Broad Bean Falafel

Every street food market up and down the country surely has a stall selling hot falafel. These mildly spiced deep fried vegan treats are so delicious. A former colleague of mine used to travel far and wide, always insisting on trying falafel wherever he went. When I worked in West London I would sometime treat myself to a falafel wrap from Portobello Road Market – the most fully loaded, heavy sandwich I have ever come across. Later, I started working out east and stumbled upon Pilpel. Wow.

The relative healthiness of pulses, herbs and spices is offset by the deep frying, making them the perfect balanced dish.

Every year I grow broad beans on the allotment. They are relatively easy and can be sown from November through to spring so you get a lot of beans if you plan your planting a little. The debate around skinning continues. For me it’s a case of what dish you are making, salads and other delicate dishes need the somewhat tough husks removed. Slow cooked stews are just fine using them whole. For this dish, I removed the skins. It takes a little time but is well worth it.

So on to the recipe

1x400g tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed
about the same of broad beans – use fresh if you can and pod them, boil for 5 minutes, cool and skin. Else use frozen and boil them and skin them
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
parsley – roughly chopped
dill – roughly chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sunflower oil for deep or shallow frying
pitta bread
natural yogurt or mayonnaise
gherkins
shredded lettuce
tomatoes
chili sauce

Put all ingredients down to and including the cumin in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a grainy, lumpy paste of sorts. Divide into around 20 or so small balls and flatten each a little.

Heat the oil. When hot, if shallow frying, fry on one side for around 4 minutes then turn and do the same on the other side. If deep frying pop them carefully into hot oil and fry for around 5-6 minutes until golden.

Toast your pittas until they puff then serve the hot pitta, falafel and sundries so your guests can assemble how the like. Choose from the ingredients above but you can also include pickled turnips, fresh chilis, a few coriander leaves, cucumber, ketchup. Experiment. It’s fun…..

Broad Bean Stew

Spring is definitely on its way. The days are getting longer and milder, blossom is out, daffodils fill the grass verges, I am about to become another year older and I have planted this year’s crop of broad beans. So it must be time I used up the remains of last year’s crop, carefully podded, bagged and stored safely in the freezer.

This broad bean stew hits the spot. Balanced sweet and sour tastes from the addition of pomegranate molasses and lime juice. Just put everything in the pot and forget about it for half an hour or so.

This made enough to feed four with the rice.

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 stick celery – finely chopped
1 carrot – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of whole fenugreek seeds, paprika powder, ground turmeric
2 mugs of shelled broad beans – fresh or frozen
2-3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Juice of half a lime
Vegetable stock – enough to cover the vegetables
Fresh mint and parsley – roughly chopped
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan – one that has a lid.

When hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and gently fry until tender. Add the spices, stir then add the beans. Stir gently to cover the beans with the other vegetables then cover with stock and add the tomato puree. Add the pomegranate molasses, stir, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for around 30 minutes, checking from time to time to ensure it hasn’t dried out. Add a little water if it starts to look dry.

Remove the lid and add the lime juice and chopped herbs. Stir and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Note: If you prefer a moorish flavour, leave out the pomegranate molasses and lime juice and add half a finely chopped preserved lemon at the same time as adding the stock. This will make it more like a tagine dish.

Green Shakshuka

Some might argue that this isn’t really a shakshuka, or what some call huevos rancheros. Both are made with tomatoes, chilis and onion and would normally be served looking something like this

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However, I thought I would experiment a little. This is a little like a cross between a traditional shakshuka and eggs florentine. It was also a great way of using up some leftover potato salad I had from the night before.

This serves 3-4 for breakfast or brunch.

2 tablespoons olive oil
A small knob of butter
1 large onion – finely sliced
10 or so new potatoes
1 green chili – finely chopped
1 cup of frozen petit pois
500g spinach
4-8 eggs depending on the number of people you are serving
Salt and pepper to taste
A large handful each of parsley, mint, coriander, chives – all roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sumac

Start by boiling the potatoes in their skins until tender. the time depends on how large or small your potatoes are. When cooked, drain, cool then slice into 1cm slices.

