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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint and Feta

22 Apr Orzo Primavera

Primavera Orzo Salad

Spring has definitely sprung. The wild flowers are wafting their sweet fragrance in the mornings where I run with the dog so my thoughts turn away from steaming hot soups and comforting stews towards lighter flavours and all things fresh and green.

Spring Flowers

I bought some fresh peas in their pods from the farmers’ market on Sunday. There is nothing more spring-like than peas, except for maybe asparagus. This recipe has both. In fact it has all my favourite spring flavours in one dish. There’s also fresh mint, dill, lemon, spring onions, spring garlic and feta. Is it singing to you yet?

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Orzo, in case you don’t know, is a rice shaped pasta. If you can’t find it (I got mine in Eroski, believe it or not, in the Moroccan section) you could use any small-ish pasta shapes or even cooked rice. The good thing about orzo is that it doesn’t go all flabby and stick together when it is cooked so it is perfect for salads.

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You toss all the ingredients and the dressing over the cooked orzo while it is still hot so all the flavours get absorbed and start to mingle. Leave it to cool to room temperature then you can store it in the fridge. The feta and fresh herbs are best stirred through just before serving. This is an ideal lunch that would be easy to take to work or for a weekend picnic.

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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint & Feta Recipe

Serves 3, vegetarian.

  • 300 g uncooked orzo (or other pasta shapes)
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 baby leek (or more spring onion), finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic/green garlic/ajete, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 100 gr shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
  • a handful of fresh chopped dill
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 100 g Greek feta
  • toasted pine nuts (optional)

Cook the orzo in lots of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile, cook the spring onions, baby leek and spring garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat with a pinch of salt some black pepper, the thyme, oregano and chilli flakes until softened. Mix this with the drained cooked pasta in large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt & black pepper. Leave to cool.

Trim or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces. Shell the peas. Cook the peas & asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes then drain and add to the orzo, Stir everything together well.

Leave to cool to room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge from this point. When ready to serve stir through the crumbled or cubed feta and the chopped herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon juice if required.

Serve topped with some tiny mint leaves, dill fronds and toasted pine nuts, if using. I forgot to put mine on for the photos, duh…

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Say hello to spring even if it is raining where you are!

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Have a lovely week whatever the weather.

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Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun Watermelon Salad

I know it may be a little early in the season for watermelon where you are, or it may even be getting on for winter but I got a baby watermelon in my organic veg box this week. Look how cute it is.

Look, I put it next to a lemon for you so you can see how small it is. Watermelon is one of the ingredients in my favourite summer salad and it is definitely feeling a lot like summer here so this is what I made with it.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad with Pistachio & Parsley

Serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 1/4 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 400 g watermelon, rind & most of the seeds removed then cut into approx. 4 cm triangles
  • 100g Greek Feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, left whole
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 black or purple olives, halved & stoned
  • black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil
  •  a handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Put the finely sliced red onions in a small bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Leave to soak while you make the rest of the salad. This makes the flavour less harsh and turns them a pretty magenta colour.

Place the watermelon triangles in a beautifully random arrangement on your serving dish/plates. Cut or break  the feta into similar sized pieces as the watermelon and scatter them amongst the watermelon. Tear off sprigs/leaves of parsley and do the same. 

Tip the bright pink onions and their juices over the salad, add the olives, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the chopped pistachios and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with extra wedges of lemon if you like.

This is me sending some much needed sunshine in the form of this beautiful salad to all the people in the UK celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in the cold and rain.

This is my 93-year-old Grandad at a Jubilee garden party yesterday. He is wearing ski gloves, a shawl and a blanket over his legs. This is the 4th of June by the way, a typically English summer’s day!!

Sending you some sunshine Grandad, Enjoy!!

Beetroot and Red Wine Risotto with Oregano and Seared Halloumi

10 Mar Beetroot Risotto & Seared Halloumi

This recipe is inspired by our trip to the Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek. Holden Manz is owned by Gerard Holden and Migo Manz, an artist whose paintings and sculpture decorate the public areas. They took over the existing wine estate about a year and a half ago and have been reinventing it ever since.

