Middle Eastern courgette dip

Middle Eastern courgettes

Due to a few weeks of neglect and super fertile soil, my courgette plants are now giant triffids and my courgettes in danger of turning into marrows. Today I decided enough was enough and started on what will be an epic week of dealing with a courgette glut, starting with a lovely dip, which is a good side dish for barbecued lamb or chicken or with my pitta triangles in a picnic.

courgette glut

If you don’t have a good, thick Greek yoghurt, strain whichever yoghurt you have for a few hours before adding it to the courgette mix so it doesn’t go too runny. I like my dips garlicky so have added three cloves of garlic but two is probably enough for many people.

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium-sized courgettes

coarse sea salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly bashed in a pestle and mortar

250g Greek yoghurt

juice of half a lemon

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tsp fresh dill, chopped (optional)

3 tsp fresh mint, chopped

50g soft goat’s cheese or feta cheese

1 tsp za’atar

Serves 6-8

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4.

Slice the courgettes lengthways in fat slices and place on a baking tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cumin seeds. 

courgettes ready for roasting

Roast for 20 minutes until just cooked. Place the roasted courgettes in a food processor with the yoghurt, lemon juice and garlic.

courgettes

Pulse briefly so the mixture still has a bit of texture.

processed courgettes

Stir in the fresh herbs, reserving a few chopped mint leaves, and cheese. Season to taste.

Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with za’atar and the reserved mint leaves. Serve with pitta triangles, sourdough or a mixture of raw vegetables, such as carrots, peppers and radishes.

Middle Eastern courgette dip

Advertisements

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

We are busy preparing for our annual pop-up tapas bar at the Silk Mill in Frome. Unfortunately, I can’t do all the cooking this year due to recent back sugery – which has also meant less blogging in recent weeks, although I’m now on the mend – but I can still experiment with new dishes for our menu.

I thought I’d try making a pisto because after our tapas bar last year people suggested we add more vegetarian dishes. We were trying to be authentically Spanish as possible in our bar – Spain is a particularly keen meat-eating nation – so subconsciously probably didn’t offer a huge range of vegetarian dishes. 

Pisto is a summer classic and a Spanish version of ratatouille. It’s a great recipe to use up a glut of aubergines, courgettes and peppers. Roasting most of the veg in the oven as I’ve done here makes it far easier than frying all the individual vegetables separately. It also uses less oil, making it cheaper and healthier too. I’ve added cumin seeds to this for a Moorish flavour, along with the more conventional dried oregano.

Pisto is good served at room temperature as part of a tapas spread, or hot with an fried egg on top for brunch. Either way, make sure you have some robust sourdough with which to mop up those lovely oily juices. It’s also great with the deliciously salty mojama, dried tuna which is made in Cádiz province, or a few slices of Manchego, washed down with a chilled manzanilla (my current favourite is La Gitana).

Serves 6 as a tapa

Ingredients

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 aubergines, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

2 large red peppers, diced

2 large onions, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, skin on, lightly smashed with the side of a large knife

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of coarse sea salt

400g ripe tomatoes, scalded in hot water for 1 minute, then skinned and roughly grated

¼ tsp sherry vinegar (optional)

chopped parsley to serve

Spanish pisto

Method

Heat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C, gas mark 7). Place the oil (reserving 1 tsp), aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and garlic in a few large trays, making sure the vegetables are in a single layer otherwise they’ll just go soggy. Sprinkle with the cumin, oregano and salt and mix well. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once, until just starting to caramelise.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the grated tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until broken down into a sauce.

Mix the roasted veg with the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature.

If you double the recipe, you can use half the roasted veg for a pisto and goat’s cheese tart. Use a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, spreading sundried tomato pesto on top, followed by the pisto. Dot with some goat’s cheese (I used about 100g of cheese here) and some halved cherry tomatoes. Bake it for about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C fan (200°C, gas mark 6) and sprinkle some basil on after you take it out.

Ratatouille and goat's cheese tart

As this dish is made with seasonal veg, I’m entering it for the Simple and in Season June Challenge, hosted by Ren Behan.

