Monday, March 28

It's Enough to Make You Sick!

Spent most of Saturday cooking up a subcontinental storm for some Newfound Friends. The sun beaming through the kitchen window, Neil Young shining from the stereo, you know the drill. “This is what it’s all about”, I said to Mr R. “This, Mr R, is the life!”

And then I threw-up. And Mr R had to call our Newfound Friends and tell them not to bother coming. And then there was the problem of what to do with the mountain of curry and the sea of samosa. Thinking they may be contaminated by my mystery bug, I thought them best disposed of. Thinking of his tastebuds, Mr R thought them best scoffed immediately and gallantly proceeded to do so. Thus far, no ill-effects have been reported.

The meal was to have started with Pumpkin and Ricotta Samosas and a Spicy Tomato Sauce, recipe courtesy of Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian. I’m a big fan of Maria’s. She’s vegetarian and she’s modern.

As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms) of pumpkins are produced each year. The top pumpkin-producing states in the U.S. include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois. Nestle produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the U.S. In the fall of 2009, rain in Illinois devastated the Nestle crop, resulting in a shortage affecting the entire country during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Given that I’d gone to the trouble of making them before the Heaving Happened, I may as well give you the lowdown…

I gently heated a good glug of olive oil in a large frypan then added 12 fresh curry leaves, one generous teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds and a pinch of dried fenugreek seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds began to fizzle I added a finely chopped onion, three teaspoons of cumin seeds, three cloves crushed garlic, a four centimetre piece of fresh ginger (grated), a pinch of chilli flakes and two decent teaspoons of ground cinnamon then left them to sizzle until the onion had softened. O the aroma!

Meanwhile, in another good glug of olive oil, I sauteed about 750grams of chopped butternut squash until tender. This took quite awhile and when it was done I combined the pumpkin with the onion mixture, seasoned to taste, and left to cool. Then it was time to add approximately 375 grams of fresh ricotta. When making the ricotta purchase at my local supermarket, the delicatessen assistant sneered “haven’t I served you 375 grams of ricotta before? What’s with the 375 grams of ricotta?” “Lady!” said I, “nevermind the cheese, what’s with your 'tude?”

Then came the tricky bit. I have trouble working with pastry. Do Not Fear the Filo! Keep it covered with a damp teatowel, be self-assured yet gentle and you shouldn’t go far wrong. I laid out one sheet on a large tray, brushed it with melted butter, then placed another sheet on top and cut it into three even strips, lengthways. Then I put a heaped tablespoon of the pumpkin mix on the top right-hand corner of each strip, folded it over to form a triangle shape, then flipped the triangle over to encase the filling and kept on going over and over until the whole strip was used up and formed a bulging parcel. I sealed the edges with more butter (and in some cases had to give them a wee trim), placed them on a non-stick baking tray and brushed with MORE butter. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until crisp and golden, Maria says. She also says the filling is enough for twelve but I made fifteen and even then they were a tad over-stuffed. A couple of them spewed forth in the oven.  Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 18

The One-Hour Chickpea Challenge

My blog-o-rhythms are all over the show. Having lost the interweb for 10 days due to ‘human error’ at HQ, I appear also to have misplaced my self-discipline. Or perhaps it is spent? Perhaps one gets a limited supply at birth rather like one’s lady eggs? Perhaps those two years I spent as a teenager avoiding anything but lettuce accelerated the process and thus I am experiencing something of a motivational menopause? So I have set myself a challenge! Laid down a gauntlet! I have one hour and one hour only to write. This is what it’s all about! Welcome, Dear Reader to the world of Extreme Blogging!

Speaking of ova, earlier in the week I rustled up some tasty Chickpea Patties. I could tell from the get-go that The Boys were far from excited about eating them but in the interests of not having to endure an impassioned monologue about the perils of modern housewifery they managed to devour one each.

Not to be confused with Chickling pea, the chickpea (Cicer arietinum) (also garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, Bengal gram) is an edible legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Chickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables; 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.

The kind of contentment only crouching in a field of chickpeas can bring.
Thirty-six minutes to go! To make, I squashed one can of drained chickpeas in a large bowl with a potato masher. In went a large grated carrot and two of the freshest, prettiest zucchini you’ve ever laid eyes on (also grated). A handful of coarsely chopped parsley (Italian, Darling!), about half a cup of wholemeal flour, a sprinkling of chilli flakes, one beaten egg, a liberal quantity of black pepper and a whole lot of love. Remarkably, this formed a perfect stodgy mix, easily shaped into six fat little fritters which I popped in the fridge for fifteen before pan-frying in a little olive oil until golden. To complete, I smothered the suckers in natural yoghurt and sweet chilli sauce and served them with broccoli (stir-fried in a little sesame oil) and fresh corn cobs. Next time a drop of cumin in the mixture wouldn’t go amiss. Sixteen minutes to go and I still have to find a song!