Thankfully I have some tastings this coming month, it has been a dreadful blow to business this Covid-19 nonsense!! And as is often the case I have a mix of dietary requirements, from those that eat everything, to vegetarians and vegans and people with allergies and intolerances. It is true it adds more time and costs me more, but with more and more people choosing a plant based diet it is completely in my interest to experiment and perfect my vegan repertoire!
On the whole cooking vegan isn’t an issue and we often eat vegan at home so I am far from against it. However there are certain dishes that raise more challenges than others. I should point out here that that is due to the nature of my tastings rather than vegan cuisine per se. My tastings are all about wine and food and the perfect marriage of the two together. So when I substitute a fish or meat dish for a vegan alternative it is imperative that the vegan experience is the same as the meat/fish based dish in terms of weight and flavour. Although I have had requests for vegetarian tastings I have never been asked for a vegan tasting yet, so they tend to be in the minority – that may well change!
Meat is fairly easy in my opinion to replace, you just need to match the weight of the protein and replace it with pulses/legumes, roasted vegetables or tofu. However fish adds more of a challenge and so that is what todays’ experiment is about. Often for my tastings I make Accras – little fried balls of salt cod, they are delicious, creamy and crunchy, with just a salty tang and a hint of spice. The challenge was to get the ‘fishy, salty’ character of salt cod without fish! So I decided to cook the potatoes in a court bouillon made with seaweed and replaced the salt cod with a combination of samphire and capers.
On the whole I was very happy with the result, my only bemoan was that they could have been firmer, so next time I will add less liquid for the poaching and add the chickpea solution** at the mixing stage. I also decided to double breadcrumb to stiffen the balls.
2 large potatoes (I used Charlotte) peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
300ml court bouillon (see the photo for the one I used, available in Biocop)
100ml milk alternative
100g samphire picked over and cut small (1cm)
1 tbsp capers chopped
white pepper to taste
1 tsp Piment d’Espelette, or to taste (start with a small shake and then add to your preference)
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 lemon juice only
For the breadcrumbs:
Take 3 bowls and in the first add 2 heaped tbsp of seasoned flour, the 2nd whip up 3 tbsp of aquafaba (the juice from a bottle of chickpeas is best) and plenty of fine breadcrumbs for the last plate.
In a heavy bottomed pan add the first 6 ingredients from above and cook on a medium heat. Keep an eye on the liquid you can add a splash more milk alternative if need be.
When the potatoes are just beginning to become tender add in the samphire.
Once the potatoes are soft enough to be broken up with a fork, remove from the heat, take off the lid and fish out the bayleaf.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Pop into your food processor adding the capers, lemon juice and seasoning. Normally you shouldn’t need to add any salt, but check in case you do.
Pop the mix into the fridge to cool down and firm up.
Prepare your bowls with the flour, aquafaba and breadcrumbs. Have a bowl of cold water to hand to rinse your hands and a cloth. Line a baking tray to pop the Accras on when done.
Now for the messy part! Get 2 soup spoons and form a ball of mix, drop into the flour and coat, then into the aquafaba and finally into the breadcrumbs. It is easier to form a ball shape at the breadcrumb stage.
Pop into the fridge to chill when complete.
I felt that mine needed a double coating of the breadcrumbs as the mix was too soft, however you might not need to do that. If you do do so now. It adds a more definite ‘crunch’ to the Accras, but then it also adds calories too!!!
Put back into the fridge now to chill and firm up for at least an hour or overnight.
Heat up your vegetable oil in a deep fat fryer, you need a good 5 cm of oil. Test the oil with a piece of stale bread, when it rises to the top the oil is ready.
Open the windows to let the smoke out and have plenty of kitchen roll to hand, grab a slotted spoon for fishing the balls out and have a clean platter ready (if you are serving these immediately you might want to put the oven on and put the Accras into the oven to keep warm as you go).
It is important to not overcrowd the pan, especially as these are not so firm as the fish versions so you need plenty of room for turning.
Cook for at least 2 minutes before turning, it is easier to turn if the crust has formed and is golden in colour. Cook on each side evenly then remove and drain on some kitchen roll.
Serve with a good squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkling of sea salt and chipped parsley.
Delicious even if you are not vegan!
I shall be trying these with two different wines on two different occasions! On Monday I shall be serving Domaine Jones’ Grenache Gris a delightful, zesty wine with hints of fennel and garrigue.
Then on Saturday we shall enjoy the Allegro from Domaine Ollier Taillefer in the Faugères. A delightful blend of Rolle (Vermentino) and Roussanne, rich and ripe fruit flavours intermingle with a delicious mineral edge.
** I completed up until stage 9 for my test Accras, I then fried it and tasted. I was very happy with the taste but felt that the moisture content was too high so I added a slurry of chickpea flour and water to thicken it up. I then put the mix back into the fridge to firm up and decided to double crumb. If your texture is right I would not add the chickpea slurry, it doesn’t change the taste but it is unnecessary.