There is a beautiful Manor House with luxurious suites that has an exclusive yet unpretentious atmosphere. This could be said of the whole estate. They have a refreshingly modern approach to the business which translates into every area. The spa, guest house, winery and restaurant all have a positivity that comes from the staff being well-trained and excited about what they do and where they work.

You can order a picnic with food fresh from the garden orchard and a lovely bottle of the Holden Manz rose. Wander down to the banks of the river, chose your spot under the oak trees and while away the afternoon. Try some of their award-winning wines, a food and wine pairing or the extremely popular tapas menu.

The Franschhoek Kitchen restaurant has very quickly become a name up there with the heavyweights in the culinary town of Franschhoek. And those are some big names.

The stand out dish, for me, was the Holden Manz shiraz and beetroot risotto with duck prosciutto. I didn’t eat the duck obviously but the sweet beetroot risotto with a hint of peppery spice from the shiraz really was delicious. The Washer Up said it was perfect with the salty, smoky duck. My challenge was to recreate this dish at home and find a suitable replacement for the duck. 

I immediately thought of feta because its salty, sour creaminess would be the perfect contrast to the sweet, dark and earthy beetroot. And this would still be great but halloumi has that slightly chewy, meaty texture that as well as the saltiness that gave it the edge over the feta. The oregano is because we have just bought an oregano plant so it is “new favourite thing” and it goes well with hallloumi for that extra bit of Greek flavour.

You make a beetroot puree to add to the risotto, we made a bit extra to use as a dressing on the plate. It really increases the volume on the beetroot flavour. It’s up to you.

Beetroot & Red Wine Risotto with Oregano & Seared Halloumi

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from The Franschhoek Kitchen recipe

Prep time: about 30 mins if roasting beetroot Cooking Time: 25-35 mins

  • about 160 gr baby beetroots, roasted until soft with olive oil salt & pepper (or you can buy precooked vacuum packed beetroot) but don’t used the pickled stuff in jars.
  • 250 gr arborio rice (we used brown short-grain rice it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk young celery, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 250 ml (or more if using brown rice) red wine (Shiraz/Syrah if possible) something peppery and spicy
  • 250-500 ml veg stock
  • a handful of finely grated manchego (or parmesan) cheese
  • 250 gr pack halloumi cheese, in 1/2 cm slices
  • rocket or watercress to serve
  • some finely diced cooked beetroot for garnish (optional)

Blend the cooked beets with a stick blender to a smooth puree. Reserving some to finely chop for garnish if you like. Taste and season with salt and pepper (if you haven’t already).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low-medium heat and keep hot, not boiling.

Fry the onions and celery in the hot oil until starting to soften (4-5 minutes) then add the garlic and oregano, cook for another minute then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice then add three-quarters of the beetroot puree, stirring again.

Add the wine, in three parts stirring all the time until each lot is absorbed into the rice. Then add the hot stock a ladle full at a time, stirring untill each ladle full is absorbed before adding the next.

Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked (you may need to add more stock/wine to the small saucepan depending on the rice). Season with salt and black pepper.

Remove from the heat stir through the grated cheese, cover and leave to stand while you cook the halloumi.

Heat a frying/saute pan over a medium-high heat but DON’T add any oil. Dry the slices of halloumi on kitchen paper then put into the hot pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side until browned and slightly crispy.

To serve: spoon the risotto into bowls (or into a chefs ring on a plate) and top with the halloumi slices. Garnish with a smudge of the reserved beetroot puree, the rocket or watercress leaves, chopped beetroot and some baby oregano leaves.

Serve with a nice glass of the red wine you used to cook the risotto. The Holden Manz Shiraz if you’re lucky…..

For more information about the Holden Manz wine estate, visit their website here.

Have a great weekend!!

Savoury Feta and Pomegranate Cheesecake with Pistachio, Mint and Parsley (and a Winner!!)

29 Oct Feta & Pomegranate Cheesecake

Having seen Beth Michelle’s beautiful pure white sweet cheesecake bed topped with a generous pile of glistening ruby pomegranate jewels, I knew that I was going to make a cheesecake with the pomegranates that I am now seeing all over the trees here at the moment.

