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Thursday 2 August 2018

169. Fritters

I love vegetables. No, really, I do. We only eat meat once or twice a month as a treat, so vegetables, grains and dairy make up the bulk of our diet. (After watching some eye-opening documentaries lately about intensive farming and the impact of dairy on our bodies, I keep thinking about going vegan. Then I think ‘BUT CHEESE!’ and instantly dismiss the idea. I mean, I’m English – cheese is my birthright.)

But as much as I love vegetables, there’s one thing that makes any vegetable better: frying. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves since coming to Bulgaria (such as, we’re thankfully well-suited to being in each other’s company 24/7, Rob can build anything, and I can live without a daily Costa). One particularly unexpected talent we’ve discovered? Our ability to fritter pretty much any vegetable.

It all started with courgette fritters. A sensible and delicious solution to having six (six!) productive courgette plants in our first idiotic year of gardening. For our courgette fritters, we always use a recipe from Vefa’s Kitchen, this huge Greek cookbook that I’ve had for years, but this alternative recipe should work well. I’d trust Felicity Cloake with my life.

Well worth investing in this book, though, if you like Greek food.

Then came broccoli, barberry and chilli fritters – perfect for those winter months when we missed stuffing our faces with deep-fried green things. (Recipe not available online but it’s from Sabrina Ghayour’s brilliant book Sirocco.)

After that, well, these cauliflower fritters were the natural next step.

Then we got dirty. These were our aubergine fritter days. (Yotam Ottolenghi, in his recipe for aubergine ‘croquettes’ – which sounds fancier than they are – tells the story of living in Amsterdam and becoming addicted to these auberginey-cheesy-grease-balls that came out of a vending machine. A recipe that mentions the words ‘vending machine’? I just had to try it.)

It was around this time we wondered how far we could push the vegetable fritter thing. Turned out, our limit was a tomato and bread fritter recipe that was just too greasy for us. And we’re the sort of people who are tempted by the words ‘vending machine’. I’m not even going to link to a recipe. Just don’t do it.

After that, we pulled back from the greasy precipice and turned to beetroot and lentil fritters. Overall, we probably make these ones the most. I mean, obviously the courgette fritters rule the roost in the summer months, but it’s the beetroot and lentil fritters we turn to throughout the rest of the year.

Here’s our trusty beetroot and lentil fritter recipe, something we just made up ourselves and keep evolving. They’re a bit like small lentil burgers – the colour and texture of the beetroot gives them a pleasing meaty quality – and I’d be lying if I said we’d never put cheese on top and stuffed them into white baps. They’re also very nice wrapped up in a flatbread.

Feel free to bung in whatever veg and spices you like. We tweak the recipe slightly every time, adding fried mushrooms, turmeric, curry powder, fresh herbs or whatever we’ve got lying around. It’s a forgiving recipe.

Trusty beetroot and lentil fritters

  • 2 cups lentils (we used to use only red lentils as they mush up nicely, but now we use a mixture of red and black or green lentils for a balance between mush and bite)
  • 1 large or two small beetroot (raw), peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated (you can leave this out if you like, it’s not essential)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • Chilli flakes or powder to taste, if you want to add a spicy kick (sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Plus sunflower oil for frying

  • Cook the lentils according to the instructions on the packet. Drain.
  • In a large bowl, combine the lentils with the rest of the fritter ingredients and mix well. You’re looking for a consistency that’s like a firm-ish thick paste. Mmmm, firm-ish thick paste. If it looks too sloppy, add some more breadcrumbs.
  • Heat a tablespoon or so of the oil in a frying pan.
  • Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the mixture into the pan and flatten slightly to make a fritter shape. Repeat with another five or so spoonfuls. You don’t want to crowd the pan.
  • Cook the fritters for a few minutes each side until nicely browned. Remove and drain on some kitchen paper.
  • Repeat with the rest of the mixture, cooking in batches and adding more oil as necessary.
  • Serve warm with whatever dips and salads you like, plus flatbreads. Works especially well with a honey-mustard dip, tzatziki, chilli sauce, tahini sauce or baba ganoush.

Do get in touch and tell me what you like to fritter. What? That’s not a weird request at all.

Finally, as we have a lot of courgettes cluttering up our kitchen counters, next week’s post will be about all things courgette. I know, right? You’re so excited you don’t think you’ll be able to sleep between now and then.