Tag Archives: aubergine

Fesenjan – A Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

11 Nov Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew

I have been wanting to make a vegetarian version of the savoury and sweet Persian celebration dish, Fesanjan for a long time. It is normally made with chicken or lamb but I have used aubergine and sweet potato as the meat replacements. Pumpkin or squash would also be lovely in this or maybe even some meaty mushrooms.

The reason that I have been desperate to make this is because I love pomegranates. There are hundreds of pomegranate trees were we walk with the dog and The Washer Up is always screaming at me to stop taking photos of them, but I can’t.

“Not another bloody picture of a pomegranate” he says “How many do you need?” he asks impatiently  “You must have thousands already, along with all the pictures of blooming oranges”.

“It’s what I do!” I reply.

This is the perfect dish to showcase the beautiful pomegranates that are plentiful and cheap here at the moment. I use their ruby jewels a lot as a final garnish, like on this Lebanese Lentil Salad where their sweet and sourness pops in your mouth, livens up the whole dish and, of course, they look lovely. I have also topped this Savoury Feta Cheesecake with a generous glistening pile of them for an impressively dramatic but surprisingly easy to prepare dinner party dish.

In this dish though it’s the juice that gets to take a leading role. Traditionally pomegranate molasses (a reduced thickened pomegranate syrup) would be used but I can’t seem to find any here. I used the juice of four pomegranates and some veg stock as the liquid in which the vegetables are cooked. Along with the ground walnuts that thicken the stew while it cooks, these are the two most important ingredients in the recipe. They give it colour, texture and flavour.

You can obviously buy pomegranate juice in a carton if you like, but I wanted to try it with my beloved pomegranates. Juicing a pomegranate is quite a mission but you get used to it. I did most of it on my normal hand orange juicer, bursting any jewels left in the top of the juicer and squishing the juice out with my fingers. I then squeezed what was left in the fruit directly into the pot by hand. I got about 500 ml of juice from four big pomegranates.

Fesanjan – Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew Recipe

Serves 4. Vegan, Gluten-free.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large aubergine 300 g, cut in 1-2 cm cubes
  • 1 large sweet potato 400 g, scrubbed, cut into 1-2 cm chunks
  • salt & black pepper
  • 200 g walnuts, finely ground in a processor plus some chopped for garnish
  • the juice of four pomegranates (about 500 ml) reserve some jewels for garnish
  • 500 ml stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey or sugar
  • fresh parsley leaves to serve

Heat the oil, in a large pot, over a medium heat and cook the onion with a pinch of salt for about 4 mins until softened, then add the spices, cook for a minute or so (add a splash of stock if it’s dry), then add the ground walnuts, aubergine & sweet potato. Stir to coat in the spices then add the pomegranate juice and stock.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for 15 mins. Remove the lid then simmer again for 25-30 mins until the sauce is thickened, it shouldn’t be liquidy.

Taste for seasoning, it should be quite sweet and a little sour. Add more salt, lemon or honey/sugar until you are happy. Serve garnished with pomegranate jewels, chopped walnuts and a few parsley leaves. This isn’t authentic but it isn’t the prettiest of dishes otherwise, it’s very brown so the pomegranate seeds brighten it up a bit.

Serve with some plain rice and a herby green salad like the ones we served the lovely Iranian family that we cooked for over the summer. They use herb leaves whole as a salad leaf rather than as a garnish. I topped it with pomegranate seeds obviously, but then I am obsessed. Apparently.

I hope they approve of my vegetarian version of Fesenjan!

The Almost Perfect Deliciously Smokey Baba Ghanoush Recipe

21 Oct Baba Ghanoush

Unbelievably, this is the first time I have posted a Baba Ghanoush recipe. I love it – it is definitely one of my favourite things to eat but until recently I had not been happy with my own attempts a recreating the deliciously creamy smokiness of the excellent Baba (or mutabal) at my favourite Lebanese restaurant in Malaga.

Seeing this unusual aubergine growing by the side of the road featured in the picture below (no rude comments about its big nose please) and the incredibly cheap piles of gorgeous deep purple, brushed magenta or even lilac ombre specimens on sale at the market was encouragement enough for me to give it another go.

The key to really good baba is the smokiness. This usually comes from cooking the aubergines directly over an open flame until the skin is blackened and the flesh inside is very soft and collapsing when you squeeze it with tongs. The smoky flavour comes from the charred skin that permeates the flesh of the aubergine transforming it into one of the most delicious things on this earth. This is where my problem lies, I don’t have gas hob. I have a silly beep beep beep induction hob which is admittedly much easier to clean.

Or so he tells me.

