Category Archives: Dairy Free

Shatta inspired meals…

It all began when I saw someone talking about ‘shatta’ sauce on Instagram; I, of course, immediately looked it up, and discovered that it’s a middle eastern chilli sauce. I had never heard of it before; I read various recipes and versions of it, then had a play at making a version. 

And boy it was hot! In fact I made two versions, one with red jalapeños (from a jar), and one with milder long red fresh chillies; the one with the jalapeños was the killer! So I added a few other ingredients to flesh it out and take down the rawness of the flavour. In fact I played with both versions and this is what I got…

This one is red jalapeño chillies, fresh parsley & coriander, roasted pumpkin seeds, garlic, dried tomato flakes, cumin, salt, pepper, tomato puree, olive oil & lemon juice.

And this is chopped parsley & coriander, garlic, long red chillies, cumin, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and olive oil, which I added to mashed white beans.

As the week has gone on, the flavours have developed nicely, and I’ve used both concoctions in various ways…

This was a salad of chopped parsley & coriander, bulgur wheat cooked in goats whey, chopped spring onions & chillies, and mixed roasted seeds, with the red jalapeño sauce stirred through it. And serviced with some of the sauce mixed with my red pepper ajvar sauce.

Let’s talk SERIOUS leftovers! This is bulghur wheat, cooked in the whey from making goats curd, and mixed with leftovers of 3 sauces: the red jalapeño sauce; a sauce made by mixing the red jalapeño sauce mixed with some of my red pepper ajvar sauce; and a roasted tomato and chilli ajvar sauce; all stirred together and left to develop lots of flavour. So good heated the next day.

And this was roasted butternut squash wedges filled with a mixture of leftovers of the mashed bean salad mixed together with leftover zaalouk.

So you can see how one idea can lead to so many outcomes, especially in my hands! I know I’ve said it before but I do love chucking stuff together 😉 

Happy Fiesta Friday everyone, and happy weekend x

Ajvar sauce and friends…

It’s not news that I like making and eating sauces and dips and pastes, there is currently 10 jars of different ones in my fridge right now, and this week I’ve made a few new concoctions to my collection. As one lead to the development of another, then another, and so on, I thought I’d share them all at once. I’m also co hosting the weekly Fiesta Friday blog party this week with my lovely friend, and her great blog, Jhuls, so please do join us and see what everyone is bringing to the table this week..

So my saucy week all began with ‘ajvar’. Ajvar is historically a Serbian ‘salad’ made with roasted red peppers and aubergines, garlic and sometimes chilli; I realised I’ve virtually made this previously without realising that I was making somehing that exists with a name, I was just chucking things together one day…like you do! Then I saw this on Instagram and looked it up and decided to make my version of it.

The inclusion of the aubergine flesh to the sauce adds more texture than flavour – I have found this in some of my experiments, roasted aubergine flesh often adds a ‘whipped’ lightness to a sauce or dip, and of course adds a healthy fresh addition too 🙂 the sauce therefore tastes more of the lovely sweetness of the red peppers, and the finished texture is quite thick so can be used in a variety of ways: on toast topped with goats cheese screams out to me! 

Also, all of the recipes I read called for roasting and peeling the red peppers, which I did here, but next time I make it I will leave the skins on; I have found that the skins often add an almost emulsifying effect to sauces that I like. 

Ingredients 

4 red peppers (i used 2 long red and 2 red bell peppers because that’s what I had!)

2 small/medium aubergines

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Olive oil (some recipes have said 1/3 cup, I just poured a decent amount in, but probably not as much as that)

Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar 

Salt to taste

Chilli flakes (optional)

Method 

Heat oven to 200C

Place the peppers and aubergines (prick the skins first) on a baking tray and roast until the skins of the peppers are charred and the aubergines are completely soft to the touch

Place the peppers in a plastic bag to cool and sweat, this makes it easier to remove the skin

Once the aubergine and peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and stalks of all of them, and the seeds of the peppers

Add them to a blender with the garlic, a good amount of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt, and blend until smooth

Transfer to a saucepan and simmer over a very low heat for 20-30 minutes until thickened

Add salt to your taste. 

Add chilli flakes/powder as it cooks if you choose 

Either use it warm as a sauce, or transfer to a jar and allow to cool

NOTE: Mine definitely benefitted from developing its flavour more overnight and being used the next day

Of course, making ajvar started a range of ideas bubbling in my mind, and as I had a lot of carrots that needed using, I peeled and roasted them all, ate some with my dinner, and used the rest in some sauce ideas. Like this one, above, which basically followed the ajvar idea and quantities, just with carrots instead of peppers.

