#357 Comfrey Leaf Fritters

I have had the foraging bug of late so I thought I would try and make these fritters that appear to been lost to history. According to Jane Grigson, the 18th century writer Hannah Glasse gave a recipe for these fritters that use the plant comfrey. Oddly, I couldn’t find the original recipe anywhere – I found clary fritters and a recipe using comfrey roots – hey ho.

Comfrey is a relatively common plant found in ditches or beside hedgerows and river banks all over Europe. There are several species, but the most common in Britain is common comfrey with the Latin name Symphytum officinale, in case you want to find it in a field guide. They are quite easy to spot though: they have large broad leaves that taper to a point and the plant forms a bushy conical shape as it grows higher with younger, smaller leaves. The flowers are either white or purple, are small and arranged in little lines of about seven spikey blooms (though I didn’t count). The leave themselves are covered in slightly rough hairs that are very slightly irritating if the leaves are large.

One thing to point out, and I only found this out after eating them, is that comfrey leaves are a little poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts, nor should they be eaten if you have liver problems. You have been warned.

Collect some large comfrey leaves that still have a fresh green colour; the large warty dark green ones don’t look very wholesome to me. Take them home, wash and drain them then remove their stalks. Depending what you are serving with them, you will need one or two leaves per person, more if you are using the smaller tender leaves.

Meanwhile make the batter by mixing together 5 ounces of flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon of oil or melted butter and up to ½ pint of warm water to form a batter the consistency of double cream. The warm water will help thicken the batter a little. Lastly, whisk an egg whiteuntil stiff and fold into the batter.

Heat up some oil in a pan ready to deep fry the leaves. You know you’re at the correct temperature when a small cube of bread browns in about 45 seconds. Dip the leaves in the batter and fry on both sides until the batter is crisp and golden brown, around 4 minutes in all. Don’t be tempted to overcrowd the pan – the leaves will stick together and the whole thing will take much longer to cook. Drain on kitchen paper and season.
I took a photo but can’t seem to find it now. Whoops!
#357 Comfrey Leaf Fritters. I really liked these, though probably for the wrong reasons; the thin comfrey leaves were beautifully tender but essentially completely tasteless! The batter however was absolutely delicious – brown and crisp and bubbly and quite possibly the best batter recipe I have ever used. I’m going to give it 5.5/10 though because the star of the show should have been the comfrey, but it was just simply a vehicle for the divine batter.

#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente)

I do so love the old, old recipes within English Food. I do so also love anything deep-fried, so I knew I’d like this one. A tricky thing about doing some of the apple receipts in this book is that most of them ask for Cox’s Orange Pippins which are not freely available here in Texas. However, I have found an excellent replacement for those sour and slightly soft little darlings; the Macintosh apple. So from now on any American Grigsoners can do the recipes almost as Jane intended. In fact they are so similar that I think they might have been selectively bred from Cox’s.
Although just a simple recipe to us now, this must have been a pretty expensive dessert to make because of the addition of black pepper and saffron. However, these old recipes don’t exactly reflect what commoners ate in the fifteenth century – the only recipes that were written down were those chefs that could read, and that meant chefs to the King and the like. Commoners couldn’t read or write and so those sorts of recipes are much more difficult to get hold of!
I imagine Richard III probably tucked into these the day before the Battle of Bosworth Field, well actually, Henry Tudor, since he was the one that won the thing…
Peel and core six Orange Pippins and slice them thickly. Place in a bowl with a liqueur glass of brandy and a good sprinkling of sugar. Let them steep for a few hours, making sure they all get turned in the sweet brandy. Meanwhile, make the batter. Start by pouring three tablespoons of nearly-boiling water over a pinch of saffron and let it steep. Measure out four ounces of flour and mix in one whole egg and the yolk of another (save the white for later on) along with a tablespoon of oil or clarified butter. Measure out half a pint of milk and mix around half of that in too. Strain the saffron liquid into the batter and add more milk if it’s too thick along with a three gratings from the black pepper mill. Lastly, whisk the egg whites and fold that into the batter. Dip the apples in the batter and fry in oil until nice and golden brown. Serve it forth with some sugar sprinkled over it. I plopped on some lightly whipped double cream too.
#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente). These were a great end to the lobster that Danny and I cooked. The dessert was very easy too –good if people are round; you don’t want anything complex. The batter was really nice and light due to the egg white, though I couldn’t really taste the spices. No matter, because it was still a great pud! 7/10.