Monday, 18 August 2008

Vegetable chips and fritters (Λαχανικά τηγανίτες)

Should migrant workers learn the main lingua franca of a country before being allowed to take on a job? Although my own parents knew very little English when they first started working in New Zealand, and they learnt very little more after that, I have wondered whether there is a ring of truth in this statement. I have a Kiwi accent and as an English teacher by profession, I would like to believe that I am more tolerant of other people's linguistic difficulties when they have limited English skills.

On a recent trip to London, I went into a burger restaurant at Clapham Junction and asked the (Asian) attendant for a hamburger and some chips. She was having problems understanding me, so I repeated my order. I used all the synonyms for chips that I knew: potatoes, chips, french fries, fried potatoes. I was about to resort to Kiwi slang ('spuds') when she finally nodded and said "Yes, OK". When I went home with the takeaway bag, I found two burgers in it and no fries. I still can't work out what on earth it was that made me misunderstood. The end result was: no fried potatoes, that simple meal no one would make any health claims about, but very few would deny the mouth-watering, lip-smacking moreish taste of.

We all love fried potatoes at home, and it's a pity that it isn't the healthiest dish in our weekly range of meals. The only excuse I have to cook them more often is when I can disguise the platter with the addition of courgette and aubergine chips with garden-fresh produce.

Zucchini and eggplant can be sliced into very thin rounds, floured and dipped in very hot oil to make chips. I like to drain them on absorbent paper to get rid of the excess oil. They can be fried till they are very crisp, or just enough to keep their shape. In restaurants, they are usually served with a dollop of tzatziki or any other garlic flavoured dip.

zucchini chipscourgette chips

Aubergine is also made into a tasty soft squidgy fritter. I was very fortunate to pick up some albino eggplant from my uncles' farm the other day. White aubergine looks and feels exactly the same as purple aubergine, except that it has white skin. It tastes a little different: it has a much blander taste, bordering on sweet rather than savoury. This is why I never use it in papoutsakia or moussaka, because it isn't as tasty. As a fritter though, it is perfect.

albino white eggplant aubergine

These fritters can be made with either purple or white aubergine. The best variety to work with is the round rather than the long eggplant. The peel needs to be removed from the aubergine before frying. It is as unpalatable as the skin of red Florinis peppers, whose skins are always removed after being roasted. In this case, slice the aubergine into rounds, and then pare the skin away from the aubergine flesh.

aubergine frittersaubergine eggplant fritters

Dredge them in flour and dip them in a light batter so that they are just coated. Put them carefully into a pan with very hot oil; cook only a few at a time, because they tend to stick, and once the temperature of the oil is lowered if too many fritters are placed in the pan, they tend to soak up too much oil and become very greasy. Brown well on both sides.

aubergine eggplant fritters

These delicious fritters only need a hefty summer salad to accompany them. Go easy on the bread, as there's plenty of flour covering them! For an even more tempting way to serve fried eggplant, have a look at Lulu's recipe which uses fresh tomato.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons.

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