This is a very quick post for a very quick and easy canapé dish that showcases the abundant crop of green salad leaves and delicate herbs flourishing at this time of year. Here in Dorset, we have wild rocket, basil, chives, mint, peashoots, wild garlic and sage in the garden and the local woods, so I have been making the most of them.
Recipes for beignets are common to all my provençal cookery books be they recent publications or older, more traditional recipe collections. Most of the recipes I have consulted involve frying a single piece of vegetable such as courgette or aubergine, but we need not limit ourselves here. A myriad of ingredients lend themselves to battering it seems. I’ve come across recipes featuring anchovies, salt cod, potatoes and courgette flowers (see my chickpea flour version of the latter here) and let’s not get sidetracked right now by sweet beignets…..
Eggs are almost always used in the batter mix but the simple recipe below uses just ’00’ pasta flour and sparkling water to bind the chopped herbs and leaves. These herby fritters are packed with spring flavour and the simplicity of the batter makes them light and not too filling. Serve them hot, just out of the pan with a glass of rosé (Tavel worked for us) or fizz. A little aïoli, pesto or fresh tomato sauce on the side as a dip is always popular too.
I used rocket, basil, chives and a little sage for my beignets this time but you can use whatever you have to hand or what’s available locally. Spinach and chard work well with some flavoursome herbs to accompany them in the mix.
Beignets de feuilles (makes 16)
30g rocket leaves
A handful of basil leaves
A handful of chives
6 large sage leaves
100g 00 flour
150ml sparkling water
A good pinch of salt
Groundnut or sunflower oil for frying
Rinse the leaves, pat them dry and then roughly chop them.
Whisk together the flour, sparkling water and salt, then add the leaves to the batter and mix thorougly.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and, once it is hot, add a teaspoon-sized, test ball of the batter. If the batter mix sizzles nicely, you know the oil is ready. Gradually add desertspoon-sized portions of batter, but don’t overcrowd the pan – four to five at a time works well. Turn the fritters in the oil until they are crisp all over and lightly browned. The kitchen will be filled with the aromas of the various herbs by this stage – my family came running from all ends of the house and garden! Drain the fritters on kitchen towel and serve immediately with your choice of dip.