Now and then I wonder what if I run out of recipes, tips and most importantly – stories to share with you. Turkish recipes, Russian recipes, recipes of other delicious foods, bread baking, Istanbul food shopping, eating in Istanbul and everything else I blog about: could these topics be indefinite? What if one day I exhaust my creativity by telling you everything I know?
As this fear crawls in, I get nervous. With a great urgency I draft a few posts and initiate a bunch of cooking projects to keep an emergency stock of the material to share, you know, in case. Needless to say, later I see that very material resting on the counter, orphaned. The fear of exhausting myself becomes the fear of not being able to get anything done.
And then exactly at 1.05 am my stupor vanishes, and the fears retreat to their non-existence. I recall that – ah, yes! – I wanted to tell you about the herb fritters. Even if I run out of inspiration right after writing about them, I feel compelled to share. And so I do..
We hold onto what we know. We keep the bills to remember price we paid to obtain that knowledge. Because of that (and the grim salesman at the knowledge emporium who first refused to serve us) we feel proud to have that knowledge and share it at our will. Sometimes a tad too proud. We forget that sharing is more than revealing your cards. Sharing is a humbling experience of starting anew. As we give our valuable knowledge away, we have nothing left. No reason to be proud, even a tiny bit. And therefore we have to get back to work and earn more credit. So we could return to the knowledge emporium and get a neat deal from the intractable salesman.
And so the fritters.. They are worth your attention! I ate them first in April when we traveled to Antakya, a region of Turkey that has always lured me with its unique cuisine marrying Mediterranean and Middle East flavors. Among many treats we tried the herb fritters certainly stood out!
Before anything else you notice the shape. Imagine a magnifying glass, a smug type that puffed up thinking how well it magnifies the tiniest objects. That’s the shape of Antakyan herb fritter, or öcce. You can easily create this shape if using a traditional copper pan, öcce tavası, with a few round cavities. Every time I look at the pan I can’t stop marveling the wisdom of our forefathers that no modern day engineer would replicate in a complex electronic device. The cavities are perfect to ration the oil, shape the fritters and push them once they cook on one side, so they conveniently flip over themselves.
After the shape you take a closer look at the exterior. All right, brown and dark green is not a lot to write home about. But don’t judge by the looks! Because inside the fritter awaits a herbal symphony – parsley, spring onions, dill, mint and anything else you fancy adding. And this is not the best news yet! What makes these herb fritters world-class is how herbal fragrances are strengthened by the spices – cumin, coriander seeds, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Combination of herbs and spices hints falafel and the overall Middle Eastern connection that is apparent in the South East of Turkey. Do you need anything else? Few eggs and flour to seal the deal.
A lot of unused herbs and greens in the fridge? Make the fritters. Don’t have a special pan? Deep-fry them. Not keen on deep-frying? Bake them like drop cookies or frittata. Come on, a valid excuse not to make these herb fritters has not been invented yet!
Öcce, Antakya Herb Fritters
You can experiment with many herbs and greens available to you; just keep the total green volume to 3 cups. I had good luck adding arugula (rocket salad), celery tops and chard to the mix.
I am using whole-wheat flour, even though the original recipe calls for the all-purpose. Feel free to experiment with corn, chickpea, buckwheat and any other flour you prefer. If substituting whole-wheat, adjust the quantity of your flour to make the resulting mixture rather dry.
If making ahead, keep herbs and the rest of the ingredients separately, and combine them just before frying; else the herbs will release liquid, and you’ll need more flour to get back to the original consistency.
There is no other leavener in the recipe but the eggs: beat them well before adding to the mix.
Choose an oil with a high smoking point for deep-frying: definitely no olive oil (even thought it’s abundant in Antakya) – save it for the salad dressings!
Makes 10-12 fritters
Prep time: 10 Min
Cook time: 10 Min
Total time: 20 Min
1 cup parsley
1 cup spring onions
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp whole-wheat flour, sieved
1/2 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
oil, for frying
Whisk together the eggs, stir in the whole-wheat flour, spices, salt and minced garlic. Set aside for the flour to hydrate.
Meanwhile finely chop all the greens from head to tail including the stems, white parts, green parts and everything thing that’s there. Combine all the chopped greens in a large bowl. Pour the mixture over the greens and combine well.
Heat up the oil in a deep pan. Drop spoonfuls of the fritter batter in the hot oil and cook until nicely brown. Fetch the cooked fritters and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve warm with yogurt and tahini paste whisked together.