Shakshuka with home made rye bread

I’ve been a lazy old thing about updating my blogs. It takes quite a bit of time for me to write posts and lately, I’ve been busy with a new bread making course, a “Get Cooking” course run by West Lothian Council and with my kiddo going off to primary school. I have been cooking but just not updating here. But this recipe was just so very delicious that I have to write it up.

I got the Shakshuka recipe from the excellent A Wee Bit of Cooking blog which is about Scottish food. It is a Mid-Eastern dish. And it’s gorgeous. I made mine with cumin seeds and used the cherry tomatoes. Initially we thought it would not be enough but with the home made caraway rye bread I had learnt to do in last weeks baking lesson, it was very filling. We could have easily eaten more though as it was delicious..have I mentioned that? Needless to say, I’ll be making it again very soon. Who knows, I might even persuade kiddo to have some.

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Oven roasted Sicilian aubergine with tomato and feta

As mentioned in my last post, we have had a bit of a revolution in our local Morrisons which now sports a funky new veg section. Including one with a lot of different aubergines – there was Dutch, smaller rounder Indian, purple and white aubergines and a Sicilian aubergine. The latter is just gorgeous looking – check out the vibrant purple and the lovely round shape. I’ve never seen one before and though it cost me £1.69 which is expensive for an aubergine, I couldn’t resist.

According to the Think Sicilysite, the Romans were suspicious when first shown the purple black fruit by Moroccans and dubbed it the “apple of insanity”. Ilove that! That site has some great recipes but as I didn’t have the ingredients, I did my own thing. And my goodness, it was DELICIOUS so have a go. Ingredients:

  • 1 Sicilian aubergine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4/5 spring onions,
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 6-7 sunstream tomatoes (or any full flavoured vine ripened tomato). Was about 120g
  • 1/2 chili flakes
  • A small amount of salt to season
  • 100g feta cheese
  • 5/6 fresh basil leaves

Cooking:

     

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade (180 for fan)
  • Wash the aubergine, cut off the stem then slice into 1cm discs
  • Arrange the discs into an oven proof dish and coat with generous amounts of olive oil (I used at least 3 tablespoons)
  • Roast in oven for about 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile, top and tail the spring onions, peel outer layer if manky and slice up green and white parts finely
  • Remove outer layer of garlic and slice finely
  • Wash and chop tomatoes into quarters
  • In a heavy based pan, add 2 tbs olive oil and fry the onions and garlic
  • When they start to caramelise, add the tomatoes, chili flakes and season slightly. As feta is quite salty, you can leave out salt if you wish
  • Remove the aubergine from the oven and pour the onion/tomato mix over the top. Then crumble up the feta and place back into the oven.
  • Roast for a further 15 minutes, then tear up the  basil  and chuck it on on top. Place back in the oven for about 15 /20 minutes until aubergine has cooked through (check every now and again to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom or burning on top).
  • Serve with warm bread, with pasta, on toasted slices of bread as bruschetta or just on it’s own. Delicious!

E’s Tomato and bean soup

My recent trip home was great – especially when I was fed by friends including the lovely “E”. She quickly put together the most delicious home made soup which was served with home made croutons.

She’s allowed me to put the recipe here for all to enjoy (not that she had much choice as I posed the question “You don’t mind if I post this up do you?). Now like a lot of recipes, quantities are per taste as long as you have the core ingredients in sufficient quantity everything else you add as much or little as you want. The core ingredients here are onions, tomatoes, butter, stock and some form of white bean: butter beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas. Don’t leave out the butter, it’s VITAL to the silky taste here and with this soup you are covering 3 of your five a day (tomatoes, onions and beans) so fab all round.

When I made it, I added in a handful of fresh basil leaves because the plant on my window sill is getting too big for it’s boots. But hey, that’s me. It’s a versatile recipe, add what you wish but do have a go as it’s yum.

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 tbs olive oil
  • 10g butter (I used this much, not sure how much E uses but I suspect the quantity may change from batch to batch)
  • 1 large onion diced finely
  • 1 leek (optional but I like the taste so core to me) wash out the grit, slice up green and white bits
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans butter beans (or alternative, use what’s in your cupboard) discard the water in the can and give them a quick rinse
  • 1 pint vegetable stock
  • Dash of soy (optional). Don’t go overboard just a quick flick of the wrist dash is all you want here

Cooking:

  • In a heavy based pan or pot, heat oil and butter over a medium heat
  • When butter has melted add the onions, garlic and leeks.  Sweat the onions only i.e. cook until they start getting translucent
  • Add tomatoes, beans and soy sauce.
  • Bring to the boil then simmer for a little while
  • Blend up the soup and serve with lovely home made bread croutons (or if you are me, shop bought bread!)

This makes enough for about 4 bowls of soup. As my little one doesn’t eat much I’ve got a delicious batch in the freezer to have in the next week or so.

 

Tomatoes, fried rice, noodle soup and banana bread

Not all in the same dish but all scoffed today. I’ve been stuck at home waiting for a delivery. Apart for moaning rather loudly, I used the time to do home food. We picked two very red tomatoes off my daughter’s tomato plant. She was given the plant as a tiny thing from Greenslade nursery and over summer we have watched it grow. It survived the move to Scotland and has in fact flourished with many new tomatoes appearing on the plant even though I’ve not been feeding it. The tomatoes at the bottom appeared rather early but took forever to turn red – mainly as I had them indoors and didn’t know they need to be out in the fresh air and sun to redden.

Anyway, here we are – a tomato salad according to my daughter consists of errr, ummmm, tomatoes!

