Tag Archives: tomato

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo

10 Aug

Antonia, the lady that does the washing up at the restaurant, gave us a tub full of her homegrown cherry tomatoes yesterday.

I thought about roasting them but I really did not want to put the oven on today. It’s far too hot for all that so I made my favourite summer salad instead, Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo (Tomato and garlic salad).

I first had this salad in Bar Sardina, a restaurant/tapas bar in Alhaurin that has been around for 92 years, apparently. They are well-known for their fresh seafood especially the Conchas Finas which are like a cross between a scallop (they have a coral) and a clam. They are indigenous to Malaga and are traditionally served raw, with a glass of Fino (dry sherry).

Being a vegetarian, it is normally quite difficult to find something to eat if you go out to typically Spanish restaurants . Fortunately Bar Sardina has three dishes that I can order, all of them being fantastic. This salad is so simple but so delicious, which is what for me, sums up Spanish cuisine. It’s all about the ingredients and letting them do what they do best.

The best, in season, sweet tomatoes are mixed with lots of fresh garlic, drizzled with Andalucian extra virgin olive oil, good Jerez (sherry) vinegar and seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and some fresh parsley. That’s it.

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo Recipe

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 400 gr ripe tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tsp good Jerez (sherry) vinegar
  • sea salt & black pepper

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves or quarters for cherry tomatoes or into wedges for normal tomatoes. Mix them with the garlic and parsley in a bowl and drizzle them generously with olive oil, then add the sherry vinegar.

Leave to marinate for a while if you can and then season well with the sea salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust vinegar/seasoning.

Tip into a serving dish, garnish with a little more parsley and serve as part of a meal like the Spanish do.

Or you can do like I did and eat it with some of my sundried tomato & basil focaccia (or any nice bread) to soak up the gorgeous garlicky, tomatoey juices.

This is the perfect simple summer salad, enjoy this right now when tomatoes are at their best.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

The pomegranate flowers turning into the fruit…

Another sure sign that Autumn is just around the corner.

I’m so looking forward to the cooler weather….!

Curried Aubergine with Tomato and Chickpeas

29 Jul

The first of the seasons aubergines are starting to peek out from inside their pretty lilac flowers in the fields where I walk the dog.

I have lots of aubergine recipes saved from Spain to China that will make even the most stubborn aubergine haters out there succumb to its deeply, dark and delicious charms.

I can say that because I used to be one of them – a hater I mean, not an aubergine obviously. If they are cooked incorrectly, which they generally are, they can be a spongy, chewy, watery, bland and disgusting disaster. Which is why there are so many haters out there.

The first recipe from my aubergine collection that I am going to share with you is a curry. I chose the curry because my chillis on the roof terrace are turning for green to red very quickly right now and every morning there is a fresh crop of jewel-like peppers twinkling at me from the bush. 

These chillis are just asking to be used, and there are lots of them.

So expect lot of chilli recipes in the next few weeks including: my homemade Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce and some spicy Chickpea Tikka Masala Burgers. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

This curry is delicious, the aubergine is meltingly soft and the sauce well reduced to create an intensely rich and flavourful dish.

It’s from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. You can’t go wrong with Rick, he knows good curry. I just added the chickpeas so it was a one pot dish and I didn’t have to make any rice to go with it. Some flatbreads would be nice to scoop it up though.

Rick Stein has a new series about Spain on the BBC at the moment. I saw it for the first time last night and he mentioned that next week he would be in Andalucia. I’m really interested to see where he goes and what he eats. It’s definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s called Rick Stein’s Spain.

Curried Aubergine with Tomato & Chickpeas

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tin, 400 gr chopped tomatoes
  • 200 gr (1/2 a jar/tin) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Cut the aubergine in half across the middle then cut each half in half lengthways. Cut each piece, lengthways into 6 or 8 wedges, place them in a colander, sprinkle over 1/2 tsp salt and toss to coat. Place the colander in the sink to drain for 10 minutes. This draws out some of the water out of the aubergines.

Meanwhile prepare your onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat without any oil. Pour the olive oil into a shallow dish and brush the aubergine wedges on all sides with the oil. Put them in the frying pan a few at a time and cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side until well browned. This helps to stop the aubergines absorbing too much oil. Set aside in a heatproof bowl and continue cooking the rest.

