We sit on high stools by the hob, lowering batter-dipped vegetables into bubbling oil, eating them as they emerge, hot and crackling from the pan. There are tangles of grated celeriac threaded with pumpkin and parsley, a pesto sauce for dipping and dish of sea salt. We eat (or perhaps I should say “wolf”) our parcels as each becomes ready, bobbing to the surface, the grated vegetables turned into crisp, unruly fritters.
Another day, we eat chips cooked in the oven, each long, fat finger of potato in a coat of semolina – I use fine polenta – and Lebanese za’atar with its notes of dried wild thyme, sesame and oregano. As they rustle on to our plates, there is a tiny bowl of garlic sauce, a dip of red pepper, olive oil and egg at their side. I make it in the style of mayonnaise, adding the oil drip by emerald green drip, into a purée of grilled red peppers, egg yolk and a fat, juicy clove of chalk-white garlic.
Neither of these events could be called dinner or even lunch. They were impromptu feasts, cooked on whim, eaten without ceremony and served with that most delicious of all seasonings – a hefty dose of salacious gossip.
Celeriac and butternut fritters with mint pesto
These fritters are made to be eaten the moment they are ready. Test one first by dipping it in the oil, you get some stray pieces, but they should hold together. If they refuse, add a little more flour to the mix. It is worth getting the mint and basil sauce made first – it will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Makes 8-10, serves 4
celeriac 300g, peeled weightpumpkin or butternut 300g, peeled weightonions 2, smallgarlic 2 cloveseggs 3plain flour 5 tbspparsley a handful, chopped
For deep frying: groundnut or sunflower oil