Lesley Daoust www.villamagnoliaitaly.com
a luxury B&B, private and exclusive, see the photos and
agree it is a wonderful villa.
7 ounces good-quality crumbly ricotta cheese
1/4 of a nutmeg, finely grated, or a pinch of ground nutmeg
A small handful freshly grated Parmesan
1 lemon, zest finely grated, plus 2 lemons, halved for serving
A small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 to 2 fresh red chiles, halved, seeded and very finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups flour, plus a little extra for dusting
1 1/2 cups decent white wine or sparkling water
8 zucchini flowers, with zucchini still attached
Beat the ricotta in a bowl with the nutmeg, the Parmesan, lemon zest and most of the chopped mint and chiles. Season carefully, with salt and pepper, to taste.
To make a lovely light batter, put the flour into a mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt. Pour in the white wine and whisk until thick and smooth. At this point the consistency of the batter should be like heavy cream or, if you dip your finger in, it should stick to your finger and nicely coat it. If it's too thin, add a bit more flour; if it's too thick, add a little more wine.
Open the zucchini flowers up gently, keeping them attached to the zucchini, and snip off the pointed stamen inside because these taste bitter. Give the flowers a gentle rinse if you like.
With a teaspoon, carefully fill each flower with the ricotta mixture. Or, as I prefer to do, spoon the ricotta into the corner of a sandwich bag. Snip 1/2-inch off the corner and use this as a makeshift piping bag to gently squeeze the filling into each flower, until just full. Carefully press the flowers back together around the mixture to seal it in. Then put the flowers aside. (Any leftover ricotta can be smeared on hot crostini as a snack!)
One by one, dip the zucchini with their ricotta-stuffed flowers into the batter, making sure they're completely covered, and gently let any excess drip off. Carefully release them, away from you, into the hot oil. Quickly batter another 1 or 2 flowers and any small zucchini (or parsley) leaves if you have any - but don't crowd the pan too much otherwise they'll stick together. Fry until golden and crisp all over, then lift them out of the oil and drain on the paper towels. Remove to a plate or board and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and the remaining chile and mint. Serve with half a lemon to squeeze over. Serve hot!"
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