Published

Good Mediterranean recipe combo

I’m trying to do a tiny bit more meal prep on the weekend so that I don’t default to something beige or unhealthy. Last weekend I came across a great recipe combo, things that are pretty easy to manage all at once on a Sunday afternoon.

* The baba ganoush recipe is fabulous, but I’d recommend either cutting back on the garlic or mincing the garlic directly in to the lemon juice and letting those chill together for at least 10 minutes so that the garlic flavor mellows out a little.

Some tahini is trash, and that makes a huge difference in the resulting hummus or baba ganoush. Good tahini should taste nutty and silky, ideally not overly bitter, and never sour or pungent. It’s not a great sign if it is separated, that probably means that it’s been sitting out for a while. Tahini goes rancid pretty quickly, so the fresher the better and keep it in the fridge.

The best tahini I’ve ever had was Al Nakhil brand (Lebanese, comes in a beige jar with green writing and a green lid) from The People’s Supermarket in London. I don’t think I’ll find that in SF so have been trying whatever I can find. The Whole Foods 365 jar I got recently was ok so I’ll rely on that in a pinch. The jar of Tarazi I had before that was great, but very pricey from the grocery nearest to me. I’ll probably try to do a big shop at Samirami’s on Mission and 26th since I hear they’ve got great tahini and it looks like they do a lot of bulk spices and dry ingredients.

The above dishes combined with diced cucumber, diced ripe tomato, and a little bit of hot sauce is just lovely, great for multiple meals during the week. With falafel it’s even better. We used Ziyad box falafel mix and it was pretty great, but I’d love to try one of the Serious Eats falafel recipes some time. They’ve got a good food lab post on falafel. The Hilda’s Kitchen falafel recipe also looks really good.

If I didn’t have a wildly out of hand mint plant, I’d probably make the Serious Eats Israeli-style tahini sauce.

Edit 2 September 2020: Added notes about baba ganoush recipe and tahini.

Published

Use-up-all-the-things meal for 16 people

I was away recently for a lovely weekend with a big group of 16 people. Dinner on the last night was a use-up-all-the-things meal that I tag-teamed with BW. This is a rough description of each thing, a bunch of them were new to me but I’d like to make them again. We were super low on olive oil so went heavy on the butter, and we omitted garlic + onions in most things due to some dietary restrictions within the group.

Cheese

Use a peeler to get thin slices off any nearly-finished firm cheese in the fridge. Pile the slices together on a plate, then throw the rind in to the fridge or freezer for use in future stews or pots of lentils / beans.

Arbutus (strawberry tree) jam

Good with cheese. This was sort of based on a variety of recipes online. I didn’t mind the texture but it was probably a bit too seedy for most TBH, so next time I’d probably strain part way through cooking while the mixture is still relatively liquid.

Remove stems and bad bits from about 2 cups of ripe Arbutus (strawberry tree) berries, then rinse and put in a small nonstick pot. Cut an orange in to chunks and squeeze in the juice, then throw in the rind. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of a lemon half, then throw in the rind. Add about ¼ cup sugar and a small pinch of salt, and then simmer over medium-low heat until the berries are completely dissolved. Add water during the cooking process if needed, and taste while cooking to adjust the sweetness. Remove the citrus rinds before serving. The colour of the cooked jam should be a reddish ochre, and the consistency is similar to fig jam, very seedy.

Lamb’s lettuce salad

In an enormous bowl, combine a big pile of Lamb’s lettuce with soft, crumbled fresh cheese, a chopped avocado, a big handful of chopped black olives, the sliced green tops from 3–4 scallions, and a very big handful of toasted pine nuts.

For the dressing, combine olive oil, some red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, a mashed anchovy, salt, and fresh black pepper. Taste the dressing and adjust it to balance it out, then add it to the salad and toss to coat.

Croutons

This was probably the biggest experiment. I’ve done this with cubed bread of all sorts in the past, but never GF bread. Specifically, we used leftover GF focaccia which had been made from leftover pizza dough and topped with capers, olives, rosemary, and tomatoes. It was pretty firm due to the GF flour, sort of the consistency of cornbread crossed with polenta. The resulting croutons were maybe a bit too big / crunchy for a salad but still very tasty, kind of like baked polenta. It actually worked pretty well with this meal since most of the other things lacked crunch.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Cube a bunch of leftover firm bread, then toss it in butter or oil and season to taste with salt and spices or herbs. Roast in the oven until golden and crispy.

