Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Za’atar Spice Roasted Red Cabbage Steaks

6 Mar Za'atar Roasted Red Cabbage

Za'atar Spice Roasted Red Cabbage

Red cabbage may not be your favourite vegetable. It wasn’t mine.  I have always loved the colour of it though. You’ve got to love food that is such a beautiful shade of magenta. When I run past these purple and green striped fields of  cabbages I can’t help but smile.

Cabbages

Another thing that makes me happy is the price. They are so cheap at the moment at the farmer’s market and if you have ever bought a cabbage you will know how far it goes. I mean these things go on for ever.

I use about a quarter of a white cabbage in this fridge emptying favourite Minestrone Soup that I now serve topped with a swirl of homemade basil pesto, it makes such a difference to the flavour.

mont 3

You can’t really use red cabbage in that soup though, it turns everything purple. Other than using it to make my Grandad’s Pickled Red Cabbage I have never done anything exciting or blogworthy with this beautiful Brassica. Until now that is.

Za'atar Red Cabbage Steaks

I found a recipe for roasted red cabbage steaks on Drizzle & Dip that immediately caught my eye.  She used a different spice mix but the idea is the same and I have been wanting to incorporate Za’atar into a recipe for a while.

Z'a'atar Spice Oil

Za’atar is herb and spice blend popular throughout the Middle East most often made with a mix of dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. There are other variations if you want to research it more.

It has many uses but its most common guise is to be mixed with olive oil, rubbed over flatbread dough and baked. You can also dip your toasted flatbread straight into a pot of it on the table. It can be used as a quick and easy marinade or rub for meat, fish and vegetables as well, as I have done here.

Za'atar Roasted Red Cabbage Steaks

Za’atar Spice Roasted Red Cabbage Steaks

Serves 2-3 as a side dish. Vegan, gluten-free.

For the za’atar

  • 1 Tbsp sumac (used ground cumin or coriander if you can’t find it)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  •  a few grindings of black pepper
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes

Mix this all together and store in an airtight container.

  • 3 – 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a red cabbage (or more)  cut into 1/2 – 1 cm thick slices 
  • sea salt to serve

Mix the oil with the za’atar in a small bowl. Preheat the oven to 180C and line  baking sheet with baking paper.

Lay the cabbage steaks out on the baking sheet and spread the za’atar oil all over them, you may need some more oil. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes depending on thickness and serve sprinkled with sea salt.

Za'atar Roasted Red Cabbage

Serve these as a side dish or for a party as part of a mezze table with some Baba Ghanoush, Muhammara, Sweet Potato Filo Cigars , Roasted Beetroot Hummus and this Lebanese Lentil Salad. Just a suggestion.

Za'atar Red Cabbage Steaks

Make some more of the Za’atar straight away so you will always have some for dipping bread into or for a quick salad dressing or to serve over a plain hummus. The possiblities are endless.

You will be addicted, I am.

Za'atar Spice Oil

Things That Made Me Smile Today

Rainy Day Dog

This little fella was all ready for the rain. He was really working that outfit and Rufus was a little jealous of all the attention he was getting…

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Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Chestnut Dukkah

2 Jan Cauliflower Soup & Dukkah

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup & Chestnut Dukkah

This is another one of the recipes from my party mezze workshop. We served this spicy, warming soup in little cups with teaspoons. You don’t really need a big bowl of soup as part of a buffet/mezze but a little cup is just the right amount to get you started. I put little bowls of the dukkah on the table for people to sprinkle on top of their soup and to dip their bread into.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup & Dukkah

Dukkah (or duqqa) is an Egyptian spice mix traditionally made with ground hazelnuts. I added some ground roasted chestnuts to the blend for a seasonally festive touch but if you can’t get chestnuts don’t worry. They sell roasted chestnuts at the side of the road here at this time of year, on little stalls. They roast them in big pots, you can see the smoke rising and smell them before you see them.

Chestnut Dukkah

There are millions of different recipes for Dukkah, every family has their own but this is a pretty basic version using hazelnuts, cumin and coriander seeds, sesame seeds and black pepper.

