Shakshuka

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Some dishes taste better than they look. This is one of them I think.

This dish is a typical Middle Eastern breakfast dish – but yet again because we were late back from the boat – 10:30pm this time – I ended up throwing this together in about 25 minutes.

It rained all day on Sunday so we decided to take a trip to IKEA to pick up two small sofas to go in the wheelhouse of our boat. Sadly – we did the bad thing which was changing our minds on what we wanted – picked something a little bit bigger and found it didn’t fit ! It was a real shame as it meant we just lost a tonne of time driving all the way back to IKEA to return the oversized items and then had to queue for a refund and buy what we had originally planned to buy. By the time we’d done these two trips (from Maidenhead to Wembley) and assembled, dismantled, reboxed, returned, then assembled the smaller sofas it was very late indeed.

We were happy with what we should have bought in the first place though so it really doesn’t matter. Just lost lots of time!

Anyway, this dish is basically poached eggs in a tomato and red pepper sauce. Very simple and very tasty.

After dicing a couple of red peppers and chopping a good half kilo of ripe tomatoes, you fry them off with some Harissa (again!) garlic, cumin and tomato puree until you get a nice thick sauce.

At this stage you make some wells in your sauce and crack eggs into them – then cook until they are done. While they are cooking you wiggle the whites into the sauce a bit – and that’s it!

You serve this dish with Labneh or a thick yoghurt. I used creme fraiche – given I hadn’t made any Labneh (it does take at least a day to make it) and wanted to keep our yoghurt for something else.

Basic, fast, and very tasty. A definite dish to have in the bag when you have no time on your hands.

We definitely have to get out of the habit of eating so late. It’s not good for us! But better than eating nothing and going to bed on a rumbly tumbly.

Spicy Carrot Salad

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One thing I really struggle with is taking photographs of Orange food with an iPhone. All the pictures on this site are taken with my iPhone – and nearly all of them look acceptable – apart from the orange and really purple things. No idea why! Anyway – apologies for the photos of this dish!

On Thursday we got home a little too late and all I could think of making in a short span of time was this. Another dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book.

This is essentially some steamed carrots mixed with some spices. Very simple but very tasty. Another dish I made in less than 30 minutes !

While the carrots are steaming (or boiling as it says in the book) you fry some onions with some harissa, cumin and caraway seeds. Once the carrots are done you slice them, add them to the onion and spices, with some cider vinegar and sugar.

Then you just serve them with some rocket. It is recommended that you leave this dish for a while for the flavours of the onion and spice mix to infuse into the carrots.

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It doesn’t get simpler than that really. In reality this is just a side dish – but given the time of day this ended up being our main meal. Typically this would be a meze dish and as Ottolenghi says you could experiment and substitute the carrots for either pumpkin or butternut squash.

The recipe calls for Pilpelchuma (or Filfel chuma if you are searching wiki) – which is very similar to harissa anyway – although it is implied it might be a little more spicy. There’s a recipe later in the book to make it yourself but I just didn’t have the time – maybe some other time!

Freya thought this was too spicy. I really liked it.

One thing I’d change is to lightly crush the carrots. I don’t like the appearance of carrots when they are just sliced – reminds me of Sunday Roasts and school dinners – they look a bit primitive this way – whereas the crushed look is far more trendy and visually appealing.

Parsley and Barley Salad

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Cooking seems to have been put on the back-burner (pardon the pun) this week. We’ve just been so busy that eating seems to be the least of our worries. After this week things should settle down and I can get back to cooking properly again.

This very very simple salad is pretty much all I could manage on Friday after I had picked my daughter up from her ballet class, a mere 100 miles away from where I live! Another late dinner – it was definitely past 9pm by the time we ate this. Which isn’t good for you I know. Still it was quick and easy – you can make it in less than 30 minutes – easily!

This is another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from Jerusalem. I seem to have messed up somewhere and not reviewed his book. I’ll do that soon – as there is so much in that book I want to make. I just don’t seem to be focused on much more than getting our boat relocated to Brentford this week – so my head is in the clouds.

All you do with this recipe is boil then simmer some pearl barley – and not much either – and while it is getting ‘al dente’ chop some parsley, green pepper and spring onion. You also toast some nuts (I overdid mine quite a bit – but it didn’t seem to matter).

Once the pearl barley is to your liking you drain it and let it cool – and then mix with all the other ingredients, some lemon juice, oil and then crumble in some feta.