It is made of roasted carrots, roasted aubergine, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Aleppo chilli flakes & a pinch of salt, again left overnight to develop the flavour, and it worked very well! The aubergine flesh really lightens up the density of the root vegetables, and a squeeze of lemon juice is always good with carrots. I keep dipping a spoon into it quite happily 🙂 

As I had so many roasted carrots, I also created this sauce by blending roasted carrot, roasted red onion, roasted garlic, olive oil and some of my own harissa. 

And this one, which is made up of roasted carrots, roasted red onions, passata, olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, and a spice mix of ground roasted cumin seeds, roasted caraway seeds and roasted coriander seeds. 

I blended this with some added water but still kept it quite thick and ate some heated and topped with goats cheese, alongside some sweet potato wedges. I aim to use it as a sauce or spread, I’m sure it would make a tasty soup with added liquid. 

And so ends my collection of sauces from this week, I hope you have found one or some of them interesting. It’s just a case of chucking things together and seei what emerges really! 

Happy Friday and happy weekend 🙂 

Right, I’m heading over to Fiesta Friday to start reading as soon as it kicks off…

The sourdough files…

I haven’t talked about my bread making on my blog for a while, although I share loaves regularly on Instagram, so I thought I’d post an update. I now make 3 loaves of sourdough bread every week for my son, Ben, plus 2 regular loaves for my husband, who doesn’t like sourdough. I now have my method for producing sourdough loaves pretty fixed, and as Ben raves about the bread on a regular basis, I can only assume that I’m getting it right – for his tastes anyway! 

I’ve also been playing with scoring the loaves, as you might notice! 

It’s great fun! Let’s be honest, Ben doesn’t care about how it looks, that bits just for me 🙂

The basis of my standard loaf is formed from the overnight loaf recipes created and shared by Celia and Selma, with tweaks for my requirements. I’ve played around with various methods and flours and recipes in the past couple of years, but I always come back to this method, this is my failsafe, and when you need to produce bread regularly for breakfasts and school lunches, you need to know it works!

A key element for me is that I need a closer crumb than typical sourdough. Artisan holes are great, but not for making sandwiches for school dinners. To achieve this, I have found that replacing some of the water with olive oil creates a softer tighter crumb and softer bread. 


I keep my starter, Star, in the fridge, and every couple of days, I bring her up to room temperature, feed her equal amounts of flour and water, and once she’s bubbly and happy, I make up two lots of dough. 

I follow the quantities in Selma’s recipe, linked above, but I replace 30g of the water with olive oil.

In two bowls I squidge two lots all of the ingredients together to a rough mix, so that the flour is completely mixed, cover the bowl with a plastic bag, and leave it for an hour.

After the hour, I fold and knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so until it comes together and forms a smooth ball. 

I then place the dough in bannetons sprinkled with rice flour to prevent sticking. 

I cover the bannetons with plastic bags, and place them both in the fridge. 

Sometimes they’re in the fridge for a night, sometimes for 4 days – the longer proving develops more flavour. 

When I’m ready to bake one, I remove it from the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature and prove for another couple of hours. 

I heat the oven to 220c fan, and only when I’m ready to bake, I turn the dough out onto an baking tray, lined with parchment paper. If you turn the dough out too soon, it can spread. 

I quickly slash the dough then bake. 

I put the loaf in the oven, turn the temperature down to 200C fan, and bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C fan for another 25 minutes.

Then remove the loaf and cool completely on a rack before slicing. I usually bake my loaves the day before I need them to ensure that they are completely and utterly cooled.

Each of my loaves covers Ben’s breakfast and lunch for two days. He loves it so much, I even made him a special loaf for his birthday earlier this month 🙂 

And that’s my sourdough conveyor belt! I hope it’s useful. 

I hope you’ve had a great week, enjoy your Friday and a visit to Fiesta Friday with Sarah and Liz

Spiced coconut chips..

I’ve been play in my kitchen…nothing new there, I know…;)

This time it’s been with coconut chips. 

I don’t eat crisps or chips (whatever you call them in your part of the globe) but if you’d like an alternative option to those fried potato morsels, give this a go, if you get the flavouring right, I’d challenge you to miss your usual crisps, and you’ll have a healthier version.

