These work well as either a starter or a snack, or as a meal in themselves, if bulked out with some smoked salmon or trout or some poached or fried eggs. They can be eaten straight from the oven, all hot and crispy, or at room temperature later on if taken to work or on a picnic. They’ll lose their crunch, but their flavor will increase.
Getting ahead: Both the sauce and the batter can be made up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, if you like, ready to fry and serve.
BAHARAT translates literally from the Arabic as “spices.” The combination of spices in a particular blend depends on what is championed by each region (and within each household in each region!), so no single flavor tends to dominate. Generally, though, it’s an aromatic, warm spice made up of a combination of black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin, and nutmeg. It brings a sweet depth and flavor to all sorts of savory and sweet dishes. It’s widely available to buy, but if you want to make your own, place the following spices in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind until a fine powder is formed: 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cardamom pods, 1 small cinnamon stick, ½ tsp whole cloves, ½ tsp ground allspice, 2 tsp cumin seeds, and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg. Store in an airtight container, where it will keep for 2 months.
- To make the sauce, place all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Whisk well to combine and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the spinach. Stir, just to wilt, then drain through a sieve. Rinse under cold running water, to stop the spinach from overcooking, and drain well. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, well spread out, and set aside for 5 minutes to dry. Finely chop the spinach, then place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Place the peas in a food processor, pulse a few times until roughly crushed, then add them to the spinach along with the preserved lemon, chile, eggs, ricotta, cornstarch, za’atar, chile flakes, baharat, cardamom, aniseed, mint, parsley, dill, 1 tsp of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mix until just combined.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a plate with paper towels, and a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pour the oil into a large, flat frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once very hot, use two small spoons to scoop up the mixture; don’t worry about making them uniform in shape, but they should be about 3¼ inches/8cm wide and ¾ inch/2cm thick. Carefully lower into the oil—you should be able to do three or four fritters at a time—and fry for 3–4 minutes, turning once, until they are golden brown. If they are cooking too quickly and taking on too much color, just decrease the temperature.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to the prepared plate while you continue with the remaining fritters. Once they are all fried, lay the fritters out on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 4–5 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce and a wedge of lemon alongside.
Reprinted with permission from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit: Jenny Zarins © 2020