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By Sarah Elmusrati

May is the month of bounty.  The erratic weather has started to settle, and spring is swinging into summer.  Flowers are blossoming, trees are flourishing and fruit is plenty.  Local families dot the rural roadsides, enjoying Friday lunches outdoors, in unexpected spots.  Beaches are coming to life, the grills are coming out and its time to celebrate what this month has to offer.

 

Eat what's fresh

Great to eat this month are: spring lamb, peaches, apricots, cantaloupes, spring onions, new potatoes, courgettes (zuchinni), peas, broad beans, rocket (arugula), Swiss chard, spinach, mint, basil and other herbs.

 

Try Something New: Loquats or Naspoli

In season this month is the popular fruit locally known as naspoli (derived from the Italian nespola).  Of Chinese origin, the loquat has been naturalized in the entire Mediterranean basin. They grow in trees in clusters, and are usually bright orange and pear shaped.  Like apples, these are high in sugar, acid and pectin content. 

Mainly eaten as a whole fruit, wash well and peel off the tough, rubbery skin before consuming.  This can be done, sans utensils, by first biting into the fruit to break the surface, then pulling the skin away from the sour sweet orange flesh with your thumb.  Use naspoli in a fruit salad, or to make salsas or chutneys they way you would with mangoes.  The unripe tougher varieties are great for jamming and making tarts.


Buy fruit that is bright orange, not bruised and is soft yet still firm to the touch (as you would with mangoes or avocados).



 

Try a Local Recipe

I'jaa: Libyan Egg Fritters with spring greens

I'jaa is a popular local egg dish with an infinite number of variations on the basic batter mix.  I still remember how the house would fill with the aromatic smell of spices when my late grandmother used to make these treats for us as kids.  Deep fried, as all fritters are, these light, spongy snacks are enjoyed as a late Friday breakfast.  I have added a variety of spring greens and herbs to the traditional egg, flour, onion and spice base, for a vitamin packed fresher taste.  For the authentic recipe just omit the optional ingredients below.

 




Recipe - I'jaa: Libyan Egg Fritters with spring greens

Makes 16 fritters

Preparation time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 10 mins

 

3 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1 tsp tomato paste

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp chili powder or paprika

2 tsp salt

1/3 cup finely minced spring onions (1medium or two small onions)

2 grated cloves of garlic

1/3 cup chopped Swiss chards (optional)

1/3 cup chopped spinach (optional)

2 tbsp finely minced Parsley (optional)

Vegetable oil for frying

 

Pour the oil into a deep pot, and place on high heat.


Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, spices and salt) in a small bowl and set aside.  In a larger bowl, beat the eggs until well combined.  Whisk in the tomato paste.  Add the flour mix and continue whisking until just combined, making a thick batter (do not over beat as this will overwork the gluten in the flour making the fritters tough and rubbery). Gently fold in the chopped greens, onions, garlic and parsley.


Test the temperature of the oil by making a test fritter. Drop a teaspoon of batter into the oil, if the batter floats and fries as soon as it hits the oil then you can continue with the rest of the fritters.  If the batter sinks straight to the bottom, then it's too cold.    If you find that your fritters are browning up very quickly, reduce the heat to allow the batter to cook through to the center.  A test fritter is also good to check the seasoning of the mixture.


Fry the fritters in small batches, dolloping a tablespoon of batter at a time, well spaced to keep from sticking to each other.  As soon as they begin to crisp around the edges flip over using a draining spoon or two forks, about 1 minute.


Fry until golden on both sides. Remove and drain in a colander or on paper towels. Serve hot. 




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BRING FORTH MAY FLOWERS

Published May 2010

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