Put the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli into a processor or blender with 2 or 3 tbsp water and process to a smooth paste. Heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil in the frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds wait until they start to pop then add the onion paste and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ground coriander and turmeric and fry for a further minute then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and 3 tbsp water.

 Lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer for about 8 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the aubergine wedges back into the pan along with the chickpeas and stir well to coat in the sauce. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until the aubergines are meltingly tender then stir in the fresh coriander & mint. Taste to check seasoning.

Serve garnished with coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.

Please try this even if you hate aubergine and let me know if you’ve been converted. I was!

Things That made me Smile Today…..

Beautiful squash flowers…

And green baby pumpkins nestled in their shady bed….

A sure sign that autumn is not too far away and along with it relief from this crazy heat!

West African Jollof Rice

5 Jun

This is another one of the recipes  that I first made while watching the World Cup last summer. The other being my Brazilian Bean Patties. I decided to make a dish from one of the countries playing in each match. This recipe was from when England played Ghana. There are many different variations on Jollof rice from all over West Africa but nearly all are tomato based with whatever vegetables you have, or are in season, added.

Most versions also contain chicken, which I have obviously left out. If you want to add the chicken just fry off some chicken pieces first to colour them then remove them from the pan, continue with the rest of the recipe and then add the chicken pieces back in when you add the stock.

The Washer Up pointed out that it is very similar to Paella and I had to agree. I think this would have something to do with the fact that Paella came to Spain during the Moorish occupation. It is believed to be a derivation of a Pilaf or Pilau and you can see that in the name.  The Arabs were also in West Africa for a long time controlling the slave trade in that area so obviously would have had an influence on their cuisine also. It makes sense doesn’t it. So Pilau, Paella, Pilaf  and Jollof could all have started out as one dish that over the centuries has been adapted by many different cultures and adopted as part of their own food heritage.

West African Jollof Rice Recipe

serves 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 litre (2 – 4 cups) veg stock
  • 2  ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 1oo gr cooked kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 50 gr frozen peas (I used a peas & sweetcorn mix)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 400 gr (2 cups) wholegrain rice
  • 150 ml tomate frito/tomato passata/puree
  • fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, herbs, spices, salt & black pepper and cook until the onions have softened (about 5 minutes). Then add the garlic, fresh chilli & ginger and cook for another minute.

Next add in the chopped vegetables and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are partly cooked(5 -8 minutes).

Stir in the rice then add the tomato puree and stir over a low heat to coat the rice. Next add 1/2 litre of stock, season with salt & black pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, over a low heat, covered until the rice and vegetables are cooked and all the stock has been absorbed. (About 25 minutes). Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and add more veg stock if necessary, a cup at a time, to stop it becoming dry before the rice is cooked.

Check for seasoning and serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Things that made me smile today…

Giant Dandelions…?

Make a wish Rufus….!

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….

South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa

19 Apr

 As promised, here is what to make with the rest of that can of kidney beans. I first made this recipe for Brazilian Bean Croquettes last summer during the World Cup. I decided I was going to make a lunch and dinner every day from the countries that were playing in the afternoon or evening game. It was quite a challenge especially being vegetarian but I really started to enjoy it and we ate some amazingly diverse food. From Cape Malay Samoosas, Jollif Rice from Ghana, German potato pancakes but the most memorable were these Bean Cakes from Brazil.

I have adjusted the original recipe slightly because it included breadcrumbs. As you know I am going gluten-free this month so no breadcrumbs for me. I used chickpea flour instead to coat the cakes but the breadcrumbs definitely give it extra crunch, so you decide.

To keep with the South American theme I wanted to try making Arepas. Arepas are a kind of bread pattie made from a special type of cornmeal. They are very popular in Venezuela, Columbia and the rest of Latin America. They can be grilled baked or fried and are usually stuffed or topped with cheese, eggs, meat or fish. Not that I needed any encouragement to try making these but the packet of the cornmeal is irresistable.

How cute? I actually bought the packet without realising it was for making Arepas just because I like the design. It’s not normal corn flour or cornmeal its precooked. Just look out for this packaging. You can’t miss it.  It’s really easy to make the arepas you just add hot water and salt to the corn meal and bring it together to form a stiff dough. Cut it into four then roll them into balls.

