Courgette flowers stuffed with brandade de Nîmes
On my trip to Uzès, I tasted the delicacy of the brandade sold there and the idea of using it to stuff courgette flowers came to me. Unfortunately, even with hot houses, courgette flowers have a very short season, so enjoy them while ye may! When I tested this dish in the depths of winter, I had to find another way of containing the brandade and so I used Chinese leaves. You will also need 8 cocktail sticks.
For the tomato dipping sauce
For the tempura batter
Drain the cod, place in a saucepan and add cold water just to cover. Bring to a simmer and poach for 5–10 minutes, depending on its thickness. Remove the fish and leave to cool. When cool enough to handle, flake the flesh, discarding any skin and bones.
Put the cod in a food processor with the garlic, cream and plenty of pepper. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil and process until you have a thick paste. Or, if you prefer, use a pestle and mortar. Put the brandade in the fridge to chill for an hour.
For the tomato sauce, put the tomatoes, skin and all, in a blender with the piment d’Espelette, salt, sugar and oil. Blend until fairly smooth. Pour into a small frying pan and cook for 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and leave to cool.
If using courgette flowers, stuff each flower with 2 tablespoons of the brandade and close the flowers around the stuffing. If using Chinese leaves, roll each leaf up around the stuffing, tuck in the ends and secure with a cocktail stick.
For the batter, sift the flours into a bowl with the salt and gradually whisk in the soda water. The mixture might be a bit lumpy, but that’s fine.
Heat the oil to 180C in a large, deep saucepan. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.) Dip the stuffed flowers or leaves into the batter and carefully lower them into the hot oil, a few at a time. Fry for 1 minute until light and crispy, then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Carefully pull out the cocktail sticks, if used, and serve immediately with the tomato dipping sauce.