Melbourne cook and writer Ella Mittas runs pop-up dinners, teaches cooking classes and writes about her Greek heritage in connection with her love of food. She recently took a trip to Turkey and Greece in order to reconnect with her family history through food. And later this year she’s publishing a cookbook – Ela! Ela! To Turkey and Greece, Then Home – with recipes of dishes she cooked or ate on her travels.
“All of my food is inspired by my Greek heritage and my time spent working abroad in Turkey and Greece,” she writes in the book’s introduction. Its chapters are named for different places she visited, or places connected to the dishes in her book. The mucver, or Turkish fritters, are in the section on Istanbul, where she came across the zucchini fritters recipe while working in a restaurant in the Karaköy region.
“Because we made them in such large batches, it’d take one person an entire day to prepare the mix: grating kilos of zucchini, salting them and squeezing out all the water,” she says. “It’s essential to get as much liquid out of the zucchinis as possible, even though it’s time-consuming. Your fritters will end up crispier and tastier, so take your time.”
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The recipes in her self-published cookbook, out in October, are “a mix of things I saw, ate and was taught,” she says. “Years of cooking them have turned them into something more my own.”
Ela! Ela! (meaning “Come, come” in Greek) also contains personal essays about her experiences as an Aussie in Europe, as well as the origins and evolutions of dishes such as Cretan skillet pie with thyme honey, braised Roman beans with trahana and buttery chicken pilaf. Mittas includes personal photos from her travels too.
Mittas uses Aleppo pepper to add spice to the dish. “It’s mildly spicy, with some fruitiness and cumin-like undertones, and is a brilliant red,” she says. “It’s easily found at Middle Eastern grocers but can be substituted with a mix of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.
“The fritters should only take about half an hour in all to make,” adds Mittas. “I serve them with tzatziki – I have a recipe for that in the book too – and a fresh tomato salad. Once I’ve made a batch of these, I eat them alongside every meal.”
Mucver, or zucchini fritters
Serves 4 as a starter
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
2 large zucchinis
4 spring onions, chopped
1 cup chopped mixed herbs, e.g. dill, mint, parsley
3/4 cup flour
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix the grated zucchini with 1 tablespoon of salt and leave it to drain in a colander for 10 minutes. Rinse the mix, then hand-squeeze out as much water as possible. The fritters will be too wet if not enough moisture is taken out.
Mix the squeezed-out zucchini with the spring onions, feta, lemon and herbs. Taste to check the seasoning, then add the flour and eggs. Mix together thoroughly: it will be a fairly wet dough but should be firm enough to keep its shape if scooped up in a spoonful. Usually, I check the density of my fritters by frying one and seeing if it holds together. Add a little more flour if necessary.
Heat oil for deep-frying until it’s hot enough to drop some of the mix in and have it brown in 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium. Using a dessert spoon, carefully drop scoops of the mix into the hot oil. Do this in batches. Cook for 1.5 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. You should be able to make 15–16 fritters.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
This is an extract from Ela! Ela! To Turkey and Greece, Then Home, $60. Available to preorder from ellamittas.com. Available in bookstores from October 15.
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