There’s something about thick, pan-fried batters. They almost inevitably result in something comforting, with a soft inside and, at least sometimes, crispy edges. And the variations are endless: while meatballs in various shapes and forms (not quite a batter but pretty much the same concept) are a national dish in just about every country on the planet, you can also give the same treatment to virtually any vegetable.
I’m working on expanding my repertoire of, well, just about all the ingredients I can get my hands on. While the quality of vegetables are impeccable at my local market, and indeed just about anywhere in Turkey, the variation sometimes feels a little…lacking. Perhaps I got spoiled living in London for ten years before coming here, because the selection is bountiful: every week the most beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergine, parsley, dill, mint, lettuce, potatoes and more are on offer. There’s also plenty of seasonal fare: corn, okra and greens in summer, celery root, pumpkin and cauliflower in autumn and winter and fresh peas, beans and garlic in spring. And lots more, of course.
In any case, one of the ways I am expanding my repertoire is by turning them into fritters. Gently spiced, for an exotic touch, but without overpowering the star of the show. The first ones I really mastered were courgette fritters (or mücver as the Turks call them) – it is one of the most popular posts ever on my Norwegian language blog. They’ll make their way here too once I get around to translating the post and, perhaps, add a few new pictures.
But today is all about the beetroot. I love beetroots. There’s something about the contrasts: the earthy flavour against the attention-seeking red colour, the rock hard raw root against the soft, almost sweet, cooked version. And they take to spices well: wherever there is beetroot, there is no need to be shy with the vinegar, spices, chili, herbs, cheese or whatever flavours you choose to add. The beetroot can take it.
For the beetroot fritters, I’ve combined beets with a courgette, to reduce the risk of them becoming dry if overcooked (I find it’s sometimes a little hard to know exactly when they’re cooked through). And I’ve spiced it with a little cumin, chili, feta cheese and fresh herbs. Not too much – I still want the flavour of the beetroot to dominate. But a good pinch.
And the sauce – because fritters are always better with something to dip them in – is of course a tahini one. There is something about the earthiness of the two that matches so perfectly.
I usually serve the beetroot fritters as one of several small dishes as part of a meze selection, or as a main, with chickpeas, rice or bulgur. They also work really well as a starter, in which case I’d arrange them with a few rocket leaves. Yields 10-12 fritters, serving 3-6 people, depending on what else is on offer.
- 400 g beetroots, peeled and grated
- 1 courgette (c. 150 g), topped, tailed and grated
- 2 tsp cumin seeds (or equivalent ground cumin)
- 1/2 small onion, peeled and grated
- 60 g white flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, thick stems discarded
- 1 tbsp chopped dill, thick stems discarded
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes, or to taste
- 75 g feta cheese, crumbled
- olive oil, to fry
- salt and pepper
- 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt with a pestle and morter
- 50 g tahini
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Place the grated raw beetroots and courgette in a colander. Mix with 1 tsp salt and let drain for 10 minutes. Squeeze out most of the water in the vegetables, but not everything (lest the fritters will be dry). Stop as soon as there is noticeably less liquid coming out with each squeeze.
- Toast the cumin in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant, a couple of minutes. Gently crush with a pestle and mortar (it needn’t be a powder). Skip this point if using ground cumin.
- Mix the beetroot, courgette, cumin, onion, flour, egg, parsley, dill, chili flakes and some black pepper in a bowl. Gently fold in the feta cheese.
- Make the tahini dip by crushing the garlic clove with a little salt in a pestle and mortar. Whisk together with the tahini and lemon juice. Add water whilst continuing to whisk until you have reached the consistency of double cream. Season, taste and add more lemon juice or tahini if needed.
- Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Use a table spoon to make fritters the size of small burgers. Fry until cooked through and golden brown on both sides turning at least once, 6-8 minutes in total. Leave to drain on baking paper or kitchen towels.
- Serve the beetroot fritters warm or at room temperature with the tahini dip on the side.