We’re now nearing the end of spring here in New Zealand. Memories of my cruise around the Greek Islands earlier this year and the wonderful flavours of the Mediterranean are making me long for hot days and warm nights. Roll on summer!
While on Santorini for the day my husband and I stopped for lunch and had a fabulous little meze while gazing out over the Aegean. It’s exactly the sort of food I love to eat at home as well.
One of the standout dishes we had on Santorini was deep-fried zucchini balls. As much as I would have liked to recreate them I’m not a fan of deep-frying at home. So I’ve improvised and gone with courgette and halloumi fritters – these gorgeous things are shallow fried in much less oil and taste fabulous. I’ve reverted to calling them courgettes because I got used to this name when I was living in the UK and it stuck. But in New Zealand they are also called zucchini.
I serve these fritters with my homemade tzatziki, which is ridiculously easy to make. If you’re able to get your hands on proper traditional Greek yoghurt it will be even better – the “Greek style” yoghurts at the supermarket don’t quite live up to the real thing.
The baked feta, once again, is a cinch to make as are the roasted vegetables. It all comes together to make a fantastic little meze.
Courgette and Halloumi Fritters
3 good-sized courgettes
4 spring onions, chopped
150g halloumi cheese
Small bunch fresh oregano
Small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
100g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, for frying
Grate the courgettes and lay the shards on a tea towel. This will help to soak up the excess moisture. I like to also lay some kitchen towel over the top. Leave them for about twenty minutes.
Heat a frying pan on the hob.
Put the chopped spring onions into to a bowl. Grate the halloumi (or you can just crumble it) and add to the bowl. Finely chop the fresh herbs and add these, along with the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and dried oregano. Combine together then stir through the flour and seasoning.
Transfer the grated courgettes into the bowl and mix together well. Finally, beat the eggs in a separate bowl or jug and then slowly add to the courgette mixture, stirring as you go.
Your pan should be nice and hot by now. Add a few tablespoons of oil so that the oil covers the base of the pan. Take a dessertspoon of mixture and carefully transfer into the pan. I like to flatten it out a bit so that it cooks evenly. Repeat until you’ve filled the pan – although don’t cram them in. Depending on the size of the pan you’ll need to do this in two or three batches.
The fritters should only take a few minutes per side to turn nice and golden. Watch closely on the first batch so that you know your timing for the remaining batches.
Once cooked, transfer the fritters to a plate lined with kitchen towel.
There’s no need to eat these when they’re piping hot – they’re actually lovely served warm or even at room temperature. No stress.
The tzatziki to go with these fritters couldn’t be easier:
250g Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Half a large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped finely
Juice of a lemon
Bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
Simply add all of these ingredients into a bowl and mix well. As to the garlic, I use my microplane grater and grate it straight into the bowl. Once everything is combined have a taste and see if you want to add any more salt or lemon juice.
200g block feta cheese
A few fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
½ red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Drain the feta and dry it with some kitchen towel. Place it on a piece of foil. Scatter over the oregano and chilli. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Bring the edges of the foil together and scrunch to form a sealed parcel. Place on a baking tray and cook in an oven preheated to 200°C for 10-15 minutes or until the feta has softened.
Use whatever vegetables you like here. I’ve gone for aubergine (one of my favourite things to eat) and peppers. I love the peppers because their colours are so vibrant they can’t help but look beautiful on the plate.
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
Deseed the peppers and chop them each in half or quarters. Cut the aubergine into 1cm slices. Place the prepared vegetables in a lined oven tray, season and drizzle over some olive oil. Toss the vegetables so they all get slicked in the oil. Bake at 200°C for around forty minutes.
In fact, you can easily put the feta on a rack below the vegetables for the last fifteen minutes.
I like to serve it all with some warmed pita breads cut into pieces. You can give them a quick warm through in the oven by putting them on the tray with the feta for the last couple of minutes.
The tzatziki is also a great dip for the pita bread – or just smother the pita with some of that divine baked feta.
Now just eat.
Published by Tracey O'Brien