At risk of repeating myself for those who are faithful readers of my blog, this is to say that I am a vegetarian who eats a lot of meat. I cannot think of a meal without vegetables, it just does not make sense to me. In terms of ratio, our household spends one third more on veggies compared with meat (fish is another kettle of , ehm errr, fish … never cheap).
I’ve not done as much cooking as I would have liked this past year or so for reasons that I don’t relish. Even though I basically do cook nearly every evening, it’s the ‘routine’ cooking that I end up mostly doing, for lack of time. Now, routine cooking is a vital element in anyone’s busy life and must never be underestimated. It’s what keeps us going, literally nourishes us, and lends credence, however gossamer, to our desire for some control over our daily existence. I am biased, I know, but that’s where I think Italian cuisine does a brilliant job of providing simple dishes that do not require tedious or lengthy preparations. I am a meat eater and eat it often. But these days the meat(s) in question run along an – let’s face it – uninspiring rota of: meatballs (polpette) – that I can often find ready made at my trusty butcher’s, breaded slices of beef (fettina panata), straccetti (very thin slices of beef), chicken breast, chicken alla cacciatora and hamburgers. To distract from the banal sameness of this selection, I always make an extra effort with the vegetables, the side dish, the contorno.
So today’s post is how I thought griddle-cooked slices of carrot could add a ray of sunshine to what were very ordinary if honest polpette. I happened to have the tail end of a leek too, in the fridge, and added that to the mix.
1)Slice the carrots and cook them on both sides on a hot griddle.
2) Cook the polpette in hot olive oil, in batches.
3) Trim the tail end of a leek, wash well to make sure there isn’t any soil lurking around and then pat dry. Slice very thinly, dredge in flour, get rid of excess flour, and then fry them too. Drain and set aside.
4) Arrange the carrots around the rim of the plate. Plop the fried leek in the middle.
5) Now add the polpette and any fresh herbs of your choice
Yes, I know … it’s a bit ‘twee’ … but the orange in the carrots is a very cheery appetising colour. And the leek added crunch factor.
As one final touch of weekday kitchen panache, I served the dish with a Georgian-inspired red pepper and walnut sauce known as ‘adjika’. I had made it a few days previously and leftovers were lounging in the fridge, ready to be finished off. It was this sauce that made everything come together (the polpette might have been a tad dry otherwise).
It may not look like much but can I tell you – it is just fabulous.
The photos that follow are self evident in their instructions. All you have to do is cook the red peppers (I do that in the oven), and then peel them and wait for them to cool down. Also required: tomato sauce (passata), walnuts, salt, garlic, cumin, parsley, chilli flakes or fresh chilli, and a little bit of olive oil. Process and hey presto: adjika to the rescue!
I am thinking that next time, I might toast the walnuts before starting.
I can’t tell you how much cumin to add – sorry, you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Looks like I added 2 cloves of garlic.
And on top of the parsley, I think there is a sage leaf there in the background?
Be careful not to Jackson-Pollock-overdo it with the processor, we don’t want the sauce to be too ‘thin’.
And a very important ingredient, always, is a glass of wine or a cocktail or a cool refreshing drink. All that cooking is thirsty work.