At this time of year, swathes of wild fennel are in flower, their bright yellow blooms rising above clouds of green fennel fronds. The flowers smell sweet and fragrant with aniseed. The bees and other pollinating insects love them. If you pick one off and eat it early in the day, you will likely be rewarded with the sweet nectar therein. By later in the day, it may have been carried off by some critter or other. I like to pick the flowers and add the little florets to salads, or a bowl of pasta with wild fennel and lemon pesto. The fennel pollen is also a highly sought after culinary cabinet addition. But I’ve finally settled on a wonderful wild fennel flower fritter recipe.
These fritters would make great party food. I planned to enjoy mine with champagne on New Year’s Eve. A friend of mine commented that they look so much like fireworks that it was appropriate. The flavours did pair particularly well with a glass of Veuve Clicquot, my favourite champagne. The batter I used was gluten free. Made with maize flour, it has a natural sweetness that compliments that of the flowers; it’s a different product than the more common corn flour we get in Australia. The ‘maize flour’ is still yellow from the corn, and tastes like the vegetable we know. It certainly doesn’t have the bland flavour of corn flour used for thickening sauces. The batter is very simple, but creates a wonderful, crisp coating for delicate flowers. I eat only the yellow flower portion of the fritter, using the stalks as a holding device, and discarding them when I’m done.
Choose fennel flowers that are fully open. It is preferable to pick them the day you want to make the fritters, to keep all the nectar and pollen in the flower, and the fritter. If this isn’t possible, pick them with a long stem attached. When you bring the flowers home, trim the bottom of the stalk with a sharp knife or pair of kitchen shears and place them in a vase of clean water till you need to use them.
|12-24||Wild fennel flower heads|
|1||Free range egg|
|Oil, for frying|
Trim the fennel flowers from their stalks.
Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and break in the egg. Add the soda water and whisk till combined.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan till very hot. I prefer to wait till it’s about 200oC.
Mix the batter again and dip in a fennel flower, moving it around in the batter to ensure it is well coated. Lift the flower up, allowing most of the drops of batter to fall back into the bowl, then quickly transfer it to the hot oil, flowers down (stalk up). Hold it under the bubbling oil with the stalk of the flower. Leave it tin the oil till crisp and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining flowers.
Arrange the flowers on a serving tray and eat immediately.