There comes a point in every summer when I have to rack my brains for a recipe that uses almost nothing but a vegetable I have rather too much of… What might it be? Courgettes are quite likely, but gluts can happen of just about any produce. I may not be in the mood for freezing or preserving, and I’ll hate myself if my hard-earned harvest rots in the crisper drawer, so it’s great to have a recipe that will pretty much turn itself to any vegetable I have an excess of, and mine is the Summer Fritter.
Fritters are an easy way to use up a glut of a particular vegetable. The principle is simple. The basic building blocks are your over-produced vegetable, eggs and flour. To these you add something tasty—often cheese—and flavourings in the way of herbs and spices. Mix altogether and fry until golden.
Vegetable Fritter Recipe
Here’s my basic recipe for fritters, using courgettes, but it could equally be beetroot, carrot, potato or pumpkin. I’ve deliberately steered away from giving measured amounts, but if cooking without weighing ingredients makes you nervous, then I suggest weighing your main vegetable, and then adding around a quarter of that weight of each of the other bulk ingredients:
- Grate the courgette (or other vegetable) and weigh
- Add around quarter of this weight in spring onion (green onion), chopped finely
- Add around the same weight of flour as of onion
- Add around the same weight of cheese as onion (or half as much again if you like it cheesy)
- Add herbs and spices, if using
- Egg: beat and add one to begin with. If the mixture isn’t holding and seems too dry, add a second egg. (As a guide, I use one with up to around 4oz (112g) courgettes, two with up to 8 oz courgettes (225 g))
- To cook, heat oil in a pan until it’s hot enough to sizzle when you add the mixture, and drop heaped tablespoons of the mix into the pan. Cook until underside is firm and golden (2-4 minutes, then turn over and cook for the same amount of time.
Work by feel and don’t feel you have to get the quantities the same each time. If once you’ve grated the vegetable it feels rather wet, squeeze out some of the excess moisture (it’s a good idea to wash potatoes once they’re grated to get rid of some of the starch, or reduce the quantity of flour). If it’s not holding together well, add another egg. If it seems too sloppy, sprinkle in more flour or cheese. You might get the quantities a little out of kilter, and find the fritters oozing a fair way in the pan, or breaking up a little too easily, but that doesn’t stop them tasting good.
Of course, you can’t grate the likes of spinach and chard, and for leafy vegetable it’s best to steam them before use, in order to wilt them. Squeeze the moisture out thoroughly before adding the other ingredients. Spinach fritters work particularly well with the addition of feta cheese, spring onions (green onions) and a grating of nutmeg.
Vegetable Fritter Variations
There are many other ways to use up excess vegetables in fritters and if you search the web you’ll find that the variations seem endless. Here are some that you might like to try:
- Flour: instead of self-raising flour, use plain (all-purpose) flour. You could use rice flour or gram flour. In addition to flour, bulgar wheat appears in some recipes. This bulks, rather than binds, but works well with vegetables with less substance, such as tomatoes in Ntomatokeftedes (tomato patties). An alternative would be quinoa, as suggested by Closet Cookery.
- Eggs: for a souffléd result, use two eggs, separate them, beat the yolks into your vegetables, whisk the whites to soft peaks, then fold them into the mixture.
Alternatively, don’t use them at all. The eggs are there with the flour to bind the fritters together, and to make the fritters rise a little, but they’re not absolutely necessary where cheese will melt and act as binding. My courgette fritters taste just as good without egg.
- Cheese: ordinary cheddar works well, but feta is a very popular substitute, especially with sweeter vegetables like peppers (which should be roasted first before using in this recipe) or squash, or when you want that salty Mediterranean taste. Soft goat’s cheese offers a milder alternative. Cheese isn’t the only choice for that tasty addition, though. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi rejects cheese but includes a tablespoon of tahini paste in his Beetroot fritters with lemon and saffron yoghurt. Halloumi is also a possibility here in Halloumi and Pea Fritters (no reason to use frozen peas, but if your peas aren’t as young as they could be, I’d cook them before adding to the fritter).
- Herbs: anything you like, chopped small. Think classic combinations: carrot and thyme; beetroot, goat’s cheese and dill; tomato and basil. Adding ground cumin and coriander will add an Indian flavour.
How to Serve Fritters
Every vegetable fritter benefits from a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. Then they are lovely as a snack with a little bowl of dip – something tangy like tsatsiki or tahini and yoghurt works well. Make them more substantial with a leafy salad and tomato relish or, for something with a touch of luxury, place a poached egg on top and break to allow the soft yolk to ooze over the crispy surface.
Experiment and enjoy... and if you find a particular combination you love, why not add a comment to share it below?
By Helen Gazeley