Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Restaurant Review and Recipe: Muhammara – Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip

6 Jan

This is my version of the Muhammara (or hammara) roasted red pepper & walnut dip I had at the fantastic Lebanese restaurant in Malaga, Samarkanda.

Everything that we ordered was amazing. The hummos was the creamiest I have ever tasted and the baba ghanoush (or mutabak) had that deliciously intense smokiness that I can never replicate at home because I don’t have a gas hob to burn the aubergines over an open flame. The tabouli salad was heavy on the herbs, just how I like it and the cheese briwat (like a samosa) heavenly. The falafels were really good but a step to far I think. We ordered too much as usual, I got a bit excited and wanted everything.

This was the first time I had tried Muhammara in a restaurant. I have made it myself before and used it to stuff these Muhammara & Feta Cigars (gorgeous). Samarkanda’s muhammara was much sweeter than mine and it was lovely because of it. They had used cinnamon and I was desperate to get home and try it, none of the recipes I had seen used cinnamon but it made such a difference t o the flavour.

Continue reading

Tunisian Spiced Aubergine with a Soft Poached Egg

9 Nov

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

Savoury Feta and Pomegranate Cheesecake with Pistachio, Mint and Parsley (and a Winner!!)

29 Oct

Having seen Beth Michelle’s beautiful pure white sweet cheesecake bed topped with a generous pile of glistening ruby pomegranate jewels, I knew that I was going to make a cheesecake with the pomegranates that I am now seeing all over the trees here at the moment.

At the restaurant we used to serve a savoury cheesecake with an apricot chutney. It wasn’t baked and I think it was goat’s cheese. Anyway I was thinking of going down a Greek/Middle Eastern road because of the pomegranate, and feta was the obvious cheese choice. Continue reading

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins and Almonds

4 Sep

I’ve been watching these grapes drying on the vine and turning into raisins. Every day I walk past them and wonder if they are going to pick them today or whether they are just leaving them to rot.

There’s a traditional Andaluz dish called Espinacas con Pasas y Almendras which is Spinach with Raisins & Almonds. I wanted to use this as a filling for stuffed vine leaves because it is similar to the Greek/Middle Eastern filling except they usually contain rice. I wanted to do and Andalucian version but I couldn’t find vine leaves anywhere, they just don’t sell them.

So I decided to pick some and use them, well I got The Washer Up to pick them actually. I read about how to prepare them here. Basically you just wash them, blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water, drain them, leave them to dry and then store them in the fridge or freezer.

Or you could just buy them in a jar and rinse them before using.

When you’ve made the filling you pile a heaped teaspoon onto the vine leaf at the bottom where the stalk has been removed. Then you fold the bottom leaves up over the filling, fold the sides in and roll up like a spring roll.

I only cooked mine for 15 minutes because my filling didn’t contain rice. Most recipes I looked at were cooked over a low heat for about 45 minutes to cook the rice. This is much quicker.

This makes quite a lot of filling and I didn’t have that many vine leaves (as I had picked them off somebody elses vine) so I used the rest of the filling to make some empanadas which were lovely too. You can buy ready to use round empanada sheets or make you own pastry from my recipe here.

Just pile  a heaped tablespoon of the filling on one side of the circle, fold the other side over to make a semi-circle and seal the edges with a fork. Brush with olive oil or beaten egg and cook at 200 C for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pastry.

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins & Almonds

makes 24-36 stuffed vine leaves, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gr frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped (optional)
  • 75 gr whole toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr raisins
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 50 gr manchego cheese, grated (or crumbled feta)
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • vine leaves (rinsed if in brine) see how to prepare vine leaves here

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute.

Add in the nuts, spinach, raisins and nutmeg, season with salt & pepper and cook for another few minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning and drain away any excess liquid from the spinach. transfer to a bowl to cool.

Lay out your rinsed or blanched vine leaves (cut away any stalks) on a clean surface veiny side up. Pile a heaped teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom part of the leaf where the stalk was (see picture above) then fold the bottom leaves up and over the filling. Fold both sides of the leaf in and over the filling, then roll it up like a mini spring roll.

Place all the rolled vine leaves seam side down in a saucepan, squash them together so there’s no gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and then cover with water to about and inch over the vine leaves. Cover them with a heatproof plate (to stop them floating up), bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with lid and cook for about 15 minutes (if your filling doesn’t contain uncooked rice). Keep an eye on them though and try not to burn the bottom of the pan. I may or may not have done this!

