Taken from Jikoni, by Ravinder Bhogal.
Courgette flowers are the fragile precursors of courgettes. They are so remarkably striking that you'd barely believe they could offer anything to a recipe other than ethereal beauty, but they have a pleasingly subtle flavour and their petals make a handy pocket for stuffing all manner of lovely things, such as this gently spiced crab.
Handle them with (metaphorical) kid gloves: remove the yellow stamens from the centre of the flowers carefully so as to avoid damaging the petals and, once stuffed, gently twist the petals together at the ends to contain the filling, making sure none is exposed. Eat these as soon as they are out of the fryer.
Serves five as a starter
- 10 courgette flowers (male, if possible, as they are bigger)
- 100g plain flour, seasoned with salt, for dredging
- Groundnut oil, for deep-frying
- Sea salt and black pepper
For the chutney
- 1tsp raw peanuts
- ½tsp cumin seeds
- 2tbs frozen grated coconut, defrosted
- 1 large bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all
- 1 green chilli, roughly chopped
- Small thumb of ginger, finely grated
- Caster sugar, sea salt and lime juice, to taste
For the stuffing
- 1tbs rapeseed oil
- 1tsp brown mustard seeds
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 15 curry leaves
- ½tsp ground turmeric
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Thumb of ginger, finely grated
- 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
- 250g white crabmeat
- Handful of chopped coriander
- 50g frozen grated coconut, defrosted
For the batter
- 150g rice flour
- ¼tsp baking powder
- 250ml ice-cold sparkling water
To make the chutney, blitz the peanuts, cumin and coconut in a blender until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again, adding a little water to make a purée.
For the stuffing, heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and, as soon as they start popping, sprinkle in the asafoetida and swiftly follow with the curry leaves. Fry for five seconds, then add the turmeric, lemon zest, ginger and chilli, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the crabmeat and coriander and mix well, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and coconut. Set aside to cool.
Make a little cylinder of crab mixture and stuff into the centre of a courgette flower, then gently twist the petals together at the ends, making sure there is no exposed filling. Repeat with the rest of the crab mixture and courgette flowers.
Make the batter just before you're ready to fry. Sift the rice flour and baking powder into a bowl and whisk in the sparkling water, being careful not to overmix. Roll each courgette flower in seasoned flour and then dip into the batter to coat lightly – you want a thin, delicate coating.
Fill a large, heavy-based saucepan a third full with the deep- frying oil. Heat the oil to 180°C – if you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Holding each courgette flower by the stem, dip its head into the oil for a few seconds to set the batter before releasing. Fry in batches until golden brown and crisp. Drain very well on kitchen paper, letting the oil return to temperature between batches.
Serve immediately, with the chutney alongside.
Photography by Kristin Perers
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