Last weekend, I went for a spot of lunch with my Dad at a little gastropub in the midlands. Now, I'm no food snob - in fact I'm firmly of the opinion that you can't beat a good chip supper (with battered pineapple ring and mushy peas, of course).
But I digress... the point is - I don't have anything against gastropubs persay. It's just that this one really didn't represent itself well.
I ordered vegetable wasabi tempura from the menu. So far, so imaginative. I was particularly excited, since a few days before, I'd been browsing the pictures in my River Cottage Veg book, where there is a mouthwatering tempura recipe.
I suppose I was setting myself up for a fall.
What actually arrived was this:
Thick, stodgy batter more appropriate for onion rings, the kind of half-hearted lettuce concoction that gives salad a bad name, and... wait for it... a sour cream and chive dip. Since when was tempura served with sour cream?! Horrific.
So here's how it should have been done, courtesy of River Cottage Veg Everyday.
Vegetable tempura with chilli dipping sauce
(serves 4-6, apparently... but three of us polished this off without too much bother)
A selection of vegetables. I used:
Carrots sliced on the diagonal
Whole small mushrooms
Thinly sliced red and green peppers
Purple tenderstem broccoli
Sunflower oil for deep frying
I highly recommend the tenderstem broccoli, because the leaves crisped up beautifully, just like crunchy 'seaweed'.
For the tempura batter:
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200-225ml ice cold sparkling mineral water
For the dipping sauce:
6 tablespoons redcurrant or crab apple jelly
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 red chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
a bit of black pepper
1. Make the dipping sauce by tipping all of the ingredients except the coriander into a small saucepan and stirring over a very low heat until the jelly has dissolved, leaving a silky syrup. Bring to a simmer and bubble gently for a few minutes to mellow the garlic. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Have all the veg prepared and ready. Make the batter just before you need it. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Whisk in the cold water until the batter is the consistency of single cream.
3. Heat about 5cm of oil in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan. You will need to fry the veg in batches, without over crowing the pan. Dunk the vegetables in the batter, piece by piece, and then transfer to the pan until they are crisp and a golden brown colour.
4. Remove with a slotted spoon, tongs, or cooking chopsticks. Set on kitchen towel to drain and serve immediately with the dipping sauce.