The joyful exuberance of Mexican culture has always appealed to me but it was the sound of a hundred beating drums that first drew me to downtown Austin one hot and sultry Sunday morning. It was late October and a time of celebration for the Mexican people who were gathering together to pray for, and remember, friends and family members who have died. The Mexican Day of the Dead – Día de Muertos – is not as a day of sadness but of love and celebration with loved ones who awake for just one day a year to party. This particular day began shortly after sunrise as the people gathered in the streets to practice and organise themselves into groups. Imagine the scene: trumpeters, hundreds of small children dressed in white with painted faces, the women stunning in their best dresses – many featuring traditional embroidery – and an ornate headdresses, couples dressed as walking skeletons or native Mexicans adorned with exotic feathers performing ancient tribal dances, even more drummers, the uplifting sound of dozens of mariachi bands, swirling colours and cheers, huge ornately decorated papier–mâché animals, boys carrying giant sugar skulls and jacked up cars all parading along the streets. This went on for hours and hours and later, much later, there were fireworks and parties featuring stall after stall of snacks showcasing the very best of Mexican street food. These vibrant sweetcorn fritters are inspired by that long, hot day and, whenever I make them, I am transported back there in a matter seconds. You can watch the highlights of that day and the rest of our Austin experience on my Instagram story highlights.
Makes around 12 fritters
100g gram flour (you can also use plain white flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 tsps of chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
x1 large medium egg
150ml whole milk
198g can sweetcorn kernels, drained and patted dry
x3 spring onions, very finely chopped
Rapeseed oil, for frying
For the salsa:
4 juicy plum tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 generous tbsp of chipotle paste
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced and zested
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
How I make it
First make the salsa by mixing all the ingredients together (except for the lime zest) and place in the fridge to chill.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, chilli flakes, sea salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre, break in the egg and gradually add the milk whisking as you go to form a smooth batter. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to rest.
Then add the sweetcorn kernels and spring onion to the mix.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the rapeseed oil, – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan – and bring up to temperature.
Keeping them well spaced apart, fry dessert spoonfuls of the batter for around two minutes on each side until they golden and crisp. Carefully remove the fritters and place them on a rack covered with kitchen roll to absorb any residual oil. Repeat the process until all the batter is used up.
Serve at once with the salsa garnished with the lime zest, some soft tacos and a zesty green salad. Or, grab some brioche buns and layer up garlic mayo, beef tomato, crisp lettuce, the fritters and salsa and serve with caramelised sweet potato fries and a crunchy salad such as my 105 Lincoln greens and carrot slaw with a crème fraîche and grain mustard dressing.