Cook the spinach – either 2½ minutes in the microwave or cooked with a little water in a pan with the lid on until wilted. Drain, squeeze as much liquid out as you can then roughly chop.

Put your oven on to 180C.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan – you’ll need a pan without any plastic or wooden bits as it is going to go in the oven later. If you haven’t got one then you can pop a lid on instead.

Fry the onion and potatoes until they start to brown then add the chili, peas and spinach. Fry this off, stirring from time to time until the spinach has wilted and the peas are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and half the herbs.

Take a wooden spoon and make wells in the mix. You’ll need a well for each egg. Gently crack an egg into each well then pop into the oven for 10 minutes or so until the eggs have set. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining herbs over the top and scatter the sumac. Serve with toast, natural yogurt or hummus.

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Persian Fava and Tofu Stew

Growing up as the child of German immigrants, I never saw much of my extended family. Grandparents, an aunt and uncle and cousins in West Germany, A grandmother in the East who was not allowed out to visit (and it was rather uncomfortable going to visist: something I only did once), and an aunt in Los Angeles. When my parents arrived and rented a room in West London, they made friends with a young couple, an Englishman and his Persian wife. I had the honour of her becoming my Godmother and she became an aunt to me and my brother, a true part of the family.

It was her who taught me mother, who subsequently taught me, how to cook the perfect rice. Her nephews and nieces brought back exotic ingredients from Iran: Pistachio nuts, pomegranate syrup, dates. Things that are widely available in independent shops and in supermarkets.

This is my variation of Lee Watson’s Persian Fava Bean, Seitan and Green Herb Stew with a little influence from Sally Butcher and her Mung Bean Casserole. The smells and flavours remind me of having dinner at my godmother’s house. Happy days.

Serves 4
1 medium red onion – cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g firm tofu – well drained and cut into 1cm cubes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 red chili – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons za’atar
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon – drained and finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
6-8 radishes – quartered
5 garlic cloves – peeled but left whole
150ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 mushrooms – quartered
1x400g tin of fava beans/ful medames – the ones in water not already prepared
vegetable stock – enough to fill the empty bean tin
a large handful each of parsley and dill – roughly chopped
150g spinach – finely sliced
Pomegranate molasses

Take a large(ish) casserole (one with a lid). Heat the oil then add the onion, tofu, carrot and radish. Fry until the tofu and onions start to brown then add the chili, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon and preserved lemon. Continue to fry, stirring gently for about 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and let it simmer down a little to reduce. Add the mushrooms, fava, whole garlic cloves and tomato puree followed by the stock. Stir then cover and pop in the oven at 180C. After 45 minutes, take the lid off, stir in the spinach and herbs and the za’atar, cover and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes).

Stir and season before serving then drizzle a little of the pomegranate molasses over the top. I served mine with Persian rice and potatoes, chili sauce and a little natural yogurt.

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Harissa Braised Aubergine With Coconut & Chickpeas

A quick, hearty dinner. No cooking required and, better still, very little washing up. Just place it all in the pot, put it in the oven, wait for an hour or so, then serve. That’s really all there is to it (apart from a quick cooking of the aubergine to make is silky soft).

In the unlikely event you have any leftovers, it tastes even better the next day served at room temperature or reheated. be careful when reheating rice and make sure everything is piping hot before eating.

Serves 4

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot – sliced
2 tablespoons Harissa paste
1x400g tin of Coconut Milk
2 aubergines – cut lengthways
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 small red pepper – diced
1x400g tin chick peas
A small piece of cinnamon stick – about 2-3cm

Start by brushing the aubergine slices with generous amounts of olive oil. They place on a hot griddle, fry or roast in the oven, turning once, until softened. If using a griddle you’ll get attractive charred stripes.

