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Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

4 Jun

 

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

 

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

For someone who has typically felt unruffled by change, I am experiencing a lot of it at the moment. I was having a conversation with a loved one, in my head the other day.  I was telling them that I am looking forward to getting up there, in front of an academic group of grown-ups listening to me with notes before them and grit in the heart, sleep in the eyes. Then I told them that my loved one that I couldn’t believe that I just said that. It has been years since I looked forward to any activity of that kind. I am also looking forward to teaching my next three cookery classes. I am going to admit to something I haven’t reflected on in years.

 

A few years ago a neighbour knocked on my door. She has a sweet smile and very kind eyes, but I was still unsure. I didn’t see Asian ladies of her later years with a boyish grey mop, so when she spoke, very gently, kindly and eloquently it made a bit more sense. I now know that my neighbour is a retired GP and a helpful Christian. I see her on walks delivering eggs and milk to those less mobile than her and I listen to her as she tells me how her grandchildren are developing and how she is particularly fond of, ‘the boy’ as he is so affectionate.

 

Back then my neighbour asked me if I would teach some cookery on a charitable basis at the Church, on a weekday. I sighed inside and with great guilt I confessed how stretched I was. A full time job, a home that wasn’t yet developed…you know all of the rest. I told her that when I stopped for the baby I would be very glad to. ‘I understand’ she said, glowing in her tiny frame. Smaller than me.

 

She understood but now I look back I am not sure I do. Now I have less money but more humility. Less time but more love. Less greed and more of a sense of that I am not immortal and more of a drive to make it count. I am not saying that I am a better person now. What I have committed to is some more regular cookery for a charitable purpose alongside the other classes.

 

Meanwhile my son has gone from an angelic and sparky 2 ¼ year old to something of a teenager. Literally overnight. So, as you can see, it is time to open a new chapter whilst ingesting the sweet heat of my life as it is. On the subject of sweet heat…here is my recipe for beetroot and wasabi hummus or houmous. The beet gives a mellow and easy sweetness, as life should be. The wasabi gives a gentle background heat that pops just at the end of the experience, just like my toddler is offering me right now. Altogether we have some balance and I like to suck it up with lashings of breadsticks. Life. Houmous. Same.

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

 

Ingredients

 

1 can of drained chickpeas

 

250g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped

 

1 can kidney beans, drained

 

¾ cup tahini

 

2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped

 

4 tbsp. lemon juice

 

3 tbsp. ice cold water

 

Salt to taste

 

4 heaped tsp. wasabi paste (or more if you like it hotter)

 

1 ½ tbsp. olive oil

 

Method

 

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the wasabi and olive oil and blitz together in a food processor.
  2. When the ingredients look smooth and silky, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and the wasabi paste and blitz again.
  3. Use a fork to smooth the houmous and remove any lumps of wasabi paste.
  4. Transfer the houmous into a bow and drizzle with a little oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

17 Apr

 

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew by Deena Kakaya

 

I’m feeling more alive these days.  I’ve already made my first trip of the year to Brighton, butterfly world and the zoo. We are now frequently taking walks in the park. Today I shook the branch of a tree heavy with pink blossom and to my toddler’s delight; confetti adorned his face and sweater. As I watched his face beam, I took in the sounds of chirping birds, chattering over ducks and felt the glint of sunshine in my eyes. I love spring time.

I’m also eating differently too, as I mentioned in my recent posts. Soups have given way to salads and mugs of green tea with cherries soaked into the mug have been replaced by slim and tall glasses of blueberry lemonade. Snacks of cheesy crackers are no longer the go-to, but strawberries with melted dark chocolates are welcomed in.

Still, I have said it before and I shall again…nothing can cajole me in the way a curry does. It feels natural. It doesn’t have to be an Indian curry though.  This week on twitter I caught some of the conversation about a fusion Udon noodle pot that is available in supermarkets. It was something with an ‘Indian twist’ in the recipe. Some people were clearly unimpressed at how these two cuisines could combine, or maybe it was the way that they were combined that was the cause of dismay. Anyway, I don’t see (well-executed) fusion recipes as a modern atrocity. Very simply, I think that if it ‘works’ (tastes good), then all is good.

