These are male zucchini flowers - male zucchini flowers have stems while female flowers have little zucchini attached.
I have stuffed male and female zucchini flowers and even squash flowers before but all those fillings were based on cheese - this time I'm making a fairly traditional, potato and baccalá filling.
This would usually involve getting hold of salt cod and then going through the process of soaking and cooking but I've found a much easier way to get the flavour with very little effort. The solution comes in a tin.
This is Portuguese cod in olive oil and looks like this
As you can see, they are lovely sized fillets of cod perfectly cooked and ready to use. This fish is flaked and then beaten through mashed potato - it's piped into the zucchini flowers which are then dipped in tempura batter and cooked.
Baccalá stuffed Zucchini Flowers
2 dozen zucchini flowers
1 tin (120 grams) cod in olive, drained
250 grams mashed potatoes, approx
50 grams Tempura flour
1 cup ice cubes
½ cup water
Make the filling:
I used nicola potatoes - they have a lovely creamy texture which works well in this situation. The amount of potatoes you'll need will depend on your taste - some may prefer a more pronounced cod flavour while others like it a little milder. I find it's best to boil an extra potato or two as you can always find something to use them in.
Once you've drained the cod, take a fork and flake the flesh. Place this into a bowl and add half the mashed potatoes - still using a fork, whip the mixture together. Continue adding mashed potatoes until it reaches your desired taste. The mixture will be slack so it is best to store it in a piping bag (a disposable one is best) until ready to use.
Prepare the zucchini flowers:
As I wrote in an earlier post, male zucchini flowers are lot harder to prepare as the petals aren't quite as flexible as those found in the female flowers. When removing the stamen, you need to take it slowly and be gentle or you will end up tearing the flower. Once you've removed the stamen, trim the end off the stem.
Once all the flowers are prepared you can go ahead and stuff them. Fill only the bulbous part of the flower, leaving enough of the petals free so that they can be twisted to enclose the filling.
Make the tempura batter:
Tempura flour is special product that makes achieving that perfect tempura batter much more easier. It's a combination of flours - the exact mix varies according to manufacturer. The one I use is a mix of wheat and rice flours and does not require the use of eggs.
Sift the flour into a bowl, tip in the ice and using chopsticks, stir in the water. Don't overwork the batter and don't worry if there are lumps - that is normal for tempura.
This batter needs to be used as soon as it is made - don't make it until you are ready to fry your zucchini.
Deep-fry the zucchini flowers:
When it comes to deep frying I prefer to do things in small batches. I use a small saucepan, half filled with oil. I find that this gives me much better control and for those that are wary of deep-frying, it's an approach I would recommend.
Once the oil has reached correct temperature, dip the stuffed zucchini flower into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and then ease it into the hot oil. They should sizzle as they hit the oil and float. Once one side is crisp, flip over to finish the cooking. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain.
I tend to cook two zucchini flowers at a time, adding the second, just before it's time to flip over the first.
Repeat this process until all the flowers are cooked. As the filling is cooked, all you're really doing is cooking them enough so that the filling warms through, so around a minute or so should be enough.
If you do have a proper deep fryer and can cook them in larger batches I would still recommend dipping them individually into the batter and adding them one at a time to the oil.
These are best eaten immediately.