Luscious lunches…

I make a lot of food. A LOT.

Let me explain: I eat virtually every single meal that I ever eat at home, and I make every single part of those meals.  And I eat a lot!!

I might eat food that I haven’t made a MAXIMUM of twice a month; other than that, I only ever eat food that I have made myself. And I love it! I know exactly what’s going into my body, and I know that I’m going to enjoy my food, and that it’s going to nourish me in every possible way. (And actually, on the occasions that I do eat something that I haven’t made, I end up feeling like I’ve missed out, because I miss eating my own food!)

I don’t ever ‘grab a sandwich’ or open a pot of soup or any kind of packet; I eat meals I can take time over, time to make and time to eat. I make versions of past dishes, versions of elements of dishes, new dishes, experiments, I use lots of leftovers, I make make make all the time.  I have a lot of food preparation happening in my kitchen constantly, for me and my boys. I routinely cook a couple of different grains at a time and have them available in the fridge; I endlessly roast vegetables to use once cooked and to create leftovers; I make sauces, dips, spice mixes, marinations, doughs, salads, chillis, curries, the list goes on…and a big part of this is because I can, I have the time, and because I want to. I spend a lot of time cleaning my kitchen too!

I also take a lot of photos of my food! Instagram is great for sharing those dishes daily, but not everyone is on Instagram and I like to share them on here too, in the hope that I may provide ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I wonder if each dish constitutes a post of their own, but then I think they’re too simple, hence why I share collections of dishes, which is what I am doing again today. And I’ve decided to call this, and future, collections ‘luscious lunches’ as these are typically my lunch dishes.

I am also co hosting Fiesta Friday today, along with Michelle from O Blog Off, and look forward to the huge amounts of weekly inspiration that I’m sure I will find there :) 

So, let me show you some recent dishes from my kitchen…there’s been a lot of Levantine and Middle Eastern flavours recently…

Chunks of carrot and sweet potato, steamed, then finished in a pan with coconut oil; with a version of chimichurri made with lots of verjus instead of vinegar, and added crushed roasted hazelnuts. 

Leftover roasted aubergines as per my previous post, with tomatoes and chopped parsley, and a version of chermoula, and toasted slivered almonds. 

Wedges of butternut squash, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and dukkah, with a sauce of yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice & pomegranate juice, topped with fresh coriander and pomegranate seeds.

Leftover freekeh and couscous topped with leftover roasted carrots from one meal that became…

…this lunch, topped with sumac, tahini sauce, dried barberries, toasted slivered almonds & pistachios.

Couscous with parsley, coriander, dukkah, toasted almonds & dried barberries, with a dressing of lemon juice & olive oil.

The above salad eaten with a salad of cooked carrot mashed with herbs, tabil spice mix, tahini & lemon juice.

Cauliflower roasted with olive oil & hawaayij spice mix, with freshly made homous.

Roasted butternut squash slices, topped with a thinned homous & toasted nuts, with baby plum tomatoes and a salad of aubergine, garlic, chopped parsley, tahini & lemon juice.

Couscous with roasted butternut squash, red onions & garlic. 

Carrot and herb salad.

A pan full of red onion, garlic and tomatoes, cooked in coconut oil, with several spoonfuls of my Mexican chilli and cocoa sauce, avocado, egg and grated hard goats cheese. 

And this dish at the start of this post, aubergine, tomatoes, chopped herbs, freekeh, and homous

Lots of fresh vegetables, and goodness, and versions of versions, and LOTS of flavour! I don’t make food without flavour!!!

So that was a view of the past couple of weeks, I hope you found it interesting. 

