Monday, 25 January 2016

Spinach, Rocket, Strawberry and Petis Pois Salad for When You Need a Day of Summer in Winter...

I know that strawberries and peas are far more appropriate for a summer dish, and this is certainly something that I’ll be revisiting in warmer months. That said, sometimes I feel a need in the winter to awaken my tastebuds with food that’s abundant in the bright flavours and crisp freshness that the root veg and brassicas of the season just can’t provide. It's the culinary opposite of people that celebrate Christmas in July, sometimes you just get the urge to go out of season.

This is such a lovely dish either as a side salad or you could add some feta cheese and a scattering of toasted nuts or seeds for a fuller and complete meal that would be perfect for a 5:2 fast day lunch or evening meal.

For the salad, assemble the following ingredients in a bowl. Just before serving, drizzle over the dressing (you will have some left and it can stay in the fridge for a week-ten days quite happily). 

1 cup baby spinach leaves 
1 cup rocket
1 cup petis pois (boiled for 2 minutes and then cooled)
1 cup strawberries - sliced

For the strawberry and black pepper dressing, place the following ingredients in a food processor and whizz up (a small one is best here as you aren’t making much). Don’t forget to give it a taste and a tweak at the end, it may be that your dressing needs a little more of something especially since not all strawberries are created equal. If it’s too sweet, perhaps some lemon juice… bland could mean it needs more salt… too sharp can be fixed with a drizzle more oil or honey and make sure that the black pepper flavour is loud and proud. 

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
4 strawberries 
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp rice malt syrup or honey (the former is fructose free) 
Black pepper (3-4 turns of a mill)

Pinch of salt 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

No, not another diet!! I'm giving choice a try...

January... it's a month of  sustenance and health focused rituals. After the excess of the festive period I tend to be fatter and suffering from not a small amount of guilt. Then I buy a diet book or three (already half way through a tome about Sirtfoods), perhaps a new kitchen contraption (in 2016 the Nutibullet seems to be dominating my morning routine) and make all sorts of resolutions about wholesale changes I am going to make.

Healthy choices don't even need to be the least exciting option

I could say that I put weight on just by looking at food (it certainly feels that way considering how easily I can pile on the pounds), but that would be a lie because the bloat is really from eating all the food, including all the pies. 

Most of what I cook is pretty good for me... loads of veg, a fair amount of fruit and I tend to prioritise whole-grains over their white counterparts. I am  however also partial to an entire sharing bag of crisps on occasion and can easily polish off the best part of a bottle of wine on a Friday night.

I have realised that I have been a yo-yo dieter since I was about fifteen and I reckon that enough is enough. I am essentially going from a state of deprivation, to that of a guilt ridden glutton and then right back to deprivation. And the result? I don't look much different, I tend to feel physically rubbish and I have the tendency to get grumpy with my long suffering husband when what I am really feeling is deep seated frustration.

So what am I going to do about it? Another diet? Another way of life? No, NO MORE!! 

2016 will be a year like any other, it will be a year of choices and I am going to try and make good ones. And if perhaps I fall off the wagon and scoff a packet of Quavers between court hearings or have a glass of wine after a long day, well I am not going to beat myself up over it. I will just move onto the next moment and with it the next choice (perhaps not to finish the bag of Quavers and to stop at one glass).  And if I have gotten to the end of the day without working out (and let's be honest, that is most days), I will wake up the next morning and maybe then I'll choose to get out the weights.

Because that's life, it is a series of choices. So rather than going on a diet, rather than signing up to some regime that is actually removing choice, limiting autonomy and to be honest telling me to eat more fruit and veg and less junk food (common sense really) I am going to give choice a try. Each time I am faced with a healthy option or an unhealthy one (whether it's to do with food, exercise or perhaps my mental well being), I will try and make the one that's good for me. Except for when the choice is a sticky toffee pudding or a an apple... well I'm only human after all!


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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Kale-Spiked Guacamole - Delicious but nothing new!

I thought I was being pretty inventive today when I decided on a whim to blitz some kale into my guacamole. It seems that I am very much behind the times on that front. Gua-kale-mole is most definitely a thing. In fact it's so much of an established thing that Wholefoods is selling it by the punnet and Gwyneth's Goop has also got it covered. Oh well at least I am in good company!

