great fried vegetables

Well I’ve had a request (yup!) and a number of suggestions for some cooking for men (wddc) postings. It’s time that I moved on to do some complete meals rather than just elements of one so I’ll give it a bit of a go here. But I do want to focus on the vegetables as well as I’ve started playing around with an interesting way to cook them – a frying/saute combo.

I cooked a meal like this for some neighbours recently, and it seemed to go ok. First off I’d pour a large glass of something crisp and white with some ice cubes to chill it down. Cooking can be thirsty work. I’d actually make the pudding course first. Over here strawberries are in season – though it seems to be the only summer fruit available at the moment. I would have prefered some other berries to supplement them but I made do with some bananas which seem to complement them alright. As well as the fruit you’ll need some biscuits to crumble up – digestives are ok, or something with a little more crunch/flavour like amaretto biscuits or ginger nuts are good too. I tend to put them into one of those sealable salad bags to crunch up to save a lot of mess. Then just pile layers of the biscuit crumbs and cut-up fruit into some wine glasses. Leave some of the crumbs to sprinkle on the top and pop them into the fridge to chill off. Before serving I tend to pour fresh cream over the top. If you pour the cream on earlier it will fall to the bottom of the glass and not look as attractive. It’s a really simple dessert which looks and tastes great. I’m sure you could make it more punchy with a slurp of something exotically alcoholic but I don’t think it needs it. But I would have a slurp as you shut the fridge door!

Next the vegetables. Again over here things are very seasonal. There’s lots of asparagus, runner beans, mushrooms, fresh peas (not in a packet amazingly), zucchini, peppers, leeks, salad onions and the like. It’s almost impossible to buy root veg like parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips and swedes (squashes are around) which I like to cook with. So I’m making do with carrots and lots of potatoes. Because I like to vary things I’ve been trying sauteed potatoes recently, especially if I’m also cooking meat as the oven cooks both simultaneously. Peel the spuds and cut them into small cubes. Spread them across a large baking tray and sprinkle some olive oil over them, but not too much. Mix the spuds up so the pieces are well-coated. Add some paprika and cayenne pepper and further stir in. It adds a little colour and interesting taste. Put the oven on high. They’ll take a bit of cooking. But you must keep sampling them and turning the mix over otherwise the spuds will stick to the tray. It’s a faff but will save a lot of scraping later.

Whilst the potatoes are doing, slap in the meat after a while. We’ve gotten into spiedini – chunks of meat (usually pork or turkey) and sausage on skewers. You can buy these ready made up (even in the UK) or make your own. Some folks like to add bits of veg to the skewers but these always seem to cook through way before the meat. Anyway you’ve got lots of veg to come yet, so I prefer to keep to various bits of meat. These need to cook away in a high-sided baking tray as they can give off a bit of fatty juice. Season before adding to the oven. Keep a regular eye on them too – that’s oven’s on high don’t forget. Feeling thirsty? Have a slurp.

Finally the rest of the veg. Peel all the things mentioned above. Mushrooms excepted it’s quite a greeny/white selection so add a bit of red pepper for colour. Add some oil to a large griddle-style pan if you’ve got one (these are great because the ridges prevent over-burning) or frying pan. Add some chopped garlic. When it starts to fry add the mushrooms and zucchini to get them pretty well fried off. Add chopped asparagus and beans, the shelled peas (takes me back to my childhood) and finally the chopped leeks and onions. I like the combination of well-fried mushrooms and zucchini and just-done greens (ie not mushy). You’ll have to get the timings synchronised but I then add the fully sauteed potatoes to the mix to add extra crunch. Serve in a warmed dish. Serve the spiedini on a large warmed plate to allow people to select how many they want (they are quite filling).

Oops I forgot the starters. Here’s somethung that can be prepared very quickly as that veg is gently frying – the traditional Italian tricolore. Get some large fresh tomatoes and thinly slice onto a side plate. Get some mozzarella and pull apart quite roughly into bite-size pieces and add to the plate. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the tom/moz. Finally add some chopped basil and serve. Simple, tasty, quick and highly colourful. Molto bene.

Final slurp and maybe refresh that glass, dinner’s ready… Enjoy


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