Because this pisto recipe is packed with veg, I’m also entering it for June’s Extra Veg hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Extra Veg Badge-003

Wild garlic and feta quiche

Wild garlic and feta quicheThis is a seasonal allium-rich dish, full of spring onions, leeks and wild garlic, and a great quiche for a picnic. I’ve also made this recipe as 1½ times the ingredients and used the excess for making mini tarts in a jam tart baking tin, which are perfect for kids’ lunchboxes. Sometimes I make individual tarts instead of a whole quiche; use the same quantity as the recipe below but use a baking tin for tarts instead.

This is an easy quiche recipe as it uses a yeasted pastry, which is much simpler to cook with no need to chill beforehand or bake blind – and it never gets a soggy bottom!

I bought some lovely plump spring onions from VP Collins veg at Frome Farmers’ Market; it’s worth looking for these home-grown varieties, which are fuller in flavour than the supermarket kind. If you can’t find wild garlic, then substitute it with 250g spinach, wilted and squeezed of moisture. You can also substitute the feta for goat’s cheese, or any other strong cheese you have.

Ingredients

Pastry

120g plain flour

50g butter or margarine, melted

1 egg

1 tsp dried fast-action yeast

½ tsp salt

Filling

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, finely sliced

Bunch of spring onions, finely sliced

100g wild garlic leaves, shredded

100g feta cheese, roughly cut into small cubes

5 eggs, beaten

100ml milk

Pinch of salt

Method

Mix the pastry ingredients together and set aside for at least an hour, covering it with oiled clingfilm (you can also mix them the night before and put the pastry in the fridge, bringing it out an hour before you want to use it).

Grease a 25 cm quiche dish.

Roll out the pastry when it’s ready, and line the dish.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C or gas mark 6).

Heat the olive oil on a medium heat and fry the leek for 10 minutes, then add the shredded wild garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until just wilted. Add the spring onions and stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs and add the milk.

Place the leek mixture in the quiche case, dot the feta cheese on top before adding the egg and milk and salt.

Put in the oven for 30 minutes until firm in the middle and lightly browned on top. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

wild garlic and feta tart

As this quiche has got three lots of veg, I’m entering it for April’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Taramasalata

 

TaramasalataEver since I discovered Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s tarama recipe in his comprehensive Fish book, I have been creating permutations of it. This is the adapted latest but by no means final resulting recipe, using much less oil than his recipe but still equally moreish.

White sourdough is the best bread to use here, both as an ingredient and to serve with the dip. Alternatively, use good quality bread with some texture, such as ciabatta, or scoop it up with warmed flatbread or pitta.

Apparently it’s traditional in Greece to eat taramasalata on the first day of Lent, or Shrove Monday, which is why I’m publishing this today!

Ingredients

200g smoked cod’s roe

1 garlic clove, crushed

75g day-old white bread, crusts removed

140 ml milk

25ml olive oil

25ml sunflower oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

Chopped flat-leaf parsley and paprika to serve

Serves 4

Smoked cod's roeMethod

Break the bread up and soak it in milk for a few minutes. Scrape the roe from the skin, add the garlic and mix with a fork.

Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and mash thoroughly with the roe using a fork until you get an evenly coloured mixture (I prefer doing this by hand rather than a food processor as it results in a better texture).

Add the oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with the parsley and paprika and add an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Taramasalata

Sardine empanadillas

Sardine empanadillas

Whilst in Barcelona last week, I discovered a brilliant stall in the the local neighbourhood market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, which sold loads of different tapas dishes by the kilo. I was in heaven! I couldn’t resist stocking up on some of my favourites: espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach), empanadillas de atún (tuna pastries), croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) and albóndigas de sepia (cuttlefish balls).

I love savoury pastries and I’ve often had empanadas – the bigger version of empanadillas – in Northern Spain, known as empanada Gallega (Galician empanada), usually filled with tuna, octopus or pork. When I make these pastries, I adapt the recipes from two of my best-loved cookbooks: Elizabeth Luard’s The Food of Spain and Portugal and Casa Moro.

