Progress on my current project to get the family eating more veg-centric meals has been predictably slow. In the past week they have collectively poo-pooed my roasted vegetable lasagne, laughed in the face of my blue cheese and sweet potato frittata and dismissed outright my Middle Eastern baked aubergine. More fool them, I say.
Friday night’s chana masala was a comparative success. The teen, who is my biggest culinary fan at the moment (nothing whatsoever to do with his imminent end of term report, I’m sure) was most complimentary, favouring a massive bowlful of chickpeas over the fall-back chicken tikka I had also made. My husband managed a spoonful, while the 9yo ate one chickpea, murmured that it was alright while making his ‘meh’ face, then spent the rest of the meal biting eye and mouth holes out of his flatbreads.
‘I don’t like the idea of eating meat,’ said the 9yo, as we discussed my current meat reduction mission, ‘it’s just that it tastes soooo good,’ he added, trying to fit a piece of chicken through his chapati mouth.
‘It would be good if cows were like carrots,’ he pondered, while fashioning himself a nose hole, ‘you know, like, if they grew out of the ground.’ ‘Better still,’ countered my husband, ‘if carrots tasted like cows.’
I don’t think they’re taking this seriously, do you?
Courgette, feta and pine nut fritters with a beetroot relish (turkey optional)
I had the best courgette fritters recently at Peckham Bazaar, a converted pub in the backstreets of Peckham (London, SE15) which serves terrific Middle Eastern fare and have been trying to replicate them at home ever since. Having finally come up with a recipe that I am happy with (although still a long way off the perfection of the original) I decided to make them for tea. Needless to say this decision didn’t go down well with the men in my life. Sensing dissent in the ranks, did I stand my ground and tell them to like it or lump it? Did I fuck. I simply did what any
self-respecting home cook in search of an easy life would do and threw meat at the problem, on this occasion in the form of a pack of frozen turkey mince. I have to say the veggie fritters and the meaty version were equally good, although the 9yo spent most of the time picking bits of green out of his patty. I’m definitely not giving up on this mission, but I might occasionally give in.
Makes 8 fritters
These keep well in the fridge for a few days, or can be frozen. Serve with sweet chilli sauce or beetroot relish (recipe below). The gram flour adds a nutty flavour and also makes these gluten free, if that’s your gig.
- 2 medium courgettes
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 100g crumbled feta cheese
- 1 egg
- 3-4 sliced spring onions
- 15g toasted pine nuts
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tbsp chopped mint or dill or a mixture of the two
- finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 3 tbsp gram flour (you could use plain flour instead)
- black pepper
- oil for frying
- Coarsely grate the courgettes then squeeze out as much moisture as possible (I did this by placing them in a new j-cloth and squeezing like a demented washer woman). Put into a bowl with all the other ingredients and stir to combine. If the mixture is still a little wet, add a bit more gram flour.
- Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat and dollop in the batter (about 2 heaped tbsp per fritter) in batches. Fry for about 3 minutes or until golden then flip over and cook for another couple of minutes on the other side.
For the meaty version
Add a 500g pack of turkey mince to the above mix (chicken or pork mince would work too), omit the flour and add a large handful of fresh breadcrumbs instead (or two slices of bread, crusts removed, soaked in milk, then squeezed out). Mix well, form into 6-8 burger shaped patties (or many more meatballs) and fry on each side until browned and cooked through. (No photo of meat version because they were polished off before I had the chance. They were no way near as pretty as the courgette fritters in any case). I served these in burger buns with a chilli mayo comprising 1 tsp chilli sauce, 2 tsp mayo and 2 tsp natural yogurt.
Beetroot, yogurt and walnut relish
We had something similar to this in a restaurant in Corfu last summer and it was delicious, although theirs contained so much raw garlic we woke up with monstrous garlic hangovers (although that could’ve been the local wine). Even if you hate beetroot, it’s worth giving this a try (my husband is a convert) and it goes well with all manner of things; falafel, smoked fish and grilled lamb to name but a few.
This makes loads so you might want to halve the recipe, but it keeps well in the fridge for just over a week. Simply combine all the following in a bowl and mix. For a looser consistency, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- 300g cooked beetroot (not the pickled stuff), coarsely grated
- 200g Greek yogurt
- 50g tahini
- 50g walnuts roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4-1/2 clove garlic crushed or grated
- juice of 1/2-1 lemon, depending on taste
- 1 heaped tbsp chopped dill (optional)
- generous pinch of salt