Archive | September, 2010

Middle Eastern Mezze

30 Sep

The first recipe for my mezze is a homemade yoghurt cheese called Labneh which is flavoured with herbs & spices. If someone told me a few months ago that I would be making cheese I would have laughed in their face but this is really easy – you have to try it because it’s delicious! 

Spiced Labneh (Yoghurt Cheese)

Spiced labneh Recipe (Yoghurt Cheese)  

Serves 4 as part of a mezze 


  • 750ml natural yoghurt(unsweetened) you can use greek yoghurt or I used low-fat & it worked.
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp sumac * (or 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes & 1/2 tsp paprika)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • olive oil


*Sumac is a crushed dried berry used in Middle Eastern food it has a smoky citrus spicy flavour which works really well in this dish & is also great on salads & on grilled Halloumi or Feta. 

  1. Line a sieve with a double sheet of kitchen roll and spoon the yoghurt in.(you can use cheesecloth but who has cheesecloth!?)
  2. Place the sieve over a bowl so the liquid drains into it, make sure it is a deep enough bowl to catch the liquid so it doesn’t leak into your fridge.
  3. Put the whole lot in the fridge overnight or longer if you can.(Emptying the bowl of liquid before you go to bed)
  4. When you are ready remove the yoghurt from the kitchen roll into a bowl -it should be quite firm.
  5. Mix in the spices, herbs, salt & pepper
  6. Tip it into a serving bowl drizzle with olive oil & garnish with fresh mint & coriander.


It really is that easy and tastes fantastic so give it a go, you can use whichever spices you like but this combination is great.  

The authentic way to serve this is to oil your hands, roll it into little balls, arrange them in a dish with olive oil in the bottom & garnish with fresh herbs. As I am serving this with Onion Flatbreads I prefer to serve it in a bowl to dip into. 

Onion Flatbreads & Labneh

 This is best recipe for flatbreads ever. It makes really moist flavourful breads with no stress, honestly! 

Onion Flatbreads Recipe 

Makes 4 large flatbreads Vegetarian

  • 1 small onion finely sliced (you can also use red onion, spring onion or leek)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 255gr plain flour
  • 2 tbsp mild olive oil  (plus 1 tsp for frying)
  • 125 ml hot water
  1. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds, onion, chilli flakes & black pepper and fry for  about 3 mins. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In a bowl mix the flour, olive oil and fried onions together with a good pinch of salt
  3. Add the hot water and stir everything together & work it into a dough
  4. Knead this on a  well floured surface for a few minutes until soft, smooth & elastic.(Add more flour if it’s really sticky)
  5. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for about 20 mins.
  6. Cut into quarters & roll into 4 balls using more flour to prevent sticking.
  7. Flour your rolling pin and roll out the flatbreads to about 3mm thick
  8. Preheat you oven to 18o degrees
  9. Preheat a non stick frying pan until hot (Don’t add any oil)
  10. Dry fry the flatbreads over a medium high heat one at a time until browned & crispy . About 2 mins on each side.
  11. Keep the flatbreads warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
  12. Serve hot with you choice of dips or curry dish.


These are also really good served with my favourite Roasted Aubergine Dip. This has a sweet, spicy, fresh flavour that is perfect as a dip with flatbreads,  as a sauce for pasta or as a topping for a delicious bruschetta, grilled with crumbled feta & garnished with fresh mint..heaven! 

Roasted Aubergine Dip

Roasted Aubergine Dip Recipe 

Vegetarian Serves 4 as part of a mezze with extra to use for pasta sauce 

  • 1 large aubergine ( or 2 small)
  • 1 red pepper deseeded & chopped into big chunks
  • 1 1/2 red onions peeled & cut into wedges
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a tbsp dried thyme)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • a handful of fresh mint & coriander plus extra to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways, put on a baking sheet cut side up, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper.
  3. Put in the oven on the top shelf for about 45 mins until slightly browned and softened.
  4. Meanwhile line another baking sheet with foil and spread the rest of the prepared veg & whole garlic on it.
  5. Drizzle with the olive oil & balsamic then sprinkle over the dried chilli & thyme leaves. Add sea salt & black pepper.
  6. Toss together with your hands to coat everything well.
  7. Put in the oven on the top shelf.( move the aubergine down to the middle shelf)
  8. Cook for the remaining 35-40 mins until browned & sticky.
  9. Leave to cool slightly.
  10. When the aubergine is cool enough to handle scrape out the flesh in to a food processor, add the rest of the roasted veg, lemon juice, tahini & fresh mint & coriander.
  11. Pulse until combined but don’t over do it.
  12. Chill if you can wait (it is not compulsory!)& check for seasoning.
  13. Garnish with fresh herbs

Serve with flatbreads for dipping &, if there is any leftovers, use as instructed above –  delicious!! 

