By Nikki Duffy
Golden onion bhajis, crisp vegetable pakoras, delicate pancakes, super-sweet Indian sweetmeats - all these delicacies rely on a key ingredient: gram flour. Also known as besan, it is made from dried, ground chickpeas and is a common ingredient in much Indian cooking. Used in many of the same ways as wheat flours - to bind, thicken or coat other foods - its advantages are particularly great if you don't want to eat wheat, are looking for a protein-rich alternative to refined white flours, or are vegetarian or vegan. Many recipes that call for gram flour also seem to be animal-product-free.