On that note, I share with you a recipe for Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew that feel fresh with mint and easy spices, light and juicy, zesty with lemon and the stew has bite and depth.  I haven’t used a ready-made Moroccan spice blend because there is no point; this one is so easy to make with store-cupboard ingredients. I normally buy large bags of spices from an Indian grocer but the folk from Schwartz pointed me towards their handy spices that are available from supermarkets; handy when I can’t get to the Indian grocer which I have to travel to! They are also conveniently packed so I took them away with me when I was demonstrating in Brighton for Vegfest. I found the spices of great colour and they smell just as they should do-lingering and fresh. This recipe uses ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon which you can get from the Schwartz range.

I have also used savera paneer in this recipe because it is the closest thing out there to homemade paneer.

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes

150g asparagus tips

225g paneer, cubed

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 medium red onions, finely sliced

3 tbsp. olive oil

Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced

A handful of mint leaves

The juice of one lemon

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground turmeric

600ml vegetable stock

Salt to taste (the vegetable stock would be salty, so only use salt once you’ve tasted the stew)

1 cup of chopped tomatoes (tinned)

125g pitted queen olives

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onions, sauté until they soften before adding the paneer garlic and ginger and cook until the paneer starts to catch a golden colour.
  2. Stir in the ground turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and sauté for 30 seconds before adding the potatoes and mixing well.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and the tomatoes and bring the stew to a simmer before squeezing in the lemon juice and the mint leaves.
  4. Cook for 7-10 minutes before adding the asparagus and the olives and then cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with cous cous or fresh bread.

 

This is a featured post but any views expressed are my own. For more recipes from me and other contributors, you can check out great british chefs

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

1 Apr

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

I know that it’s meant to be spring but I am cold and rather weary. Days are drowsy but hectic and nights aren’t quite long enough.  My nose still feels icy and my mind is clouded, though at least the rays of sun out there are promising. I am even considering reacquainting myself with the hot water bottle.

It’s on days like this that I need a bold, reviving and soothing dish and something to awaken the senses.  Something plentiful and bright, something smooth and definitely present, here and lingering. But with low effort required.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

13 Mar

It is the season of escapism

I have always relished having, ‘hiding places’, especially in the warmer weather.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

 

As a child I would wander up and down the garden path, at the back of the garden and which was tucked away by arches of oversize rose bushes bearing pink, white and yellow roses.  Along the path grew spring onions on one side and strawberries on the other. There was other stuff, but I that’s what I remember. I would shuffle past the ivy on the back wall and pleat myself between long strands of grass, blackberries and more grass so that I stand on a discarded on a discarded flower pot and swing around on it, with my thoughts for company.

As a teenager I was part of a cosily demonstrative and animated crowd of friends.  We were together always, sometimes creating and sharing belly-laughs, occasionally sharing dramatic tears and sentiments with declarations of love. Vivacious, ambitious, boisterous and revelling in it… most of the time. Sometimes I would take a walk past the university which was down the road, through to the small, immaculately kept yet unfrequented park and just sit. My mind echoed with the shrill laughter, the ‘baaabe’ coos and the multiple hugs. My eyes rested on the wafting flowers in their tidy beds or over to elderly couples, sitting peacefully and easily in each other’s company.

I really loved the offices where I worked for almost a decade. I felt proud of the six buildings that stood tall in a semi-circle splendidly. We even had a few flags in the front near the fountains and I would always listen to the echo of my little feet as I would enter the light-flushed reception with the subliminal brand-tune playing in the background. High ceilings revealed the three floors and their balconies where important and discreet conversations happened. I would pick up my porridge from the restaurant, a green tea from the Starbucks and prepare for the deluge. When it got too much and I needed to breathe in order to later demonstrate professional calm, I would grab my phone and speed along on my heels past the smokers, through the car-park and over to the far side of the building where there was a quiet fountain. It was in a very pointless position.

Happy spring my friends. The grass will smell nicer, the flowers bloom and I hope that your smiles will too.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

On the subject of green, meet my rice. It’s bright with spinach and coriander and sweet with roasted garlic. Roasted garlic and salt are perfect together and the feta hits the spot perfectly. I served this rice with a roasted pepper and tomato chutney and some corn flour tortilla. It was utterly fabulous.

green rice 3

 

