5 Aug 2011

Tempura, tempura!

At this time of year, as the tempo of the garden increases, it can feel a bit overwhelming to deal with the sheer volume of produce that is hurled at us after months of hard work.  A glut of produce can turn to repetition in the kitchen and boredom at the supper table.  I was heading in that direction myself with my courgettes - in pasta, or meat sauces, stir fried, roasted, sliced, chopped, grated. Hoping for culinary inspiration, I nipped over to visit my friend who runs our local deli.  Actually, it was his quest for courgette flowers last summer which had motivated me to plant them in the veg patch in the first place.

He took a dozen flowers from me.  A few were returned the following day, stuffed (with ricotta, parmesan, chives and pancetta), ready to be battered and fried but I had to do this myself.  The recipe given to me was so loose it would have given even Jamie Oliver (with his pinch of this, dash of that) cause for alarm.  I googled and I read, then I got on with it.  The batter was simple, the oil not too deep, the results delicious, although slightly rich for my taste.

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.


  1. Wow - this sounds amazing! I wish I was growing courgettes now! Great post. Rach x

  2. Thanks but I'll pass on trying this as I'm not much of a foodie and even less of a cook! Flighty xx

  3. How gorgeous is that first courgette flower picture - it looks like a ballerina doing a pirhouette. I've never tried courgette flowers yet, they probably sound nicer than they taste.

  4. I have been avoiding the whole "fried courgette flowers" and tempura thing due to my fear of deep frying, but I think you may have tipped me over the edge. I will get myself a thermometer and make with the batter. Great post, thanks!

  5. Yum I love stuffed zucchini flowers deep fried....mmmmmm!

  6. Hello everyone! Popping in during my hols as have FINALLY sourced some wi-fi access - thank you for your lovely comments, I'll be back soon to respond personally! Caro xx

  7. I think I may have to come for lunch!

  8. Rach, I think you'll have to consider the climbing courgettes next year - tromboncini - but be aware they're very vigorous!

    Flighty, home grown veg and simple meals are still the best, despite my diversions off into fancy cooking.

    Elaine, did you mean they taste nicer than they sound?! They are in fact delicious, sweet but with a little bit to the centre. I recommend you try (next year!). x

    Janet, I know what you mean with the deep frying - very scary! For that reason, I don't cook chips but I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of this and the taste made it very worthwhile. Hope you give it a go!

    Mrs Bok - already a convert! Wonderful! Do you eat any other edible flowers, I wonder?

    Sue, it's not always this grand! Most days it's soup or sandwich or salad - all with home grown of course!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment everyone! Lovely to have the feedback and much appreciated,
    Caro xx


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