At the restaurant we used to serve a savoury cheesecake with an apricot chutney. It wasn’t baked and I think it was goat’s cheese. Anyway I was thinking of going down a Greek/Middle Eastern road because of the pomegranate, and feta was the obvious cheese choice. Continue reading

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins and Almonds

4 Sep vine leaves

I’ve been watching these grapes drying on the vine and turning into raisins. Every day I walk past them and wonder if they are going to pick them today or whether they are just leaving them to rot.

There’s a traditional Andaluz dish called Espinacas con Pasas y Almendras which is Spinach with Raisins & Almonds. I wanted to use this as a filling for stuffed vine leaves because it is similar to the Greek/Middle Eastern filling except they usually contain rice. I wanted to do and Andalucian version but I couldn’t find vine leaves anywhere, they just don’t sell them.

So I decided to pick some and use them, well I got The Washer Up to pick them actually. I read about how to prepare them here. Basically you just wash them, blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water, drain them, leave them to dry and then store them in the fridge or freezer.

Or you could just buy them in a jar and rinse them before using.

When you’ve made the filling you pile a heaped teaspoon onto the vine leaf at the bottom where the stalk has been removed. Then you fold the bottom leaves up over the filling, fold the sides in and roll up like a spring roll.

I only cooked mine for 15 minutes because my filling didn’t contain rice. Most recipes I looked at were cooked over a low heat for about 45 minutes to cook the rice. This is much quicker.

This makes quite a lot of filling and I didn’t have that many vine leaves (as I had picked them off somebody elses vine) so I used the rest of the filling to make some empanadas which were lovely too. You can buy ready to use round empanada sheets or make you own pastry from my recipe here.

Just pile  a heaped tablespoon of the filling on one side of the circle, fold the other side over to make a semi-circle and seal the edges with a fork. Brush with olive oil or beaten egg and cook at 200 C for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pastry.

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins & Almonds

makes 24-36 stuffed vine leaves, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gr frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped (optional)
  • 75 gr whole toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr raisins
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 50 gr manchego cheese, grated (or crumbled feta)
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • vine leaves (rinsed if in brine) see how to prepare vine leaves here

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute.

Add in the nuts, spinach, raisins and nutmeg, season with salt & pepper and cook for another few minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning and drain away any excess liquid from the spinach. transfer to a bowl to cool.

Lay out your rinsed or blanched vine leaves (cut away any stalks) on a clean surface veiny side up. Pile a heaped teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom part of the leaf where the stalk was (see picture above) then fold the bottom leaves up and over the filling. Fold both sides of the leaf in and over the filling, then roll it up like a mini spring roll.

Place all the rolled vine leaves seam side down in a saucepan, squash them together so there’s no gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and then cover with water to about and inch over the vine leaves. Cover them with a heatproof plate (to stop them floating up), bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with lid and cook for about 15 minutes (if your filling doesn’t contain uncooked rice). Keep an eye on them though and try not to burn the bottom of the pan. I may or may not have done this!

Remove with tongs to a plate and leave to cool.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh parsley and a Greek yoghurt dip. I just mixed some Greek yoghurt with chopped fresh parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

My beautiful, if slightly mental cats……

The gorgeous and terribly aloof Anouschka. Also known as Moomin Mamma (If you don’t know what a Moomin is, they have big staring eyes).

The beautiful Biba, bonkers but very attentive….

And the baby Tallulah, looks evil, scared of everything but loves to be loved….

This is her favourite spot….

Baked Zucchini Fries with Tyrokafteri Chilli Cheese Dip

25 Aug zukes top right

So here you are as promised, these baked zucchini fries are the perfect vehicle for the Tyrokafteri chilli cheese dip that I posted yesterday. They are also really good with a basil pesto mayo.

I first had zucchini fries at a bar/restaurant called Liquid Lounge in Puerto Banus about 8 or 9 years ago. Liquid Lounge is not there anymore unfortunately but, at the time, it was the place to be in Banus. They had an amazing cocktail menu and a chef that thought he was Marco Pierre White. The food was modern Italian/British and they had zucchini fries as one of the starters.

