Friday, 15 June 2012

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal: Atherina fritters (Τηγανίτες με αθερίνα)

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.

A while ago, I had bought a kilo of atherina for what seemed like an expensive price, €8 a kilo. I washed them, placed them in lemon juice to marinate. After frying about half of them, I got tired of flouring and frying each individual tiny fish. The rest were placed in a plastic bag and thrown in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen. We also have a large freezer which I dutifully fill up every year by the end of summer, and then frugally and economically empty out over the cold season, until by the end of May, it is completely empty. It won't be put back in use for another month, until the summer garden starts producing excess crops.

Now that I'm reduced to one small freezer, I more easily notice what must be used up more quickly. I found the little bag of atherina just a few days ago when I had some leftover horta for lunch. Horta are tasty and nutritious but they always need a little bit of protein to make them go down more easily, like some cheese or a boiled egg. The atherina fit the bill perfectly. Turning the atherina into fritters also made them into a more substantial (and less tedious to prepare) meal than just fyring them on their own. I got 10 hefty fritters from about 350g of atherina.

You need:
350g whitebait (~ €2-3; in Greece, fresh atherina is the norm, but I've also noticed cheaper imported frozen atherina available in Hania supermarkets)
an egg*, separated
an onion*, chopped finely
a clove of garlic*, chopped finely
1 cup (more or less) of flour (~10 cents)
1 teaspoon of baking powder* (optional)
salt and pepper*
olive oil

Place the rinsed fish, egg yolk, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix them well. Whip the egg white till nearly stiff and add it to the fish (I do this instead of using baking powder). Mix it in lightly with a spoon. Then mix the flour into the fish mixture, without stirring too much, so that the mixture remains fluffly and light.

Heat some olive oil in a small to medium sized frying pan (a thin coating is enough). Drop large spoonfuls of mixture onto the pan; don't fry more than 3-4 at a time, to keep the oil hot. Fry till they have browned on one side, then turn them over like pancakes. I didn't drain the fritters, because they keep cooking once they ar out of the pan, and they soak up most of the oil.

Tartare sauce, a herby mayonnaise, is usually served with fish in New Zealand. I simply added some purslane to some store-bought mayonnaise. Not the real thing, but it's not hard to make it at home, if you have some farm-fresh eggs. Whitebait fritters also go really well with sriracha sauce, which I bought from The Hague during our recent trip in Northern Europe.

Total cost of the meal for four people: about €4, together with the sauce of your choice and some bread; about €1 per serving. 

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