Puy lentils with rosemary and thyme

I definitely over-salted these! Still good though. Every other time I’ve made Puy lentils they’ve come out way too bland, so I’ll probably make them like this in the future, probably with a bay leaf and maybe some other herbs. I’d be a great side to make instead of potatoes or rice, for example.

Pour a 500 g box of lentils de Puy in to a medium sized pot with enough water (see the instructions on the box), the rind of a hard cheese, a good pinch of salt, a knob of butter, fresh black pepper, and about 2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are tender and the water is mostly gone. Note that you may need to top up the water during cooking. When nearing the end of cooking, taste the lentils and adjust the flavours. Add a little salt, lemon juice, and / or orange juice to adjust the flavour and acidity. Remove and discard the cheese rind before serving.

Caramelised onions

Ours weren’t quite caramelised, but still tasty! Apparently sodium bicarbonate is a useful secret ingredient if you’re light on time, need to remember that for next time.

Thinly slice 4 onions and place in wide, flat-ish pot. Stainless steel or aluminium is best if you have a lot of time, nonstick works well if you don’t. Add a pinch of salt and a knob of butter, then cook over medium-low heat until a deep golden brown.

Roasted aubergines

These are good lukewarm or cold as well. Do not be tempted to season with salt before sticking them in the oven, there will be plenty in the veg still from the initial step.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Slice aubergines in to rounds that are roughly 1 cm thick, then salt on both sides and place in a shallow dish. Allow the salt to draw out the water for at least 15 minutes, pressing on them occasionally to encourage them. Once a lot of the water has been drawn out, put the aubergine slices in a big bowl of cold water and rinse thoroughly, removing all of the remaining salt. Squeeze the water out of the slices, then place in a baking dish. Top each slice with a little butter or olive oil, generously top with fresh black pepper, then sprinkle over about 1–2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Roast in the oven for 30–40 minutes, turning halfway. Taste when done and add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Pasta with tomato sauce, basil, and anchovies

BW tackled this mostly, so here’s hoping I’ve remembered this correctly! She said it was based on a Rachel Roddy recipe so I had a look online. Her recipe for pasta with tomatoes and anchovy sauce looks really similar and very good, though I don’t think it’s the same one. Worth a try!

Heat some butter or olive oil in a large flat-ish pan, then add halved baby tomatoes and cook until very soft. Add two finely chopped anchovies and cook a little longer, then add one chopped stove-roasted red pepper and a can of chopped tomatoes. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce while you cook the pasta. Cook the pasta of your preference in heavily salted water until al dente and then drain, reserving a small amount of the pasta water in the pot. Tip the sauce in to the pasta and reserved pasta water and then cook a little longer, allowing the water to reduce slightly and the pasta to finish cooking. Stir in a whole bunch of torn basil and serve.

Spiced roasted carrots + broccoli

Kind of based on the honey roasted carrots from this Guardian article. Try to avoid crowding the pan or cooking too much at once in the oven because it will inhibit roasting and will cause the veg to steam. If you have to cook a lot at once, consider cranking up the heat.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Put a bunch of oblique / roll cut carrots in to a big baking dish with the florets and peeled stem of a head of broccoli. Add a very generous sprinkling of brown sugar, a good pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, some lemon zest, a lot of cumin seed, about a thumb’s worth of minced ginger, and about 1–2 teaspoons of ground coriander. Roast until the edges are well browned, tossing occasionally to cook evenly.

Spiced chickpeas and greens

The vibe was espinacas con garbanzos, but with what we had on hand. I would definitely consider adding some cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic, etc. in other circumstances. For the greens we used rocket and spinach, but this would probably be good with kale as well though the cook time would take a little longer.

Heat a knob of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, then pour in a can of chickpeas, drained. Add a very good pinch of salt, at least 2 tablespoons of cumin seed, 1–2 tablespoons of ground coriander, and a solid pinch of ground cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes to allow the flavours to come together, then your greens and the juice from at least a half an orange. Allow the greens to cook to the desired doneness, adding water if needed. Taste and adjust flavours as necessary (salt, lemon, etc.).

Roasted potatoes with a roasted pepper sauce

The idea was sort of patatas bravas, but again, with what we had on hand. Would probably consider smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic for this as well.

Preheat oven very hot, at least 200C. Cut 5–6 thin-skinned potatoes in to chunks and parboil, then toss in to a baking pan with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until brown and crispy. For the sauce, reduce a can of chopped tomatoes over medium heat, then add a knob of butter, some cumin seed, and one finely chopped stove-roasted red pepper.