I had them every time we went. They came with a basil pesto mayo and it seemed to me that everyone was ordering them as a side dish as well. We used to think that they must have had one person in that kitchen just doing zucchini fries. They were that popular.

I knew as I saw these courgettes growing where I walk with the dog that Zucchini Fries was going to be my first courgette recipe of the season. Definitely not the last though.

I have made them at home quite a few times and I’ve always deep-fried them in breadcrumbs. I made this version gluten-free and baked them instead of deep-frying. You know what, I think that they might actually be better this way.

The “breading” is  a heavenly mixture of finely grated parmesan/manchego, crushed fennel seeds, ground almonds, cornmeal (arepa flour or polenta), oregano, chilli flakes and gluten-free breadcrumbs. And they do crisp up nicely in the oven too, if that’s what you’re worried about.

Baked Zucchini Fries Recipe

Serves 2 as a snack or side dish, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Prairie Table

  • 1 medium courgette/zucchini
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 35 gr (1/3 cup) finely grated parmesan or manchego cheese
  • 35 gr (1/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 35 gr (1/4 cup) arepa cornmeal (or polenta)
  • 35 gr (1/4 cup) gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (then crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and brush it all over with olive oil.

Tip all the dry coating ingredients in a freezer/ziploc bag season well with salt & pepper and shake to combine well.

Wash & dry your courgette and trim off both ends. Cut the courgette in half into two even cylinders and cut each half lengthways into 8 fries. Make sure each piece has some skin to hold it together.

Put the beaten egg in a shallow dish or plate and season with salt & pepper. Toss 2 pieces at a time in the egg until coated on all sides, then drop the pieces into the freezer bag. Seal and shake about well to make sure they are well coated, then place on the lined, oiled baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the fries.

Drizzle over a little olive oil so that each piece has a little and bake for about 20 minutes until golden. Take the tray out of the oven and use tongs to turn them over. Put them back in the oven for about 5 minutes to crisp on the other side.

Serve immediately with Tyrokafteri chilli cheese dip or a basil pesto mayo.

I served them with my version of a Greek Salad too. Cos lettuce, tomatoes, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, black grapes, (I don’t like olives), fresh mint, fresh parsley, dried oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper.

Enjoy!!

Tyrokafteri – A Greek Chilli Cheese Dip with Homemade Goat’s Cheese

24 Aug Tyrokafteri Dip

I’ve made Middle Eastern yoghurt cheese (labneh) before by straining Greek yoghurt in the fridge overnight but I’d never gone one step back and actually made the yoghurt as well.

I read about it at Chica Andaluza. She made yoghurt from cow’s milk and then drained it for longer to make a soft cheese. I really wanted to try this with goat’s milk to see if I could make my own soft goat’s cheese.

It took a little longer than expected to “turn” which may have had something to do with the unseasonably cloudy weather we had as soon as I decided I wanted to put my milk out in the sun, but it worked. I made soft goat’s cheese from goat’s milk and it was easy.

A litre carton of goat’s milk made about 250 gr goat’s cheese spread, which is the size of a tub of Philadelphia, it’s that sort of texture too.

Now I could get on with making a Greek chilli cheese dip called Tyrokafteri that had been wanting to try for a while. The original recipe is a mixture of feta cheese and ricotta blended with chillis, lemon juice and olive oil. I just replaced those with my soft goat’s cheese.

Tyrokafteri Chilli Cheese Dip/Sauce Recipe

Makes about 300 ml, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Epicurious

  • 4 red & 4 green chillis, I used birds eye chillis (use 20 gr if using the larger mild chillies)
  • 250 gr soft goat’s cheese (or 165 gr feta & 85 gr ricotta)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 35 ml extra virgen olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Wash the chillis, remove the stalks, cut them in half lengthways and remove the seeds and membrane. Wear gloves or your hands will sting for ages and don’t touch your eyes.

Boil them in a small pan of boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and peel off the skin (if using larger chillies) using gloves. If you used small chillies no need to peel. Boiling them takes away some of the heat but not the flavour.

Put the rest of the ingredients and  in a blender/processor and blend together well. I added my chillies two at a time because I was worried about it being too hot, and blended again. Taste and add more chillies until you are happy with the heat. I added all eight in the end and it was perfect. Blend until smooth and season with salt & black pepper. If  you are using feta you may not need any salt.

