Stuffed Courgette Flowers
and a Fritto Misto
“I have a present here for you.” It’s a sunny Saturday morning and I’m rushing around Naas Farmer’s Market as I’m due to work in Newbridge in an hour. Dominic of Castleruddery Organic Farm, is in great form. His stall is busy with customers and after wondering why I don’t see any of his homegrown cucumbers, I spot a lady with a bag full – I’m too late! My mood improves immensely when my gift is revealed – a box of vibrant courgette flowers, one of my favourite summer treats.
The flowers aren’t the only veggie goodies I’ve picked up – homegrown leeks, radishes, potatoes and some early (or late!) purple sprouting broccoli. With produce this good I’m wary of cooking the life out of it. Every bit of my bounty is at its peak, so there’s hardly a need to cook it at all! I decide on serving a Fritto Misto for dinner. All of my goodies dipped in a light batter and fried for just a couple of minutes to crisp the batter. The courgette flowers will be stuffed first – a simple affair to lift them slightly and, although not at all authentic or even Italian, I decide on a homemade garlic Aioli for dipping. I’ve not even left the car park and I’ve already decided how to use everything I’ve bought – I love the farmers market!
For the Aioli:
2 Free-Range Egg Yolks
2 cloves of Garlic (crushed)
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
250 ml Sunflower Oil
1 tbsp Water (if needed)
1 litre of Sunflower Oil
1 litre of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
For the Batter:
2 Free-Range Eggs
85 g Plain Flour
150 g Sparkling Water
pinch of Salt
For the Courgette Flowers:
10 Courgette Flowers (carefully washed and dried)
200 g Ricotta Cheese
grating of Nutmeg
50 g Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
For the Fritto Misto:
Vegetables of your choosing (carrot, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, tomato, asparagus and green beans all work well)
1. First make the aioli. Put the egg yolks, garlic, salt and vinegar into a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Slowly add the oil, drop by drop, whisking all the time. The mixture will begin to thicken but don’t get complacent – keep adding the oil very slowly until it’s all incorporated. If the aioli is too thick, whisk in a tablespoon of water – notice the colour change. Taste for seasoning. If the mixture splits while making (usually from adding the oil too quickly), put two egg yolks into a separate bowl and slowly add the split mixture while whisking constantly, it should emulsify. Place the aioli into the fridge while you get on with the rest of the cooking.
2. Next make the batter. Add the egg yolks and salt to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the flour and whisk into the yolks before whisking in the sparkling water to form a smooth batter. Let it rest while you prep the vegetables.
3. Make the courgette flower stuffing by mixing the ricotta with the parmesan and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Carefully stuff each washed and dried courgette flower with 1-2 teaspoons of the stuffing mixture. Twist the top of the flowers slightly to keep the stuffing in. Prepare all the remaining vegetables by chopping them into one or two bite size pieces.
5. Add the sunflower and extra-virgin olive oil to a large saucepan (it should come no more than halfway up) and put onto a medium high heat. Check it with a thermometer every so often, when it gets to 185 degrees Celsius, it’s ready for frying.
6. Ensure all the vegetables are dry before dipping into the batter. Shake off any excess batter and carefully place them into the hot oil (always laying away from yourself). Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon and placing on a plate covered with a few sheets of kitchen paper to drain any oil. Season with sea salt.
TIP: It’s best to serve the fried vegetables straight away and keep frying fresh batches. The fresher they are eaten, the better. Serve with the aioli, a couple of lemon wedges and an ice-cold beer.