Tag Archives: harissa

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun

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?

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Fig and Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

6 Aug

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.

Honey Spiced Sticky Aubergines with coriander & lemon yoghurt

30 Oct

I know I said I was going to make a Wild Mushroom & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne. Well I tried but my wholemeal pasta turned out to be a bit of a disaster, too hot in the kitchen I think, it all stuck together. So I will keep trying but in the meantime I don’t have any more mushrooms.

Beehives

Today, while out walking, we got a closer look at the beehives, so it got me thinking about honey recipes. One of my favourite Spanish recipes is Berenjenas con Miel which is thinly sliced aubergines in a light batter served drizzled with Miel de Cana. Miel de Cana is a local honey made from cane sugar and the flavour is a mixture of maple syrup, treacle & honey. Apparently they are stopping making it because all the sugar cane in Malaga has been cut down to make way for the new airport terminal and surrounding buildings. This is a real shame because it’s a unique speciality to the area, it tastes fantastic & I love the label. If you see any buy it while you still can….

Berenjenas con miel has been a lifesaver on a number of occasions here in Spain as the vegetarian options available are basically non-existent, well they were when we moved here 10 years ago, it’s getting better now, slowly. I wanted to use the miel de cana and aubergine but spice it up a little as I like to do so I got some inspiration from The Traveler’s Lunchbox an amazing food blog where I have adapted a recipe for eggplant stewed with honey and spices. It really is so good you have to try it even if you hate aubergines, it delicious…

Honey Spiced Aubergines Recipe

serves 2 as part of a mezze or as a side dish

  • 1 aubergine sliced into about 1cm thick rounds
  • salt
  • olive oil
  •  2 1/2 tbsp clear honey (or miel de cana)
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  •  1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp harissa paste*
  • a handful of chopped coriander

* Harissa paste is a hot spice paste from Morocco use cayenne pepper if you don’t have any.

Lay the aubergine slices on a board or clean tea towel, sprinkle with salt, leave them for 15 – 20 minutes for the water to come out then wipe dry with kitchen roll.

Heat a large frying pan or grill pan (the stripes would be nice) to a medium high heat, brush the aubergines with olive oil on both sides and cook until browned on both sides (You will probably need to do it in two batches). Then set aside.

Combine the honey and lemon in a bowl with about 4 tbsp hot water from the kettle and stir to dissolve the honey. Heat some olive oil in the frying pan over a medium heat, add the ginger & garlic and fry for about 30 seconds (don’t let it burn). Ad the cumin & harissa paste (or cayenne) and fry for another 30 seconds then stir in the honey & lemon water and bring to a boil. Put the aubergines back in to the pan with the sauce and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes turning occasionally to coat in the sauce.

Cook until the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze and the aubergines are really soft. You can add more water if the sauce dries up before the aubergines are cooked. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh coriander. Mix some greek yoghurt with lemon juice, fresh coriander & mint, salt & cumin seeds to serve with them.  You can also serve them as part of a mezze with spiced yoghurt cheese (Labneh see recipe September) or as a delicious starter or even as an accompaniment to a Moroccan flavoured roast lamb.

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