The Musette: courgette fritters

I’ve made courgette fritters for years, initially using a recipe from that domestic goddess Nigella Lawson. However, I’ve shifted to making them less dairy laden and more acceptable to a wider range of regimes.

The word fritter usually conjures up something deep-fried, fat-laden, and overall heavy but these easy courgette (zucchini) fritters are testament that lighter ones are possible. Grated courgette joins forces with onion, flour, eggs, and grated Parmesan cheese to make low calorie, delicious little green pancakes that can be a light vegetarian meal, meze or side dish to a Mediterranean-style meal.

Fritters should be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. If there’s one thing I loathe it’s soggy fritters, they are a big no-no. The only way to avoid sogginess is to wring out the excess liquid from the courgettes.  Grate, salt, leave in the colander for 10 minutes, then wring out. I know this can be a painful process but there’s really no way around it. In addition to removing the excess water, I like to add a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese to the batter. It both amps up the umami flavor and increases the crisp factor. I also like to use baking powder, which I believe helps enormously in making lighter fritters. You can leave it out, but do try it, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Ingredients (Makes about 12 small or 6 medium fritters)

  • 2 medium courgettes (or 4 small), coarsely grated
  • 11/2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten or 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water
  • ½ cup all purpose flour (or GF flour or almond flour)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil or mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 fat clove confit garlic (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Place grated courgette (zucchini) in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt, toss and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Wrap grated courgettes in a clean dish towel/kitchen paper/cheesecloth, squeezing and wringing all the moisture you can out of them. This step helps the fritters brown better, even when using less oil. It also keeps them from turning soggy and falling apart in the pan.

3. Place squeezed courgette in a bowl and add all the other ingredients, including remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and ground black pepper. Mix until well combined. The batter should be dropping consistency.

3. Heat two tablespoons of olive in a frying pan (skillet) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop two scant tablespoons of zucchini mixture onto the pan, press them flat with the help of a spatula and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

4. Make only a few fritters at a time, do not crown the pan, so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop. Drain briefly on paper towels to soak up any excess grease and keep warm.

5. Serve with Greek yogurt, plant-based yoghurt or sour cream, and sprinkle with finely chopped scallions if you like. We eat them with my chilli and tomato jam.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can, of course, make fritters from a variety of vegetables. Experiment to your heart’s content once you’ve mastered the basics.

2. Feel free to add a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs. I like freshly chopped basil or mint and lemon zest with courgettes but parsley would work too with maybe some chopped capers.

3. You need a batter that’s of dropping consistencey. If it’s too wet add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry add some water a teaspoon at a time.

4. I rarely use raw garlic as it’s too strong a flavour. I always keep a jar of confit garlic (home-made) in the fridge for use in my cooking.

 

The Musette: mujadara

Lentils, rice, olive oil, spices and onions – this Middle Eastern standard is the ultimate pantry recipe. It’s also the classic example of a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. There are literally dozens of recipes for mujadara out there – each country, possibly even each family, seems to have its own version. The one I like best is that served at our local Lebanese restaurant, who kindly gave me their recipe – result! It’s also quick and easy to make. A bit of stirring on the stove and then pop it into the oven and it’s ready in next to no time.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g (3/4 cup) Puy lentils
  • 1ltr (4 cups) boiling filtered water
  • 325g (1 1/2 cups) long grain brown rice (soaked for an hour in 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water)
  • bunch finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or coriander (cilantro) leaves

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 3 (375°F/350°F fan).

2. Toss the onions with the olive oil, cumin and thyme in a frying pan (skillet) and cook over a high heat until they turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3.Add the rinsed lentils, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the drained rice to the mix and turn into a casserole dish (dutch oven) before carefully adding the boiling water. Stir, pop on the lid and put it into the oven for around 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the lentils and rice are tender and there’s no liquid left.

4. Remove the dish from the oven. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with the parsley or coriander (cilantro), and serve warm or at room temperature.

5. If you’re so inclined, you can dress it with greek-style yogurt, Aleppo-style pepper, crispy shallots and additional olive oil.