Monday, 28 May 2012
Chive Flower Tempura
Saturday saw a random surge of people at the farmer's market, people who were passing by on their way to the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the major events of the British calendar. Even before I'd rung the bell to signal the start of market, people were eagerly stroking and eyeing the sweet pea flowers and the other pretty delicate blooms in their myriad of wedding pastel shades.
I've never understood the way most women fawn over flowers. I do agree they are beautiful, and beautiful things are good to look at, but then what? I remember back in my giggly schoolgirl days, receiving roses for Valentine's day and being at a loss at what to do with them. I know many of my friends get all excited and stick them into makeshift vases of water, to try to extend them a little past their short life span; I, unfortunately, just stuck them into the bin. I just don't get the whole fuss over flowers, they're pretty but also pretty useless. I know, I'm probably the most unromantic girl out there. I'm not a horrible plant-hater though, I love plants, the way they bring colour and life to the earth; I especially love them if they can be eaten too. And so the only flowers that got me excited at the market were the edible ones.
I've lost all urge to cook or bake recently, because someone up there decided to switch on the sun and it's been ridiculously hot the past few days, so I made a simple salad with them first, tossed in a light vinegarette and sprinkled with some sesame seeds. Really quick but really good. Also really good in ridiculously hot weather, is ice-cold cider (I cannot bring myself to like beer) with a handful of crispy something, in this case, purple onion-y blossoms encased in a light tempura batter. The idea is not mine, I saw it on Veggie Belly's blog. I followed the absolutely brilliant way she did it, just holding the ends and dipping the blossoms into the oil. My tempura batter, however, comes from here.
CHIVE FLOWER TEMPURA
1 bundle of chive flowers
1/2 cup of fine rice flour*
1/2 cup of ice-cold* beer or cider (or fizzy water. But if you happen to have a bottle open anyway..)
1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt + a pinch, to taste
oil for frying*
For the dipping sauce
good soy sauce (naturally and traditionally fermented)
some chive flower petals or snipped chives
1. Make sure your chive flowers are dry. Season with a little salt. Prepare your dipping sauce now so the chive flavour can infuse.
2. Mix up your batter just before you're ready to get frying, you don't want to leave the batter to rest or settle. The tempura batter should feel quite runny, much runnier than a pancake batter, and don't worry about lumps as it should be a little lumpy.
3. When the oil is hot (190 degrees celsius), dip your flowers into the batter, holding the other end, and then straight into the oil for no more than a few seconds. (I got the hang of it after the first few slightly more, er, coloured ones.) Do only a few at a go as too many will lower the temperature of the oil and they might end up sticking together.
4. Leave to drain on a rack. When all are done, serve up with the dipping sauce, and enjoy with friends and cold beer/cider/Pimm's.
* I've seen people use normal wheat flour, but rice flour makes it extra crisp, plus share-friendly with gluten-intolerant friends if you skip the beer.
* Ice-cold is the keyword. Many recipes just use water, but something fizzy will give it that extra airiness and crispness. I think it might be less authentic though.
* Saturated fats like pastured lard, coconut oil, palm oil are much better suited for healthy deep-frying as they don't go rancid at high temperatures. Groundnut oil is alright too. No vegetable oil, and don't waste your extra virgin olive oil on this.
I've not made or eaten much tempura to consider myself an expert in the Japanese art of frying, but this one was crisp and light as air. What's even better is the burst of chive flavour and aroma when you bite into the inside. It reminded me of some tempura-ed spring onions I once tried, but because the chive flowers have a tender fluffier texture, and come in a convenient popcorn-like shape, they make for a mouth-popping-friendly experience. These went quick.
That's the way I like my flowers.
This is going into this month's Floral-Inspired Tea Time Treats, hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.