Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

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I often think that cauliflower gets a little overlooked as a vegetable, unlike its more ‘superfood’ cousin, the broccoli. Boiling it can be bland, like most things, but roast it and add a little spice and textures then you have a truly delicious treat. I wrote a piece a few years ago on the merits of the humble cauliflower here so do check it out.

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This recipe is quick, extremely tasty (ok I know I am biased), full of goodness and great as a lunch to take to work in a tupperware or as an evening meal. It can be eaten hot or cold so is hugely versatile. A slight chill is now in the air in London, although I am still hopeful for an Indian summer, so the warming cumin and cinnamon gives the dish autumnal comforting notes. The sweetness come from the cinnamon and the saltiness from the feta so no extra salt is necessary.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

serves 2 or 4 if serving with another dish 

1 cauliflower, chopped into florets and greenery removed

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pine nuts, toasted

30g raisins or sultanas

1 small handful of fresh coriander

30g feta, crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if using fan). In a large mixing bowl add the cauliflower florets and add the cumin and cinnamon powder along with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently with your hands so that the florets are evenly coated.
  2. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges are nicely charred.
  3. Meanwhile heat a heavy frying pan and toast the pine nuts so that they begin to bronze. They bronze quickly so keep an eye on this. Add the raisins/sultanas to warm them and allow them to become soft. Place to one side in a bowl.
  4. Once the cauliflower is cooked add to a new mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, sultanas, coriander and crumbled feta. Toss gently and either plate up or leave to cool before adding to your lunch container.

I have also made this with prunes instead of raisins/sultanas, which works really well. Dates would also be another option.

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Baked Spiced Beetroot and Feta Samosas

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For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed devouring vegetable samosas. They are basically the Indian vegetarian version of the Cornish pasty and are a great all day snack. At university I would regularly eat one for breakfast before heading off to lectures. Filling and wonderfully spicy, they were a great way to warm the belly and the soul.

 

 

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I often make them the ‘traditional’ way with potatoes, peas, carrots, spices and chilli, but sometimes for a change I like to make them with a twist. Beetroot works really well and if you combine it with feta, cumin seeds, chilli and fresh coriander then you have yourself a really tasty little treat. I thought they seemed quite festive and would make the perfect little starter/snack over the Christmas season.

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Making the filo parcels is a lot easier than you would imagine. If you look at the photographs below you will get the picture of how straightforward they really are to prepare.

 

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First you start by placing a tablespoonful of the cooked spiced beetroot and feta in the bottom right hand corner. You then need to glaze gently the sides of the filo pastry with melted butter so that the samosa sticks together well.

 

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By bringing the bottom right hand corner up to the left hand side you create the first triangle. Should it break at all at this stage do not panic as it will all be hidden as you go on folding the triangles.

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Keep folding the triangle over so that it alternates from side, upwards and then side again until you reach the top. Then add a little more melted butter to the top of the filo pastry and fold over one last time.

 

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Viola. Now you need to give the topside a melted butter glaze and then place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

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After twenty minutes in the oven at 180 degrees you have beautiful bronzed samosas ready for eating. Eat immediately – or once they have cooled slightly.

 

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I often serve them as a starter/snack before serving a curry such as lamb curry, Indian greens and a tasty dal and spiced rice.

 

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They are also an irresistible after school snack (just remember to reduce the chilli if your children are not used to chilli).

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Baked Spiced Beetroot and Feta Samosas

350g beetroot

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1-2 heaped tsp cumin seeds

1 small fresh green chilli, finely sliced (1/2 if you prefer it less hot)

150g feta, diced

1/2 sweet paprika

handful of fresh coriander

8 filo pastry sheets (will make 16 samosas)

butter, for glazing

1. Wash the beetroot and leave the skins on at this stage. Cut the stems so they are short.  Boil in a pan of boiling water for around 20-30 minutes so that they have softened. Test with a sharp knife, if it goes in easily then they are done. The skins will also be able to come away easily when they are ready.

