These stuffed zucchini flowers look and taste amazing! Make sure they're eaten straightaway, while they're still crisp and hot. If you can't get hold of any flowers you can still make the recipe using just the zucchini - it will be like an Italian tempura
- 7 ounces good-quality crumbly ricotta cheese (not supermarket ricotta; best bought from a specialty shop)
- 1/4 of a nutmeg, finely grated, or a pinch of ground nutmeg
- A small handful freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated, plus 2 lemons, halved for serving
- A small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 1 to 2 fresh red chiles, halved, seeded and very finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 1 1/2 cups decent white wine or sparkling water
- 8 zucchini flowers, with zucchini still attached
- Vegetable oil
- A small piece potato, peeled, optional
- A few sprigs fresh parsley, optional
To make a lovely light batter, put the flour into a mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt. Pour in the white wine and whisk until thick and smooth. At this point the consistency of the batter should be like heavy cream or, if you dip your finger in, it should stick to your finger and nicely coat it. If it's too thin, add a bit more flour; if it's too thick, add a little more wine.
Open the zucchini flowers up gently, keeping them attached to the zucchini, and snip off the pointed stamen inside because these taste bitter. Give the flowers a gentle rinse if you like.
With a teaspoon, carefully fill each flower with the ricotta mixture. Or, as I prefer to do, spoon the ricotta into the corner of a sandwich bag. Snip 1/2-inch off the corner and use this as a makeshift piping bag to gently squeeze the filling into each flower, until just full. Carefully press the flowers back together around the mixture to seal it in. Then put the flowers aside. (Any leftover ricotta can be smeared on hot crostini as a snack!)
Now for the deep-frying bit. Get everyone out of the way if you can and make sure there are no kids around. Have tongs or a spider ready for lifting the flowers out of the oil, and a plate with a double layer of paper towels on it for draining. Pour the oil into a deep fat fryer or large deep saucepan so it's about 4 inches deep. Heat it up to 350 degrees F or, if using a saucepan, put in your piece of potato. As soon as the potato turns golden, floats to the surface and starts to sizzle, the oil is just about the right temperature. Remove the potato from the pan.
One by one, dip the zucchini with their ricotta-stuffed flowers into the batter, making sure they're completely covered, and gently let any excess drip off. Carefully release them, away from you, into the hot oil. Quickly batter another 1 or 2 flowers and any small zucchini (or parsley) leaves if you have any - but don't crowd the pan too much otherwise they'll stick together. Fry until golden and crisp all over, then lift them out of the oil and drain on the paper towels. Remove to a plate or board and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and the remaining chile and mint. Serve with half a lemon to squeeze over. Bloody delicious. Eat them quick!
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