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, and don’t forget to visit Fiesta Friday x

Perfectly cooked aubergine…

As an aubergine lover, I believe you can’t ever go wrong with aubergine in a dish…however, I do know that not everyone would agree with me, and often that is because they’ve tried aubergine and not liked it, which is usually because the aubergine has been badly cooked. And by badly cooked, I mean either UNDER cooked, or dripping in oil :( 

Aubergine that has NOT been cooked properly is NOT nice! The texture of properly cooked aubergine should be soft and melt in your mouth; uncooked aubergine will remain hard and slightly chewy and not at all tasty, verging on bitter. The trick is to ensure that you allow enough time to really cook aubergine well.

Aubergine cooked on a barbecue is often one of the worst culprits as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen chunks of aubergine threaded onto skewers alongside peppers and onions, and it’s never cooked well. The peppers and onions take so much less time to cook, that the poor aubergine doesn’t get a chance to catch up. My advice: cook them separately!! 

Likewise, if you find lovely chunks of aubergine in a dish like curry/stew/ratatouille and it’s not cooked, it’s such a disappointment, especially for an aubergine lover like me. In this scenario, I would consider pre-cooking the aubergine, which is what I did recently to make this gorgeous aubergine tikka masala curry

These aubergine chunks were marinated and roasted until lovely and soft, before being added to the sauce.

So good!

So my message is: please be sure to cook your aubergine well, and to this end, today I am sharing with you my current favourite way of preparing aubergine. This is how I produced these lovely aubergine slices below..

There is an assumption that to really cook aubergine well, you need lots of oil. 

This is not true.

Aubergine is like a sponge and really soaks up oil, so if you do cook aubergine slices or chunks in lots of oil, it will merely hold onto it and fill your mouth with oil when you bite into it – yuk! Use of some oil is good for cooking aubergine, it just doesn’t have to be drowning in it. I usually use an olive oil spray when roasting or baking aubergine to control the amount I use. 

For these slices, I cut the aubergines into slices between 0.5cm and 1cm thick. If you slice them too thin, they risk burning and becoming papery.

I laid the slices on a rack sitting on an oven sheet, sprayed each slice with olive oil…

I cooked these in the oven, heated to 200c, until they looked like this..

They remain uncoloured on the underneath, but that doesn’t take anything away from the finished effect. 

On the rare occasion that I haven’t eaten the whole lot straight out of the oven, I’ve used these slices chopped up in salads..

Or to scoop up salad..

Or to create a plate of layered loveliness..

These slices have been spread with homous, then topped with beautiful roasted red onion and garlic and topped with toasted nuts. 

I hope I have inspired you in a new way to cook aubergines, and news ways to enjoy them. I’ll be taking these along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Julie and Linda. Please do join us🙂

I’m also going to take this post along to Corina’s Cook Once, Eat Twice party, and add it to my own Pimp Your Veg collection. 

For now I’ll leave you to drool over those gorgeous roasted and caramelised red onions and garlic…

Kitchen cupboard dip…one of my best dips ever!!!! 

I have recently been challenging myself not to buy any more ‘ingredients’…! I literally have enough stocks to supply the whole street for a week in spices, dried chillies, jars of chickpeas, dried legumes, tubs of tahini, grains, oils, passata…you get the idea….!

So, I’ve been focussing on only buying fresh produce, and even then being more focussed on what I buy, whilst challenging myself to cook dishes from the cupboard and freezer. Which is how this dip was created…

It started off as a lunch dish..

This is a concoction of dried onions, chickpeas, red pepper paste and a Moroccan spice mix, all from my cupboard. 
I have the dried onion pieces in the cupboard to use in spice mixes, I’ve never used them in a dish before, so this was an experiment.

I started off by heating some coconut oil in a pan, then adding copious amounts of the dried onions and cooking them for a few minutes; I then added a good amount of the spice mix (details below), and cooked the onions and spices together for a minute or so; I then added a small amount of water to hydrate and soften the onions. I then added some drained and washed chickpeas, and a couple of tablespoons of Turkish red pepper paste and stirred it all together, and cooked it until I was happy with the outcome..

I ate a portion with a sauce of plain yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice..