When I returned home from Barcelona I was already missing empanadillas so decided to make my own. As I’d been away for the weekend, I had very little in the cupboard except tinned tomatoes and sardines, but those are the main ingredients of this recipe. You can also make these empanadillas with tinned tuna; just make sure it’s MSC-marked and replace the rosemary with thyme. And if you’re pushed for time or not in a pastry-making mood, you can always use shop-bought puff pastry.

Empanadillas are great in lunchboxes, or for picnics, parties or tapas. If I make an empanada, we’ll have it for dinner alongside roasted cubed potatoes with chopped rosemary, which you can cook at the same time as the pastries (although they take twice as long, about 30 minutes).

The slow-cooked tomato sauce that makes up the filling is called a sofrito in Spain and is really versatile, cheap and easy to make. Use it as a pasta sauce with or without the tinned fish, or to go with meatballs or baked white fish.

Ingredients

Pastry

500g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp or 1 sachet of dried yeast

80 ml lukewarm milk

140 ml lukewarm water

100ml olive oil

1 egg, beaten

Polenta

Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

¼ tsp salt

pinch of sugar

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)

250g tinned sardines

Method

Mix all the dry dough ingredients first and then the liquids. Knead to a smooth dough for a few minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place for an hour or so.

Fry the onion and peppers for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Empanadilla filling

Heat the oven to 200°C or gas mark 6. Add the garlic and rosemary to the onion and pepper mix and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, sugar and chilli flakes, if using. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sardines 10 minutes before the end, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

To make empanadillas, roll the pastry out until it’s quite thin and, using a small bowl or saucer about 10-12cm in diameter, cut out circles. Put a dessert spoon of filling to one side of the centre and, using some of the beaten egg, brush around the edges before folding the pastry over and sticking it, creating a semi-circle.

Empanadilla pastry

You can use a fork to make a pattern along the edges if you like (see the photo below). Brush the top with egg.

Uncooked empanadilla

Lightly sprinkle a baking tray with polenta (or line it with greaseproof paper) and place the empanadillas on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light brown.

Cooked sardine empanadillas

As this recipe uses rosemary from the garden, I’m also entering it for the February Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, using winter herbs. 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

I’m also entering it for the Credit Card Munch, hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, developed by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All as this recipe is good for packed lunches and uses cheap ingredients.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Powered by Linky Tools

This is a blog hop! See other recipes in the Credit Crunch Munch challenge Click here

Gluten-free muhammara

Muhammara I first had muhammara, a delicious Syrian red pepper and walnut dip, at my favourite restaurant, Frome’s wonderful High Pavement Evening Café. They specialise in Middle Eastern and Spanish dishes; I’ve had many a fine meal there and can recommend it wholeheartedly. (Make sure you sample a manzanilla or oloroso on the brilliant sherry menu too.)

It took me ages to remember the name muhammara but once I did, I became slightly obsessed with recreating its intense flavour. The first time I made it I used Turkish red pepper paste, which I bought in Bristol’s Sweetmart. Last weekend I’d planned a Middle Eastern mezze spread but Bristol is a long way to go from Frome for a jar of pepper paste, so I thought I’d have a go at making it with roasted red peppers. But if you can buy a jar of red pepper paste, it does save time, as does using shelled walnuts, although the flavour isn’t nearly as good.

Unlike the traditional version, which uses breadcrumbs or bulgur wheat, I decided to make a gluten-free muhammara, and serve it with bread on the side for dipping. I made the easy yet delicious Eastern-style focaccia recipe from Sabrina Ghayour’s gorgeous Persiana book, cut into fingers, and za’atar pitta bread triangles (see below). If you can’t get any za’atar you can use a sprinkling of smoked paprika and cumin instead, or just brush the triangles with olive oil. You could also serve it with plain pitta bread, flatbread or sourdough.

Ingredients

Muhammara

10 red peppers

200g walnuts

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp chilli flakes (Aleppo ones are the most authentic)

6 tsp cumin

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve

Za’atar pitta triangles

1 packet of 6 white pitta breads

3 tsp za’atar

150 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 8-10 as part of a mezze spread

Method

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. This takes about 20 minutes. If you’re doing them on the hob or under the grill, turn them regularly.