Ingredients

200g basmati rice

2 tbsp. cooking oil

150g spinach leaves, washed

100g coriander, washed and coarsely chopped

One bulb of garlic

One onion, half sliced and the other half diced

100g feta cheese, cut into bite sized cubes

A handful of cashew nuts

¾ tsp. fennel seeds

One lemon, half for the juice and half for slices

Method

  1. Rest the bulb of garlic, in all its skin and layers, on a sheet of baking paper. Remove the head off the garlic to expose the bubs and then drizzle the garlic with a splash of oil and some salt and roast it in the oven at 200 degrees until for approximately 30minutes.
  2. Boil the rice for approximately 8 minutes before draining and cooling it.
  3. In a food processor (you could finely chop by hand), blitz the spinach and coriander until it is finely chopped.
  4. Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the fennel seeds and onion with some salt. Remember that the feta cheese is salty, so go easy. Sauté the onions enough to lightly brown them
  5. Mix in the spinach and coriander and sauté gently for a minute before adding the garlic.  You simply squeeze the base of the bulb and they will pop out. Add half the head of garlic and lightly mash them in. don’t worry about the lumps. Taste the rice, if it feels garlicky enough then stop, if not add more.
  6. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle in the cashew nuts and mix well before turning the heat off.
  7. Mix in the rice, gently folding the green mixture through, cover and cook for a couple of minutes on a very low flame.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

24 Feb

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Where is your chip?

I like to tell myself that I have learned and earned more cultured stripes over the years and that through a progression of a London education, being reasonably well-travelled and having worked in a multi-cultural environment with stimulating and bright folk, I am now more ‘worldly’.  I eat biscotti and macaroons, not just digestives and there is artichoke on my salad today with panko breadcrumbs.  My bread had apple and pecan on it and my muffin has a spiced and poached pear in it; there are certainly no sprinkles on top.  Maybe though, just perhaps, the omelette and chips are just etched into my makeup and frankly, I like that.

I have spent much of the last couple of month’s solo parenting, as you may know if you read my posts regularly.  Needs must, so this is the way it is and part of it comes with privileges which I am grateful for and a measure of it comes with sacrifices, which I accept.  It is no holiday though.

When I’m on my own I do find myself in a state of heightened sensitivity and maybe that’s the exhaustion, with some element of loneliness paired with the desire to feel reassured.  I am more grateful, in a philosophical way, for those who visit to keep me company in the quiet of the evenings or call to ask how I am doing.  I am touched into silence for the flowers of encouragement and the cakes of companionship that come to me when the stillness does.  I smile when people let me rant knowing that I sound ludicrous at times because, being maddened by a case of dying ladybirds on my landing isn’t really that terminal.  And then I recognised, quite proudly, that the iron chip that weighed on my shoulder when people didn’t ask, show support, or care was well removed. I had successfully removed that draining energy and walked on.  I had grown and I didn’t even know it.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Though there is one thing, when I need a bit of comfort there is nothing like a spud with a crispy exterior and sweet fluffy interior. I told you that the egg and chips hadn’t left me and I am very glad for it too because they cajole me into my natural rhythm and there are times in life when I need that.  Nowadays though, there are no baked beans but instead I have created a filling, spicy, sense rousing salad using mung beans, salty feta and sweet tomatoes.  I had used za’atar spices and a mild Indian tempering to give zingy, spiced and herby flavour to this salad. It works so well as a salad on its own or in a wrap or with some bread.

Ingredients to serve 4

120g mung beans

700g of roasting potatoes like King Edwards, peeled and cut into two inch cubes

225g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 tbsp. Za’atar spice

½ tsp. turmeric

2 green chillies, cut and slit

175g feta cheese, cubed

One small red onion, finely diced

30g coriander, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. sesame oil

Half a lemon

Salt to taste

 

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 7-10 minutes before draining them and then allow them to cool. Coat them lightly in olive oil and then roast them in the oven at 200degrees until they are golden brown.
  2. In the meantime wash and boil the mung beans for approximately 20-25 minutes until they are tender and toss them once they are drained to remove as many of the loose skins as possible.
  3. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and mung beans before making the tempering.
  4. In a non-stick pan, heat the sesame oil and add the cumin seeds, garlic, chillies, turmeric and curry leaves. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then after a minute turn the heat off.
  5. Pour the tempering into the salad and then mix it well. Squeeze in the lemon juice, sprinkle in the coriander and toss the salad well.
  6. When the potatoes are roasted, combine them with the other salad ingredients too and then sprinkle in the za’atar spice mix and toss the salad well again before serving warm.

 

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

17 Feb

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

There is no race

Do you count when you run? I do. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to run, or maybe there is a secret sense of achievement in ascending numbers. 34, 35, 36, 37…my mind bounds as fast my body, to the beat of my feet…38, 39, 40.  I feel all of my thoughts in pictures.   I see myself in PE at secondary school; one of my teachers had a rule that if we wanted to participate in with his scheduled activity we could, if not we run on the course that whole lesson. The default option was always to run. I saw myself at college, pre-hockey game. My dad would make me two eggs, two slices of toast and a large milkshake and I would run thinking of my breakfast and my aims, I needed those three ‘A’ grades for my a-levels, though I wasn’t sure why. 41, 42, 43, 44.