Pour into a serving bowl and refrigerate until using. It tastes even better the next day.

Serve with toasted pita bread or crudites for dipping or drizzle over roasted or chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables. It’s addictive. I served mine with some baked zucchini fries and I will be posting the recipe tomorrow…

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

I love these flowers, they look like a multi-layered gerbera…..

The bees seem pretty taken with them too….

Hasta Manana!

Fig and Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

6 Aug DCIM100MEDIA

The second wave of figs (higos) are just starting to ripen here now. This means that we have lots of figs.

We actually have a huge carrier bag full of them in the freezer that was given to us by our friend Leigh, thanks Leigh! Fig chutney was one of the first (in fact the second) recipe that I posted when I first started this blog last September. I’ve just made some more, it tastes great, really aromatic and spicy and it is amazing on a cheese sandwich.

We have just found a Lebanese restaurant in Alhaurin de la Torre called Beirut. It’s been there for ages and I don’t know why we haven’t been before because it has a huge amount of vegetarian dishes to choose from. We popped in for lunch on the way to the Viveros Guzman (an amazing garden centre) and ordered a vegetarian mezze called Katastroph to share.

Each little dish that they brought out was delicious. The hummus was the creamiest and the baba ghanoush was the smokiest that I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot. This was followed by a tabouleh, which was really fresh and was mainly fresh parsley (not a lot of bulgur) which is a good thing. The falafel were light and flavourful. All too often falafel can be heavy, dense and bland. Not these, there was an ingredient in there that I couldn’t recognise but was really familiar, something like fennel seeds, but not. All this was served with a really soft, light arab bread.

Then they brought out the thing that was, for me, the highlight. Sambusik (or sambousek) are little mini pasties, like samosas, but smaller. They seemed to be made out of the same dough as the bread and were stuffed with feta and onion or spinach and lemon. TO. DIE. FOR. Especially the feta and onion, like a mini cheese and onion pasty but softer. By the way I am not getting paid for this review, nor do they know that I am writing it. It is just something I had to share.

I researched it and found this recipe for the dough. It is not as soft and bread-like as theirs but it is really easy to work with, I added some fennel seeds to the dough for extra flavour too.

The fig chutney and feta combination was just born out of the fact that I have so much fig chutney and wanted to use it. It’s spicy sweetness contrasts really well with the salty, creamy feta. It would make a fabulous tart filling too. Just spread some on a puff pastry circle and crumble over the feta, cook at 220 C for about 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden and sprinkle over some fresh parsley to serve.

You could also use fresh figs as the base if you don’t want to bother making the chutney.

Those were the step by step pictures, in case you were wondering. This is the finished product.

I decided to make my own harissa sauce to go with this because, as you know, I have a mountain of chillis and it may be the only chilli sauce I haven’t made yet!

This sauce is hot so I mixed it with some greek yoghurt to serve with the sambousek.

Fig & Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

For the harissa sauce:

Makes about 250 ml, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Taste Food

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tin/jar (200 gr) roasted red peppers, and any juice (I used piquillo peppers), roughly chopped
  • 3 red chillies, stemmed and finely chopped with seeds
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, but do not burn. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grid to a fine powder.

Put the peppers, chillis, garlic, ground seeds, tomato puree, olive oil and parsley in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more oil or tomato puree, if necessary, to get the desired consistency. Season with the salt & black pepper and taste (a tiny amount). You may want to add more salt or a pinch of sugar. Pour into a sterilised bottle/jar, seal and keep in the fridge until needed.

For the Fig & Feta Sambousek:

Makes about 16 small pastries, vegetarian

  • 225 gr (1 1/2 cups) flour (I use Atta wholemeal), plus extra for dusting
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fennel or cumin seeds
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm, not hot water
  • fig chutney, see my recipe here
  • 100-150 gr greek feta, cut into small cubes
  • fresh parsley leaves
  • sumac (optional)
  • olive oil for brushing
  • harissa sauce (see above)
  • greek yoghurt

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, then stir in the seeds. Add the olive oil, stir it around then make a well in the middle and pour in the tepid water. Fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until it forms a sticky dough.