2. Chop into small cubes and place to one side. In a frying pan add the vegetable oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds and fresh chilli. After 30 seconds add the beetroot and stir well so that they begin to be coated in the cumin seeds and chilli.

3. Add the paprika, fresh coriander and leave on a low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add the feta and gently fold into the beetroot and spices. Leave for a minute before taking off the heat to cool. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

6.Place one sheet of filo pastry on a chopping board and cut it in half lengthwise. Using the first pasty strip, lightly brush the pastry with melted butter around the edges and place a tablespoonful of the filling in the bottom right hand corner. Bring the corner up to the left hand side of the pastry therefore making a triangle shape. Then bring the triangle straight up to create another triangle before folding over once again so that the triangle folds over to the right hand side of the pastry once again. (See photos above)

7. Continue all the way to the top. With the final edge brush with melted butter and fold over neatly. Turn over and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the exposed side of the samosas with melted butter.  Repeat until you have completed the process.

8. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the samosas has bronzed nicely. Serve immediately with  a chutney or two on the side.

Come back to my blog in a weeks time to get a fab chutney recipe.

Note: You can prepare them (pre cooking) and then freeze them. When you are ready to eat them simply glaze them with melted butter and place them in the oven for 20-25 mins until bronzed. 


Roasted Butternut Squash and Beetroot with Pistachio Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate Seeds from Persiana

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It was love at first sight. The vibrant butternut squash (the beetroot is my own addition) with dollops of pistachio pesto infused with fresh dill, coriander and parsley, crumbled feta and bejewelled pomegranate seeds. Simple and yet so very right. I did not even need to try it to know that I would love it and include it in my culinary repertoire from that day forth.

 

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It was served to me by the very likeable Sabrina Ghayour earlier this year at her hugely popular supper club that takes place in her west London residence. Twelve or so hungry diners feasted on a number of mouth watering Persian dishes that were lovingly prepared by Sabrina herself.  Her recipes and ingredients sing to me and I can honestly say that I actually want to cook and eat a large number of them. Dried lime, lamb and split pea stew or saffron chicken, fennel and barberry stew or bamia – bring it on.

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The recipes will really come into their own in the autumn and winter time as there is even a section dedicated  to ‘soups, stews and tanginess’, perfect to serve up and nourish the soul on cold, blistery autumnal days. That said, there are also sections on ‘salads and vegetables’,  ‘roasts and grills’, ‘mezze and sharing plates’, ‘breads and grains’ and finally ‘desserts and sweet treats’ so something for everyone no matter what hemisphere you are living in. The recipes are easy to follow and beautifully photographed. I also particularly love the cover which is not only eye catching with it’s title that rolls off the tongue, but it also has a very tactile cover.  As you pass your hand over it gives the impression that spices and rose petals have really been imbedded into it’s very cover.  Such a clever and original idea.

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This recipe you can eat as is, or accompany it with another in her book. I thought the ‘tray-baked rose lamb chops with chilli and herbs’ (above) would be a particularly delicious combination. If you want to learn more about Persian food and feel comfortable cooking it for yourself then I cannot recommend the book more highly. Sabrina’s chatty, informative and unpretentious style will connect with it’s readers and guide them through the very exciting world of food from Persia.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Beetroot with Pistachio Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate Seeds

adapted slightly from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour

Serves 4 

1 butternut squash, halved and then chopped into about 6 large pieces (skin left on)

4 beetroot, gently cleaned (be careful not to damage the skin) kept whole and stems left intact

4 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

150g feta cheese

100g pomegranate seeds

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for the pesto

100g shelled pistachio nuts

70g parmesan chopped into rough chunks

olive oil

1 handful of fresh coriander

1 handful of fresh dill

1 handful of fresh parsley

2 tbsp chilli oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees if using fan oven or 200 degrees if not/gas mark 6.  Place the chopped butternut squash and intact beetroot on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover the vegetables in olive oil, pepper and salt. Place in the oven for 50 minutes so the edges of the butternut squash begin to char.

2. Meanwhile to prepare the pesto, place the pistachio, parmesan chunks and a glug of olive oil into a food processor and mix together. If it remains quite thick in texture add some more olive oil to soften it.