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

 

I feel the drizzle on my face and my throat is dry, my mind is running down the hill at junior school when the other girls didn’t want to play with me that day. The hill was littered with daisies and when you don’t know what to do, when standing still and all alone is confusing and unsettling, you stay busy and run.  45, 46, 47, 48…The new part of the school was being painted red and I could smell it amongst the daisy chains. 48, 49, 50…I wore trainers for the journey to work. I ran up the steps and down the spiral staircases and along the platforms, weaving myself between people traffic, frowning, as you do and thinking about the first meeting. If I got a seat I would whip out my phone and prepare to bash out that presentation.

51, 52, 53, 54…she said I should consider something that made me feel weak, he said that I need to do more. I said I have no time and that I am tired. You know when I am this busy, in this race, I nibble and not eat so much. I’m tired.

55, 56, 57, 58… I’m in the park with my best friend and we are young and laughing. It is what we did. There was nothing else, no competition, no pressure, no agenda. We walked a lot, we laughed a lot and we made up silly songs. We got wet, we ate a lot and we accepted. 59…I am in my quiet and secret spot on that bench amongst flowers. It is serene and cold and nobody knows I am there. There is no race.

If you have no time and you pick a lot, like me, make it one that will last. These sumptuous and silky bites give way to zing and heat and crisp little red peppers. These baby aubergines are stuffed with red pepper, parsley and garlic and this is a fine combination at any time of day. The idea of picking for me is to satisfy any mild hunger but more so, any urge for taste that will linger for a while. If I could keep a jar of these in my car with me I would, for an intermittent sigh of relief.

 

Ingredients

300g baby aubergines, stems removed

1 medium sized red pepper, finely diced

15-20g parsley, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 green chillies

½ tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

400ml white wine vinegar

4tbsp. sugar

200ml water

 

Method

  1. Clean and sterilise the jars you will put the aubergines into and then dry them thoroughly.
  2. Boil the baby aubergines for 10-12 minutes before draining them and leaving them to cool and dry.
  3. When the baby aubergines are cool and dry, make a slit into them, lengthways.
  4. Combine the red pepper, parsley, garlic, salt and chilli and then drizzle in the lemon juice and oil. Stuff 1 tsp. or more if possible into the aubergines before letting them rest for ten minutes of so.
  5. In the meantime, bring the white wine vinegar, teaspoon of salt and sugar to a simmer before gently placing the aubergines into the brine. Simmer for three minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.
  6. Pour over the brine, so that the aubergines are completely submerged.

The aubergines will taste best the day after and should keep for a week in the fridge.

 

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt

16 Jan

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt
Onions from an onion

I went to a school which was populated with provably about 80 per centGujarati children (I come from a Gujarati background) at a guess. When my boy and I go to playgroup he is an, ‘ethnic minority’ by being in a broader group called ‘Asian’.

So when I was at school I was not (by other kids) differentiated by the colour of my skin, but my caste. My classroom was made up of surnames such as Patel, Mistry, Thakrar or Shah. All Gujarati of course. We all knew we belonged to different castes and we knew that we spoke in different accents, our mothers cooked different tasting foods or simply varieties and some of us would be vegetarian and others not. Mild teasing was not uncommon, ‘your surname is Tailor you can make my clothes when I grow up’. I think I could pick up on caste sometimes by physical appearance.

The caste system used to separate people vocationally, but no longer does. Well, not the people I know anyway. It created networks of people and they married within their caste, but that doesn’t happen any more either. Idiosyncrasies of castes are now diluted with western accents, mixed marriages and just general evolution of culture. My 23 month will probably never know much about the caste system and I’m sure his friends will be much more international than mine were at his tender age. London offers that diversity doesn’t it.

I am from the Lohana caste. Commercial people. Ironically I read economics at university, but really that nothing to do with caste. Coincidence. Lohana folk are said to fond of onions, and that’s why I often got called one whilst growing up. But I was proud, I love a good onion.

Sweet and juicy with a sour tang. That’s my salad. I’ve smothered pomegranate molasses over the onions and roasted them slowly so that they are sweet and sour and moist and slippery. I adore that smell. They work well with deep butter beans and my nutty and slightly spiced dressing. Go on, be an onion.