Published

chickpeas for days

Made a chickpea salad last night that was a riff on this one by Bon Appétit and loved it, ended up finishing the whole thing. I’ll definitely make it again. My changes (due to dietary stuff and what I had on hand) were:

  • Didn’t have any parsley and not enough basil (scrounged a tiny amount from my not-happy plant), so I bulked it out with big handfuls of chopped spinach
  • Added ½ of a small bulb of fennel, sliced very thinly
  • Added about ⅛ of a cucumber chopped in to quartered rounds
  • Added one very finely chopped scallion
  • Used lactose-free “cheddar”

You could easily make a ton of different tweaks. I’d like to make it with some tahini whisked in to the lemon, sumac, a very thinly sliced red onion, and some mint. Or do a ginger + garlic + soy sauce + rice vinegar dressing, swap basil for coriander, drop the cheese, and maybe swap some of the chickpeas for edamame. That might be lunch today.

Published

Falafel wraps

Falafel wrap with chili sauce, lettuce, cucumber, pickled onion, and hummus

We made falafel wraps for lunch today using this falafel recipe from BBC Good Food. It was a decent, simple recipe that I’d be happy to use again with a few caveats:

  • The title says “spicy” but there is no heat in it… might actually be good to add some cayenne next time
  • Use the softest canned chickpeas you can find; East End brand is the softest I’ve found in London (and super cheap)
  • Use all of the parsley, stems and all, and chop it super fine
  • Chop the onion very fine, and cook the onion and garlic in olive oil instead of veg oil
  • Add a good pinch of salt (it says “seasoning to taste” but it’s kind of easy to miss that)
  • Half a beaten egg is plenty, any more and it would be way too wet
  • Use two large-ish spoons to ease decently-sized dollops in to the pan since the mixture is too wet to shape in to patties

We had it with pickled red onions (red onions + red wine vinegar + sugar + salt), shredded lettuce, diced cucumber, yogurt, this hummus, and some leftover chili sauce from the best Turkish place in Leyton.

Maybe not quite up to the standard of the guys on Ridley Road Market, but pretty good! To get closer to theirs, we’d need a spicier chili sauce and more tangy pickles.

Published

A+ hummus using one can of chickpeas

I finally cracked it. The madness is in the method. To make good hummus using one 14.5oz/400g can of chickpeas:


Put 4 tbsp lemon juice and 1 clove of garlic in a food processor and blend until the garlic is finely chopped. Let it sit in the food processor during the next step so that the garlic flavor chills out.*

Next, check the firmness of your chickpeas. Some tinned chickpeas are quite soft, most are very firm. I seem to remember that Tesco’s own brand is weirdly good?! YMMV. Open and rinse 1 can of chickpeas, then pop one in your mouth. Try to squish it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. If it doesn’t give super easily, then you’ll want to soften them a bit to get a better final texture.

If you do need to soften your canned chickpeas, dump them in to a pot with enough water to cover and ½ scant tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil and then simmer until they get pretty soft and the skins are separating from the legumes, about 20 minutes. When ready, drain them and allow them to cool. If you want to use them immediately, carefully rinse them in cold water.

Now, add the fats gradually along with a little water. The goal is to emulsify the fat in to the liquid without causing it to separate. Put 4 tbsp tahini in the food processor with the lemon / garlic mixture and blend just until you get a smooth paste. Next add 2 tbsp cold water and blend until very smooth. With the addition of the water, it will get more pale and fluff up a little.

Add your chickpeas, a good pinch of ground cumin, and about ½ tsp sea salt to the food processor and blend until smooth. Taste it and add more salt or lemon juice as necessary. Add a bit of cold water if you like it more fluffy.

To serve, drizzle with good quality olive oil and optionally garnish with smoked paprika, za’tar, chopped coriander, toasted cumin seeds, kawarma, extra chickpeas, etc.


No messing around with dried chickpeas or peeling (!) legumes. I can make this amount of hummus in the tiny food processor attachment that came with my stick blender. Related, the Super Kim can opener by Nogent is the only can opener that should exist.

* Allicin is responsible for that intense sulfur flavor in raw garlic. Allicin is one of the things that gives garlic its health qualities, but it can also put too much of an edge on some dishes. Mincing or blending raw garlic directly in to lemon cuts denatures allinase, one of the compounds in garlic that creates allicin. Read more about this on The Garlic Farm blog.

Edit 1 09 2020: Increased tahini amount and added baking soda technique inspired by a recipe by Ottolenghi and Tamimi and a Cookie & Kate recipe.