3. Add all the herbs, chilli oil and lemon juice and blitz together with a sprinkling of sea salt. Taste to make sure the flavour is well balanced. Leave in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4. To serve, place the roasted butternut squash and beetroot (now cut in two) on a serving platter. Place dollops of the pesto on each vegetable portion, crumble the feta on each portion and around the  platter. Finish by scattering the pomegranate on top.

Voila you have the most pleasing of meals to dive into.


Spanish Baked Chicken and Pea and Mint Soup with Crumbled Feta

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It’s always good to have some quick, easy and tasty recipes up your sleeve if you feeding a crowd. I know how it is difficult to decide what to pair up with what in as far as a starter, main and dessert is concerned. I always find it helpful in cookery books when they give suggestions. It’s surprising how many do not actually do this!

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Both these recipes turned up on my blog when I first started back in 2011 and I felt that the photos needed a little improving so decided to re post with new ones that I recently took. They are both definitely ‘go-to’ recipes for me. Hearty food with wonderful herbs, but light and fresh – perfect for summer days.

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They are so quick and easy to prepare that if you have friends coming over or you are doing your own catering on holiday, they take no time and will not cause you any stress. The dessert I accompanied these dishes with was Rose and Summer Berry Skinnifreddo, which I found on fellow food blogger Kellie’s blog – kelliesfoodtoglow.com. It was wonderfully fresh, colourful and healthy and  complements my starter and main beautifully. Her blog is really rather lovely so do take some time to look around it – I am sure you will be inspired.

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The above photo is of the chicken after marinading but before cooking

Spanish Baked Chicken

Sourced and inspired by Simply Recipes

serves 4-6

3.5 pounds/1.6kg  chicken thighs

100 ml red wine vinegar

100ml olive oil

1 handful fresh oregano

100g raisins/sultanas

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

100g stoneless green olives

4 bay leaves

150 ml white wine

2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Cut the excess fat off the chicken thighs, pierce the skin with a fork and place in a large mixing bowl. Then add all the ingredients, except the white wine and brown sugar, to create the wonderful marinade. You don’t have to stick rigidly to the amounts for the olives and raisin/sultanas ingredients – if you love olives throw in a little more and same goes for the raisins/sultanas. Really mix all the marinade thoroughly over the chicken using your hands. Cover with foil and place in the fridge overnight or for as many hours as you can.

2. Transfer the chicken and the marinade to an oven proof dish. I often use a couple of dishes so that the chicken thighs are evenly spread out. Then pour the white wine and sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken thighs.

3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 50 mins remembering to spoon the marinade over the chicken during cooking. This will ensure the chicken has a golden brown glow when it is cooked.

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Pea and Mint Soup with Crumbled Feta

Serves 4

4 spring onions, sliced

50g butter

700g frozen peas

1 pint/600ml milk

1 pint/600ml of vegetable stock

one handful of fresh mint (or two if you like it really minty)

black pepper

salt

75g feta

1. Melt the butter slowly in a pan, careful not to burn the butter. When melted add the sliced spring onions and stir into the butter for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, vegetable stock and mint and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes (30 minutes if you are using fresh peas).

2. Puree the soup to the consistency that you require. Then add in the milk – if you like a thicker consistency then add less milk than the amount given above. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Immediately before serving sprinkle each portion with crumbled feta.


Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad and a Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad

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I had a few girlfriends over for lunch this week and thought it might be helpful to give you the low down on some of the things I prepared which allowed me to have a stress free time. Planning ahead is absolutely essential. There is nothing worse than having to fret over food last minute when all you really want to be doing is catching up with everyone. I tend to opt for large healthy salads and then prepare a hot soup of some sorts to warm the belly and soul.

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So first up was a mung bean, carrot and feta salad with cumin, caraway and fennel seeds. It requires some forward planning in that you need to soak the lentils overnight, but other than that it is very straightforward and ticks all the boxes for healthiness and importantly tastiness.

