Saturday, June 07, 2008
Beetroot and Kumara Fritters with Sumac Salt
The sparkling quality of the image to the left does not fool you, I am sure - the sky looks pristine, clear, but the sun is turning its warm rays toward the northern hemisphere, and we Kiwis are in the cool space that is the transition from autumn to winter.
This is the optimal time in which to put to good use the dreams of winter that I escaped to during the height of summer when it was too hot and muggy to think - instead of swimming or napping, I day-dreamed of rainy days in the kitchen. In the heart of winter one is often tired of root vegetables, so playing around with them before one has no choice but to get used to them is a luxury, for one can still call on the last of the autumnal bounty to overcome failed ideas for interesting winter fare (let's face it, one does not always want for hearty and robust food even when it is blowing a gale and grey as slate).
To lift one from the doldrums of cold climes, I turn to sharp flavours, much as I turn to wooden, earthy herbs in summer - hopefully I am not the only one that, in this instance, appears a walking (blogging) contradiction. I am particularly drawn to sumac, a spice that is produced by crushing dried berries from sumac shrubs (also known as "vinegar trees" in Iran). Lending a gorgeous deep red-purple shade to any marinade, sumac has a sour taste and a citrus spike. Its inherent smokiness makes it a natural spice for grilling. In Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, sumac is sprinkled over meat and fish dishes as well as salads as an alternative to lemon (if the acidic jolt of citrus juice is not required, that is). Sumac is sometimes incorporated into spice rubs, such as za'atar, which also consists of thyme, salt and toasted sesame seeds. Today, though, the sharp property of sumac is paired with the salty yet delicate touch of fleur de sel, giving the palate a real workout against the sweet and earthy bites of beetroot and kumara.
Beetroot and Kumara Fritters
(Adapted from Issue 38 - Autumn of Donna Hay Magazine)
For the sumac salt:
1 part sumac
2 parts fleur de sel
For the fritters:
200g/7 oz beetroot, peeled
100g/3.5 oz orange kumara (sweet potato), peeled
1/4 cup flour
1 egg white
rice bran or sunflower oil
1) In any vessel (I used a half-cup measuring cup!), mix together fleur de sel and sumac, then put aside.
2) Julienne the beetroot and kumara and put the strips into a medium-sized bowl. For a more refined look, drag a zester across the flesh of the vegetables in order to yield long, thin strips. You can see that I forwent refinedness.
3) Tip the flour onto the julienne strips of beetroot and kumara.
4) Grind in salt and pepper, half the pepper to salt - approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
5) Break an egg white into the bowl (keep the yolk in a zipper-locked plastic bag in the fridge and use within a couple of days).
6) Mix together with a fork. After 30 seconds, it should bind quite well.
7) In a small saute pan over medium heat, add enough oil to come 1cm/0.4" up the sides. This is to create a shallow frying environment. The oil is "ready" when the oil bubbles semi-furiously - add a strip of either beetroot or kumara to test.
8) Add 1/4 cupfuls of the vegetable strip mixture, flatten so that all strips touch the oil.
9) Cook in batches 40 seconds to one minute per side or until golden, then flip them over.
10) Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sumac salt whilst hot.
Because of the salty addition, these free-form fritters accompany cocktails perfectly - not exactly party food, though, for these are best piping hot; however, for a few friends gathered in the kitchen with Sidecars and Cosmopolitans, this is a great lead in to the pate and whatever else you have going. Speaking of cocktails, tomorrow I'm off to watch a movie with friends...and you know which film: it is the one that features a certain quartet of ladies - I'm "a Miranda," by the way, fitting given that it appears to be the last moment of autumn's russet splendour.
I just saw that certain movie last weekend and was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself. I even cried a little. However, I can't identify myself with any of the characters, but Miranda is definitely my favorite!
Hope you had a lovely time at the movie.
The film did have some moving moments - Cynthia Nixon, though, is the most mercurial, able to shift emotions quickly and with depth.
Jasmine, honey ~ Sumac is my preferred spice. I learned about it when Eric and I first received "How to Eat". My world has never been the same ever since, and Nigella is right - I never run out of excuses to add it to something, anything!
Victoria ~ So good to see you again! One can never go wrong with fried goods, so long as the prepartion of them is infrequent.
As for fleur de sel, it has a delicate texture and a pure taste of salt; I have tried to live without it but can't. It is a lovely thing to sprinkle as a finishing touch when salt is required.
Johanna ~ I got a little snap-happy when wandering my area at the weekend and restrained myself by using only one photograph. I might start all entries with a scenic shot to introduce the seasonal atmosphere at the time of writing.
Hope that you enjoy the film :)
The skies there looks so blue!! Been gloomy, wet, cold and windy here.
I love the combination of flavours in your fritters. I still haven't gotten round to getting my hands on some fleur de sel.
p/s: How was the movie?
Susan, lovie ~ As you can see, these fritters are quick to make, and they are also flavoured with a spice we love. Of course, one could do any variation on the sumac salt presented here - why not use za'atar? A quick bite for almost any season, for one could easily replace sweet potatoes with regular potatoes. I feel like having these again.
Nora B. ~ Gloomy skies are bound to set in here soon. It is even more of an excuse to stay indoors and cook. These fritters are brilliant.
The movie was fun - a nice gift for fans.
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