Friday, October 9, 2015

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

These delicious fritters were inspired by a Neil Perry recipe that I saw in the paper a couple of weeks ago.  This is the kind of little pre-dinner nibble that you get in tavernas all over Greece, made fresh with whatever comes to hand that day - just my kind of food.


The first batch, made to the Neil Perry recipe, needed tweaking, in my humble opinion - because they were a little too bland in flavour and way too salty.  I conferred with my go-to food person and lovely neighbour, cook book writer Belinda Jeffery, and this week saw me wandering up the street, at about 5.30pm, in apron with progressively evolving plates of these fritters with a "what do you think". I felt a bit like Goldilocks - too salty, too bland - just right!  She offered all kinds of helpful advice and a couple of alternative recipes and I think we have finally nailed it - see what you think, but I reckon they are a real winner!

The saltiness arose in the original recipe which told you to grate the zucchini in a colander and cover it in 2 teaspoons of salt - leave it for an hour or so and then squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  This is done because zucchinis contain a lot of water and the fritters would be too sloppy and not hold together if you didn't.  The downside of this is that you can't wash the salt off afterwards.
NOTE: salting food sets up an osmotic process whereby the liquid is drawn out.
What we worked out is that you only need about half a teaspoon of salt and just more squeezing to get the liquid out - as Belinda said "less salt and more elbow grease" - which works just fine.

Ingredients
About 1 kg zucchini, coarsely grated
Half teaspoon sea salt
150g haloumi, finely grated
1/2 cup grated parmesan
100g day-old white sourdough breadcrumbs
Half cup fresh chopped dill
3 free-range eggs
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup olive oil, for frying

Dipping Sauce
1 cup thick Greek style yoghurt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove creamed in mortar and pestle with pinch of sea salt

Method
1.  Place grated zucchini in colander and sprinkle with salt.  Leave to drain for an hour.
2.  Mix together lemon zest, creamed garlic, yoghurt and pinch of salt and set aside.
3.  Squeeze excess moisture from zucchini and place in large bowl.  This is an important step so try and get out as much liquid out as you can. DONT WASH IT
4.  Add grated haloumi, dill, parmesan, breadcrumbs and eggs.  Stir to combine and set aside for 10 minutes.
5.  Heat oil in frying pan or wok.
6.  Get small spoonfuls and form into patties.  Shallow fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.
7.  Serve with yoghurt mix as dipping sauce.

NOTE:  From another guru, Linda Ruttledge owner of LuLu's cafe in Mullumbimby, don't be tempted to put feta in the fritters as it just melts when heated and the fritters will fall apart.
ANOTHER NOTE: Most fritters of this kind have flour as the binding agent, but the breadcrumbs give them a really lovely texture, light and fluffy, that doesn't seem to soak up the frying oil.

FOOD ETHICS  I have been involved in a raging debate this week over an octopus salad recipe, that I posted on a local information sharing website, when I unwittingly incurred the wrath of radical vegans. I couldn't use a better response than this recipe as an example of MY food ethics - that is, GROW YOUR OWN OR BUY IT LOCALLY if you want to save yourself and the planet. 

Every time I cook a meal I consider three things - HOW NUTRITIOUS IS IT, WHAT DOES IT COST and WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

When I posted this recipe I got this response from a vegan:
"You can so veganise this recipe - and make it gluten free too - use rice crumbs instead of sourdough crumbs - chia seeds instead of eggs, tofu instead of haloumi. Nutritional yeast instead of parmesan. For the dippings sauce - cashews blended instead of yoghurt"

My response to this:

1.  They wouldn't be zucchini haloumi fritters anymore.
2.  The zucchini, dill and lemon came from my garden; eggs from my daughter's chooks; haloumi, bread and garlic from the local farmer's market; and I made the yoghurt with milk from the local dairy.   The only thing I bought from a shop was the parmesan cheese - which was Aussie.
3.  The last time I looked tofu came from somewhere else, processed in a factory with non-reusable packaging; chia seeds were $30 a kilo from Bolivia in the local health food shop.  Cashews from the same shop were from Vietnam at $32 per kilo.  I have no idea about nutritional yeast - whatever that is?

You can see where I am going with this.  This person has given themselves a big pat on the back for being vegan but has no concern about the source of the food, packaging, cost and food miles involved in getting it on to her plate.

Next is a visit from me and my trombone zucchini!

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