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Then I prepared my Vietnamese inspired salmon, cucumber, red onion and grapefruit salad with a mirin lime dressing. I posted it on my blog about a year ago. Check out the recipe here.

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Then I made one of my absolute favourite salads – a miso soy chicken with spinach, lentils, slow baked tomatoes, green  (you can use puy, beluga whatever takes your fancy) lentils and pine nuts. Recipe here. I opted to make my own slow baked tomatoes – you can find a recipe for them at the bottom of the post if you click here. Very easy to prepare and taste so delicious.

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To balance out the flavours, palate and colours I then prepared a Moroccan influenced salad of giant couscous, Moroccan spices, sultanas, pine nuts, fresh mint and pink lady apples. Recipe below.

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Excuse the rather hazy shot of the final ‘salad’, but I opted for shredded duck with pomegranate, spring onions, mint and coriander with a raspberry vinegar dressing. I posted the recipe here on my blog a while ago.

The hot soup that I prepared I completely forgot to take a photo of – so I will do a separate blog post on that another time – but it was a red lentil (I am slightly obsessed by these delicious little beauties), coconut milk and smoked paprika with a chilli oil and fresh coriander sprinkled on top.

Needless to say I cooked far too much of everything so will be eating tasty leftovers for the next few days!

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I’ll leave you with a pretty flower shot. I am so pleased that finally some of the wonderfully colourful and sweet smelling flowers are beginning to grace our florists.

Until next week folks…..

Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad

Serves 4-6

Inspired by a similar recipe from Red Magazine online

300g giant couscous

1 tbsp butter

50g sultanas

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 cumin powder

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 garlic, finely grated/chopped

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

handful of fresh mint, chopped

zest of a lemon

1 red chilli, finely chopped (half if you prefer it less hot)

2 pink lady apples, diced and cored

1. Place the couscous in a pan and completely cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 6-8 minutes so that the couscous is soft. Strain and run under the cold tap. Shake off the water as much as you can. Place to one side.

2. Using the same pan melt the butter and then add the sultanas so that they are completely coated in the melted butter.  Now add the ground cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika and simmer for one minute and then place to one side.

3. Dice and core the apple (if serving at a later stage hold off on cutting up the apple until almost ready to serve as it will begin to bronze), deseed the chilli and finely chop. Finely chop the shallots and grate the ginger and garlic cloves.

4. In a mixing bowl add the couscous, the sultanas with all the spices and butter juice and mix together. Now add the shallots, ginger and garlic and continue to fold into the couscous.

5. Scatter the apple on top along with the mint and lemon zest and serve.

Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad with Cumin, Caraway and Fennel Seeds

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in ‘The Guardian’

Serves 4-6

300g dried green mung beans

1 tbsp chilli oil (or olive if you prefer to have less of a kick)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

3 good sized carrots cut in to batons

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

150g feta, crumbled (not finely)

handful of freshly chopped coriander

1. Soak the dried mung beans overnight in water that completely covers them.

2. The following day, rinse them a couple of times in cold water and then place them in a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 25-30 minutes to soften them but so they still retain a bit of a bite.

3. Drain and rinse through cold water and set to one side in a large bowl.

4. In a small pan add the chilli oil (or olive see above) and when hot add the seeds and allow them to start popping, which will take no longer than 30 seconds. Stir a couple of times and then transfer the seeds and oil into the large bowl with the drained mung beans.

5. Add the white wine vinegar, garlic, chilli flakes and stir in together.

6. In a separate large shallow pan lay the carrot batons and almost cover with cold water. Add one further spoonful of olive oil along with the sugar and salt. Simmer on a high heat for 7 minutes by which time the carrots will have soften and the water will have drastically reduced – drain any excess. The sugar will allow the carrots to slightly caramelise.

7. Add the carrots to the mung beans and stir in gently. Add more salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter and crumble with feta.

