Updated: Apr 20
Borage Leaf Tempura with Soy, Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce
We love a little biting by the fire the here and with lock down in full force we are having fun playing around with the ingredients we have left in our stores and growing in our organic garden at HQ for the future. Ok we'll admit, the team remaining are also quite chuffed to be guinea pigs for every trial and menu experiment!
The joy of tempura is the variety of things you can do with it. Tempura is a light flour-based batter than can be used to coat almost any vegetable or in this case edible leaf to produce a lightly fried before dinner snack that goes perfectly with a salty/sweet dipping sauce.
We are using Borage Leaves - an edible plant we grow in our garden that produces a beautiful cobalt blue flower that is gorgeous as an edible decoration for cakes, soup shots, salads and much more.
In addition to the flower, Borage leaves are also edible. A little furry on the outside but deliciously green and fresh tasting, having experimented with lots of different types of leaves, this one is my favourite. Big and broad enough to carry the batter and generous enough for those of us foodies who need a few mouthfuls of anything to make it feel right..!
Other alternatives to Borage that you can tempura or even mix up with these leaves would be:
Nasturtium Leaf, and Flower
Calendula Flower - whole
Flat Leaf parsley - get it when the leaves are really plump and broad and the stems can withstand cooking on the heat
Baby fennel - bulb and frond can work too
Broccoli and Cauliflower Florets - divided into small florets
Sugar Snap Peas
9 large Borage leaves, washed and patted dry
100g of plain all purpose flour
1 bottle of soda water or sparkling water
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds or powder
Pinch of sea salt
4-5 large ice cubes
300ml of sunflower or flourless cooking oil for frying
* For Gluten Free just change out the flours for a GF alternative. Chickpea flour although a little heavier in the finish, gives this receipt quite an earthy flavour!
For the dipping sauce:
3 table spoons of dark soy sauce
1 table spoon of runny honey
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seed
3 drops of strong sesame oil
1 squeeze of a small lime
*For GF, again the soy sauce would have to be switched out to a GF soy sauce. In Kenya, it is possible to find this in Healthy You, but it's not cheap. So another option would be to go heavier on the lime, mix in the honey and use a pinch of sea salt instead of soy sauce. The colour will be different but you will still get that heady mix of salt, sweet and tang with goes so well with these crunchy leaves.
Measure out your flour into a large mixing bowl. Add at least 1 cup of soda water, the salt, cumin seeds and mix together until smooth. Add the ice cubes. Try to achieve the consistency of soup, it needs to be thick enough to coat the leaf but not so thick that it will weigh them down. You should be able to see the leaf through the batter.
Prepare a plate with paper towels for your fried leaves. The paper will absorb any excess oil and make sure your tempura is crunchy and not greasy.
Let the batter rest and heat the oil. Frying with oil is - along with hot sugar/caramel - the most dangerous thing a cook can do in a kitchen. So make sure children are far away and your surfaces organised so you can work quickly and keep focussed. When the oil begins to smoke, turn the heat down a touch, test it by dropping a tiny amount of batter into the oil. If it immediately sizzles and crisps up you're ready to go. If not then keep it heating a little longer.
Once you are happy your oil is hot enough then one by one dip each leaf in the batter, coating both sides. Carefully drop the coated leaf into the hot oil, do the same with as many as you can fit - I tend to use a deep wok for this job, it has the right surface area and allows me to move fast and cook plenty in one go. Turn the leaves so each side goes crispy and golden and remove them with a slatted spoon onto the paper towels to cool.
When your leaves are all cooked and resting. Remove the oil from the heat somewhere safe.
Find a shallow platter and arrange your leaves, I also create a little pile and sprinkle the edible borage flowers or even calendula petals over them for a bit of colour.
Then quickly whip up your dipping sauce in a smaller bowl or ramekin...and that's it. The perfect thing to nibble on by the fire with a nice cold Kenyan beer...
Here's the video of how we did it: