What is mbatten brouklou?
There are several ways to make mbatten brouklou. At their simplest, they are cauliflower florets dipped into batter, and deep-fried, or they can be made into croquettes.
Mbatten brouklou may be completely vegetarian, and made with or without cheese, or they can have ground meat mixed in. They may be fried, then simmered in tomato sauce, or just fried and served with the sauce as a condiment.
In some Tunisian homes, cauliflower florets are battered and deep-fried, and served with a rich and hearty meat stew.
The recipe presented here is the no-cheese croquette version of mbatten brouklou, served with a spicy tomato sauce. Notes at the end of the recipe are included to make a meat or cheese version.
What is the origin of cauliflower?
To understand where the word cauliflower comes from, you have to go back in time to before the domestication of brassicas – back to Ancient Rome, and the Latin word for cabbage, caulis.
The Ancient Greeks were known to have eaten a type of loose-headed cauliflower, called cyma, and by the 12th century, cauliflower was very familiar to the Arab world too.
In medieval Britain, although cauliflower was unknown, wild cabbage was called colewort. In the US, colewort is known as collards or collard greens that are used, for example, in Portuguese caldo verde, and simply as greens/ or spring greens in Britain. Of course, kale, that is used in Irish colcannon, also takes its name from colewort, as does kohlrabi, while the naming of the coleflower has now come full circle.
Since it only arrived on Western European shores in the mid-17th century, cauliflower was, until relatively recently, a luxury food.
In early modern England, for example, while the poorest people were eating sparrow grass (asparagus), rocket (arugula), samphire, and oysters, the wealthy dined upon cauliflower and potatoes.
What are the health benefits of cauliflower?
Although cauliflower is primarily water (92%), it is nevertheless high in B, C, and K vitamins. It also contains small amounts of essential minerals. The stem and leaves include a good dose of vitamin A.
Basic research is currently underway, looking at ways in which some of the phytochemical compounds found in cauliflower – specifically, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates – may be used in cancer treatments.
Although there have thus far been no definite conclusions, isothiocyanates have been shown to kill off some types of cancer cells, which have proved resistant to currently used treatments. An anti-melanoma drug is now being developed, using isothiocyanates as its base.
Seems as though Hippocrates knew what he was talking about when he said: “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”.
Cauliflower that is boiled for 10 minutes loses roughly 50% of its phytochemicals – longer, and around 75% is lost. Steaming however, results in negligible losses.
How to make mbatten brouklou
Although steaming is a much better way to cook cauliflower in order to preserve its nutritional value, traditionally, mbatten brouklou is made with boiled cauliflower.
In addition, any nutritional preservation to be had by steaming would be nullified by frying the croquettes.
Once the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, it’s simply a case of mashing them together with seasonings, coating in an egg wash and flour, and frying until golden. They can then either be simmered like kofte or kibbeh in a stew, or served with a spicy rich tomato dipping sauce.
Mbatten brouklou are delicious cauliflower and potato fried croquettes, originally from Tunisia, that can also be prepared with cheese as well as ground meat.
- 1 medium cauliflower , cut into uniform pieces
- 2 medium potatoes , peeled and cut into small uniform pieces
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled but left whole
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 medium onion , minced
- 1 small bunch minced flat leaf parsley
- ½ teaspoon tabil
- ½ teaspoon harissa paste
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion , minced
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¾ cup water (hot)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon harissa paste
- 1 large green chili pepper , quartered
- 1 large egg , beaten
- 10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Cook the potatoes, cauliflower, and garlic in boiling salted water for around 15 minutes, until soft.
- While the vegetables are cooking, sauté the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until it becomes translucent. Stir in the salt, pepper, and turmeric.
- Dilute the tomato and harissa pastes in the hot water, and mix into the onions, along with the green chili pepper.
Bring the sauce to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and allow to simmer while you make the croquettes.
- Once cooked, drain the vegetables well, and place into a large mixing bowl, along with the flour, onion, parsley, tabil, harissa, salt, and pepper.
- Using your hands, mash everything together, and mix well.
- Heat the oil over a high heat. To test whether it’s hot enough, briefly dip a wooden skewer into the oil; if the oil rapidly bubbles around it, it’s ready.
- With wet hands, form the potato-cauliflower mash into palm-sized croquettes, and flatten slightly.
- Dip each croquette into the beaten egg, then roll in flour. Fry in batches of four at a time, for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are golden brown on the bottom. Flip over, and fry the other side.
- Remove croquettes from the oil, and drain on paper towels. Repeat until you've used up all the mixture.
- Once all the croquettes have been fried, you can either serve them as they are, with the sauce, or simmer them for 5 minutes in the sauce.
- Arrange on a large serving plate, with the sauce in the center.