Again this stores well in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Chickpea, Tomato, Spinach and Feta Soup

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With a guest over recently, I found myself improvising with some ingredients to bulk up lunch. It was an unplanned creation and hence the results were all the more exciting and satisfying.  I literally threw together some ingredients I already had in the house to make a very comforting and warming soup/vegetarian stew. It took under fifteen minutes from fridge to stove to table and the silence as everyone delved into their bowl with concentration, was deeply reassuring. As they came up for air, the verbal endorsements confirmed this.

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It’s important to be able to whip up a meal in a matter of minutes. We all need an arsenal of these for when we have little energy or inclination to cook but want to be nourished by good home-cooked food. You can’t beat home-made soups – not only do they taste better, but you can also monitor exactly what goes into them.

I always have a range of tinned lentils on standby to use for soups, stews and salads, so for this soup I used a tin of trusty chickpeas. Everything else I had in my pantry (aka pull out cupboard…buy hey we can dream!) or in the fridge. I always have a pack or two of feta in my fridge as it can last unopened for around three months.

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Chickpea, Tomato, Spinach and Feta Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 banana shallot (or small white onion), peeled and roughly chopped

2 large red chillies/chilli peppers (not the hot variety), chopped into inch pieces

4 fresh tomatoes, diced

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas

1 tsp of sweet paprika

1 tsp vegetable bouillon

200ml boiling water

1 tsp rock salt

pinch of black pepper

200g fresh spinach

100g feta, crumbled

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when it is hot, but on a medium/low heat, add the shallot and garlic and gently fry.

2. After a couple of minutes add the chilli/chilli pepper and continue to stir for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the fresh tomatoes and continue to cook on a medium/low heat until they begin to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan and stir into the other ingredients.

4. Now add the drained chickpeas, the sweet paprika, vegetable bouillon, salt and the boiling water. Give a good stir and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

5. Finally add the fresh spinach and place a lid on the pan. After a minute give a good stir and add a little more boiling water if necessary. Taste and season.

6. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a liberal amount of feta.

All these steps will not take more than 15 minutes max to prepare and cook.

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

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Cornbread is not commonly known about, or eaten for that matter, here in the UK and yet it is the most wonderfully moreish and perfect little bread that works so well with a soup or salad or as a savoury alternative to scones with jam and clotted cream at tea time – not that I eat scones and jam with clotted cream every tea time……only on special occasions!

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My eldest is often famished after a day at school followed by clubs so naturally likes to have a little snack before supper and this bread is a big hit – even with the chilli in. The bread allows you to be creative and put whatever little filling takes your fancy. I like to use feta as it has the perfect saltiness to go with the chilli and the spring onion adds an additional layer of flavour, which I love. Equally courgette and ricotta or caramelised onion and goats cheese would also work really well. Do you have a favourite combination? I would love to hear so please leave a message in the comments section below for us all to see.

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I use Greek yoghurt and milk in my cornbread but you can also use buttermilk, try them both out and see which you prefer. For this recipe I used one egg this time, but if I use small eggs then I often pop in two. As for chilli, jalapeno works well or you can use a milder/hotter one or even dried chilli flakes. Have a go, experiment and let me know what you think. It’s perfect with my Mexican tortilla soup.

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

Dry ingredients

160g fine cornmeal (polenta)

60g plain flour

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 red chilli (or 2 if you want that extra kick)

75g crumbled feta

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Wet ingredients

125ml Greek yoghurt

125ml milk

juice of half a lime

1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)

2 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees c.

2. Grease some baking parchment and place in your loaf tin. Mine is 24x14cm. By all means use a smaller tin – your loaf will just have more depth, which is good. Without baking parchment you may find your loaf is harder to remove from the tin after baking.

3. Mix all your dry ingredients together in one bowl.

4. Place all your wet ingredients together in another bowl/jug and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in gently with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour into your tin and level off with a spatula. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it is golden and firm to touch on the top.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes before taking the bread out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.

