So before David left for Canada he was growing some wonderful vegetables in his garden in London, including some beautiful little zucchini flowers. I had great plans for these flowers, I was going to stuff them, batter them, fry them, bake them – you name it, I was going to do awesome stuff with them. However, David’s flowers got heavily infested with black fly and, sadly, then were unusable by me, so my plans were put on hold.
That is until a family friend, Dee, rocked up with a basket full of zucchini and pumpkin flowers for me. She has an allotment and grows vegetables in abundance, many of which end up being giant monstrosities that she then carts in a wheelbarrow to my mom’s church at Harvest time. I’ve never had much of a green thumb, so I think people who can grow amazing things like that are really rather remarkable. Or maybe it’s not so much that I don’t have much of a green thumb as never having really tried. Maybe that should be my project for next year – growing my own veggies. Anyway. Flowers. I was determined to do them justice. How do I do that? Deep-fry the heck out of them.
The very lovely and wonderful Dennis over at More Than A Mountfull has a slight obsession with zucchini blossoms. When I say ‘slight’ I really mean ‘huge’. But that’s not a bad thing, because he does some wonderfully creative things with them, even dipping them in chocolate and baking them into muffins. It doesn’t get more wonderful than that. I, however, decided that I was going to stuff mine and then tempura them. Not particularly creative but OH SO DELICIOUS.
The only problem was that we didn’t use regular flour, instead we used Chinese rice flour, which was a little too glutinous, so the result was a thin sticky batter that didn’t stick well to the blossoms, and then super crispy (but sticky) blossoms that didn’t have the necessary crunch. Oh well. I’ve got some more blossoms coming my way soon, apparently, so I can have another go then (and try some more fillings, too!) but in the meantime here are my stuffed tempura blossoms. They were delicious.
STUFFED BLOSSOM TEMPURA
As many zucchini/pumpkin blossoms as you can handle – I had about 12
For the “stuffing”:
Handful of pancetta cubes
3-4 tbsps ricotta
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp vegetable oil (for frying)
For the tempura:
1 egg yolk
1 cup ice-cold water
1 cup plain flour
Vegetable oil (for frying)
1. Carefully wash your zucchini/pumpkin blossoms in cold water, making sure there are no wee bugaboos hiding. Be careful: the flowers are very delicate and rip very easily! Remove the stamens (optional) and dry the blossoms thoroughly (but carefully).
2. Fry the pancetta in the vegetable oil with the mixed herbs until slightly crispy. Drain on a piece of paper kitchen towel.
3. In a small bowl, combine the pancetta, mixed herbs and ricotta. Give it a good mix.
4. Using a piping bag or a small teaspoon, carefully fill the blossoms with the pancetta and ricotta mixture. Don’t fill them too full or when you batter them you’ll have pancetta and ricotta floating all over the place: about 3/4-full.
5. In a separate bowl combine the ice-cold water and egg yolk and stir thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until just combined – lumpy is good. Be careful not to overwork it!
6. Fill a wok or large pot with enough vegetable oil to be able to shallow fry your flowers. To test the heat of the oil place a wooden chopstick (or spatula) into the oil, and if bubbles cluster around it it’s hot enough. The more bubbles the better. You can also flick a droplet of water/batter into the oil and see if it sizzles. A DROPLET, mind you. Don’t go starting no fires, now.
7. When your oil is hot enough, carefully dip each blossom into the batter, making sure it’s well coated, then lower gently into the oil. Don’t drop from a great height or you gon’ get hurt, honey. Using a pair of wooden chopsticks (that’s right, I’m getting all Asian on your ass), gently turn the blossom to ensure even frying.
8. HELPFUL HINT: try not to crowd the blossoms in the wok/pot – if you throw them all in at once (as I’ve tried to do before with tempura’d items to save time) all that happens is that they stick to one another and you end up with one massive tempura mess, where parts aren’t cooked evenly and other parts are too crispy. Also, don’t be discouraged if your first few blossoms are a bit of a disaster and seem to take forever – when you drop the first few in the temperature of the oil will drop, but as you keep going the oil will be at a more constant temperature and you’ll have some beautifully fried little tempura blossom babies.
9. When each blossom has reached optimum crispness, remove (with wooden chopsticks) to a plate lined with paper kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
10. Serve immediately and nom the whole thing down. Be careful of piping-hot filling burning your tongue though – been there, done that, ouch.
Anywho, das is it for now. I have more stuff coming soon, so check back then, and in the meantime go check out Dennis’ blog and get some inspiration, yo! I’m not the only one in awe of his blossom-fetish – check out Brian’s (of A Thought For Food) beautiful Squash Blossom Muffins, borrowed from Dennis, and whilst you’re at it check out his beautiful blog and photography and tell him I sent ya! ;)
Until next time, folks – peace and love.