Also used in recipe for 70’s Stuffed Tomatoes

Roasted Aubergine & Veg

The Finished Mezze

Mushroom, Walnut & Chilli Spaghetti Recipe

29 Sep

This recipe is a real fusion of Italian & Indian techniques & flavours. I’m sure it will have the purists squirming but it tastes really amazing. The idea is to combine the idea of an Italian pesto with an Indian curry paste to create a sauce for wholemeal spaghetti. It is really easy to make and there are endless combinations to try.

Mushroom & Walnut Chilli Spaghetti

Mushroom, Walnut & Chilli Spaghetti Recipe

Serves 2 Vegetarian

  • 300gr assorted mushrooms sliced
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 200gr wholemeal spaghetti

For the Walnut, Chilli & Coriander Pesto/Paste

  • 100gr walnuts
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 red chilli chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp ginger paste
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of coriander chopped (plus extra for garnish)
  • a little veg stock (or pasta cooking liquid) to thin out the sauce.
  1. Fry the onion in hot oil until translucent.
  2. Add the rest of the pesto ingredients except the coriander and fry for 3 or 4 mins.
  3. Tip the mix into a blender add the coriander & pulse until it forms a paste.
  4. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet
  5. Add a bit more oil to the pesto pan and fry the mushrooms with a squeeze of lemon juice until soft.
  6. Add 2 or 3 tsp of the walnut pesto to the mushrooms with a splash of veg stock or pasta liquid.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the pesto sauce then stir to combine well.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh coriander.
  9. You will have some of pesto left which can be stored in sealed container in the fridge.

This is a really great flavour combination but there are many more to try. What about Hazelnut,Feta, Pea & Mint or Parsley, Almond & Lemon, Choose a country and pick their well known tried & tested flavours & experiment!

Caramel Fig & Almond Tartlet Recipe

27 Sep

Caramel Fig & Almond Tartlet

Caramel Fig & Almond Tartlet Recipe

Serves 4 Vegetarian

  • 4 sweet pastry tartlet shells ( see recipe for lemon tarts or buy frozen pastry shells)
  • 150gr fresh figs chopped
  • 150 gr salted almonds chopped
  • 50gr chocolate chopped (white or dark)
  • 225gr caster sugar
  • 290ml water
  • 1tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 60ml double cream
  1. Make the pastry cases following the lemon tarts recipe & cook for 5 mins more until golden(or bake tart shells according to instructions)
  2. Place the sugar & water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat over a low/med heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. When the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat & boil until it turns a deep amber colour. This can take 10 mins or more.
  4. Do not stir it as it is boiling but swirl it.
  5. Once it has reached the right colour add the double cream & stir it until combined.
  6. Add the orange blossom water & almond extract.
  7. Tip in the figs & almonds, stir to coat well, switch off the heat & cool slightly
  8. When the mixture has cooled stir in the chopped chocolate & pile into the tart cases.
  9. Refrigerate if you can wait & serve with pralines & cream ice cream or yoghurt sorbet.


Tartlet & Ice Cream


Almond Tree

Figs on Tree

The Washer Up Picking Figs

Vegetarian Paella Recipes

26 Sep


Having seen these gorgeous green peppers on our walk with the dog I decided to cook one of my favourite recipes using them. It tastes really fantastic and you can use just about any veg you have hanging around. I always make a lot because there are loads of great things to do with the leftovers. As you will see below! 

Vegetable Paella Recipe 

Serves 2 with leftovers or 4 without 

Vegetarian or Vegan without the cheese 

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 or 2 small green peppers sliced
  • 1/2 big red pepper sliced
  • 6 mushrooms sliced
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1 squirt of tomato paste
  • 4 handfuls of shortgrain rice(you can use risotto rice)
  • 1 big pinch of saffron (or an envelope of powdered saffron)
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes(optional)
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  •  a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 stalk of rosemary leaves removed & chopped finely
  • salt & black pepper
  • a good splash of spanish sherry(or madeira or wine)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • some grated Manchego cheese to sprinkle
  • some lemon wedges to serve & squeeze over

You will need a large frying pan with a lid 

  1. Fry the onion & leek in hot oil until translucent the add the garlic and saute for 2 mins.
  2. Add in the vegetables stiring & cooking for 2 or 3 mins.
  3. Add the rice & stir to coat in the oil, then add the herbs & spices, stir again.
  4. Add in the splash of sherry/wine & the tomato paste, stir to incorporate.
  5. Add the veg stock, stir again, turn the heat down, put the lid on and cook for 20 – 25 mins (stirring occasionally)until all the liquid has gone & the rice is cooked. Don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom of the pan the crispy bits taste good!
  6. Serve sprinkled with grated Manchego cheese (parmesan is a good substitute) & wedges of lemon.