This dish is so fresh and really delicious. And it keeps pretty well too.

I’ve made this before – as has Freya – and we both keep coming back to it – so it must be good.

It’s a shame the parsley from Natoora was so leggy. Much like the recent batch of spinach from them, the parsley was all stalks and little parsley – and the parsley itself was very papery. I wasn’t overly pleased – which is a shame because usually Natoora are my go-to vegetable and fruit supplier at Ocado.

Pureed beetroot with yoghurt & za’atar

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The countdown has begun and we are beginning to panic. We move the boat a week today – and we are very nervous. There is so much to do – and not enough time to do it. This weekend is a write off due to family commitments – so we are going to the boat after work and working until there is no light left. Last night we worked until 9:15pm – got home at 10pm – and then I started cooking. This was part one of our dinner.

Fortunately I’d already roasted the beetroots for this dish the previous day – so this could be made in less than 20 minutes. Very simple indeed.

Whizz the beetroot, Greek Yoghurt, Garlic, Olive Oil , Za’atar and a Red Chilli in a Magimix – until blended. Don’t blend it too much as you want it to remain coarse.

In the book it says thicken it with mashed potato if it is too runny. As luck would have it I had 4 potato and spinach cakes that I hadn’t cooked yet just sat in the fridge – so I blended them in too to make it thicker. It didn’t change the flavour at all – just made it thicker!

Once blended to the consistency you want you top with roasted hazelnuts, spring onions and goats cheese. Very very simple.

Freya popped over to her parents and pilfered a couple of slices of bread – which we toasted and dipped into the puree. It was very late when we ate dinner – almost 11pm. Not ideal to go to bed straight after work but we were both exhausted. It had been a long day! We made lots of this – and took the rest to work and shared it with our colleagues at lunchtime.

Za’atar appears in a number of Middle Eastern dishes. Wiki says – ‘Za’atar is using a mix of ground dried thymeoreganomarjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, though other spices such as sumac might also be added’. My pot of Za’atar came from my Ottolenghi ingredients box that Freya’s mum bought me. It smells lovely – and really brings the beetroot to life.

This recipe can be found in Jerusalem – another great book by Yotam Ottolenghi.

I think this would be really good as part of a Meze, or with pitta bread – a really good substitute – or rival for Houmous.

I’m guessing tonights dinner will also be a very late one. But at least the end is in sight – and in a week we can take a well earned rest!

 

Dates and Turkish Ewe’s Cheese

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After three days of eating bread and cheese (our go to lazy eating solution when we are at the boat) we got back to work and made this for lunch.

Another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from the book Plenty. This very simple salad is both very quick to make and incredibly tasty. I think it looks pretty awesome too.

I can’t imagine many people will find Ewe’s Mozzarella in their local supermarket. Ottolenghi himself goes to a cheese specialist not far from his restaurant in London. I used a good quality Buffalo Mozzarella as I didn’t have the time.

Ottolenghi does this a lot. A green thing, a nut thing, a fruit thing and a cheese thing – with a dressing. And I have to say it seems to work everytime (except with Verjus !).

This one is rocket, mozzarella, almonds and Medjool dates. The dressing is olive oil and pomegranate molasses. There’s some basil and dill in there too.

I love this – very fresh – very summery – looks beautiful – and got me back in the mood for cooking again.

Lovely.

Asparagus, fennel and beetroot with verjus

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Just when I thought Ottolenghi was infallible – I made this.

On paper it was going to be great. Three of my favourite ingredients are beetroot, asparagus and fennel – and they are all in this dish. And they all require no cooking (unless you’ve roasted some raw beetroot).

Actually – it’s worth making the comparison here between the shop bought stuff that has been prepacked – and buying raw beetroots and roasting them. The stuff in the packet just doesn’t have the flavour and generally has a very high water content – it’s a poor imitation of the real thing.

Often books ask you to boil them in water – or roast them wrapped in foil. I do neither. I simply top and tail them – put them in a Halogen oven and roast them – with no oil – just as they are – until they are tender – which generally takes 40 minutes. Let them cool – peel them – and they will be so tasty and not at all wet.

Anyway – back to the recipe. There are only two other ingredients to this recipe. Pinenuts – which you toast at the end – and Verjus.

I first saw Verjus when I watched Australian Masterchef. The Australian format of Masterchef is far superior to the UK version – far more engaging – and you really get to know the competitors and the hosts/chefs. Anyway – on the show they visited the farm of Maggie Beer. She used verjus in one of her recipes and sung its praises so I was curious to get some.

