Courgette Flower Fritters

Years ago I used to live outside of Nice, one morning I got up really early and took the bus into Nice to watch the flower market (yes I do mean watch). I remember wandering the freshly washed streets with the warmth of the sun streaming down. I wandered around Cours Saleya for ages that morning just watching and drinking in the view of all the beautiful flowers and then another smell got my attention, the smell of something frying. Despite it being early a stall holder was dipping beautiful yellowy orange closed mouth flowers in a batter and frying them. They emerged from the hot oil, golden. Biting in is always pleasurable, slightly gooey and slightly crunchy.

Since then I make it a point to plant courgettes in my garden if for nothing more than the pure indulgence of courgettes flower fritters. If you are lucky enough to have courgette flowers in your garden use those that have flowered for a day to ensure pollination to produce courgettes. Once the flowers have flowered their mouths will close again. Pick the male flowers (those that don’t have fruit attached) complete with a stem. Please feel free to alter the spices to suit your palette, but try not to increase the chilli as too much chilli can be over bearing on the delicate courgette flower. There are plenty of recipes out there and this mine.

4 one day old Courgette flowers
5 heaped tablespoons of Chick pea (Basin) flour
1 teaspoon of garlic ginger paste
½ a teaspoon of: whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds,
¼ of red chilli flakes, salt, coarsely ground black pepper
Rapeseed Oil for frying

1. Wash and dry the courgette flowers.
2. Put the flour and spices in a bowl and gradually mix in the water until you reach the consistency of a batter.
3. Set aside for 10 mins.
4. Check the batter, it should be thick enough for stay on your finger and starts to drop, but not so thin that it falls off immediately.
5. Snip the stalk off the courgette flower leaving enough to hold on to the end of the courgette flower.

Courgette flowers can be deep fried but there really isn’t any need. The flowers are so delicate they cook in seconds. Instead I suggest shallow frying them.

6. Heat approximately 1cm of rapeseed oil in a frying pan
7. Hold on to the end of the stalk and drag the courgette flower through the batter, on the one side and then the other.
7. Fry each side until golden brown
8. Devour without delay!

Uzbek Palov

When I first came across a recipe of Uzbek Palov (or Plov) I have to confess that I was a tad if not entirely dubious of its merits. After all the first recipes I found were pretty much meat, onions and carrots. There seemed to be a total lack of warm fragrance that would waft from the similarly named plau that I had grown up with. None the less I rolled up my sleeves and got surfing the internet with the belief that there had to be more to this than meat, onions and carrots. Happily I can inform you that there is, however if you are not careful you can end up with all and sundry in this and some things not for the better – and that is what the Uzbeks say ! I don’t claim that this is a definitive version of Uzbekistan’s national pride, but this palov contains an authentic combination of ingredients that taste sensational.

Dried apricot paste, adds a tangy sweetness to the dish that just blends in with the spices. If you are unable to obtain this then dried apricots will do, however their flavours will be localised and it won’t blend with the rest of the spices.

This dish does take some work however, as a form of Ramadan preparation I would suggest doing stages 1 to 9 in advance and freezing before the final ingredients. Once the base has been defrosted the only time required is to soak the rice and then to cook the rice.

As an accompaniment a simple side salad of cucumber, tomato and onion is all that is required. This dish is substantial enough to not require anything else.

Ingredients – Serves 6
½ a kilo of lamb shoulder meat chopped in to small pieces with bones (ask your butcher to do this)
1 cup of basmati rice
3 onions – peeled and sliced
4 carrots
1 tin of chickpeas
4 inch strip of apricot dried paste or 4 dried apricots
2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of pepper corns
1 teaspoon of garlic paste
1 teaspoon of salt
1 whole head of garlic – unpeeled and washed
Sunflower/rapeseed oil
A handful of chopped parsley