Flour the work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky about 2 minutes. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll out the dough to about 3mm thick. Cut out small circles (I used a water-glass) about 3 inches diameter. Lift the excess pastry away from the circles, re-roll it and cut out more circles, you should get about 16 in total.

Spread the circles on your work surface and put a teaspoon of fig chutney in the centre of each one. Top this with a small cube of feta, a parsley leaf and a small pinch of sumac.

Lift up two opposite edges and seal them around the filling. Seal the two other ends, pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek (see pictures above). They can be refrigerated at this point.

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Brush the baking paper with olive oil and place the sambousek on the tray, you may need two trays. Brush them with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Mix some harissa paste and greek yoghurt together, tasting until you get the right balance for you. Top with some fresh parsley leaves.

Serve the hot/warm sambousek with the harissa yoghurt sauce and sprinkle over some more fresh parsley.

Halloumi Tikka Kebab with Turmeric and Cardamon Risotto and Tamarind Syrup

3 Apr

I know I’ve got a slight Halloumi obsession but this recipe is awesome and I don’t use that word lightly. In fact I never use that word but never has it been a more fitting description. Okay, you get it – it’s really good.

It is yet another recipe adapted from Terre a Terre The Vegetarian Cookbook and so far, by far, the best. What they have done is taken the best-selling Indian restaurant dish “Chicken Tikka” and veggied it up the way they do and taken it to another level. The Halloumi cubes are marinated for 24 hours in the yoghurt and spices which gives the cheese a much softer texture and an amazing flavour.

The “risotto” is a new experience for me as well. I have made loads of risottos before but never with Indian spices and I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about it. I don’t generally like it when classics are mucked about with in the name of  “Fusion”. Usually because it is done with such a heavy hand and lack of knowledge. Namely a risotto with four cheese and soy sauce. Can you imagine anything more hideous? I didn’t order it, by the way, and I never went back to that restaurant again. I have my principles and the marriage of soy sauce and creamy cheese is not a marriage made in heaven, not in my mind anyway.

Having said all that, this risotto is stunning. Another superlative, I know, but it is worthy of the praise. The stock used to cook the risotto is flavoured with cardamom, turmeric (originally saffron but I don’t have any), coriander seeds, star anise, cloves and peppercorns. The risotto itself is made with onions, ginger, mustard seeds and chilli oil. The risotto is finished off with fresh coriander & mint , toasted flaked almonds and freshly grated parmesan. I know, parmesan after everything that I said, but it really works, trust me, these people know what they’re doing….

The whole thing is finished off with a drizzle of a sweet & sour tamarind glaze/syrup that brings the dish together beautifully. You could substitute a spoonful of your favourite chutney if you not up for making the glaze as well. The original dish has two more components, podi spiced tomatoes (I just skewered some cherry tomatoes in between my halloumi cubes) and a smoked almond custard (I toasted some flaked almonds to sprinkle over the top).  Three elements in one dish is enough for me..!

Remember the Halloumi is marinated for 24 hours so start this the night before.

Halloumi Tikka Kebabs, Turmeric & Cardamom Risotto and Tamarind Syrup

serves 3, vegetarian, adapted from Terre a Terre The Vegetarian Cookbook

For the Halloumi marinade

  • 1 pack Halloumi cheese 250 gr
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped mint
  • 60 ml plain/greek yoghurt
  • 25 ml water
  • 9 small cherry tomatoes

Rinse and dry the Halloumi and cut it in half through where it’s folded so you get two “rectangles” about the same size. Cut each of these into 6 cubes/chunks so you should have 12 cubes.  Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat, add all the ground spices and warm them through, stirring so as not to burn them. Put the toasted spices in a bowl with the yoghurt, garlic, mint and water and stir to combine well.  Add the Halloumi cubes to the spicy yoghurt and stir to make sure every piece is coated well. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to marinate for about 24 hours.

When ready to serve, thread 4 Halloumi cubes on to each skewer alternating with a cherry tomato. Sear the kebabs on all 4 sides until coloured in a hot dry pan. This should only take about 2 minutes.