A good spanish white wine would be lovely with this dish. Try to find an Albarino (grape) from Rias Baixes (The Basque Region). They are always a good choice for a spanish white I haven’t found a bad one yet and I’ve tried a few! 

Albarino is also recommended to drink with all seafood dishes & slightly spiced food as well as on it’s own of course! 


Paella is Served

 As promised here is a fabulous recipe to  use up left over paella. This is a great lunch dish I think I actually prefer it to the straight paella, something to do with the crispiness of the cakes.. yum. 

Crispy Paella Cakes

Vegetable Paella Cakes with Pesto Mayonnaise  

Serves 2 vegetarian 

  • leftover paella
  • manchego cheese grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp basil pesto
  • 2 handfuls rocket dressed with olive oil
  • lemon wedges
  1. Grate a little Manchego cheese into the leftover paella and mix it in.
  2. Flour your hands a make 4 little cakes a bit smaller than the size of your palm by first rolling them into a balls then flattening them out a bit.
  3. Refrigerate for 1/2 hr if you have the time.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  5. Place the cakes on a preheated baking sheet lined with baking paper.
  6. Brush the cakes with a little olive oil
  7. Cook for 20 – 25 mins until slightly crispy
  8. Meanwhile make the pesto mayo by mixing the mayo with the pesto.
  9. Serve with the dressed rocket & lemon wedges

 You can also use leftover paella to stuff peppers. Just slice the tops off the peppers, take out the seeds & membrane, pile the paella into the peppers, top with grated cheese & cook in a 2oo degree oven for about 30 – 35 mins.

Spiced Spinach & Aubergine Hot Pot Recipe

25 Sep

Spiced Aubergine & Spinach Hotpot

Serves 2 Vegetarian

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 aubergine chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1-2 red chillis chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp punch pooran*
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 125ml tinned chopped tomatoes
  • a handful chopped coriander
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 potato peeled, sliced in half lengthways, then into thin slices widthways
  • A little grated parmesan & garam masala to sprinkle on top

*Punch pooran is a whole spice mix made up from cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard & onion seeds. It gives a great rounded flavour to any indian dishes & is available from East End Foods.

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Gas mark 6
  2. Heat the butter on medium in a large saucepan with a lid.
  3. Add the garlic and fry for 1 min.
  4. Throw in the spinach stir to coat it a bit then put the lid on. Leave for 1 min.
  5. Stir the spinach again and continue to cook until wilted.
  6. Turn off the heat and put the lid on.
  7. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and add the aubergine cubes. Fry, turning them occasionally, until golden & soft (About 7-10 mins).
  8. Tip them out into a bowl lined with kitchen roll
  9. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan and add the cumin seeds & panch pooran spices, fry until spluttering.
  10. Remove from the heat and add the tomato,ginger, chillies, salt, pepper,turmeric, garam masala & chopped coriander
  11. Cook on a med low heat until the oil starts to separate. ( About 5 mins)
  12. Tip the aubergines & spinach in to the mixture, stir & cook for about 3 mins.(You could serve it at this point as a curry with indian bread or basmati rice- it’s delicious!)
  13. Pour the mixture into individual gratin dishes or a larger baking dish.
  14. Cover with an overlapping layer of potato slices & sprinkle with a little garam masala & salt
  15. Cover tightly with foil & bake for 45 mins.
  16. Take off the foil, sprinkle with parmesan and return to the oven for a further 10 mins to crisp & brown the top.
  17. Enjoy!

Spiced Aubergine & Spinach Hotpot

Home Grown Chilli Recipes

24 Sep

Our Frozen Chillis

These are some of our beautiful home grown chillis. The Washer Up is very fond of chilli & so am I but he would have it on everything! We grew the birdseye chillis (the little fiery ones)from seeds in a pot on our roof terrace & the Scotch Bonnet plant (the rounder ones)was given to us by The Washer Up’s sister in law & nephews when she moved back to the UK. 