The word “Dukkah” is derived from the Arabic word “to pound”. Not surprisingly, all the ingredients are pounded in a mortar & pestle (or processor) into something between a powder and a crumbly paste. It is served as an accompaniment to meals. You dip your bread in some good olive oil (thankfully we have just taken delivery of this season’s harvest of local olive oil which is like liquid gold) then dip it into the dukkah. The spice mix sticks to the oil, then you taste it and you will be instantly addicted.

Andalucian Olive Oil

Sprinkle it over soups, stews salads, hummus, yoghurt, anything really. It’s my new favourite thing. I’m thinking of using it in a dessert for a bit of savoury kick. You could add it into a crumble mix or maybe it would work with this fig & almond fumble. Then you would have a dukkah fig fumble. Try saying that after few sherries. It’s pronounced Doo-kah by the way.

Cauliflower Soup & Dukkah

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Chestnut Dukkah

Serves 4 -6 (or more if you are serving it in little cups). Vegan, Gluten-Free

  • 1 med-large cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthways, rinsed & sliced (or 1 onion chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp harissa paste or chilli flakes (optional)
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander (plus extra for garnish)

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook the leek/onion with a pinch of salt for 3 or 4 minutes until softened then add the garlic and all the spices stirring to coat and cook for another minute or so.

Add the cauliflower florets and the water and stir to coat in the spices. Pour in the veg stock, the cauliflower should be covered by the stock, if not add some water and season well with salt & black pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 12 minutes or until the cauliflower is really tender.

Carefully puree with a stick blender or in a processor, taking care not to splatter hot soup everywhere. When completely smooth add a squeeze of lemon and the fresh coriander and blend again.  Pour the soup back into the pan to reheat, taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon if required. You may need to add a bit more stock or water to thin it down to the required consistency.

Serve topped with some fresh coriander and the dukkah.

Chestnut/Hazelnut Dukkah Recipe

  • 100 g roasted chestnuts and/or hazelnuts, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

If not already toasted, roast the chestnuts/hazelnuts in the oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully, until golden. Remove some of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them, while still warm, in a clean tea towel and set aside to cool.

If not already toasted, toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden and pour into medium bowl.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan, shaking occasionally, until fragrant and they start to pop. Pour into a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. Pour this into the bowl with the sesame seeds.

Put the cooled chestnuts/hazelnuts into a food processor and blend/pulse until finely ground. Stir this into the bowl with the spices and add the salt and black pepper. Mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup & Chestnut Dukkah

Enjoy!!

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Roasted Beetroot Hummus with Toasted Flatbread Crackers

1 Jan Beetroot Hummus

Roasted Beetroot Hummus

Happy New Year Hummus!

Surprisingly, my most popular (or most visited) post of 2012 was this traditional hummus recipe. I don’t know why but if you search for Hummus or Hummus recipe in Google it’s right up there on the first page. Consequently I get loads of traffic from search engines. I should really learn how this all works. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution.

Baby Beetroot

The trouble is I’m too busy doing what I enjoy doing, which is cooking, to want to spend more time on the computer. So it’s probably not going to happen, but you never know. If someone had told me at the start of 2012 that by the end of the year I would be teaching Vegetarian Cookery Workshops at a cookery school in Spanish I would laughed in their face.

Roasting Beetroot

Speaking of which, this beautifully sweet, deliciously deep magenta coloured dip, is one of the dishes from the Middle Eastern inspired Christmas party menu workshop that I hosted in December. It formed part of a festive jewel coloured mezze that we all devoured with a glass of pink cava after everything was prepared. I will be sharing more of those recipes with you over the next few weeks.

Roasted Beet Hummus

I bought some little organic baby beets from the market which roasted in about 30-35 minutes but if you can only get larger ones, cut them in half or quarters and roast until they are tender all the way through. This could take up to an hour depending on their size. Use gloves when you rub the skins off, if you don’t want fuchsia fingers.

Roasted Beetroot Hummus Recipe

Serves 6-8 as a dip. Vegan, Gluten-Free

  • about 600 g beetroot
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • thyme

Trim off the leaves, leaving about 2 inches of stalk attached and leave the root on. Cut into halves or quarters if large. Preheat the oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Lay the beets on the tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & black pepper and some fresh or dried thyme leaves. Roast until tender all the way through. 30 mins to an hour depending on size. Leave to cool then cut off the stalks and roots and rub the skins off with kitchen paper.