Wet your hands with some more hot water and roll the ball in your palm until smooth. Then press it out into a disc shape. Using more hot water (to glue it)  if it starts to crack at the edges.

To cook them I just heated a little oil in a frying pan and cooked them for 6 -7 minutes turning occasionally until they have what the Latin Americans call a cara (face).  And they really do develop a face, it’s hilarious…

I may have had the heat a little too high, but you get the idea.  Take them out of the pan and then keep them warm/continue cooking them for five or 10 minutes in the oven. Then slice like an English muffin. You can fill them with whatever you like but these bean cakes are great topped with a spicy tomato chilli salsa & some mashed avocado with lime juice.

Add some leaves and the spicy bean cake and you have a delicious vegan, gluten-free  Brazilian burger in a bun. Sometimes you need this kind of food. The kind of food you eat with your hands in front of the football. Or is it just me?

Brazilian Bean Cakes

makes 4 small cakes enough for 2 people, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 300 gr red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 or 5 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree, passata)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chickpea flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander

Blend the beans and tomate frito (puree/passata) in a bowl or food processor. Heat the oil over a medium high heat and fry the onion with a pinch of salt until well browned (5- 8 minutes).  Stir the chickpea flour into the onions then add the bean puree, oregano, chilli, coriander and season well with salt & black pepper.

Cook until the mixture holds it’s shape and comes together. Cool, covered in the fridge then shape into 4 patties. Put some chickpea flour on a flat plate and roll and dust the cakes with the flour while shaping them. (You can also roll in flour, egg & breadcrumbs if you want) Then put them back in the fridge to chill.

Heat 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook until browned on both sides. About 3 minutes a side.

Arepa Buns

makes 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • 300 ml hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225 gr masa harina flour (precooked corn flour see photo above)
  • about 1 tbsp oil for frying

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and gradually add the hot/warm water, mixing with a wooden spoon to form a stiff dough. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes then cut into four and roll into balls. You may need to wet your hands with some more hot water to make it easier. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hands into discs about 3 inches in diameter about 3/4 inch thick. Use the hot water to smooth out any cracks around the edges.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the arepas for about 6-8 minutes turning 3 or 4 times until they are golden & crispy and have a cara, face. Drain on paper towels then put in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes while you cook the bean cakes.

Tomato Chilli Salsa & Avocado Puree

enough for 4 bean cake arepas, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic/ young garlic green parts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • the juice of 1/2 lime
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree/passata)
  • salt & black pepper

Blend everything together in a bowl or processor. Check seasoning and add more salt/lime juice/olive oil if necessary.

  • 1 small avocado
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil

Put everything in a bowl and mash together with a fork. Taste for seasoning.

To serve cut the arepa through the middle, spread tomato chilli salsa on one side and the avocado puree on the other. Put the bean cake in the arepa, add some leaves, close, squash down and devour, trying not to get tomato salsa down your front…..!

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………….

Yellow Gram Chickpea Curry with (Unpuffy) Spinach Puri

12 Feb

I have loads of unopened packets of dried legumes in my cupboard. I normally buy them from the Indian supermarket because they look so interesting and I love daal and chickpea curries. The thing is I never get round to cooking with them because of the whole soaking, rinsing in clean water and then cooking them for hours thing. I’ve got nothing against that type of cooking it’s just I’m not that organised. I decide what I want to eat about an hour before I eat, so I always end up opening a jar of cooked chickpeas or beans. It’s so much easier….

I have to admit though you can definitely tell the difference in a dish where the chickpeas/beans are whole. The texture is different, they are firmer and less floury. So today, before taking the dog for a walk, I put some Yellow Gram in a bowl of water to soak. Yellow gram are like cute little mini chickpeas….

I took Rufus for a walk along a mountain path today. He enjoyed running with the wind in his ears…..