For the Turmeric & Cardamom Stock

The original recipe makes the whole stock from scratch but I already had some of my homemade veg stock and added the spices to it.

  • 1 litre veg stock ( see above)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • 3 cardamom pods, bashed/bruised to open slightly
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, cracked
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 clove
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric/saffron strands
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 curry leaves or bay leaves
  • water

Make this the day before if possible. Put the stock and the rest of the ingredients, except the water, in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t reduce too much, add some water if necessary. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse. When ready to use it, strain through a fine sieve, put in a sauce pan, increase to 1 litre with water and heat gently.

For the Risotto

  • 1 litre Turmeric & Cardamom stock (see above)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp panch pooran (an Indian spice mix available from EastEnd Foods)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli oil or 1/4 tsp chilli powder added to the olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 100 gr, chopped onions (about 1/2)
  • 2oo gr brown shortgrain rice (you can use arborio which cooks quicker and will need less stock)
  • a knob of butter
  • 5o gr parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 tbsp lime juice plus wedges for garnish
  • a handful of chopped coriander
  • a small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 50 gr flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan

Bring the stock to the boil in a small saucepan then lower the heat to a simmer. In a large pan, over a medium heat, fry the mustard seeds and panch pooran in the oils until they start to pop then add in the onions, ginger and a big pinch of salt & black pepper. Cook gently until the onions have softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn up the heat slightly and add the rice , stirring to coat in the oil.

When rice starts to look translucent after a minute or so, turn down the heat to medium and add a ladleful of the hot stock, stirring or swirling the rice. When all the liquid has been absorbed add another ladle of stock, stir or swirl until that has been absorbed too. Keep adding ladles of stock and letting them be absorbed until the rice is tender, about 20 + minutes for the brown rice or 15 – 18 for the arborio. If you run out of stock use hot water.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter & parmesan. Taste for seasoning then cover with a lid and leave for  2 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, coriander & mint and serve immediately with the halloumi skewers, lime wedges and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds. Serve with some chutney on the side or drizzle over some delicious tamarind syrup (below).

Tamarind Syrup/Glaze

makes about 150- 200 ml, vegan, vegetarian

  • 150 gr caster sugar
  • 70 ml sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 150 gr tamarind paste

Put the sugar and vinegar in a stainless steel pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer then add the tamarind paste and cook about 4 minutes until the mixture thickens. Pour into a sterilised jar, seal and cool. When cool store in the fridge. Drizzle over Halloumi kebabs or use as a dipping sauce. If it becomes to sticky to pour just heat it up slightly.

 Enjoy!!

Chermoula Halloumi, Butter Bean Tagine and Quinoa with Almonds and Raisins

25 Mar

This started out a s a recipe in the Terre a Terre vegetarian cookbook for Halloumi & Almond Kibbeh. Kibbeh are usually made with ground meat, spices and bulgur wheat shaped into balls or patties. The Terre a Terre version uses a mixture of ground almonds, halloumi, cream cheese, tofu and Chermoula spices to make the pattie mix which were then wrapped in thin aubergine slices and cooked.  Chermoula is a Moroccan/North African spice blend normally used as a rub or marinade for fish and meat.

This Chermoula spice mix (there are many variations) is made from toasted coriander, fennel and cumin seeds ground together and mixed with sumac (a dried, ground berry with a lemony, smokey flavour) and salt. You can use it dry for seasoning dishes or mix it with olive oil, lemon juice & garlic for a delicious marinade or dressing.  Okay, so I made the kibbeh without the tofu (I have a pathelogical dislike of tofu that I need to overcome). I really didn’t like the resulting texture I found them dry and quite heavy and after a lot of work too! Luckily I had made quite a lot of the bean tagine and quinoa so for lunch the next day I just pressed some sliced Halloumi into the Chermoula spices and dry fried them as I usually would for my favourite Halloumi recipe. So much easier! The Chermoula makes a perfect spice crust for my favourite salty, meaty cheese which could be served with the just the bean tagine or just the quinoa salad if you don’t want to make everything. The flavours are really complex and work fantastically together.

