Saffron chicken and Herb Salad

Another epic salad from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, this fresh plate of loveliness really hit the spot for lunch today. Wednesday’s are just meetings, meetings, meetings, and fitting in eating is a real challenge.

I think the title of this dish is a bit misleading. I think I’d rebrand it as ‘Roast chicken breast with an orange, honey and saffron glaze – served with a fennel and herb salad’. OK – maybe that is too long winded, but at least it is clearer!

In reality the chicken breast is simply roasted in the oven, and an orange glaze is poured over it when it is ready. The salad is not really just a herb salad, more a fennel salad with some herbs; definitely more fennel than anything else!

The orange sauce is the only thing that takes any time with this dish. Once that is on you can get everything else done with ease. Preheat the oven, season some chicken, roast it, rest it, break it into bits. Slice some fennel, add some mint, coriander, chilli, lemon juice and olive oil – and that’s done too.

The orange sauce is a segmented orange (take out all the pips) with some honey, as much saffron as you can spare, and a small amount of water – which you boil then simmer for an hour until it is all ‘glazey’.

Once the chicken has rested, pour over the glaze then toss it all together and eat. Really really easy.

This is a keeper and I think ANY white meat or fish or even Tofu might work with this sauce and salad. I liked it so much I will probably make it again later with the other parts of the chicken and perhaps serve it with another side.

Hummus kawarma

Hummus, (or houmous as I always thought it was spelled when I bought it pre-made from the supermarket) is one of our go to snacks. I’m really not one for sweet snacks; I’ll always choose a savoury snack over a pudding. I’ll often use up carrots or celery or leftover bread by dipping it in a very quickly prepped hummus.

When I make it ingredient proportions vary. Quantities of lemon juice, tahini, garlic and olive oil vary depending on availability. Sometimes I’ll use a different bean to chickpeas – but not very often. Sometimes I even add carrots or butternut squash but the pure unadulterated hummus is always the best. This recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook calls for dried chickpeas soaked and boiled in bicarb. Suffice to say I didn’t do that – which may seem like a surprise given the amount of effort I put into the Gado Gado Satay Sauce – but I have so many cans of chickpeas and for me this is an impromptu snack – not one I want to put any effort into.

What I did make properly was the kawarma topping. This is simply some chopped lamb neck with all the spices and herbs! Black and white pepper, all-spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, za-atar, mint and parsley are all mixed together with a little white wine vinegar and marinated before being fried off in butter and oil.

The recipe also calls for a lemon and green chilli dressing but I’d run out of lemons and my Ocado order wasn’t coming until the next morning. Never mind – maybe next time.

Freya made some flatbread naan to go with the hummus. She made them with some left over yoghurt and pea dressing from the pasta dish we had the day before. They were pretty yummy but I have no idea how she made them!

The addition of the lamb made this snack into a meal for us and we ended up skipping dinner. All that bread – it was pretty filling. Saying that I’m pretty sure we demolished a tub of low calorie ice-cream later in the evening!

Spicy beetroot, leek and walnut salad

Yesterday, I suggested that the Healthy Burgers and Green Salad we had would have been better with this dish. The garlic in the green salad kind of beat the burgers into submission. This on the other hand was the perfect accompaniment. There’s a lot more effort into making them, but it is worth it in the end.

I somehow managed to forget to have my breakfast shake so burgers and salad for lunch seemed like a good plan.

I’d roasted the beetroot in foil the night before. Nice little trick, if you aren’t in a rush, is don’t roast them for 90 mins in the oven (that’s a lot of oven energy for some beetroots) – roast them for 40 mins – turn the oven off and just leave them til the oven is cold. They’ll still cook, and you’ll cut down on your energy bills. After all you’re eating the beetroot cold anyway – and you have to wait for them to be cold before you can peel the skin off. Works a treat for me – seems less messy too, as most people are impatient and start peeling before they are actually cold – and the juice just gets everywhere!

