All frittered away – the art of vegetable keftedes

Patatokeftédes and a little salad

Part of the magic of Greek cooking, is the ability of most housewives to take a relatively uninspiring ingredient and with artistry and skill, turn it into a delicacy and a treat.

This comes, I suppose, from the fact that, in the past in rural Greece, there was not a lot of meat around – meat was for ‘high days and holidays’, but there was always a plentiful supply of vegetables and pulses. This tradition has given us some of the tastiest and most attractive dishes in the repertoire, a particular favourite of mine are the various types of vegetable ‘kefté’ or fritter.

Again, the English translation fails to convey the delicacy and subtlety of these wonderful dishes. These are not greasy mounds of fried ‘veg’ – these are little fragrant morsels that are always welcomed with joy and anticipation.

There are all sorts of vegetable and even pulse fritters – I’ve already told you about the chickpea variety (revithokeftedes) but there are so many more. A particular favourite of mine are the ones made with courgettes (zucchini) – they are really easy to make, incredibly tasty and always impress! In Greek they are called ‘kolokythokeftedes’, they make a good starter on their own, with a little yoghourt on the side or are as one of the stars of the traditional ‘meze’ mix of little plates. The potato variety, ‘patatokeftedes’, are great, again as part of a ‘meze’, or are as a side dish with roast chicken or grilled meats.

Kolokythokefetdes  – Courgette FrittersKolokythokeftedes - Courgette Fritters

2 medium sized courgettes

I small red onion

2-3 tabs chopped parsley

1 tab chopped dill

A small sprinkle of dried mint

1 egg, beaten

1-2 tabs plain flour.

Salt

Ground black pepper

Optional – a small cube of crumbled feta.

Olive oil or sunflower oil

Grate the courgettes with a coarse grater into a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain for 5 – 10 minutes.

Grate or finely chop the onion into a medium sized mixing bowl.

Take the grated courgette, and squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible. Either do this with your hands or with a clean tea towel. Put the squeezed courgette in the bowl with the onion.

Add the chopped parsley, dill and mint. You can experiment a bit with this. I would recommend that parsley is always included but see if you prefer the addition of both dill and mint – I do.

Mix in the beaten egg and season with salt and pepper. Go cautiously with the salt, as you have already added salt in the initial stage – about 1/2 tsp should be more than enough. If you choose to put in the small piece of crumbled feta, you will need less salt.

Stir in 1 tablespoonful of plain flour and mix well. You want the mixture to have a fairly thick consistency – depending on how much moisture is still in the courgettes, you may need to add a little more flour.

Now, in a frying pan heat up about 150ml olive oil – you can use sunflower oil or even a mix of the two oils.

Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping in a small amount of the courgette mixture. It should sizzle immediately but not be so hot that it burns.

Now drop into the hot oil desert spoonfuls of the mixture and fry them over a moderate heat until they have started to set. Carefully, flip them over and fry gently on the other side. You need to have the oil hot enough to cook the fritters, without burning. Once they are firm, you can turn them over again to ensure that they cook properly.

Serve straight from the pan or at room temperature.

Patatokeftédes – Potato Fritters      Patatokefetédes - Potato Fritters

1 kg potatoes, whole and scrubbed

1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated

2 whole eggs, very well beaten

3-4 tabs, finely chopped parsley

2-3 tab grated parmesan or kefalatyri or about 100gm of feta.

Salt

Ground black pepper

Optional ingredients: 1 tab chopped dill and or mint

Plain flour, for coating.

Olive oil or sunflower oil for frying

Boil the scrubbed, whole potatoes until tender. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Leave to cool completely.

Put the grated onion into a large bowl with the chopped parsley (and the other herbs if you have chosen to use them).

Either mash the potatoes well, or preferably pass them through a ‘mouli-legume’. You can purée them in a food processor but this can make them ‘gluey’. If you do process them, do a small amount at a time on the ‘pulse’ setting to help avoid this. Add the potatoes to the onions and herbs.

Add the well beaten eggs – and I mean very well beaten! Now add the seasoning and also the cheese.

Now gently combine all the ingredients. Do this initially with a spoon but eventually you will have to use your hands.

Shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Dust with flour and leave in a cool place for 10-15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a frying pan – either olive oil or sunflower oil, or a mixture of the two. You need to have enough oil to shallow fry the fritters. Again, as with the courgette fritters, you want to have the oil hot enough to cook them, without burning the outside.

Gently put the potato balls in the hot oil, cook them on one side and then the other, turning them  when they have firmed up.

Cook them until you have a nice crispy, golden exterior.

Serve straight from the pan or at room temperature.

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