And it was very tasty!
And of course, there was leftovers…lovely, lovely leftovers 😀😀😀

And it was these leftovers that I blended with some tahini, lemon juice and splash of water to create one of the best dips I’ve ever made – and as most of you know, I’ve made, and make, a LOT of dips! 

Having blended the dip together, it was immediately tatsy, but even better the next day once it had had time for the flavours to develop..

What a great outcome!

The spice mix was one I put together after seeing a post from someone I follow on Instagram called ‘thecinnaman’ and includes ginger, coriander, chilli powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, fennel seeds, anise seeds, fenugreek seeds, cloves, cayenne pepper and bay leaves. The anise seeds, fennel seeds and bay leaves are lightly roasted the  it’s all ground together. It’s a lovely mix that I’ve already used in various ways. 

Happy Wednesday!

Spiced spinach and chickpeas…

I had a bag of baby spinach and I had every intention of making spiced spinach flatbreads, but as I chopped the spinach with a variety of spices, I thought I’d use it differently and create a spinach and chickpea dish using the East Indian Bottle Masala spice mix I made up previously from a recipe by The Spice Adventuress

I chopped the washed spinach in a food processor with some garlic, a good couple of tablespoons of the spice mix and a couple of long red chillies, plus some rapeseed oil..

It smelled amazing!!!

At the same time I chopped a couple of medium red onions..

Ready to cook over a medium heat in rapeseed oil until they softened and started to caremalise. Once they were cooked, I added the spinach mixture and cooked it through..

Then added the chickpeas..

It tasted so good! 

I ate it with some slightly watered down plain yoghurt..

As always, I had leftovers, and it tasted even better the next day🙂

When Fiesta Friday opens later I shall be taking this along and joining co hosts Antonia and Sandyha and everyone else sharing their dishes. I hope you’ve had a great week, Autumn is in full flow in my part of England and I love it!!!! 

Spinach and cheese concoctions..

I always lust after images of spinach and cheese pastries, whether it’s a Greek spanakopita, or middle eastern ‘fatayer’, or Turkish ‘borek’, or any kind of version; I’m not a big pastry eater though. So, I look for other ways to create these pies or pastries, utilising the lovely flavours of the filling in other ways…

Which is how this aubergine-lined creation came to life. 

It all began with some oven roasted aubergine slices..

And when I finally stopped myself from scoffing them all, I used them to line my dish, then topped the slices with half of this mixture of baby spinach leaves, crumbled feta, chopped fresh mozzarella, chopped chives, dill & parsley, and a sprinkle of nutmeg and two eggs…

Then placed the remaining slices of aubergine over the top. If I hadn’t eaten so many, I could have formed a better top!

I then topped this with grated hard goats cheese and baked until it looked like this..

Oh yes 😀😀😀😀😀 I rarely have this much cheese, but when I do, it’s a joy!!! 

The ‘pie’ held together when I cut into it and created a very lovely meal..

At the same time time I went authentic and made a filo pastry version too, layering three sheets of filo pastry for the base, and folding the edges over the top..

Which I baked until it looked like this..

Another winner..although I preferred the aubergine lined version myself. 

The next day I removed any soggy pastry and chopped up the reminds of both dishes, then threw it all in a pan with some coconut oil and tomatoes and created a whole new dish for my lunch..

Now that was tasty!!!! And very filling!!!

I enjoyed my little venture into cheese overload…that will do for now though I think…! It all tasted great though 😀

Hob/stove pan cooked spelt sourdough pizza…

As is my way, when I recently made up some sourdough dough, I threw the leftover bubbly starter into a bowl with some spelt flour, fine semolina, olive oil, water and salt and put it in the fridge until I decided what to do with it…it continued to bubble and develop over the next few days..

…even in the fridge! 

It was so bubbly, it looked like it was just sourdough starter, not a complete dough!