Ingredients to serve 4

20 baby onions, peeled and halved
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt
1 tsp sugar
A few handfuls of rocket leaves
2 tins of butter beans
2 tsp sumac powder
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g garlic chives, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp red chilli flakes

Method

1. Coat the onions with the pomegranate molasses, sugar and a generous sprinkle of salt.
2. Lay the onions on some baking paper, drizzle them with oil and place them in the oven and roast them at 150 degrees for approximately 30minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter beans, sumac, lemon juice, parsley, salt to taste and garlic chives.
4. To make the dressing, simply whip the yoghurt, tahini and chilli together.
5. Serve the salad on some rocket leaves with some lovely warm bread.

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za’atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts

28 Dec

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za'atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts  by Deena Kakaya

My belt is well and truly loosened and my pockets are emptier. My heart is fuller and my fridge now more revealing. The bins have flowed over and my insides feel a wee bit like them now. Ooof, it’s time to eat some natural, light and healthier meals.

I really can’t consume another roast potato or nibble on any more rich cheese. I will pass on the triple chocolate whats-it and close my eyes before being presented any fizzy drinks. I am ready to choose sleep over cold air blowing under my eyelids whilst shopping for presents or last minute ingredients. My husband has also signed up for the marathon, so let’s bring on some healthy foods.

Every time I tell my mum I’m having a salad as a meal, she starts her talk about how salad isn’t substantial enough, isn’t a meal as its not hot and isn’t balanced nutritionally. She has this image that I’m eating a lonely Greek salad for dinner. I love Greek salad, but there’s so much more to choose from.

My garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion is warm, lightly sweet and carries salty garlic through it. I’ve coated it in coriander and za’atar spices, topped it with a drizzle on rice wine vinegar, red chilli and toasted pine nuts. It’s immensely tasty, virtuous and really easy to throw together. Try it.

Ingredients

A medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
A couple of glugs of rapeseed oil
One large red onion, sliced
A generous handful of coriander, washed an finely chopped
2 large red chilies, thinly sliced
A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp of white wine vinegar
4-5 tsp of za’atar spice mix

Method
1. Toss the minced garlic, cauliflower, red onion, salt and rapeseed oil together for even coverage and then pop it in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until it is lightly golden and soft enough to pierce through. It should still have a bite.image
2. Whilst the cauliflower is still warm and moist, toss it in the za’atar spice mix and coriander. Plate it up and then drizzle on the white wine vinegar and top with toasted pine nuts and the red chilli.image

I served this salad with hummus and flat bread. Magic.

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

2 Oct Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines with toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Great things can happen, both in life and food, completely by accident…or rather in an unplanned or coincidental fashion. For example, today whilst putting my boy to sleep I thought of my regular Chinese restaurant, then of Navratri (hindu festival which involves nine nights of dancing) following which I realised I hadn’t made one of the Gujarati classics that I’m pretty darn good at doing, in a while. All of these thoughts inspired the creation a weird but outrageously good new soup recipe which I will soon share.

Back to this recipe, which is also unpremeditated. My parents came to stay last week when my husband was in Moscow for work. They, besides enjoying time with my boy and I, were so helpful in the kitchen. My dad was my kitchen assistant.
They have a habit of overcooking and under eating. They have also started to use a tongue-swelling level of chilli in their cooking, which I can no longer endure. During my late pregnancy I developed intolerable reflux so I cut the chilli and since then I never really reintroduced it. Anyway, they’re a bit obsessed with aubergines, my folks. They cooked thick slithers of fresh and slippery Aubergine in oil, without water and lots of indian spices but no tomatoes. Such a simple and garlicky dish.

I don’t know why I was reluctant to try it, but when I did I actually really enjoyed it. But then the chilli kicked in and in the absence of cooling yoghurt I grabbed the hummus. And thats how this recipe happened.

Za’atar spice is a tangy and herbaceous spice blend with a thyme like flavour. The tanginess comes from sumac, which is made from dried fruits. The za’atar spice blend also contains nutty sesame seeds and aromatic cumin. It’s fairly delicate so I like to let it sing for itself rather than mix it in with other powerful flavours. Simple is best with spice blends like za’atar.

