Don’t put in too many at a time as this will drop the oil temperature and/ or cause the pakoras to meld into one big lump. I can do three in my very narrow, tall pot. It will take a few minutes to cook thoroughly. They are done when they puff up a bit and are golden on the outside. It may take some adjusting to get the temperature just right. If your first batch turns dark golden but remains raw inside, your oil is too hot. If a little test blob of dough does not float then the oil is too cool and your pakora will be greasy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate with towels on it. I always test the first few batches to see if they are getting cooked on the inside. Continue with the remaining batter.
- 1 Teaspoon cayenne
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons mango powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Mix all of the spices together, sprinkle it on top of the drained pakora and eat!
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