Remove with tongs to a plate and leave to cool.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh parsley and a Greek yoghurt dip. I just mixed some Greek yoghurt with chopped fresh parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

My beautiful, if slightly mental cats……

The gorgeous and terribly aloof Anouschka. Also known as Moomin Mamma (If you don’t know what a Moomin is, they have big staring eyes).

The beautiful Biba, bonkers but very attentive….

And the baby Tallulah, looks evil, scared of everything but loves to be loved….

This is her favourite spot….

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.

Alhambra Inspired Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

22 Jul

The Washer Up’s dad came to stay for a few days and we decided to take him to the Alhambra in Granada.

In 40 degree heat.

 Alhambra translates as The Red Fortress. Its palaces were built in the middle of the 14th century for the last Moorish kings of Spain and their court.  It is a World Heritage site and a unique and beautiful example of Muslim art and architecture.

The majority of the palace buildings are built in the same style, with all the rooms opening out on to a central courtyard.

The Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there but each new section followed the theme of “Paradise on Earth” by using column arcades, elaborately decorated archways, fountains with running water and reflecting pools.

Blue, red and a golden-yellow, all somewhat faded with time are the main colours used for tiles and decoration.

 The Alhambra was made into a  city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias (water channels) for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress.  These acequias are still used today throughout Andalucia for irrigation.

 Generalife means Gardens of the Architect. The Palacio de Generalife is a villa dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Whilst fountains and flowing water are a common feature around the Alhambra, they are particularly prevalent in the Palacio de Generalife.

The gardens of Generalife were definitely my favourite part of the Alhambra. It may have something to do with all the running water cooling the air and the shade created by the trees. The flowers were beautiful too.

You can actually imagine Arabian princesses running around giggling and hiding behind trees from handsome princes. As you can probably tell I read a book before going: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. 

It was published in 1832 and immediately attracted pilgrims to Granada from all over the world. He was an American diplomat, historian & traveller who actually lived in the Alhambra for a while.

It paints a romantic, colourful impression of local legends and traditions as well as telling enchanting tales of Moorish  princesses, towers, love and war. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are thinking of visiting or are interested in the history of Moorish Spain.

The picture below is of the Washer Up’s dad, Jim Burns. He is a published poet and writer and a recognised authority on 1930’s -1950’s Beats & Bebop Jazz. He is also an expert on the Spanish Civil War and 19th Century European art and history.

He is 75 and fared better than us on this exceedingly long, hot day. We walked around the Alhambra for around 6 hours in the blazing sun.

He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home. We were listening to Miles Davies though.

Like father like son. The Washer Up loves his music too. He’s more into early punk than jazz but his dad bought him the first Sex Pistols record Anarchy in the UK when it was released in 1976. He was 13.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad made with toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Fattoush belongs to the family of dishes known as fatta which means crushed. Stale flatbreads are used up by crushing or crumbling them into the dish, a lot like the Italian Panzanella salad. 

This is a salad we served at the restaurant. Instead of using stale pita we cut soft flour tortillas into triangles, deep-fried them and sprinkled them with sumac and cumin while still warm. This way you get crispy, spicy crackers to eat with your salad and it also makes for a more dramatic presentation. You just arrange them pointy side up around the serving bowl.

They are also great for dipping in hummus.

The basic ingredients for a fattoush salad are: salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, mint, parsley, sumac, fried bread, olive oil and lemon juice.

With that as your starting point you can add whatever else you like: feta, olives, dates, peppers, garlic, pomegranate seeds, the list goes on….

I like to add a little sweetness to counteract the sour lemon juice and sumac. Chopped dates are lovely but I had a fruit bowl full of gorgeous looking nectarines just desperate to be included.

I remembered seeing a recipe in the Ottolenghi Cookbook (I know, I’m obsessed) for a chargrilled peach salad with speck and orange blossom.  I didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Any excuse too use my new griddle pan and I’m happy.

Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

serves 2, vegan

  • 2 nectarines, stoned & sliced into wedges (not too soft, firm but ripe is best for grilling)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big beef tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved, deseeded & cubed
  • 2 spring onions (or half a Spanish spring onion), sliced diagonally
  • 2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced (I didn’t have any)
  • 1 bag mixed salad leaves, or a mixture of rocket and cos lettuce, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 soft flour tortilla, cut into eighths (or some stale pita, torn into pieces)
  • sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • sumac & cumin for sprinkling
  • salt & black pepper

 Toss the nectarine wedges with some olive oil, salt & pepper in a bowl. Heat up your griddle pan and cook the nectarines for a minute or so on each side until they get some nice charcoal lines all over. Remove to a bowl and cook the rest, if necessary then sprinkle over the orange blossom water and leave to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat. You can tell when it’s hot enough by sticking a corner of tortilla in and seeing if it sizzles. Carefully put the tortilla triangles (2 batches will be best you don’t want to overcrowd the pan) into the hot oil and cook for 10-20 seconds or until they are a golden colour. Be careful they burn quickly.

Remove to a bowl lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over some salt, cumin and sumac. Do the same with the rest and leave to cool. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

Put the garlic, salt, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olive oil into a large bowl with the tomatoes, sumac and cumin and stir together well.

Just before serving add the cucumber, spring onions, radishes, salad leaves, fresh herbs and any other ingredients (except the nectarines) to the bowl and toss everything together. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Either serve in one big bowl/ serving dish or in individual dishes. Arrange the chargrilled nectarines on top and place the tortilla crackers around the edge of the plate so it looks like a crown. Sprinkle over a little sumac and take to the table.

It’s a royal looking salad fit for the last Moorish King of Spain.

A word of advice, if you are thinking about going to the Alhambra, I wouldn’t recommend going in the summer, May or October would be nice. I’ll try and remember that next time!

Middle Eastern Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

4 Jun

Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a Middle Eastern salad traditionally made with bulgur wheat, tomato and spring onion. Loads of finely chopped fresh parsley and mint are added then it is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. It is so simple to make and has bags of flavour from the fresh herbs. The lemon juice lifts all the other flavours making it a refreshing, easy and delicious salad which can be served on its own,  as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish or as part of a mezze.

This is one of my favourite lunch dishes. I vary the ingredients slightly every time according to what I have in the house. I’ve replaced the bulgur wheat with quinoa to keep it gluten-free but you could use couscous as well.

This time I added my Chermoula Seasoning and some harissa paste to the quinoa while it was cooking as well as throwing in some juicy raisins to plump up in the cooking liquid. Some flaked almonds on top give it some added texture but it is really all about the fresh herbs and lemon juice. Whatever you do don’t skimp on the herbs….

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 150 gr (1 cup) quinoa, rinsed in fine sieve
  • 450 ml (2 cups) veg stock
  • a handful of raisins
  • 1 tsp chermoula seasoning
  • 1 tsp harissa paste (optional) or a big pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 small red onion or 2-3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or the zest of 1/2 a lemon)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a handful of flaked almonds
  • salt & black pepper
  • small mint leaves for garnish

Put the rinsed quinoa, stock, raisins, chermoula seasoning, harissa paste, salt & pepper in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and you can see the curlicues in each grain. Leave to cool.

Stir through the chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and preserved lemon or zest. You can keep it in the fridge like this, in an airtight container until you are ready to serve it.

To serve, stir through the herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and taste for seasoning. Tip into a serving dish and top with some flaked almonds and extra mint leaves.

Enjoy!!

Things that made me smile today…..

Thistles…

Double Layer Hibiscus…

Tequila Sunrise anyone…?

Have a great weekend!!

Ezogelin- Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Sumac

11 May

I had to make this soup when I read the story behind it. It sounds like an ancient myth but is actually from the 20th century. I love a tragic love story that includes a recipe don’t you?……

Ezo-gelin translates as Ezo The Bride. The origin of this soup is attributed to an exceptionally beautiful woman named Ezo, who lived in the village of Dokuzyol near Gaziantep in the early 20th century. Legend has it that Ezo, with her rosy cheeks and black hair, was admired by travellers along the caravan route who stopped to rest in her village. Many men longed for her hand in marriage and Ezo’s family hoped to secure a worthy match for their daughter.

Unfortunately, Ezo the bride, didn’t have much luck when it came to finding marital bliss. Her first husband was in love with another woman and she divorced him on grounds of maltreatment. Her second marriage took her to Syria where she became homesick for her village and had to deal with a difficult mother-in-law who couldn’t be pleased. It is for her, the story goes, that Ezo created this soup. After bearing 9 children, poor Ezo died of tuberculosis in the 1950s and has since become a Turkish legend, depicted in popular films and lamented in folksongs. Her name lives on in this popular soup, which is now traditionally fed to brides to sustain them for the uncertain future that lies ahead.

