Our wedding was at a winery at the end of the summer. After the ceremony, guests mingled outside and enjoyed the sun setting over the vineyards while sharing some bubbly and nibbles.
My favourite aperitivo was elegant little brown paper cones filled with crisp, lightly-battered courgette flowers and sage leaves and deep-fried batons of polenta and pressed artichokes. They were not even slightly greasy (the clean paper was evidence of this). They paired beautifully with the sparkling wine.
Courgette blossoms have begun to appear in the markets and they always remind me of this perfect evening.
Whenever I batter and deep-fry food, I think back to our gastronomic tour of Tokyo. Among the many restaurants recommended to us which-you-cannot-get-into-without-a-recommendation, have-no-sign-so-you-have-to-be-in-the-know and/or have-only-8-seats, the only one I really loved (call me a philistine, I know, but I can’t stand the pomp) was a tempura restaurant. Did we need to be recommended to get in? Tick. Did it only have 8 seats? Tick. Were all the dishes made by hand and completely unique? Tick. Was the chef obsessive? Tick. So far, totally normal but the tempura was perfect. We watched as the chef removed the flour and water from the refrigerator seconds before he mixed them. He hand carved each vegetable to order. He changed the oil every 30 minutes!
The chef was not completely mad, one of the keys to good deep-fried battered food is the contrast of the cold batter and the hot oil. Ensure your flour and water are very cold, the batter is made at the last moment and the oil is hot (190C/ 375F). In Lazio, they stuff the courgette blossoms with mozzarella and anchovy for a deliciously salty gooey filling. I like them both plain and stuffed. Enjoy while hot!
Fritto di fiori di zucca (fried courgette/zucchini flowers) – Lazio
50 grams provatura, provolone or mozzarella cheese, broken into 8 pieces (optional)
3 anchovies, cut into thirds (optional)
8 courgette (zucchini) blossoms, flower opened and stamen removed (the part that makes pollen), rinsed, stem trimmed
90 gms plain flour, refrigerated
140 mls sparkling water, refrigerated
flaked sea salt
- If you plan to stuff the blossoms, open them up and stuff a small piece of cheese and a third of an anchovy inside. Close the blossom back over the filling.
- Pour oil into a saucepan so that it is 6 cm deep. Add a deep frying thermometer to the side. Heat the oil to 170C. Remove the flour and water from the refrigerator and mix them together quickly.
- When the oil gets to 185C. Dip the blossoms into the batter.
- Add the blossoms to the hot oil when it reaches 190C. Do not over crowd the pan. The blossoms should not be touching. If needed, cook them in batches.
- Fry turning the blossoms so that they are evenly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes in total. Line a plate with kitchen paper towel and drain the blossom on the towel. Sprinkle the salt over the top and serve immediately.