I have certainly enjoyed my version whizzed up in my new NutriBullet so it's super smooth (no kale getting stuck in your teeth) and took all of 30 seconds to make. You can make it with soured cream, yoghurt or soya yoghurt as all would work perfectly well. One thing I have noticed when I add green veg to my guac is that the green colour stays far more vibrant, I sometimes use peas and they have much the same effect.

Kale-Spiked Guacamole

Get out your blender and stuff in the following:

1 ripe avocado
1 large handful of kale
2 spring onions (scallions)
1/2 chilli (more if you want it spicy but for me, a guac is the antidote to a spicy main dish)
1 tbsp yoghurt, soured cream or soya yoghurt (I guess the coconut yoghurt would also work but I don't tend to buy it because it's so ridiculously expensive)
Juice of half a lime
Water to loosen -  start with a 1/4 cup and add more if needs be
Salt and Pepper

The method is pretty simple. Turn on the machine and let it do it's thing for 30 seconds or so. Then you're done.


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Monday, 4 January 2016

Veganuary... Is it better to go part time for longer?


So it seems that Veganuary is the latest thing for food craze buffs to get their head around in 2016. To be fair, it seems more exciting to me than Drytober. But if I'm honest, I don't have the will power to go vegan for the whole month and I'm already ahead on having vegetarianism as a starting point. It will be so much more difficult for those eating meat (I know I would find it nigh on impossible to convince my husband to give it all up for a whole month)

But that's the main issue, giving something up completely is a huge strain and what happens when the month is over? We all go back to over consuming animal products (whether it is meat, fish, eggs or dairy) in a manner that puts a strain on both our bodies and the environment. I am sure that some people will have epiphanies and at the end of the month and they will significantly reduce their consumption but let's be honest the majority won't. My worry is that many people will simply fall off the bandwagon in the first few weeks and in doing so, a negative relationship with vegan food may be formed which is a shame as it an be delicious.

So I'm not going to go completely vegan for January but I am going to increase the amount of vegan food I cook for the foreseeable future. If I do things in moderation, I see no reason to stop at the end of the month.

To get me started I have scoured my recipe archive for my favourite vegan recipes on the blog. And if you are doing Veganuary, I am sending you plenty of luck and not a small bit of my admiration for your will power. Hopefully you'll find this list useful too.


Breakfast and Brunch

I love my cocoNut granola with Kokomilk as it brings out the coconut flavour and adds a touch of sweetness to the sugar free cereal so swapping breakfast is a no brainer.


I recently made a rather lovely brunch spread for a friend that involved two dishes, Scrambled Spiced Tofu and a Giant Chipotle Rosti. Great together or as standalone dishes.


Lunch

Serve up Pomegranate roasted carrots with Merguez spiced chickpeas in a Pitta pocket and salad for a lush lunch. Just need to substitute or remove the yoghurt.

Bored of Houmous? Try out Besara for a smokey change of dipping scenery.

Jerusalem artichokes are in season right now so it's the perfect time to give this Jerusalem Artichoke and Pangritata Salad a try.

Keep warm with this Moroccan Spiced Butternut Squash Soup.

Make in advance and then team these Fava Bean Falafels with the Besara and a fresh salad for a quick assembly lunch.

The Butter Beans in this Vegan Answer to Chicken Soup give it a wonderfully rich and creamy finish without even a hint of dairy.



Supper

Smokey Bean Chilli- just leave out the dollop of yogurt on top or replace with a soya version.

This week's South American Inspired Black Bean and Quinoa Stew was hearty and satisfying.

I will definitely be returning to the Thai Red Lentil Curry  that I created for MyBabyRadio this month. It's a bit of a staple in our house to be honest and is a complete one pot meal.

Ignore the feta on top and you have a delicious, super easy and quick midweek supper with this Smoked Tofu Lahmacun recipe.

These are a take on Koftas using the king of economical foods, the Kidney Bean.  Oh so moreish and best eaten straight from the oven with a warm pitta and plenty of fresh salad, these Kidney Bean Kofta's also make a fantastic side dish to a curry.

Another soup for the cold Janauary days, this Black Bean Chilli Soup will be sure to warm you up as you hunker down for the night. of course you could skip the whizzing stage and eat it as a chillified stew. I highly recommend making the salsa to, really peps it up.

