Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Smoked eggplant rolls

Babaganoush-Stuffed Eggplant Rolls with Spiced Tomato Sauce and Herbed Cream

Serves 4 as an entree, 2 as a main

These days I often find myself with not much at all in the fridge. It’s so difficult to get to the organic grocer after work, and they never have any veggies left on the weekend. I have started supplementing with some conventional produce from the local fruit shop, but they have no flavour and I really do hate eating pesticides, so I buy as little as possible.

And so it was that I found myself with nothing but two eggplants in the fridge last night. Luckily, eggplant is one of the most versatile vegetables out there, and can easily become a spectacular dish without any of its vegetable friends.

Like most people I’m sure, if I have more than one eggplant, one of them is going to get smoked and turned into baba ganoush. I mean, who doesn’t make baba ganoush on a weekly basis? It’s right there with hummus. But I didn’t want a bowl of dip, because I had nothing to dip into it. Luckily eggplant stuffed with eggplant is a legitimate thing.  Now I could happily just eat eggplant stuffed with baba ganoush on its own, but that isn’t much of a weekend dish, so I raided the fortunately well stocked cupboards and here we have it, a spectacularly delicious but incredibly easy meal.

All of the elements on the plate can be made in advance, however the different temperatures are important. The spiced tomato sauce should be warm, the eggplant slices should be warm, the baba ganoush should be room temperature and the cashew cream should be chilled. The combination of hot and cold, sweet and salty and smokiness is what makes this dish shine. But don’t worry, it’s actually incredibly easy to coordinate, and you will have a restaurant quality dish to serve as a starter at your next dinner party.

Ingredients

The baked eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced 7mm thick lengthwise (you should get 8 slices, or more)

The babaganoush/Smoked eggplant filling

1 large eggplant (really large – use two if unsure, you can always adjust the seasoning accordingly)

3 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

Handful fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

The tomato sauce

3 tbsp olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large brown onion, very finely chopped

2 heaped tbsp tomato paste

2 cups passata

1 heaped tbsp brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground cumin, or to taste

1/2 tsp ground coriander, or to taste

1/4 tsp paprika, or to taste

Scant 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Dash cayenne pepper or hot chilli powder

Salt and pepper to taste

The lemon-herb cream

1/3 cup cashews, soaked a couple of hours, OR pinenuts (better but expensive) OR a combination of both

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1tbsp lemon juice, or to taste

a few sprigs fresh parsley

a couple sprigs fresh mint

Splash olive oil

Salt to taste

To garnish

Finely chopped Sicilian green olives (or other mild green olives), around 8

Fresh mint, chopped (a few tablespoons)

A few sprigs parsley

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 200C

2. Make the lemon-herb cream

Place the pinenuts/soaked cashews, 1/3 cup water, lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt into a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add the parsley and mint and blend again until the herbs are very finely chopped. Scrape into a bowl/container and adjust seasoning to taste. It should taste good on its own, and be quite refreshing. Place in the fridge to chill

3. Make the babaganoush

Place the eggplant directly onto the flame on your stove. Leave to blacken and char, then turn to do the next side. Repeat until all the skin has blackened and the eggplant is soft and collapsing. It should look like this:

IMG_0167

Allow the eggplant to cool to room temperature, then peel off the skin. A flew flecks are ok if you miss them, but no big bits. Place the flesh into a food processor and add all remaining ingredients. Pulse until creamy and the parsley is finely chopped. Adjust seasoning to taste and set aside.

4. Make the tomato sauce and bake the eggplant

Place the eggplant slices onto a baking paper lined tray. Brush both sides of each slice generously with olive oil and then rub a small pinch of salt into each side. Don’t go overboard, you aren’t rinsing this salt off. Place the eggplant in the oven and cook 10 minutes, then flip and cook another 10 minutes or until soft and slightly browned.

While they’re baking away, heat the olive oil in a pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until clear and sticky and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the passata, sugar and a big pinch salt and stir well. Bring to the boil then reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook, stirring often, until it is quite thick, around 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, then set aside to cool five minutes before serving.