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, or under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. Turn them a few times during the 20 minutes or so it takes for them to blister.roasted red peppers

Meanwhile shell the walnuts (if necessary) and roughly chop them.walnuts

Slice open each pitta bread carefully so you have two ovals. Then halve each oval and cut each half into rough triangles. Mix the olive oil with the za’atar and brush onto the triangles, laying them out on to some baking trays so they’re in one layer.pitta bread

pitta bread trianglesWhen the peppers are done take them out and turn the oven down (200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas mark 6). Put the peppers in a sieve or colander with a plate over the top, and place it over a bowl to drain.

Put the pitta triangles into the oven (which should be slightly cooler now) and put a timer on for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, remove the seeds and roughly chop them.

Keep an eye on the pitta breads to make sure they don’t burn, giving them a shake after 5 minutes.za'atar pitta triangles

Put everything except the walnuts in a food processor and blend to a rough paste (I prefer muhammara with a bit of texture), or use a blender or stick blender. Add the walnuts and blend again briefly. Taste and add more spices or salt if needed.

Take the pitta breads out when they’re lightly toasted and put on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on the muhammara.muhummara gluten-free dip

As this recipe is feel-good healthy and has a spicy kick to it, I’m entering it for the current Spice Challenge, with the theme Temple Food.Spice Trail

Easy Spanish tortilla

Spanish tortillaIf you’re looking for something hassle-free to make in the hectic time around Christmas, try this easy tortilla recipe, which was given to me by Catalan friend, Kiki. It’s a great tapas or party recipe, especially if you cut the tortilla into small squares and add toothpicks.

Everyone in Spain has their own method for making tortillas and some may feel it’s sacrilege to use a microwave for the potatoes instead of frying them, but this recipe using considerably less oil, so is healthier and also less hassle. While the potatoes are cooking in the microwave you’re free to grill some red peppers to make the perfect tapas accompaniment: pimientos asados

This tortilla is also incredibly cheap; depending on where you buy the ingredients, it costs around £2.50-3.00 to make.

Ingredients

800g unpeeled waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte)

6 free-range eggs

8 tbsp olive oil

salt

Method

1 Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters lengthways (depending on their size) and then slice, so you have slices as thick as a £1 coin. As you cut them, put them in a bowl of water.

Tortilla de patatas

2 Drain them in a colander and put them in a microwaveable bowl and mix with 3 tbsp of olive oil, then cover with a plate.

3 Put in the microwave for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the 6 eggs in a separate large bowl and add 6 pinches of salt.

4 Drain the potatoes, then return them to the bowl with another 3 tbsp of olive oil, before putting them back in the microwave for 8 minutes.

5 Check the potatoes; they should be slightly soft around the edges. If they are still a bit hard, put them on for another 2-5 minutes. Put a smallish non stick deep frying pan on a medium-high heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

6 Drain the potatoes when they’re done, then mix in with the eggs.

7 When the pan is hot, add the egg and potato mix. It’s important at this stage to have the pan hot enough to seal the egg but once they’re in, turn down to a low-medium heat.

8 Depending on how hot your hob is, it should take around 8 mins to cook on the first side. You can tell when it’s done by the smell (once you’ve got some experience!) of cooked but not burnt egg, or you can flip the pan on to a plate to get the tortilla out. If it’s still pale, pop the pan back over the tortilla and flip it round again and put the pan back on the heat.

9 If it is done, put 1 tbsp of oil in the pan again and heat. Then carefully slide the tortilla off the plate and into the pan to cook the other side, for about 7 mins this time, again on a medium-low heat. Again, you can check if it’s done by flipping it on to a plate.

10 Cut it into eights, or small squares (see photo below) with toothpicks for easy sharing.

IMG_1438

As this tortilla is perfect for lunchboxes, for both kids and adults, I’m entering it for this month’s Tea Time Treats, organised by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers, hosted by Janie, with the theme packed lunches.