And finally, a list of Vegan recipes wouldn't be complete without a dhal. This Aubergine and Red Lentil Dhal is awesome and easy, a great combination. Just leave out or substitute the yoghurt.



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South American Inspired Black Bean and Quinoa Stew

Last night's supper was a perfect January dish. It's full of "good for you" ingredients such as fresh vegetables and quinoa and the fresh zing of chilli will wake up your tastebuds following a period of rich food. It's also sufficiently warming and hearty to provide that comforting quality which is oh so important in winter cooking.

I've also seen a lot about Veganuary lately and whilst I am not going to commit to going vegan for the whole month, I always try and have a few days a week without animal products anyway so provided there are some good examples, I'll try and share some more vegan recipes alongside the usual vegetarian fare.


I created this dish out of various bottom of the fridge ingredients and recommend you do the same with whatever root veg you have languishing behind the half eaten jars of chutney.

South American Inspired Black Bean and Quinoa Stew 

1 tbsp rapeseed or another cooking oil
2 leeks - sliced
2 carrots  - diced
1/4 swede - diced
1 tsp fennel fronds (not essential, you could use 1/2 tsp seeds or just go without) - finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (no seeds) 
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large or two small bay leaves
1 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tin whole button mushrooms
1 tin black beans
Handful of dried quinoa 
10g dried porcini mushrooms 
350ml boiling water
Squeeze of lime juice
Handful each of flat leaf parsley and coriander leaves - roughly chopped

1. First things first, get the porcini soaking in the water. Now, you can heat the oil over a moderate flame, add in the leeks and a pinch of salt to stop them browning too soon. Reduce down the leeks over five minutes or so, keep them moving.

2. Add in the fennel fronds (if you don't like aniseedy flavours, worry not because this is in the background and won't have you spitting out your dinner), garlic and chilli. Keep it moving and cooking for another couple of minutes.

3. Now for the root veg, I've gone with carrots and swede because that's what I had in. Squash or sweet potato would also work wonderfully well. Stir through and add in the spices and tomato puree. Cook off for another 2-3 minutes to get rid of that raw puree flavour. Now is also the time for the mushrooms - you can of course use fresh mushrooms but the whole button ones in the tin do work well here as they have a salty, plumpness that is great in a stew.

4. Add in the beans and quinoa and stir so that they are coated with the spices and puree. Follow with the porcini mushrooms and the water they've been steeping in.

5. Cover and leave to simmer away for 30 minutes. The quinoa will thicken the stew and give it some substance.

6. Stir through a handful each of flat leaf parsley and coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime juice.

Serving Suggestions

This is a complete meal without any additions. The Quinoa and the beans are full of protein but are also really quite filling. That said, a piece of bread to mop up the juices would not go amiss. We shared an onion platzel roll from my favourite bakery on Brick Lane.

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Sunday, 3 January 2016

My mummy's vegetarian sausage rolls - ridiculously moreish!

I feel like I need to share this even though I know that many of you won’t cook it. It’s because this is a recipe that was so prevalent in my childhood, so ubiquitous that I want you all to know about it. It’s my Mummy’s vegetarian sausage rolls and they are very much on my mind since I gorged on them at my sister's Christmas party a few week ago. I made up a huge batch and they were scoffed faster than anything else.

And the reason why I don’t think you’ll cook it? Well, the filling is largely made up of SosMix and since the advent of Quorn and Linda McCartney it’s just not widely available.

So where can you find Sosmix?
You can get it online from Alternativestores.com you can also occasionally pick it up in health food shops (I recently discovered one near my house). Granose used to have a plain sausage mix that did a good job but I’ve noticed that they are only selling the Lincolnshire version now – whilst that’s not disastrous, it does muck with the flavour a little.

So if in doubt go online (you can use the mix in other recipes too). If you’re after a quick fix head to a health food shop (Holland and Barratt are stockists) and pick up the Granose stuff or some plain dried soya (which you’ll most definitely need to pimp up).

If you live in Cardiff (which sadly I don't anymore), then pop down to Spice of Life on Inverness Place - man I miss that shop! 