 Serve warm or toasted with Mexican tortilla soup


Mexican Tortilla Soup

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It’s been half term this week so until now I ‘ve not had a second to sit down and actually write a blog post. I had wanted to put up one of my ‘en papillote’ recipes, but although I ended up eating three fish meals ‘en papillote’  this week each time it was in the evening and by the time the little parcels of deliciousness came out of the oven the lighting was frankly too dark to get a good shot. Lightening or rather natural lightening is key to good food photography and whilst I am still learning I feel it is important to heed this one basic rule. When I started food blogging two years ago, virtually to the day, my food photography was pretty appalling and whilst I have not got to where I want to be quite yet, it has at least improved. This shot was taken at night and I look back at it now and cringe – in fact I think I may even re blog the recipe – Chilli Crab Linguini – with more appealing photographs as the recipe is a keeper and perfect for a midweek supper.

Anyway I digress, the recipe for today’s blog is straightforward and perfect for a light lunch. It uses a spoonful of the chipotle sauce that I blogged about a couple of months ago – hands up whose attempted to make it? I made another batch of 7 pots the other day as all the others had finished. By all means buy a ready made chipotle sauce but if you have a little bit of time (it really does not take long) I really urge you to try making your own chipotle sauce – recipe here.  The chipotle gives the soup an earthy, delicately spiced flavour – for those who have not tried chipotle chillies before they are NOT ‘blow your mind’ type of chillies but more of a smokey, gently spiced chilli that keeps you coming back for more. My seven year old loves the soup and does not find it too spicy for her palate.

Mexican Tortilla Soup

adapted from Thomasina Miers – Mexican Food Made Simple

Serves 6

4 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 corn tortilla, broken up

1 tbsp of chipotle sauce

2 (400g) tins of tomatoes

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp fresh oregano (or dried)

1.5 litres chicken/vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

2 corn tortillas, chopped into 1 inch strips

vegetable oil, for frying

4 pasilla dried chillies, deseeded and stems removed (or you could use ancho)

100g feta cheese, crumbled

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

half a lime per serving

(You can also add avocado and sour cream although I omitted them for this shoot)

1. In a large pan – I find my large casserole Le Creuset pot is perfect for this – add the olive oil and when it is hot add the onion and gently cook for around 10 minutes before adding the garlic and the broken up corn tortilla. Leave these three ingredients to cook for another five minutes.

2. Now add the chipotle sauce, brown sugar, tinned tomatoes, oregano and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Leave to cook for another 10 minutes before adding the stock and simmering for a further 10 minutes.

 3. Using a hand blender, blend the soup until smooth and then let to simmer gently for a few more minutes.

4. While the soup is simmering, place the pasilla chilles in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes and then remove the stems and deseed. Pat dry with kitchen paper.

5. Heat up some vegetable oil in a small pan. You want to make sure that there is enough vegetable oil so that the tortilla will float on the top. I find that 200ml is more than enough – (you can reuse this oil fyi!). When it is hot and small bubbles are rising to the surface, gently add the strips of corn tortilla. They will sizzle immediately and begin to bronze quickly so move them around the pan for a few seconds so that they are bronzed all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper before transferring to a bowl.

6. Delicately place the chillies in the remaining oil. If they are still wet at all they will spit so be vigilant when placing them in the oil. Move them around in the oil for a few seconds then also place on kitchen paper. Chop up into bite sized portions and place into a bowl.

7. Crumble the feta, roughly chop the coriander and half the limes. (if you are using avocado – chop this is up into small cubes). Place in bowls on the table so that the hungry masses can add whichever garnish they wish to their Mexican tortilla soup.

Also if you are using sour cream, place in a bowl so those who wish can an add a dollop to their soup. I had this all ready and then forgot to photograph the sour cream on the soup as well. A case of being hungry so quickly wanting to photograph the soup and then eat with the rest of the family!


Garlic Roasted Butternut Squash, Lentil and Feta Salad

Butternut squash are one of those wonderful fresh ingredients that you can buy and store for a reasonable amount of time. I haven’t tested their longevity as such, but I know that they are fine for at least a month. (Any other educated guesses then let me know?)

