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Recipe: Banana Blossom 'Ish and Chips'

Homemade Beer Battered Banana Blossom with Minted Pea Purée and Cheat’s Tartare Mayo

(Vegan, Gluten Free Version.)

About 45 minutes preparation time, 2 hours marinating, and 45 minutes cooking time. Skill level: Fair to middling

At River Green we developed a gluten free beer battered Banana Blossom back in 2017 (and tofu before that). More recently, mindful of the environmental impact of the production and transport of exotic veg like banana blossom and jackfruit in tins, we have gone looking for something more local, with lower food miles, and, to be honest, with every man and his dog cooking banana blossom; a bit less ubiquitous!

We were buying tins of banana blossom by the case, but you can do this recipe easily at home with less impact, using only one or two tins of banana blossom. It’s equally as good, if not better than any you might find in the umpteen places that now cook this. So why not do Friday supper at home instead and impress your friends?

Shopping: (I recommend ‘Orient Express’ on Norwich Market.)

Tinned banana blossom in brine

Pack of Sushi Nori (toasted seaweed)

Dried seaweed or seaweed salad

Japanese Mirin (optional)

Small jar Capers in brine

Small jar Cornichons (cocktail gherkins)

Two lemons plus one to garnish

Gluten free self raising flour

Gluten free lager

Plain oil for frying (rapeseed or sunflower)

Vegan Mayonnaise (bought, or home made)

Fresh or dried dill and/or chives

Ingredients: For the Banana Blossom (per four people)

(You should get a couple of portions from one tin of banana blossom.)

2 tins banana blossom in brine

1 lemon, quartered

1 tbsp capers

1 tbsp chopped fresh or dried Dill, or chives

2 sheets of sushi nori (toasted seaweed) or 1 sheet and a handful of dried seaweed or seaweed salad

50ml or Japanese Mirin (optional)

1 1/2 tsp Sea salt

Open the tins and pour the contents into a bowl, tear up one of the sheets of nori and add to the water, or put the dried seaweed in.

Squeeze the lemons into the water and add the squeezed quarters into the bowl along with the salt and other ingredients.

Marinade for 2 hours or overnight.

Pick out the larger blossoms and gently squeeze the water out, if there are some odd leaves you can add them to each blossom. Pick off the frills around the end if there are lots of them, they are a bit like fish bones which could be an authentic surprise, but still less than ideal if there are many!

With scissors, cut the sushi Nori sheet in half lengthways (it’s slightly off-square) and each of these strips in half again so you have four long strips. (Put any unused nori back in the packet and put the packet in an airtight container or it will go soft and unusable.)

Carefully wrap a strip around the middle of each banana blossom. It will give a ‘sea’ taste, fish skin texture, but more importantly hold the banana blossom together as you dip it in batter. You can use the seaweed to stick two smaller blossoms together or fold a long thin one over to make a shorter fatter one.

For the Pea Purée, Boil a pan of water and add 150g or so of frozen peas, return it to the boil, then immediately drain and rinse with plenty of cold water.

Put the drained peas in a jug along with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, a handful of mint leaves and blend until smooth (add a little water for a ‘saucier’ texture.) For a really smooth purée, push through a sieve.

For the ‘Tartare’:

Homemade mayonnaises are easy to make, but you might not want to do a large amount of tartare sauce for just four people, so you can ‘adulterate’ any vegan mayo, whether homemade or shop bought.

Roughly chop 3 Cornichons (cocktail gherkins), a dozen(ish) capers and a sprig of dill and/or few stalks of chives.

In a bowl, stir 4 tbsps of mayo together with the chopped pickles, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with more capers and chopped cornichons.

For the Beer Batter:

In one bowl mix:

150g Gluten free self raising flour (or 50g Gram flour, 100g GF SR flour)

(You can do this with regular flour, but the gluten free flour makes a lighter batter)

Along with:

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp dried turmeric

½ tsp mixed dried herbs

1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

1 tsp caster sugar

A good grind of sea salt and black pepper

Carefully stir in some gluten free lager (eg: Peroni) adding a little at a time until you have a mixture like a pancake batter, loose, but still sticky enough to stay on the product. (Should be about 150ml) Don’t drink the leftover lager yet as the batter will thicken the longer it stands, you may have to thin it out before you cook with it!

Heat plenty of oil to 160 degC in a wok or deep fat fryer (Test the batter by dropping a couple of drops in the oil, it should fizz immediately but not too violently, if it doesn’t fizz the oil’s not hot enough, if it fizzes too violently, turn the heat down.)

On a tray, dish or plate, spread out some flour. Roll the banana blossom in the flour, then dip in the batter, making sure it’s all coated. Holding the blossom with battered fingers, lower it into the oil gently (don’t drop it from a height or you’ll be splashed with hot oil!) If you’re cooking on the hob, use the back rings so that any spits of oil won’t make the floor slippy! Another tip: Cook the fattest ones first, as the oil goes down you can cook the thinner ones without having to top it up.

Cook one at a time until golden, turning if necessary, remove and drain on kitchen paper, keep hot on a tray in a warm oven while you cook the other flowers.

Serve with fried or oven-baked chips, or for a healthier dish (somewhat), minted new potatoes. You can garnish with some nice salad leaves, pickles, or cooked samphire (when it’s in season!)

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