A great Indian snack that goes down a treat with a cold beer – these paneer cheese-stuffed chillies are dipped in a gram (chickpea) flour batter that gives a fabulous nutty flavour. This is a recipe that is very easily doubled or even tripled to feed a party crowd. To get ahead, stuff the chillies and chill in the fridge for up to 3 days, then make up the batter and fry just before serving.
Place the tamarind in the boiling water, breaking it up with a fork to make a thick, chunky paste, and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Set a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds, toasting for a minute until you can smell their aroma wafting up from the pan. Tip into a small bowl and set aside.
Prepare the chillies by cutting a slit from near the stem to near the tip; you want to create a slit big enough to get the filling inside, but leave the chilli whole rather than separated into two halves. Carefully scrape out the seeds and membranes.
Once the tamarind has soaked, strain the purée through a sieve into the bowl with the toasted cumin, discarding the pips and fibres. Add the gram flour, season well with salt and pepper and stir to a paste. Gently stir through the crumbled paneer, trying not to break it up too much. Take teaspoons of the mixture and use it to stuff the chillies, pressing all the way down to the tip. (The amount of filling here is about right for 12 ‘regular’-sized long green chillies, but as chillies do vary a lot in size you may find you can stuff a few more or a few less than 12.)
Make the batter by adding the gram and rice flours to a large bowl and stirring through the baking powder, chilli powder and salt. Pour in the ice-cold water, whisking constantly until you have a smooth batter. It should be thick enough to coat the chillies evenly (test it by dipping a clean finger into the batter; it should have a nice even coating). If it’s too thick, add a splash more water; if it’s too thin and runs off, add a sprinkle more gram flour.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. When it’s hot, dip a few chillies into the batter and place them straight into the fryer. Work in batches of 3 or 4 so you don’t overload the fryer and cool the oil. Fry for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain over kitchen paper and repeat with the other chillies. Serve immediately and eat while still hot.