Frittered food and vegetable tempura

Vegetable tempura with dipping sauce. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • DIY. What you need to know about frittered foods and how to make vegetable tempura, A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

Unfortunately, the term fritter is often used in a confused manner to cover a myriad of different types of foods. Often times we think of a true fritter as a delicately flavored batter, heavy in egg and deep fried.

Despite the fact that they are not called fritters, crullers, mandazi and doughnuts are all first cousins. The success of these batters depends on the care and skill with which they are mixed and fried. 

Fritter may also apply to morsels of meat, fish, vegetables or fruit that have been dipped in a batter and fried prior to deep fat frying. Either cooked or uncooked foods may be cooked in a batter, although uncooked meats are more satisfactory if minced. However, pork and pork products must always be cooked before deep frying. 

Do not confuse the texture of any of the above mentioned fritters with certain pan or shallow fried mixtures such as corn fritters. The term fritter may also apply to bits of meat, fish, vegetables or fruit dipped in a batter and dried before deep fat frying. In the case of the last mentioned, the fritter batter acts as a protective coating. Incidentally, other fritter like foods would be deep fried vegetables and croquettes. 

To prepare frittered vegetables
Use any leftover or raw vegetables and seafood and by the way, firm tomatoes are also delectable served in this manner. Fritter batters are very much like simple pancake mixtures, but they must have the consistency that allows them to adhere to the food that is to be fried. Just like in any recipe involving flour, measurements can only be approximate.

If the surface of the food you are frying is as dry as possible, the dough will stick if it follows this easy test: take a generous spoonful of batter and hold it above the mixing bowl, instead of running from the spoon in a broad shining band, a consistency that the French call au ruban: the batter should start to run for about a 1 ½ inch length, then drop in successive long triangular “splats.” When the batter has achieved this consistency beat it until very smooth and cover and bung it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours and may even be stored overnight. In case you are wondering the value of storing the batter, the resting period allows fermentation that breaks down the rubberness of the batter which is a process that is further activated if flat beer or wine forms part of the liquid that is used. 

In the event that you are time barred and are unable to let the batter rest, mix it to smoothness with as few strokes as possible in order to avoid buildup of the gluten in the flour. Batters that are heavy in egg yolks resist fat penetration during frying. Use whole eggs if you wish, however if you separate them and plan to rest the batter, fold the whites beaten stiff, but not dry at the very last minute prior to coating the food. 

Vegetable tempura
These deep fried fritters are based on kaki-age, a common and much loved Japanese dish that often incorporates fish and prawns as well as vegetables. It is east to make and fortunately all the ingredients are readily available and the results are most delectable.

Serves 4
2 medium size courgettes
1 medium size aubergine
1 large carrot
1 small yellow onion
1 egg
120ml/ ½ cup iced water 
115g/1 cup plain flour
Salt and ground black pepper 
Royco (optional). 
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Lemon slices and good quality soy sauce to serve

1. Using a potato peeler, pare strips of peel from the courgettes and aubergine with a view to getting a stripped effect.
2. Cut the courgettes, aubergine and carrot into strips about 3---4 in long and 1/8 in wide.
3. Put the courgettes, aubergine and carrot into a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt and leave for about 30 minutes, then thoroughly rinse under cold running water. If you are using Royco watch out for the salt since by design it is salty.  
4. Thinly slice the onion from top to base, discarding the plump pieces in the middle. Separate the layers so that there are lots of fine long strips. Mix all the vegetables together and season with salt, pepper and Royco.
5. Make the batter immediately before frying and mix the egg and iced water in a bowl and then sift the flour. Mix briefly with a fork or chopsticks. Do not overmix, the batter should remain lumpy. Add the vegetables to the batter and mix to combine.
6. Half fill a wok with vegetable oil and heat to180dC/350 d FH. Scoop up one heaped tablespoon of the mixture at a time and carefully lower it into the oil. Deep fry in batches for about 3 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen towel. Serve each portion with salt, slices of lemon and a tiny bowel of the soy sauce for dipping.