5 Aug 2011
I had some extra flowers so, fired up with enthusiasm, I made some more, this time with a simpler filling (ricotta and herbs). For me, that was more like it. The result was sensational: the initial crunch gave way to the softness of the filling, the last bite being the sweet, crisp and juicy courgette sepals or flower base. These would be impressive served for a special lunch but why wait? I think it's worth making them for a summer supper.
The simple batter I made was an amalgamation of two recipes. Some batters use an egg, some use beer or wine instead of cold water. Others don't use an egg, fearing that this makes the batter too heavy but balance is everything and you find your own preference. For the stuffing, it seems there are endless variations on this particular theme; I've found potato and greens, meat, cheeses and herby rice. If you have Mark Diacono's Veg Patch (River Cottage Handbook No. 4) you'll find that he stuffs the flowers with the chopped and sautéed courgettes themselves!
I'm quite taken with the idea of battered veg, and I've read of applying this way of cooking to the unstuffed flowers but why stop at courgettes? I haven't tried it (yet) but I think that the same principle could be applied to pea pods, mange tout, baby carrots and baby corn although courgette flowers visually steal the show.
Fried flowers may not be to everyone's taste but don't let that stop you from making the most of your courgette flowers: I've found plenty of other ways of using courgette flowers on this Australian website.
However, if you'd like to try fried flowers for yourself, here's the batter recipe I used, found in the Telegraph's 'Jamie Oliver At Home' - it's a light eggless batter and I used white wine because I just happened to have an open bottle sitting nicely chilled in the fridge:
200g self-raising flour
350 ml sparkling water - or use a decent white wine
A good pinch of salt
Put the flour in a bowl and gradually whisk in the liquid until it's the consistency of double cream. If too thin, add more flour; too thick, add liquid. It should nicely coat a dipped finger.
Prepare your filling (Jamie Oliver suggests adding grated nutmeg, parmesan, chopped mint, lemon zest and chopped chillies to 200g of ricotta). Gently prise open the flowers and, using a teaspoon or piping bag, fill the courgette and carefully twist the top of the flower to seal it. Repeat with all flowers. Pour oil into a pan up to a depth of about 8 cm. Heat the oil (sunflower is best) to around 180 C - if you don't have a sugar thermometer, drop a piece of potato or bread into the oil; when it turns golden, your oil is ready.
Holding each stuffed flower by the stem (or bottom for female flowers), dip it into the batter and carefully transfer to the hot oil. (Don’t fry more than two flowers at a time or the oil temperature will drop.) Fry for about a minute (you’ll be able to see when it’s done as it will turn golden and crisp). You may need to turn it in the oil to cook both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper. (I used a silicon spoon which works just as well.) Serve as soon as possible, with lemon wedges and a lovely salad.