Portuguese Vegetarian mock fish fry with Turkish tarator sauce
Time: prep. 10-15 mins
rest 1 hour
cook. 15 mins
Difficulty: very easy
Yields: 4 portions
Every country bordering a sea has an invaluable culture of fishing and recipes that smell of the sea.
Mediterranean or Asian gastronomy in particular stands out for the variety of both fish products and the dishes in which they are used. First courses of pasta, soups or rice; hot or cold appetizers; and second courses such as fried, baked, but also raw, with or without potatoes, with wine, beer or champagne, with soy or not; baked in foil, au gratin, stewed; with vinegar, lemon or with coconut, etc. etc. Certainly there is a recipe capable of satisfying everyone.
Unfortunately, however, current data shows that our “too much” love for fish products is seriously threatening the fauna. Many of you already know that I spend most of the year at “about 1 meter above the sea” and I can only loudly confirm that in only 13 years, the decline in fish stocks is evident.
Irresponsible fishing, sometimes at criminal levels, is only the tip of the iceberg: we must be honest, the real culprits are those of us who do not feel regret for fish stalls pulsing with fish at every corner of the city, every day of the week.
As consumers we should be doing more than just caring about the freshness of fish. Unfortunately, there is an even more frightening monster that we are learning about thanks to a recent FAO report (*): not only we are consuming far more than we need to and despoiling even the remote seas of the planet, but we are also not eating all the fish we have caught!
What does that mean? Simple, 35% of the fish caught for food is not consumed: one part of this huge waste occurs, because the fish doesn’t meet the international criteria of size for the protection of fish species; another part because the fish caught are not on the list of consumer preferences; and a final part due to the lack of refrigeration systems during intensive hunting particularly in developing nations (the fish gets spoiled and become waste).
So what can a TRULY conscious consumer do?
– Limit his/her fish consumption to a maximum of twice a week and no more than 150 g per portion: our body doesn’t need more.
– Prefer local fish caught with artisanal/sustainable systems (no to industrial fishing, no to imported fish).
– Prioritize the species that are less in demand so as not to threaten those defined as noble and only adult fish.
Fish, especially in the religious days of the Christian world, takes on a deeper meaning; let’s try to change its content but not its message thanks to the vegetarian mock fish fry recipe I am going to propose you.
The surprising thing, in fact, is that in Portugal, a country known for its fishing, especially of sardinhas, this real delicacy is widespread: little fish from the garden (peixinhos da horta)… revisited by me.
They are delicious, believe me, especially if served together with Turkish tarator sauce; and you can please everyone: vegetarians, vegans, non-fish lovers and “casual food lovers”.
Finally, a piece of advice that I shouldn’t give, but since my job is to “encourage” omnivores to approach the veg world, and recognizing that the holidays can put in crisis the best intentions, at least reduce by 50% the consumption of the usual fried fish: for “compensation” you can prepare this vegetarian mock fish fry, you won’t regret it! (But maybe you’ll be more conscious and you’ll only put on the table these little fish from the garden; because when fish is fried, both the protein and Omega-3 content are significantly damaged, so we actually eat it not for its nutritional values, but only for its taste).
for little fish from the garden
300 g green beans
Water for blanching
salt to taste
100 g flour (for a gluten-free version use rice flour)
60 ml of ice cold beer
1 level teaspoon of baking soda (the Portuguese recipe calls for baking powder: I prefer baking soda)
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped nori seaweed (for creating a hint of sea flavor for vegetarians, if you hate sea food don’t put it)
pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying (better seed oil)
for turkish tarator sauce
2 slices of stale bread soaked in a solution of water and lemon juice (or vinegar) and squeezed dry
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or yogurt or vinegar, kefir, beer or water)
a few sprigs of dill or parsley or walnuts (for garnish, optional)
salt to taste
Let’s start composing the recipe of vegetarian mock fish fry, by preparing the sauce first, as once ready it will have to rest for an hour or so in the fridge. Not to be confused with tartar sauce, which is of French origin; tarator sauce made with walnuts and garlic is purely Turkish, although other versions from other countries are well known and always very delicious.
You know ‘if fried, even chairs are tasty’, but with this sauce together they become something hypnotic. So trust me if I tell you that: the doses would be enough for 4 people dedicated to dip their vegetarian mock fish fry in a civil way; but for the sake of peace and quiet… double the quantities without thinking twice. In case it is left over (impossible), you can keep the sauce in the fridge in an airtight container for other two days.
First, chop the walnuts, but not like a flour: for this purpose use a knife or food processor and keep them aside. Then put all the ingredients – except the walnuts – in the container of the food processor and run it to obtain a slightly grainy mixture.
After that, add the walnuts. The sauce should not be very liquid, but compact as mayonnaise, so adjust its density by adding more lemon juice (or water) if it is too firm; or stale bread (or walnut) if it is too liquid. Mix the sauce well and transfer it to a deep bowl and let it rest in the fridge for an hour or so.
Before serving, garnish with freshly chopped dill (or parsley).
In the meantime, wash the green beans, remove the ends and remove also eventual lateral strings. If they are too large, cut them in half lengthwise.
Cook them in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, then drain and cool for about 20 minutes, drying them well.
While waiting, prepare the batter by combining the sifted flour with the baking soda and lemon juice (or vinegar). Gradually add the other ingredients (except the chopped seaweed) mixing vigorously with a whisk, to prevent the formation of lumps: but if you see them, do not worry, you can filter the batter through a strainer and by this way solve the problem. Then add the seaweed cut into small pieces.
Personally, I do not put salt in the batter, as it negatively affects the crispness of the fish fries; I add it later, on the freshly fried fish.
Leave the batter thus prepared to rest for 15 minutes.
After the indicated time, pour the seed oil into a small pan suitable for frying and turn on the stove.
Dip the “little fish” one by one in the batter and fry them in hot oil.
Drain them on paper towels, salt them moderately and serve hot with the tarator sauce, if desired with a few slices of lemon.
Enjoy your meal and good revolution to all
*: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 page 81
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