And surveying the landscape…

When we got back I rinsed the gram in a few changes of water and cooked them in clean water in the pressure cooker. I don’t know why I didn’t think of cooking them like this before. The instructions on the packet say to cook them for 1 1/2 – 2 hours in a saucepan. This way they took about 25 minutes, result! The pressure cooker idea came from Ko Rasoi- Mastering the Art of Indo- Vegetarian Cuisine which has loads of gorgeous daal recipes and she cooks them in the pressure cooker. This is also where I got the recipe for the Spinach & Green Chilli Puri, hers are beautiful puffy little breads that I just had to have with my gram curry. I have cooked puris before but never with spinach & green chilli, they sounded amazing…… 

As you can see from the photos my puris did not puff. This is quite common apparently, could happen to anyone, it’s not just me….. Apart from being a little disappointed with my embarrassing lack of puff the flavour and texture was lovely and a great vehicle for the curry.

Yellow Gram Chickpea Curry Recipe

serves 2, vegan

  • 200 gr uncooked yellow gram or  400 gr tin cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 or 4 tbsp tomato passasta (tomate frito)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves (use curry leaves if you have them)
  • 1 onion seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  •  1 tsp garam masala
  •  1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt & black pepper
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • about 500 ml veg stock
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • greek yoghurt (optional)

Prepare and cook the gram according to the instructions on the packet (or in a pressure cooker). Or drain & rinse a tin/jar of cooked chickpeas. In a large frying pan heat some oil over a medium heat. Add in the cumin seeds & onion seeds. When they start to pop add in the onions and soften for about 3 or 4 minutes then add in the garlic, ginger, chilli, chopped tomato, ground coriander, garam masala, bay leaves & turmeric. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes and add in the tomato passata (frito). Meanwhile heat the veg stock in a small saucepan. Drain the cooked gram/chickpeas, stir them into the curry and pour in the hot veg stock. Season well with salt & pepper and mix thoroughly. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. If your sauce isn’t as thick as you would like take out a ladleful of the curry put in it a bowl or food processor and blitz to a puree. Add this back into the curry to thicken it.

Check for seasoning, squeeze over the lemon juice and stir in the chopped fresh coriander

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, a teaspoon of greek yoghurt if you like and some extra wedges of lemon on the side. You could serve this with some basmati rice or these delicious puris…..

Spinach & Green Chilli Puris Recipe

makes 6 or 7 small puris, enough for 2 people,vegan

  • 150 gr plain or wholemeal flour
  • 1 small green chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 little cubes of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed out (or a small handful of fresh)
  • 55 ml boiling water
  • 1 or 2 tbsp sunflower/olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of turmeric
  • oil for deep-frying

Blitz or mash the spinach, green chilli and boiling water to a smooth puree. Put the flour, turmeric & salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix in the oil and enough of the spinach mixture to make a firm non sticky dough.

Heat the oil in a wok, large frying pan or deep fat fryer to hot and open a window (it gets smoky & smelly)!  Pull off a small piece of dough and roll into a 1 inch ball. Roll it out to a 3 inch diameter circle, turning, clockwise as you roll to get a round ish shape. Don’t flour the board use a bit of oil if it is sticking. Carefully drop the circle into the hot oil and fry until golden and (hopefully) puffy. Keep warm under a clean tea towel while you fry the rest. To see how these puris should look check out Sanjanas beautiful photos. But if, like me, yours turn out to be decidedly unpuffy, don’t worry they still taste amazing and are the perfect scoop for the gram curry…

Good Luck!!!

 

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!

Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and a tricolor salad)

8 Dec

We have picked up our bottles of the olive oil we helped to harvest here a few weeks ago and it is amazing. The flavour is so far superior to that of anything I have ever bought, I want to put it on everything. Its viscous, cloudy, golden greenness is a joy to behold. I think  that this olive oil and the bouganvilla flower should become the emblems of Andalucia, they represent the beauty and flavour of the region perfectly..

And I’m going to put it on an Italian salad! Oh well, these are the ingredients I have in my possesion: avocadoes (loads of them -windfalls!), juicy Spanish tomatoes (full of flavour right now), mozzarella cheese & our homegrown basil. What would you do?!

Andalucian Tricolor Salad

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 large spanish tomato, sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil (Andalucian preferably!)
  • Jerez- sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper

Alternate the slices of tomato & mozzarella around the plate and top with the avocado slices in the centre. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt & sherry vinegar and tear over some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil generously over the salad and crack over some black pepper..

Serve with some rustic toasted bread drizzled with more healthy, fabulous olive oil… Enjoy!!

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