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nicola graimes

Spring vegetable fritto misto with saffron mayo

On occasion a recipe idea is inspired by a meal eaten out, which is how this came about after trying a similar dish at a local Italian restaurant. It’s UK asparagus season so time to make the most of one of my most favourite vegetables. This recipe comes from The Part-time Vegetarian’s Year.
Asparagus, samphire and purple sprouting broccoli are coated in the crispiest, golden batter, which is light enough not to mask the flavour of the vegetables. If you are put off by the idea of deep frying, steam or chargrill the vegetables instead for a lower-fat option, then arrange on a platter with the golden-hued saffron mayonnaise. You could, of course, swap the saffron with turmeric powder, which will give it the characteristic golden glow if not the same flavour – but it’s still delicious.


Serves 4
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

  • 250g/9oz asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed

  • 8 purple sprouting or longstem broccoli, trimmed

  • 70g/21/2oz samphire

  • For the batter

  • 70g/21/2oz plain flour

  • 70g/21/2oz cornflour

  • 185ml/6fl oz chilled sparkling water

  • For the Saffron mayo

  • Large pinch of saffron threads or turmeric powder

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

  • 2¬–3 garlic cloves, crushed, depending on your love of garlic

  • 2¬–3 garlic cloves, crushed, depending on your love of garlic

  • 100ml/31/2fl oz sunflower oil, plus extra for deep frying

  • 100ml/31/2fl oz sunflower oil, plus extra for deep frying

  • Sea salt

From The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year

Nourish: 2020
Photography: Haarala Hamilton


First make the saffron mayonnaise. Soak the saffron in 2 teaspoons just-boiled water. Using a balloon whisk or blender, mix together the egg yolks and mustard until smooth, then stir in the garlic. Slowly add both types of oil, one drop at a time and whisking continuously, until smooth and the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Whisk in the saffron and soaking water, a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt. Chill until ready to serve.


Place all the vegetables on a plate near the fryer. Line two large plates with a double layer of kitchen paper and turn the oven on to low.


Make the batter just before you are ready to start frying. Mix together the flour and cornflour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and gradually whisk in the sparkling water. Season with salt. The batter should be a similar consistency to single cream.


Pour enough oil to half-fill a medium saucepan to 176C/350F, or until a cube of bread browns in 40 seconds.


Dunk the asparagus one at a time into the batter, letting any excess drain off, then place it in the hot oil. Cook 3–4 asparagus at a time for about 11/2 minutes until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the broccoli and then the samphire, placing a small handful into the batter and then straight into the hot oil so they stick together into a ‘nest’. When all the vegetables are cooked, arrange them on a serving plate and serve with a bowl of saffron mayonnaise for dipping.

Part-time Variations:
Spring vegetable fritto misto with nduja mayonnaise
Swap the saffron mayonnaise for one flavoured with the Spanish pork paste, nduja. Replace the saffron and soaking water for 2 tablespoons nduja paste, stirring it in at the end. You could also use the batter to coat seafood, such as prawns and squid rings, instead of vegetables.

Spring vegetable fritto misto with vegan mayonnaise
Using a hand-held electric mixer, whisk 75ml/21/2fl oz acquafaba (the brine from a tin of chickpeas), ½ tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tbsp lemon juice in a beaker until frothy. Gradually, pour in 11/2 tbsp mild-tasting olive oil and continue to whisk until thick and creamy. Stir in 1 small, crushed garlic clove and season with salt and pepper.

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