I had read a snippet in a food magazine recently about cooking pizzas in a pan on the hob (I guess in the US you’d call it a skillet pizza?) to ensure a crispy base, so decided to try it out with some of this dough.

I took out a handful and rolled it into a loose ball; I sprinkled fine semolina over an oven sheet pan, then pushed the dough into a round with my hands..

I made it quite thin, as I knew it would puff up in the pan, which meant it lost a lot of shape as I transferred it to the hot pan, but I just pushed it back into shape as it started to cook. 

I used a non stick pan, heated over a high heat initially to crisp up the base, before turning it down to medium once the dough had been in the pan for a minute or so. I cooked it for a few minutes, then turned it over, and starting cooking it further. At this time I smeared our homemade tomato sauce over the base, sprinkled over grated cheese and dollops of mascarpone. I turned on the grill as it cooked through. 

Once the base had browned, and before it burnt, I removed the pan from the hob and place it under the grill for a couple of minutes to cook the cheeses. If, like me, your pan has a plastic handle, just don’t push the pan in too far under the heat. 

And it worked a treat! By using the hob, it saved turning on the oven for a single pizza, plus with the added semolina in the dough, it created a lovely crispy base. I’ll definitely do this again because it’s also a speedy way to produce a pizza for a hungry teenage boy!

Please note that this can be done with any dough, it doesn’t have to be sourdough or spelt as I’ve done, any pizza or bread dough would work. 

With the rest of the dough, I also made up some crispy flatbreads which I enjoyed with some fridge/freezer raid salad the next day..

Welcome to Autumn, my most favourite season of the year! I hope you’ve had a good week and a good weekend ahead – but before then, let’s pop over to Fiesta Friday, with Mollie and Johanne and see what wonderful dishes everyone has brought…

Beetroot…three ways…

Having purchased a bunch of fresh beetroot to make my pickled turnips (previous post) I then had several left to use…the followed dishes therefore include raw, boiled (as in the salad above) and roasted beetroot…

When using beetroot, in all forms, I would advise: ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES!!!

The raw beetroot went into flatbreads; I washed the skin then grated a beetroot and put it into a food processor along with a selection of spices, some rapeseed oil, chapati flour and a splash of water, and processed it until it created a ‘dough’…

I brought it together by feel, it didn’t need much water at all. I then left it in the fridge to rest until I wanted to use it…

To make the breads, with floured hands, I took a handful of the dough, and flattened it into a flatbread, not too thin and not too thick, ready to cook. I heated my ‘tawa’ pan over a medium heat, then cooked the breads on both sides for several minutes, until cooked through. The breads remain quite moist, and are a perfect way to get kids eating beetroot, as well as us lucky adults! 

They are lovely eaten fresh, and reheat well the next day in the toaster. 

To boil the beetroot, I removed the top and bottom stalky bits, then chopped the beetroots into wedges and boiled until soft, but not mushy. Once cooked I drained them and allowed the wedges to cool slightly, then peeled off the skin, it comes off really easily with your hands. Some of these went into salads and dips, and some I then roasted for an extra punch. 

I find beetroot quite sweet, so I tend to pair it with lemon juice or preserved lemons, or goats cheese, ingredients that will help to even out the sweetness. 

This dip was a mix of boiled beetroot, tahini, lemon juice and chopped preserved lemons, mashed so that it remained chunky. 

This salad used the boiled and roasted beetroot mixed with chopped parsley and dill, chopped preserved lemons, whole roasted hazelnuts and a dressing of Verjus and argan oil. 

And similar to the previous one, this salad includes still warm boiled beetroot, chopped parsley & dill, my chermoula spice mix, labneh, crushed hazelnuts and olive oil. With the beetroot being warm it made it all lovely and a bit gluggy ;) 

I hope you like my beetroot creations – I shall be taking them along to this week’s Fiesta Friday (better late than never!) and hope that everyone likes my ideas, especially the co hosts, Loretta and Natalie. Enjoy your weekend!