I’ve been having fantasies about tempura of late. I’ve always been a fan of the stuff, but during a recent trip to Lisbon, one of the most simple dishes we ate also turned out to be one of my favourites (although, to be fair, there were quite a lot of favourites): in a bar, we were given tempura coated green beans, served alongside a thick, herb flecked mayonnaise. They told us that the Portuguese name for the dish translates as ‘fishes of the garden’ – one of the most charming sentences I’ve heard for a while!
The idea of trying our hands at tempura has come up from time to time when we’re recipe speculating, but my aversion to deep frying has always put paid to that – until this week, that is. The holiday memory proved too tempting, so we decided to get the oil out and sizzle up some golden ‘fishes’ of our own – fishes of our fridge, being that we used what was going spare in the bottom shelf. I looked at a handful of different tempura recipes, and confused myself with which one to go for, in the end settling on a River Cottage recipe, since the drop scones and soufflés of previous posts came out so well. The one thing I changed was to use sparkling water, which the original recipe doesn’t use, but a number of others do. First attempt worked surprisingly well – delicate, lacy, crisp batter, although the frying process seemed to undress some of it from the veg. With the second attempt, which I’m posting here, we made sure to dry the vegetables very thoroughly, and used a little less water. We also added some Indian flavours to the mix in the form of both ground and whole spices, which gave a brilliant result. I do wonder if this time round, our batter was a little too thick, so I’m not sure how authentic I can claim it to be – but it tasted great!
125g flour (the recipe called for plain, but we used SR as it was all we had)
1 egg yolk (from a medium sized egg)
About 200ml fridge cold sparkling water (you may need a dash more)
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. nigella seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Pinch of salt, plus plenty of salt and pepper
Vegetables of your choice (we used green beans, spring onions, pepper, carrot, and kale)
Preheat the oven to 200°. Once it has heated up, turn it off, and put a plate, topped with kitchen paper, onto the middle shelf.
Next, prepare the vegetables. Cut each different batch into similar sized pieces. Next, dry them thoroughly with kitchen paper, then set aside.
In a large, heavy based pan, pour your oil (we used about 500ml) over a medium heat. You want it to reach about 185°C, so a kitchen thermometer will come in handy!
Sift the flour, pinch of salt, and ground spices together into a large mixing bowl. Stir through the whole spices. Once the oil has come up to temperature, you can make the batter – add the egg yolk and water to the flour, and quickly whisk together. Do not over whisk! You may need a splash or two more water – the first time we made ours, it was the consistency of double cream, the second time we made it a little thicker.
Dip your veg in batches – ie. carrots, then peppers, then beans, and so on. Lay them (with care, of course) in the hot oil, and let them cook until golden brown and crisp (if you’re relatively shallow frying like us, then use tongs or something similar to turn them over once done on one side.) When done, remove from the oil and drain on plenty of kitchen paper, then season and put in the oven to keep warm.
Out of all the veg we’ve tried so far, the kale spluttered the most, so if you are using it, take care!