  • 400 g cooked chickpeas (1 tin/jar) drained & rinsed
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 small cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • salt & black pepper
  • sesame seeds & fresh dill for garnish (optional)

Roughly chop the beetroot and put half of it along with half of the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the rest of the beetroot (saving some finely chopped for garnish) and the rest of the chickpeas and blend again to a paste, scraping down the sides.

Add the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt & black pepper and blend to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Serve topped with some finely chopped beetroot, sesame seeds, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of fresh dill, if using.

Beetroot Hummus

Toasted Flatbread Crackers Recipe

vegan

  • lavash flatbread or soft flour tortillas
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • cumin
  • sumac (if available)

Preheat the oven to 125 C. Brush your lavash or tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle over some cumin, sumac (if using), salt & black pepper.

Using scissors, cut the lavash/tortillas into triangles and place on the baking tray(s). Cook for 10-15 mins until slightly golden and crispy, keep an eye on them. Leave to cool slightly (they will crisp up a bit more) and serve immediately with the hummus.

These crackers are also great served with Baba Ghanoush, Muhammara or even Guacamole.

Beet Hummus & Flatbread Chips

Happy New Year Everyone!!

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Sweet Potato and Feta Cigars with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

31 Oct Sweet Potato Cigars Filling

 Just because it’s Halloween I am purposefully not posting a pumpkin recipe. I’m not of fan of Halloween and this is my pathetic attempt at rebellion.

This year I actually purchased hideous Halloween sweets from Mercadona for the lovely children next door who knocked incessantly on my front door last year.  I studiously ignored them because I didn’t have any sugary, chemically, teeth-rotting unhealthy products to give them. They repayed my kindness by chucking eggs at our front door, so The Washer Up went mad and chucked them back at the neighbours front door. So this year I bought sweets. I hope they’re happy.

So anyway, this is  my kind of treat, filo pastry cigars filled with roasted sweet potato, feta cheese, spring onion, fresh coriander, parsley and red chilli. Unsurprisingly Middle Eastern in origin and unashamedly Ottolenghi of course, who else? He has a new TV programme starting in November on More4, needless to say we are very excited.

The tahini yoghurt sauce is one of my favourite things, it is totally delicious. You can serve it just as a dip with flatbreads or raw veggies, or I have served it with these Cauliflower Fritters, these Baked Falafel Cakes and these Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut) Cigars too.

Sweet Potato & Feta Cigars Recipe

Makes 6 cigars, serves 3-4, vegetarian. Adapted from Ottolenghi for The Guardian

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400 g), scrubbed clean
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 75 g Greek feta cheese, crumbled
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 red chilli deseeded & chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 sheets of filo pastry (defrosted if frozen)
  • olive oil for brushing
  • sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 200C. Prick the sweet potato a few times with a knife and place directly on a rack in the oven. Roast for 45-50 minutes until soft and cooked all the way through. Cut in half lengthways and leave until cool enough to handle.

Scrape out all of the sweet potato flesh into a bowl and mix with feta, spring onions, herbs, chilli, salt & pepper mashing with a fork. Taste for seasoning and leave to cool completely.

When ready, preheat the oven to 200C, line a baking tray with parchment and brush with a little oil. Unroll the filo pastry sheets and cover them with a clean tea towel to stop them drying out. Remove two sheets together and place them on top of each other on your work surface with the short end facing you, so you have a double layer sheet. Cover the rest back up with the tea towel.

Cut the two sheets in half lengthways this will make two cigars. On the left hand double layer strip, put a few heaped tablespoons of the filling in a sausage shape about 2 inches from the end of the pastry nearest you, leaving a centimetre free at each side end. Brush the pastry with a little olive oil and start to roll up your cigar around the filling, fold in the two side ends at about half way through and brush with a little more oil every now and then while you finish rolling up the cigar. Brush the top with some oil and place on the lined baking tray. Continue with the rest of the filling, you should get six cigars. You can refreeze (or refrigerate) the unused pastry.

