Spring, at last, has officially come to New Zealand - not that one wishes one's life away, but I have longed for this day for the last two months. I am just so not a winter person, and even though I did manage to escape the start of winter by spending a month in the Greek Islands, I have not faced the last two months with any kind of equanimity. I've ached to be back on Paros (you may remember an earlier post), enjoying sun filled days and clear blue skies ...
... eating beautiful seafood and summery salads ...
... and relaxing and laughing with wonderful friends.
Meanwhile, back here in Christchurch, even though we have a way to go before we're really enjoying warmer weather, the days are at last getting longer and a bit more conducive to spending a bit of time outdoors.
(No that's not me in this photo)
In spring my heart feels lighter - to me it always seems to be a time of hopefulness, of renewal - the air holds such promise - and that sombreness that creeps into my soul in the winter seems to dissolve away. I notice it in my yoga practice too - that lethargy that seeps into my bones during winter is starting to lift and I feel more vibrant and energetic.
And with the arrival of spring, the quintessential New Zealand spring dish simply has to be whitebait fritters. New Zealand whitebait are much smaller than Chinese or British varieties, and have a sweet, delicate flavour.
Very strict regulations control the catching season and types of equipment used, making whitebait a prized delicacy and the most expensive fish in New Zealand (usually anywhere from $100-$150 kilo) - it pays to make good friends with someone who catches their own! Although the season is relatively short here, whitebait do freeze well, so if you can get your hands on a good supply it's great to have a few kilos in the freezer to enjoy during summer and autumn.
When it comes to making whitebait fritters, I think people are pretty much divided into two camps. First there is the more solid version - sort of a pattie which seems to have but a few whitebait dispersed through a firm batter with lots of flour in it - this is the method which seems to be largely favoured by West Coast cafes and fish & chip shops (where the ubiquitous whitebait sandwich is popular), mostly I think because they can be pre-cooked and reheated. The alternative, is something altogether more delicate - a light, lacy fritter, packed full of whitebait, just barely held together with some beaten egg. This is definitely my preference, and here is my recipe.
Whitebait Fritters Recipe
Makes about 12 large fritters
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
3 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
neutral flavoured oil or butter
Sift flour into a bowl, then gradually add beaten egg a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, to get a nice smooth batter of pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Wash whitebait well and add to batter.
Heat a little oil or butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add spoonfuls of batter to the hot pan and cook until golden on both sides. Remove and keep warm while you cook the remainder of the batter.
Serve on a large platter with lemon wedges.
I also served this with some plantain chips and a fresh green salad, and who could resist a good New Zealand sauvignon blanc with this?!
In the unlikely event that you find yourself with any leftovers, they are great the next day served cold on fresh ciabatta bread.