I find browsing and shopping for food to be one of the most pleasurable things to do in life (I'm not kidding).
It's often where ideas generate, percolate, are enhanced and refined, and when I'm feeling reckless I head food shopping on an empty stomach and without a list - two big 'sins' leading to being skint rather quickly, and sometimes resulting in having shall we say, an 'eclectic' selection of foods for your hard-earned.
(It truly is a sign of my age where food shopping is a a thrill, gone are the days of all night raves and other things I don't want my parents or employers to know I use to get up to.)
Anyway, whilst shopping this morning I chanced upon the Taste No5 Umami Paste by Laura Santtini.
Umami is the fifth proven flavour and it means 'a flavour that is meaty and savoury'. Mrs Santtini has done a fantastic job of distilling it into a paste that's most delicious and versatile. It contains anchovies, black olives, balsamic vinegar, porcini mushrooms, Parmesan and is well worth seeking out. Click here to find out more.
So here's where the recipe idea began; flavours to work well with this paste. Earlier in the week I'd been thinking about crispy corn and courgette fritters done with a Thai bent, but this umami angle would work just as well as courgettes love salty flavours.
The salsa base (that hasn't had the paste added to it yet) packs quite a punch on its own so if you cant get hold of it don't worry, it will be just as delicious without.
I suggest frying the fritters until they're really quite dark brown, they may look like they've gone too far but trust me, they need that bite and nuttiness from a deep golden brown outer - and the inside will still be fluffy and light.
For 10-15 fritters:
2 large courgettes, top and tailed and grated on a fine setting
2 spring onions finely sliced
150g drained sweetcorn
1 green chili finely sliced (leave it out if you're not into heat)
100g buckwheat flour (which is wheat free and gives a sweet nuttiness, but you could use plain too)
2 large free-range eggs
A few pinches each of chopped fresh mint and parsley
75mls milk (green or blue)
Sea salt and pepper
Unsalted butter and groundnut oil for frying
Some shredded lettuce to serve, I used Chinese leaf for its super crispiness and freshness
For the umami salsa:
A handful of pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
A tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
50mls extra virgin olive oil
Juice of two lemons
A couple of pinches each of chopped fresh mint and parsley
Half and avocado finely chopped
One teaspoon umami paste - if you don't have this add a couple of scrunches of sea salt
It's worth noting that the salsa can be made in advance but the fritters are best not as the courgette is watery and if made too early can leave the mixture difficult to fry.
- Combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix together, leave to one side for the flavours to mingle
- In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs, add a few generous scrunches of salt and pepper, the milk and flour and mix until you have a thick paste
- Add to the paste the grated courgette, corn, spring onions and herbs and mix until combined
- Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and add a generous knob of unsalted butter and a slug of groundnut oil
- When the butter has foamed using a tablespoon add a dollop of the mixture to the pan, it will naturally spread out in the pan so dont put too many in at once
- Cook for around 5-8 minutes before turning over to cook the other side, once they're a deep golden brown on both sides remove and drain briefly on kitchen paper
- Plate with the leaf of your choice and add a tablespoon of the salsa to the top of the fritters, then eat. It's a little lunchtime dish that stands up well next to a rounded white or rose wine or even a chilled beer.