Put the oven on at 180C. Now take a casserole dish with a lid and add the coconut milk, harissa paste, carrots, soy sauce, garlic, peppers, cinnamon and drained chick peas. If you like things a little spicy, add a sliced red chili. Stir well then place the aubergine slices on top and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Pop the lid on and place in the oven for at least an hour.

Serve with steamed rice flavoured with coriander and mint.

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Spinach Pie (Greek Style)

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I’m not quite ready to surrender to the fact my holiday for this year is over. Having spent a week in Kefalonia (or Cephalonia, or is it Keffalinia) I am continuing with the Greek themed food. Kefalonia is a beautiful island: Stunning scenery, crystal clear water, hot sunshine and some great food. Somewhat surprisingly none of the bakers sold flat, pitta style bread and none of the restaurants had hummus on the menu. They did however have spinach pie and cheese pie (made from “yellow cheese” they told me).

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This made a pie big enough to feed 6-8 people
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions – finely sliced into quarter rings
about 650g spinach (raw weight)
4 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 egg
1 block (200g) halloumi cheese – grated
8-10 sheets filo pastry
lots of butter
a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion and fry gently for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until starting to brown. While this is cooking, wash the spinach then place in a large pan, lid on and heat until wilted. Drain in a sieve then squeeze as much liquid as you can from the spinach. Chop well.

Add the garlic to the onions and fry for a further 5 minutes before adding the spinach. Turn the heat up and stir fry the onion, garlic and spinach until quite dry. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Once cool add the egg, za’atar and grated halloumi. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.

Take a large round dish then melt the butter and brush it over the base and sides of the dish. Take 4-5 sheets of filo pastry and brush with more melted butter, then layer over the base and up the sides of the dish. Spoon in the spinach filling, fold in the overhanging filo, then butter the remaining filo sheets and cover the base. Turn the whole thing out onto a baking sheet, dusted with semolina or polenta.

Heat the oven to 200C. Before placeing the pie in the oven, cut into 8 slices. If you don’t do this now, slicing it will be tricky once the pastry has crisped. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and crispy, allow to cool a little before serving.

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Beetroot and Celeriac Slaw (and a Baba Ganoush recipe)

It’s been quite a while since I posted an update here. With this post you get two for one. Two recipes in one post, but perhaps not for dishes that work together. The main reason for writing up both recipes in the same post is that I only have the one photo, with both dishes in it!

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The first is for a beetroot and celeriac slaw/salad. Whilst this dish uses beetroot and celeriac you can substitute any similar root vegetable (swede, turnip, fennel, or , though not strictly a root, kohl rabi), just shred them finely and use them raw. Beetroot does work well though both for colour and that earthy sweetness that compliments the creamy yogurt-based dressing

1 medium beetroot
½ head of celeriac
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and black pepper

Peel the beetroot and celeriac then grate by hand or in a food processor. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the grated vegetables and mix well until all the vegetables are coated in the creamy dressing.

The second recipe is for a baba ganoush, sometimes referred to as moutabal. I beautifully creamy, subtly smokey aubergine sauce or dip which can be served as part of a mezze. The smell of burnt aubergine skin is not particularly pleasant and can linger a little in your kitchen but you need to make sure the skin is blackened to get that smokey flavour.

1 large aubergine
1 tablespoon tahini
juice of ½ lemon
1 small garlic clove – crushed
salt
olive oil
sumac

Prick the skin of the aubergine with a skewer or knife then place directly over a gas burner on your cooker. If you don’t have gas, place the aubergine under the grill. Make sure you do prick it in several places else it will explode.

Turn the aubergine occasionally until the skin is well charred and the aubergine is soft and collapses when you try to pick it up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, scrape out the flesh and discard the burnt skin. Finely chop the flesh then add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic and enough olive oil to make a smooth paste (about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with salt, mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of ground sumac.