For many Italians (as well as French and Spaniards) around the globe, the arrival of summer signals the commencement of the zucchini season and far more importantly the zucchini flower season. This humblest of items is so delicious to eat, that it sends the populous of these southern European countries into a mad panic every year, as they seek to be the first to taste the year’s new harvest.
The flowers are consumed in vast quantities and command huge sums of money in the restaurants of Europe or to purchase fresh in any of the local farmers markets. In fact the desire to eat this item is so great, that many will have a plant or two in their home garden or planted in a pot which sits on their tiny apartment balcony, simply so they can have a ready supply of flowers on their doorstep whenever they want them.
The image below says Roman Courgettes (zucchini) 2.5 Euro each (or more precisely ‘whole’) … that’s about $3.70 Australian each, no wonder so many try to grown a few pants at home in Europe.
Zucchini flower fritters have a light zingy taste which is almost impossible to describe to the uninitiated. The best I can give is … think of a taste somewhere between an orange and pumpkin and you will have a close approximation.
These humble flowers can be prepared in a variety of ways, they can be made into a true fritter / patty – where everything is chopped and mixed together or alternatively you can make them almost Japanese tempura style, where each individual flower is dipped in the batter and fried so it is encased in the thin golden crust.
Both are equally delicious and for those wanting an even greater taste treat, you can also pick young courgettes (still with their flower intact) and dip them whole, so you get the flavour of both the flower and the young fruit.
Makes – 6 serves
24 fresh zucchini flowers
2 cups plain flour
2 cups cold water
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil for frying
1. Trim the stem of the zucchini flowers and open by splitting the side. Remove pistil from centre of flower and wash under running water.
2. Shake petals to remove excess water and lay on a tea towel to dry momentarily.
3. In a bowl mix flour and egg to create crumbly texture and then add water gradually so it becomes a smooth batter. I find mixing the batter this way, produces the least number of lumps.
4. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper and let stand.
5. To make fritters, cut the zucchini flowers into thin strips and mix into the batter.
6. Heat a pan with approximately 1 centimetre of oil.
7. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of mixture into the same place in the oil and repeat until the oil’s surface is covered in small discs of batter.
8. Fry 2-3 minutes before turning fritters over, they should be golden in colour. Fry the other side and place on absorbent paper and keep warm.
9. Repeat process until all batter is gone.
10. Serve alone or with a simple green salad.
If making the fritter version of this dish you can also make the fritters on a flat griddle iron. Give the iron a slight coating of oil and make a small pikelet sized fritter (2 or 3 tablespoons of mixture). Cook each side for 3-4 minutes until brown on both sides.
It is a healthier version of the dish but the flavour of the dish is less intense. The hot oil truly seems to bring out the aromatic flavours of the zucchini flowers.
East Meets West Whole Zucchini Flower Tempura
Makes – 6 serves
6 to 12 small courgettes (preferably flowers intake)
12 zucchini flowers
18 basil leaves
canola oil for frying
1 cup plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 egg – separated
1 cup water
Dipping Sauce Ingredients
1 thumb ginger (minced finely)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine) or dry sherry
1. Remove pistil from centre of flowers and wash courgettes, flowers and basil. set aside and allow to dry.
2. Place batter ingredients flour, olive oil, wine, egg yolk and water in a bowl and mix until smooth let stand for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, in a separate bowl whisk the egg white until light and fluffy and gently fold into the batter mixture.
3. Make dipping sauce by combining all ingredients and mixing well.
4. Place approximately 3 cm of oil in a heavy based pan and heat to a high temperature.
5. Dip the courgettes into the batter first (one at a time) and lay them gently into the hot oil to go crisp and golden. DO NOT over crowd the oil surface as the individual items will stick together.
6. Fry each side for approximately 3 minutes so they are golden all over and then place on absorbent paper to remove excess oil whilst frying remaining courgettes. Then work with the flowers, dipping them individually and frying 3 or 4 at a time. The flowers will require less cooking time to the whole courgettes. Remove to the absorbent paper and cook remaining flowers.
7. Once the flowers are all cooked, dip the basil leaves into the batter and fry until golden on both sides a minute or two only.
8. Arrange a selection of courgettes, flowers and basil leaves on a plate. Pour a little dipping sauce into a small bowl and serve with steamed rice.