1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then leave it to soak with approximately 2cms of water covering the rice
2. Place about 2cms of oil in a heavy based casserole pan and heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Then gently place the meat into the pan and brown the meat. Add in 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and continue to brown.
3. Once the meat is browned and crispy add the onions, lower the heat and allow them to gently cook until the onions have broken down and are very soft and mushy.
4. Just as the onions begin to caramelise, lower the heat and slowly add in a little water to deglaze the pan. Make sure to rub the caramelised bits off the pan so that they start to form a darker broth.
5. Pour in enough water to completely cover the meat and then add in 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper corns, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and the dried apricot paste/ dried apricots.
6. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Pierce each clove of garlic (leaving the head intact) with a knife to allow the flavour to escape, and then place the garlic head into the pan.
8. Allow the meat to simmer for an hour or until the meat is tender, checking to see if the water needs topping up (the water should fully cover the meat).
9. If preparing in advance, the meat and liquid can now be frozen after leaving to cool. Defrost fully and heat before using and resume at stage 10.
10. Reduce the heat to low. Drain and wash a tin of chickpeas and add to the pan. Add the julienned carrots.
11. Drain the rice and add to the pan.
12. Bring the pan to the boil and bring the heat down to low again. Place the lid on to the pan and cook for 20 mins or until the rice is soft and the liquid has evaporated. Try not to open the lid as the steam will escape. Once the rice is cooked do not stir the rice, gently comb a fork through it.
13. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with the meat and garlic on top with a final sprinkle of parsley on top.
14. Serve with a cucumber, tomato and onion salad. Dress simply with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

For a meal en famille serve directly from the pot. With guests, place the rice at the bottom, and then lay the meat on top of the soft bed of carrots. Place the whole head of garlic on top of the meat and sprinkle with parsley.

Strawberry bread

Neither 100% cake nor 100% a bread ‘strawberry bread’ sits half way between the two. The smell of cooking strawberries and vanilla wafts through the kitchen and leaves you clambering at the oven door waiting for it to emerge. Based on a soda bread this is an easy to make method, the sweetness of the strawberries and the edge of the soda bread create a lovely balance. The melon seeds add a needed crunch and most importantly oats keep you filled up for longer.

150g pure oats
150g gf doves farm flour
50g live yoghurt
25g isapghol seeds dehusked
75g peeled melon seeds
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 egg
25g butter or margarine
4 tablespoons of milk
1 punnet of strawberries

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

First of all toast the peeled melon seeds in a heavy based frying pan until they begin to pop and are golden in colour.

Place all the ingredients with the exception of the strawberries and the milk, in a bowl and mix together. Then pour in the milk and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. The oats will soak up the milk quite quickly.

Then wash the strawberries, trimming their leaves, chop in halves (if small) or quarters (if large) then fold into the mix trying not to squash them but making sure to evenly distribute them.

Using a silicone baking sheet to cover a metal sheet pan and sprinkle with a little flour. Then place the toasted melon seeds on top of the flour. Place the mix on top of the melon seeds. You can lift the silicone baking sheet to help shape the bread and make it look tidy but it should be stiff enough to hold a position.

Bake for approximately 1 hour. It will be ready when the bread is golden, a crust has formed and the strawberries are oozing their juices.

Cool before serving with or without butter.

Its all about breakfast

This year things are obviously going to get a whole lot harder for a whole generation of people living in the UK. Gone are the days of the 15:58 magrib (sunset) instead magrib will be at approximately 20:49 and with sehri (breakfast) being at some thing like 2 or 3 am it is going to be tough! Breakfast is supposed to be the meal that sets you up for the day and frankly, as a coeliac, even on a non fasting day I find it hard one. My ideal sehri would one that was a) filling for the whole day b) nutritious c) require little thought at 4am and d) have variety (I get so bored eating the same food).

Last year I was lucky enough to have an appointment with my hospital Coeliac Dietician during Ramadan who suggested oats were my way forward, as they are whole grain and take longer to break down in the body (for coeliacs oats need to be pure oats ie they are not contaminated during the milling process so not regular shop ones). I do however get very bored of eating the same thing again and again and so I experimented a little with oats in muffins (now they were good) and since then I have become more confident of using oats in things which aren’t porridge.

So this year I propose oats for sehri. I’m not sure what I will be doing with mine just yet. But a simple search on porridge opens up a whole new world. There are so many topping ideas from sweet eg dark chocolate and banana to the savoury hard boiled eggs or fried fish and vegetables!

So for the moment I leave you with this thought: Oats + liquid = endless possibilities