Now that normal life can resume after the last eighteen months of pandemic restrictions, I would love to have a dinner party! Not only is it an excuse to see friends, but I also really just want to spend my time in the kitchen rustling up canapes and snacks for my guests! One of my favorite snacks is my recipe for cassava cups which are filled with a spicy tangy avocado salad.
Have you ever tried cassava root before? The root vegetable is originally from Brazil and Central America, but since travel, trade and colonization, it now grows around the world and is a key ingredient in many recipes throughout Africa.
This snack is the perfect canape for a party – not only is it easy to make but it’s very easy to eat too! Cups of soft cassava coated in breadcrumbs are filled with spicy salsa, and devoured in such a quick bite your guests will immediately want another!
If you’re looking for a new canape recipe, especially for the build up to Christmas (we’ve all eaten enough smoked salmon blinis) keep reading to discover my cassava snacks recipe and learn how to make them!
What is cassava root?
Cassava is a starchy root vegetable, which on the outside resembles a long sweet potato. It is used in various cuisines around the world including Latin American, Caribbean, and African, and grows in warm tropical climates. You may have heard of it referred to as manioc, yuca, or Brazilian arrowroot. Cassava is also known as tapioca – so tapioca pudding and the balls in bubble tea are dried and ground cassava root!
Unlike a sweet potato, the inner flesh is white, and has a mild flavor and texture, similar to a regular potato, although slightly nuttier and sweeter. Once cooked, cassava is incredibly soft and fluffy, and therefore is popular as a deep-fried treat as the outside becomes crisp, and the inside stays super soft! It is also a great accompaniment to savory dishes, or as a snack with sauces and condiments.
Where can I buy cassava?
Fresh cassava root is available in certain supermarkets depending on where you live, and also in Asian and African grocery stores.
How do you prepare cassava?
This is where the similarities to potato end! Basically, you won’t be able to peel a cassava with an everyday peeler because the skin is like steel-plated armor.
Instead, you need to cut the long cassava root into segments with a big, sharp knife. Then you need to carefully score a line through the skin of the cassava. Push your knife under the edge of skin, and very carefully pull it away from the vegetable.
Now you should have a few chunks of naked, bright white cassava! However, it’s not quite ready to cook yet. Cut the chunks into quarters and you will see a thin root which runs down the middle.
Cut this root out like you would remove an apple core. If you leave the root as it is, it’s too hard to eat even when cooked, and for this recipe for deep-fried cassava snacks, we will need to mash it all up until soft.
From here, cook it as you would any other root vegetable – boil, bake, roast, deep-fry, steam – you name it. For my cassava snacks recipe, we will boil the chunks in salted water until soft. Once tender, we mash it with butter until soft and creamy.
So, how do we go from soft mashed cassava to these crispy golden cups of avocado salad?
How do you make deep-fried cassava snacks?
With this recipe for cassava snacks, you need to get your hands dirty! Here’s what you need to do:
1. Mix the mashed cassava with corn flour, garlic powder, finely chopped cilantro and a pinch of salt. To make sure everything is fully combined, you will need to knead it with your hands!
2. Using a ½ cup measure, scoop out big pieces of mash and roll them into balls.
3. Line up three bowls of flour, beaten egg yolk and breadcrumbs. Dip each cassava ball first into the flour, then the beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are all completely covered. Repeat and set them on a lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the cassava balls for 30 minutes.
4. Heat a pan of flavorless oil. Here you must be incredibly careful as hot oil is dangerous! Use a thermometer to check you have reached the right temperature – around 350-375F (175-190C).
5. Gently lower each of the balls into the oil using a slotted spoon. Don’t overcrowd the pan otherwise the oil will cool and the cassava balls won’t become crispy and golden. Once they are hot and golden brown, drain them on some paper towel to soak up the grease.
6. When they are cool enough to handle, cut each ball in half. Using your finger, push the center down to make a hollow middle.
Ta-dah! Your cassava snacks are ready for your spicy avocado salad.
These little cassava canapes are light and addictive to eat, the perfect snack for a gathering or party!
My cassava snacks are made with cassava root, which is boiled and mashed, then deep-fried until crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served full of spicy avocado salsa. Deep-fried cassava is delicious, and makes the perfect snack or a pretty canape.
850g cooked cassava
1 stick of butter
1 cup corn flour
1 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
A pinch of salt
1 avocado, diced
1 cup corn kernels
1 small chili red pepper, finely chopped
1 chilli green pepper, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 small cucumbers, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
Salt, to taste
For the cassava cups:
For the avocado filling:
First, prepare and cook the cassava. Cut it into chunks and peel it (read blog for more information!). Cut the pieces lengthwise to remove the root line inside the cassava (which will otherwise stay hard, and can’t be processed to a nice ball.)
Cook in boiling water until it is soft and fully cooked through, for 20 to 30 minutes.
In the meantime, take all the ingredients for the avocado filling and cut them into small pieces. Tip them to a medium bowl and add the oil, vinegar, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. I always add some lemon to the avocado so the color stays bright. Set aside.
Take the cassava out of the water and make sure to drain it properly so you don’t transfer any water to the bowl. Put the cassava in a large bowl and add the butter. Mash it with a potato masher until smooth.
Add the cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and cilantro and mix everything together well, and start kneading it with your hands until it is well combined.
Scoop out a half cup of mixture and shape it into a ball. Make sure you create a big ball as you want them to have enough space for at least 1 tbsp of salad.
Beat the egg yolks together in a bowl. Tip the flour and breadcrumbs into separate bowls. Roll the cassava balls in the flour, then in the beaten egg yolk and at the end coat them with the breadcrumbs. Place them on a lined baking sheet. Refrigerate them all for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 to 3 cups of vegetable oil in a large pan, and once hot (be careful with hot oil), gently add the cassava balls, and fry them until they become golden brown. Drain and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels.
Allow the cassava balls to cool for a few minutes, then cut them in half and press down the middle of each half to make room for the salad filling.
Spoon 1 tbsp salad into the cassava cups, and decorate it with some beet sprouts.