This week there’s a polite notice in the box about an alien species of squash called Kabocha, aka Japanese pumkin, standing in for the English Butternut squash. Wikipedia describes it as strong, sweet, moist and fluffy like chestnuts and a good candidate for tempura. Yes! Great idea, let’s give it a try.
Tamper with your Tempura
Let me count the ways to make tempura. A long search on the internet provided too many variations on the subject so I made up a recipe according to my rule of what’s in the cupboard. Since this is a way of cooking from Japan I used rice flour mixed with corn flour and avoided the problem of over mixing and activating the gluten in wheat flour which could make the batter chewy, apparently. Not sure what corn flour does but I spotted it in one variation and decided to add it to my experiment. All the recipes I found included ice cold water, with or without fizz and some called for baking soda. Beer ticks all those boxes so I opened a cold bottle of Peroni, used half and drank the rest.
Take: 1 small pumpkin or squash, 75g rice flour, 75g cornflour, 180ml very cold light beer, 1 egg, enough cooking oil for deep frying, I used peanut oil which is suited to hot frying and doesn’t effect the flavour of the food.
1 Place flours in a large mixing bowl. Crack egg into the middle and pour in beer. Lightly mix with a hand whisk. Lumps in the batter are good to get the characteristic knobbly crunchy look. However mine turned out to be a very smooth affair. (Note to self: try it without cornflour next time.) Keep the batter cool in the fridge and then tackle the pumpkin.
2 Removing the skin with a sharp veg peeler worked better than trying to do it with a knife. Cut the pumpkin into thin slices after removing the insides. Lay the slices on a plate and sprinkle with rice flour as it helps the batter stick to the surface of the vegetable.
3 Heat the oil in a deep pan. I used a wok. Dip a slice of pumpkin in the batter and drop carefully into the oil. If it sizzles and fizzes the temperature of the oil is hot enough otherwise wait a bit before adding the next slice. Fry a few pieces at a time and lift out when the batter has turned golden. Place all the cooked pieces on kitchen paper to absorb the oil. (Remove the loose batter bits as you go otherwise they burn and spoil the oil.)
I was surprised how quickly and well the pumpkin cooked. This batter works even without all the knobbly bits and tastes delicious with a typical crispy lightness you expect with tempura cooked food. And yes it did remind me of the taste of chestnuts and yummy dipped in dark soy sauce or Nigella’s home-made Chilli Jam.
How do you tamper with your tempura?