Archive for the 'fritters' Category

Fritter science, non-best-practice version

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I like to do my culinary science the right way. Standardisation, controls, a well-thought-out experimental design. This isn’t always possible to achieve on the fly, however, so tonight’s dinner should be considered as exploratory experimental work that will require rigorous follow-up. Fortunately fritters lend themselves to this kind of experimentation, as you can fry a couple, taste, modify the batter, fry another couple, modify again, and so on.

I felt like corn and zucchini fritters for dinner, and wanted to try making them with besan flour. I prepped the vegetables: corn, zucchini, scallions, coriander leaves and chili flakes. I then made up a batter based on this recipe: besan flour, plain flour, salt and water. Mixed the vegetables and the batter, fried the first batch of four, and split one with Ted for a taste test. Not bad! They were particularly good hot off the pan, crispy on the outside and light and toasty inside. I wondered, however, whether they might not be better with a little bit of feta crumbled in. So I added some feta to the mix, and cooked up another four. These were also good straight off the pan, though the feta was a little dominating in flavour. Still, the cheese was in there now, so we pressed on and cooked another four, leaving the rest on a plate underneath a tea-towel to stay warm until we were ready to sit down.

We were pretty peckish at this point, so while cooking we split another one of the first feta fritters once they had cooled down a bit, and actually the flavour was pretty good – more appealing than the no-feta version. Both the feta-free and feta-ful versions, however, were getting slightly lumpen as they cooled. There was enough mixture left for two more fritters, so I added about a quarter of a teaspoon of baking powder to this before frying them off. Ah ha! Now we see a difference – there were a few little bubbles rising to the surface as we cooked the first side, and the fritters were puffier and had straighter sides. Fresh off the pan, the first one of these that we shared was softer and lighter than the previous versions, and tasted great.

We sat down to eat a few more, with some salad and roast tomatoes. After about 5 minutes, when all of the fritters had had a chance to cool down a bit, we did a side-by-side tasting of the three versions. The first version (no feta, no baking powder) was ok, but quite dense. The second (feta, no baking powder) was noticably softer than the first version, and the feta added some more interest to the flavour. The third (feta, baking powder) was quite similar to the second, but still a little lighter.

So, the secret is feta and/or baking powder, right? Perhaps, but I am tormented by the confounding variables. The feta-free fritters were cooked earliest, so were the coldest, and maybe that’s why they seemed less good. What if I cooked the different batches for different times, so that the first set were actually just overcooked? What if the performance of the batter improves with sitting – some fritter recipes do call for a resting period before you start cooking. There’s no way to disentangle these factors! I need to make three batters in parallel, rest them the same amount of time, and then fry a fritter from each batter in the same pan at the same time, using the same amount of batter for each one. Only then will I know the truth. Until then, the recipe below is the one I currently hypothesise to be the best. Further testing required (and I will be happy to oblige – these were damn good fritters).

 

Corn, zucchini and besan flour fritters

2 medium zucchini, finely julienned on a mandoline
kernels cut from 2 cobs of corn
4 scallions, finely sliced
2 large handfuls of coriander leaves, chopped
2 large pinches of chili flakes, or to taste
150 g besan flour
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
170-200 ml water
80 g feta, crumbled
olive oil

Sprinkle the julienned zucchini well with salt, and leave to drain in a colander or sieve for 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess water, the spread out over a tea-towel, roll it up lengthwise, and twist to squeeze out all the remaining liquid. Put the zucchini into a bowl with the corn, scallions, coriander leaves and chili flakes, and mix.

In another bowl, sieve together the besan flour, plain flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the water, to make a thick batter. Combine this with the vegetables and the feta. The mixture should be thick but not excessively stiff. Add a little extra water to thin if necessary.

Heat a little olive oil in a frypan over moderate heat. Spoon fritter-sized portions of batter into the pan, and flatten them out so they are about 1 cm thick. Allow them to cook until browning on the bottom, then flip and continue to cook until golden on the other side and cooked in the middle. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Makes about 14 fritters (about 7-8 cm in diameter).

We ate the fritters with some roast cherry tomatoes  and some snow peas and pea shoots (all harvested from our garden! I was overly pessimistic about our chances of getting more ripe tomatoes on the weekend).

 

Hell yes, madam (spring onion, coriander and besan flour fritters)

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Who’s our first elected female prime minister? Julia Gillard, that’s who. Hell yes, madam.

Anyway, celebration in this household took the form of fried food and beer for dinner. I have complete blindness for recipes that call for deep-frying – it simply doesn’t occur to me that I could do it. So I am extremely grateful to Tiny Banquet Committee for posting about their fritterized, shallow-fried version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s deep-fried spring onion bhajis. Deep-fried spheres, eh, whatever. But greens-packed, besan flour fritters: intriguing.

Despite my intention of fritterizing the results, I followed Hugh FW’s recipe to the dot up to the cooking stage. Mysteriously this produced not the “smoothish batter” promised, but instead a bowl full of chopped up spring onions lightly and unevenly coated with faint smears of batter. Seriously, it looked like there was about 5% batter to 95% onions by volume. I’m not sure if I used the wrong kind or quantity of spring onions (I used one full bunch of the long green onions sold as shallots in Australia), or perhaps cut them wrongly (into 1 cm rounds), or what. But there wasn’t quite enough batter to even stick the onions together for any kind of frying. So I dumped in another couple of tablespoons of besan flour, followed by another slosh of beer, and miraculously things came together.

My fritters were much more greens-heavy and therefore raggedy-looking than the ones on Tiny Banquet Committee, but man they tasted good. The besan flour gives a great savoury flavour, the spices perk things up just enough, and the fritters were crisp on the outside, and soft and green-oniony on the inside. The raita adds an essential sharp/sour/creamy complement – I made it with goats curd and yoghurt a la HFW, but tasted very little of the goatiness. You could probably up the goat cheese for more of a hit, or just use all Greek yoghurt instead if you want to keep things simple.

Cheers Julia! I raise my beer (and a fritter) to you.

 

For the raita
100 g fresh radishes, trimmed and washed
50 g soft goats cheese
150 ml whole milk yoghurt
3 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 pinch salt

Slice the radishes very thinly (1 mm). Beat together the cheese and the yoghurt until smooth, then add the radishes, mint and salt and stir to combine.

 

For the fritters
90 g chickpea (a.k.a. gram or besan) flour
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large pinch cayenne pepper
1 large pinch black nigella seeds
4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
180 g spring onions, trimmed, cut into 1cm slices
100-120 ml beer or water
peanut oil

Sieve the besan flour, plain flour, coriander, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper into a bow. Add the onion seeds, coriander leaves and spring onions, and whisk together. Gradually add the beer or water, continually stirring, until you have a batter. If you find that this is not enough batter to hold things together, add a bit more besan flour and beer until it is. Mine was still very much spring onions only just held together with batter, and that worked great.

Heat a frypan over medium heat and add a slick of oil. Make each fritter by scooping up about a dessert-spoon of the mixture, dropping it into the pan, and pressing down with the back of the spoon to make a flattish circle (about 1.5 cm thick). Fry for a few minutes, until the bottom is browned. Flip and cook another couple of minutes until the other side is also browned and the middle is cooked. Drain on kitchen paper, repeat with the rest of the mixture. Eat hot, with raita and beer. Makes about 10 fritters.