It kind of reminds me of Princess Diana’s story with the husband in love with another woman and the very difficult mother-in-law. Maybe they should have fed it to Kate before her wedding to William!!

I love the idea of a tradition where the modern brides in Turkey are fed a soup with a story to prepare them for their married life ahead. It’s in stark contrast to the custom in the UK where the bride dresses up as a tart in a veil with  L plates stuck to her drinking as many shots of Tequila as possible while watching a slimy male stripper with a can of squirty cream. Give me the soup any day…..

The original soup contains bulgur wheat which I have replaced with quinoa to keep it gluten-free. Sumac is a crushed dried berry used in Middle Eastern cooking. It is sold in powdered flakes and has a smokey, spicy, lemony flavour. See picture below. If you don’t have any leave it out, just make sure you have the lemon wedges to squeeze over and fresh mint for the top.

Ezogelin Corbasi- Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint & Sumac

serves 4-6, vegan, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  •  1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp tomate frito (tomato paste)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1  tbsp dried mint
  • 150 gr (1 cup) dried lentils, red lentils if possible
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) wholegrain rice
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) quinoa or bulgur wheat
  • about 1 1/2 litres veg stock (or a mix of water & stock)
  • 1 tbsp sumac (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  •  fresh mint leaves, chopped for garnish
  • sumac for garnish (optional)
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat. Cook the onions, carrots & celery with a pinch of salt for 4 or 5 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Then add the garlic, cumin seeds, paprika, chilli flakes, cayenne, tomato & tomato paste and cook for a further 5 minutes

Add in the lentils, rice & quinoa (or bulgur wheat) and stir to coat in the tomatoey spices. Add the veg stock/water, season well with salt & black pepper, add the dried mint and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes everything is tender.

If you like you can remove a ladleful of the soup and blend it until smooth, then add it back into the soup. This gives it a smoother thicker consistency. Add the sumac, taste for seasoning, add more salt or mint if necessary. Bring back to the boil.

Serve in warm bowls sprinkled with chopped fresh mint leaves, a little sumac and some lemon wedges to squeeze over.

I would think this soup could be a good hangover cure for the bride recovering from a few too may tequilas as well.  Just remember poor Ezo….

Mediterroccan Tapas Mezze

6 Apr

This is a bit of a mish mash of different mezze & tapas dishes that I wanted to try. I bought a tin of whole roasted peppers after seeing Jamie Oliver stuff them with ground almonds, Manchego cheese and breadcrumbs for one of his 30 Minute Meals. This is a tin of Pimientos del Piquillo.

This is taken from Iberia Nature “Pimientos del piquillo (piquillo peppers) come from Navarra. These small red peppers are charred over wood charcoal or old vines, then peeled by hand, marinated in olive oil with herbs, and eventually eaten either alone, in a salad or stuffed. The flavour of canned or jarred piquillo peppers is so extraordinary Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Ferran Adrià and many other famous chefs use them. Indeed 99% of Spain’s cooks (amateurs or pros) use canned or jarred piquillos. In general, I’d never recommend a canned product over a fresh one, but in this instance I will.  In the case of piquillos, the essential flavour may actually be enhanced by the preservation, and the texture is definitely improved”.

Here in Andalucia one of the most popular ingredients used for stuffing the peppers is Bacalao, (salt cod) mixed with a kind of bechamel sauce. I have been caught out before in tapas bars when we first came here thinking the stuffing was mashed potato because that is what it looks like. Also when you ask most Spanish people if something is vegetarian they say yes even if it contains fish. I have always wanted to make a my own version of this dish as it looks so appealing.  I used some leftover mashed potato mixed with Jamie’s ground almonds, Manchego cheese, breadcrumbs and sherry (Jerez) vinegar to create the stuffing and used a piping bag to fill them. Much easier than trying to do it with a spoon.

Another recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Foul Mdammas. A Middle Eastern dish made with fava beans/broad beans, tomatoes, lemon juice herbs & spices it is a fresh & seasonal salad. The recipe came from the beautiful Orange Blossom Water . I used frozen broad beans for this recipe which I peeled after cooking but you don’t have to. I just prefer the bright green colour and don’t really like the texture of the outer skins. I topped my Foul with some crumbled Feta because I couldn’t resist.

I haven’t made Hummus for a long time which is strange because it used to be my favourite thing. I think I may have OD’d on it slightly. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was all that I ate for a long time when we had the restaurant. I didn’t have time to eat properly so I would just grab some crackers and hummus. I, not surprisingly, got sick of it and never wanted to see it again. I think I am now ready to rediscover it’s charms as a delicious, nutritious snack high in protein, fibre and iron.