Are they really worth the effort?
Without a shadow of a doubt, whenever we had a party or picnic Mum would make these and now I do too. I remember serving this exact recipe up in my food tech class at school and Mrs Ransford was still talking about them as the summer holidays approached. Always the first things to go, there is something wonderfully moreish about them and they go down a storm with everyone (not just the veggies). They were also a great introduction to the flavours of curry for young kids.

Curry powder, sausage, apple, pastry… what’s not to like?


The World’s Best Vegetarian Sausage Roll

It couldn’t be simpler (especially if you use shop bought pastry)… just mix, fill, roll, cut, cook.

1 sheet ready rolled pastry
300g Sosmix
3 tsp medium curry powder (use hot or mild if you prefer but medium gives the most rounded flavour)
1 Apple (a Braeburn or Cox is perfect) – finely chopped
1 small red onion – finely chopped
15g fresh coriander – finely chopped
Water to bind - enough to cover the sos mix by 1cm.
1 egg – beaten


Preheat the oven to gas mark 6.

Mix the Sosmix with the curry powders, apple, onion and coriander. Add in the water, give it a stir to incorporate it then leave to stand for 10 minutes.

If you’re really after the perfect taste, fry off a tiny bit of the mixture to check the seasoning levels. Otherwise, you can go by smell and guess work or try the cold mixture.

Take your pastry and slice length ways. Spoon the mixture in two lots in a line down the pastry then roll up into one long sausage roll, using a dab of the egg wash to fix the pastry roll in place.

Cut into chunks about 3cm long. Score a slash in the top of each one. Douse with the egg wash and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Once they are risen and golden, they’re done. Eat one straight from the oven as a cooks perk and put the others aside for when your guests arrive (hide them from yourself at this point if you want any to be left).

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Chipotle Giant Rosti with Squashed Avocado and Scrambled Tofu for a delicious Vegan Breakfast Feast

There has been a break for a couple of weeks while hubby and I jetted off on our belated honeymoon and then Christmas struck. Mauritius was truly amazing and I will be attempting to develop a few recipes inspired by our time there. I'll let you know if they are successful!

Just before we jetted off to sunnier climes, my good friend Darren paid us a visit with the news that he had become vegan since we last hung out. As a vegetarian, vegan food is not something that I find too daunting but it does present a bit of a challenge when I'm thinking about breakfast in particular. Our morning tables are dominated by animal produce and not just meat. Eggs, yoghurt, occasionally cheeses, even the honey on our toast won't be eaten by plenty of vegans. So whilst I was fairly confident about supper, brunch the next morning was something to be given a bit of extra thought.

Well I am so pleased that I was taken out of my pre-lunch comfort zone, this Vegan Brunch was a delicious combination of flavours and textures and I didn't even miss the richness of eggs and dairy since it was there in abundance from the smashed avocado.

Why not give this a try next time you're having a Sunday morning at home? Or to be honest I would be more than happy to tuck into the rosti for a midweek supper, perhaps with some of the veggie chilli that's lurking at the back of my freezer.


Chipotle Giant Rosti with Squashed Avocado and Scrambled Tofu


For the Giant Chipotle Rosti

Coarsely grate 2 large potatoes and 1 sweet potato (carrot would also work), cover with a good pinch of salt and leave for 10 minutes.

Squeeze out the excess moisture and then mix with a heaped teaspoon of Chipotle paste (or Harissa would be a lovely alternative if that's what you have in the fridge instead), and a sprinkling of cumin and coriander powders.

Season with plenty of pepper - you shouldn't need any more salt.

Grease a large oven dish and then spread the potato mixture across the bottom in a fairly even and not too thick layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at Gas Mark 5 or 180deg C or until the rosti is brown all over with crispy bits at the edges.

Smashed Avocado

Take a ripe avocado, a roughly mash it with a fork so its a mixture of puree and chunky bits. Stir through a squeeze of lime, a pinch of salt and pepper and dash of tabasco.

Assembly

Take the hot rosti, and cover in dollops of the smashed avocado and soya yoghurt that's been whizzed up with coriander leaves (obviously you can opt for dairy yoghurt if you aren't vegan that morning but I think the soya one adds a nice depth of flavour). Scatter over a few fresh coriander leaves and serve with...


