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Zucchini fritters 3 ways. Sri Lankan, Mediterranean, Japanese

It’s been a busy week.   On top this week’s cooking – the fritter challenge continues! – I went to photograph Rina Mevorach, one of our Jerusalem grandmothers, preparing just one more dish. Well, at least that’s what I thought. Turned out she made 6 or 7 more dishes and then prepared take-away containers for her grandchildren – and for me.

Two bags full 

Yes, these 2 bags were for me. They contained fish balls in tomato sauce, two types of chicken, one Libyan and one not so - "this one my grandson taught me!" - matbuha, harisa, cheese pockets (yeast dough), kubbe (meat and vegetable fillings, since one of her grandsons has turned vegetarian) and 2 types of rice. Oh and the almond biscuits I originally went over for.

You sure do leave with a lot when you cook with a Jewish grandmother!

And did I mention that the woman who whipped all this up in a morning is about to turn 90 years old? Grandma Rina is full of good humour and energy. My favourite moment was when she said “Do what you like, photograph what you like. There’s no one who can tell me not to!”

What a great life philosophy, independent, and no one to tell her what to do, and what not to do.

 Don't worry, there will be more from her in later blog posts, after we finish the Great Fritter Challenge. This week it’s zucchini fritters. 

Sri Lankan recipe

The first version is a Sri Lankan recipe, and vegan – until you reach the yoghurt sauce. Vegans could replace it with a non-dairy sauce like the silken tofu and garlic sauce from last week's post on leeks.

 Mrs Ruben’s cold zucchini fritters

Makes 12 fritters, serves 3-4

This is a surprising recipe from a Sri Lankan Jewish grandmother, which has basically only 2 ingredients -- chickpea flour and grated zucchini, with some spices thrown in. You don’t add any liquid, and the result is amazing. Am going to stick my neck out here and say it’s possibly my favourite.

 ingredients

  • 2- 2 ½ cups grated zucchini, about 3 large zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (also called gram)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala (I didn’t have any, and didn’t miss it)
  • oil for frying

TO SERVE

  • 2 1/2 cups yoghurt
  • salt
  • optional - one clove crushed garlic

METHOD

  1. Grate the zucchini. A food processor with a grater blade produces a quick, good result. Leave for 10 minutes and squeeze out any extra liquid. There will be lots!
  2. Mix chickpea flour and spices. Add some baking powder to lighten it up, but do not use any water. The liquid the zucchini will continue to give out will be enough to make a batter. (I didn’t believe this, but it’s true!)
  3. Heat oil. Make small balls, by rolling 1/2 tablespoon batter in your hands. Drop them into the hot oil, flatten, turn when brown, then remove – about 3 minutes altogether.  
  4. Drop as many fritters as can fit comfortably into your fry pan, without sticking together. Continue until you use all the batter. Let the fritters cool to room temperature.
  5. Mix yoghurt with salt, and garlic, if using.  The recipe says to add fritters to the yoghurt, and to serve cold. I prefer the yoghurt on the side, for reasons of aesthetics and taste!

I made these in Jerusalem and Margo Jurgens made them in Sydney. We both loved them, but Margo cautions about how you use the Thermomix for this!

“I used the Thermomix to chop, but ended up with a puree that looked almost like baby food. I salted it and let it drain for much longer --almost an hour-- before mixing in rice flour, turmeric, cumin, garlic and curry powder. By the second batch I remembered that one of the recipes called for baking powder so I added that in for the final rounds.

The result was, frankly, awesome. They were crisp and savory but pillowy soft on the inside.

The baking powder was definitely helpful. We are always looking for ways to cook more vegetarian mains, and these fritters were very satisfying. It reminded me that I have often seen vegetable fritters on offer at posh restaurants -- now I know why!”

Margo served hers with coleslaw with a blue cheese dressing.  As she says, you can take the girl out of America, but you can't take America out of the girl.

“It sounds like it wouldn't work, but it did. With fritters, I think the accompaniments make or break the final result, and I'm happy to report these were great and are a welcome addition to my cooking repertoire.”