Verjus is a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit (says WIKIpedia). This is quite an understatement – it’s MEGA acidic and sour. I tasted it before I carried on with the recipe! 

The recipe wants you to reduce 320ml of this very sour juice down to 3 tablespoons – 45ml. So make it even more sour and acidic. I have to say the result was intense.

I’m quite well known at work for liking really sour sweets – and really salty liquorice. I’ve yet to be defeated on the sour sweets – but I reckon the reduction of this verjus could be used to create a monster! It was probably the most sour thing I’ve tasted. Maybe there are different sournesses (is that a word) of Verjus – I hope so – otherwise I’ll never use this ingredient again.

The dish is essentially all the prepped vegetables with the Verjus dribbled on top – and then dressed with the pinenuts and some dill.

Neither of us liked it – it was too sour. It was like having all the moisture sucked out of your face. Not good. Such a shame because the Fennel and the Asparagus were very good before the dressing (chef’s snacks!).

Oh well – you can’t win them all.

 

Sweet Potato Cakes

Sweet Potato Cakes

From the time consuming – to the incredibly quick and easy!

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting much lately. We’ve been so busy trying to get the boat finished. We are moving it next Thursday from Maidenhead to Brentford – a two day voyage along the River Thames – by two absolute novices in the piloting of a boat. Our best efforts so far include Kayaking up to Bourne End – and almost causing a passenger boat collision on the canals of Amsterdam in a Pedalo!

I’ve always liked Yotam Ottolenghis myriad pancakes (note the correct use of the word myriad! – not a myriad of…) – he has many variations on a theme – this one I like – mainly because I really like sweet potatoes.

We’ve been packing up our cottage this week as well – getting all our stuff together – and that included looking in the freezer and seeing what we had in there. Quite frankly not very much. A couple of frozen meat based dishes which have clearly been in there for more than six months (we’ve not cooked with meat since November), some ice-cream (obviously) and a bag of frozen sweet potatoes and a bag of frozen butternut squash – both cubed.

With time not on my side – nor energy – I’d spent most of the day making steps for the outside of the boat from 3.6 metre decking boards (so was exhausted) – I simply tipped both bags of frozen veg onto a roasting tray – drizzled with Olive Oil and roasted for a good 30 minutes.

After letting them cool and draining off any liquid (of which there was very little anyway) you mix the roasted vegetables with flour, spring onions, a chilli, some soy sauce and a little bit of sugar. I Magimixed mine – which was maybe a little brutal – I think a potato masher might have done just as good a job.

You then make small burger sized patties and fry them in butter. I made 16 I think. In 2’s.

I served mine with a yoghurt dressing made from greek yoghurt, soured cream, lemon juice, olive oil and coriander.

These were really yummy, and really quick, and required very little effort. Just what I needed – I had little desire to be fine chopping stuff with Global knifes – and have a tendency to clip my fingers when I’m too tired.

It’s a shame the photo isn’t that exciting. These are really tasty – but don’t look like anything special.

Black Pepper Tofu

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It’s #VeggieWeek this week. Check out the lovely food being posted on Twitter.

I’ve made this recipe before – from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty – but it was way too spicy and way too salty for Freya – so I ended up eating the lot. I shortlisted it again for this round of recipes – but toned down some of the ingredients so that it was a ‘sharing plate’ rather than something all for me.

I think it looks really classy.

When you look at the ingredients for this recipe you’ll realise what I mean. There are 8 red chillis, 12 garlic cloves, 5 tablespoons of black pepper, 3 tablespoons of ginger, and 12 shallots. Hopefully Ottolenghi won’t tell me off for giving out the quantities here – but it does make you think ‘gee that’s gonna be hot’!

I used 4 chillis, 6 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of pepper, half the ginger – and kept all the shallots. It was still too hot for Freya! I probably would have used more pepper but my pepper mill decided it had given me enough ground pepper already and refused to give me more than 3 tablespoons. And that took me nearly 20 minutes. Next time I’ll be smarter and use my pestle and mortar.

It’s amusing that the recipe says this is quick to make. I don’t think it is. You have to fry to tofu in small batches so as not to steam them:

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Then you have to drain them and let them stand while you do the sauce:

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You then make the base by frying the dry ingredients (above) in butter:

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and then you add the sauce to the fried ingredients:

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which is essentially three types of soy sauce.

