I’d been mulling this idea over in the back of my mind for some time, while working on a host of other recipes. I’d seen plenty done with cauliflower in terms of seasoning with spices, and I wanted to try something with broccoli. I’ve always had a fondness for Cajun spice. There’s an earthy sweetness to it that juxtaposes with the heat. It’s a spice blend normally associated with meat and fish, and I don’t think vegetarian and vegan cuisine gets anywhere near enough of a look in.
This is the kind of dish we wish we could see on the menu of our local pub. It’s battered, it’s deep-fried, and it’s spicy. On top of all that it’s vegan and gluten-free, neatly checking all the boxes on our fast food wish list. These bites are best served straight away but you can, if need be, reheat them in the oven (please don’t microwave them, unless you want soggy mush for dinner). Serve them either with fries or rice, or you may find them quite adequate on their own with a dollop of ketchup or barbeque sauce, they really are quite filling.
When cooking, the oil must be hot enough to bubble and seal the batter right away, as this is what makes them crispy. It must not be too hot, however. It is quite easy to burn the outside batter without fully cooking the broccoli inside. A medium heat should be enough, just watch for the oil temperature dropping with the more broccoli you add. It must always bubble and seal the batter from the outset.
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 6-8 minutes per batch.
Makes about 25
For the Batter:
200g gram flour
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp dark, mild chilli powder
1 ½ tsp Cajun spice mix
1 tsp dried oregano
3 heaped tbsp vegan natural yoghurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp tomato puree
250ml cold water
For the Broccoli:
3 fresh heads of broccoli, cut into florets and soaked in enough cold water to submerge them
About 200g gram flour for dusting
Enough sunflower or vegetable oil for deep-frying
To make the batter, put all the batter ingredients into large bowl and either whisk or blend until completely smooth. If the better seems too thick, you can always add a little more water. Allow about 30 minutes for all the flavours to infuse.
Now set up your three bowls. Have your water-soaked broccoli on the left, a bowl with the 200g of gram flour in the middle, and the batter on the right.
Fill a saucepan no more that half-full with the oil and bring it up to temperature. You can check when it is ready to fry by dropping a little bit of the batter into it. The oil will bubble, and the batter will float straight away.
When it is ready, take about 6-8 heads of broccoli from the water on the left and dip them straight into the gram flour. Shake the bowl to cover the broccoli and then drop the heads into the batter, making sure to shake off the excess flour first. Once the broccoli heads are fully coated, take the batter bowl over to the hot oil and gently place each head into the oil one at a time. Allow then to fry for about 30 seconds, then give them a gently stir with a slotted spoon to separate any that have stuck together. Fry for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown but not burnt.
Use the slotted spoon to transfer the cooked broccoli bites onto a baking tray and transfer them to a low oven to keep warm. Continue this process until all the broccoli has been used up.