Another ingredient used in this dish is preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are a key ingredient in Moroccan cuisine. The preserved lemon peel is chopped and used to impart an intensely lemony flavours to soups, stews, tagines and many other dishes. The lemons are preserved in a mixture of lemon juice, salt and occasionally spices. I made my own because I had a mountain of lemons in my kitchen. It seemed like the perfect thing to do with them as I love all Middle Eastern cuisine. I used Spicie Foodie’s recipe which was really easy and now I am the very proud owner of a jar of  homemade preserved lemons. Who would have thought it?

At it’s narrowest point the southern coast of Spain is only about 8 miles from Morocco across the Atlantic. This means that it has a similar climate and a lot of the ingredients used are the same as in Andalucian cuisine. I was inspired to make this dish because a lot of the ingredients used I see growing while walking the dog. The almond blossom has now disappeared to reveal the young green nut and the oranges are still everywhere although coming to the end of their season.

 The quinoa salad could easily be made with bulgur wheat or couscous instead and feel free to substitute pistachios for almonds or olives for the raisins. Just use what you have, within reason, obviously. I’m not advocating the use of chocolate chips here but now that I’ve said it, it might make an interesting dessert…..

Chermoula Halloumi, Butter Bean Tagine & Quinoa with Almonds & Raisins

Serves 4 with leftovers, vegetarian. Adapted from Terre a Terre The Vegetarian Cookbook

For the Chermoula Halloumi

  • 2 packs Halloumi cheese, rinsed & sliced into 1/3 cm slices
  • 25 gr coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Toast all the seeds until fragrant and grind them in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder. Mix them with the sumac & salt and store in an airtight container. When ready to cook the halloumi, sprinkle about 4 tbsp of the spice mix onto a shallow dish and press your halloumi slices into it to coat on both sides. To cook the halloumi heat a non stick frying pan to hot without any oil and dry fry the slices for a minute or so on each side until lightly browned. Serve with the butter bean tagine and/or the quinoa salad.

For the Butter Bean Tagine

  • 1 jar/tin cooked butter beans 400 gr, drained & rinsed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 or 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (or saffron)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, zested then juiced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon peel, finely chopped (or use lemon zest)
  • 1 tin 400 gr chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp harissa paste (or 1/4 tsp crushed dried chillis)
  • 100 ml veg stock
  • 1 tsp salt +
  • a handful of coriander leaves for garnish
  • olive oil to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid or casserole/tagine over a medium heat. Add the shallots, onion and red pepper and cook for about 3 minutes until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, turmeric/saffron, star anise and black pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.

Stir in all the remaining ingredients except the coriander & olive oil, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Either leave it to cook in a pan on the stove top or, if you are using a tagine or casserole, put on the lid and put it in a 170C oven for the same amount of time.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Remove the star anise and use it again for the quinoa. Stir in some of the fresh coriander ad serve garnished with the rest of the coriander leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Or serve topped with the Chermoula Halloumi slices.

For the Quinoa with Almonds & Raisins

  • about 150 gr quinoa (or bulgur or couscous)
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • the star anise from the tagine above
  • 60 gr raisins or sultanas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon peel, finely chopped (or use lemon zest)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 80 gr toasted almonds (whole)
  • 50 gr toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tsp Chermoula spice mix (see recipe above)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  •  a handful of fresh parsley chopped
  •  a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook the quinoa/bulgur/couscous according to the instructions on the packet. I use stock rather than water for more flavour. Put the raisins/sultanas in the hot stock as well to plump up aswell as the star anise. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add in the shallots and fry until soft and sweet, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the preserved lemon peel (or zest) and cinnamon, stir, then pour over the cooked quinoa, season with the chermoula spice mix, salt & pepper and mix well. This can now be refrigerated until 15 minutes before serving when you take it out to come up to room temperature.

Serve at room temperature. Shortly before serving stir through the nuts, chopped herbs, lemon juice and check the seasoning. Serve topped with the Chermoula halloumi or on the side off the ButterBean Tagine.

I had quite a lot of the quinoa leftover so I also made a nice salad  for lunch with some rocket leaves dressed with olive oil & lemon juice . I just topped it off with some crumbled feta. Delicious….

  Enjoy!!

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