I admit it, I covet everything about Thanh’s beautiful blog Eat, Little Bird. If you have ever visited, you will see why. Charmed is the word that comes to mind. So without further ado, I’ll let Thanh do one of the things she does best.
It is such a lovely honour to do a guest post on one of my favourite blogs, particularly since The Patterned Plate is a place I come to frequently for inspiration in the kitchen. For a good while, I was relying so heavily on Carrie’s recommendations for dinner ideas that I was at risk of being accused of stalking her. But such is her ability to find and share mouthwatering recipes that one cannot help but rush to the kitchen in an effort to recreate the same meal which has sparked a frenzy amongst our foodie friends.
I have the lovely Carrie to thank for introducing me to Ottolenghi. Of course, I had heard of his name and seen his books, but Carrie’s enthusiasm for Ottolenghi’s second book, Plenty, was so infectious that I marvelled at how she managed to make vegetarian food sound so enticing.
I am not a stranger to vegetarian food, but it often seems to be something I eat when dining out as opposed to proactively making at home. We don’t eat a lot of meat of home, but meat is always invariably snuck into the meal somehow, however large or small in quantity. But with Carrie’s cheerleading performance in recreating many stunning meals from Plenty, I suddenly found myself making vege meals at home night after night, much to the delight of my husband who was probably a vegetarian in a previous life.
Another close friend of mine has also been a faithful follower of Ottolenghi, long ago wooing me with recipes from his first cookbook, simply called Ottolenghi, The Cookbook. When I came home one day to find a copy of this book on my doorstep, a birthday gift with reminders of her favourite recipes, I knew that the book would not remain new-looking for very long.
Unlike Plenty, Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian cookbook. In fact, a good half of the book is devoted to their popular desserts with a decent section on meat dishes. Having said that, the recipe which I have chosen for my guest post is a vegetarian dish. I ummed and aahed over which Ottolenghi recipe to post before deciding that it was my turn to reciprocate Carrie’s generosity in sharing her favourite recipes by pointing her to one which has had much success in our home.
Cauliflower is, strangely and unfortunately, an unpopular vegetable for a lot of people. Mention cauliflower to most kids and their noses will wrinkle and their body will recoil. Mention cauliflower to most adults and their reaction will be the same as what they displayed as a child. I wonder if I fall into the minority who actually enjoyed eating “little white trees” as a child and, today, I happily add it to stir-fries, curries and soups whenever I can. Though, sadly, my husband does not share my love for cauliflower, which is exactly what prompted me to try this recipe for Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters. There’s a saying that everything tastes good when deep-fried, and I had a hunch that cauliflower mixed in some batter and then fried in oil would somehow work.
These fritters hardly take any time to make and I daresay that most people would normally have all of the ingredients in their fridge and pantry, except for the cauliflower. But given that cauliflower is a poor man’s vegetable throughout the world, it is a bonus that the main ingredient here is possibly the cheapest vegetable you will find at the supermarket.
When you think about it, cauliflower is quite a bland vegetable, making it perfect as a sponge to soak up the flavours of anything that you cook it with. The spices in this batter are quite gentle, making these fritters somewhat child-friendly, especially if you are trying to find ways to sneak more vegetables into their diet. And I can tell you that it worked with my husband – he had no idea that cauliflower was the main component in his dinner and was pleasantly surprised to find his meal enjoyable.
If you like to spice things up a bit, I would suggest adding some chopped chilli to either the batter, or perhaps to the lime sauce. The sauce is lovely and tangy and pairs wonderfully with these fritters, cutting through any taste of grease if you are worried about cooking in a lot of oil. I don’t use as much oil as the recipe suggests, preferring to shallow-fry these fritters instead. They are wonderfully crisp on the outside and the bits of mashed cauliflower throughout provides a nice, nubbly texture. Although the recipe calls for parsley for both colour and flavour, coriander would be a wonderful substitute.
Ottolenghi suggests serving these fritters in a pita with some hummus and tomato, which is what we often do, but they are also lovely served just as they are with a fresh salad on the side. So the next time you find a head of cauliflower lurking in your vegetable tray, think about giving these fritters a try.
Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yoghurt
Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
For the fritters:
1 small cauliflower (about 320 g)
120 g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small red onion (or 2 shallots), finely chopped
sunflower for frying
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Prepare the cauliflower by trimming off any leaves and cutting the cauliflower into little florets. Add some salt to the boiling water and cook the cauliflower for about 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain the cauliflower.
Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, turmeric, salt, black pepper and eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the parsley, garlic and red onion.
Once the cauliflower is cooked and drained, add the cauliflower to the batter. Use a wooden spoon to gently break down the cauliflower into the batter. You don’t want the batter to be completely smooth, so some pieces of cauliflower here and there is fine.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, enough to shallow fry the fritters. Use a 1/4 cup measure to pour the batter into the hot oil and cook the fritters in small batches, about 3 to 4 minutes per side until they are golden and crispy on the outside, and cooked through the centre. Drain the fritters on a few layers of kitchen paper and serve hot or warm with some toasted pita breads, hummus and lime yoghurt (recipe below).
For the lime yoghurt:
300 g Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Whisk all of the ingredients together and taste for seasoning with some salt and pepper.