Of course you need some sort of bread on a mezze / tapas plate. Something to use as a vehicle for all the delicious goodies. A scoop or shovel, if you like, to carry the food to your mouth. I bought some Atta the other day which is a soft wholemeal flour used for making chapattis. This was the perfect excuse to debut the new purchase.

I followed the recipe on the back of the flour packet and added in the flavours from my Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads to spice them up a bit. So there you have it, my justification for the fabulous  fusion of flavours on one plate. I’ve said it before, the southern coast of Spain is only eight miles from Morocco at the narrowest point across the Atlantic. Well that’s my excuse anyway….

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as a tapa, vegetarian, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

  • 1 jar/tin pimientos del piquillo or whole roasted peppers there are 8 in a 450 gr tin
  • some cold mashed potato (about 2 potatoes worth)
  • about 50 gr Manchego cheese, grated
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary plus extra for topping
  • 1/2 tsp sherry (Jerez) vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper
  • wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the cold mash, manchego, almonds, chopped rosemary, Jerez vinegar, salt & pepper into a processor or bowl and blend until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

 Put the mixture into a piping bag (or freezer bag with a corner cut off) and pipe the mixture into the peppers until full. Put in an ovenproof roasting dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, some chopped rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Foul Mdammas Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as part of a mezze, vegetarian. Adapted from Orange Blossom Water

  • 200 gr frozen broad beans
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp preserved lemon peel, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • parsley leaves and Feta (optional) for garnish

Cook the beans according to the instructions on the pack, drain under cold water and peel when cool enough to handle. You don’t have to peel them but I think it tastes much fresher. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the garnish and mix well. Check seasoning and serve garnished with extra parsley leaves & some crumbled Feta if you like.

My Hummus Recipe

makes about 5oo gr, vegan

  • 1 tin/ jar cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed & dried
  • 2 or 3 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp yemeni lemon pickle (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • sesame seeds
  • chilli oil

Put everything (except sesame seeds & chilli oil) in a food processor or bowl and blend until smooth.  Taste and add more salt/lemon juice/tahini/olive oil if required. Hummus is such a personal thing you need to tailor it to your taste. Blend again and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and a little chilli oil (or olive oil).

Leek & Fennel Seed Wholemeal Chapattis Recipe

makes 4, vegetarian

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 leeks, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 300 gr wholemeal chapatti Atta (or wholemeal bread flour)
  • cold water

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the fennel seeds and when they start to pop add in the leeks, chilli flakes a pinch of salt and black pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes until the leeks are cooked and slightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Put the flour into a large bowl with 1/2 tsp salt and mix. When cooled stir the leeks through the flour to distribute evenly. Add cold water bit by bit until you have a stiff dough and it stays together in a ball. Knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Divide the dough into four balls and roll each ball out on a floured surface to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the chapattis turning frequently until golden brown. Rub with a little oil or ghee and keep warm under a clean tea towel (or warm oven) while you cook the rest. Serve immediately.

Buen Provecho! 

    

Chermoula Halloumi, Butter Bean Tagine and Quinoa with Almonds and Raisins

25 Mar

This started out a s a recipe in the Terre a Terre vegetarian cookbook for Halloumi & Almond Kibbeh. Kibbeh are usually made with ground meat, spices and bulgur wheat shaped into balls or patties. The Terre a Terre version uses a mixture of ground almonds, halloumi, cream cheese, tofu and Chermoula spices to make the pattie mix which were then wrapped in thin aubergine slices and cooked.  Chermoula is a Moroccan/North African spice blend normally used as a rub or marinade for fish and meat.

This Chermoula spice mix (there are many variations) is made from toasted coriander, fennel and cumin seeds ground together and mixed with sumac (a dried, ground berry with a lemony, smokey flavour) and salt. You can use it dry for seasoning dishes or mix it with olive oil, lemon juice & garlic for a delicious marinade or dressing.  Okay, so I made the kibbeh without the tofu (I have a pathelogical dislike of tofu that I need to overcome). I really didn’t like the resulting texture I found them dry and quite heavy and after a lot of work too! Luckily I had made quite a lot of the bean tagine and quinoa so for lunch the next day I just pressed some sliced Halloumi into the Chermoula spices and dry fried them as I usually would for my favourite Halloumi recipe. So much easier! The Chermoula makes a perfect spice crust for my favourite salty, meaty cheese which could be served with the just the bean tagine or just the quinoa salad if you don’t want to make everything. The flavours are really complex and work fantastically together.

