One of the hardest things for any recipe writer, or any home cook for that matter, is deciding whether or not to be guided by some kind of formula prior to cooking.
The decision whether or not to be guided by instinct or instruction is one that splits many cook.
Some like to follow a recipe down to the letter, never veering off the path well-trod. Others like to dance to the beat of their intuition and hope for the best.
I always find myself somewhere in between.
Guided dancing, if you will.
I like knowing what I want to end up with and being firm with where I need to begin to get there. What happens in between is the story yet to be told.
Now I’m no student of chaos, I am a Capricorn and love to be structured and more often than not am actually quite comfortable in the confines of restriction (I always said I’d probably do quite well in prison) but when it comes to cooking on the fly, I perform under no such guidelines.
So for example, I know I want a curry. I know I’ll need to begin with a spice mix and some onion, garlic, chillies etc. I will then plink and plonk around my Kitchen from that starting point until I get to where I want it to be.
Very liberating as a cook, very frustrating as a recipe writer.
I don’t like entering into a situation that does not have a certain element of control, but I also do not want to feel bound to rules. I never liked them… but at the same time felt comforted they were. Follow me, if you will.
For this particular recipe, I knew I wanted a chickpea based ball/pattie held together with tomato puree (I had some to use up) and I knew I wanted them wedged into a nice, charred floury tortilla wrap.
The rest was made up as I went along.
I scrawled down what I was doing as I went and this was the sense I made from the scribbles.
So pour yourself a glass of wine, potter around the Kitchen chatting to your mate as you go along, throw on some music and enjoy the comfort of these guidelines but don’t feel confined to them.
As I said, only you will be able to develop your own Kitchen rhythm. Recipes written by others are only there as a blueprint.
Feel comforted in my instructions, but be confident in your instinct.
Fling a drained can of chickpeas into a food processor.
Throw in a cup of lentils – I put in cooked and cooled lentils I cooked from dry, but a cup of drained lentils from a can would be fine.
Throw in an onion and two cloves of garlic.
Add some salt and pepper, half a teaspoon of chili powder, half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of Herbs de Provence (mixed herbs would be fine) and a teaspoon of oregano.
Squeeze in a generous fistful of tomato paste.
Splash in about a tablespoon of sherry vinegar, but any vinegar would be fine.
Finally add a tablespoon of flour and a fistful of fresh parsley.
Blitz everything to a brown, chewy looking paste – although you may need to scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure everything is mushed.
Now place a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray.
Take tablespoonfuls of the mixture and toss it back and forth from palm to palm to create a little golf ball of chickpea ‘batter’.
Place the ball on the lined tray and press down gently with your palm just to flatten them slightly.
This mix should give about 12 even balls. Mine weren’t even… I have no patience.
Fling these in the fridge to firm slightly. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200c and crack on with your sauce.
Now all I do for the sauce is puree (with a hand blender) about 5/6 Padron Peppers (stalk removed) with some garlic, some fresh ginger, the juice and zest of one lime, some brown sugar and a generous drizzle of vegetable oil. Padron peppers are not spicy at all so don’t be alarmed, they have a sweet smokiness to them.
If you don’t have Padron Peppers, you could just use a green pepper and remove the seeds and be sure to remember it will be considerably fierier!
Once the oven is hot, take the balls out of the fridge, drizzle with some olive oil and bake for 30 minutes until they turn golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes to firm up a little more.
Eat as you see fit, you could just dunk straight in the sauce and go for gold, but I liked mine with some designer leaves, some grated carrot, a little garlic salt, a generous drizzle of the Padron Pepper Sauce and some crumbled feta.