These crispy, crackly Zucchini-Red Lentil Fritters take inspiration from the traditional Bengali onion snacks called Piyaju (red lentil fritters with onions). Soaked and blended red lentils make up the batter, which is then spiked with turmeric and chile powder. Onion, zucchini and parsley add texture. And frying them in ghee (a hard fat that is obtained by heating butter made from the milk of a cow or a buffalo, used in Indian cooking) at relatively high heat until they turn deep golden brown makes them crunchy on the outside, while the inside stays moist.
While these fritters look like Pakoras or Onion Bhaji known from Indian cuisine, they take their main texture from the soaked and ground red lentils rather than from chickpea flour. Also, the veggie ratio in these frittres is somewhat higher than with a Pakora or Bhaji.
A few years back we made Onion Bhajis with gram flour (aka chickpea flour) as well as Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita for the Cottage Cooking Club, both recipes being from the 2011 edition of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, "River Cottage Everyday Veg". See the pics/collages below. And the whole family loved these. So when I came across the recipe for these Red Lentil-Zucchini Fritters, I knew I had to give it a try.
Before you get started on the recipe, you have to soak the red lentils for a while – I soaked them for a good four hours before proceeding with the recipe.
Also, about an hour before you want to fry these, you have to cut up the onion and the zucchini, salt them and place them in a colander to drain off any extra liquid or moisture before continuing on with the recipe. After you drained the liquid from the veg, make sure to blot them with a kitchen towel, no need to squeeze them, as that will break up the veggies too much and leave you with less texture after frying.
You are aiming for a crispy outside with lots of texture from the added onions as well as the parsley with the tender stems attached – make sure to give them a good two minutes per side, so they fry up to a nice golden brown crunchiness.
Zucchini-Red Lentil Fritters With Lemony Yogurt
(inspired by Sohla El-Waylly)
For the Lemony Yogurt
- ¾ cup whole-milk yogurt (if you prefer, you can use Greek yogurt)
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp sugar
For the Fritters
- 200g (1 cup) red lentils (I used organic lentils from my favorite health food store - althought these are bright orange, they are called red lentils)
- 1 zucchini (M)
- ½ onion (M), thinly sliced
- 1¾ tsp salt, divided, plus more
- ½ tsp chile powder (such as Kashmiri chile powder) or ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 cup Italian/flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
- 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (organic or untreated)
- 1 cup ghee or neutral vegetable oil (such as rapeseed or sunflower oil, suitable for frying)
- Whisk yogurt, lemon juice, and sugar in a small bowl to combine. Season with salt and whisk again to combine. NOTE: Yogurt can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- Rinse red lentils, then soak in 2 cups water at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 12 (again, I soaked them for 4 hours). Soaking the lentils will make it easier to blend them.
- Slice the zuchini into matchsticks (about the size of a skinny french fry). Transfer zucchini to a colander set in a medium bowl. Add the sliced onion and 1 tsp salt to colander and toss to combine. Let zucchini and onion sit until about 1 Tbsp liquid has released and the vegetables look wilted and soft, 30mins to 2 hours (for me, 1 hour usually does the trick). Gently blot dry to remove any excess moisture. NOTE: the less moisture in the veggies, the less soggy your fritters will be, so be sure not to skip this step.
- Drain lentils and transfer to a food processor. Add chile powder, turmeric, and ¾ tsp salt. Pulse, scraping down sides, until a purée forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and add zucchini and onion mixture, parsley, and lemon zest. Toss well with a rubber spatula to combine.
- Heat ghee in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high until a small amount of batter added to the fat sizzles and sputters. Carefully drop ¼ cup batter into ghee, then flatten to a pancake with the back of a large metal spoon dipped into the hot ghee to prevent sticking. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 fritters. Fry until deep golden brown on one side (look for the color of a well-fried falafel), about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn with a slotted spatula or large spoon and continue to fry until deep golden brown on the second side, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer fritters to a wire rack set in a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Season immediately with salt. Repeat with remaining batter (you should have about 8 to 10 fritters).
- Transfer fritters to a platter. Serve hot with lemony yogurt alongside.
For more on the Onion Bhajis, pls take a look HERE.
For more on the Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita, pls thake a look HERE.