Another ingredient used in this dish is preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are a key ingredient in Moroccan cuisine. The preserved lemon peel is chopped and used to impart an intensely lemony flavours to soups, stews, tagines and many other dishes. The lemons are preserved in a mixture of lemon juice, salt and occasionally spices. I made my own because I had a mountain of lemons in my kitchen. It seemed like the perfect thing to do with them as I love all Middle Eastern cuisine. I used Spicie Foodie’s recipe which was really easy and now I am the very proud owner of a jar of  homemade preserved lemons. Who would have thought it?

At it’s narrowest point the southern coast of Spain is only about 8 miles from Morocco across the Atlantic. This means that it has a similar climate and a lot of the ingredients used are the same as in Andalucian cuisine. I was inspired to make this dish because a lot of the ingredients used I see growing while walking the dog. The almond blossom has now disappeared to reveal the young green nut and the oranges are still everywhere although coming to the end of their season.

 The quinoa salad could easily be made with bulgur wheat or couscous instead and feel free to substitute pistachios for almonds or olives for the raisins. Just use what you have, within reason, obviously. I’m not advocating the use of chocolate chips here but now that I’ve said it, it might make an interesting dessert…..

Chermoula Halloumi, Butter Bean Tagine & Quinoa with Almonds & Raisins

Serves 4 with leftovers, vegetarian. Adapted from Terre a Terre The Vegetarian Cookbook

For the Chermoula Halloumi

  • 2 packs Halloumi cheese, rinsed & sliced into 1/3 cm slices
  • 25 gr coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Toast all the seeds until fragrant and grind them in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder. Mix them with the sumac & salt and store in an airtight container. When ready to cook the halloumi, sprinkle about 4 tbsp of the spice mix onto a shallow dish and press your halloumi slices into it to coat on both sides. To cook the halloumi heat a non stick frying pan to hot without any oil and dry fry the slices for a minute or so on each side until lightly browned. Serve with the butter bean tagine and/or the quinoa salad.

For the Butter Bean Tagine

  • 1 jar/tin cooked butter beans 400 gr, drained & rinsed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 or 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (or saffron)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, zested then juiced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon peel, finely chopped (or use lemon zest)
  • 1 tin 400 gr chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp harissa paste (or 1/4 tsp crushed dried chillis)
  • 100 ml veg stock
  • 1 tsp salt +
  • a handful of coriander leaves for garnish
  • olive oil to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid or casserole/tagine over a medium heat. Add the shallots, onion and red pepper and cook for about 3 minutes until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, turmeric/saffron, star anise and black pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.

Stir in all the remaining ingredients except the coriander & olive oil, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Either leave it to cook in a pan on the stove top or, if you are using a tagine or casserole, put on the lid and put it in a 170C oven for the same amount of time.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Remove the star anise and use it again for the quinoa. Stir in some of the fresh coriander ad serve garnished with the rest of the coriander leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Or serve topped with the Chermoula Halloumi slices.

For the Quinoa with Almonds & Raisins

  • about 150 gr quinoa (or bulgur or couscous)
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • the star anise from the tagine above
  • 60 gr raisins or sultanas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon peel, finely chopped (or use lemon zest)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 80 gr toasted almonds (whole)
  • 50 gr toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tsp Chermoula spice mix (see recipe above)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  •  a handful of fresh parsley chopped
  •  a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook the quinoa/bulgur/couscous according to the instructions on the packet. I use stock rather than water for more flavour. Put the raisins/sultanas in the hot stock as well to plump up aswell as the star anise. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add in the shallots and fry until soft and sweet, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the preserved lemon peel (or zest) and cinnamon, stir, then pour over the cooked quinoa, season with the chermoula spice mix, salt & pepper and mix well. This can now be refrigerated until 15 minutes before serving when you take it out to come up to room temperature.

Serve at room temperature. Shortly before serving stir through the nuts, chopped herbs, lemon juice and check the seasoning. Serve topped with the Chermoula halloumi or on the side off the ButterBean Tagine.

I had quite a lot of the quinoa leftover so I also made a nice salad  for lunch with some rocket leaves dressed with olive oil & lemon juice . I just topped it off with some crumbled feta. Delicious….

  Enjoy!!

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