5. Assemble

Spread a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the middle of four plates. Take a few spoons of babaganoush and place them at one end of an eggplant slice. Roll up and repeat for all slices. Place two rolls on top of the tomato sauce. Spoon a few teaspoon full amounts of the lemon-herb cream around the edge of the plate. Top with a sprinkling of finely chopped olives and a tablespoon or so of roughly chopped mint*, then garnish with a sprig of parsley. Serve immediately.

*A note about presentation. I was incredibly rushed to get this photographed, as Fabio was heading out the door with the camera, so I didn’t have time to properly dress the plate. I was also hungry and wasn’t going to save any for the next day to photograph later, so I had 30 seconds. I didn’t finely chop the olives or put enough mint on for the photo, but I did to serve. Follow the instructions, not the picture.

Quinoa tahini-mint salad-2

All the Good Stuff Quinoa Salad with Tahini-Mint Dressing and Za’atar

Serves 3-4

 Quinoa tahini-mint salad

 

I know when you write a food blog you’re supposed to have this whole story behind what you make, like the mystical journey of a pea that was destined to become bruschetta or something, but honestly, that is rarely the case for me. When I do my grocery shopping, 90% of the time I just buy what’s fresh and cheap with no idea what I’m going to make with any of it. I then get hungry, open the fridge and throw something together.

If I’m inspired by something, it will usually be the memory of a dish I’ve eaten before, or something I see on a restaurant menu that sounds good but that I’m too stingy to pay for. And so, it often happens that I have a recipe all ready to post, but nothing interesting to say about it apart from ‘this is yummy’. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer for an hour thinking about what to say and then give up. Sometimes things aren’t particularly special and are just straight up, honest good food that taste great and that’s the end of the story.

This is one of those dishes and one of those days. Loosely inspired by the Monkey Salad at Israeli street food joint Tahina, this is easy, yummy and filling but light enough for the scorching hot days we’re having at the moment. So yeah. Here it is.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, washed well

1 small head broccoli cut into florets (around 3 cups). Use the stalk too, it’s the best part

1/2 head cauliflower cut into florets (around 3 cups)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1.5cm cubes

Kernels from two fresh cobs sweetcorn

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp chilli powder

Pinch ground cumin

Olive oil as needed

A few pinches za’atar

 Dressing

Scant 1/4 cup tahini (the runny, pouring consistency kind)

Juice of 1 lemon (just less than 1/4 cup/around 45ml)

1/4 cup water

Big handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Large tsp rice malt syrup

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place the sweet potato onto a tray and drizzle generously with olive oil. Toss through a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Place in the oven and bake until nice and soft and a little bit caramelly on the edges, around 30 minutes.

Place the cauliflower onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Don’t be too stingy with the oil. Mix the paprika, chilli and cumin together with a pinch of salt and toss through the cauliflower until well combined. Move to one side of the tray in a single layer. Toss the broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and place on the other side of the tray. Roast until the edges are nice and toasty, around 20 minutes.

Set veggies aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, place the quinoa into a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, stir and reduce heat to low/  a very gently simmer until the water has been absorbed. Stir, cover with paper towel and a lid and leave for 10 minutes. Remove lid and paper towel and fluff with a fork. It should be perfect.

3. Heat a little oil in a pan and throw in the corn. Cook until they start to brown. Set aside

4. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a bowl. You’re going to want to mix the lemon juice into the tahini first, then gradually add the water mixing well after each addition to avoid lumps. If it’s too thick add more water as needed. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

5. Toss the veggies and quinoa together in a large bowl/platter. You can serve this warm, at room temperature or cold, so whatever tickles your fancy. Drizzle with the dressing or serve it separately at the table. Sprinkle with za’atar and serve.

smoked eggplant shakshuka

Lentil & Smoked Eggplant Shakshuka

Serves 4

Shakshuka might be one of the greatest breakfast dishes of all time, but it makes a pretty mean dinner too, especially with the addition of lentils. Typically a poached egg dish, this wildly delicious version doesn’t need eggs at all. Smoky, creamy and spicy, this will have you licking your lips and soaking up every last drop. I really don’t have much else to say. It’s easy and relatively quick, but will impress anyone you put it in front of. If you’re looking for brunch ideas to serve to your guests, or an easy dinner that tastes like it was way more effort, look no further.

