A delayed, but promised post: written earlier last month when cherry tomatoes were still at peak production!
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Keftedes – a nice handy Greek term to apply to almost anything that can be made into a fritter or a patty – vegetarian or otherwise, so meatballs also fall into the category. Just attach it as a suffix to the word for the major ingredient. That makes domatokeftedes (ντοματοκεφτέδες) tomato fritters. With our crop of cherry tomatoes just beginning to come in, I thought it the perfect opportunity to experiment.
Domatokeftedes are said to be a specialty of the island of Santorini, although they are popular all over Greece. According to Diane Kochilas in her book on regional Greek food, The Glorious Foods of Greece, traditional Santorini dolmatokefhedes are made with grated or chopped fresh firm tomato and aromatic herbs. These ingredients are simply bound together with flour – without the addition of egg – and then made into little patties to be fried in oil. To me, this method makes these lovely summer treats a bit stodgy.
Right next to the recipe for Santorini domatokeftedes in her book, Kochilas lists another tomato fritter (called pseftoeftedes – ‘false’ keftedes). These are said to be particularly favoured on the other Cycladic islands of Syros, Tinos and Kimolos. Pseftokeftedes are made with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs in a beaten egg batter, making them a tiny bit lighter, but still slightly dense due to the consistency of sun-dried tomatoes.
Neither method sounded ideal for a light fritter (plus I had all these cherry tomatoes to deal with). Obviously a bit of experimentation was in order. What I discovered is that it is possible to get a light fritter packed with a very Greek flavour, even if the techniques were borrowed from the modern culinary repertoire.
The ones I produced were similar in texture to domatokeftedes I had recently at a fabulous restaurant on the island of Kythera that specialised in re-inventing Greek dishes – tradition with a modern twist. The restaurant was housed in a converted school building originally constructed by the British in 1824 – history and food combined in a multi-cultural mixing pot.
Cherry Tomato Keftedes
Fresh and light – produced by the (almost) tempura-like batter and the separate beaten egg white. Part roasting the tomatoes also concentrates the flavour and evaporates some of the tomato’s juices. A good way to cope with the onslaught of a cherry tomato crop. A perfect meze or starter.
- 250g fresh cherry tomatoes
- olive oil for roasting and frying
- salt and pepper
- 6-7 leaves of fresh mint
- 1 bunch of chives
- a pinch of mastic, optional
- 1 rounded Tablespoon plain flour
- 1 rounded Tablespoon cornflour/starch
- 1 egg
Clean and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. If your cherry tomatoes are a bit large, cut them in quarters. Line up the halves on an oiled baking tray, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle on a little more olive oil. Roast in an oven set at 170 degrees C for about 15 minutes. They should not be browned, but slightly wilted. Let them cool.
Finely chop the chives and mint. Put the herbs into a bowl and add the optional pinch mastic powder, the flour and the cornflour. Mix until the flours blend and coat the herbs. Add the cooled tomato halves by lifting them with a slotted spoon. Mix again, producing a sticky tomato mixture. Separate the egg and reserve the egg white. Beat the egg yolk and gently blend this with the tomato and flour mixture. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Cherry tomatoes are quite sweet and can take a bit more salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until fluffy and produces peaks. Gently fold this into the tomato mixture. Set aside while you heat some oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. The bottom of the pan should be covered in oil.
When the oil is hot, test with a few drops of water. If they sizzle immediately and evaporate, the oil is ready. Drop tablespoons of the mixture in the frying pan to form the fritters. Do not crowd them in the pan. When they are golden brown and puffy, turn and cook the other side. It should only take a few minutes.
Continue cooking the next batch of fritters until the mixture is finished. The amount above makes about 15 to 16 fritters.
Drain the fritters on kitchen paper and serve at room temperature. Extremely good with that other Santorini meze recipe: fava (puréed yellow split pea topped with caramelised onions).
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Are you always tinkering with recipes? I am.
These were very good, but I might try reducing the plain flour and adjusting the amount of cornflour to compensate. It would make lighter domatokeftedes. A little crumbled feta might also be a nice addition, offsetting the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes.