Chickpeas anyone? 

I use chickpeas a lot, yes I make a lot of homous, but I do also use a lot of chickpeas in tact in other dishes so I thought I’d share a few recent chickpea dishes..

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, chana, gram or cece, have lots of great health benefits, and provide a decent shot of protein for us vegetarians. They are so good for dips because they become so smooth when blended, whereas I find that some other beans can be quite grainy. They also take on flavours really well; their consistency means that flavours can infuse into them and this is what I really like. 

I buy chickpeas, already cooked, in jars, as opposed to cans, and I think the quality is better. On occasion I soak and cook my own chickpeas from dried, but for ease, jars are my choice. I currently have 4 different makes of jarred versions, from tiny organic chickpeas, to big fat Spanish chickpeas – I can tell you from experience that these big garbanzo beans do NOT make good homous, they’re too grainy to be used in a dip, but great in salads and cooked dishes. 

So here’s a few recent ideas, there’s more elsewhere on by blog too..

These chickpeas have been drained and washed and dried, and are being cooked in a pan over a medium heat in coconut oil, and then I added my rose harissa spice mix..

I ate them warm, whilst they had a bit of crunch, on a bed of tahini sauce..So good!!!

The leftovers adorned some homous the next day.

I love to marinate chickpeas in herbs and spices and dressings, as those have been below; the inclusion of an acid in the mix – lemon juice or a vinegar – helps to cut into the chickpeas, just like marinating meat or fish. And just like marinating meat or fish, the longer you can leave the chickpeas before you eat them, the more the flavours develop.

Chermoula, or a version of it, is one of my favourite ways to enchanted chickpeas..chermoula is a North African sauce, typically made of chopped coriander and parsley, garlic, ground cumin, sweet paprika, salt, olive oil and lemon juice; some people include chopped onion, some people include some cayenne or chilli of some sort. 

On this occasion, the chermoula chickpeas are served with a pea dip and a romesco inspired salad.

And again below, chickpeas in a freshly made chermoula pimped with saffron, but this could just as easily be a salsa or chimichurri sauce.

These chickpeas often end up being blended into a dip with some tahini in my kitchen🙂

I mixed these chickpeas with some leftover oven baked caramelised onions and garlic – heavenly!! 

Whereas for these chickpeas below, I cooked chopped red onions over a medium heat in coconut oil, with added crushed garlic, and some rose harissa..

Lovely with a coriander, garlic and yoghurt dip, and my recent roasted red pepper sauce creation. 

I often add chickpeas to my many and various versions of shashuka..

And of course, there’s my most favourite marinated chickpea dish..

I hope you like some of my chickpea dishes..I’m taking them along to Fiesta Friday and hope this week’s partygoers enjoy them :) 

In the meantime, I’ll be marinating some more chickpeas for another concoction…x

A meal for any time of the day…

This was a meal from during the week that I enjoyed preparing, eating and looking at!! Leftovers at their best!

Sweet potato slices (roasted and leftover from the previous day), topped with avocado, a mixed herbs salsa, a citrus tahini sauce, and sprinkled with chilli flakes…

Pretty, healthy, tasty food! 

Preserved lemon heaven…

I recently decided it was time for me to make preserved lemons; they are such a staple in many Moroccan recipes, and in many Middle Eastern kitchens that I decided I definitely needed to have some in my Middle-Eastern-Middle-England kitchen, but whenever I’d tried shop bought ones, I haven’t liked them…

So, I thought I’d make my own and see if they turned out better…and I’m happy to say that they did! The flavour and consistency is quite different from the ones I’d bought here (I haven’t bought them elsewhere to be able to compare), so from now on, I’ll be making my own :) 

I decided to make three different versions and see how the flavour differed, hence the three jars; I started the process a month ago and tried them for the first time this weekend. Opening the jars was like Christmas, wondering what I would find…but before I get to that, let me tell you how I made them…

I’ve read several recipes and in particular kept in mind Kellie’s post and this post, but the basics are this…

You need lemons, salt, lemon juice and a jar, and that’s pretty much it! 

Making preserved lemons 

Have a clean, preferably sterilised, lidded bar available; the lid needs to fit well

Cut some silicone paper to a slightly bigger size than the lid 

The lemons need to be small and unwaxed – I couldn’t find unwaxed lemons so I bought the smallest lemons I could find and cleaned off the wax with boiling water: put the lemons in a colander and pour over boiling water to melt the wax off. As they then dry, you’ll be able to see if there’s still any wax left as it dries white and then you can scrub it off with a scourer and hot water 

Cut into the lemons lengthwise as if you were cutting them into quarters, BUT without cutting all the way through the end so that they stay intact

Sprinkle some good quality salt in the bottom of the jar; stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt then press them into the jar, pushing out juice as you do 

Fill the jar, stuffing the lemons in well, then top it up with more lemon juice until the lemons are all covered

Line the lid with the silicone paper and fit the lid

The jar now needs to be left in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks to do their job, the longer the better; keep them somewhere where you’ll see them and turn them every so often to shake up the salty liquid, and ensure that the liquid still covers the lemons, whenever they catch your eye…

You can add aromatics to the jar too, Kellie likes to add pink peppercorns and bay leaves, so I tried that version in another jar; I also made up a jar with added cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom pods and cloves – a real Christmas spice feel. 

When I finally opened the jars this weekend, the smell was amazing! The liquid had become so syrupy, I almost wished I could eat it, but luckily you can save it for future batches, and the lemon skins were soft and pliable.

And the added aromatics do make a difference! I could definitely tell the difference between the lemons preserved with the ‘Christmas’ spices mix and the ones without; I’m struggling to find the words to explain that difference though!! You’ll have to try for yourself ;) 

Being preserved already, the jars can remain in your cupboard for up to a year, they don’t need to be stored in the fridge, which will also make a difference to them when you use them; if you put them in the fridge, the skins will harden with the cold which will spoil the experience as far as I’m concerned. 

So now, how to use them…the aim is to use the lovely soft skin; the flesh will be very salty and doesn’t tend to be used, but if you like the taste, go ahead. You can add the skin to salads, dips, tagines…the opportunities are as endless as your imagination. 

How to use preserved lemons 

Remove a lemon from the jar and wash it well to remove the salt then loosely dry it off 

Peel out the flesh then chop the skin finely and use at will

During the last week I’ve added preserved lemons to freshly made homous, and several salads…they add such a lovely flavour and texture…

Salad of quinoa, chopped mixed herbs, spices, chilli flakes, olive oil, Verjus, pomegranate molasses and preserved lemons 

Fava beans cooked with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, mixed with tahini and chopped parsley, and added preserved lemons 

Cooked beetroot with chopped herbs, my chermoula spice mix, labneh, olive oil, roasted hazelnuts & preserved lemons.

I am taking several jars of preserved lemons to this week’s Fiesta Friday, and I hope that everyone there likes them, and that I’ve inspired you to make your own – homemade is always best ;) 

Another day another spiced roasted aubergine…

I hate to be boring…but I do love a roasted aubergine! This one is scored, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with my chermoula spice mix and roasted until it was soft and lovely…


Lunch is served..yum yum yum…! 

What else can I say?!

Stuffed vine leaves, my way…

A while ago I decided I was going to try making stuffed vine leaves. I do like a challenge, especially of the culinary type, and dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves, definitely appeared to be a challenge…So let me say now, before I continue, it’s easier than you think! Rolling the leaves is a bit time consuming and a bit fiddly, but otherwise, it’s a doddle, but at the same time, rather impressive! 

I have a wonderful local market that’s on 5 days a week where I live, it’s where I buy all of my fresh produce, and it includes a fabulous, fabulous Turkish food stall. It is literally packed with all of the products that I love, things I only ever used to be able to buy from London or online or when I visited Abu Dhabi, even the same makes. I love it! I visit it every time I visit the market, I now chat to the lovely Persian lady (and regularly pick her brain about recipes and tips!) who runs the stall with her husband, and a while ago I saw the vine leaves. They were vacuum packed and so cheap, they came straight home with me. I did my research and read up on several recipes, and a standard method and filling quickly became obvious, which was where I started, and then I created my own version…of course ;) 

The first thing to do was to soak the leaves as they were packed in brine, which needed washing off; it also helped to release them from one another. I soaked them for a couple of hours and then draped them round the kitchen in colanders and on kitchen roll to dry a bit, although, if they’d been damp they would still be fine, as I later discovered when I made my second batch and didn’t bother..

A typical recipe utilises a stuffing of rice, that’s been presoaked, chopped herbs like parsley and mint, maybe some spring onions, I used red onions, and tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil…

What I learned very quickly, was not to overfill the leaves. Then you just fold in the sides of the leaf and roll it up nice and tight, and pack them into your cooking vessel…

They need to be packed together snugly to keep each other rolled up during cooking – make sure you don’t pick a pot that’s too big for the job. 

I started to run low on filling before I’d filled the pot, so I added uncooked quinoa to the mixture and created an immediate new version..

My first attempt at stuffed vine leaves therefore included rice and quinoa versions…and they came out perfectly! I was so proud! I used arborio rice so the rice filled ones are nice and sticky.  

There was the odd burst leaf but nothing major. (There had been a layer of sliced tomatoes in the base of my pot, hence the tomatoes in the photo) The fillings were cooked and the leaves were soft, and I was a very proud parent…I did however think that there could be other ways to fill them and to bring more flavour…which is why my ‘foodbod version’ came to life (and because I had lots of leaves left and couldn’t bring myself to waste them)…so, I introduce…

Chermoula inspired buckwheat stuffed vine leaves…

Choose a cooking vessel that can be used on your hob/stove. I used a 20cm diameter enamel roasting pot. 