Once that’s all done you return the tofu to the pan, reheat and serve.

I love this dish – it’s so tasty and the tofu is really crunchy, having been dusted in cornflower and fried at quite a high temperature.

I love hot food. I love chillis, and I love those bottles of ‘dare to try me’ sauce. I have lots of them! As I’ve said before though with recipes that call for chillis; it would be nice if they said how hot the chillis should be – or how big – because there is such a wide variety of size and heat. You could end up making very different dishes every time.

I don’t think Freya will ever like this one as it is just a little bit too spicy. Fortunately we’d already had some quite nice Sweet Potato pancakes so she didn’t go hungry. There was quite a lot left over (I’m not an animal!) so that was my dinner the following day too !

There was a lot of washing up after this. All the prep bowls, the cast iron frying pan for the tofu, my lovely Al Clad Tagine for the sauce – and all the utensils. Not a quick dish – but a very tasty one.

 

Quinoa Salad with dried Iranian lime

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I shouldn’t have made this. I made a mistake and picked the wrong recipe out of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

I did however have all the ingredients so it doesn’t matter – and I’m glad I did.

You wouldn’t think of having, rice, rice and quinoa would you – but that’s what this recipe is – Wild Rice – I used the giant variety that Ocado sell, brown basmati and the red Quinoa. The recipe calls for mixed basmati and wild rice (which you can apparently buy ready mixed) but I’ve never seen it so I mixed it up myself.

I think this is probably my favourite so far from Plenty. I really love Quinoa and I love roasted Sweet Potatoes. I’ve made a couple of recipes like this one – adding Wild Rice really adds an extra texture.

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As you can see – much clearer in the panview – there are spring onions, goats cheese and lots of herbs in the recipe too. You can’t see the Iranian lime. Here’s why!

Iranian limes come dried and are rock hard – not ‘I’ve left a lime in the fridge’ rock hard – but ‘nutmeg’ rock hard. It is suggested you mill them in something like a nutmeg mill. I seemed to get away with using one of those fancy microplanes – it took me quite a long time to get two tablespoons worth – and my hands ached afterwards – but I got there in the end.

Iranian limes smell amazing – like limes obviously – but so intense. And it adds an incredible sharpness to the dish. If you are making a stew you can just make holes in the whole lime and add it in – and it will infuse – but I haven’t tried that yet.

I’ve never seen these in a shop – and according to the recipe you can buy it in powder form – but it is not as intense a flavour. Mine came as part of my Ottolenghi gift box that Freya’s mum bought me for Christmas – finally got to use them !

I like this kind of dish. You make a tray full of the stuff – you can double it up if you want – or pick at it while you work your way through ‘The Killing Season 2’ like we were.

Absolutely lovely – I’m glad I accidentally made it.

 

Brussel Sprouts and Tofu

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I sometimes wonder about my choices. Freekeh (high in fibre), Garlic soup and now Brussels Sprouts! I guess I’m not doing myself any favours!

That said – Freya thinks this is the best thing I’ve made from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.

I couldn’t decide whether to use the pan picture or the bowl picture – so here’s the other one

Brussel Sprouts with Tofu

Tofu is a tricky ingredient. Whenever you see a tofu recipe you really should consider leaving it in the marinade you make for 24 hours. Leaving it for 30 minutes while you do the rest of the preparation for a dish just isn’t long enough for the tofu to take on the marinade’s flavours. Tofu is ingredibly bland if you don’t do something to it, so that’s my recommendation.

The marinade for this tofu was sweet chilli sauce, soy, sesame oil, maple syrup and rice vinegar. Leaving the tofu for a while really made a difference.

Apart from the tofu preparation this is a very easy recipe; just pan fry some brussels, spring onions and red chilli, add shitake mushrooms and right at the end, carefully char the tofu and add to the brussels.

You dress the dish with coriander and sesame seeds.

This is so tasty. And because you only pan fry the brussels for maybe a minute or two on a high heat, they stay very crunchy but look lovely and glossy – coated in the oil. There was a time when brussels were for Christmas and nothing else. Now they are good any time of the year – and in a recipe like this they are perfect.

I think you could probably substitute brussels for kale as long as you cooked it the same. Something I might try later in the week!

There was plenty of this for us to take for lunch the next day – but we got greedy. So we ate it all and ended up having to go out for lunch the next day. Very confusing for the people at work that just expect to see exciting food each day!

Definitely a keeper this one – just remember to marinade the tofu for longer than it says!