The Endlessly Versatile Kuku

T
Rushed off your feet, riddled with guilt, must cook supper, haven’t got time – well, a frittata could well be the solution to your problem.  The endlessly versatile flat omelette or kuku as its known in the Middle East, is a simple formula with endless variations.
Although the ingredients sound the same, an omelette and a frittata look quite different, taste quite different, and cook in a different way.
Omelettes are certainly the quintessential fast food – the best French omelettes are literally made in 30 seconds or 45 if you need to add a little filling. You’ll need to master the technique and arm yourself with a very hot pan, preferably non-stick. Unlike omelettes, there is really no technique involved in making a frittata.
Just whisk up the eggs, add the chosen flavourings, season well and pour into a buttery pan. Now you have a choice, the frittata can be cooked on the gentlest of heat on top of the stove or alternatively the whole pan, provided the handle is ovenproof, may be transferred to a moderate oven, 180C/250F/ regulo 4, for approx. 15 minutes. Meanwhile you will have time to make a salad to complement it A mixture of lettuces and salad leaves with a good dressing would be delicious and perhaps a tomato and mint or basil salad.
As with omelettes, the possible fillings are many and diverse. Start off with the basis of eggs, cheese and herbs. Eggs should be the very best eggs you can find, laid by free-range hens. Vary the mixture of cheese and experiment with different combinations  – combinations that we have enjoyed are –
Chorizo, Potato and Flat Parsley
Use 6 ozs (170g) of Chorizo cut in slices and 2-3 cooked, peeled, diced potatoes, depending on size.
Ardsallagh, or St. Tola Goat Cheese, Red Pepper and Basil
Use 1-2 sliced or diced red peppers softened in olive oil and 3-4 ozs (85-110g) crumbled goat cheese
Fennel, Red Onion and Fontina.
Use 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced, 1 medium red onion, chopped and sweated and 3 ozs (85g) grated Fontina.
Chick Pea, Kale and Cumin
Use 1 can of drained chick peas, about 3 cups of chopped kale or spinach and a teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds.
Crispy Bacon, Salami, Smoked Mackerel, Swiss Chard, Asparagus in season –
The possibilities are endless. Start to experiment and you’ll soon find that a Frittata is the greatest standby of your culinary repertoire, whether you are a student in a bedsit , a busy mum or a professional chef.

Gruyere Frittata with Cheese and Fresh Herbs

Serves 2-4
8 large eggs, preferably free range
1 teasp. salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
3 ozs (85g/scant 1 cup) Gruyére cheese, grated
1 oz (30g/ cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teasp. parsley, chopped
1 teasp. thyme leaves
1 dessertsp. (2 American teasp.) basil or marjoram
1 oz (30g/ stick) butter
Non stick pan – 7 inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a Tomato salad.

Mushroom Frittata

Serves 6-8
In recent weeks we have been using the wild mushrooms from the fields around us here in Shanagarry to make this delicious frittata.
2 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) flat mushrooms – washed and sliced.
8 large eggs, preferably free range
1 teasp. salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
125g (4½oz) Gruyére cheese, freshly grated
40g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon. + 1 teaspoon) parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) basil or marjoram
25g (1oz) butter
Non stick pan – 7½ inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
a heat diffuser mat optional
Heat some olive oil in a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook over a high heat until just wilted, cool.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped herbs, mushrooms and grated cheese into the egg mixture.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the egg mixture. Turn down the heat as low as it will go, use a heat diffuser mat if necessary. Alternatively transfer to a moderate oven until just set. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 minutes, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set and barely brown the surface.
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a vine-ripened Tomato Salad and a few olives.
Tip: Slice the mushroom stalk into thin rounds up to the cap, then lay the mushroom gills down on the chopping board, slice, use both stalk and caps for extra flavour and less waste. Alternatively put the stalks into a vegetable stock.

Zucchini and Mint (Basil or Marjoram) Frittata

Serves 6-8
8 free range eggs
4 green or golden or mixture zucchini (not more than 5 inch long)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 2 teaspoon – 4 American tablespoon) of freshly chopped mint or marjoram or torn basil leaves
1 teasp.ea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
2 oz (50g) freshly grated Desmond, Gabriel or Parmesan ( Parmigiano Reggiano)
2 ozs (50g) Gruyere
Non-stick pan – 7½ inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
Top and tail the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise into thin slices at an angle.
Heat 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoon and 2 teaspoon) of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan, over a medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and then toss in the zucchini. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add freshly chopped herbs, the zucchini should still be slightly al dente. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave the oil in the pan.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add zucchini and most of the freshly grated Parmesan. Add one teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the grill.
Reheat olive oil in the frying pan, add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to the lowest and cook gently until set on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle with the remainder of the Parmesan cheese, flash under the grill until just set and speckled. Sprinkle with a little more chopped herbs and serve immediately.

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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