I had read recipes before saying that you could get the same effect by grilling (or broiling US) them under a hot grill for 70 minutes. 70 minutes?! The idea of leaving something under a hot grill for 70 minutes scared me to death because I knew I would wander off and forget about them completely. So do you know what I did? I bought smaller aubergines. Genius I know. Instead of using 3 large aubergines that the recipe calls for, I use 6 or 7 baby ones. It’s so much quicker and I am less likely to burn the house down in the process.

The traditional way, if you have a gas hob, is to line underneath the burners with some aluminium foil, prick the aubergines all over with a sharp knife (you can use 3 large or 6 or 7 baby ones) then lay them directly on the flames, turning occasionally with tongs to make sure they are blackened on all sides and collapsingly soft inside. If you don’t have gas like me the recipe below comes  a very close second. Whatever you do don’t use roasted aubergines, the flavour will be very disappointing and nothing like the real thing.

Baba Ghanoush Recipe

Serves 4 as a snack with flatbread or crudities. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigel Slater

  • 6 or 7 small aubergines (mine were about 15 -18 cm long from the tip of the stalk to the bottom)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • the juice of a small lemon
  • 2 or 3 heaped tbsp tahini paste
  • 3 or 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • parsley or mint leaves to garnish
  • sesame seeds to garnish

Prick the aubergines all over with a sharp knife and cook under a hot grill (or over a gas flame), turning once the skin is blackened. Keep turning and leaving it to blacken on all four sides. The skin should be blackened and charred on all sides and the flesh inside very soft and collapsing when you pick it up with tongs.

Leave until cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthways and scrape out all of the flesh including any that is sticking to the skin (this is where all the flavour is). It doesn’t matter if some of the blackened skin gets into the bowl too this will be great for flavour.

Puree with a stick blender with the rest of the ingredients until just smooth (or still a little bit chunky) and then taste. Adjust the lemon juice, salt and tahini to your liking. To serve, drizzle with a little olive oil and scatter over some parsley or mint leaves and a few sesame seeds.

This is gorgeous served straight away still warm or at room temperature with some toasted flatbread or crudites for dipping.

This is one of the recipe from my first Vegetarian Mezze Cookery Workshop that I hosted yesterday at Pepe Kitchen in Benalmadena, Malaga. I would like to thank all of the lovely people who turned up to learn to cook and eat some of my favourite food, I really enjoyed it and hope you did too.

My next course is a Healthy Baking Workshop on Saturday 17th November when we will be making (and eating) tarts and  quiche made with spelt flour olive oil pastry, healthy sweet and savoury muffins including my favourite cherry tomato, pesto & goat’s cheese muffin made using wholemeal spelt flour and olive oil. Also my signature healthy breakfast or tea loaf made with flax seeds, oats, dates, raisins, honey and sunflower seeds. Hope to see you there…

Avocado Tomato Tian, Tempura Peppers, Sweet Chilli, Basil Coriander Sauce

17 Mar Avocado Tian & Tempura Peppers

The last of the hass avocados are being harvested at the moment where we walk the dog. They are stored in piles of crates ready for market. The farmers are cutting back the trees and making bonfires out of the mountains of branches.

This was the first thing we ate when we arrived in Cape Town. Just off the plane and straight to lunch at Harbour House at The Waterfront. The shape of things to come. Lunch and dinner booked every day for three weeks, well nearly. In the end I worked it out as 29 meals out in 19 days. This does not include breakfasts or the meals we had at the Game Reserve. Heaven or hell? You decide…….

Their version was with tempura prawns, I changed it to red peppers because you can cut them in a similar shape to prawns (they have that natural curl) and they look sort of pink in the tempura.

The original recipe uses fresh basil to infuse an olive oil and a mayonnaise as two of the three sauces that are used to dress the plate. I didn’t have any fresh basil so I used some basil pesto and lots of fresh coriander to increase the vibrancy of the green. I blended these together in the oil and mayonnaise with a stick blender.

Basil and coriander actually work really well together. I was a bit worried about the Italian/Indian (con) fusion of flavours. But hey it tastes good.

Avocado Tomato Tian, Tempura Peppers, Sweet Chilli, Basil Coriander Sauce

Serves 2, Vegetarian (Vegan without the mayo). Adapted from the Harbour House recipe

Prep time: 40 mins Cooking Time: 5 mins

  • 1 medium red pepper, cut in 1 cm slices
  • 2 small avocados, mashed with lemon juice
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled, deseeded & chopped
  • 1 small aubergine, cut into 1 cm rounds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • sweet chilli sauce, see my recipe here if you want to make your own
  • fresh basil leaves (or I used basil pesto and fresh coriander), save some for garnish
  • 1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch, maizena)
  • 100 gr flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200 ml iced fizzy water (or beer)
  • vegetable oil for deep/frying

Drizzle the aubergine slices with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, minced garlic and chilli flakes. Roast in a 200 c oven for about 30 minutes until softened. You won’t need the whole aubergine for this dish but you can keep the rest for salads, wraps or whatever.

