It’s useful to have a range of vegetarian starters up your sleeve. This one tastes of early summer but has gone down a treat in December too. The recipe comes from Simple by Ottolenghi who, though not vegetarian himself, has revolutionized vegetarian cooking during the last decade. His newspaper columns and beautiful cookbooks have inspired much repertoire expansion chez Collier, and we are enthusiastic regulars at the local middle eastern supermarkets that stock the ingredients to which Ottolenghi has opened our eyes.
Makes 20-25 fritters
500 frozen peas, defrosted
3 large eggs, beaten
1 lemon: finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp, then cut into 6 wedges to serve
3 tbsp za’atar
100g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
20g mint leaves, finely shredded
200g feta, crumbled into 2cm pieces
about 800ml sunflower oil for frying
salt and black pepper
For the sauce
300g soured cream
10g chopped mint leaves
2 tsp dried mint
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
Get the peas out to defrost well in advance, or stick them in the microwave on the defrost setting for about 7 minutes. To make the sauce, simply stir all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Put the peas into a food processor and puse a few times until roughly crushed. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the ricotta, lemon zest, ¾ tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the peas and mix well. Now add the za’atar (it seems like a lot but is essential to the flavour), flour and baking powder. Mix until just combined, then gently fold in the mint and feta: you don’t want the chunks of feta to break up.
Pour the oil into a medium saucepan (I use a wok) and place on a medium high heat. Once hot, use 2 dessertspoons to scoop and shape quenelles of the mixture: don’t worry about making them uniform in shape, but they should be about 4cm wide. Carefully lower them into the oil – I manage 5 at a time in the wok – and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until cooked through and golden brown. If they seem to be browning too quickly and not cooking through, reduce the temperature of the oil a bit. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper while you continue with the remaining fritters. Serve warm, with a wedge of lemon and the soured cream sauce.