Monday, March 05, 2012

The Sugar Club Cookbook: Deep-Fried Baby Artichokes in Crispy Batter

When I was at Half Price Books the other day, I came across a cookbook for a restaurant I had never heard of...The Sugar Club. Well, it's in Australia, so that's probably why I'd never heard of it. And the book is ten years old. In flipping through, I was mesmerized by the interesting combinations and challenged by the ingredients. Like kangaroo tail. Yeah, I'm never going to find that in the US, at least not in my price range. Anyway, I didn't buy the book that day, but I sure went back to get it later. I realized you don't find interesting cookbooks like that everyday.

Then I went to Central Market for some groceries. And what do I see, misted with dew drops? Baby artichokes. Never cooked the things in my life, but I remembered a recipe in The Sugar Club cookbook for beer-battered baby artichokes. Hey, trying new things makes life interesting, right?  I used a craft beer I had in my fridge, but as an afterthought, I honestly think something milder would have been Corona or something.

The baby artichokes were pretty easy to work with, and I really like the beer batter. The added spices, like fennel, really gave a nice flavor. I fried everything up in my Le Creuset pot, so it was pretty easy to clean up. Even strained the oil and put it in the fridge to use again.

As for taste...artichokes are just so grassy-tasting. I'll eat them, but I honestly can't see myself ever craving them. And even though I cut back some of the leaves and got the tiniest little artichokes ever (just as the book said), they were still pretty fibrous. Maybe US artichokes are tougher than Australian artichokes? Who knows. I'm still going to try other recipes since the fibrous artichokes weren't the book's fault.

Deep-Fried Baby Artichokes in Crispy Batter
From The Sugar Club Cookbook by Peter Gordon

Baby artichokes (2 small artichokes per person)
all-purpose flour to dust
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Beer Batter
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

Prepare the artichokes by removing the stems and the half dozen or so lower leaves around the base.  Trim sharp-looking bits and cut off the tips if they are a bit woody.  Cut them in half lengthwise and remove any furry inner parts (though you're unlikely to find these in small artichokes).  Toss in flour immediately to prevent discoloring.

Heat up plenty of good-quality cooking oil in a deep pan or deep-fryer to 350°F.  Mix the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and green onions into the beer batter and then drop in the flour-dusted artichokes.  Fry as many as will fit comfortably in the pan and stir them gently after a minute.  Carefully tip over any that are cooking only on one side.  They should be ready after 3 to 4 minutes - they're done when a skewer can be pushed easily through the center.  Drain them on paper towels and eat while still warm.

Beer Batter

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons demerara sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup beer, at room temperature

Take the dry ingredients for the batter and whisk in a bowl for a few seconds to mix them.  Add all the beer and whisk it in, starting from the inside and working outward.  Make sure there are no lumps and leave the batter to sit for 15 minutes.

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