I left home, many moons ago, armed with my Hamlyn all-colour cookbook, not knowing how to cook, but full of enthusiasm.
There were numerous culinary disasters and one mighty boo boo. Shortly after I left home, I was living in an apartment in Antwerp. I’d just moved in and invited a few friends for dinner. I headed off to the big supermarket where I was seduced by these cute little peppers. They were about the size of a walnut, bright red, a little wrinkly and dead cheap. Dinner was a kind of vegetable and rice dish, which everyone spectacularly spat out, then started gasping and rolling around the room in agony. It turned out that my bargain cute peppers were in fact habeneros, hot chillies, which are right up there on the heat scale. Not knowing what to do with this lethal pot of food I hastily disposed of it down the toilet before we all headed out for bags of frites with mayonnaise. The next day I was accosted by a very upset landlord, as there was a huge plumbing problem in the building, which he was trying to get to the root of. When he discovered what I had done he couldn’t believe that someone could be so stupid as to put an entire pot of food down the toilet. I have never made either of these mistakes again!
As the focus of this month’s edition is students and education, I thought I’d pass on this little bit of knowledge and give a couple of pointers to equip someone leaving home with a basic kitchen kit to cook with ease. Although most properties come furnished, the kitchen is often a dodgy area. My suggestion would be to go armed with a medium frying pan. Not too shallow, about 24cm in size and with a heavy base that will distribute and hold the heat. If a lid is needed you can use a dinner plate
A grater, a paring knife/peeler, and a sharp knife are my other three essentials. The knife will only stay sharp if treated with respect so you might want to hide it if you are house sharing. Don’t use this knife to cut bread, to hack at frozen food nor chop on a marble or stone surface.
After that a decent sized chopping board is always a bonus.
Vegetable fritters are a easy recipe, which can be made with whatever is in the vegetable basket. They are infinitely flexible, cheap to make and taste just as good hot or cold.
They can be made with a combo of any of the following: Grated carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot or spuds; Grated courgettes, lightly salted, left for ten minutes then squeezed to remove the excess liquid; Lightly cooked and chopped broccoli or cauliflower; Blanched and finely shredded spinach, kale or chard; Frozen peas or sweetcorn.
For extra jizz add any of the following: Finely chopped onion, garlic and/or ginger; Freshly chopped herbs – parsley, coriander, basil or chives; A teaspoon of cumin or coriander, curry powder etc; Crumbled cheese = Feta works particularly well but grated cheddar or parmesan is good too
The basic batter is the same whatever the vegetable. Here are two versions, one is vegan and the other with eggs. Swop and change the vegetables and flavourings – just use the same ratio of the ingredient you are replacing and mix with the batter.
Carrot, Sweetcorn and Ginger Fritters
2-3 grated carrots
1 cup sweetcorn
2-3tbs olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3cms ginger peeled and finely chopped
5 tbs gram flour – sifted
half tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
oil to fry
Sift the gram flour, salt and baking powder onto a bowl. Stir in enough water to make a thick pouring batter.
Stir in the grated carrot, sweetcorn, chopped onion, garlic and ginger.
Heat a large frying pan, add enough oil to just cover the bottom and drop in tablespoons of batter mix. Control the temperature so that the fritters are gently sizzling. Cook until golden brown on each side. Don’t do this too quickly or the fritter will be raw in the centre.
1 head broccoli- cooked and broken into small floret
1 red onion-peeled and thinly sliced
1 heaped tsp baking powder
half tsp salt
handful chopped herbs – coriander/parsley/chives/chervil- whatever you have
1tsp cumin or coriander plus 1 tsp turmeric
chillies could also be good
Whisk the eggs, baking powder, salt, dry spices if you are using and flour together. Break up the onion and stir into the batter together with the cooked broccoli and fresh herbs (if you have some). Crumble in the feta.
Heat a pan and add a little sunflower oil to fry then drop in a heaped tablespoonful of the batter. Leave enough room for them to spread and don’t poke them about. Cook gently for about four minutes then turn and cook the other side.
Both of these fritters are delicious eaten with a little sauce on the side for dunking
Try sweet chilli sauce, crème fraiche, natural yoghurt, mayonnaise or possibly ketchup.
Serve with a pile of salad and you’re sorted.
Lettercollum Kitchen Project
22 Connolly Street