They are green first & then they turn red, you can pick them when they are green or red (the green ones are not quite as hot).The thing is with chillis is that they you get loads ripening at once & they come in quite large packs. A great tip is to freeze them in a little plastic container then you can just take one out when you need it, chop it & use it straight away. That way you always have fresh chillis when you need them. 

As we have a mountain of them The Washer Up has decided to make a chilli & garlic oil with some of them so he can drizzle it over everything! 

Chopped Chillis & Garlic


 Garlic & Chilli Oil Recipe                                                                    

 Makes 500ml Vegan 

  • 5ooml olive oil
  • 10 – 20 chillis ( depending on how hot you like it)
  • 4 or 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  1. Finely chop the chillis (with the seeds)& garlic.
  2. Blend the chillis & garlic together with 100ml of the oil.
  3. Then add the rest of the oil, salt & sugar and blend again.
  4. Pour the chilli oil into a bottle with some of the pulp.
  5. Keep the rest of the pulp in a sealed jar to use for cooking.

Chilli oil can be used on pizzas, pastas, salads or brushcetta as well as in Asian dishes. Just a little goes a long way. Chilli is fantastic at bringing out the other flavours in dishes and is definitely addictive- you will be having it on everything! 

Chilli & Garlic Oil

Lovely Little Lemon Tarts

22 Sep


These are the best lemon tarts ever! The Washer Up is a bit of a pastry star & these are my favourite thing at the moment. Currently available at Santiago’s Restaurant Alhaurin where the Washer Up makes all the desserts & they are fabulous. 

Lemon Tarts Recipe 

Makes  8/10 individual or a 9 inch big tart  


For the Sweet Pastry (Pate Sablee) 

  • 200gr plain flour
  • 120gr butter cold
  • 60gr icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • egg white for brushing
  1. Put the butter, sugar & egg yolks into a food processor & work together quickly
  2. Then blend in the sifted flour & work into a paste
  3. A soon as it forms a ball wrap it in clingfilm & refrigerate it for at least an hour ( The longer the better it will be easier to work with )
  4. When the pastry is really well chilled cut it into 8 equal portions keep 1 portion out & put the rest back in the fridge.
  5. Get 2 big pieces of clingfilm & lay one on your work surface & dust liberally with icing sugar.
  6. Put the piece of pastry on the cling film, dust it with more icing sugar then top with the 2nd piece of clingfilm. Push it down into a flat round shape.
  7. Roll out the pastry (in between the 2 bits of clingfilm to stop it sticking to the rolling pin)to a size a bit bigger than the tart tins
  8. Peel off the cling film carefully & push the pastry into the tart tin(Push it in don’t stretch it)
  9. Trim off the edges & use the excess to fill any holes.
  10. Now put the tart in the fridge & take out the next piece of pastry. Continue until all the tarts are in the fridge.
  11. If you make a big tart you only have to do it once obviously(much less work!!)
  12. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
  13. Line the tarts with baking paper & fill with dry baking beans or uncooked rice.
  14. Cook in the middle of the oven for 6mins for individual tarts. 10 mins for the large tart.
  15. Remove the baking paper & beans, prick all over the pastry bases with a fork.
  16. Put them back in the oven for another 6 mins. 10 mins for the large until it is starting to dry.
  17. Brush with pastry bases with egg white & put back in the oven on the bottom shelf for 2 mins to harden slightly
  18. Take out & leave on a rack to cool slightly while you make the filling.
  19. Turn the oven down to 170 degrees

For the lemon filling 

  • 170gr caster sugar
  • 185ml double cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 125ml fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  1. Whisk the sugar, cream & egg yolks in a bowl to blend well.
  2. Mix in lemon juice & zest. Transfer to a jug.
  3. Put the tart cases on the bottom shelf of the oven & pull the shelf out slightly
  4. Pour the filling into the tart cases & carefully slide the shelf back in.
  5. Bake for 15 -18 mins until set round the edges & a slight wobble in the centre.(About 30 mins for a large tart)
  6. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before taking out of the tart tins.
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream
  8. If you want to brulee the top you can sprinkle it with brown sugar, shake off the excess, then blowtorch it or put it under a hot grill until browned.

It may seem like a lot of work but if you make one big tart it is a lot less work & totally gorgeous!! This sweet pastry recipe is a fantastic buttery shortbread type pastry which can be used for fresh strawberry custard tarts in the spring or apple custard tarts in the winter it really is lovely….

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