It was a fantastic weekend, so thank you to those making it so special! And many congratulations to the happy couple now on their first (of two) honeymoon.
The vegan dessert I had planned was almond biscuits with rose water buttercream wedged in between. But that didn’t happen.
Apparently it is very difficult to make a vegan buttercream that involves rose water. Ifailed. Three times.
So I had to come up with plan B. Said almond biscuits fresh strawberries, perfectly ripe mango and a splosh of rose water on the fruit. Nice too, but not what I had in mind.
Oh well, shit happens sometimes, and the best you can do is to make it work with what you’ve got.
100 g ground almonds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
100 ml caster sugar
100 g margarine
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
Melt the maragine in a sauce pan, add the other ingredients. Cook for a few minutes while stirring, until you have an even batter. Place dollops of teaspoon size onto a baking sheet, with plenty of space in between. Bake for 6 mins, 175C, leave to cool on a flat surface, then store in an airtight container.
Christopher and I are going to Sweden tonight, to the southern part, for a long weekend. Monday is a bank holiday here, so we get an extra day without taking a day off. The reason we’re going home is because our friends Maria and Daniel (who came to visit a couple of months ago) are getting married tomorrow. Congratulations to them!
Apart from the wedding celebrations, I look forward to giving my parents a big hug, hang out with my best friend and her fiancée and just chill out, enjoy the food I miss, and go for a walk around the woods where I grew up.
Have a wonderful weekend guys!
Another recipe courtesy of the carismathic Syrian chef is this phenomenal lentil salad with pasta. Unfortunately my stomach does not allow me to eat lentils, but I still wanted to make this for my friends.
Pasta is actually quite common in the Middle East among with other Italian influences such as pizza. This dish requires lasagne sheets, but I couldn’t find any egg-free lasagne sheets (to make it vegan) in the shops near work so I used fusilli instead. It worked well but I used a little bit too much pasta to get the perfect pasta-lentils ratio, so do use the measurements below. It was still a very tasty dish and this is great buffet food. (And cheap too.)
230 ml lentils
2 lasagne sheets, semi-cooked, cut in finger-sized strips
1,4 l water
2 tsp salt
4 lonions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch coriander, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed
juice from 2 lemons
3-4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
240 ml olive oil
250 ml pomegranate seeds
Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add salt, lentils and 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook for 2o mins, covered, stirring occasionally.
Add the pasta after 20 minutes and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the pasta is cooked.
While the lentils are cooking, fry the onion brown in a frying pan, transfer to a bowl. In the same pan, fry the coriander for a minute (until wilted), add the garlic and fry on low heat. Place with the onions.
When the lentils are done, add olive oil and the rest of the ingredients. Top with Arabic croûtons and pomegranate seeds.
As I told you earlier, everything was vegan apart from one meat dish, and that is the lamb scewers above. It might not be strictly Middle Eastern influences in this recipe, but it has the chilli and the cumin, and besides, it was too nice not to try!
I marinated the meat for 2 days to cram in as much flavour as possible, but since we don’t have a barbecue (or a garden, sob) I cooked them in the oven for 15 minutes or so and a few minutes under the grill at the end.
At least one salad is compulsory when having mezze, and the most common one is probably tabbouleh, but I chose to make fatoush instead, the same way we made it in Syria when cooking with the chef.
I completely forgot to take a photo of it, but it looks like a regular green salad with tomatoes and peppers, chopped herbs and some Arabic coûtons on top. These:
4 cucumbers, roughly diced
4 tomatoes, roughly diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 head of lettuce, romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 bunch mint, only the leaves, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
(2 bunches purslane, chopped hackad – if available)
Arabic croûtons (deepfried left over pitta/flatbread)
Mix the vegetables. Add the chopped herbs. Season to taste with vinegar, molasses and spices. Add the croûtons just before serving.
Maroccan carrot salad, serves 4-6
1 kg carrots, peeled and sliced
80 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 spring onion, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp pickled lemon peel (I used the same amount grated lemon peel)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
(120 ml Greek yoghurt (I omitted this, soygurt would not have worked)
Peel the carrots and cut them in 1 cm slices. Boil in salted water 10 minutes or until they have softened but still are crunchy. Drain.
Heat up the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for 10-12 minutes until soft and brown. Add the carrots and the rest of the ingredients apart from the fresh coriander (and yoghurt). Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Leave to cool completely and sprinkle with coriander just before serving. Ottolenghi suggests serving this in individual bowls with yoghurt on top.
As always when I go on holiday, i filled my bags with groceries when I was on my way home from Syria. Soon thereafter I bought the fabulous cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and he uses alot of the things I brought back in his recipes. Perfect or what?!
These two recipes from Plenty don’t require any strange ingredients though, and I highly recommend you trying them. I utterly adored the aubergine dish, but my boyfriend fell in love with the courgettes. I have followed the recipes, but have veganised them where needed. You find the stuffed courgette recipe here in which I omitted the currants. It is from Ottolenghi’s culumn The New Vegetarian on the Guardian’s website, where many of the recipes in Plenty are from.
And below you find my adapted recipe for the baked aubergines with pomegranate.
