Recent ice cream making has added to the existing stash of egg whites in the freezer. That means experiments using up the stuff are even more essential now and fast approaching the critical stage. Fritters, or keftedes as we say here in Greece, were worth a try in my latest attempt to use this seemingly endless supply of albumen.
According to my baking sources, egg whites act as driers and tougheners. When the whole egg is used, the yolk offsets the white by adding moistness and tenderness to the overall texture. Sugars are also considered to add tenderness, so meringues, macarons, pavlovas and other egg white sweet treats – although characteristically dry – work very well.
Things get a little trickier when egg whites are used in savoury dishes. Just imagine the unappetising and rather rubbery base of an egg white omelette. It is the nature of the beast, even when whisked to add light air pockets.
After investigating what can be used to help change the texture of egg whites in cooking, I discovered that certain things add tenderness and moistness. Fats, some forms of starch and stabalisers help, but milk solids, flour and ‘instant’ starches (such as corn flour or potato flour) do not. It is all about balance. Coming up with a new recipe is definitely not easy. Needless to say, this was not my first attempt.
But…success at last. The fritters exceded expectations.
Egg White, Sweet Potato & Feta Fritters
The grated sweet potato in this recipe provides tenderising starches as well as some moistness. The gum – an important addition – acts as a stabiliser and tenderiser in place of the egg yolks. Note: the spring onion option is for a vegetarian version.
- 1 medium size sweet potato (approx. 200g grated weight)
- 2 rashers of bacon OR 1 spring onion
- 30g feta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- a small bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon of ONE of the following: guar gum, xantham gum or locust bean gum
- 2 egg whites
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
If you are using bacon, fry the rashers until just golden and chop them into very small pieces. If not, finely chop the spring onion.
Peel and grate your sweet potato (see note below) and place in a large bowl. Add either the bacon pieces or spring onion. Finely chop and add the parsley. Crumble the feta and add this as well.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, gum and paprikas. Season with a little salt and pepper. Mix this in with the grated potato mixture, making sure it is evenly distributed.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold this into the potato mixture.
On a medium-high, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, spoon the sweet potato batter into the oil and press down to flatten. I find that making small fritters that are about 4 to 5cm in diameter works well. When the bottom has turned golden brown, flip the fritter over and let the other side brown. The whole process should only take a few minutes. Do not let them burn. Turn down the heat if necessary.
Place on a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain the excess oil. Add more fritters to the pan until you have finished the batter. You may need to add a bit of oil as you proceed, making sure it heats up before adding any more fritters. Optionally, serve with a yoghurt dip. I added a little lemon juice, olive oil and finely chopped fresh mint to my dip.
You should get about 18-20 fritters. They can be served as a lunch dish with a salad or as a starter (i.e. part of a meze platter).
Note: Greek γλθκοπατάτα or sweet potato (the literal translation) have either a white or yellow/orange flesh. The white variety tends to oxidise (i.e. turn black) quickly after cutting and will need to be soaked in cold water prior to making the fritters. Just before mixing, drain and squeeze out any extra liquid.
The problem is that when buying them in the laiki, you never know what kind they are until you cut into them!