Category Archives: Middle Eastern

Roasted butternut squash with green sauces…

The temperatures have dropped, there’s a chill in the mornings, the grass is slowly turning back to green, and I can comfortably have the oven on again…yes, autumn is arriving in the UK! Hallelujah!

I say the same thing every year about how much I love autumn, it’s my favourite season, and I celebrated its imminent arrival this year with my first tray of roasted butternut squash of the season..

Skin on, the lightest drizzle of olive oil, and a hot hot oven!

Is there truly anything much better in life!??

On this occasion I ate it piping hot with a mixture of accompaniments..

The totally green sauce is a mix of fresh spinach, mixed herbs, garlic, spring onions, olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin, Aleppo chilli flakes, a pinch of cinnamon, salt & pepper.

The other green sauce is fresh coriander, leaves and stalks, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and mixed roasted seeds.

And all with a buttermilk and tahini sauce.

Yep! My kind of heaven!!!

Green sauces have figured a lot in my dishes recently, they’re a variation of salsa verde really, always with added spices, all very similar, but different! This one was with quinoa, baby plum tomatoes and homous. With a sprinkling of Aleppo chilli flakes and toasted sunflower seeds.

Happy Autumn northern hemisphere dwellers!

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Shakshuka, sourdough and sharing..

Things have been a bit busy recently, I’ve launched some sourdough baking classes, been sending my dried sourdough starter around the world, created a new sourdough Facebook group, baked lots of loaves and done lots of sharing!

Packets of dried starter ready to go to their new homes

I love the fact that all of this is happening purely as a result of this little blog, thank you to everyone who has read my blog and supported and encouraged me xx

The temperatures in my part of the world have finally started to fall which means I can also start cooking more and indulge in my love of hot food, my body really does like hot food!

And what better than a pan full of fresh vegetables, homemade harissa, toasted sesame seeds and eggs..

What better to eat with a slice of fresh sourdough?

If you’ve been following my blog, this kind of dish isn’t new, I know, but it never fails to make me happy. You can use whatever vegetables are to hand to create your own version, this one includes spinach, spring onions, garlic, peppers, baby plum tomatoes, as well as my harissa, eggs and toasted sesame seeds.

So good! I highly recommend it any time you’re looking for inspiration and you’ve got a box of eggs handy 🙂

Wherever you are, have a great week!

Fresh hazelnuts…

These are fresh hazelnuts, sometimes called cobnuts, and they grow on the trees all along the canal where I walk Bob, and litter the ground.

Most of them have been gnawed by wildlife, but some remain intact and yesterday I decided to pick some up..

They’re so pretty; to me they represent the countryside and regrowth and everything lovely about where I live…although right now the ground is sadly parched from the extended heat and lack of rain 😦

When cracked open carefully, they give up their milky white kernels which can be eaten raw or toasted, and added to all sorts of dishes.

My little haul

Its hard to describe the taste & texture, but they taste ‘fresh’ and young, with a crunch, but not a hard crunch like mature nuts.

I chopped some up and added them to my lunch yesterday: a whole roasted aubergine filled with a roasted pepper, mild red chilli, cherry tomato, spring onion, garlic and tabil spice sauce, and topped with tahini, roasted seeds, and the chopped fresh hazelnuts…

They made an nice addition to the dish!

If you get a chance to try some, I definitely recommend it 🙂

Sourdough naan breads…

There’s been a lot of sourdough action in my kitchen recently, and I mean a HUGE amount, of which I will have exciting news to share with you all soon. In the meantime, a thrown together meal from the weekend that worked very nicely…

I had some bubbly active starter readily available, and someone on Facebook mentioned sourdough naan breads, and that was that…I decided to see what I could create…luckily I took some notes…

Makes 4 small breads

Ingredients

50g active sourdough starter

100g natural yoghurt

150g plain/all purpose flour

20g olive oil

1/2tsp salt

Method

Mix everything together well, knead it briefly then cover and set aside. Let it prove for an hour or so.

Next, split the dough into 4, make the portions into balls, flatten and on a floured surface, roll them out into rounds about 5mm thick – my rounds were very very rough as you can see!

Heat a tawa or large wide pan over a medium heat. Place the breads into the dry pan and cook for several minutes until the surface starts to brown in places.

Turn the breads, sprinkle the surface with olive oil to keep it moist, and cook the underside until cooked through.

Once cooked, stack the breads onto a plate lined with a tea towel and wrap them to keep them warm.

Eat at will!

I served mine with some za’atar mixed with olive oil; some tahini, buttermilk and lemon juice dressing; and a dip made of chickpeas and spinach cooked with green harissa, cooled and blended with tahini, lemon juice and water.

A very nice dinner indeed 🙂

Have a great week…

Aubergine boats…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love aubergines cooked whole, whether over fire on a barbecue, under a grill, in an oven or over a gas burner. The flesh becomes meltingly soft, it is truly the best way to cook aubergines.

Sometimes I remove the skin to use the flesh in a salad or dip, but I don’t like the waste, so I usually eat the whole thing.

However you choose to cook your aubergines whole, do remember to prick the skin otherwise they will explode!

If I don’t chop the aubergines up for various uses, I like to use them whole and fill them with whatever I have to hand..

