This year, my Christmas wish list is a list of books, which I have been whishing for since over a year now. They are very interesting food memoirs – and cookbooks of course: ‘The Kitchen Diaries I & II”, by one of my all time favourite food writers and cook, Nigel Slater. I love the way he describes food, almost poetic but also with a sense of humour. Reading his recipes is always a joy.
The other cookbook I have been eying for a while (in fact nearly 2 years!) is ‘Die Portugiuesische Küche’ (The Portuguese Kitchen) by Rita Cortes Valente de Oliveira and Alexandra Klobouk who beautifully illustrates the recipes. I first came across of this book in ‘ Die Zeit’ (The Times) newspapers, which ran a special feature, including several recipes selected from the book. I was then already so smitten by the illustrated recipes that I kept the magazine and leafed through its illustrations from time to time! I am really looking forward to find the ‘real’ book under our Christmas tree!
Today, I am sharing with you one of those recipes from the magazine, which I have been looking forward to try it out – Peixinhos da Horta, deep-fried green beans in batter. And I am happy that I did, finally.
The translation of ‘peixinhos da horta’ literally means ‘garden fishes’ (because the battered beans resemble fishes). What a cute name! I am also impressed to have find out that this dish is in fact the origin of the most famous Japanese dish next to sushi – tempura. They do share a very similar cooking method, however the batters are quite different: Japanese tempura usually has a lighter and crispier batter, a mixture of cold water and flour. But this Portuguese one is a little richer since it is made of milk and egg.
I however changed the recipe slightly to make it gluten free, I use chickpea flour and potato starch in place of wheat flour. The chickpea flour adds a fine nutty flavour. I am not sure my beans look anything like fishes, but the batter is still somewhat light and crunchy. By all means, feel free to use normal flour for the batter, I am sure it will taste just as good.
*Optional – I sprinkle some za’atar, a very popular spice mix from the middle east (I got mine from a friend who brought it from Israel) on the cooked beans, and it gives the whole dish an amazingly tangy and herby flavour.
*by the way, I posted a baked sweet potato fries recipe here last Friday, hope you like it as well 🙂
(Serves 3-4 as a side)
For the beans:
- 500g Green beans, washed and remove the stem end
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
For the batter:
- scant 1 cup chickpea flour
- 5 heaped tbsp. potato starch
- (or all purpose flourto replace the flours mix)
- ¾ cup milk (plus more if needed)
- 1 egg, beaten
- Za’atar (optional)
Prepare the batter by mixing the flours, milk and egg in a large mixing bowl. Stir until fully combined and free of any lumps (if the batter is too thick, add a little bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time, the batter should resemble pancake batter). Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
Cook the green beans in salted boiling water for about 4 minutes, drain in a colander and then run them under cold water, drain again and pad dry with kitchen towel.
Heat oil (about 5cm deep) in a wok or heavy bottom pan, to test if the oil is hot enough, drop a little batter in the oil, if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.
Dip the beans in the batter one at a time and then carefully drop it into the hot oil, do not overcrowd the pan, leave the beans enough space between each other (don’t worry if two of them stick together), work quickly with a thong or wooden chopsticks, turn the beans and fry again until the batter turn golden. Remove the cooked beans on a cooling rack lined with kitchen towels to absorb the excess oil. Cool slightly and transfer the beans on a serving platter.
Sprinkle more sea salt or za’atar before serving.