If you can get past the fact that peeling them can be a bit labourous at times, you are treated to a sweet tasting, vibrant and versatile vegetable that generally passes muster with most people. It’s generally not one of those vegetables that people are known to turn their noses up at, unlike perhaps this, so it’s a great vegetable to feed the whole family. It’s bright, vivid colour is clealy a mood enhancer and with all this terrible weather we have been having lately, I welcolme it wholeheartedly into my cooking.  

I love all manner of lentils and pulses and cook with them most days in some capacity. This dish I cook in bulk and then eat over a few days. It stores well in the fridge, although I tend to keep the feta seperate until ready to serve, as I find it tends to crumble if I mix it in too early with the other ingredients. As with all my recipes if you are feeding it to your young children I omit the chilli.

The dish has some wonderful flavours going on, that combined together works really well. I sometimes add pomegranate seeds and had planned to put them in, but somehow managed to forget this time around. So if you fancy throwing in another bright colour to make the dish even more cheery and summery then add some pomegranate seeds.

 

 Garlic Roasted Butternut Squash, Lentil and Feta Salad

Serves 6

250g lentils

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

3 tbsp olive oil

1 red chilli, finely chopped and deseeded

200g feta

1 small red onion, finely sliced

handful of fresh parsley

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees.

2. Peel a small/medium sized butternut squash and cut into bite sized cubes. Place on a baking/roasting tray along with the chopped garlic cloves. Using your hands cover the cubes and garlic with olive oil.

3. Place in the oven and leave to cook for 40 minutes.

4. Rinse the lentils in cold water to give them a good clean and then place them in a pan with cold water so that they are well covered and leave on a medium heat for 20-25 minutes (see packet for details). They should be nicely softened by this stage. Drain and leave to cool.

5. Finely slice a small red onion and red chilli (de-seeded if you prefer it less hot) and cut the feta cheese into small cubes.

6. In a small bowl mix the red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar and sugar and season to taste.

7. Gently mix all the ingredients, aside from the feta, together in a bowl first. Serve sprinked with feta cubes and a generous portion of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Serve at room temperature.

As the feta is so naturally salty you will probably find that you do not need to season with extra salt.


Watermelon, Feta, Black Olive, Mint and Lime Salad – a knockout combination

OK, I take it all back. The weather gods have clearly been reading my blog so much so they have decided to let it shine big time. Ever since I wrote my blog about ‘Raoul’s Eggs Rock‘ and that it is incessantly raining, the sun has come out to the extent that it’s been a scorcher ever since. A few days ago London was hotter than the Caribbean, which is wonderful really wonderful, aside from the fact that England is not really set up for extreme conditions – hot or cold. Its been so humid I keep having to go down to our cellar to get some cool air. Even the paddling pool water has heated up to bath water temperature. I don’t know about you but when it is really hot and humid I really like eating mountains of fresh fruit. A huge bowl of sweet melon, mango, strawberries, raspberries and fresh mint always goes down a treat.

This inspired me to share one of my absolute favourite salads with you. I have been cooking it for years and then discovered that the ubiquitous kitchen goddess – Nigella – has a similar recipe. It combines fresh, cleansing watermelon with the salty robust feta cheese. The flavours combined are perfectly balanced, although I know its hard to believe. Then with lime juice, black olives, fresh mint and a splash of olive oil you have a heavenly dish.

Its simple to create, truly delicious and very memorable. Perfect for a light lunch or for an evening dinner served alongside some grilled chicken. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Watermelon, Feta, Black Olive, Mint and Lime Salad

Serves 4

 1 mini watermelon (circa 2kg in weight), cubed

200g/8oz feta cheese, cubed

100/4oz black pitted olives

2 limes, squeezed

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 handful of fresh mint, torn into small pieces

1. Cut the watermelon into bite sized cubes and place in a bowl. Try not to handle it too much as it will begin to break and become more juice than melon.

2. Similarly cut the feta cheese into slightly smaller cubes than the watermelon. Place into the same bowl as the watermelon along with the black olives.

3. Squeeze the juice of two limes over the ingredients as well as 2 tbsp of olive oil. Using your hands mix into the ingredients gently.

4. Tear some fresh mint over the salad and serve.