Salsify (Tragopogon orientalis), also known as the oyster plant, from the family Compositae, is still (nearly 300 years after its introduction to Britain) relatively unknown. This is a pity for it is a very interesting vegetable - rather like a long, thin, brown parsnip - which is highly prized in Southern Europe and North Africa. You may be able to find it in Indian grocery stores and I have, just recently, seen it in the greengrocery department of one of the large supermarkets.

As well as being excellent with meat and fish dishes this recipe, from Tripoli in Libya, makes a fine hors d’oeuvre.


675 g (1 lb) salsify, topped and tailed

oil for frying



110 g (4 oz) plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

150 ml ( pint) water

teaspoon harissa

teaspoon cumin

teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt



lemon wedges


Wash the salsify under cold running water using a scrubbing brush if necessary to remove all sand. Cut each root in half. Half fill a large pan with lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Add the salsify and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain into a colander and rinse under cold running water. When cool enough to handle peel the skin off the salsify and cut the roots into 7.5 cm (3 in) pieces.

To prepare the batter mix all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl. Heat sufficient oil to cover the base of a large frying pan by 5 cm (2 in). Dip several pieces of salsify in the batter and fry in the fat until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you cook the remaining salsify in the same way. Serve hot with the lemon wedges.


Serves 6.


country : Libya

course : vegetable dish


source : North African Cookery / Arto der Haroutunian