Sprinkle a few sesame seeds over the tops of the cigars and bake for 25 -30 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

Tahini Yoghurt Dipping Sauce Recipe

Serves 3, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 1 pot (125 ml) goat’s or greek yoghurt
  • 1 heaped Tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or parsley
  • salt & black pepper
  • cumin or sumac to serve

Mix all the ingredients together well making sure the tahini is mixed in and taste. Adjust lemon, salt or tahini to suit. Serve in bowl sprinkled with a little cumin or sumac and a few fresh herb leaves.

These are the perfect sweet treat for an evening huddled on the sofa with all the lights turned off pretending you’re not in…

Happy Halloween!!

Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed and Pistachio Sambousek Pastries

29 Oct Sweet Sambouseks

I made these little pastries using the Persian Quince Jam from last post but you could use any jam you like. I have used this lovely fig & honey compote before too which is great if you don’t like using sugary jams.

Sambouseks are little samosa-like pastries that are normally savoury and filled with meat or cheese. I made these savoury Fig & Feta Sambouseks before, so this is just a little step in a sweeter direction. The picture below is of the savoury sambouseks and demonstrates the folding technique.

Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed & Pistachio Sambousek Pastries Recipe

Makes 16-20 pastries. Vegetarian/Vegan.

  • 225 g (1 1/2 cups) white spelt flour (or normal)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm water
  • jam/compote/carne de membrillo
  • feta cheese or ricotta or queso fresco (optional)
  • honey or agave syrup
  • a handful of pistachios, very finely chopped

Sieve the flour sugar and salt into a large bowl then stir in the fennel seeds. Add the olive oil, mixing it in with a fork then make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the warm water. With your hand, fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until you get a sticky dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, 1 or 2 minutes. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment brushed with a little oil.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll the dough out until it is about 2mm thick. Cut out small circles about 3 inches in diameter (use a floured cutter or a glass). Lift the excess pastry away from the circles  and re-roll it and cut out more circles. Keep doing this until you have used most of the dough. You should get 16-20 in total depending on the thickness of your dough.

Put the circles on the lined baking tray and, using a teaspoon place a small amount of jam in the centre of the circle and top with a little cheese (if using). Lift up the two opposite edges and seal them above the filling. Seal the two other ends by pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek. (See picture above). They can be refrigerated at this point if necessary.

Brush the tops of the sambouseks with a little olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes until golden and cooked. Leave to cool slightly then brush the tops with honey or agave syrup and dip them in the finely chopped pistachios.

Serve the sweet sambouseks warm or at room temperature with a glass of fresh mint tea or Turkish coffee.

Enjoy!!

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…

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun Falafel Cake

It may surprise you to find that this is the first time I have posted a falafel recipe. Falafels are emergency vegetarian food, especially when out and about. Wherever you are there is normally a Turkish kebab shop that can save your life when starvation takes hold and you need something quick and tasty.

I have a theory though. A falafel conspiracy theory, if you like. I think that the falafels you buy in most Turkish or Lebanese restaurants or cafes are made out of a packet mix. I know, controversial. My reason for this slanderous outburst is sound and based on personal experience. Theirs hold together and mine, do not. See the picture below for an example of a very lovely falafel we bought from an Israeli vendor at the market.

 Along with a delicious tabouli salad, spicy tomato dip, broad bean dip and cheese and potato puffs. Perfect picnic food. For when your friends have very kindly allowed you to spend the day by their pool while they are away.

I also some bought some gorgeous gladioli and a big box of irresistible looking plums at the market. I see plum recipes coming up. Anyway back to the falafels.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure you will, but aren’t falafels made from chickpeas? The ones you buy seem to be made from bulgur wheat or couscous. They have a distinctly grainy inside that looks and tastes nothing like a chickpea, cooked or uncooked. Am I the only person that has noticed this? Don’t get me wrong they taste great and I love them but pureed chickpeas they ain’t.

That’s my excuse anyway. I’ve tried with cooked chickpeas and dried, soaked overnight chickpeas. Whatever, I have always had a disaster. Either too dense, hard and chewy because I’ve added so much chickpea flour to make them hold together or too sloppy and they fall apart and disintegrate as soon as I start to cook them in the oil. Until now that is…..

…actually that is a little bit of a lie. The first lot of these I cooked in oil and they disintegrated as usual. Tasted good but had to be scooped into a flatbread and eaten.

