Ross Dobson's latest book makes the most of storecupboard essentials.
Sydney food writer, stylist and cook Ross Dobson has long been a champion of combining seasonal, locally grown produce with the best supplies in the pantry. He now runs the popular Cafe at Lewers at the Penrith Gallery where visitors can admire the beautiful heritage gardens and enjoy his elegant dishes.
Dobson's latest book uses pulses and grains to boost the nutritional value of home cooking. Whether dried or canned, these are the foods that have little or no processing and a long, stable shelf life so are the perfect basis for meals for busy cooks who can't manage a fresh shop during the week. His recipes dip into the foods of the Middle East, North Africa, India, Asia, Turkey, France, Spain and Italy - all cuisines that combine fresh produce with hearty basics like beans, lentils, chickpeas and grains, such as barley and quinoa.
This is healthy food, not pure vegetarian food, and while some of the dishes contain meat or seafood, most recipes offer variations which exclude the offending ingredient. Dobson's recipes are more than just hummus or dahl, with terrific terrines or fritters combining beans and fish or chicken, warming pastas and soups. Dobson goes way beyond pea and ham soup (curried butter bean and parsnip soup will change your mind about the much maligned winter vegetable) and his salads are hearty fare for autumn lunches or light dinners. The bakery section includes quinoa chocolate chip cookies, and couscous and cashew nut soda breads among the more traditional rice pudding and Anzac biscuits.
Chickpea, pumpkin and coriander fritters
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
500 g peeled pumpkin, cut into large pieces
200 g tinned chickpeas, well drained and rinsed
40 g fresh or frozen peas
2 tablespoons besan (chickpea flour)
A handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Hot chilli dipping sauce, to serve (optional)
1 Heat the oil in a frying pan set over high heat and cook the onion, chilli, garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and garam masala and cook for 1 minute, until aromatic. Remove from the heat.
2 Cook the pumpkin in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and peas and cook for a further 2 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Drain well and roughly mash with a potato masher, making sure the chickpeas are roughly broken up. Combine in a bowl with the onion mixture, besan, coriander and salt.
3 Fill a heavy-based saucepan one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium/high heat. The oil is ready when the surface of the oil is shimmering. Using slightly wet hands, form the mixture into walnut-sized balls and drop them directly into the hot oil, 5-6 at a time, and cook until golden.
4 Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Serve with hot chilli sauce for dipping, if liked.
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* Recipe extracted from Ross Dobson's Wholefood Kitchen, by Ross Dobson, photographs by Peter Cassidy, $59.99. Published by Ryland Peters & Small, distributed by Southern Publishers Group.