Growing up, tempura batter always seemed like something almost mystical. Whenever a chef on Ready Steady Cook (British cooking television programme) had no idea what to do he or she would whip up a tempura batter. In reality, tempura is a quick and easy way to prepare any number of ingredients, keeping them fresh and relatively healthy. Tempura Cauliflower? A vegetarian classic.
Batter has, over the years, developed a less-than-sterling reputation for being heavy and unhealthy. The culprit? Probably poor-quality fish and chips, or the notorious battered Mars Bar (we’re looking at you, Scotland). Either way, it is a misplaced assumption that batter must be calorie heavy and unappetizingly unhealthy.
My recipe for tempura batter, using both soda water and bicarbonate of soda, creates a light, airy batter, which crisps up very nicely when fried at the right temperature. And this is something to pay close attention to; when dropped in your cauliflower wants to fizz almost violently, but not brown too quickly.
Tempura cauliflower – indeed, tempura anything – is best eaten as quickly as possible. Leave it sitting too long and the inevitable steam from the contents of the tempura will soften the batter. Achieved soft batter? You’ve defeated the point.
If tempura cauliflower is delicious alone, then it transcends mouthwatering served alongside a dip or two. There’s no need to get too complicated, however; a simple sweet chilli sauce or soy sauce will do the trick.
There are so many things you can do with batter, and so many different types of batter to experiment with. For something a little spicier, try adding your cauliflower to an onion bhaji or spinach pakora batter.
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 150g plain flour
- 75g cornflour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- soda water, refrigerated
- enough sunflower oil for deep frying
- Split the cauliflower in manageable florets, transfer to a saucepan and cover with boiling water and pop the lid on. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before draining.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornflour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Using a whisk, incorporate enough soda water into the flours to yield a smooth batter, just thick enough to coat your finger. A bit like melted ice cream.
- Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or wok (190C if you’re unsure). Coat the florets in the batter one by one, dropping them carefully into the oil until golden brown and crispy. Don’t be tempted to do more than a few at once.
- When the first batch of tempura florets are done pop them in a bowl lined with kitchen towels to drain. Serve immediately.
Cost: Dinner doesn’t get much more frugal than this. A head of cauliflower and a smattering of some of the least expensive items in your local supermarket can only mean one thing; a filling and healthy meal (or snack) for no more than £1.50.
* The entire price of the oil isn’t included as it can easily be left to cool and re-used numerous times.