The leeks are simmered until they are tender, refreshed, then cut into chunks – and while that it going on you make a dressing of walnuts, chilli-flakes, garlic, oil, tamarind water (if you have it – I’ve used a small amount of fish sauce before, or an anchovy – something Umami will do it), and cider vinegar.

When you’re ready pop it all on a bed of rocket and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over the top, and a drizzle of olive oil.

One thing I don’t like about whole pomegranates is you never know how plump and colourful the seeds will be (in this picture they are really pale). You can buy the seeds already popped in a plastic pot but I don’t like the plastic waste. I’d rather the wormery had the husk than worry about whether the plastic will get recycled!

This was a far more balanced accompaniment to the turkey burgers. And filled a nice little spot in my tummy until dinner time. Right – back to work! Adios!

Healthy Burgers and Green Salad

Let’s try a straight-forward title – because these two dishes combined would make for quite the long title.

The Burgers – ‘Turkey & Courgette Burgers with Spring Onion & Cumin’ – and the Salad ‘Feta, Parsley & Barley Salad’ both come from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Both were packed with flavour – if a little heavy on the raw garlic.

We chose this meal today out of necessity more than anything else. Many of the ingredients were in desperate need of cooking – or going in the bin. Especially the fresh herbs. There’s only so long you can keep cut coriander and parsley before if starts to yellow. I remember on Masterchef Australia a few years ago that George Calombaris swore that the only way to store herbs was rolled in kitchen towel – but this has never worked for me. If anyone has any great tips I’d love to know how to prolong their life.

The initial plan for today’s dinner was a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad (with the Turkey burgers) but the beets needed 90 mins in the oven and we didn’t really want to wait that long to eat dinner, so we subbed in the Barley Salad instead. In hindsight, the beetroot would have been better – as the garlic and parsley did somewhat overpower the burgers. I love strong punchy flavours but Freya struggled. Fortunately we have enough for the same burgers tomorrow – this time with the beets – so we will see if the balance of flavour is better.

As much as lockdown is terrifying and frustrating, it has given me a new-found desire to cook again. It has made me plan meals better; portion control better; and it has also made me take more pride in my kitchen. I wash up as I go, have become more methodical, and leave the kitchen spotless after every meal. It is so much easier to cook in a tidy clean kitchen when you know where everything is, and what you have, and that you don’t need to clear up before you start the next meal!

Back to the food. There’s so much in these burgers; turkey, courgette, spring onions, coriander, mint, garlic, cumin and cayenne. It was hard to believe a single egg would bind it all together. But it did – sort of! You just chuck all this stuff together and fry them off in batches. I made half the burgers that were suggested – and will have the others tomorrow.

The accompanying dip is a triumph. One to keep for almost any other dish; sour cream, yoghurt, garlic, lemon (zest and juice), sumac and olive oil all mixed together and seasoned. I added some more of my preserved lemon salt for a bit more punch. This punchy yoghurty healthy sauce/dip really worked well with the burgers; I think it’d also work nicely with baked salmon, chicken and other lighter meats.

The salad was pretty simple too. Apart from the barley prep (boil it for 30 mins) everything else is raw. Marinate some feta in oil, za’atar, cumin and coriander seeds and then chop parsley, spring onions, cashews, green pepper and garlic. Throw it all together and serve with a squeeze of lemon and a little all-spice.

I definitely overdid the garlic in this. Or should I say – the garlic cloves were just massive – I should have used half as much as the hit from the parsley AND the garlic was a bit much for Freya.

This is a great healthy meal. Just go easy on the garlic!

Pan-fried mackerel with golden beetroot and orange salsa & Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants & herbs

Nice snappy title! fish, salad and rice probably would have done.

We rarely have fish. In fairness before lockdown we barely had meat either. But doing the vegetarian and vegan thing is a harder work when you struggle for availability of items and also need to keep them ‘alive’ and fresh for 2-3 weeks.

So for lockdown we aren’t trying too hard to be vegetarian. There are bigger things to worry about; so meat and fish are back on the table. This is the first fish dish I’ve cooked this year (I think).

Both dishes (the rice dish is a completely separate dish) are from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. This is a great book indeed and I never tire of cooking from it.