Mediterranean zucchini fritters

Serves 2-3

 ingredients 

  • 3 zucchinis
  •  1 brown onion or 2 green spring onions
  •  1/2 cup of matza meal or flour
  •  2 eggs
  •  Salt and pepper 
  • OPTIONAL add:
  • 100 g (2/3 cup) feta cheese
  • 3 T finely chopped greens - flat leaf parsely, dill, mint – whatever you have, or fancy

METHOD

1. Grate the zucchini then mix in a teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Squeeze the zucchini in a clean tea towel to remove as much excess water as possible.

3. Finely chop the onion.  Mix zucchini, onion, matza meal/four with the eggs and salt and pepper. Combine well. Add feta cheese and greens, if using. The dough will be wet! If it is not firm enough to hold together, add a little more matza meal or flour.

4. Heat oil for deep frying. When it starts shimmering, turn the heat down to medium. Drop half a tablespoon of mixture into the pan. Cook for 1 ½ mins, till golden. You should be able to make 12 fritters. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

In her kitchen in Melbourne, Uschi Schwartz made a plain version – no cheese, no greens. She is a great cook, and the daughter-in-law of one of our grandmothers, Baba Schwartz  (also a great cook and a superb baker, who is not frightened of yeast!)

 Uschi fried her fritters in olive oil, and sprinkled them with sea salt, before serving them with lemon and sour cream.

 “We had them this morning for brunch with smoked salmon and chopped vegetables...yum!!!”

 She reports that her husband gobbled them up!

Also in Melbourne, the indefatigable Amanda Hampel made a gluten free version, baked, not fried. She added a little carrot for sweetness, and used almond meal instead of flour, with baking powder to lighten it up.

Her mix also made 12 fritters.

Gluten free version

  •  2 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper to taste

method

1. Preheat oven to 190 C.

2. Once you've grated the veges, squeezed out the liquid, and mixed the ingredients together, you are ready to bake.

3. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to place mix on baking paper. Cook for 45-50 mins or until golden brown and cooked through.

 Sunny Amanda is very positive. 

“Massive hit this week! Delicious scrumptious awesome :)”

Japanese Okonomiyake

makes 8 large fritters 

In her Sydney kitchen Miyuki Mane decided to add zucchini to a traditional and very flexible Japanese recipe, reaching back to her country of origin. It's a dish she's taught her kids to love, and to help prepare. 

"This time I made a simple one with carrots, cabbage and zucchini. Often I make Okonomiyake when I don't have an idea for dinner and little time for cooking but still want to prepare a healthy and nutritious meal. You can sneak in some veg kids dislike because its hidden in the batter and the combination of the flavour of sweet Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and flakes is always tasty."

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups shredded carrot 
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage and zucchini
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 2 to 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dashi pawder, or chicken stock if you don't have Dashi
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of corn flour 

 TO SERVE

  • Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
  • Aonori (green seaweed flakes)
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Okonomiyaki sauce. You can buy this at any Asian shop. "It is not something we make. It's more like Vegemite, something everyone buys," says Miyuki.

Method

1. Shred the cabbage, zucchini and carrots. Put in a large bowl.

2. Add milk, eggs and Dashi to the bowl and mix thoroughly.

3. Add flours and mix through lightly.

4. Heat a little oil in a frypan or hotplate. Spoon mixture into the pan, making a circle about 10 - 15cm wide, and about 1.5 cm thick.

5. Cook med-low heat about 10 minutes (depending on the stove/ hotplate). When the surface starts to look like it's drying out, flip and cook through - another 5 minutes or so.

6. Serve with Okonomiyaki sauce, Japonese mayo, and sprinkle with seaweed and bonito flakes.

"Okonomiyaki means 'grilled as you like it' and can be eaten as lunch or dinner and many people enjoy it in Okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan, as well as cooking it at home," says Miyuki. "The original recipe is made with shredded green cabbage, but you can make it with anything from your fridge, including meat and seafood.

Ingredients can vary, but our regulars are cabbage, corn, shallots, yellow cheese and mochi (rice cake). Our kids like this combination! I set up the hotplate on the dining table and the kids can cook it by themselves. But little kids would need to be watched!”

Next week: carrot fritters -- and then we'll give frying a rest for a while!