She nibbled one before reminding us that she in fact, did not eat tomatoes (unbeknownst to her she does as mummy hides tomatoes in sauces). So hubby and I ate the “salad” with a sprinkling of sea salt. Not the tastiest tomatoes we have ever had but easily the best if you know what I mean.

Next step was egg fried mushroom rice and tofu for daughter’s dinner – so yum that I had to have a small bowl too. A good way to use day old rice. Easily made by frying spring onion and ginger in a large frying pan, adding mushrooms and cooking until they reduce, add the rice and stir carefully to prevent it all sticking together but to make sure all the rice is covered with the mushroom mixture . Push mixture to the side and add in the beaten egg mixed with a little toasted sesame oil, scramble it then combine with rice mixture and cook for a few minutes more. I added a little dash of dark soy to improve the taste and colour. She scoffed a lot with a side dish of fried tofu.

Dinner for hubby and I was a noodle soup. It’s an impromptu dish I’ve made a couple of times with what was available in the fridge. Today we had spring onions and ginger fried, added a thinly sliced orange pepper, some pak choy, sweetcorn (kernels not baby sweetcorn as i find that tasteless) and mange tout. The soup was made with a big glug of Gourmet Garden Thai Fresh Blends mix and about a cup of water. I cooked this for about 5 minutes on medium heat then added in fried tofu, and some thick straight to wok udon noodles and dark soy sauce. Cooked until the pak choy had wilted. At first I didn’t really like the Gourmet Garden taste – it was too bland especially compared to the  Schwartz Lemon Grass, Ginger and Coconut tube I’ve used before. However, as it cooled, and with a dash of light soy sauce, it improved.

We would have had a lot more tofu for the soup but my little one loves the stuff straight out of the packet and just as much fried. She thought it was hilarious to sneak past me all afternoon nicking bits and stuffing them in her mouth.

The Gourmet Garden sent me hurtling back to my youth – while I was trying to google whether it is vegetarian, a restaurant came up called the Gourmet Garden in Hendon. I grew up in a flat that was directly opposite the restaurant and could see it and a lot more of the high street from my window. Silly things like this always bring a soppy tear to the eye.

This is turning out to be a long post and it’s not over yet. I’ve been promising to make banana bread for a few days. A lot of stay at home mums I know make banana bread and as long as you don’t have it every week, it’s bloody tasty. I’ve already scoffed a fifth of it – so a huge thankyou to my friend J.R. as she sent me her version of a Delia recipe. It’s fantastic. I’m going to have to work extra hard in the Zumba class tomorrow night!!

Pasta with spicy tomato sauce

The first thing I learnt to cook for my family all by my ownsome was pasta with spicy tomato sauce. I made the recipe up and would pour it over spaghetti then serve with huge dollops of butter to give extra creaminess. These days I use cheese instead of butter but the rest is the same.

I know many Indians who each have a recipe for pasta sauce. My dad makes the most divine spicy pesto sauce. Not only is it easy but in areas where Indian vegetables are hard to come by or is cash is tight, it enables you to have a spicy meal relatively quickly and cheaply. I lived on the stuff at university and to this day enjoy it at least once a week.

The following sauce works well with penne rigate, spaghetti, tagliatelle, rigatoni (today’s option!), casarecce, conchiglie. For a short description of these look on the National Pasta Association site

The following will feed 2 very greedy people, or 4 sensible eaters.

Ingredients

  • 400 g pasta
  • 3 tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 medium brown onion – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves garlic – crushed or sliced very thinly. If you like garlic like I do, add 1 more clove
  • 5 peppercorns – optional. You may leave this out and give your guests the option of having ground pepper added to their servings as per taste
  • 1 fresh green chili – sliced into 1/2 cm pieces
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes – I use vine but I guess you could use pomodoro. Alternatively, half a can of chopped tomatoes (use a good brand like Napolina)
  • 4 tbs double concentrate tomato puree (again use a good brand)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander leaves and stems. NOTE do not discard the stems that hold the leaves together, they are often more full of flavour than the leaves. However, do discard the stem part that was in the ground.

Preparation:

  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. When you drain the pasta, save the water as it’s used in the sauce
  • If you can be bothered (which means, I never do but know I should) then peel skin off tomatoes. First boil some water. Then drop the tomatoes. The water should cover the tomatoes. You will see the skin split. After 5 minutes, fish out the tomatoes carefully as the water will be hot and and peel skin off. Chop into fine dice. I usually discard the woody centre of the tomato.

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil in a very large pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start sizzling and going brown
  • Add the cinnamon and onions. Cook until the onions start to caramelise. This can take up to 10 minutes. Don’t rush.
  • Add the garlic, chilies and peppercorns. Cook for 2 minutes
  • Add the diced tomatoes and spices. Cook until it reduces down as the picture above shows
  • Add the tomato puree and then use water that the pasta was cooked in to make the sauce more liquid. I usually put in about 3 ladles full
  • Cook sauce for about 5 minutes, then pour over the pasta and continue cooking for another few minutes so that it saturates into the pasta
  • Add the finely chopped coriander and serve with grated cheddar cheese and garlic bread

Variations

  • I like to add red or yellow peppers to increase my 5-a-day intake. Roast the peppers until the skin is black. Cool and peel off the skin. I  recently saw a tip from James Martin where you put the peppers into a sandwich bag and close up. The steam from the hot peppers makes it easy to peel the skin off. Chop the skinned peppers finely and add at the same time as the diced tomatoes.
  • Another variation is to cook the sauce with red onions instead of brown, add green peppers and cook with quorn. Then serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle as an alternative to spag bol.