Cauliflower fritter in pitta with lime yogurt

Cauliflower Schnitzel

Friday in Israel meant chicken schnitzel and the veggie option for me was a really good cauliflower fritter, or cauliflower schnitzel, so I could join the Friday party too.  Schnitzel means cutlet and it’s one of the most common foods that I encountered in Israel, with each family having their own tried and tested recipe that caused a notable schnitzel smack down, rivalry was fierce – whose Ima made the best schnitzel?  The answer is always, of course, your own.

 

I’ve often thought of these fat fritters, turning the kitchen paper underneath them dark with grease and glinting with salt flakes. The thought that you are eating a huge deep fried hunk of bad/goodness being allowed just a brief moment’s audience before biting down into the crisp shell, flecked with mustard and pepper housing soft lightly spiced cauliflower.  As food goes, it was pretty unforgettable.  The schnitzels were a piece of heaven warm, straight out of the oil, almost too hot to eat, but I loved them cold too.  Wrapped up in kitchen towel and stashed in tupperware for prime quality fridge pickings during the week.

Cauliflower fritters with lime and coriander dip

It’s been more years than I care to recount since being introduced to this food.  It’s always stayed in my mind though – a food that is loaded with memory and identity – a familiar comfort to older generations, a culinary reminder to younger of their European roots and now entrenched in my mind as a brief visitor; a tourist, looking in on a different culture and place.

 

On the cookbook shelf there’s probably nobody better to turn to for Israeli inspiration than Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I found this recipe for cauliflower fritters and lime yogurt in the book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.  They were a staple of Sami’s Palestinian mother and he would eat them in pitta with hummus and tomatoes.  Although they are clearly not the European schnitzels that I’ve talked about here, they are that brilliant mix of old country and new that so much Israeli cookery combines.  I made them, opting to use less oil and shallow fry them instead and was transported straight back to the Middle Eastern heat, the cross of cultures, the feeling of being somewhere altogether foreign to me.  It was a real pleasure.

Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yogurt

Serves 8
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian
From book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

What you will need

  • 1 small cauliflower (trimmed and cut into small florets)
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 shallots (finely chopped)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower oil (for frying)
  • 300g Greek yogurt (I use zero fat)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

To make the lime sauce
Step 1 Place the yogurt, coriander, lime zest and juice, olive oil and seasoning into a bowl and mix well. Check the seasoning and the zestiness - you want it quite tart. Cover and put in the fridge.
To make the fritters
Step 2 Cook the cauli in a large pan of salted water for about 10-15, or until the florets are very soft. Drain and set aside
Step 3 Put the flour, garlic, eggs, shallots, parsley, spices and seasoning into a separate bowl and combine together to form a smooth batter. Add in the warm cauliflower and mix well to break down the florets
Step 4 Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan
Step 5 Put some additional flour into a shallow bowl. Form patties with your hands, flatten into the bowl of flour. Add them to the frying pan taking care not to crowd the pan
Step 6 Cook on both sides for about 4 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper.
Step 7 Grind some salt over the fritters and serve with the lime yogurt.

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