This is a dish that appeared on the menu at Berta right from the beginning and keeps finding its way back each season. Chickpea flour has an excellent toasty flavour that works well in this recipe, the olives give it a burst of saltiness, and the smell and savouriness of caraway always makes me extra hungry. With a possible influence from my Sri Lankan friends, this is perfect as an antipasto or even as something to snack on with a beverage.
- 3 litres vegetable oil for deep-frying (approximately – a lot, I know, but it can be strained and reused)
- 200 g cooked chickpeas, drained of any liquid
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 600 g)
- 70 g pitted kalamata olives, cut in half lengthways
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
- river salt and black pepper, to season
- lemon wedge, to serve
- 200 g chickpea flour (see Note)
- 100 g cornflour
- 5 g salt
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 400 ml cold sparkling water (approximately)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the batter, sift the chickpea flour, cornflour and salt into a mixing bowl and add the caraway seeds. Slowly whisk in the water, making sure you don’t get a lumpy batter. Let the batter rest in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients. (Batter can be made up to 4 hours in advance and kept in the fridge).
Add enough oil to a large heavy-based saucepan to come about 6 cm up the side. This depends on how big your saucepan is; you need an acceptable amount of space and oil so the ingredients have ample room to float around and get crispy, but it shouldn't be too full or you could have messy and dangerous overflowing issues. Either heat oil to 180°C using a thermometer, or heat until when you flick a little of the batter into the oil it sizzles and rises to the top straightaway.
Pat dry the chickpeas, gently lower them into the oil and fry for 4–5 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and rest on a tray covered with paper towel somewhere warm.
Pull out the batter from the fridge, give it a quick extra whisk and make sure the consistency is like a pancake batter (not too thick and not too thin). Put the cauliflower and olives into the batter and, using a large spoon, make sure all the cauliflower is coated.
In 2 batches, scoop out the cauliflower mix and gently lower it into the oil, using a spoon to gently stir and separate the cauliflower and olives as they fry. Cook for about 2 minutes, scoop out the ingredients from the pan and drain on paper towel.
Repeat with the second batch but add the rosemary 1 minute into the cooking time.
Place the cauliflower mix in a large mixing bowl, add the warm chickpeas, toss together and season heavily.
Serve on fancy absorbent paper, if you have any, with a lemon wedge on the side.
• Chickpea flour is also often referred to as besan flour. It’s generally available at supermarkets but if not, fancy food shops, health food shops and Indian grocers will stock it.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd.