The Musette: courgette fritters

I’ve made courgette fritters for years, initially using a recipe from that domestic goddess Nigella Lawson. However, I’ve shifted to making them less dairy laden and more acceptable to a wider range of regimes.

The word fritter usually conjures up something deep-fried, fat-laden, and overall heavy but these easy courgette (zucchini) fritters are testament that lighter ones are possible. Grated courgette joins forces with onion, flour, eggs, and grated Parmesan cheese to make low calorie, delicious little green pancakes that can be a light vegetarian meal, meze or side dish to a Mediterranean-style meal.

Fritters should be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. If there’s one thing I loathe it’s soggy fritters, they are a big no-no. The only way to avoid sogginess is to wring out the excess liquid from the courgettes.  Grate, salt, leave in the colander for 10 minutes, then wring out. I know this can be a painful process but there’s really no way around it. In addition to removing the excess water, I like to add a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese to the batter. It both amps up the umami flavor and increases the crisp factor. I also like to use baking powder, which I believe helps enormously in making lighter fritters. You can leave it out, but do try it, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Ingredients (Makes about 12 small or 6 medium fritters)

  • 2 medium courgettes (or 4 small), coarsely grated
  • 11/2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten or 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water
  • ½ cup all purpose flour (or GF flour or almond flour)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil or mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 fat clove confit garlic (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Place grated courgette (zucchini) in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt, toss and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Wrap grated courgettes in a clean dish towel/kitchen paper/cheesecloth, squeezing and wringing all the moisture you can out of them. This step helps the fritters brown better, even when using less oil. It also keeps them from turning soggy and falling apart in the pan.

3. Place squeezed courgette in a bowl and add all the other ingredients, including remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and ground black pepper. Mix until well combined. The batter should be dropping consistency.

3. Heat two tablespoons of olive in a frying pan (skillet) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop two scant tablespoons of zucchini mixture onto the pan, press them flat with the help of a spatula and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

4. Make only a few fritters at a time, do not crown the pan, so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop. Drain briefly on paper towels to soak up any excess grease and keep warm.

5. Serve with Greek yogurt, plant-based yoghurt or sour cream, and sprinkle with finely chopped scallions if you like. We eat them with my chilli and tomato jam.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can, of course, make fritters from a variety of vegetables. Experiment to your heart’s content once you’ve mastered the basics.

2. Feel free to add a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs. I like freshly chopped basil or mint and lemon zest with courgettes but parsley would work too with maybe some chopped capers.

3. You need a batter that’s of dropping consistencey. If it’s too wet add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry add some water a teaspoon at a time.

4. I rarely use raw garlic as it’s too strong a flavour. I always keep a jar of confit garlic (home-made) in the fridge for use in my cooking.

 

The Musette: Aloo Gobi

This hearty cauliflower and potato curry is probably the most common and basic vegetable curry you will find anywhere in India. Originally from the Punjab, it’s a firm favourite across the Indian sub-continent and Pakistan. Cheap, filling and generally vegan, it’s a recipe everyone needs in their curry repertoire. But one of the disadvantages of its universal appeal is that there is no such thing as a universal recipe.Yes, there are as many recipes as there are Indians!

This is my vegan take on Atul Kochhar’s recipe from Simple Indian. I don’t generally make amendments to recipes from Michelin starred chefs, but I’m sure he won’t mind.

Ingredients (enough for 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 4 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 large cauliflower, split into florets
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp black onion seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250ml (1 cup) passata
  • 5 -10 tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F fan),   put potatoes and cauliflower florets on a baking tray, spritz with a little vegetable oil and bake in oven until cooked and a little charred round the edges, approx. 40 minutes.

2. After 30 minutes, heat finely chopped onion in 1 tsp vegetable oil in a deep frying pan (skillet) until transluscent. Do not allow it to colour. Then add onion seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamon pods and bay leaves. Cook for a minute or two until the spices start to crackle.

3. Add the passata, water, chilli powder, salt and tumeric to the pan stirring well and now add the cauliflower and potato which should be almost but not quite cooked. Gently cook through for 5-10 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork.

4. Taste sauce to check seasoning, add coriander and garam masala and serve with rice or an Indian flat bread.

5. Or, like me, omit final seasoning, leave to cool, put in the fridge overnight and heat up the following day before adding coriander and garam masala.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Cut the florets slightly bigger than the potatoes so they cook in roughly the same time as the potatoes, rather than overcooking and disintegrating before the potatoes are done.

2. You can, of course, serve this as a main dish, or as a side. Typically, I’ll serve it with a “wetter” dish such as dhal and either boiled basmati rice or some roti and some hot and spicy pickles.

The Musette: vegan baked beans and cabbage

While we’re in lockdown, I’m trying new recipes largely because I only want to shop once a week and partly to turn over my freezer and storecupboards. I’m always looking for dishes which I can adapt to serve both of us, otherwise I have to cook two separate meals.I love cooking but sometimes……………

At the end of the week I was left with this rather handsome, organic savoy caggage. I know I’d recently read somewhere about caramelised cabbage. Most likely because I like roasted and grilled cabbage, so really, what’s not to love about the idea of caramelisation?

And so, I tried it, but cabbage on its own isn’t enough. I need some protein, such as beans. This baked cabbage and butter beans in tomato is my rendition on the caramelized cabbage, made for a substantial lunch. Also, this is delightful reheated served on leftover grains, or with feta for my  beloved.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1 small head savoy cabbage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 400g (1 cup) crushed tomatoes
  • 180ml (¾ cup) filtered water
  • 400g (1 cup) cooked white beans, drained (butter or cannellini)
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley
  • Zest from one organic lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Cut the cabbage in half and cut each half into quarters. Heat a large frying pan (skillet) over medium-high heat, place the cabbage in the hot pan and sear each side. Once seared, transfer to an oven-proof dish.

3. Add the tablespoon of olive oil followed by the minced onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are transluscent, about 8 to 10 minutes or so. If your onions are starting to brown, reduce the heat. Once the onions are tender, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.

4. Next, stir in the sherry and scrape any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the tomato paste, smoked paprika, cumin and cook for a minute or two. Add in the crushed tomatoes, water, and beans. Stir and heat for a minute.

5. Cover the cooked cabbage with the tomato mixture, cover with aluminium foil (or lid)  and place the dish into the preheated oven. Cook the cabbage for about 35 to 45 minutes until the tomato mixture has thickened, and the cabbage is tender.

6. Finely chop the parsley and zest together and sprinkle on top.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. When cooking for myself, I try to limit the fat content. Feel free to brush the cabbage with olive oil before caramelisation.

2. I used a tin of Spanish butter beans but you could use any white bean, including chickpeas.

3. I scattered feta cheese and chopped fresh thyme atop my beloved’s portion but equally I could have served it with some bacon or a pork chop.

The Musette: mujadara

Lentils, rice, olive oil, spices and onions – this Middle Eastern standard is the ultimate pantry recipe. It’s also the classic example of a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. There are literally dozens of recipes for mujadara out there – each country, possibly even each family, seems to have its own version. The one I like best is that served at our local Lebanese restaurant, who kindly gave me their recipe – result! It’s also quick and easy to make. A bit of stirring on the stove and then pop it into the oven and it’s ready in next to no time.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g (3/4 cup) Puy lentils
  • 1ltr (4 cups) boiling filtered water
  • 325g (1 1/2 cups) long grain brown rice (soaked for an hour in 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water)
  • bunch finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or coriander (cilantro) leaves

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 3 (375°F/350°F fan).

2. Toss the onions with the olive oil, cumin and thyme in a frying pan (skillet) and cook over a high heat until they turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3.Add the rinsed lentils, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the drained rice to the mix and turn into a casserole dish (dutch oven) before carefully adding the boiling water. Stir, pop on the lid and put it into the oven for around 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the lentils and rice are tender and there’s no liquid left.

4. Remove the dish from the oven. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with the parsley or coriander (cilantro), and serve warm or at room temperature.

5. If you’re so inclined, you can dress it with greek-style yogurt, Aleppo-style pepper, crispy shallots and additional olive oil.

The Musette: roasted carrot and chickpea salad

Last week while suffering from cabin fever, I couldn’t be bothered to go out shopping. So meals were made from whatever was lurking in the fridge, freezer or pantry. Luckily, I always have a few staples including chickpeas and a bag of organic carrots, the latter being my go-to backup vegetable because they last forever. Is it just me who does this?

This salad is going to forever change the way you look at those carrots. They’re tossed with a sprinkle of ground coriander (cilantro) and roasted until lightly charred, then paired with warm chickpeas that have been rendered sticky with a mix of citrus juice, chilli flakes and garlic. A nutty, herb-packed dressing brings it all together over a bed of peppery rocket (arugula). In a couple of simple steps, carrots go from standby side dish to the star turn in a (vegan) dinner-worthy salad. I should add that my beloved was away on a business trip so no need to worry about him though I know he’d have been happy with this as a side dish

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) organic carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal into thick discs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, preferably olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground coriander, divided into two
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 660 g (23 oz) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) juice from medium orange/several tangerines
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli pepper flakes
  • 2 big handfuls rocket (arugula)
  • 120 ml herb dressing (see below)
  • handful (1/2 cup) chopped, toasted, skin-on almonds

Herb Dressing

  • 8 tbsp (1/2 cup) freshly chopped fresh herbs, I used parsley and (cilantro)
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) tahini
  • Juice and zest of organic lemon
  •  1 tbsp filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/(400ºF)/180ºC fan/Gas mark 6 and line a rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil.

2. Put the carrots on the baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp ground coriander, pinch of salt and pepper, and toss to evenly coat. Spread into an even layer. Roast, stirring once halfway through, until tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes total.

3. While the carrots are roasting, make your herb sauce. Put all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and process until the herbs are finely minced and the sauce is well-blended, 1 to 3 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put the chickpeas, orange juice, garlic, remaining 1 tsp coriander, pinch of salt and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juice is reduced by half and the chickpeas sticky, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Divide the rocket between 4 bowls. Top each bowl with the chickpeas and a spoonful of remaining juice, add the roasted carrots.

6. Drizzle with the dressing, sprinkle with chopped almonds and a handful of remaining fresh herbs used for the sauce.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The carrots, chickpeas, and dressing can be prepared up to a day in advance and stored separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Reheat the carrots and chickpeas before serving.

2. Leftovers will keep for a day stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftovers without the rocket and sauce can be happily stored for several days.

3. Use whatever fresh herbs you happen to have handy, a single herb or a combination of several. If you’ve fresh carrots, don’t forget you can use the carrot tops as well.

4. This is a handy dandy sauce that pairs well with loads of dishes. Use it to top grain bowls or spoon it over grilled meat, fish, or veggies. The coolness of the herbs also makes this sauce a good fit for spicy foods. It’ll keep in an airtight container for several days in the fridge.

5. If you’ve used chickpeas from a can or jar, don’t forget to retain the aquafaba – it’s a substitute for egg white in vegan dishes.

6. If you don’t have any tahini, don’t despair. Just make a typical French vinaigrette dressing using lemon (or orange) juice in place of vinegar.