Tag Archives: juice

Fesenjan – A Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

11 Nov

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!

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?

A Really Good Hummus Recipe

9 May

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.

Greek Style Tomato and Bean Soup with lemon, mint and parsley

16 Feb

 Lemons are one of my kitchen staples. I couldn’t cook without them. Their juice adds a zing to any curry that lifts all the other flavours. A squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of good olive oil is all you need for the best salad dressing. The zest gives a brightness to cakes and cookies that could otherwise be too sweet. And no paella (vegetarian or not) would be complete without those sunny little wedges to spritz over as you serve.

If you taste a dish just before serving and think that there’s something missing, that it’s not quite right. Squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, add a pinch more salt and taste it again. The dish will come alive.

I always make sure I have a bowl of lemons in my kitchen, it makes me feel safe and the aroma of freshly squeezed or zested lemons makes the kitchen smell fresh and clean.  Lemons are best friends with another of my kitchen staples, fresh herbs. If you have lemons and fresh parsley, coriander, mint or basil you are seconds away from making an okay dish into an outstanding one. An uninspiring bowl of pasta with tomato sauce can be transformed with the last-minute addition of lemon juice and fresh basil. Any curry, South East Asian, Caribbean or Indian, would be dreadfully incomplete without the final squeezing over of fresh lemon juice (or it’s more exotic cousin, the lime) and a large handful of fresh coriander.

Lemon, mint and parsley are the stars of this Greek style soup. Mint and parsley are widely used in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. The freshness of mint with the saltiness of a Greek Feta or Cypriot Halloumi cheese is a match made in heaven, squeeze over some fresh lemon juice and you have arrived…..

Greek Style Tomato & Bean Soup with Lemon, Mint & Parsley

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian/ vegan without the Feta

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and sliced (you can use a small onion)
  • 1 stick celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 or 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 jar/tin cooked butter beans about 400 gr
  • 1/2 jar/tin kidney beans 200 gr
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400 gr
  • 1 lemon
  • a splash of white wine (optional)
  • 3 or 4 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • about a litre of veg stock 
  • 10 squares of frozen spinach or 1 bag of fresh (about 300 gr)
  • 100 gr quinoa (or orzo, rice, small pasta)
  • 75 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • 10 or 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • a handful of black olives (if you like them, I don’t)

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep saucepan. Add the onions/leeks, celery, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes and dried oregano. Season with salt & black pepper and cook until softened about 4 or 5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a splash of wine and stir in the shredded cabbage, butter beans, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes. Zest the lemon, add it to pot with half of the juice and the tomato puree. Add the veg stock, season well with salt & black pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down & simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add in the quinoa or pasta, olives and the frozen spinach (if using fresh stir it through a couple of minutes before serving just to wilt). Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until the quinoa/pasta/rice is cooked.

Just before serving squeeze  the rest of the lemon juice into the pot or serve some wedges on the side. Serve the soup in warmed bowls topped with some crumbled Feta, sprinkle over the chopped mint & parsley and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil…….

You can make this soup with whatever beans you have in your cupboard. White beans and chickpeas would be good. I had some cooked quinoa in the fridge so I added it in. It may not be authentic but the texture worked and it’s high in protein which is great for vegetarian dishes. Just make sure you use the dried oregano (a key Greek seasoning) as well as the fresh mint, parsley, lemon juice and Greek Feta and it will be delicious………….

My Big Fat Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

11 Jan

If you’ve never tried Halloumi cheese before, buy some. I promise you its delicious. It’s a Cypriot sheep’s milk cheese and I would go as far as to say it is my favourite cheese. Even saying that makes me feel bad about Feta. I love Feta too it’s just that Halloumi is more difficult to get over here. So, when I do see some, I buy 3 blocks because I know they will sell out quickly and not get any back in for weeks. I think it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder“. Does that apply to cheese too? I think Feta suffers from being slightly more (dare I say it) common. Now I feel really awful.

The best thing about Halloumi is it doesn’t melt, it cooks. This means you can grill it on a dry pan or griddle and serve it as you would chicken like the Grilled Halloumi Sandwich  that I have posted before. The texture is actually quite meaty when it’s cooked and its salty flavour stands up really well to loads of fresh herbs & lemon juice. This salad is the perfect backdrop from which your Halloumi can shine. In the interest of fairness and equality Foil Baked Feta would be a great alternative if you can’t get hold of any Halloumi…..

Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 pack halloumi 240gr sliced into 1/2cm slices
  • 1 big tomato chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber diced
  • 1/2 shallot finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of black olives (I left them out because I don’t like them)
  • a handful of rocket
  • 1 little gem lettuce heart, cut into quarters, lengthways
  • sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of chopped coriander or parsley. Stalks as well.
  • a handful of chopped mint
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red chilli (deseeded & chopped) optional
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • coriander/parsley leaves for garnish

Put the little gem wedges on the plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice & a little sea salt. Put the tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, olives, oregano & half the fresh herbs in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil &  a good squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt & pepper and set aside. In a shallow dish large enough to hold the Halloumi slices mix together about 4 tbsp olive oil the juice of half the lemon, cumin, sumac, chilli, black pepper and the rest of the fresh herbs.

Heat a non stick frying pan or griddle to hot. (Don’t add any oil). Put the Halloumi slices in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. When the halloumi is browned put the slices into the dish with the marinade and cover it in the marinade. (You may need to add more oil/lemon juice). When all of the Halloumi is in the marinade add the rocket to the tomato salad and toss together with you hands. Pile this on top of the little gem wedges then arrange your Halloumi slices on top and around the salad. Pour over the remaining marinade and serve garnished with the coriander/parsley leaves.

You could also serve some toasted pita wedges on the side to soak up the delicious marinade juices. This is a dish you could serve to hardened meat eaters and they wouldn’t notice it was vegetarian. It’s so good, please try it!

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