Put the pepper strips on a plate and sieve over the cornflour until the peppers are coated on all sides.

Mash the avocados with a big squeeze of lemon and season with salt & black pepper, taste.

Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Plunge them into a bowl of boiling water and leave for about 30 seconds. Drain then refresh them in a bowl of iced water for another 30 seconds. Then you can peel them easily.

Half or quarter the tomatoes and remove all of the seeds. Chop or dice the tomato flesh, season with salt & pepper and set aside.

Add one heaped tablespoon of mayonnaise into to a measuring jug with one teaspoon of basil pesto and/or a big handful of basil/coriander leaves for a greener colour. Add a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper. Blend with a stick blender adding a splash of water to loosen it if necessary. Taste.

Ina separate measuring jug add another teaspoon of pesto and/or a big handful of basil or coriander leaves. Drizzle over a good glug of olive oil and blend. Add more oil until you get a good drizzling consistency. Season.

Sieve the flour, baking powder & salt into a large bowl. Whisk in the ice-cold water/beer until just combined. Do not over whisk.

Heat the oil to about 180 c in a wok. Add the peppers (in two or 3 batches) to the batter and coat completely. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the first batch of peppers into the wok. When the peppers have come to the surface, if you like you can sprinkle over some more batter from a height with your fingers. This gives it an extra, light crispy coating. Use chopsticks or a metal slotted spoon to move the peppers onto the bits of batter so it sticks  to the peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Drain in a sieve over kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Using a mould or chef’s ring on your serving plate, place two slices of aubergine into the base. Top with with a layer of the diced tomatoes then add a layer of the mashed avocado. Smooth the top and press down lightly.

Drizzle the mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce and basil oil around the plate. Place the tempura peppers evenly around the tower/tian. Then slowly lift of the ring and serve garnished with some fresh basil or coriander leaves and a drizzle of the basil oil. Some toasted ciabatta slices would be good with this too.

Now try to get someone else to clean up the mess in the kitchen!!

For more pictures of our lunch at Harbour House check out  this post.

Have a great weekend…

Tunisian Spiced Aubergine with a Soft Poached Egg

9 Nov Poached Egg & Tunisian Aubergine

This is another 0ne of those aubergine dishes that you have to try even if you think you don’t like aubergine. We are coming to the end of the season here now so it maybe your last chance to change your life. Or your eating habits anyway..

This is dish from Delia Smith (we love Delia) and she got it from an Elizabeth David recipe. It is supposed to be served at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil and served with some warmed pita breads on the side, a blob of greek yoghurt and fresh herbs on the top. Continue reading

Chargrilled Vegetable “Sandwich” with Feta, Basil and Pine Nuts

16 Oct Chargrilled Vegetable & Feta "Sandwich"

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a sandwich without the bread for a while. Alli at Pease Pudding recreated a version of this that she had for lunch in a cafe.

She lives in New Zealand and every time I visit her blog it makes me want to visit New Zealand even more. The choice of food apart from everything else is inspiring. One of her latest posts is a breakfast she had in another cafe which was Baba Ghanoush topped with a Poached Egg (heaven), that is definitely next on my list. Maybe for brunch tomorrow, if I can wait that long…. 

Continue reading

Pisto Con Huevos – A Rustic Spanish Classic

1 Oct small-8

Pisto con huevos is a Spanish version of ratatouille (pisto) topped with an egg then baked in the oven, in my version anyway. Alternatively you can top it with a fried egg or mix the eggs into the pisto like scrambled.

This popular rustic dish is often referred to as Pisto Manchego because it was first developed in central La Mancha. Manchego means “from La Mancha”. You may not know that the true Manchego cheese is made only from whole milk of the Manchega sheep raised in the “La Mancha” region.  Hard cured sheep’s milk cheeses from other regions are called Queso de Oveja Curado. Continue reading

Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Aubergine and Pineapple

29 Sep Martinique Sweet Potato Curry

The inspiration for this recipe came from watching a farmer harvesting his sweet potatoes. They look really beautiful coming out of the ground, their terracotta skin mirroring the colour of the soil, lying there baking in the warmth of the sun.

Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is part of the French Caribbean.  The first European to encounter the island was Christopher Columbus in 1502. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Créole Martiniquais. Continue reading

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