Scrambled Tofu

For this recipe you will need to look in the store cupboard or oriental section of your supermarket for a carton of Firm Silken Tofu (it's softer than the fridge dwelling tofu but be careful not to by the actual soft silken or you'll end up with a spicy tofu smoothie).

In a wide frying pan over a moderate flame, heat a tablespoon of oil (I used coconut but another cooking oil will be fine), add in finely chopped chilli and clove of garlic, brown off for a minute, keep it stirring.

Stir through a pinch of asafoetida (optional), half a tsp of coriander, paprika and turmeric. Follow with a tablespoon of tomato puree and cook off for 3 minutes. Keep it moving or the mixture will catch.

Finally add the tofu to the spice mix and break it up with your spoon. Cook off for a few minutes then serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander stirred through.


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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sweetcorn and Potato Crumb Crust Bake - The Ultimate in Comfort Food.

Today was one that had a classic autumnal feel to it. Crunchy leaves under foot, a bright sunshine and a fresh, crisp coldness that makes you want to take the dog for a walk, come home and then curl up by the fire with something steaming and soothing. So that's precisely what I did.

This dish is inspired by something that my Mum used to make us as kids and let's be honest, that is the root of all the best examples of comfort food. A sweetcorn and potato chowder served after a long day of playing out in the cold was always a very welcome sight. It was deeply cheesy, the large chunks of potato were so soft they were practically melting and the crunch and sweetness of the corn cut through the richness.

In contrast, this isn't so liquid as a soup or chowder, a dose of cornflour thickens the sauce and a good splurge of wholegrain mustard provides a dose of flavour that allows me to lessen the amount of cheese. A carved up broccoli and a sliced leek also go towards your daily veg intake and make this a complete one pot meal so there's less washing up!

Sweetcorn and Potato Crumb Crust Bake
Serves 4-6

Leek - sliced

Small onion - diced

200g smoked tofu - diced (optional but adds protein and a lovely hint of smokey flavour) - Those non-veggies out there could of course used smokey bacon here. 

300g white potato - diced (choose a floury variety like a King Edward) - this equated to roughly 3 medium potatoes when I cooked

Tinned Sweetcorn

1 head of broccoli with the stalk diced and the fluffy tops cuts into florets. 

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 large or 2 small bay leaves

50g of string cheese - I used a tangy vintage cheddar

1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard

Milk

2 heaped tsps cornflour mixed with a dribble of cold water

2 slices of bread whizzed into breadcrumbs

20g parmesan-style Italian hard cheese (remember, actual parmesan isn't vegetarian but the cheap stuff often is - a happy coincident for frugal vegetarians)


Method:

1. If you have a wide cast iron pan that can go on the hob and in the oven then this would be ideal. If not, start in a pan on the hob and transfer to an oven dish later on. Get your oven preheating at 180 deg C or gas mark 4.

2. Over a medium heat, sweat down the leek and onion with a blob of butter (about 10g) until they are soft and have a glassy appearance. Loosen with a little water at intervals if the pan is getting a bit dry.

3. Add in the tofu and brown slightly then follow up with the potato, broccoli stalks, thyme, bay, stock cube and half a cup of water. Cook for another 10 minutes, this gives the starchy potato and tough stalks a bit of extra time cooking to the other veg but also means it will soak up that lovely stock. If the pan is getting dry, just add another splash of water.

4. Now for most of the rest of the ingredients... In goes the sweetcorn, broccoli florets, mustard and milk. Bring it up to a gradual simmer and allow to bubble for 10 minutes.

5. In with the cornflour and cheese, keep stirring now as you don't want the sauce to go lumpy or stick to the bottom of your pan. It should thicken pretty soon after the cornflour goes in. Now's the time to season and check your salt and pepper levels.

6. Transfer to an oven dish if using. Top with the breadcrumbs and grated parmesan before transferring to your pre-heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling underneath and golden on top.


Serving ideas: Personally, I am more than happy with a large bowl of this on it's own. Hubby decided he needed carbs with his carbs and opted for a slice of bread to mop up the sauce. A bright green salad would ensure that the quantities in this recipe would feed a crowd and also add a fresh element.

