'MÜCVER' or COURGETTE FRITTERS
‘Mücver’ is the rather un-lovely Turkish word for courgette fritter (although, reading it now, I realise that ‘courgette-fritter’ is also a little un-delicious sounding). These things need a new name! (Zucchini popcorn? Not so catchy perhaps…).
Oftentimes in Greek and Turkish restaurants, you see these served as little patties, pressed flat on top and shallow fried. These always seem to have absorbed too much oil though, and can turn out a kind of drab brown-ish colour. Deep-frying gives a better result, with fritters that look like golden little sputniks, crispy bits of courgette sticking out at every angle. But, it is best to keep the balls on the small side as if over-large they can get a little doughy in the middle. In this recipe, I've added chopped walnut to improve the texture, and a lot chopped herbs too for freshness.
(Serves four as part of a mezze spread)
- 800g courgette (about 2 fairly large ones) – coarsely grated, (so as to get that sputnik-effect when fried!)
- 3 eggs
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 small shallots – very finely chopped
- 25g dill (small bunch) – finely chopped
- 25g parsley – finely chopped
- 15g mint – finely chopped
- 100g feta cheese - crumbled
- 75g shelled walnuts
- Salt & pepper
- Canola or sunflower oil for deep-frying
For the yogurt dipping sauce (Cacik)
- 200g thick Greek yogurt
- 2 Lebanese cucumbers – finely grated
- Small handful of mint leaves
- Small handful of dill
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Grate the courgettes into a sieve and sprinkle generously with salt. Position the sieve atop a bowl, and put aside for 30 minutes. The courgettes will begin losing water, which is what will help make a light crisp fritter.
Meanwhile, make a start on the dipping sauce by doing the same thing with the cucumbers. Grate these (finely this time) into another sieve, sprinkle with salt, then position above a bowl to catch the drips, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C to roast the walnuts. Give these 8 minutes or so in the hot oven, but do keep a close eye as they can burn quite quickly. When the walnuts have cooled sufficiently, chop them into approximately 5mm chunks.
Continue to prepare the dipping sauce by finely chopping the dill and mint. When the cucumber has been draining for 30 minutes, squeeze this by hand to remove as much water as possible. Place the Greek yogurt in a clean bowl and mix through the drained cucumber and chopped herbs. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and olive oil, then mix. Give this a quick taste before seasoning as, depending on how much salt went on the cucumbers, it may not need any more. Put the finished dip in the fridge to thicken.
Squeeze the grated courgette by hand to remove as much water as possible. Place this in a large bowl and add the chopped shallots and herbs. Beat the eggs together briefly in a separate bowl, before adding to the courgette and mixing through. Sieve the flour and baking powder together into the courgette mix, then beat until everything comes together to form a batter. Lastly mix through the crumbled feta cheese and chopped walnuts. The mücver mix is now ready to deep fry!
I like to use a small-ish saucepan for this kind of deep frying as you get the right depth of oil without having to use industrial quantities of the stuff. Fill to just over half with the canola or sunflower oil, and heat on high. To test the temperature of the oil, drop a small square of bread, or a tiny amount of the batter mix into the pot, if it is quickly swallowed by bubbles, the oil is ready to go.
Using a fork, pick up a tablespoon-sized amount of the batter and lower this gently into the oil. I find that a fork is better than a spoon for this job as it creates fritters with a more free-form shape – i.e. more crunchy bits! Add another one or two forkfuls of batter, depending on the size of you pot. It is very important not to overcrowd as the oil will bubble up too high and may overflow. Overcrowding can also reduce the temperature of the oil so that the fritters don’t cook, or mean that they will end up touching one another and merging!
Fry each fritter for a couple of minutes or until golden brown, turning gently during the frying with a clean, dry fork. Place the cooked fritters onto kitchen roll to drain. If you are making a large amount, consider keeping these in a warm in the oven at about 80˚C while you finish frying.
Serve the crispy mücver immediately (they are definitely at their best fresh from the oil and hot), with the minty yogurt dipping sauce alongside.