Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The four-leaf fritter

I must confess that in the past when I have come across a blog that shared recipes I have felt slightly let-down. I mean, a blog is about serious writing, not recipes. Even though I do trawl the net looking for new and interesting ways to cook, recipes are meant to be on food sites, not blogs. So now, when I’m about to share a story and a recipe, I smile a bit sheepishly and self-indulgently :) But then, I tell myself, when a recipe forms itself out of inspiration and available ingredients in your kitchen and turns out to be a success, it begs to be shared.

I’ve been growing fenugreek in my kitchen garden these past few weeks and today I pulled out the last of the crop. Instead of making the usual rotis or sabzi with it, I thought, let me, for a change, make fritters with it. Then, just for variety I decided to add mint leaves and the leaves of the Coleus aromaticus (panikoorka in Malayalam) from the kitchen garden. When I dug into the refrigerator to retrieve the coriander leaves, I saw some corn ears taking up a lot of space in the veggie tray and took one out, de-kerneled it and added the kernels to the chopped up leaves. Then some besan went in, together with cumin seeds, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Generous squeezes of a lemon went in next, all combined together with water. The mixture turned out to not have a pouring consistency and feeling reluctant to add more besan, I decided to stick to ‘healthy’ and add wholewheat flour instead. When that had gone in, I remembered sesame seeds. I love sesame seeds so much that given the chance, I’d give in to the temptation of adding it to EVERYTHING. Which is not such a bad thing compared to hubby’s penchant for adding fenugreek seeds to everything. So, in went a bold dash of sesame seeds. I then spotted a half-peeled potato sitting on the bench-top and chopped that up and put that in too. The batter was now a thick yellow-green mass with the greens kind of lumping together in solidarity.

Now, in keeping with my ‘eat healthy’ philosophy I had planned to pan-fry the fritters with as little oil as possible, but looking at the thick mass bursting with leaves, I realised that pan-frying is only going to cook the underside and the leaves and insides might remain uncooked, so I poured some more oil into the flat bottomed pan so as to have an oil depth of a few millimetres. I then poured tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and flattened each fritter out so that about half of it was submerged in the oil. Fried them on both sides to a light brown crispiness and drained them on kitchen paper, which to my dismay got quite drenched with oil. However, the end result was quite crunchy and tasty.

Well, after I had eaten a couple of these oil-laden delicacies my conscience literally started to jump up and down in anger telling me off and telling me to go work off all the fat I had ingested. So, off I went on a walk and as usual when I go walking in the quiet dusk in the balmy weather, I tend to muse and ponder over things. I got to thinking how like life it was, the fritters that I had made. A lot of times we don’t have a say in the hand we get dealt in life. We have to make do with what we’ve got and fashion a life out of it. We might have to take large amounts of wholesome flour and somehow stir in the bitterness of fenugreek, the hot anger of chilli, the coolness of mint and the fragrant virtue of coriander. Add great dashes of lemon for zest and sesame for the nutty flavour, salt for steadfastness, all to be combined and fried in the trials and tribulations of life. But just to the right degree, not overdone to result in burn-out or frustration, or underdone with a soft belly and laziness.

All great recipes are born this way, I like to think. In times of famine or plenty, people have taken what was available and combined and cooked them in ways that would result in food that was not only tasty but was nourishing to the body and soul as well. I guess that’s what our lives are about too. To take the things that are available and at hand and fashion a life that is a thing of beauty and nourishment and wholesomeness.