The mackerel is marinated in harissa, cumin and salt. I used rose harissa as we seem to have 3 jars of it. While it infuses into the fish, boil some beetroots (golden ones), then when the are cold, dice them with oranges, lemons, olives, herbs and chilli flakes – and a good glug of oil.

When the salad is ready, get a pan REALLY hot and add the mackerel for less than a minute (it says longer but I disagree), take the pan off the heat, then serve it with the salad. We added the rice as it didn’t feel like a complete meal.

The rice is pretty epic. Just rice is never a good side. This rice has Wild rice (which takes forever to cook) basmati rice, and chickpeas, as well as curry powder, onions and lots of herbs. Oh and currants – the currants make this dish. The recipe asks you to cook the wild rice first then the basmati separately, but I cheated somewhat, guessed when the wild rice had 12 mins to go and chucked the basmati in with it. Obviously this could have been a fail but it worked out fine.

This rice would be perfect for any dish I think – or BBQ if we ever get outside with friends again!

Freya wasn’t a fan of the beetroot and citrus salad. I lapped it up – thought the two things went really well together. The mackerel was a triumph too. The rice I will make over and over!

We still have many meals on the list before our 10th May Ocado delivery. Watch this space for more yummy stuff!

Lamb Mezze – or the Lamb That Kept on Giving

Saturday’s slow roast Leg of Lamb kept on giving today with its third offering. This time as part of a mezze from Ottlenghi’s Plenty cookbook.

Yesterday we had Lamb Ragu with pasta. It really wasn’t worth the picture or talking about as I just boiled up some pasta and added a good amount of lamb and the red wine sauce left over from Saturday’s epic dinner.

Two types of lamb featured today; the Leg meat (simply reheated in the oven) and the spicy minced lamb (left over from the Minced Stuffed Aubergine dish we made last week). I have the say the lamb leg was just as tender and juicy as it was when it was first cooked.

Accompanying the leftovers were Fried tomatoes and Garlic from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Very little to this really; I just pricked some fancy Natoora tomatoes and all the available parsley stalks and fried them for a minute or so with olive oil and sea salt. After taking them off the heat I added some more parsley, a couple of red chillis and some grated garlic. And that was that. 10 minutes to make this max!

The salad (in the centre of the picture) we’ve had before. Also from Jerusalem it’s called Baby Spinach with dates and almonds. I love it. It conforms for Ottolenghi’s preferred ‘all salads need nuts and fruit’ rule. It’s another really easy dish which you can adapt to whatever you’ve got. I’ve made it with apricots before, added sultanas, and even dried cherries. Any nuts will do too; I’ve made it with hazelnuts and walnuts before. Chopped apple also works well.

Here some dates and some red onion are pickled for a short while in white wine vinegar and a little salt. You really don’t need those expensive Medjool dates; just get the cheap and cheerful ones and quarter them lengthways. Once they’ve been pickling they’ll soften up nicely.

While that’s pickling melt some butter and oil in a pan and tear in a couple of pitta bread (or even some regular bread that isn’t as fresh as it could be) and some chopped skin on almonds. Keep it moving in a hot pan until it gets golden and crunchy then take it off the heat and add some sumac, chilli flakes and salt. I added some more of my friend Becca’s Preserved lemon salt as it gives everything extra punch!

After letting it cool a bit – you don’t want to wilt the spinach – throw this bread mixture on top of the spinach and then the red onion and dates. Finish it off with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

I think this is one of the best salads I’ve ever made – and it goes with just about anything.

Finally I made a quick tzatsiki by grating half a cucumber into some yoghurt and stirring in some chopped mint and a bit of sea salt.

We loved this dinner. Freya said it was the best meal to come from the Leg of Lamb; and as you can see there was way too much for 2 people to eat. Six pitta breads went into this dinner! 2 in the salad and two that we stuffed with the mezze.

We will inevitably be having it all again tomorrow for lunch, meaning we’ll have gotten 8 meals out of one leg of lamb. Now that’s resourcefulness for you!

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!