My success came about through baking them rather than frying. Mould them into patties, dust with a little polenta or cornmeal, brush with a tiny amount of oil and bake for about 30 minutes. They are still not the most stable of snacks, you couldn’t throw one at someone from the other side of the pool, for instance but they are soft, delicious and a little crumbly.

And they taste of chickpea. Enhanced with a few herbs, spices and harissa. Perfect. You just need a little tahini yoghurt sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Serves 3, makes about 9, vegan, (without the sauce) gluten-free.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time 30 mins

  • 1 tin/jar cooked chickpeas (400 gr), drained, rinsed & dried
  • 50 g of fresh peas (not frozen too wet) optional
  • 25 g hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a big handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used, mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  • 1/2 tsp or more harissa paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • the juice of half a lemon plus wedges to serve
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • polenta or cornmeal fro dusting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoothish and it has come together. If you need to, add a bit more lemon juice to get it moving but not a lot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mould into cakes and put in the fridge to firm up for a while or overnight.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 200 C. Put the polenta on a flat plate and roll the patties in it to lightly coat all sides. Line a baking tray with baking paper place the patties on the tray and brush very lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly browned and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.

Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 pot (125ml) Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handfull of fresh herbs, chopped I used mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  •  a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch ground cumin
  • a pinch sumac (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust lemon & salt as necessary.

Serve the falafel cakes with the tahini yoghurt sauce, lemon wedges and some salad leaves. In a flatbread/pita or not, it’s up to you.

I might have to buy a packet mix for falafel just to find out if that’s what they use. Just to prove to myself really. If it’s not I can’t understand it, any ideas?

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!!

A Really Good Hummus Recipe

9 May Hummus Bi Tahineh

At last, I’ve found an authentic tasting hummus recipe that comes somewhere close to replicating the gorgeous hummus at my favourite Lebanese restaurants. Sure, I can make a half decent tasty hummus, have been making it for years, but I have never been to get anywhere near to the creamy smooth addictiveness of the professionals. Until now that is.

The purists out there are going to say that it’s not authentic because I didn’t use dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight. They would be right and next time I will. If I remember. That’s the problem you see, I am never that organised. I have the best of intentions but it never seems to happen.

That is what is so great about this recipe, it is fabulous even if you don’t do the soaking overnight thing. The secret to the smooth and creaminess is that you rub the skins off of the chickpeas. I’d never heard of that before. It makes such a difference to the texture and flavour of the finished product. It is lighter in colour, much creamier, smoother and less bitter. It is a little bit of a faff but so worth it for the end result, I promise.

Hummus Bi Tahine (Chickpeas with Tahini) Recipe

Serves 3-4 as a snack, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Desert Candy

Prep time: 20-25 mins with cooked chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas see the original recipe here

  • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil, cumin, sesame seeds to serve

Place the drained and rinsed chickpeas in a saucepan and cover them with water by at least an inch. Gently rub the chickpeas against each other with your hands in the pan. Do this for a few minutes. Skim off any visible skins from the top.

Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the chickpeas are very soft. Check by squishing one between your fingers, it should squish very easily. Remove from the heat and skim off any more visible skins but keep the cooking liquid as you will need it later.

 I actually removed the chickpeas from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and slipped any remaining skins off of the chickpeas. Fiddly but worth it.

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and smush to a paste (you can also do this in a mini chopper). Add the tahini & lemon juice to a processor with the garlic & salt paste and blend until smooth and light coloured. Then add the skinned chickpeas and blend until very smooth. Thin the hummus to the desired consistency with the cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with more salt as required.

To serve, swirl the hummus onto a deep plate or shallow bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil. Finish with a sprinkling of cumin/paprika and a few sesame seeds.

Use warmed flatbreads, raw carrots, salted crisps (so wrong but so right) or even clean fingers when you run out of everything else, to carry the hummus to your happy mouth and smile.

Spiced Cauliflower Fritters with Lemon Coriander Yoghurt Sauce

11 Jan Cauliflower Fritters

I’ve been watching these cauliflowers growing over the last couple of months and up until a week ago I thought they were cabbages. Suddenly the creamy white florets appeared and grew very quickly inside their leafy layers.

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that I used to hate but now love, like aubergines. I think I had a bad cauliflower cheese experience at some point that put me off them for a long time.

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