With this recipe for waterblommetjie tempura, I run blanched indigenous Cape waterblommetjies through a tempura batter before frying them to crispy perfection. Served with a chilli dipping sauce they make a perfect snack or starter.
Firstly, in case you were wondering what the waterblommetjie is, its described by Wikipedia as: An Aponogeton distachyos flower, commonly known as Cape pondweed, Cape hawthorn or Cape asparagus, which is found in the dams and marshes of the Western Cape of South Africa. The buds of Aponogeton distachyos are usually ready to be picked in the southern midwinter months of July and August.
Typically it is used as a key ingredient in the traditional South African dish of waterblommetjie bredie (lamb stew), and has an interesting culinary history which I learned more about at the recent cook-off on Du Toitskloof Wine Estate.
This is what it looks like after being blanched.
For a long time, I have wanted to see how it would turn out dunked in tempura batter and deep-fried.
I stumbled across a tempura batter recipe in Andy Fenners new cookbook ‘Taking it Easy’ which I have recently acquired and fallen in love with. In his book, Andy features 20 of his favourite chefs and recipes that they love to cook at home. It’s genius.
I’m very fortunate to say that many of these chefs I know and am privileged to have eaten their food. One of them is Richard Carstens from Tokara, and you can see what I wrote and shot on my recent visit to this exquisite restaurant.
Japanese cuisine is a big influence in Richard’s cooking, so where better to turn when I needed a tempura batter. This is taken from his recipe for ‘cabbage rolls, tempura mushrooms with a dashi ponzu sauce’ in the book.
How awesome does THAT sound?
This makes a lot of batter which I didn’t use all of for fear that my bathroom scale would have noticed.
- 400 ml iced water
- 1 egg yolk
- 80g flour
- 80g rice flour
- 40g cornflour
In a bowl mix the iced water and the egg yolk. In another bowl sift and mix the flours together. Add the flours to the egg and water mixture until you get a loose batter with a few lumps. Keep chilled in the fridge until you are ready to fry the waterblommetjies.
To prepare the waterblommetjies, soak them in a basin of salt water for at least an hour or overnight. Rinse and drain. Blanch them in a pot of acidulated boiling water for 15 minutes. I used about 3/4 of a cup of white vinegar to about 5 litres of water. Drain and refresh with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Heat a pot of oil to 200 C or so.
Once well drained, pat them dry in a tea towel. Dust them in some flour and immediately dip them into the batter and drop them into the hot oil. Fry, turning them over until they start turning slightly golden. I found this batter didn’t go very golden brown.
Make up a dipping sauce that is a bit more interesting than just plain soya sauce. One of my favourite recipes for this is Sonia Cabano’s chilli -lime dipping sauce from her cookbook ‘Easy’.
Serve the tempura waterblommetjies immediately while they are still hot and crunchy. I squeezed lime juice over them which gave them a nice zesty wake-up call,
A recipe for a traditional South African waterblommetjie bredie:
By Annetjie Melck (local culinary icon)
• 1 kg mutton (a combination of platrib, dikrib and sheeps’ tails)
• 2,5 kg waterblommetjies, cleaned
• 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
• 1 onion roughly chopped
• 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
• A bunch of wild sorrel, finely chopped
• 250 ml hot water
• 15 ml brown vinegar
• A pinch of grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Lemon for serving
• Use a heavy-bottomed cast iron pot with a lid
• Season the meat with the brown vinegar, salt, pepper and nutmeg
• Braise the meat, onion and garlic in a little water until tender
• Add the waterblommetjies and wild sorrel and place the potatoes on top
• Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and add the 250 ml hot water
• Cover with the lid and simmer until tender. Keep hot water handy should you need more moisture –
don’t let the contents cook dry or turn into a soup.
• Don’t stir the pot during the cooking but only before serving to mix the meat, potatoes and waterblommetjies
• Serve with rice and lemon wedges.
CLEANING THE WATERBLOMMETJIES
Soak the waterblommetjies overnight in salt water and rinse thoroughly. Remove all sand and dirt as well as the
harder parts from the flowers and the leaves.
If using mutton tails, don’t exceed the weight of the meat as specified in the recipe. If using lamb, braising will be
much quicker. The success of this stew is the marriage between the fat of the meat and the waterblommetjies.
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