Many favourite Roman dishes are Jewish and have their origins in the old ghetto. After the unification of Italy the ghetto walls were torn down in 1888 and Romans fell in love with new culinary ideas. Today pumpkin flowers, stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy fillets, dipped in batter and fried, are served all over the city. In Naples the smaller zucchini flowers are dipped in a delicious, light, yeast batter (pasta cresciuta) but traditionally they are not stuffed.
I like to use the Neapolitan batter to coat the stuffed pumpkin flowers because it is lighter and the flowers look more attractive as their colours show through the crisp batter.
Deep-fried pumpkin or zucchini flowers in Yeast Batter
150 g flour
25 g fresh yeast
250 ml. tepid water
olive oil for deep frying
pumpkin or zucchini flowers, allow 2 per person
Crumble the yeast into a little tepid water and mix to a smooth cream. Add about 2/3 of the remaining tepid water and stir into the sifted flour and salt. Cover with a cloth and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half. When you are ready to use check the consistency of the batter. Add a little more tepid water if the batter seems too thick but remember it needs to be fairly dense so that the batter clings to the flower.
Remove the stalks, stamens and pistils and lightly brush down with a moist paper towel. Open the flower carefully and stuff with a baton of mozzarella and small piece of anchovy fillet.
Heat the oil for deep-frying and when it reaches 180°C swirl the stuffed flowers in the batter and drop carefully 3 or 4 at a time into the oil. Fry for a few minutes then remove with a slotted spoon, drain and serve at once. In Rome they are eaten with the fingers as a snack or part of an antipasto.