Deep-fried Tempura Leaves

Sophie Grigson encourages you to go foraging for edible leaves to make these exquisitely light and crispy fritters
By Sophie Grigson
Deep-fried Tempura Leaves
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes plus chilling
  • Effort: hard

Ingredients

Main:

  • a few handfuls of edible leaves, such as comfrey, wild garlic, sorrel, large lemon balm leaves
  • sunflower, groundnut or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • coarse sea salt
  • lemon wedges, to serve

For the tempura batter:

  • 100 g plain flour, un-sifted
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 225 ml ice cold water
  • 4 ice cubes

Tips and Suggestions


Remember that this is not the kind of dish that can be kept hanging around, so ensure that diners are ready to sit at table the minute you call. Don't even think of making the batter until the oil is on the stove and the table is laid and ready.

Thoroughly chilled water is crucial for the batter - the clash of arctic cold batter and volcanically hot oil is what produces the crispest fritters.

Method

1. Rinse the leaves carefully and dry them thoroughly with paper towel. If not using instantly, pop them into a plastic bag, seal and store in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, but only for a matter of hours.

2. When you are ready to fry, put the oil on to heat.

3. While the oil is heating, tip the flour into a bowl (do not sift), make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk. Pour in about a third of the water and start to mix, preferably with a pair of chopsticks or a fork, but not an over-efficient whisk. Gradually mix in the rest of the water. The best tempura batter has plenty of little lumps of flour left in it, so do not beat to perfect smoothness. Add the ice-cubes.

4. To test the oil, drop a drip of batter into it from the tip of a chopstick - the batter should bob instantly to the surface, fizzing. Turn down the heat to maintain a constant temperature.

5. One at a time, lay each leaf on the surface of the batter, pressing it down gently so that one side only is coated. Sorrel leaves need to be coated on both sides.

6. Once each leaf has its cargo of batter, lay it in the hot oil. Each leaf should take about one minute to cook to a crisp pale ivory with the merest hint of tan. If they are taking longer, then your oil is probably not hot enough, and if they are browning too swiftly, then it is over-hot.

7. As the leaves are cooked, lift them out with tongs and lay them on a plate lined with several layers of kitchen paper.

8. Allow the leaves to drain briefly then serve them up immediately, sprinkled with a little salt, and accompanied by lemon wedges for squeezing over them.

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