Baked aubergine with pomegranate, serves 4 or 6 as a buffet
2 medium aubergines
150 ml soy cream
1 garlic clove
juice from 1/2 lemon
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and place them skin down in a greased roasting tray. Cut a diaond pattern in the flesh with a knife, being carfel not to pierce the skin. Brush with olive oil a few times, so it gets soaked up by the aubergine. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and a few thyme sprigs. Add salt and pepper. Bake in 200C for 40 minutes. Leave to cool completely.
Mix the soy cream wuth garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. Pour it over the aubergines just before serving and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
I have grouped the recipes from Friday’s dinner, so this is the first lot.
Hummus, serves 6 as mezze
1 can chickpeas (400 g)
a splash of water
2 tbsp tahini
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 clove garlic
Pour lemon juice, tahini, water and drained chickpeas into a food processor (or use a stick blender) and add some oil. Mix and add oil as you go until the hummus has the desired texture. Season to taste with lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and tahini.
The next dip is almost as common as hummus in the Middle East, but less known here. The proper version is the one I made with ground almonds, but sometimes you can get a cheaper version were the almonds are substituted by breadcrumbs. We learned the rule in Syria, that if you get the almond-version in a restaurant it is a good restaurant, and if you get the bastard-version then of course, it is not as good.
Muhammara, serves 6 as mezze
120 ml ground almonds (or breadcrumbs)
2-4 garlic cloves
1/2 small onion, finely chopped or 1 tsp onion powder
spicy pepper purée (mine is from Syria, but a combination of sambal oelek and pickled peppers will probably work)
70 ml tahini
70 ml pomegranate molasses
aleppo/cayenne pepper if more heat is required
60 ml olive oil
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with cumin and salt. The dip should have she same texture as hummus so adjust accordingly.
Flatbread is another must when it comes to mezze, and the homemade version is miles better than the storebought option. This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday and it is incredibly easy to make. We had a few leftover and I can happily tell you that they were just as good the next day.
Flatbread, makes 8
250 g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil/ rapeseed oil
150 ml varm water
Pour the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the oil to the water and pour it into the bowl while stiring with a wooden spoon/fork. Mix thorougly and knead with your hands for a few minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or cling film and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Divide it into eight pieces. Roll each piece flat with a rolling bin with plenty of flour. Heat up a dry frying pan on high heat, then lower to medium heat before cooking each bread for a few minutes on each side.
Since March, when we went to Syria, have I been dying to try some Middle Eastern recipe and to invite some friends over. But sometimes it can be really difficult to get six people to be in the same place at the same time, so it took us a while to organise something.
But on Friday Jenny, James, Anna and Ian came over for mezze after work. Since I didn’t have that much time to prepare on the day because I was working, I started to prepare already on Wednesday night, and that was the best thing I could have done. Together with other chores and putting dinner on the table the two nights before, it took quite a while to produce Friday’s lovely supper.
But it was worth it! The food was really nice, felt light, and it was nice to have a themed dinner. It was also vegan (all apart from a lamb dish for the meat eaters) but I don’t think the meat eaters would have noticed if they didn’t know.
I made my own granola the other day. When you have a sensitive stomach like me, it is great to create your own breakfast cereal, because there are only a few storebought ones you can have. I can’t have seeds and nuts, or anything wholegrain or most dried fruits. Yes, it is a nightmare. But it is easily fixed by making your own. And it tastes lovely too!
I flavoured mine with a little bit of sugar (it seemed like a lot, but the cereals don’t taste very sweet, which made me realise how much sugar there must be in the storebought kind) and vanilla essence. Together with thick natural yoghurt, some raisins or a dollop of honey, this is heaven in the mornings. I promise you.
Vanilla granola, 2 large jars as pictured
400 g oats
150 g rice krispies
100 g cornflakes
125 ml water
125 ml caster sugar
50 ml vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pour the cereals into a large roasting tin and mix it around. Mix the other ingredients in a bowl (or heat it up to a syrup, but it is not necessary) and pour it over the cereal. Mix thoroughly. Toast in 150C for 40 mins – 1 hr. Stir once and a while. Leave to cool completely before filling airtight containers. I placed a tea towel over the tray over night to cool.
On Monday I had the intentions of baking something to take to work the next day. But after cooking, eating and clearing up, I was too tired to. So instead I curled up in bed and watched the new The Big Bang Theory episode. I guess that put me in a good mood because around 9.30pm I bounced out of bed and into the kitchen to bake after all. I made a simple sponge loaf with egg whites, because I had lots in the fridge to use up. The sponge is quite plain so I wasn’t sure if my colleagues would enjoy it. Boy, was I wrong. It disappeared really quickly and I was asked for the recipe. Some time understated works.
The recipe is from the amazing Swedish cakes and cookies, but the Swedish version.
Sponge loaf with egg whites
100 g butter
6 egg whites (200 ml)
150 ml caster sugar
150 ml plain flour
50 ml potato or corn flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
zest from ½ lemon
Put the oven on 175C. Melt the butter. Brush the inside of a loaf tin with butter and coat with breadcrumbs or flour. Beat the egg whites until very stiff peaks. Add the sugar.
Mix flour, potato or corn flour, baking powder and lemon zest in a separate bowl. Add the butter to the egg and sugar, and then add the flour mixture.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake in a low oven for about 40 minutes.