Zucchini flower fritters

If you have zucchini plants in your garden at the moment then it’s well and truly time to enjoy both the zucchini and their flowers. The flowers should be picked early in the morning whilst they’re wide open and crisp. I only pick the male flowers which are the ones that grow on the stems of the plant (the female flowers are those attached to the zucchini themselves- they are good to use if you’re making stuffed flowers with the zucchini attached to them).

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The flowers are quite delicate so must be handled with care and they are a haven for insects so ensure that you wash them thoroughly. The stamens must be removed from the middle of the flower before you can use them.

To make these fritters really tasty you need to use a generous amount of basil, red onion, Pecorino cheese and grated zucchini (from the garden if you have them). I shallow fry them in sunflower oil as it has a high smoke point and I find much less oil is absorbed than if you were to use olive oil.

They make a great starter to any summer time meal or you can enjoy them as a snack. Try the recipe out and let me know what you think!

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Makes 20 fritters

Ingredients

15 zucchini flowers, stamens removed then thoroughly washed

1 1/2 cups basil, thoroughly washed and roughly torn up

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup wholemeal plain flour

1 1/3 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup water

Sunflower oil, for shallow frying

Method

1. Gently tear the zucchini flowers into strips, then place them in a large bowl.

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2. Next add the torn up basil, the diced onion and the grated zucchini.

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3. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste, then add the grated Pecorino cheese.

4. Add the lightly beaten eggs then mix everything together with a fork to ensure that the mixture is evenly combined.

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5. Now add both types of flour along with the water and mix again with a fork until everything is thoroughly combined. The batter should be thick yet wet. If it’s dry, add a little more water but be careful not to make it runny.

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6. Once the batter is the right consistency, heat the sunflower oil in a large fry pan. You only need enough oil for shallow-frying. While it’s heating up, line a couple of large plates with paper towels.

7. Once the oil is hot enough, place spoonfuls of the batter into the oil and shape them into fritters. Try not to overcrowd the pan (I separated mine after I took this photo- it’s hard to fry things and remember to take photo’s too!)

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8. Once the bottom of the fritters are golden, flip all the fritters over and fry them until the other side is golden too.

9. When ready, quickly remove them from the fry pan and place them on the plates lined with paper towel which you prepared earlier. Cover the fritters with paper towels and gently press down on them to soak up any excess oil.

10. Repeat the above process with the remainder of the batter.

11. Allow the fritters to cool down for a minute then serve.

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*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

Tomato and herb sauce

I love this sauce for its simplicity and versatility. It’s great not only on pasta but I also use it on pizza bases, on top of stuffed eggplants or meatballs.

Always buy good quality canned tomatoes- I use a brand called ‘Carmelina’. They taste great and make me wonder why we spent all that time when we were young making sauce in the backyard (which FYI takes all day long and makes an epic mess- I don’t miss sauce day one bit) when these are so cheap and much more consistent in quality.

Anyway, these tomatoes are whole so you need to pass them through a food mill, along with the sauce that’s in the can. This handy device not only crushes the tomatoes but it also catches all the seeds.

This sauce naturally starts off with onion and garlic cooked in olive oil. As some people don’t like eating either of the two, I decided to chop them up into large pieces and then scoop them out at the end. This way you get the flavour but don’t have to eat bits of garlic and onion if you don’t like it. It’s not conventional but I don’t think it compromises the flavour much so why not? Naturally if they’re not a problem for you then crush the garlic and finely dice the onion and keep them in the sauce.

The herbs are really what make this sauce- I use dried oregano all year round and fresh basil in the summertime. If you have basil in the garden you can dry it out towards the end of summer so that you have some for the winter- before the plants start to flower pull them out and hang them upside down in a cool, dry space. Once they’ve dried out pull the leaves off (discard the branches) and store them in an airtight jar in the pantry.

Tomato and herb sauce

Ingredients

2 x 400 gram cans of peeled tomatoes

1 small onion, cut into 4 wedges

1 large clove garlic, cut into thirds

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil or about 1 dozen fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the onion. After about one minute add the garlic and saute them for a few minutes, stirring often, taking care not to burn the garlic.

2. Attach the food mill to the saucepan and pass through the tomatoes with all the sauce that’s in the cans. Add the herbs, salt, sugar and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

3. Allow the sauce to come to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you don’t have a good saucepan it’s a good idea to invest in a simmer mat- place it over the gas and then sit your pan on top of it- they help diffuse the heat and are perfect for anything which requires a long period of simmering).

4. Using a large slotted spoon, fish out the garlic and onion pieces and discard. If you’re not going to use the sauce immediately, pour it into small containers and store it in the fridge (use it within a few days) or freeze it.