This is no word of an exaggeration, this hummus is probably the best I have made. Nothing sexy; it’s a simple, smooth and silky hummus. It’s really good though. This is why I’ve allowed for a batch for your fridge, it’ll keep for about 3 days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large Aubergine, cut into 2 inch slithers
4-5 shallots,sliced
1 1/2 tbsp za’atar spice
3 tsp lemon juice
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted on a non-stick pan
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

For the hummus

2 cans of cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp of ice cold water
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1 1/2 tsp salt

Method.

1. Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a non stick pan and add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes
2. Add the aubergines and mix well. Stir in the za’atar spice blend and the lemon juice. Turn the heat to a very low flame and cook for about 20minutes or until the Aubergine is soft enough to pierce through, but not until they lose shape or become squashed.
3. To make the hummus put the chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until they are a coarse paste.image
4. Add the tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice and then blitz again.
5. Whilst the food processor is doing its thing, slowly pour in the water and it should loosen up to a lovely consistency.

To serve, top the hummus with the cooked Aubergine whilst they are still warm and when the pine nuts. Serve with flatbread or pitta bread. Don’t forget to tell me how you enjoyed this recipe!

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters with Asian style cucumber salad

29 Sep

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Our taxi driver confidently lead us down a shabby lane in Cairo. It was such a hot and dusty day and the atmosphere around the roads was subdued. We dodged the rocks and stones that had dislodged from the road and buildings and skipped over small mounds of stinking rubbish. I shot huffy expressions towards my explorative and overly-polite husband who simply adjusted the cap on his head, mopped his face and said, ‘come on babe, lets just see’.

Lets just see? What did he mean? What if something happened to us? I’m a natural worrier and this, together with having had regretful holiday experiences in the past, had fired off dozens of atrocious images in my mind from being food poisoned to being shot.

I reassured myself that our driver was in fact a lovely, pious man. He had gelled quite well with my husband and he told us lots of stories to pass the journey times during out holiday. Whilst we stumbled and hopped along the path he was leading us along, towards this supposedly acclaimed restaurant, he was telling us why men in his hometown wore a bruised forehead. Apparently it demonstrated their religious devotion and credited them to be god following people because you could see that they bowed down for prayer regularly.

So, we weren’t shot. We arrived at the restaurant and it had a feel of the rainforest cafe in London. The roofs were leafy and crowded in a fun sort of way. Fake birds bobbed up and down above us, but they added to the rainforest feel. Fish swam beside us and whilst we settled ourselves at our table and my inner child was tickled. As you can imagine, I was smiling and that unrequited, ‘I told you so’ naturally blurted at me.

So I wondered off to watch this giant man rub his hands a couple of times and produce perfect falafels into the biggest wok I had ever seen. It was bubbling with steaming hot oil and none of the chickpeas escaped. Perfumes of tahini and parsley dominated the smoke above him. But then I saw his hands appear blood stained. Flutters of panic seared through me..he wasn’t cooking with meat was he? Was I right all along?

It was beetroot. He was stuffing grated beetroot into the falafels. He was watching my expression and then he and his big toothy grin handed one to me on a plate.

It was sweet, nutty and slightly spicy. Probably the way I’d describe my favourite friends and oh my goodness they were crispy and addictive. I wanted more. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they were, so light. They taste a bit like little burgers, I’d happily stick them in some pitta with dollops of hummus.

So I came back and I created these beauties. You know I like spice so I’ve whacked in some beautiful smokey chipotle, it makes the whole combination more sensual. I’ve got salty feta in there too and it works in harmony with sweet beetroot. I love these because they are moist without being pasty. I don’t add plain flour because it gives it that texture that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Instead I have used gram flour and chickpeas to give that nuttiness. Whether you eat these with salad or as a burger, you’ll find them easy to make and freezer friendly.

Ingredients

300g cooked beetroot, grated
75g breadcrumbs
100g chickpeas, squashed
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tbsp chipotle paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tbsp gram flour
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions finely chopped
Oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Method

1. Squeeze as much if the juice out of beetroot as possible
2. Add the onion, feta, spices, herbs and add the chickpeas by imagesquishing them between your fingers. Use the salt carefully because feta is salty.

3. Add the chipotle paste, gram flour and the egg. Mix it all together before adding the breadcrumbs. If you feel that the mixture is too wet add a bit more gram flour
4. Form golf sized balls before dropping them into the warmed oil. Shallow fry them until they are golden brown on each side and serve with an Asian style cucumber salad.

Beetroot, feta, chipotle, chickpeas

Frying golf ball sized parities of Beetroot, feta and chipotle with chickpeas for nuttiness

For the cucumber salad

Peel one whole cucumber and stir it together with

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil

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