This one was filled with quinoa and a sauce made of fresh spinach, garlic, almond butter, buttermilk, lemon juice and courgette, and topped with cumin seeds, Aleppo chilli flakes and sesame seeds. On the side is a grilled red pepper dip.

This one is filled with more quinoa mixed with chopped herbs, garlic, spring onions, spices, olive oil, lemon juice, and drizzled with tahini.

Whatever you fill your whole aubergine with, ensure that it is packed full of flavour and not too dry, this will then seep into the soft flesh and create a whole edible wonder 🙂

Hot or cold, whole aubergines work as the perfect carrier for my foods…happy weekend…I think it’s long overdue that I visit Fiesta Friday and say hello to my fellow bloggers….do pop over and see what great food other bloggers are sharing…

The colours of my food…

Laura’s recent post about eating a rainbow made me realise it’s been far too long since I shared some of my food; colour fills my world, my kitchen cupboards (the spices, the crockery, the vegetables..) my wardrobe, and definitely my plate…

I can’t imagine not eating a variety of colourful flavourful dishes throughout the week. Not only is it good for your health, it’s HAPPY food! Happiness on a plate!!

This summer I decided to follow in the steps of many of my US food blogger family members and invest in a gas grill/BBQ to be able to cook outside when the temperatures rise and not turn on the ovens in my kitchen unless really necessary. Every time we use the BBQ I therefore also ask my husband to grill stocks of vegetables for me to use through the week…

A sea of goodness and possibility on our new grill/BBQ

I love these vegetables freshly cooked, cold, reheated, marinated, turned into dips, in endless ways. Having them already cooked means that they are full of that great chargrilled flavour and immediately ready to use…I like that too!

I think my favourite, which isn’t shown here, are whole grilled aubergines, the flesh becomes meltingly soft and so good for some many salads or dips, or used here as a perfect boat to fill with all sorts of my concoctions – including this one which was made from spinach, fresh coriander and hazelnuts, then drizzled with a nut butter dressing and sprinkled with Aleppo chilli flakes

The red peppers are great for salads, dips, harissa, sauces, like this red pepper homous…

I like nothing more than making up some sort of salsa verde, (which is what the two first pics are below), whether it’s based on chimichurri, chermoula, an Indian coriander chutney, or any mix of fresh herbs, garlic, spring onions, spices, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, maybe add some pomegranate molasses, and marinate chopped roasted vegetables with it, and leaving them to develop great flavours together…

Salsa verde always goes well with sweet potato, the sourness from the lemon juice/vinegar/pomegranate molasses is a work of art against the sweetness of the potato

This concoction, as shown at the top of the post, is an example of everything in one bowl: lots of the chargrilled vegetables with a salsa verde of some sort. It got better day after day as the flavours developed.

My Instagram account shows even more of these dishes, and more details of what’s in them, but for now, enjoy the colours of my world…

Enjoy!

What does ‘spicy’ mean to you…?

This weekend I spent Saturday at the BBC Good Food Show manning the stand of my lovely friend Sanjay (Sanjay and I bottom right, above) and his even lovelier business Spice Kitchen UK, along with Sanjay himself and his lovely Mum, aka Mamma Spice…

Above: Sanjay and his Mum, and examples of their beautiful spice tins covered with beautiful wraps made from saris, handmade by Mamma Spice.

What a great way to spend a day, surrounded by such beautiful products, supporting lovely people and talking about spices. It made me realise just how much I know about spices, and food history, and ways to use spices, and the various spice mixes, it was a revelation to myself if no one else!

It also made me realise that the people I was talking to seemed to fall into 3 groups:

Those who love spices, and are comfortable and confident using them, and loved finding spices available of such great quality;

Those who are venturing into the world of spice and would like to learn how to use spices more in their cooking*;

And those who totally disregard spices and tell you that ‘they don’t like spicy food’.

And it’s this word ‘spicy’ that made me want to write this post.

When I talked more to this group of people, if they stopped long enough to chat, what I discovered is that most of them viewed ‘spicy’ food as hot, as in chilli hot. They’re experience has often only been hot curry and they haven’t been impressed and have therefore written off ‘spicy’ food as a result.

To me, food cooked with spices is full of flavour and aroma and warmth and layers. The decision to add chilli remains with the cook, although using spices is not a prerequisite for including chilli. I often use collections of slices in dishes where no chilli is included.

One lady told me specifically, and quite disdainfully, that she didn’t like spicy food and didn’t use spices, but her son did and she bought him a spice tin as a gift. Before she walked away, I couldn’t help myself and asked her if she makes Christmas cake; she answered that she does. So I asked if she puts spices in it; and she answered that she does, listing cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. And so, I said….you DO cook with spices 🙂

So, what does spicy food mean to you? Is it a description that has become synonymous with chilli hot food? Is a better description for food full of flavour developed from spices, but not chilli, ‘spiced’ food? What do you think?

*By the way, to those people who want to know more about cooking with spices, I highly suggest that you take time to read recipes and see how cooks and chefs put spices together. I would cook exactly to recipes for a while whilst building your confidence, then start ditching the measuring spoon and going with your gut. And remember that there is no right or wrong here, just degrees of flavour.