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Saturday, 24 October 2015

20 North African and Middle Eastern Vegetarian Dishes

It will be clearly apparent to any readers of this blog that I absolutely LOVE Middle-Eastern and North African flavours. It’s no coincidence that my fiancĂ© proposed atop Riad Mur Akush in Marrakech before we sat down to a sumptuous Moroccan feast, that man knows the way to my heart is Ras El Hanout! But it’s not just Morocco that inspires me, the food of Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and beyond is a constant source of exciting ideas.

Merguez spiced Chickpeas and an oozy fried egg for simple supper
There is something wonderfully comforting about the earthy tones of ground coriander and cumin whilst spikes of caraway and preserved lemon enliven the taste buds with a gentle smack in the face. The other thing that I love about these Southern-Mediterranean delights is that whilst there are a fair few meaty dishes to dodge, the vegetables are often the star of the show (or at least they can be made to be if needs be).

I’m certainly not alone in my love of Middle Eastern food, 15 years ago Houmous was mere hippy food and now it adorns almost every fridge in the country! Chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi, Claudia Roden and super blogger Bethany Kehdy have certainly done their part in encouraging this chickpea-fuelled craze. I would highly recommend reading their books by the way, they are an absolute education.

So here is a collection of Veggie-Friendly North African and Middle Eastern dishes; do leave a comment if you have your own favourite to add.

NB: You may notice the glaringly obvious omissions of Baba Ghanouj and Houmous, I assure you this is completely intentional. They are such ubiquitous recipes to be found in every corner of the internet that I figured it was better to reserve a space for something a little less well known.

Mezze and Sharing Dishes

Carrot and Fava Bean Falafels ready for a wrap
Falafels are of course traditionally made with chickpeas but my experiments with dried split fava beans turned up these Fava Bean and Carrot Falafels which were a lovely alternative. And if you look up Hodmedods you can buy British grown Favas which is no bad thing!

Bethany Kehdy's Pumpkin Kebbeh are a deliciously sweet alternative to falafel and a magnificent use of the squash glut in autumn.

Muhammara is a red pepper based dish that is a must for a mezze platter and Bethany Kehdy's recipe is my favourite.

Fattoush Salad is the regions way of using up left over pittas that are past their best. It is great for a mezze spread but also makes a wonderful lunch on its own.
Lahmacun, a surprisingly quick and easy
Turkish take on pizza
Whenever I have gone to turkey I have coveted the lamb covered pizzas but a veggie version just wasn't forth coming. These Smokey Vegetarian Lahmacun are so delicious and make an awesome lunch as well as a superb sharing dish. 


The sesame seeds in these Cheese Borak are a delicious addition to a classic courtesy of the Syrian Foodie.
 
Besara is a smoky and moreish Moorish dip that I have adapted from a recipe in the Jewelled Kitchen. It's so delicious that I have almost (but not quite) replaced my houmous obsession.

This Carrot salad from three ladies blogging in Libya is a welcome addition to any collection of sharing dishes. They also serve something similar in Portuguese restaurants with bread and oils as you sit down. 

The Main Event

My first post from back in May 2013 remains one of my favourite recipes. The sweet onions and delicate spicing make these Roasted Aubergine Boats a fantastic and healthy centrepiece to any meal. 

The onions are the absolute star of the show in Ottolenghi's Mejadra, a delicious rice dish that is incredible served with just a couple of hard boiled eggs as accompaniment. 

Egyptian Lentil Bake with an eggy topping 

Proof that all food is improved with an egg on top, my Egyptian Lentil Bake makes the most of north African spicing and is a great addition to a dinner party spread.

A Seven Vegetable Tagine is the most incredible centre piece to a veggie friendly North African feast and was the dish I was served up when Ed proposed so it has a special place in my heart. That one didn't have cabbage though, instead it was dotted with fennel. The wonder of this dish is you can choose what veg is in season and your favourite.

Simple Suppers

Inspired by something that Nigel Slater did on his show, my recipe for Merguez Peppers and Chickpeas with an egg on top is the ideal simple supper.

Super easy vegetable and feta tray bake

One oven dish makes this simple to make and simple to clean up, the flavours of this Vegetable and Feta Cheese Tray Bake are wonderfully comforting too, perfect for a cosy night in.

Something a Little Sweet

Another easy, go to recipe courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi is his Roasted Figs with Pomegranate Molasses and Orange Zest.