It all started with a big bag of raw coconut chips, which I toasted in the oven:

I laid the chips out in a single layer on my oven tray then put it in the oven at 180C. To be honest, the oven could be set a bit lower and I think it would still have been fine. You really need to watch them, they toast very quickly so you need to stay on hand to take the tray out, move the chips around, then put the tray back in the oven and keep doing this until they’re all toasted how you want..

Whilst they’re warm, they remain soft. As they cool, they get nice and crispy, and they’re good just like that. 

However, whilst they’re warm is the perfect time to toss them with your chosen flavouring, then leave them to crisp up and take on the spices. 

I mixed some of the chips with my chai spice mix…

…some with my rose harissa spice mix…

…and (no individual photo) some with my barbecue spice mix from my previous post (which I’m very proud to say has been featured on this week’s Fiesta Friday picks).

They work REALLY well, if you like barbecue spiced crisps, this combination is a winner, the harissa ones are good too, and the chai spiced ones are a great addition to your breakfast. And if you don’t like coconut, don’t be put off, to be honest, you don’t really taste it! 

I hope you like my creations, happy Friday and happy weekend!

My version of butternut squash soup..

I’m not a big soup fan, but when I do make soup, I like it thick! And I mean THICK! Like baby food 🙂 

This is also how my husband likes soup, which is why I made this last week, to make portions for him to take to work. Although I did keep a bowl full aside for me, which I ate with a swirl of yoghurt and some of the butternut squash seeds that I’d toasted (above). 

Making this was really simple, the hardest part was not eating the lovely roasted squash when it came out of the oven..

I found a wonderful HUGE butternut squash at Costco, which I cut into wedges, sprinkled with cumin seeds and chilli flakes and drizzled with olive oil, then roasted it all…

It came out so so tasty!

Whilst the squash was roasting, I chopped up 3 medium red onions, and a few cloves of garlic. In a pan over a medium heat I cooked the onions with a splash of oil until they started to soften and caramelise, then added the garlic and cooked it through. 

Once the butternut squash was cooked and slightly cooled, I peeled off the skin and added the chunks to the pan with the onion and garlic, along with some ground roasted cumin, ground nutmeg, pepper, salt and lots of Aleppo chilli flakes..

I could have happily eaten it like this!

But I managed to force myself not to eat it ALL….!

I cooked it all together for a few minutes, mashing the squash as I did so. I added some water and stirred it through, then using a stick blender, started to blend the mixture, adding water as I needed it, until i got the consistency I wanted..

Thick and luscious 🙂 

Obviously, you can make it thinner or thicker, to suit your taste. I served a portion to my man that evening with a baguette I had baked, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing him enjoy it – I’m easily pleased! 

As with so many dishes, the flavour of this soup has developed as the days have gone on. The husband had a portion from the freezer today, and the heat of the chilli had strengthened nicely 🙂

I hope you’ve had a great week, happy Friday! Let’s head over to Fiesta Friday and see what everyone else has made this week 🙂 

Aubergine, carrot & beetroot ‘salads’…

This little plateful of colours, somewhat like a painters palette, formed a recent meal; it included a beetroot salad, a roasted aubergine salad, a roasted carrot salad, homous, and caremalised onions.

I put salad in quotation marks because these are not what you might typically call salads – there’s no green leaves in sight and they’re quite ‘tight’, as opposed to a typically looser collection of ingredients. These are more middle eastern in style, as you’ll see from the ingredients..

You’ll also notice a theme amongst the ingredients: tahini, garlic and lemon juice, the wonderful trio that I put with so many things, and that forms the backbone of homous, along with chickpeas.

So, on the plate is..

Beetroot salad

Boiled and cooled beetroot, mashed with tahini, lemon juice & garlic

Carrot salad

Boiled, roasted and cooled carrots, mashed with olive oil, soy sauce, tahini, garlic, chopped coriander, Aleppo chilli flakes and ground roasted cumin & coriander seeds 

Aubergine salad

Whole roasted aubergine, skin removed, and mashed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic, and mixed with chopped fresh coriander and ground roasted cumin 

Plus homous, using my holy grail recipe, and sliced red onion that I’d caramelised in the oven. 

As you’ll notice, there’s no quantities, because they were all just thrown together from bits and pieces of inspiration and ideas, so I would suggest playing with the amounts. And if any of them taste or feel too ‘claggy’, just add more lemon juice, that’s my motto!

The next day I mixed up the leftovers of the carrot salad and the aubergine salad to create one thing of beauty…mmmmmm…..

I hope your week starts well 🙂 

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.