Baked green a’ja (soaked bread fritters), inspired by Ottolenghi
Maybe I’m just really late to the party, but why hadn’t anyone told me that soaking bread is the perfect mechanism for delicious fritters?! Crunchy-crispy on the outside, moist yet springy and airy in the middle, much more moreish than fritters made with raw white flour, and not at all gluey or gummy. I don’t know if I’ll ever make fritters any other way! For those who also bake their own bread most of the time, and squirrel away the dried out ends of various loaves in the freezer: this whole concept is a godsend (there are only so many bread chips and croutons one’s jaw can handle). If you accidently turn out a dud loaf that’s spectacularly hard – here’s your answer!
I tried pan frying a few of these before getting bored and fidgety by the stovetop, so I baked the rest, and the results were perfect – the fritters stayed together, didn’t stick (although I did use a non stick sheet), weren’t too wet on the inside, and had a lovely crunch on the outside. Plus no standing over a stove – you get a solid twenty minutes while they’re baking to do whatever you please.
To try and make these a meal-in-a-fritter, I loaded these up with all sorts of greens from the community garden*, but since most of them aren’t widely available, use whatever greens you like. The key is to use something from the onion family, preferably strong, so these are properly yummy – I used spring onions, but regular pre-sauteed onions, leeks or garlic chives would work too. Or, as Ottolenghi does in his book Jerusalem, you can use spices and herbs. Grated carrots or courgettes would probably work too, and you could easily make these into corn or pea fritters. The basic formula is simply soaked bread + eggs + oniony thing + herbs/spices + other veges if you want, or even some crumbled feta. Go nuts.
*In case you’re interested: brussels sprouts leaves, which taste just like kale, green radicchio leaves, parsley and spring onions (ok those last two are easy).
Baked a’ja (soaked bread fritters)
makes roughly 18 palm-sized fritters
NOTE: I didn’t measure the following quantities, they are only approximates – make note of the bit in bold more than the quantities
- 400g bread (around 4 thick slices, but obviously it depends on the bread you use)
- 2 large eggs or 3 small ones
- generous handful finely chopped spring onions or garlic chives (or leek/onion, slightly sauteed)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 generous handfuls of greens or 1 generous handful grated veges that can be eaten raw (optional)
- handful herbs** or spices you like (optional)
- 2 T neutral oil
- lemon or lime wedges, to serve (or yogurt dressing)
**Don’t use any beloved fresh herbs, as their flavour is drastically mellowed during the long cooking time
Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Drizzle either a hackable baking tray or silicon or non stick baking sheet with the neutral oil, brush around to distribute.
Soak bread for a few minutes or a few hours if the bread is really tough. Break it up with a fork and squeeze out the water (you can do this in a sieve if handling it is too gross). Beat in the two eggs, then stir in everything else. It should be like a sloppy cake batter, if it’s too dry add another egg. Plop ping pong ball sized mounds on your baking tray, then flatten slightly. Bake for 20 minutes until the undersides are lightly golden and they don’t fall apart, then flip and continue baking for about another ten minutes until the tops are properly golden.