My Turkish Delight Strawberries with Saffron Cream have to be my favourite summer dessert now, a bit different to the usual strawberries and cream but no less quick and easy.

Turkish Delight Strawberries with Saffron cream for a Middle Eastern take on a British classic

M’hanncha, I feel in love with this recipe when I saw Jamie Oliver give it a go on his Jamie Does Morocco show. Filo pastry and almonds, what's not to like! A fab make ahead dessert, try it with the saffron cream that comes with my strawberry recipe above.


Extras

A simple Lebanese Tarator Sauce goes with pretty much all dishes. Sesame, garlic, lemon juice, what's not to like?

Preserved Lemons are expensive when you buy them which I find ridiculous since the only two essential ingredients are lemons and salt. These are spiced with flecks of dried chilli too. Pop them in a pretty jar and they also make a delightful gift.

Sweet Fig Vinegar might not be the most ubiquitous of middle eastern ingredients but this is my take on a fruity vinegar using one of the regions most celebrated fruits. It's another item that makes a lovely gift too.





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Pomegranate Roasted Carrots with Fragrant Spiced Chickpeas

This week's post is the sort of food that your body really thanks you for. It is absolutely choc full of of veggies and there is the added benefit of a healthy dose of turmeric with all it's anti-inflammatory  goodness.

But don't let the fact that it is good for you put you off and have you running for the chocolate cake (an understandable and somewhat common reaction at the mention of health food), this is seriously tasty vegetarian cooking. The spices are wonderfully warming and delectably savoury, while the carrots provide a sweet counter balance. 

As ever, there is no need to stick rigidly to the recipe (I know I rarely do). This is a jumping off point, the beginning of an idea, inspiration. The carrots would make a wonderful side dish on their own and I would be more than happy with a bowl of the chickpeas and some crusty bread or a chapati as a midweek supper.

My husband (that's exciting to write that as opposed to fiancĂ©) is very much a carnivore and he throughly enjoyed it but also felt that it would go well with a piece of lamb so that is certainly an option for those readers that feel a meal is not complete without meat. You could always go the other way entirely, forgo the yoghurt and it's completely vegan. Mashed avocado would be a lovely cooling option. 

Pomegranate Glazed Carrots with Fragrant Spiced Chickpeas
Serves 2 



For the carrots:

Mix up the following ingredients in a roasting tray and put into the oven at 190 deg C, or gas mark 5. 

Carrots (I've used purple and orange because they look pretty but just orange ones are fine - or you could cut up a beetroot). Cut length ways (into quarters if they are fairly fat) and then in half if the carrot is quite long. 

1/2 teaspoon each of caraway seeds and cumin seeds

A sprinkle of chilli flakes (do this according to your own personal taste)

1 tsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Once the carrots have been roasting for about 20 minutes, go in with a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses and a drizzle (about 1/2 tsp) of red wine vinegar. Pop the tray back into the oven for a further 10 minutes. 


For the chickpeas:

Get a wide pan nice and hot and go in with a tablespoon of olive oil followed closely by a finely chopped leek. 

After a 3-4 minute sweating down of the leeks, follow up with the following:

1 large or two small cloves of garlic - finely chopped

1/2 - 1 chilli, finely chopped (again this depends on the heat of the actual chilli and your preference - this is meant to be fragrant though not super spicy). 

1 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp each of cumin seed, fennel seed, ground coriander and sumac

1 tbsp tomato puree 

A splash of water

Stirring regularly to make sure it doesn't catch too much, turn down to a moderate heat (my hob goes from 1-6 and I turned down to a 4), cook off the spices for 3-4 minutes. 

Add in a 400g tin of chickpeas in their salty water and another cup of water. Simmer away for 15 minutes until the chickpeas are meltingly soft, you may well have to top up the water a little if the pan is getting too dry. 

5 minutes before the end throw in 5 leaves of cavalo nero, roughly sliced up and gently simmer them down. 

Check the seasoning, adding pepper and a bit more salt if needed (there will already have been salt in the chickpea water so taste first).


Assembly:

Pile up the chickpeas and top with the roasted carrots. Drop a couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt and sprinkle over a dusting of dried mint if you have some in your spice rack. 

Couple with a fresh and crunchy salad to cut through the rich spicing and creamy yoghurt.


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