Here’s the perfect solution for all your vegetables. This tempura is breathtakingly delicious–Yotam Ottolenghi
LC Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genius Note
We concur with Ottolenghi. This tempura is a breathtaking work of staggering genius, considering it works well in all seasons with just about all vegetables. It’s also breathtakingly, staggeringly stunning. As far as root veggies go, it’s pretty fetching. But back to it being staggeringly genius. Because we know some of you will experience needless guilt over the deep-frying, we thought we’d remind you that it’s quite the inspiring approach–not to mention a lovely excuse–for selecting just-pulled-from-the-dirt veggies at the greenmarket or, if you wish to observe National Clean Out Your Fridge Day this November 15th, those about-to-languish veggies from your vegetable bin. See? Both practical and healthful. For the utmost in just-stare-at-it-and-sigh potential, opt for an array of hues. You’re welcome.
Seasonal Vegetable Tempura
For the dipping sauce
- 6 cardamom pods
- Grated zest and juice of 4 limes (about 1/3 cup juice)
- 1 fresh green chile
- 2 3/4 cups cilantro (leaves and stalks)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons water
For the vegetables
- About 2 3/4 pounds (net weight) freshly prepared vegetables, such as: Jerusalem artichoke, beet, broccoli, potato, sweet potato, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, baby leek, parsnip, kohlrabi, salsify, turnip or the like
- 1/2 cup cornstarch plus extra to coat the vegetables
- 1/2 cup self-rising flour (to make your own self-rising flour, combine 1 cup flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and a pinch of salt)
- 3/4 cup seltzer or sparkling water plus more as needed
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
- Chile flakes
- 3 cups grapeseed or sunflower oil for deep-frying
Make the dipping sauce
- Break the cardamom pods open using a mortar and pestle. Transfer the seeds to a food-processor bowl and discard the pods. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and blitz to get a smooth, runny sauce.
Prepare the vegetables
- There aren’t any strict rules you must follow, but try to keep them chunky and retain some of the natural shape of the vegetable, where possible. For example, cut round vegetables into thin wedges and long vegetables into batons or strips. Here are a few useful suggestions.• For cauliflower and broccoli, divide into medium florets• For beets, peel and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices or wedges• For potatoes and sweet potatoes, leave the skin on and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices• For Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, parsnip, salsify, turnip and celeriac, peel and cut into 3/8-inch-thick sticks, not too perfect• For baby leeks, just trim off the green ends
- Before you start frying the vegetables, prepare a large plate lined with paper towels. Scatter some cornstarch for coating the vegetables on another plate. Place the batter ingredients – the flour, the 1/2 cup of cornstarch, sparkling water, grapeseed oil, and salt – in a bowl and whisk well to get a smooth, runny mix. Add some chile flakes for heat.
- Pour the frying oil in a medium saucepan and place on high heat. Once very hot, turn the heat down to medium. When frying the vegetables, the oil should be hot enough so you get a good sizzle but not so hot that they burn.
- Take each piece of vegetable and toss it in the cornstarch. Shake to remove any excess, then dip it in the batter. Lift and shake again, then carefully put into the oil. Deep-fry four or five pieces of vegetable at a time. As they fry, turn the pieces over to color evenly. Soft vegetables like leeks should take about 1 minute to cook, harder ones like beets 2 minutes or more. When frying, occasionally remove any burnt bits that float in the oil. As they cook, transfer the vegetables onto the paper towels and keep warm.
- When all the vegetables are cooked, serve them at once, with the dipping sauce on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I made this dish with red bell peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and russet potatoes. I also included 12 shrimp, so I could serve it as an entree with a protein component. The vegetables and shrimp had a nice, light, crisp coating. The dipping sauce is excellent and a nice departure from the sauces typically served with tempura. It was a bit time-consuming, due to the need to clean and cut all of the vegetables. After prepping, I saved the leftover vegetables for a stir-fry I was planning to make later in the week. The recipe makes a large quantity of tempura. The next time, I’ll cut the quantity of vegetables and shrimp back to 2 or 2 1/4 pounds. Also, the batter is quite thick and needs to be thinned a bit with the seltzer.
Originally published November 15, 2011