I was going through my spice box the other day and found a bag of dried juniper berries I had bought a couple of months ago. These berries take me straight back to my childhood in Finland. At school we often had orienteering at our sports class (orienteering is big in Finland) during the first months of autumn. As we were rummaging the near-by forests looking for "control points", we would fuel our excruciating exercise with all the wild berries we could find. At that time of the year we might still find some blueberries, but more of the late autumn berries like lingonberries and crowberries (which were not a favourite amongst many kids), and if really desperate (and curious), we'd also try our luck with juniper berries.
Juniper berries are not exactly berries, but seed cones with a berry like appearance. They are often used as a spice or to flavour gin or in medicinal purposes, and they really grow in abundance in the northern areas of Scandinavia. The flavour is almost peppery, a little bitter and quite strong. This is why it is often paired with strong flavours like game meats.
I can't guarantee you'll love this berry, but if you do happen to come across it, do give it a go. I wanted to give a bit of a twist to these veggie fritters and to my surprise juniper goes really well with the earthy flavour of beetroot and the sweetness of the carrot! Juniper is not overpowering but more complementing the flavours and the minty yoghurt dressing is a lovely smooth contrast to peppery fritters.
Vegetable Fritters with Juniper and Minty Yoghurt Dip
1 medium beetroot, coarsely grated
2 small carrots, coarsely grated
1 potato, finely grated
2 shallot greens, finely chopped
piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp dried juniper berries, finely crushed in mortar and pestle
small pinch of dried rosemary
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large free-range egg
2 tbs rice crumbs
2 tbs sunflower seeds (you can soak these first for a couple of hours if you wish)
Minty Yoghurt Dip
1 cup fat-free natural yoghurt
1/4 lemon, juiced
tiny pinch of salt
tiny pinch of ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of fresh mint, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 170C.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Using a tablespoon, scoop a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture on the tray and shape into a round fritter. Continue with the rest of the mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes on each side (flipping them around carefully) or until crispy and brown.
To make the dip, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the fritters with the minted yoghurt dip.