Make this and eat it. That is all.

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried whole red lentils

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 red capsicums, julienned or finely chopped (0.5cm or so)

2 tbsp harissa paste

1 1/2 to 2tsp ground cumin, to taste

800g tinned diced tomatoes

2tbsp tomato paste

2 eggplants, approx 800g

3 tbsp tahini (45ml)

2-3tbsp lemon juice, to taste

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Method

1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to the boil and cook until the lentils are just tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain, rinse, set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place the eggplants directly onto the gas burner, turning every couple of minutes, until the skin is fully burnt and blackened and and the eggplants collapse in on themselves. Set aside on a plate until cool enough to handle.

3. Heat approx 2tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the capsicum and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic and harissa, and cook a few minutes until the garlic has softened. Add the cumin and stir a minute more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and one teaspoon of sea salt, stir well and bring to a simmer.

4. Stir in the lentils and let it all simmer away for approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. You may need to add a little water along the way if it gets too dry, you want a thick, juicy sauce consistency. Check the seasoning and reduce heat to very low to keep warm.

5. Meanwhile, cut the eggplants in half and scrape the flesh out into a bowl. Try not to get more than a few flecks of skin in the bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir it up with a fork. Spoon it into the middle of the tomato mixture, and give a quick, gentle stir to spread it out a little. Don’t mix it too much, you don’t want to completely blend it all together. Let it heat through a couple of minutes without stirring.

6. Meanwhile, put the tahini in a bowl and mix in the lemon juice. Add water 1 tbsp at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until you have a smooth, creamy sauce the consistency of pouring cream. You won’t need more than 3tbsp. Season with salt to taste. Remove the pan from the heat, and drizzle with half the tahini sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately in the pan with bread and the remaining tahini sauce on the side.

freekeh soup

Palestinian Freekeh Soup with Lentil Balls

Serves 4-6 

I was inspired to make this dish as I sat flicking through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful book ‘Jerusalem’. Although to this day I have never actually cooked a single recipe from it, this is one of my favourite cookbooks for dinner ideas. As always, it delivered, with a very enticing recipe for ‘Spicy Freekeh Soup with Meatballs’.

Freekeh is a favourite in our house, and coincidentally was the only grain left in the house, and so this decidedly not vegetarian friendly dish was just begging me to create a vegan version.

This spicy dish is very satisfying, but as I sit here polishing off the leftovers, I am lamenting that I didn’t have a side of wilted greens with sumac and vegan yogurt to go with it (I just never feel as though a meal is complete without leafy greens, I can’t get enough of them).

.

Ingredients

1 batch Middle Eastern Lentil Balls

150g cracked freekeh, rinsed

1 brown onion, very finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot diced into small cubes

1/2 tsp celery seeds (if you can’t find these, you can put 1 diced celery stick in the soup instead)

400g tin diced tomatoes

2 tsp Saudi Baharat (or to taste)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

1 cinnamon quill

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp soy sauce

1L good quality vegetable stock

2 cups water, plus more as needed

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges, to serve

Method

1. Start by making the lentil balls. Set aside at room temperature.

2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over low heat. Cook the onions until translucent and sticky and add the garlic. After a minute, add the carrot, spices and celery seeds and cook five minutes more

3. Add the freekeh and stir well. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes. Cook another minute and then add the remaining ingredients

4. Bring to the boil and reduce to a rapid simmer until the carrots are tender and the freekeh is cooked all the way through, approximately 25 minutes. If you think it needs more water, add it. Freekeh does not always take the same amount of water.

5. Place 4 or 5 meatballs into each bowl and ladle some soup over the top. Garnish with a tablespoon or two of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. The lemon juice and parsley really make this soup, so don’t leave them out. Serve immediately, and garnish with some vegan yogurt if desired.