Ingredients  

Mixed herbs, I used a bunch of parsley, a bunch of coriander, a small handful of dill and a few mint leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled 

2 tsp roasted ground cumin

2 tsp sweet paprika 

2 tsp pul biber chilli flakes

Juice of 1-2 lemons

A few good glugs of olive oil

Buckwheat – I used about 170g 

Soaked and drained vine leaves, still damp is fine 

Method

Put all of the chermoula ingredients (list up to lemon juice) into a blender and chop so that it retains some texture. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir

In a bowl add the herb sauce to the buckwheat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes 

Place a few leaves in the bottom of your cooking pot 

Fill the leaves: put the shiny side of the leaf down on your counter; place 2 teaspoonsful of the filling mixture in the middle; fold the two sides of the leaf into the middle, then roll up from the bottom and create tightly packed ‘cigars’

Start packing the rolled parcels into the cooking pot from the edge round into the middle; I used smaller leaves to make some smaller ones to fill in the gaps in the middle 

Depending how many leaves you have, either create a single or double layer

Fill the pot with enough water to cover the parcels, place over a medium/high heat and bring the water to the boil

Pour over some olive oil, turn the heat down and simmer for 35-40 minutes; at this point place a plate on top of the rolled parcels to hold them in place, and then a lid on the pot (I used a thick heavy plate that fitted inside the pot and sat on top of the parcels)

You may need to amend the heat under the pot to stop the liquid bubbling out, and keep check not to boil the pot dry

After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and leave to cool, then try at will! 

Stuffed vine leaves are typically eaten at room temperature; I think they are best made the day before you need them. Once cooked, I drizzled some more olive oil over mine and left them to rest until the next day and the flavours developed more and the leaves stayed soft. 

In my buckwheat version, the grains retained some texture, which I like, I like my grains to retain some bite. 

NOTE: The cooking method is the same for the rice and quinoa versions too.

Ta da! My stuffed vine leaves experiments! I’ve had so much fun making these, consequently I now have a great pile of them to eat, but I’m not complaining! I shared some yesterday with a friend who gave them the thumbs up; I served them with salad, Greek yogurt with dill and garlic, and a citrus tahini sauce….more on that soon. For now, I’m just working my way through them all..

What I have learnt… is that you can fill the leaves with whatever grains and flavours you like really; the cooking time is required to cook and soften the leaves as much as to cook the grains; and, like so much in food preparation, the rolling is really rather meditative. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my vine leaf stuffing…I am taking these to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Nancy and Sandyha, and to Corina’s Cook Once Eat Twice round up, and I promise, there’s more than enough for everyone! 

NOTE: if you’d like to try making something similar but can’t find vine leaves, you can always use cabbage leaves. Check out Fae’s post for more details. 

Lunch and labneh…but not together…

This is a recent pan full of loveliness that was my lunch one day last week…one of those creations you could just eat again…and again…and again…so here’s what I did…

I put some coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat and added a chopped red onion and cooked it for a few minutes, whilst I cut up two medium tomatoes; I added the tomatoes and cooked for a further few minutes; added some drained chickpeas; added a couple of tablespoons of my stock of rose harissa from the freezer; added chopped avocado that needed using up; then made a hole in the middle of it all and added eggs sprinkled with my rose harissa spice mix

This was my quick fix when I came home hungry and ready for food and it was perfect! I ate it straight from the pan with gusto!! 

Having also recently made some labneh again, I thought I’d share that too…

Labneh is basically ‘yoghurt cheese’, used often in middle eastern and Levantine cuisines. It is often offered for breakfast or as part of a mezze with olive oil drizzled over the top, mine also has chilli flakes sprinkled over it. 

It is so easy to make, it’s basically just drained yoghurt. It’s nicest if you use full fat natural yoghurt to make it with, but I have also used low fat yoghurt in the past, it just makes it a lot sharper. 

Determine how you can create a contraption to drain the yoghurt over (you’ll see what I did in the photos) and then scoop your yoghurt into a square of muslin and hang it over your jug/bowl..

My muslin is tied tightly to the wooden handle of a spatula that fits across the top of the jug; then put it in the fridge, preferably overnight…

This was what I took back out of the fridge the following morning. 

Then scrape the lovely labneh from the muslin into a bowl and eat immediately or store in the fridge and use like any other soft cheese…

As you can see it really does firm up without becoming solid..

With the liquid that you drain from the yoghurt, you could throw it, or use it to cook vegetables in or add to recipes. I added mine to some spiced spinach dough for making flatbreads.

I like my labneh plain and unadulterated, but you can add salt before draining the yoghurt if you prefer, or play around with other flavour additions, sweet or savoury based on your taste. 

This was some of that labneh on top of some of my experimental spiced spinach dough and topped with roasted tomatoes..

Mmmmmm….might have to go and make some more!! 

Rose harissa spiced chunky homous…

I’ve been playing in my kitchen…nothing new there, I know… :) 

Last week I made up various fresh spice mixes including my rose harissa spice mix

I love it for how it smells as much for how it tastes, and the rose petals are just beautiful…

I will use it in all sorts of dishes and the first experiment was this one…a chunky homous…

Typically homous is made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and maybe some water if necessary – this is my holy grail homous recipe – I made this version with chickpeas, tahini, my rose harissa spice mix and Verjus. I also kept it pretty rustic as opposed to blending it to completely smooth…(as homous means chickpeas in Arabic I think I can still call this homous😉 ) 

With the use of Verjus instead of lemon juice, plus the spice mix, it created a lovely warm, mellow flavour…

A nice experiment and always lovely using the dried rose petals :)