I may have, in the past, mentioned my poor dessert making abilities. I blame this mostly on my imprecision as a cook. It is therefore a joy to find a dessert recipe I can muddle, and have something edible at the end. I find myself curiously craving sweet things and desserts in England. A meal seems incomplete without ‘pudding’ (whenever anyone says pudding, my brain starts playing a part of Pink Floyd’s The Wall: You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat. I get a faraway look in my eyes, and people just assume I’m mesmerised by the idea of pudding. Nope, just listening to imaginary music.)
My partner got this recipe book as a birthday gift many years ago, and it was one of the few recipe books that made the trip to England with us. Many of the recipes have stood us in good stead. We had a joyous dinner party at our home in Brisbane with the pumpkin and eggplant tagine, and it makes a regular appearance at our dinner table, with variations aplenty: parsnip or sweet potato instead of pumpkin, and (a personal favourite) okra instead of eggplant.
We had some friends over for dinner, and I decided to cook pho again, as they had expressed an enthusiasm for it. I wanted a light dessert to accompany my pho. If you are not familiar with them, Vietnamese desserts are rather odd; beans, agar agar and coconut milk don’t leap out at one as dessert foods, if one grows up with steamed puddings and ice-cream. Or so I am told. Matter of fact, Vietnamese desserts are strange for me, too. My father did not have a sweet tooth, and my mother was much too busy to make sweet things if my father was not going to bother eating them. The first time I remember my mother making something sweet was when I was about 7 years old; her children were finally out of her hair enough for her to labour over something sweet.
The dessert she chose to make was red bean and some-kinda-nut ‘che’: a kind of soupy dessert, which you can have hot or cold. I must have inherited my tastebuds from my father because I hated it then, but am prepared to tolerate it now, if only to make my mother happy. There are some Viet desserts I like, in particular the tri-colour bean dessert drink (layers of yellow bean, red bean, green jelly, coconut milk – which is really four colours but no need to be pedantic, now), but not many. I have yet to find a che that I like.
So, not only do I not know how to make a Viet dessert, I don’t especially enjoy eating them. Hence, I delved into the Moorish cookbook, looking for something complementary, and relatively easy (because I am a dessert wimp).
I found hot lemon fritters with cinnamon sugar, and though they weren’t perfect, they did work remarkably well. Naturally, I fudged the quantities, but here is the recipe, cribbed from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s.
For the fritters:-
250ml milk (I used soy milk, because that’s what we had in the fridge)
70g butter (the recipe called for unsalted butter but I can’t stand unsalted butter, so salted it was!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I just used normal olive oil)
125g plain flour (couldn’t work out how to vary this one, so plain flour it was)
finely grated zest of two lemons (my lemons were quite large, and I’d already used half of one, so I zested one and a half lemons)
3 eggs (nope, no fudging there)
1 tablespoon of honey (or thereabouts)
1 teaspoon or orange-blossom water (or thereabouts)
You will also need to make cinnamon sugar. This is very easy: supposedly you need 150g of caster sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I guestimated the amount of caster sugar. Measuring cups etc are for the weak. You basically just mix this all together.
To make the fritter batter, start by melting the butter with the milk and olive oil over a nice low heat.
When this is done – the recipe says when the liquid froths up but mine never did, possibly because of the soy, possibly due to the alignment of the moon and the stars, who knows – add the flour and lemon zest, and beat with a wooden spoon. This done over a low heat, but I found I needed to remove the pan occassionally as my heat seemed too high (the flour was cooking before it was blending into the liquid.)
Once the mixture has become smooth (ish) and ceases to be liquid, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Lastly, add the honey and orange blossom water.
That’s it. You should now have a pancake-batter-like batter, that smells encouragingly of egg and lemon. The batter should be left for at least an hour – I left mine overnight. The next day, the batter had thickened up nicely.
To cook the fritters, heat a lot of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan. I test whether my oil is hot by holding one wooden chopstick in the oil, against the bottom of the pan, and checking to see whether bubbles form. If bubbles form quickly and vigrourously, it’s hot enough. If they don’t, wait and test again whenever your patience has run out. This is my method for testing the heat of boiling oil for all my deep frying needs.
The recipe says to carefully place teaspoon-sized blobs of the batter into the oil. I tried this initially but found the batter would balloon out, as below.
Eventually, I got annoyed at carefully placing blobs, and just started pouring the batter in. This had the desired effect of the right sized blobs creating themselves, and the collateral effect of not ballooning. So I recommend just slowly pouring your batter in. It won’t form one enormous fritter, because the batter just won’t hold together. Instead, it will of its own accord form the right sized balls. Good, well behaved batter.
It’s cooked when it’s golden brown.
The recipe recommends rolling the fritters in cinnamon sugar and eating with custard. I just brought the batter and the plate of cinnamon sugar to my guests, and we all had fun rolling the batter in the cinnamon sugar – each to his/her own discretion as to the amount of sugar – without custard, because custard is a strange creature that would only make a very rare appearance in my household.
Easy, and quite yummy. A good accompanient to pho.